Sevenoaks Tourist Guide
Read all about this intriguing Kent town and decide where you would like to spend a few days or maybe longer visiting and exploring!
Sevenoaks is only a few minutes’ drive from the M25, yet it has remained a enjoyable small town in which to live and work. With its mixture of inimitable Kentish architecture and a selection of interesting speciality shops, it has become an increasingly popular venue for visitors. There are three supermarkets in the town centre and an array of small shops in the centre, in St John's Hill and Tubs Hill. The Blighs Development provides a mix of high-quality shops as well as national retailers, with pubs and restaurants. A popular weekly market takes place every Wednesday in the town centre.
At a height of around 180m above sea level, Sevenoaks rises up from the surrounding green countryside. Looking northwards from The Vine cricket ground, the North Downs dominate the horizon, and the descent along Riverhill at the south of the town offers a wide view across the fields and woodland which make up the Weald of Kent.
Surrounded by green countryside and yet only 35 minutes train journey from London, and similar distances from Gatwick Airport and the Channel Tunnel, Sevenoaks offers its residents and visitors many advantages. Having recovered from the great storm of 1987 a great deal of planting and regrowth has taken place, but one unexpected outcome has become something of a tourist attraction - The Vine cricket ground is now home to the only one surviving oak tree from the original seven which were planted to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902.
The name ‘Sevenoaks’ originated from the Saxon word 'Seouenaca', a name given in about 800AD to a small chapel near seven oaks in Knole Park. Sevenoaks was historically part of the Great Manor of Otford, held by the Archbishops of Canterbury. There are few written records of Sevenoaks prior to the 13th century, and it is the neighbouring village of Otford, rather than Sevenoaks, that is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The importance of Sevenoaks grew from the merging of the two main roads from London and Dartford into one main route heading south through the Weald to the coast. It was therefore a apposite place for a market and this was probably started some time in the mid 13th century.
In 1450 the rebellion against Henry VI led by Jack Cade involved the Battle of Solefields, at which Cade defeated the troops sent against him by the King. There is a plaque to commemorate this at the junction of Tonbridge Road and Solefields Road. In 1456 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Bourchier, purchased the 100 acre estate of Knole and built the great house which lies to the eastern side of the town. This was later taken over by Henry VII and then passed on to Queen Elizabeth I who gave it to her cousin Thomas Sackville.
Sevenoaks was not directly involved in the Wyatt rebellion in 1554, although there was some support for it from local people. During the Civil War, Lord Sackville, the then owner of Knole, was arrested and the house searched but the nearest battle took place at Tonbridge where the loyalists were defeated.
The current seven oaks are on the northern side of the Vine Cricket Ground. The average life of an oak tree is approximately 250 years and so the oaks have been replaced several times. In 1902 seven oaks were planted on The Vine to commemorate the Coronation of King Edward VII. During the hurricane of 1987 six of these were blown down and Sevenoaks became ‘Oneoaks'. Surprisingly, seven new oaks were planted which means there are now eight oaks! There is also a group of oaks near the White Hart pub on the Tonbridge road that were planted in 1955 to replace some that were dying. The town's motto is ‘Floreant Septum Quercus’ – ‘May the Seven Oaks Flourish’
The High Street contains a number of interesting buildings including The Old Vicarage (late 18th century), the Old House (circa 1700), the Chantry (late 17th century) and the Manor House which has links with the Sackvilles of Knole built in the late 18th century. In this area is also St Nicholas’ Church which has features of successive Gothic styles dating from the 13th century. Near to the church is Rectory Lane off which Six Bells Lane, with its charming row of 18th and 19th century cottages, twists around to rejoin the High Street. At the junction of the High Street and London Road is Loch Fyne Restaurant which although hung with 19th century fish-scale tiles, probably dates back to the 15th century, and was once the home of the agent of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Further north along the High Street is The Oak Tree which was once an remote Tudor farmhouse and is now a pub and restaurant. A little further north is The Vine Cricket Ground with its 19th century weather-boarded cricket pavilion which is a listed building. Between the London Road and the High Street are Dorset Street and Bank Street - running on either side of the old Market House (1843) and ‘The Shambles’, which in mediaeval times housed the booths and slaughterhouses of the butchers. There are several tile-hung timber framed buildings still to be found here. Kippington House in Kippington Road was purchased in 1630 by Thomas Farnaby, a famous classical scholar who sailed with Drake on his last voyage. It was largely rebuilt in the following century and has since been converted into flats.
