Spotlight on Edenbridge
With its magical medieval buildings and glorious walks and views, Edenbridge is always a delight to visit, but is at its most exciting this month: who will be on top of the famous annual bonfire this November?
Spotlight on Edenbridge
Edenbridge is one of the finest rural towns in Kent, and the glorious views across the Eden valley from its lovely old stone bridge seem hardly to have changed in centuries. November is an excellent time to visit, as the High Street is tailor-made for winter walks and it’s packed with magical medieval buildings – what’s more there are several welcoming old coaching inns to tempt you inside after dark.
November’s top diary date is Saturday 6th, night of the famous annual Edenbridge bonfire, where not only is a giant Guy Fawkes (claimed to be the biggest in the world by the organisers) burnt on the pyre, but also a second effigy of a celebrity-in-the-news goes up in smoke.
Last year’s roast was Katie Price, cheerfully clutching the heads of two of her husbands. For topicality’s sake, the person is chosen within days of the event, meaning that the glitterati of England are dreading the possibility of becoming Edenbridge toast (see competition at end).
The main part of town is the High Street, and there are a couple of free car parks at each end, as well as limited on-street parking on Church Street. Start your tour at the beautiful stone-built St Peter and St Paul in Church Street. This has a remarkably quaint wooden lych gate, and some beautiful tombs in the churchyard.
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Go down Church Road and you pass the library on the right: its ecclesiastical appearance is due to the fact that it was previously constructed as the church school in the 1850s.
Beyond the library you’ll find Church cottage, one of Edenbridge’s many 15th-century timber-framed buildings. Where Church Street joins the High Street is an area called The Square, and the left corner is occupied by what was once a 1400’s Wealden hall house, now divided into Farringtons Jewellers, the Edenbridge bookshop and a charity shop.
Just beyond the bookshop is The King and Queen pub, and further along is the red-brick-and-stone Baptist church. Cross the road and turn left and the highway passes over a tributary of the river and here, set back from the carriageway is 94-96 High Street, a magnificent old timber-framed building.
The road then becomes The Great Stone Bridge, built in 1834, with low stone walls on either side, and from the left you can see beyond to green fields going into the distance, while on the right side are wonderful views of the river.
Adjacent to here is the pretty paved area of the Bridge Garden and the start of the Riverside Walk. Turn around and retrace your steps to 94-96 and just after here you pass the Tandoori restaurant, with Eden florists across the road.
Continue along past Tanyard House, and then you’ll see The Chocolate Box, occupying part of what was once 15th-century Southdown House. Edenbridge Galleries is opposite, then you come to Ye Old Crown Inn on the left (built around. 1375).
Next to this is Eden Valley Museum, the oldest surviving building in Edenbridge – don’t be fooled by the brick frontage that conceals the ancient timber facade. Behind here is Doggetts Barn (council offices, also housing the Visitor Information Point), formerly Doggetts Farm House, the one-time nerve centre for the vast farm that originally occupied the land. Opposite the museum is Chevertons of Edenbridge Ltd, in the premises of Taylour House, built and occupied by the illustrious Sir William Taylour (see below).
After the White Horse Inn, the road widens and you come to the Ebenezer Chapel, now the Bridges Centre. St Lawrence’s presbytery marks the end of the High Street: a 1700s building whose 19th-century renovations belie its age.
• Eden Valley Museum (01732 868102). See local historical artifacts (including a Second World War commemorations exhibition) in one of the oldest buildings in town. Phone to check opening hours.
• Visitor Information Point (01732 865368) in the Town council offices at Doggetts Barn, behind the museum.
• Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul.
• Bridges Centre (once the Ebenezer Chapel) (01732 868186) open in the mornings for light refreshments, also craft workshops, folk music and art exhibitions.
• The Great Stone Bridge.
• Bridge Garden/ Riverside Walk.
• Edenbridge Leisure Centre (01732 865665) has a multi-purpose sports hall, squash court, caf�, cr�che and 25-metre pool.
• Golf at Kent and Surrey Golf and County Club (01732 867381) and Hever Castle Golf Club 01732 700771).
