Tenterden Tourist Guide
Discover the many attractions of Tenterden including a steam train, a vineyard and many historic houses!
Tenterden is an significant nodal centre with routes linking to Rolvenden and Hastings (A28), Wittersham and Rye (B2082), Appledore and New Romney (B2080), Woodchurch and Hamstreet (B2067) and Ashford and Maidstone (A28/A262). The nearest large town to Tenterden is Ashford which is approximately 12 miles north east and offers easy access to the M20 for Dover and London. Tenterden’s nearest railway stations are at Ashford where the International Station provides quick links to London and the continent and at Headcorn where trains connect to London and the south coast. Tenterden is also on the main Hastings to Ashford bus route. While staying in Tenterden try and visit these beautiful neighbouring villages: Appledore, Biddenden, High Halden, Rolvenden, Wittersham and Woodchurch.
Tenterden, known as the ‘Jewel of the Weald’, boasts a delightful High Street where tree–lined greens take you back to a slower, more tranquil time. Georgian buildings share the streets with tall Victorian houses and tiny cottages with their original façades and this, together with a variety of specialist shops including a number of antique emporiums, tearooms, inns and restaurants, creates an ageless air.
Tenterden stands on the Hastings Sand formation, which was laid down either under a great river or a vast fresh water lake. The town’s name comes from the Old English ‘Tenet Waraden’ meaning a den or clearing in a forest which belonged to the men of Thanet. In Roman times and before the Weald of Kent was covered by the huge area of forest called Anderida. There is no mention of a settlement in this area in the Domesday book of 1086. Tenterden was first known as a Hundred during the twelfth century and divided into six boroughs (Town, Castweasle, Boresisle, Dumborne, Shrubcote and Reading). A Hundred was an administrative division of a county originally containing a hundred families. Tenterden first became important during the thirteenth century when it developed as a centre for the wool trade. This trade had been encouraged by Edward III’s decision in 1331 to stop the export of raw wool and to bring Flemish weavers and dyers over to England to teach the inhabitants how to produce finished cloth. Tenterden was in an advantageous position as in those days it had access to the sea. Romney Marsh was still under water and ships could dock at Smallhythe, a short distance from Tenterden. With an abundance of wood available from the surrounding forest the town became important for shipbuilding and produced vessels to help Rye fulfil its quota for the King. Tenterden was incorporated into the Cinque Ports Confederation in 1449 as a limb of Rye. This proved very beneficial to the town as it now could be virtually self-governing. It was also exempt from national taxation and would be represented at any monarch’s coronation. Tenterden still enjoys the latter right and continues to have a mayor. However, as the coastline changed dramatically during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Tenterden lost access to the sea and today stands some 10 miles from the nearest coast.
Kent and East Sussex Railway
This runs through miles of delightful countryside from picturesque Tenterden to Bodiam. Vintage steam trains dating from Victorian times transport you back in time. The railway is open every weekend May-October and daily in peak season. It is best to telephone for details of exact running days and times. Tel: 08706 006074
Background:The earliest plans for a railway for Tenterden were made in the 1850s. In 1896, new proposals were put forward to construct a railway from Robertsbridge on the Tonbridge-Hastings line to Tenterden. The first section of the Rother Valley Railway, as it was then called, was opened on 2 April 1900 to a station at Tenterden. That station is now known as Rolvenden. An extension was eventually built up the hill to the present Tenterden Town Station which was opened in 1903 and an extension to Headcorn was opened in 1905. The railway had by then been renamed the Kent & East Sussex Railway and it enjoyed some prosperity. The line was closed to passengers on 2 January 1954 as more and more people turned to using road transport and the Tenterden to Headcorn section lost all traffic and was pulled up. Goods continued to be hauled on the original section and the occasional passenger train, particularly for hop-pickers and ramblers, appeared in the summer. By 1961 however nearly all traffic had gone and the railway was closed. However a society was soon formed with the object of preserving the line. The founders had years of struggle ahead of them before the first trains were run. The first 2 miles at Tenterden were opened on 3 February 1974. A major renewal of a river bridge enabled an extension by 1977 to Wittersham Road. Further consolidation was then necessary but Northiam was reached in 1990 and Bodiam in the year 2000, one hundred years after it first opened.
