Headcorn Tourist Guide
Headcorn lies on the A274 Tenterden to Maidstone road and is a long village with a wide range of local shops.
Polished flint axes found in and around Headcorn indicate that there were people in the area during the Neolithic period. There is evidence for the occupation of farmsteads from that period until Roman times. Over 30 Roman coins have been found at just one site. There are written records in charters of King Wihtred and King Offa to Wick Farm in 724 AD and Little Southernden in 785 AD. Headcorn probably started as a den or clearing, to which pigs were driven to feed on acorns in the Wealden Forest.
Although Headcorn does not appear in the Domesday Book of 1086, the Domesday Monachorum (the ecclesiastical survey made at about the same time), records the existence of a church at Hedekaruna. Its name is derived from the Saxon meaning trees cut down by Huda to produce a clearing – Hudakaruna; this has over the years changed to Hedekaruna in 1100, then to Headcorn.
There are claims that King John (1199-1216) sat underneath the Headcorn oak (in the churchyard) to watch bull baiting. The remnants of the Headcorn Oak are near the south door of the parish church. It was extensively damaged by fire on 25 April 1989, but continued to produce new growth until July 1993. It has been claimed that the Headcorn Oak is up to 1200 years old; others suggest just 500 years.
In 1331 the export of unwashed wool was stopped by King Edward III. He encouraged weavers from Flanders to settle here and they brought their wealth which can be seen in the houses near the church. Many of the villages in the area such as Cranbrook, Tenterden, Biddenden and Headcorn show signs of the prosperity brought to the area. The wealth brought to Headcorn by the weaving industry is reflected in the houses built at that time and the enlargement of the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul. Wat Tyler’s rebellion in 1381 was partly due to resentment and dislike of the prosperous clothiers. In 1450, eighty men of Headcorn took part in Jack Cade’s rebellion.
The current church was built around 1350 with the roof timbers sourced from the Culpepper estate at Bedgebury which lies between Flimwell and Goudhurst. St Peter and St Paul, Anglican Church is located at the western end of the High Street. The present building is largely 14th century, although there is evidence of a church in Headcorn since the 11th century. Among the church’s more notable items are the excellent oak roof and good quality stained glass. The large square tower has an exceptional peel of 8 bells.
Eight roads converge on Headcorn and there are several old bridges. Stephen’s Bridge in Frittenden Road is said to have been built by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury 1207-1228. There are records from the reigns of Edward I, Edward III and Henry IV, relating to the need to repair this bridge and Hawkenbury Bridge.
Before railways, the George Inn in Borough High Street was the hub of coach services to Kent, Surrey and Sussex. At 7am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the Tenterden Coach set out on a 10 hour journey of 55 ¼ miles, passing through Headcorn. By 1838, the Tally Ho Coach had shortened the journey time, leaving London at 1pm and reaching Headcorn at 8.15pm and Tenterden at 9.30pm
During the early 1800s the South Eastern Railway’s track was built through the village to provide a link from London to Dover. This has meant that in recent years the village has grown quickly chiefly as a commuter centre. Headcorn has a railway station on the main line between London and Dover. It was opened on 31 August 1842. On 1 December of the same year, the South Eastern Railway opened the second section of its main line onward to Ashford. By 1844, trains were running from London to Dover.
In 1940, following the evacuation from Dunkirk, many thousands of British and allied troops received their first meal in England at Headcorn Station. Local volunteers helped the Royal Army Service Corps in providing refreshments. One hundred trains per day were halted, allowing only eight minutes for each.
The Aerodrome at Shenley Farm was first used by one aircraft in 1927 when the local land owner flew from here with a group of friends. Following the outbreak of World War II the airfield was requisitioned by the Airfields Board in 1942 and prepared for operational service. Two Sommerfeld Track runways were laid, the main one being some 1,600 yards in length with a secondary runway of 1,400 yards. At the end of the war the airfield was closed and handed back to the owners being initially used for agriculture. With the resurgence of interest in civil aviation in the 1950s the airfield was re-opened as a base for private aviation and has been thriving ever. Today, as a private civil airfield and parachute centre, it also houses the Air Warfare Museum, the Air Cadets of 500 Squadron and a helicopter company.
Headcorn has a railway station on the main London to Dover line. There are frequent services to and from Charing Cross and Cannon Street during morning and evening peaks and a half hourly service to Charing Cross, with a few exceptions, at other times and an hourly service on Sundays. In the other direction trains go to Canterbury, Ramsgate and Dover with a similar regularity during peak times and Ashford off peak. Timetable details are available by phoning National Rail Enquiries on 08457 484950 or www.southeasternrailway.co.uk for details of timetables and service problems.
There are quite frequent bus connections to Maidstone and Tenterden , service 12 (24 Tuesday service to Maidstone Market), Monday to Saturday. There is also a limited Sunday service from Maidstone to Headcorn. Information on bus times available for South East England on Traveline (0870 608 2 608) or www.arrivabus.co.uk. Clark's Minibus also run a commuter service between Tenterden and Headcorn Station during peak periods, Monday to Friday (01580 765099).
The 1986 list of buildings of architectural or historic interest has 88 Headcorn entries, including the Parish Church (Grade I), the former Old Vicarage (II*) renamed Headcorn Manor about 1960, the Cloth Hall (II*) and Shakespeare House (II).
Lashenden Air Warfare Museum is based at Headcorn Aerodrome. There are five aircraft on display including a piloted V1 Flying Bomb. Visitors can also see relics from 1910 to the present day as well as Prisoner of War and Civilians at War displays. Tel: 01622 890226
MTC Taxis (01622 890003).
National Westminster, High Street (0870 240 3355)
Headcorn Dental Practice, 11a High Street (01622 891009)
Orchard House Dental Practice, Kings Road (01622 890574) www.ohdental.co.uk
Wealden Dental Practice, Station Road (01622 890512)
The Surgery, Clerks Field (01622 890294)
Headcorn Farmers' Market is held on 2nd Saturday of the month 9.30am to 12.30pm at the New Village Hall, Parsonage Meadow (access at the top of the High Street on the sharp bend).
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