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Westerham shown within Kent
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Westerham is a town and civil parish in the Sevenoaks District of Kent, in South East England with 5,000 people. The parish is south of the North Downs, ten miles west of Sevenoaks. It covers 5,800 acres (2,300 hectares). It is recorded as early as the 9th century, and was mentioned in the Domesday Book in a Norman form, Oistreham (compare Ouistreham in Normandy, Oistreham in 1086).Hām is Old English for a village or homestead, and so Westerham means a westerly homestead and the source of the English word "home". The River Darent flows through the town, and formerly powered three watermills.
There is evidence that the area around Westerham has been settled for thousands of years: finds such as a Celtic fortification (c 2000 BC) and a Roman road are close by, along with the remains of a Roman encampment just past the ruins a of tower south of the town at the summit of Tower Woods.
The tower dates back to the 18th century, and was originally constructed by an ancestor of the Warde family, the present owners of Squerryes Court as a folly for their children's amusement. A romantic, if erroneous, theory is that the folly is in fact a medieval watchtower, a tale which has been further embellished by a few fanciful locals who insist that it may have been the holding place for Anne Boleyn on her journey from Hever Castle to London for her trial and execution. (Anne Boleyn's family originally hailed from Chiddingstone and then, later, owned and lived at Hever Castle. King Henry VIII is reported to have, on Anne Boleyn's execution, confiscated Hever Castle and kept it as his own). No evidence for this theory exists, and indeed it conflicts with the knowledge and belief of the Warde family themselves.
The manor was originally run by Godwin, Earl of Wessex and later by his son Harold Godwinson the last Saxon King of England. The first Norman lord of Westerham was Eustace II of Boulogne, and the town appears in the Domesday Book as Oistreham. By 1227 Henry III granted Westerham a market charter, making the new village a major player in the buying and selling of cattle in Kent, a tradition that survived to 1961 when the last cattle market was held. St Mary's Church is thought to date from the 13th century, although it is much altered in Victorian times. In 1503 the Protestant martyr John Frith was born in the town.
The Warde family have lived at Squerryes Court since 1731, their home is a tourist attraction. Interior and exterior scenes for the 2009 BBC mini-series Emma were shot at Squerryes Court with the house appearing as Emma Woodhouse's home Hartfield, while exterior scenes were shot at Chilham, Kent.
General James Wolfe was born in the town in 1727 at what is now known as the Old Vicarage due to a terrible storm on the night he was born. He lived in Quebec House - many streets and buildings are named after him and St Mary's contains not only the font in which he was baptised but also a memorial window to him by Edward Burne-Jones. The town square contains statues to both Wolfe and Churchill.
Alice Liddell, cited as the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's children's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland lived in the Vicarage for a brief period. Alice rented 'The Breaches' just before she died and then when she became very ill she went to stay with her sister Rhoda at Hoseyrigge in Westerham' She was born at Westminster and when she died aged 82 a memorial service was held for at St Mary's Church. She was not buried in Westerham. Brian Higgins and his famous pop music production team Xenomania, who have provided hit singles and albums for artists such as Girls Aloud, Kylie Minogue, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys, Texas and Franz Ferdinand now occupy what used to be known as the Old Vicarage.
During a January 1967 visit to Knole Park in Sevenoaks to shoot a promotional film for Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, John Lennon stopped at a Westerham antiques shop and purchased a poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal, which later inspired the song, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
As well as the parish church (a Grade II*-listed building), there is a Grade II-listed chapel associated with the Congregational Federation and a Roman Catholic church. Westerham Evangelical Congregational Church dates from 1839 and St John the Baptist's Church opened for the Catholic community in 1955.
Westerham was home to the Black Eagle Brewery, which was taken over by Taylor Walker & Co in the 1950s, becoming part of Ind Coope in 1959 and closing in 1965. Yeast from the brewery was preserved at the National Collection of Yeast Cultures and is now used by the present day Westerham Brewery which was established in 2004 by Robert Wicks. The brewery produces a range of ales, including Westerham British Bulldog.
In 1922 Winston Churchill MP purchased Chartwell Manor on the outskirts of Westerham, which, apart from the time he spent at 10 Downing Street, was his home for the rest of his life. Chartwell is now administered by the National Trust.
Chartwell is accessible from the B2026 from either Westerham to the north or from Edenbridge to the south. From the M25-junction 6, then east along the A25 via Oxted and the B269, or M25-junction 5/M26/A21, then west along the A25 near Sevenoaks and south down the B2026.
The M25 runs nearby and the A25 runs along through the town. The M25 can be accessed via either the A22 or the A21, although Westerham is signed frequently on the M25, the A233 does not have a junction with the M25.
The South Eastern Railway opened the 4 1⁄2 miles (7.2 km) branch line from Dunton Green to Westerham station on 7 July 1881; All services were withdrawn from the branch on 28 October 1961. Part of the trackbed of the railway is now covered by the line of the M25 which runs to the north of the town.
Another view of Westerham village green, showing the statue of General Wolfe.
- The spelling Oistreham is probably the result of a confusion with this Norman town facing England. The etymology of Oistreham > Ouistreham is probably itself a confusion between "west" and "east". Old saxon *Westarham or Old English *Westreham should have given *Westreham > *Vestreham or *Estreham in medieval Norman, see Étréham. Oistreham (Normandy) is much better explained by Old saxon ōstar "east" similar phonetic evolution as Latin ostrea "oyster", Old French oistre > E oyster. We cannot exclude an artificial influence of this word that would have corrupted the initial Westre- to Oistre-, but it is impossible to prove. That is the reason why the Old Saxon ōstar is a better solution.
- Adam Williams (2 October 2009). "A classic setting". Kent Messenger (What's on section, p3).
- Turner, Steve, "A Hard Days Write" (1994). HarperCollins.
- English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (1244024)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
- English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (1243951)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
- "History". Westerham Congregational Church. 2012. Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
- Bell, Christopher (2012). "A Short History by Christopher Bell". St John the Baptist, Westerham. Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
- "Westerham Brewery - Home Page". www.westerhambrewery.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
- "Westerham". ratebeer.com. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
- "Westerham British Bulldog BB from Westerham - Ratebeer". ratebeer.com. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Westerham.|
- Community, Business and Tourism in Westerham
- Westerham Town Web Site
- Villagenet page
- Squerryes Court
- Westerham Brewery
- BooDoo Improv Comedy