• Chiddingstone castle (01892 870347), described as a ‘traditional country squire’s house with the charm of a fantasy castle.’ See Egyptian and Buddhist artifacts, swords and armour from Japan, Stuart and Jacobite art collections, rose gardens, woodland cascade and a Victorian Tea Room. Christmas fair on 11 November.
• Chiddingstone village has fantastic examples of timbered Tudor houses, and the village shop was owned by Anne Boleyn’s father.
• Hever Castle (01732 865224). Marvellous 13th-century castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, with displays of costumed historical figures. Formal Italian gardens with William Waldorf Astor’s amazing collection of Italian sculpture, topiary, rose garden, mazes and adventure playground.
• Haxted Mill (01732 862914) on the river Eden. Opened as a watermill museum in 1969 and recently the waterwheel and mill race have been fully restored, incorporating Haxted Mill Riverside Brasserie and Bar.
• Penshurst Place (01892 870307) magnificent hall and staterooms, Tudor walled garden, toy museum, adventure playground and Woodland trail.
• Bough Beech Reservoir adjacent to a nature reserve, perfect for bird watching, the start point for a nature trail through farmlands and woods.
Past and present
Originally known variously as Eadhelmsbrigge (Eadhelm’s bridge) Eadelmesbrege or Eadenegbrigge, the genesis of the settlement began along part of a disused Roman road, which is now the High Street. In the eighth century the area was a vast wild forest, punctuated by clearances for pig pastures, known as ‘dens’ in Saxon times (for example. Shrenden, Crippenden, Den Cross and Edenbridge itself).
Edenbridge grew in medieval times when a number of Wealden hall houses were built and Henry 111 granted a charter for a Saturday market, when Lord-of-the-manor, Robert de Camvill held rights over the local brewers and bakers. A cattle market operated until the 1920s, and today Market Yard car park holds a weekly market and a monthly Farmers’ Market.
High Weald sandstone contained iron, engendering the Wealden iron industry that prospered in the middle ages, with local timber providing the necessary charcoal, and there were a number of forges and furnaces in Cowden parish. Tanning operations thrived from the 1670s until 1974, when Whitmore’s Tannery closed, with the current ‘leathermarket’ area delineating its site. In Victorian times there were a number of saw pits producing oak planks at the site of Edenbridge Town Station, but this trade ended in the early 1900s. Wealden clay was also used to feed six brickworks for 150 years. Two railway lines were built in the 1800s, which encouraged further growth and the 1950s and 60s saw housing developments, as well as the creation of industrial estates, which completed the town's transformation from small market town to one reliant on light industry.
• The Greshams, the famous Elizabethan banking family, were Lords of the manor
• The Streatfeilds, Knights and Tichbornes, were notable ironmaster dynasties of the 16th-18th centuries
• Sir John Mills (actor)
• William Taylour, who occupied Taylour house (now Chevertons) was elected Sheriff of London in 1455 and Lord Mayor in 1468
• Octavia Hill, social reformer and founder of the National Trust
• Jean Rook, journalist
• John Osborne, playwright
• James Naysmith, inventor of the steam hammer
• John Surtees, motor cycling and formula one racing champion
• Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, the Arts and Crafts architect, is buried in the churchyard
• Bowes-Lyons of Skeynes – the Queen Mother’s family
Did you know?
