A town guide to Westerham, Kent
- Credit: Archant
If it was good enough for Churchill, it’s good enough for anyone. We take a look at the small country town with a few big claims to fame. It can only be Westerham
As its name suggests, Westerham is as westerly as you can get in Kent before crossing the border into Surrey.
A stone’s throw from some of Kent’s finest countryside, and with Sevenoaks just 15 minutes away by car, it also happens to have easy access to the M25 and is close to Oxted station for a quick journey into London by train.
A small, scenic town with attractive architecture and a beautiful green at its heart, it nestles in the valley of the River Darent and is known as the ‘gateway to the Garden of England’.
Famous for centuries as a centre for the brewing industry, its huge Black Eagle Brewery closed in the 1960s. The Westerham Brewery company, established in 2004 but not originally based in the town, has only recently brought brewing back to Westerham with the opening of its new facility on Beggars Lane.
The town is also home to one of the jewels of the National Trust’s crown – Chartwell, the former home of Sir Winston Churchill.
But he isn’t the area’s only claim to fame. War hero General James Wolfe was born in Westerham and his childhood home is also open to the public. Nearby, Biggin Hill is famous for its airport.
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One of the most important fighter stations during the war, Spitfires are still being restored and flown from the site thanks to the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar.
Westerham may be relatively small for a town but it is affluent, as demonstrated by the selection of great clothing boutiques, homeware stores, cafés and restaurants. Popular with commuters who want to live in the countryside but remain close to London, it is a charming town with plenty to offer residents and visitors alike.
Five places to visit in Westerham
You can’t come to Westerham without visiting its biggest claim to fame. The former home of Sir Winston Churchill, Chartwell is under the care of the National Trust.
A stunning red-brick country mansion, it was his family home for more than 40 years. Today visitors can see the beautiful grounds, gardens and the views over the Weald which Churchill loved so much.
The house is preserved as it was when the family lived there, complete with the art studio in which Churchill painted.
2. Quebec House
Another delightful National Trust property is Quebec House, the childhood home of General James Wolfe. The war hero died at the Battle of Quebec in 1759, but only after leading the British Army to victory against the French. Originally called Spiers, it was renamed Quebec House in his honour. Visitors can see the property as it would have been in Wolfe’s time and an exhibition tells the story of the epic battle which brought him posthumous fame.
Nearby Squerryes Court also has a link to General Wolfe as his great boyhood friend, George Warde, lived here. In fact, it has been in the Warde family for more than 280 years and remains so today. Although the house is not generally open to the public, the estate includes a 35-acre vineyard producing fabulous English sparkling wines. Its winery has a shop, tasting room and terrace, with regular food and drink events. In another part of the estate, a Forest School has recently been set up to provide local children with more opportunities to take their learning outdoors.
The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, set just off the green, has stood for more than 800 years and has records of the baptism of General James Wolfe and three of Winston Churchill’s grandchildren. It’s a beautiful church, with a churchyard that drops away to offer spectacular views. Special features to look out for include a rare 14th century spiral staircase, a memorial tablet and window to Wolfe and the royal coats of arms of Edward VI, George III and Elizabeth II.
A new face in the town, albeit with a very old name, Westerham Brewery opened its impressive new facility at the end of last year. Bringing brewing back to a town made famous by it, the new building includes a shop and tap room open to the public. Street food vans and outside caterers provide snacks at the weekends and there are regular food and drink events. Take a tour of the brewery, hire it for a private party or just pop in to enjoy a pint of excellent local beer.
Eating and shopping
Many of its pubs, shops and restaurants are set around the green, Market Square and down the High Street. Some to try include Rendezvous, Napoli E, Deli di Luca, Tudor Rose Tearooms, The Courtyard, The Drop Bar at Westerham Cyclery, Food For Thought and out-of-town Indian gem Shampan at The Spinning Wheel.
Pubs include The Grasshopper on the Green, The George and Dragon and The King’s Arms - plus there’s a trendy new wine bar called No 17. Westerham Brewery’s new tap room is proving popular with beer lovers and there’s wine tasting to be done at Squerryes Estate new Tasting Room, also based at the Beggars Lane site.
When it comes to shopping, Westerham has everything from a post office and pharmacy to gift shops and furniture stores. A few of our favourites include The Vintage Home Company and sister store The Old Bakery, Annie’s Attic, florist Posy & Wild, The Interior Design Studios, Chocs on the Green, Manuka Shoes, Flawless Jewellery and clothing boutiques including Kate’s Collection.
Fleapit Cinema Club
What began as a vague idea to launch a local film club in the 1990s has resulted in the town’s popular Fleapit Cinema Club, based at Westerham Hall. The not-for-profit club is run entirely by volunteers and financed through members’ annual subscriptions.
“Our aim has always been to recreate the convivial atmosphere of bygone fleapits, specifically Westerham’s old Swan Picture Hall, which closed in 1963,” says one of the founders, Mark de Angeli. “This informality, plus a well-stocked bar and interval ice creams, has been fundamental to our success. We show films across all genres, periods and languages, curating a balanced, varied season based around suggestions from our 300-plus members.”
Every season includes a silent film night with live accompaniment by Stephen Horne. In March he will be joined by percussionist Martin Pyne to accompany the very first film version of Chicago.
New members are always welcome and visitors are also encouraged, with guest tickets priced at £5. Visit www.fleapit.info.
Westerham is a desirable place to live and property is understandably expensive in the small town, with nearby Biggin Hill providing a more affordable option. At the time of writing, Westerham’s property market began at £300,000 for a two-bedroom flat, with three-bed semis priced between £400,000 and £800,000. Larger properties are priced right up to £2.75million.
Westerham is in the very west of Kent, close to the border with Surrey. It lies on the A25 between Brasted and Oxted, close to the M25. Oxted is the closest train station. Sat nav: TN16 1RB.
Postcard from Westerham
I’m Jo Cameron and l have been a barber since 1993, working in several establishments along the way. I’ve been barbering in Westerham for six years now. Upon deciding to become my own boss in June of this year I took on a lovely building which was originally the ticket office for the long-gone Westerham train station and is still called Station House, situated on London Road.
My new business is called House of Handsome and it offers a modern twist on your regular barbershop, with a relaxed feel, lounge-style comfortable seating, a great atmosphere, free-flowing tea, coffee, soft drinks and even the occasional beer to finish off the full experience.
Our customers can be locals, tourists or customers who commute to the town to their place of work. No appointment is necessary.
Having worked and lived in the town for several years now I know it is a very friendly place, holding plenty of local history with Winston Churchill having lived close by at Chartwell, and General Wolfe.
The town is a great destination for food and drinks, with my favourites being The Grasshopper on the Green and the George and Dragon pubs. But we have many other great restaurants and cafés here including Food For Thought, Tudor Rose and The Courtyard, along with Rendezvous, No 17 bar and not forgetting the lovely Deli di Luca. Westerham Brewery also came back to the town this summer.
The countryside and walks in and around Westerham are beautiful too. And at this time of year we’re getting ready for the town’s Christmas lights switch-on and late night Christmas shopping event.