Posted by: madkentdragon | March 26, 2011

Quirky Kent Part 1


I’ve done the areas I know in detail, but as I know some, but not enough facts about others I’ve decided just to list some quirky bits to tickle your interest; here goes!

The name Forstal is used quite a lot in Kent such as Painters Forstal and Forstal Road in Aylesford, so I looked at the map of Aylesford and found an area of land called the Forstal. This it appears is just that “The Forstal” which meant it was a piece of land in front of the main estate or home-stall and was not used but given to peasants for use as grazing land and called the Fore-stall!

Royal Tunbridge Wells only became a town after the discovery in 1606 of the Chalybeate Spring which is full of iron and when people came to take the waters. It was originally called after the local town of Tonbridge which was spelt Tunbridge at that time. In Georgian times it became extremely popular and the town grew. However when Queen Henrietta Maria of France, the wife of King Charles was sent here,
the party had to camp in tents as there was no accommodation!

The shopping area known as the Pantiles is thus called because in 1698, the young Duke of Gloucester who had accompanied his mother, Queen Anne on one of her regular visits, fell over on the rutted path to the well. The Queen commanded that the area be paved and left £100 for the work to be carried out. However when she returned the following year, the work had not been done and she was so disgusted that she swore that she would never return – she didn’t!

The disgraced councillors quickly paved the area as cheaply as possible with thicker than usual roof tiles. The roof tiles were baked in pans to retain the shape – hence the pan tiles, no one ever knew what happened to the £100! The area was later paved – about a century later, the pan
tiles kept breaking! The “Royal” came about in 1909 when Edward VII officially recognised the popularity of the town amongst his own family and foreign nobles and awarded the “Royal” to the town. Most of the British crowned heads had come to take the waters.

Hawkhurst dates back to before 893AD, as part of it was burnt down by the Danes in that year, the name means a wooded hill frequented by hawks.  Its main claim to fame is the smuggling gang of the same name that terrorised the area between 1735 and 1749. They started as a normal smuggling gang, bringing goods ashore at Rye and Hastings, but over the years they became more than just a smuggling gang, and terrorised the locals, not surprising when the gang could call on about 500 men for their runs.

Eventually a man from Goudhurst, William Stuart recruited militia and took on and defeated them in a nearby village of Goudhurst, the gang, having heard of the militia threatened to burn every house in Goudhurst, but the well trained militia defeated them in a pitched battle on 20th
April 1747.

Rudyard Kipling, who lived nearby wrote A Smugglers Poem about the gang: “If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s
feet, /Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street, /Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie. /Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by”

In 1886, The Baby Castle was built on the outskirts of Hawkhurst and cared for hundreds of babies to the age of 6 until it closed in 1965.

Looking at the picturesque village of Goudhurst now, you would not believe that this battle ever happened with its green and duck pond. At one time the area had a large influx of Flemish weavers and they brought with them a plant that most beer drinkers consider essential – hops!
The local un-hopped ale was not to their liking, so they started planting hop gardens and as the taste caught on, the hop gardens flourished and expanded in this area, spreading throughout Kent.

There is a local forest or arboretum nearby, The Bedgebury Pinetum or Forest as it is now called, this was based on the Bedgebury Estate, one of the oldest estates in Kent, which was taken over by the Culpepers (them again!) in 1450. The estate was sold by them in 1680 to Sir Thomas Hayes, who died in Fleet Prison in 1675 – it was a debtors’ prison. But in his time he demolished the old moated house and rebuilt a large red brick mansion and landscaped the grounds installing four lakes, the site of the original house is beneath one of the lakes.

The house was further extended by the next owners, the Beresfords, and interior decorations added it’s hoped that the girls who attend the private girls’ school here enjoy them as the Beresfords eventually sold it for this purpose in1920.

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