Sutton Valence Tourist Guide
Take time to explore this fascinating village on top of a hill in the Garden of England!
Sutton Valence lies on the A274 Tenterden to Maidstone road, between Headcorn and Maidstone . The village is situated on the top of the hills overlooking the lands towards Staplehurst and Headcorn. Make sure you come off the A274 which shoots you through the village. Stop in the High Street and explore the fascinating lanes and roads. Here you will find an array of interesting buildings and pubs. It really is an intriguing place.
Evidence of past settlements goes back at least to the Romans as they left a posting station and a cemetery on the site of Bowhalls allotments, while glass vessels and Samian pottery were also excavated and are now in Maidstone Museum. One gold coin was found in North Street in 1934 and another near Heneker's Oast in 1949. However there is no evidence for any substantial settlement.
Long stretches of the Roman road from Maidstone to Bodiam survives and would have been used to carry iron from the Weald. In Chart Sutton this route had a smaller subdivision through Sutton Valence and headed south, reaching the coast at Lympne, at the Roman fort of Stutfall Castle. The road was significant enough to have a posting station just north of Chart Sutton church. The road can be found as an embankment in the back garden of Heaven Cottage and along the track from Sutton Place to Boyton Court. The cobbles in front of Sutton Place are customarily referred to as the Roman pavement.
By AD814 there was a large enough Saxon settlement to earn a mention in a charter of the Kingdom of Mercia as ‘Suthtune’. ‘Suthtune’ is Sutton or the 'South Town' in contrast to the 'North town' or Norton in the neighbouring parish of Chart. The manor, including the castle, has often had royal connections. Before the Norman Conquest, it was held by Harold's brother Leofwine. By the time of Domesday Book in 1086, the village had grown and was called Town Sutton, and was granted by William the Conqueror to his half-brother Odo Fitzhubert, Bishop of Bayeux. Odo let them to Adam Fitzhubert, who was also one of the commissioners for the Domesday Book. At this time there were 18 smallholders and 5 cottagers.
In 1265, Henry III then conferred it on his half-brother William de Valence. The ‘Valence’ name may have stuck because, as Edward I's chief general, he would have found Sutton Valence to be a useful place to be if Edward himself was staying with his wife at her favourite residence at Leeds Castle. The Clifford family bought the manor in 1418 and owned it for 130 years, finally selling it on to the Filmers.
The Filmer family grew wealthy in Elizabethan times and moved from their earlier possessions at Otterden, north of Lenham, to the Suttons. An impressive new house was constructed at East Sutton Park and they steadily built up their lands in all the Suttons until the sale of 1916, following the death of the last male heir, Sir Robert.
One of the main landmarks in the village is Sutton Valence Castle, of which only the ruins of the 12th century keep remain, under the ownership of English Heritage. They are open at any reasonable time. Sutton Valence Castle is a Norman stone keep and bailey fortress, founded by Baldwin de Béthune, count of Albermarle. Positioned against an escarpment, are the broken ragstone walls of a small 12th century two storey keep, with a square forebuilding. The castle was deserted in the 14th century and now there are only a few signs of the bailey curtain wall, tracking the ridge. Sutton Valence Castle is located in the village centre, off Rectory Lane.
The village was heavily involved in the broadcloth industry which was introduced into Kent by Edward III in 1331. He made the export of unwashed wool from England illegal and encouraged weavers from Flanders to come and live in the area. In 1531 William Lambe became master of the Clothworkers Company in London and became an advisor to Henry VII. The church gained his patronage, and a chapel was dedicated to him. In 1576 he founded the Sutton Valence free Grammar School which is still flourishing today. Sutton Valence School, now a leading independent school, is located in the north-west part of the village.
Today the village can be said to be split into two. The main and oldest part occupies the upper slope of the greensand ridge overlooking the Vale of Kent. The remainder is situated at the bottom of the hill. This area is known as The Harbour.
One railway station is in Headcorn, which is on the South Eastern Main Line from London to the Kent Coast via Ashford. The nearest train service runs into Maidstone, providing links to London and the Kent coast, however the easiest to get to is Headcorn which gives an excellent service to London and Dover. The main A274 passes through a corner of the village, which leaves the village centre unaffected, although the church is on the opposite side of this busy route. There are a few local shops and public houses, but the main shopping centre is in Maidstone which is about three miles to the north.
St. Mary's Church is in Chart Road, East Street and the views from much of the village and church are spectacular. It is claimed that on a clear day hills as far south as Brightling in Sussex can be seen.
The Clothworkers Arms Public House Lower Road 01622 843154
The Kings Head Public House North Street 01622 843264
The Queens Head Public House High Street 01622 843225
The Swan Public House Candleway/Broad St 01622 843212
For a round of golf try The Ridge Golf Club, Chartway Street, East Sutton ME17 3DL - 18 Hole; Green Fees Weekdays £30.00. Tel: +44 (0)1622 844382
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