St. Mildred’s Church
At the centre of Tenterden can be found the beautiful old church of St Mildred’s which was named after the granddaughter of King Egbert. It is believed that a Saxon church dedicated to her stood in the area from as early as the eighth century. The records of this church date from 1180. It was constantly enlarged until 1461 when the tower was constructed of Bethersden marble. The church has a delicately carved wooden ceiling which dates from the 15th century. There are two blocked thirteenth-century windows above the chancel arch - an unusual position to find windows in Kent. The five bay aisles are unusually narrow and the glass in the south aisle windows, dating from 1865, are particularly interesting. In the north chapel is a fine alabaster standing monument to Herbert Whitfield (d. 1622) and his wife.
Also of interest is the Unitarian Chapel, originally called the Old Meeting House, which was built around 1695. A plaque on the wall records that Dr Benjamin Franklin worshipped here in 1783.
Tenterden & District Museum
The local museum, in Station Road, was opened in 1976 and is run entirely by volunteers. It is located in a two storey weather boarded building which is one of the last examples in Tenterden of the industrial buildings which were so common in the last part of the nineteenth century. Tenterden Museum contains exhibits and information about the Cinque Ports, the local potteries, tannery and brewery as well as a nineteenth century hop press and a Victorian kitchen. The ground-breaking printer William Caxton is thought to have been born in or near the town and the town archive includes a copy of a book published by him in 1482. Contact the museum on 01580 764310.
C M Booth Collection of Historic Vehicles, Falstaff Antiques, 63 High Street. Unique collection of Morgan 3-wheel cars, eleven from 1913-1935, plus 1904 Humber Tricar, 1929 Morris van, 1929 Ford modelA, 1936 Bampton caravan, early cycles, motorcycles, toy and model cars and motoring memorabilia. Tel: +44 01580 241234
Well worth a visit is Smallhythe Place which was the home of Dame Ellen Terry, the famous Victorian actress known as ‘The Queen of the Theatre’, between 1899 and 1928. The house was probably built just after 1514 when a terrible fire destroyed most of Smallhythe. The timber framed house was constructed using green oak cut from the local forest. It was almost certainly put up as the Port House for the busy shipyard and its many features suggest it was the office for the Harbour Master. Following Ellen Terry’s death in 1928 her daughter, Edith Craig, had the barn in the garden converted into a theatre and in 1931 the Barn Theatre Society was started. In 1939 Edith gave Smallhythe Place to the National Trust. Today it houses Ellen Terry’s intriguing theatre collection and the cottage grounds include her rose garden, orchard, nuttery, wild flowers and the Barn Theatre which holds exhibitions and performances of plays, music and talks.
There are two local golf clubs which are certainly worth a visit: London Beach Golf Club Tel: 01580 766279 or visit www.londonbeach.com and Tenterden Golf Club Tel: 01580 763987.
If you enjoy trout fishing or want to try it out, go to Tenterden Trout Waters.
Tenterden Leisure Centre offers Tenterden's own leisure facility, with a wonderful selection of amenities, including leisure pool with waves and flume, state of the art 40 station gym, health suite with sauna steam and spa, wide range of racket sports and a cafe. For information and availability call 01580 765987.
At The Chapel Down Winery in Small Hythe Road, you will find a Wine and Gift Shop, Grapevine Cafe, Herb Garden, Rural Museum, Guided Tours, Children's Play Area and Vineyard Walks.
Tenterden Folk Festival
Details of the Festival are at www.tenterdenfolkfestival.org.uk.
A market is held every Friday in the High Street with a wide variety of stalls and produce in evidence. A Farmers’ market is held on the Recreation Ground, just off the High Street on the second Saturday of every month from 9.30am until 1pm. Tel: 01580 765111 for details.
Special Note: The 2007 Tour de France raced through the town, along the A28 on July 8th, with a sprint for the Maillot vert (green jersey) taking place in Tenterden!
MTC Taxis - based in Headcorn and Staplehurst 01580 890003 or visit MTC Taxis
Tenterden Taxis, Sayers La 01580 762277
Wealden Cars, Havisham House/Bell La, Biddenden 01580 291199
Abbey, 32 High St 0845-765 4321
HSBC Bank PLC, 59 High St 0845-740 4404
NatWest, 58 High St 0845-600 2803
Lloyds TSB, High Street
Barclays, High Street
The Surgery/Ivy Court, 01580 763666
EasySmile, Chain House, 6 East Cross 01580 763686
The Dental Centre, 138 High St 01580 763333
Woodbury Dental Practice, 149 High St 01580 762323
William Harvey Hospital, Kennington Road, Willesborough, Ashford 01233 633331
To check for the latest information contact the Tenterden Gateway, 2 Manor Row, Tenterden, Kent TN30 6HP
Phone: 01580 762558
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