In the nearby parish of Seal, Dorton House, which has been a hospital for the war wounded and is now a school and college of further education for the visually impaired, was originally known as Wildernesse and was approached along a striking avenue of lime trees. These trees, which were planted to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo, still remain. The house, built in 1700, was later owned by John Pratt, Baron Camden, who became Lord Chancellor.
At the entrance to Knole House you can see the course of an ancient river bed. The house itself is set on higher ground or 'knoll'. It was brought by Cardinal Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1456 from William, Baron of Say and Sele. It is known as a 'calendar House' due to the fact it has 365 rooms, 52 staircases and 7 courtyards! Bourchier died at Knole in 1486 and in 1538 it came into the possession of Henry VIII and eventually passed on to Queen Elizabeth I, who gave it to her cousin Thomas Sackville. The Sackville family are still in residence. At one time Mary Tudor was confined to Knole by Archbishop Cranmer who resided there by permission of her father King Henry VIII. There are many treasures at Knole including the first 'Knole' settee, beautiful tapestries, silver and paintings.
Vita Sackville-West was born and brought up at Knole and later moved to Long Barn in the village of Sevenoaks Weald before buying Sissinghurst Castle, one of the most famous gardens in the world. Her friend, the writer Virginia Woolf, set her novel 'Orlando' at Knole and her original manuscript is on display. Visitors can wander around thirteen 17th century-styled state rooms marvelling at rare Stuart furniture and paintings by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Van Dyck. The 1000 acres of the beautiful Knole Park is the only remaining medieval deer park in the county. Visitors to the park, which is owned by the current Lord Sackville, are frequently amazed by how close one can get to the herds of wild deer that the park is home to. Knole Park also provides access to Sevenoaks Environmental Park which features a mixture of wetlands, wild flower meadows and woodland.
Emmetts Garden on Ide Hill consists of 18 acres of gardens and woodland. Frederick Lubbock, influenced by his friend, the Edwardian garden writer, William Robinson, was responsible for transforming the existing farmland into the six acres of informal gardens. In addition to having the highest tree top in Kent, the 100 feet high Wellingtonia, the gardens contain numerous rare shrubs and trees from across the world. Of particular note are the Italianate Rose Garden, the Camellia Garden and the Bluebell Den.
The highest point in Kent is Ide Hill which provides spectacular views of the Kent countryside. Its numerous footpaths allow plenty of opportunities to enjoy the local wildlife. Local landmarks that walkers should look out for include the old Hunting Lodge, where Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn used to meet in secret, and the Hanging Bank, the site of a former gallows which is rumoured to be haunted by a poltergeist that lifts up the benches in the vicinity!
The Vine Cricket Ground is one of the oldest cricket grounds in England. It was given to the town in 1773 by John, 3rd Duke of Dorset, owner of Knole House. The land was thought previously to have been used as a vineyard for the Archbishops of Canterbury.The first nationally reported cricket match took place here in 1734 when ‘The Gentlemen of Kent’ played ‘The Gentlemen of Sussex’ - and the Kent team won! The weatherboard pavilion is 19th century. The Vine Cricket Club has to pay Sevenoaks Town Council a rent of 2 peppercorns per year - one for the ground and one for the pavilion. They, in turn, must pay Lord Sackville (if asked) one cricket ball on the 21st July each year.
At Ivy Hatch is Ightham Mote, a Grade I listed building which is a fine example of a 14th century moated manor house. Visitors can still see some of the original rooms that date back to when it was built in 1330, including the Great Hall, Crypt, Old Chapel and two Solars. The building’s original architect is unknown, but various owners have made additions – a Tudor chapel with hand painted ceiling and a drawing room with Jacobean fireplace and frieze amongst others. There are also extensive gardens laid out in medieval style but with 19th Century planting.
