Village History

In the mid-fifth century the Anglo-Saxons began to colonise North Kent. For the next 500 years the High Weald woodlands to the South provided autumn feeding for herds of pigs. Over time settlers arrived, cleared the trees for pasture and established isolated farms. By about AD 1000 there was a church in Speldhurst, probably built of wood by the lord of the manor. Soon after the Norman Conquest the church had its own parish: the southern boundary ran with the Sussex border.

 

Three dates stand out in Speldhurst's history. In 1412, during the Hundred Years War, the leading landowner, Richard Waller, was given charge of a young French prince. He stayed a hostage for 30 years. Waller was well rewarded for his service and became an important benefactor to Speldhurst church, then in need of rebuilding. Other houses, which still stand, were put up nearby.

 

Most of the parishioners lived in scattered hamlets. In the mid-sixteenth century the total population was 475 persons, about one to every nine acres. The second date of note was 1606, when Lord North drank the water of a roadside spring. So impressed was he by the curative powers of its iron salts that the Stuart court got to hear of it. Tunbridge Wells, a summer holiday resort for the well-to-do, sprang up around this spa, not far from Speldhurst.

 

The presence of iron had had another result. For over 200 years to 1770, less than a mile from Speldhurst church, a blast furnace and forge worked to make cannon and other hardware.

The third date marked a disaster. In 1791 the medieval church was destroyed by fire. Fourteen years would pass before a service could be held there again. The nineteenth century brought renewed growth to Tunbridge Wells and more changes to Speldhurst.

 

The Powells built a new manor house. They helped J.J. Saint, rector for 59 years, to set up a school and take down the poorly built church. He replaced it with a fine Gothic Revival one, now famous for its Morris & Co. windows. And he built churches and schools in two populous hamlets.

 

In 1901 the church parish, greatly reduced in area, housed about 1,300 people. Speldhurst had long since become a proper village. It had stayed decidedly rural, despite the growth from nothing of the town a half-hour's walk away.

 

There was an independent chapel, a post office, two inns and a handful of shops. The Powells would give Speldhurst its first hall. Both the sons of the manor house were killed in the Great War. 39 other Speldhurst men lost their lives, and 13 in World War Two. The village has 27 listed buildings (three of them are shown here) and 76 listed gravestones.

 

 

 

Buildings of interest


The George and Dragon

The George and Dragon
The George and Dragon, next to the church. First built in the 13th Century.

The Old Rectory

The Old Rectory
The Old Rectory opposite the lych gate. Rebuilt in the 1600s.

Post Office

Post Office
Old Post Office Cottage, dated to about 1720
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