Ashford, Kent

Ashford, Kent

infobox UK place
country = England
official_name= Ashford
latitude= 51.1465
longitude= 0.8676
population = 58,936 [ [ Office for National Statistics Key Statistics for Urban Areas] Table KS01]
shire_district= Ashford
shire_county= Kent
region= South East England
constituency_westminster= Ashford
post_town= TONBRIDGE
postcode_district = TN23, TN24, TN25
postcode_area= TN
dial_code= 01233
os_grid_reference= TR005425
london_distance= 57.1mi
The town of Ashford lies on the River Great Stour, M20 motorway, South Eastern Main Line and High Speed 1 railways, in the borough of Ashford, in Kent, England. Its agricultural market is one of the most important in the county. Ashford is a relatively common English placename: it goes back to Old English "æscet", indicating a ford near a clump of ash-trees.

The motto for Ashford is "With stronger faith", taken from, "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars", a poem by the 17th century poet Richard Lovelace from the borough, [ [ International Civic Heraldry] ] the relevant verse being [ [] ] cquote
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.



As a market town, Ashford has for centuries been a local communications hub for surroundingvillages and has stood at the centre of five railway lines, (Ashford to Ramsgate (via Canterbury West) line, Swanley to Ashford (via Maidstone East) Line, South Eastern Main Line, Kent Coast Line and the Marshlink Line) since the 19th century and with the opening of the International Passenger Station is now an important European communications centre, with new lines running between London and the Channel Tunnel (via High Speed 1).

The Borough of Ashford lies on the eastern edge of the ancient forest of "Andredsweald" or "Anderida". This originally stretched as far west as Hampshire and formed the basis from which the Weald is formed.

It is likely that the town originates from an original settlement established in 893AD by inhabitants escaping a Danish Viking raid on the nearby ancient village of Great Chart (Seleberhtes Cert in 762AD), although a Roman road passed through here from the iron making area to Canterbury. It is listed in the Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, as having a church, two mills and a value of 150 shillings, under its original Saxon name of "Essetesford" (or "Eshetisford," "Esselesford", "Asshatisforde", "Essheford"). [ [ 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica] ] The manor was owned by Hugh de Montford, Constable of England at the time. Writer Philpot believed Essetesford stood for "ash trees growing near a ford", while Lampard, a 16th century local historian, suggested that it meant "a ford over the river Eshe or Eshet", which was the old name for the tributary of the River Stour between Lenham and Ashford.

Its closeness to London has always made Kent a strong influence on the capital, and vice versa.Thus by the end of the 16th century Cade (of Cade’s Rebellion) was credited by William Shakespeare in Henry VI, part 2 as being from Ashford. The play includes an Ashford butcher called "Dick" who looks forward to removing officialdom after the rebellion and says: "first thing, let’s kill all the lawyers."

Ashford’s importance as a growing agricultural and market town was confirmed in 1243 when it was incorporated, and by the end of the 16th century it had risen to become an important market town, primarily for livestock. The market was held in the High Street until 1856 when local farmers and businessmen relocated to "Elwick Road" and formed a market company that claims to be the oldest surviving registered company in England and Wales. There is still a regular street market in the town, although the market company has relocated outside the town and is used by some 5,000 farmers. [ [] ]

Parts of the parish church date from the 13th century but was substantially restored in the 15th century with many alterations since. In 1638 a free grammar school was founded here, it was built on the churchyard’s west side, and remained there until 1846, now used as a museum.

The Joint Services School of Intelligence was based at "Templar Barracks" in Ashford, until the barracks were decommissioned in 1997 and then demolished to make way for High Speed 1. [ [ Kings College, London] ] In 1982, Prince Andrew, Duke of York was involved with the "School".


Ashford lies in a valley at the confluence of the Rivers Upper Great Stour and East Stour where it forms the River Great Stour, and where turns northwards to go through the "Stour Gap" in the North Downs towardsCanterbury, Sandwich and the English Channel. To the south lies the Weald.

The original town of Ashford, in common with most such towns, has outgrown its original size and has combined with smaller villages in a conurbation. These villages include Bockhanger, Kennington, Sevington, Singleton, and Willesborough. In addition, housing estates have been built in the open spaces between: Bybrook, Godinton, Kingsnorth, Park Farm and Stanhope.

Essentially a modern town, little is left of the old Ashford town centre, apart from some medieval half-timbered buildings in "Middle Row" and around the churchyard in the town centre. A number of old buildings were removed to make way for the controversial ring road around the centre, built in the early 1970s. Three modern shopping centres are located in the town: Park Mall, County Square and the new Designer Outlet. "Bank Street" and "High Street" are traffic-free shopping thoroughfares.

