The History of Egerton Village
Egerton is Parish with just under 1000 inhabitants today, mostly concentrated in the village centre on the Greensand Ridge or in Egerton Forstal down on The Weald. Almost every type of domestic architecture is evident in the village, from Medieval Hall Houses, Yeoman Houses and Kentish Barns to modern bungalows, detached houses, and semi-detached houses. Despite this diversity of styles and ages, and some relatively large scale housing development in recent decades, the predominant style remains red brick with plain tile, hipped roofing.
The oldest surviving houses in the village date from about the Fifteenth Century, but the presence of the Church with Medieval origins clearly indicates that the settlement is older than it appears. Research by the Egerton Local History Group identifies a farmstead called Eegheard’s dating from before the Twelfth Century and then a community called Eardington. The use of the ‘ton’ ending is a common Saxon reference to a hill top settlement.
Many of our Churches occupy pre-Christian sites, and the prominence of this particular site suggests that a hill top farming community could have been established here for much longer. Evidence of a Second Century Roman burial site with pottery sherds was discovered at Coldharbour Farm to the West of the village. However, the oldest structure must be the round barrow in the field to the east of the village, which is a scheduled Ancient Monument, and thought to be of Bronze Age origin (2500-701BC). However, even older archaeological finds include a Neolitithic (4000- 2201 BC) adze near Field Mill to the north of the village, a Neolithic axe at Munday Bois to the south of the village and a Late Mesolithic (10,000- 4001BC) pick at Kingsland Farm, also to the south.
The oldest surviving houses are surprisingly not all clustered in the centre of the village around the Church, but actually spread out along other roads and often some distance away. Link House to the west of the village is a Kentish Yeoman’s hall house dating from at least the Fifteenth Century. Such scattering indicates the importance of farming in the Parish with homesteads built where the land was worked. Damp pasture would be available on the Wealden clays south of the village and richer soils would support arable farming on the better drained soils on the Greensand Ridge. This pattern is broadly unchanged today, with orchards and crops on the high ground and largely livestock grazing on the lower fields.
The supply of water is also a crucial factor and many of the original houses occupy sites where spring water emerged from the ragstone bedrock. For example, Spring Cottage in Rock Hill Road is one of the oldest houses in the village itself, although some of the remote farmhouses in the Parish date from similar times. Also, evidence has been found at Field Mill by the Great Stour of some (probably ecclesiastical) Post Medieval buildings. Wind power would also have been important in the past and the there are remains of a Post Medieval smock mill, currently off Stone Hill, which once stood near the Parish Church.
Overall there are 80 Listed Buildings (or structures) in the Parish of Architectural and/or Historic Interest, and although there is a concentration of them in the village centre, most of them interestingly are outside the village itself.
The Egerton Local History Group
The Egerton Local History Group was formed in 1999 with the aim of producing a book of a history of the village, as seen from the memories of those on the committee.
The committee consisted of 12 members of the Over 60s Club who met once a month to hand over their stories and research undertaken since the previous month. These items eventually led to the production of an impressive book, published by Robert Swift, printed by Mickle Print of Canterbury and launched in the Millennium Hall on 3rd November 2001. The book is called:
“A History of Egerton. 1900-2000”
The book contains 10 Chapters as follows:
Chapter 1: An introduction to Egerton containing sections on general aspects of the village from Place Names, Services (water, electricity etc.) to Clubs and Societies, Hunts, Parish Council, Education, Churches etc.
Chapters 2 to 7: A detailed street-by-street, road-by-road description of every house in the village commencing each Part of each Chapter with a map showing the road or street to be described. Many of the older houses have quite an extensive history unfolded whilst others are less detailed. New boundary changes in 2000 meant an Addendum being written to the Chapter on Stonebridge Green because 9 properties were incorporated into Egerton Parish.
Chapter 8: A Chapter on Egerton’s airfield during the Second World War. This Chapter was written by Alan and Sheila Palmer, containing many photos taken at the time.
Chapter 9: A Chapter on the war experiences of some of Egerton men and women. There is a small general section on the First World War, general discussion on the Second World War, followed by individual stories from soldiers and land army girls.
Chapter 10: Because the Egerton Womens’ Institute produced some interesting village surveys in the latter part of the 20th Century, a whole Chapter has been dedicated to them. The first part is a general description of the WI, including some photographs and then transcripts of the surveys.
There are many black and white photographs throughout the book and 6 colour plates placed randomly.
The following is the front cover of the published book. Should anyone wish to purchase a copy at £12 each (plus postage and packing if required), please contact Pat Parr on 01233 756601.
The Egerton Local History Group has a second book
which consists of about 500 superb old black and white photographs cajoled from about 30 residents in the village. The subject matter of the photographs ranges from a multitude of farming scenes with people working in the fields, making up haystacks, in the orchards etc., many photos of old farming machinery such as the “Dandy Jim” Aveling six horse power traction engine (1873), a Charles Hooker petrol engine, a steam plough on Court Lodge Farm and many more of this type. Other chapters full of photos include: Families, Festivals, Hoppicking, People (the largest Chapter), Scenery, School, Sports, Wars and Weddings.
A truly amazing picturebook of all local photos. Contact Pat Parr, Mellows, The Street, Egerton, TN27 9AL or telephone 01233 756601 should you require a copy of this. Copies can be sent to relatives or friends elsewhere in the UK or abroad at cost.