The Sevenoaks Festival is held at the end of June.
Housed within the library is Sevenoaks Museum which has changing displays of objects of local interest. These include a cricket bat, made in Sevenoaks, which is one of the oldest on display anywhere and a 19th centuey brass fireman's helmet from the Sevenoaks 'Readies' volunteer fire brigade. More items can be seen in cases around the library: for example fossils, archaeology and a Second World War embroidery made by evacuees from London and local schoolchildren. There are family trails and quizzes in the museum and discovery boxes of objects that can be handled by visitors. The museum is located in Buckhurst Lane and can be contacted on 01732 453118.
The Stag Community Arts Centre contains a 450 seat theatre, a second space (the Plaza Suite) and two digital cinemas. Set in a 1930's Art Deco style building with a traditional foyer boasting a sweeping staircase. The cinemas are state of the art in both projection and digital sound.
The theatre has wonderful acoustics, one of the largest stages in the south east (bigger than many west end stages) and a full orchestra pit. It has recently staged Verdi's Requiem with two choirs and a 70 piece symphony orchestra on stage. It has its own theatre bar.
The Plaza Suite can host practically any event and has held dinners, concerts and drama schools and has theatre lighting and sound. It is a self-contained venue with its own entrance, toilets, bar and café facilities.
Check out the facilities and what's on by calling the box office on 01732 450175
Business hours: Events seven days per week. Box Office open Monday-Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday 11:30am-8:00pm
The Ship Theatre is in the grounds of Walthamstow Hall School and can seat an audience of 199. The Ship Theatre is a fabulous theatre venue and a popular choice for professional and amateur groups, clubs and societies. Situated close to the historic Vine cricket grounds, the theatre has ample parking within the gates of the school. The 'thrust' stage design is popular with drama and music groups.
The centre of Sevenoaks is home to the swimming pool and fitness suite which has recently undergone extensive refurbishment and upgraded to include a multi-purpose sports centre. It is one of the best-equipped for miles around. Beneficiary of a multi-million pound investment, the Sports Centre boasts a 25 metre pool, teaching pool, toddler pool and a sports hall that offers a wide range of activities. The Wellness suite offers state-of-the-art equipment, a purpose built exercise studio and health suite with sauna, steam room and spa.
With its pleasant and rural surroundings, walking is a very popular pastime in Sevenoaks and well-marked footpaths abound. Three long distance paths cross through or near Sevenoaks - the North Downs Way being the most famous with walkers from all over the country coming to follow its 246km long route. Circular walks around the outskirts of the town have been way-marked with accompanying maps to follow the routes. Details of all walks and footpath maps are available from the Tourist Information Centre .
Bradbourne Lakes is a pleasant environmental park close to the swimming pool, created from overgrown abandoned allotments in 1994. The area has been replanted with trees and wild flowers to attrace birds and butterflies. It offers a restful place to sit and walk and also provides a play area for children. A longer-established wildlife area is the Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve off Bradbourne Vale Road (A25). This was developed from a worked-out gravel pit for the purpose of nature conservation and provides a home for a variety of wildfowl, plants, insects and woodland birds. There is also a nature trail and hide and a visitor centre, often host to art exhibitions. Tel: 01732 456407.
Sevenoaks Market is held on Saturdays from 9.00am to 5.00pm. The market is in the High Street at the southern end. For details of Sevenoaks Farmers' Market telephone 01732 743377.
Sevenoaks Station is on Tubbs Hill, London Road.
West Kent Buses is located in London Road, West Kingsdown. Tel: 01474 855444
For general information on Kent public transport go to: www.kentpublictransport.info.
Sevenoaks Hospital, Hospital Road Tel: 01732 470200
Minor injuries unit - open 8am to 8pm daily. Tel: 01732 470 202 / 203
Sevenoaks Tourist Information Office is in Buckhurst Lane, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 7DL Tel: 01732 450305.
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