The huge build-up of commercial importance of the town, as well as its strategic location, is witnessed by the number of industrial, business and retail parks in the town. These include Waterbrook, a 740,000 m² (183 acres) site for production, storage and distribution with freight clearance facility; Eureka Science and Business Park, including manufacturing sites and prestige office complexes; the 570,000 m² (141 acres) Orbital Park; the design award winning Ashford Designer Outlet shopping centre; and 14 other Business Parks and Industrial Estates. Campbell Soup UK have a factory that produces Batchelor's Soup.

On 28 April, 2007, a small earthquake occurred in Ashford, Folkestone, Dover and surrounding areas, towns and villages. The earthquake was said to be 4.2 on the Richter scale. Eye witnesses of this said they felt their houses shake, or had a feeling of something crashing into their houses. At first, it was thought that it was an explosion. See "2007 Kent earthquake"


Rainfall in the area is highly influenced by the North Downs and the High Weald. In the summer (June to September) the rainfall is more showery, falling over shorter periods and is normally more intense than in the winter (November to February), were it comes along with low pressure area frontal systems and falls over longer periods of time. [ [ BBC weather] ]


Insofar as roads are concerned, Ashford was one of the towns in Kent to become a hub when the roads were turnpiked in the second half of the 18th century. ["The Rural Landscape of Kent", S.G.McRae & C.P.Burnham, Wye College,1973] Those roads later became the A20 road from London to the Channel ports; and the A28 connecting Canterbury with Hastings. Junctions 9 and 10 on the M20 motorway serve the town. A further road (the A251 links the town with Faversham.

Operation Stack on the M20, usually implemented in response to industrial action in Calais, brings Ashford to a halt several times each year Fact|date=April 2007.

The A292 Ashford Ring Road was created in the 1970s around the town centre in an attempt to relieve congestion along the previous main thoroughfare in the town centre, the narrow East Hill. The Ring Road has recently been converted to two-way traffic again, to minimise the "race track" feel and help bring the isolated town centre back into the rest of the area. [ [ Kent County Council] ] There are plans for a fast public transport link between the town centre and the suburbs and main amenities, called "SMARTLINK". "See also Fastrak)

The railway came to Ashford when the South Eastern Railway's London to Dover main line opened between 1842 and 1844, and the company established its locomotive works here. The railway community had its own shops, schools, pubs and bathhouse, and much of the area retains the look of a "railway town"; the works closed in 1981. Ashford became a junction when the line to Margate was opened in 1846; in 1851 today's Marshlink Line to Hastings was opened, and on 1 July 1884 the final connection, from Maidstone, was made.

The Ashford International station opened with the Channel Tunnel in 1994. It now serves Eurostar trains on High Speed 1, with trains to London, Lille and Paris and connections to the rest of Europe. In November 2007 direct services to Brussels were withdrawn and the frequency of trains to Paris was reduced to three per day when Ebbsfleet International railway station opened. Local firms, residents and politicians were amongst those seeking a less drastic change in the Eurostar timetable. With the introduction of domestic train services in 2009 along the new line to St Pancras and Stratford in East London, it is expected that travel time from Ashford to London will be reduced from 83 to about 37 minutes (Currently there are off peak services to London that take 63 minutes and 60 minutes from London to Ashford.) [] .

The airport at Lydd, designated London Ashford Airport and approximately 17 miles (27 km) from Ashford, has regular flights to Le Touquet, France by Lydd Air. London Gatwick Airport, the nearest fully international airport is 58 miles (94 km) from Ashford.

* The National Cycle Network, a network of cycle routes in the United Kingdom, includes two routes through Ashford: NCR 17 - Rochester - Maidstone - Ashford - Hythe; and NCR 18 - Canterbury - Ashford - Tenterden - Tunbridge Wells.

The Stour Valley Walk also follows the main river, connecting with other such long distance footpaths in this part of Kent, including the North Downs Way.


William Harvey Hospital, named after the doctor who discovered the blood circulatory system, is in Willesborough. It is the district general hospital, and was commissioned in 1977. [ [ Kent & Medway Hospitals] ]


: See complete list of schools at List of schools in Kent

Ashford is home to nineteen primary schools and six secondary schools. There are also two colleges of Further education and three of the secondary schools have Sixth Form education included.

The John Wesley School for primary education, built on the junction of "Chart Road/Cuckoo Lane", Singleton, opened in September 2007.

In June 2006, because of there being 1,008 empty school places in Ashford, Kent County Council discussed the "Kent Primary Strategy" proposing merging Ashford South Primary School and Oak Tree Primary School, also suggested for amalgamation are Beaver Green Infant and Hopewell Junior schools [ [ 2 August 2006] ] No further information is forthcoming (January 2008).

Now, 2008, Beaver Green Infants and Hopewell Juniors have joined to form Beaver Green Community Primary School, the head teacher being A. Macey.

