St. Giles' Church, Shipbourne
Shipbourne shown within Kent
|OS grid reference|
|District||Tonbridge and Malling|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||South East Coast|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|UK Parliament||Tonbridge and Malling|
Shipbourne (pronounced i//, SHIB-bun) lies in the English county of Kent, in an undulating landscape traversed by the small streams of the River Bourne, set in a clay vale at the foot of the wooded Sevenoaks Greensand Ridge.
Shipbourne is situated between the towns of Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, in the borough of Tonbridge and Malling. The landscape is agricultural with dispersed groups of buildings that are almost entirely residential or used for farming purposes.
The dominant characteristics of the historical landscape are thick woodland with smaller, broadleaf coppices with small to medium sized fields enclosed by traditional boundaries of hedges or chestnut fencing. Earlier removal of some hedgerows has resulted in some larger arable fields; these are often separated by small woodland belts or shaws. The most distinctive landscape feature is The Common, also known as The Green, which is a large, open and dominant space in the centre of the village.
To the south of the village, on each side of the A227 is Hoad Common. Before the last war Hoad Common was an attractive lightly treed open space popular with visitors but is now neglected and is rapidly deteriorating into scrubby woodland.
The parish is situated in the Metropolitan Green Belt and is an area designated as a Special Landscape Area. The central village, including the pub, the church, the village school and The Common, is within a Conservation Area. Much of the village lies within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Fairlawn Estate, which stretches into neighbouring Plaxtol was, in Stuart times, owned by Sir Henry Vane the Elder, Secretary of State to Charles I: his son became Governor of Massachusetts in 1635. One of the Vane family employee's sons wrote a 700 blank verse poem about hop-growing. Sir Henry Vane the Younger, who was a Royalist and then became a Roundhead, before again switching back to being a Royalist under Charles I, was executed in London after being reported to be too dangerous to live. His body lies in the Vane family vault area of the crypt of Shipbourne church in an anthropoid (body shaped) lead shell coffin with many members of his family. His ghost is said to wander the village.
The Vane family were followed by the Cazalets. In 1880, Edward Cazalet built the church, dedicated to St Giles, a public house named The Chaser, and several of the cottages which surround The Common. Major Peter Cazalet was the trainer of horses owned by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Many members of the Cazalet family are commemorated in the church.
Interestingly, St. Giles Church, besides continuing to serve as a place of worship, nowadays also doubles up as a Farmers' Market every Thursday morning.
- Conservation Bulletin (a bulletin published by English Heritage), issue 61, Summer 2009
- Eagle, Dorothy and Carnell, Hilary (editors), (1987) The Oxford Literary Guide to Great Britain & Ireland, p. 237. London: Spring Books, ISBN 0-600-55407-4
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