Westerham Tourist Guide

Introduction

Westerham lies between Godstone and Sevenoaks on the A25 towards the top of the river Darent valley.

It is just south of the M25 between junctions 5 and 6. The village is in the north-west corner of Kent bordering Surrey and is part of the historic North Weald and the North Downs Way. It has a population of approximately 5000.

A settlement has been in this area from pre-Roman times and an earthworks can still be seen in Squerryes Park. The village was recorded as Oistreham in the Domesday Book and prior to the Norman Conquest was held by Earl Godwin , the father of King Harold who was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. William the Conqueror gave the lands to one of the knights reported to have killed Harold, Earl Eustace of Boulogne. His son, Geoffrey de Boulogne, later held them until they were transferred to the de Camville family in the early 1200s. The village was granted its market charter in 1227.

In 1450, on January 21st, during the rebellion of Jack Cade , Robert Poyntings led a number of locals in a riot in the village . Sir William Crowmer who was beheaded by Cade and had his head fixed to London Bridge , was the son of Margaret Squerryes who lived in Westerham . In 1534 the manor was handed over to Henry VIII, who in turn gave it to John Gresham together with Edenbridge in 1540.  John Gresham was a knight and banker who became Lord Mayor of London in 1547.

One of Westerham's most famous sons was James Wolfe. He was born in the village and baptised in January 1727. He became famous for scaling the Heights of Abraham and capturing Quebec from the French commander General Montcalm in 1757. He died on the 13th September 1759 in Quebec and was buried at Greenwich. In 1922 Sir Winston Churchill purchased Chartwell , a Victorian country house in nearby Crockham Hill . He renewed and renovated the buildings, and lived here until his death in 1964. Chartwell was bought by friends of Churchill and given to the National Trust in 1945.

Westerham has maintained its country feel by virtue of the Metropolitan Green Belt act of 1938, having been designated as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and of Special Landscape Value. Statues on the green commemorate the two English heroes, Wolfe and Churchill. Close to Westerham is Biggin Hill and a visit to the chapel commemorating the Battle of Britain pilots is an informative and poignant reminder as to what happened in the skies above during WW II.

 

St Mary the Virgin

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin is clearly visible from a distance as you approach the town of Westerham and nestles behind the north-east corner of the Green. The earliest parts of the present building date from the fourteenth century and it has been added to and modified many times over the years. A careful study provides a wealth of information about the history of the locality.

The Church registers record the baptism of General James Wolfe (who was born in the Old Vicarage) and three of Sir Winston Churchill's grandchildren in this same font, as well as many thousands of other local residents. The fine fourteenth century spiral staircase is one of only two of this age to turn unusually to the left. On the walls nearby hang three Royal Coats of Arms; those of Edward VI (the oldest known of this reign), George III and (added during the Jubilee year) that of Queen Elizabeth II. In this same tower hangs an excellent peal of 8 bells. St Mary's Church has been the spiritual centre of Westerham for many centuries and many of the names appearing on the memorials within the tombstones surrounding the Church are found also as street and place names in the town, as well as being common amongst local residents. Thus the Church has had a permanent influence on the life of the town and the histories of the two are inextricably linked.

Places to see and visit in and around Westerham

Toys Hill forms part of the 450 acres of woodland that lies between the towns of Westerham, Edenbridge and Sevenoaks and is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Grade I site of national importance for nature conservation. One reason for this is the National Trust’s Bat Tower – a disused water tower, built in 1906, that has been transformed into a hibernation site for bats. The area’s name derives from a local family who owned the land in the Middle Ages.

The Green has been one of the most important public spaces in the history of the small but perfectly appointed village. Since there has been a community here the village green has been used as a place of trading and meeting by local people and visiting traders on their way to and from London. The Green today is effectively a piece of parkland reserved for people to sit, relax and watch the world go by.