Future development of the town

Ashford is one of the fastest growing areas in England, with rapid growth in the population and the infrastructure needed to support the town.Fact|date=April 2007 (For the development of the M20 motorway around Ashford, Junction 10 and the new Junction 10a see the M20 development article). In 2004 Regional Planning Guidance for Ashford set out plans to deliver over 13,000 homes by 2016. Overall, the area has the capacity to deliver a total of 31,000 new homes and 28,000 new jobs by 2031. [ [ Government Office for the South East] ] New housing estates are planned, in particular the area of Cheeseman's Green, to the east of the town. The town's ring road, with the town centre sitting as an island, in 2007, after thirty years as a one way system, is being converted back to a two-way operation, costing £10m. This will allow the town centre to expand and accommodate the increasing population. [ [ Kent County Council] ] The new road will have a two-way route with narrower carriageways and a 20mph speed limit. [ [] 9 June 2006] The integral arts program Lost O, curated by the artist Michael Pinsky, which has been developed as part of this Shared Space scheme has been highly controversial, [ [] 9 July 2007] which has now been moved slightly out of the way from the road to avoid confusion by the passing drivers.The main shopping centre, County Square, is being expanded and is set for completion in March 2008. It will be twice the size of the original and will house many well-known stores. Preliminary plans have been placed for a monorail to link the Designer Outlet and Town Centre.In addition a new Waitrose store is set to open in 2009. The nightclub M20, is to be rebuilt on a new site on Eureka Leisure Park. The new train line High Speed One will access London in 37 minutes, opening in 2009.


Within the town there are some tourist attractions, among them being Ashford Borough Museum, Godinton House and Gardens [ [ Godinton House and Gardens] ] and the Willesborough Windmill. In addition to the main library in the town there are some local, smaller libraries. A First World War Mk. IV tank built in Lincoln was presented to the town on 1 July 1919. It is still displayed in the town, a rare survivor. [ History of Ashford] ]

The Ashford Green Corridor is a linear park alongside the two main rivers through the town.

Ashford is twinned with -
* Bad Münstereifel in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, (population 19,007) twinned since 1964. (See the German language page for Bad Münstereifel and the town's location on [ Multimap] .)
* Fougères in Brittany, France, (population 21,779) twinned since 1984. (See the French language page for Fougères and the town's location on [ Multimap] )
* Hopewell, Virginia, USA, (population 22,354) twinned since 1994. (See the town's location on [ Multimap] )


* Ashford Town Football Club formed around 1880 as Ashford United and has changed names to Ashford Railway and Ashford FC before settling on the current "Town". The club's highest league position was 18th in the Southern League, Premier Division, 1987-88 and best FA Cup performance was the 2nd round in the 1962-63, 1966-67 and 1995-96 seasons.
* [ Ashford Hockey Club] is based at Ball Lane, Kennington and were formed in 1898.
* [ Ashford Town Swimming Club]
* [ Ashford Rugby Club] , based in Kennington. The club has a thriving junior section: [ Ashford Rugby Under 15s] . The Club organises an annual beer festival: a 3 day event, held each August, featuring real ale, music and rugby.
* The Julie Rose Stadium is in Willesborough: it is an athletics stadium and home to Ashford Athletics Club.

Notable people

Ashford has housed many musicians, from Kate Bush, who attended Ashford School, and skiffle band Mungo Jerry founder, Ray Dorset to the organists and composers Sir Sydney Nicholson and Sir Malcolm Sargent. Roger Dean the artist featured on Yes' album covers, Frederick Forsyth the author of "The Day of the Jackal" and Dudley Pope, a writer, were born in the town. Actors, Patsy Byrne (Nursie in the sitcom "Blackadder II") and Mark Rylance were born in the area, with other personalities from the town including satirist John Wells from "That Was The Week That Was" and Bob Holness, a television presenter. And Ben Mills lived there, he was a runner up for the X-Factor and has a couple of CDs.

Notable people of the area from the past

Poets, Alfred Austin (Poet Laureate in 1896), John Fuller lived in the town. Philosopher Simone Weil also lived here; upon contracting tuberculosis she was moved to a sanatorium at Kennington, and declared the town "a beautiful place to die", later being recognised by the town's council naming a road after her. Dr John Wallis, the internationally recognised mathematician, credited by Sir Isaac Newton as being the founder of his theory of gravity was born in the town.

Ashford has recently produced many sporting athletes, from Sarah Ayton (Olympic games gold medal winning sailor) and Lisa Dobriskey (Commonwealth Gold 1500m athletics event winner) to Jamie Staff (BMX cycling World Champion and Track cycling multi medal winner).

Comedian Paul O'Grady is a local resident, as well as Shooting Stars presenters 'Vic and Bob' who live in the surrounding area.

External links

* A "Travel Guide" for visitors is available by viewing .
* [ History website includes maps and Photographs]
* [ Ashford Chamber of Commerce website]
* [ Ashford Borough Council website]
* [ Ashford Local] - News, photographs and local businesses for Ashford, Kent.
* [ kentish express] - Local news and events from the Ashford area
* [ yourashford] - Weekly news paper website
* [ trashford website] - A comical view of life in Ashford


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