• In 1866 there were riots at Mark Beech when English navvies attacked lower-paid French workers during the construction of the railway line
• Ye Old Crown Inn has smuggling links, with a concealed upstairs passage for housing casks and secret pipes leading to the tap room, disconnected if Excise men came in! It has the only signboard in Kent that spans the road
• Edenbridge is twinned with Mont St Aignan and unofficially linked to Barsinghausen in Germany
• There are a great many medieval Wealden hall houses, with interesting and historic timber constructions, for example Church house (the museum), the Old Crown Inn, The Old Eden pub and the Priest House in Church Street
• The area has the highest proportion of ancient woodland in the country
• The parish church has arts-and-crafts design connections – there’s a large stained glass window by Burne Jones, and architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott is buried in the churchyard
• The church clock has no minute hand
• Current local family names such as Streatfeild, Seal, Sidney, Leigh and Everest were also familiar in the late 1500s
• Cricket balls and bats were produced in the Chiddingstone and Penshurst area from 1760 until 1994, and Chiddingstone Causeway was one of the main sources of high quality cricket balls for two centuries. The Duke family name still appears on balls made by British Cricket Balls Ltd, who absorbed Duke’s business into theirs in the 1950s
• Edenbridge was a national centre for prize fighting, and where the longest ever fight ever took place in 1849, at Batchelor’s Farm
• Edenbridge is the name of a well-known Austrian Gothic rock band
• Stoolball, originally invented by medieval Devonian milkmaids, is a game played in the villages of Chiddingstone Hoath, Penshurst and Chiddingstone Causeway
The Edenbridge Bonfire
6 November 2010
This centuries-old traditional event is the largest in Kent and one of the oldest in the country, and this year over 20,000 visitors are expected. The entertainment consists of a procession through Edenbrige High Street of several hundred people in fancy dress and carrying flaming torches, plus decorated floats, followed by the burning of a 30ft high effigy of Guy Fawkes, then of a similar-sized celebrity guy, plus a firework extravaganza, in a field.
To achieve maximum topicality and suspense, the celebrity guy’s identity is decided at the last moment, and kept secret until the actual night of his or her burning. Last year it was a 30ft effigy of Katie Price, holding likenesses of the heads of Peter Andre and Alex Reid. In previous years the roasted unfortunates have included: Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand, Saddam Hussein, Cherie Blair and John MacCririck, John Prescott, Ann Robinson, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
�— The parade is free to watch, entrance to the firework/effigy burning field: �7 adult �3 children. Advance tickets (�1 cheaper for adults) available from the Edenbridge Bookshop. The Edenbridge Bonfire Society is also running a competition to guess the celebrity and win free tickets to the event: if you would like to know more, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Considering a move?
Prices are relatively high, reflecting Edenbridge’s convenient situation and good access to London combined with its rural tranquility. Expect to pay �147,000-�178,000 for a one-bedroom and two-bedroom flat respectively, while a two-bedroom house is about �240,500. A three-bedroom semi e is �355,000 and a four-bedroom detached house likely to be upwards of �640,000.
How to get there
On the B2026, accessible via the B269 and A25 at Oxted, reached by junction 6 of the M25. There are two stations: Edenbridge and Edenbridge Town. Local bus services link Edenbridge to nearby villages and Tunbridge wells. Call Traveline 0871 200 2233. Satnav postcode: TN8 5BD.
Colleen Perry, owner C P Books (01732 300814) and an Open University lecturer in arts subjects
Does the shop specialise?
No, it’s largely general interest books, but they all of good quality, cleaned and covered before being offered for sale. I try to maintain a stock of local-interest titles, and keep booklets on the surrounding villages and places of interest.
What do you love about books?
As someone interested in art, I love jacket designs and black-and-white woodcut illustrations. I’m particularly fascinated by the excitement of tracking down rare and out-of-print books. I’m a Miss Marple book sleuth!
Has the town changed in your 18 years here?
Certainly, the population has doubled.
Describe Edenbridge to a newcomer
It’s a small country town where people look after one another. We were the first to have churches of all denominations working in covenant together and we are now a Fair Trade town.
Your favourite part of Edenbridge?
I love the walk along the River Eden and the airfield strip where I walk with Daisy, my chocolate Labrador, and friends.
Your favourite restaurant in town?
I go to the MochaBean (01732 863100) for lunch with friends on my day off. We get fantastic service and excellent food in an intimate atmosphere.
How would you improve the town?
It would be good to have a new secondary school, so youngsters don’t have to travel so far.
What’s best about Edenbridge?
The town has a good community spirit and nestles in a valley surrounded by beautiful countryside: woods, hills and dales. All the shops are readily accessible along the High Street, and there are two train stations for excellent access to London. What more could you want?