High Street

Goudhurst Tourist Guide

Introduction

Goudhurst is a village on the Weald, 10 miles east of Tunbridge Wells and 14 miles south of Maidstone. It lies on the A262 just east of Tunbridge Wells.

The village stands on a crossroads where there is a large village pond. The High Street is lined with a wealth of old weatherboard and traditional Kentish tile-hung houses. Goudhurst has a few small shops, with the main shopping centres being at Royal Tunbridge Wells 9 miles west and Cranbrook about 6 miles east. The nearest trains can be caught at Marden about 5 miles north on the main Ashford to London line providing frequent services to London.

Goudhurst probably began as a clearing in the great forest of Anderida that covered the Weald long ago. The origin of the name is uncertain; 'hurst' means 'wood' but 'goud' is doubtful. The place name of Goudhurst may be derived from the Old English guo hyrst, meaning Battle Hill, or the wooded hill on which a battle has been fought. The name could commemorate a battle fought on this high ground in Saxon times. The spelling has evolved over the centuries, Gmthhyrste (c1100) Gudhersts (1232) Guthhurste (1278) Goodherst (1610) then the current day spelling. The church in Goudhurst probably existed long before 1119, its earliest recorded date. The church has been altered and restored many times over the centuries. Until 1637 it had a tall spire which was eventually destroyed by lightning. In 1638 three London masons rebuilt the West tower.

Around 1330 Flemish weavers came to nearby Cranbrook and weaving spread to the surrounding villages including Goudhurst. The Weavers’ Cottages date from about 1350 and the village became prosperous from the weaving of Kentish Broadcloth. In Tudor times (1485-1603) the Weald was the 'black country' of England and all around Goudhurst were iron foundries. The Bedgebury estate is one of the oldest in Kent dating from 815AD, lying between Hawkhurst to the east, Flimwell to the south, Kilndown to the west and Goudhurst to the north. William the Conqueror gave the manor to the de Bedgebury family who owned it until 1450, when the Culpepper family acquired the land. Queen Elizabeth I knighted Alexander Culpepper in 1573 when she stayed at the estate. Nearby at Bedgebury Sir Alexander Colepeper's forge produced cannon used against the Spanish Armada (1588).

The Battle of Goudhurst in 1747 led to the end of the Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers. In 1747, William Stuart, an ex-army corporal, with a quickly recruited militia, took on and defeated the infamous Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers. The gang had terrorised the countryside for miles around Hawkhurst, and hearing of the formation of the militia, they threatened to burn down every house in Goudhurst and kill all the residents. However on Monday 20th April 1747 the villagers fought and defeated the smugglers in a pitched battle.

The Flemish weavers who settled here preferred 'hopped' beer to English ale and they brought with them new varieties of hops and the knowledge of how to use them in brewing. Small hop gardens extended and flourished to such an extent that by the late 1800s they covered the countryside round Goudhurst as far as the eye could see. Hop pickers from London were an annual event in the village until the 1950s when machines displaced them.

Bedgebury is one of the oldest estates in Kent: having given its name to the de Bedgebury family, it passed into the hands of the Culpeper family in 1450. When the estate was sold in 1680, a new house was built which itself became a girls' school in the 1920s (and closed in the Summer of 2006).

Bedgebury Pinetum is nearby. It was acquired by the Forestry Commission in 1924. The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew created the Pinetum in order to grow rare foreign trees and shrubs which could not survive in the polluted London air. The Bedgebury Pinetum houses the largest collection of conifers in Europe.

The branch railway line from Paddock Wood had a station for the village. It was opened on 1 October 1892, and was originally named 'Hope Mill for Goudhurst and Lamberhurst' before being renamed 'Goudhurst' on 4th September 1893, the day the final part of the line came into service - the extension to Hawkhurst via Cranbrook. The station was approximately 0.5 miles from the centre of Goudhurst, and somewhat further from Lamberhurst. The station was closed on the 12th June 1961 due to lack of use.

Goudhurst, like many villages, has remained much the same in size, retaining a population between 2500 and 3000 for more than a century.

The parish church is St Mary's. Inside the Lady Chapel (known as the Bedgebury Chapel) has two arches of the early fifteenth century opening into the chancel. This chapel contains the earliest monument in the church. It is a brass on the floor commemorating John, son of John Bedgebury, who died in 1424 and had fought with Culpeper and Henry V at Agincourt. His home, Bedgebury Manor, was one of the oldest manors in England, having a deed of gift dated 815. His memorial shows him in a full suit of plate armour with his feet resting upon a lion. The village church began as a chapel in 1119 in the reign of Henry 1. The church is a mixture of styles and time periods. Inside the church is a striking memorial to Sir Alexander Culpeper. From the present church tower it is said that 51 other churches are visible (on a clear day, and presumably with a telescope) from Lympne near Romney Marsh to Ide Hill on the North Downs. Possibly this was true in the early 14th century when the tower was one storey higher and crowned with a spire. The spire stood until 1637 when, during a summer storm, it was struck by lightning and burned down. To the northwest, a distance of some forty miles, Canary Wharf Tower in London is visible.

Finchcocks is a fine early Georgian manor in a beautiful unspoilt setting. It is noted for its outstanding brickwork, with a dramatic front elevation attributed to Thomas Archer. Named after the family who lived on the site in the 13th century, the present house was built in 1725 for the barrister Edward Bathurst, kinsman to Earl Bathurst. Despite having changed hands many times, it has suffered remarkably little alteration and retains most of its original features.

Restaurants
Chequers Inn, Cranbrook Road Tel: 01580 212007
La Zia Maria (Italian restaurant & pizzeria), The Plain Tel: 01580 212100
Globe & Rainbow Kilndown Tel: 01892 890803
Green Cross Inn (Seafood Speciality), Station Road Tel: 01580 211200
The Vine Hotel (Thai Restaurant), High Street Tel: 01580 211261
Taxis
Mayday Mini Cabs, 10 Bankfield Way Tel: 01580 211175

Buses
26 Goudhurst to Maidstone Mon to Fri (5 trips) Sat (4 trips) Via Marden-Yalding-Tovil
27 Chainhurst to Maidstone Mon to Fri (3 trips) Sat (1 trip) Via Goudhurst-Marden-Linton-Tovil
267 Benenden to Tonbridge School terms only, (1 trip) Via Cranbrook-Goudhurst



Disclaimer: The information in this Tourist Guide has been researched from a variety of sources including books, articles and online information. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information the reader should check any specific facts for themselves before making any decisions based upon the said information.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015