West Malling Tourist Guide

West Malling is 35 miles (56 km) from central London, next to the main road between London and the coastal ferry ports of Folkestone and Dover and with first-rate links by road and rail.

The building of the West Malling and Leybourne Bypass, which began in May 2005, was the means for some thrilling archaeological discoveries. The new road crosses the ancient manors of Malling and Leybourne, place-names that first appeared in a mid-10th century charter.

The earliest finds were flint tools dating to the Mesolithic (8500-4000 BC), Neolithic (4000-2400 BC) and Bronze Age (2400-700 BC). They included an arrowhead and a fragment of a tranchet adze. These finds and Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery were dotted across most of the excavation areas showing that the landscape had been expolited for thousands of years.
Maybe the most exhilarating find was a Late Bronze Age spearhead, which was discovered by one of the local metal detectorists who worked  with the excavation team.

However the most noteworthy discoveries belonged to the Late Iron Age. They show  a picture of the area as farmland with two farmsteads on the higher ground by the West Malling stream. The borders of fields and possible stock enclosures were found, each about 50m square, which had been remodeled time and again while in use. The two farmsteads seem to have been deserted in the late 1st century BC/early 1st century AD with the Roman invasion of Britain.  Little Romano-British material was found along the Bypass route and it looks as if this part of the Medway valley was little used at the time.

West Malling contains many historic buildings. St. Leonard’s Tower, a Norman keep, was built by Bishop Gundulf c.1080. He also built the White Tower of the Tower of London, the castles of Rochester and Colchester, the Priory and Cathedral of Rochester. In c.1090 Gundulf founded St. Mary’s Abbey in West Malling for Benedictine nuns. This notable site contains important buildings from the Norman, medieval, Tudor and Georgian eras. There is also a Grade II* 1966 Abbey Church which is used by the Anglican Benedictine nuns who have made Malling Abbey their home since 1916. Other buildings of significance in West Malling include the Prior’s House, oIwRDYyOTlDRDBGNDQzQUJDN0YzRjAwRDosy; Ford House, over 600 years old; a mainly Georgian High Street; the Swan, an 18th-century coaching inn, and Went House, built c.1720 and noted for its stylish brickwork.

In the 1930s Maidstone Airport was established two miles from the town, at Kings Hill. During the Second World War, RAF fighters were based at the then-named RAF West Malling, and several US Navy squadrons were located there during the 1960s. After shutting down as an operational air station in 1967, a number of commercial air-based activities moved onto the site, and a number of popular airshows took place - the last being in 1987. By this time work had started to change the area to non-flying use, developing into the new parish of Kings Hill.

West Malling is alleged to be the site of the first recorded cricket match in Kent. The ground, off Norman Road, was once the home of inter-county cricket in Kent, and it is known that In 1705, "West of Kent" played Chatham at Malling.

The setting for the cricket match between All Muggleton and Dingley Dell in Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers was based on a combination of the grounds at West Malling and Maidstone. There is a similarity to West Malling in the original picture of the match, a version of which featured on the back of the £10 banknote featuring Dickens, first circulated on 29 April 1992.

Find more useful information here: www.west-malling.co.uk and here: www.westmallingfarmersmarket.co.uk

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