 

Chartwell was the family home of Sir Winston Churchill from 1924 until his death in 1965. The rooms are kept as they were during his lifetime and offer an insight into both his domestic and political life. Photographs, books and personal possessions, including his famous cigars, evoke his career, personality and family. Museum and exhibition rooms contain displays, sound recordings and collections of memorabilia. Many of Sir Winston´s own paintings are on view in his studio. Many features created by Sir Winston survive in the garden including the walls he built himself and the lakes and ponds stocked with golden orfe. The house is now run by national trust. The house is situated 2 miles south of Westerham in Kent off the B2026 road. The Chart Well which rises on the western boundary of the site fed the existing lake and gave the estate its name.

Squerryes Court is a beautiful 17th century manor house which has been the Warde family home since 1731. It is surrounded by 20 acres of attractive and historic gardens which include a lake, restored parterres and an 18th century dovecote. Squerryes is 22 miles from London and easily accessible from the M25. Chartwell, Hever, Knole and Penshurst are all nearby. There are lovely views and peaceful surroundings. Visitors from far and wide come to enjoy the atmosphere of a house which is still lived in as a family home.

Charts Edge Gardens have been featured on T.V. and also in The Good Gardens Guide. The 10 acre gardens are spectacular with many varieties and unusual plants. Features include: An innovative rainbow border flanking the rill garden, Magnificent displays of Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias and Magnolias, Victorian Folly, The terraced water garden and cascades, Large mixed and herbaceous borders, Sculpture trail, Bog garden, exotic garden and rock garden with over 150 varieties

Beaver Water World, Waylands Farm, Tatsfield. The Reptile collection at Beaver Water World started in 1980 with a small Indian Python, rescued by a local pest control officer. 'Rivet' the Python, soon grew out of his small vivarium and was also found a mate. It was decided that a large snake room should be built at the back of the aquatic shop to provide a good environment for the snakes and have them on show to the visitors. One rescued snake led to another and in due course Big Boy the alligator came to join the collection.

New enclosures and new species have been added ever since, with particular emphasis on housing the animals in groups or pairs to encourage an active breeding programme.

Both Airport Quarantine and the R.S.P.C.A. have brought many animals to Beaver Water World to be cared for, and they often refer people to Beaver Water World for advice.

They are working to extend their captive breeding programme, and have plans in hand to create near natural conditions in peaceful and secure settings. So far they have been successful in breeding Burmese Pythons, Reticulated Pythons, Crocodiles, Boa Constrictors, Green Tree Snakes and Basilisks.

The Reptile Rescue Centre is a Registered Charity and visitors’ support is greatly appreciated. All admission fees and donations go towards the upkeep and welfare of the animals.

Taking some exercise

Part of the Altonwood Golf Group with Surrey National, Woldingham and Godstone Golf Clubs, Westerham Golf Club was born out of the great storm of 1987, which created an ideal site for a golf course and was opened in May 1997. The course consists of 18 holes set in mature woodland, with tree-lined fairways, water features and stunning views over the North Downs. The 6,272 yards, par 72 course has been built to a very high standard, with USGA specification greens and irrigation installed on the greens, tees and approaches. The course is complimented by a superb clubhouse, which holds first class facilities including a large spike bar, sun terrace, comfortable changing rooms, Pro shop and air-conditioned function suite. In addition the facilities include a 10-acre driving range, putting green, indoor teaching area and a brand new 8 acre short game area. Visit www.westerhamgc.co.uk.

There is also Park Wood Golf Club – check them out at www.parkwoodgolf.co.uk.

Alternatively try the fitness club at MoorEnergy on Fullers Hill Tel: 01959 561622.

Taxis

S&P Taxis Tel: 01959 563993

Streaky Cars Tel: 01959 570000

Arvee Tel: 01959 562091

Medical

The Winterton Surgery is in Market Square (Tel: 01959 564949) and Westerham Dental Practice is on Vicarage Hill (Tel: 01959 563629).

 

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