Meopham // is a large linear village and civil parish in the Borough of Gravesham in Kent, England, lying to the south of Gravesend. The parish covers 6.5 square miles (17 km2), and comprises two villages and two smaller settlements; it has a population of 6,427 increasing slightly to 6,722 at the 2011 census. Meopham is sometimes described as the longest in England although others such as Brinkworth, Wiltshire make the same claim. Meopham is one of the longest linear settlements in Europe, being 7 miles (11 km) in length.
The name of the village derives from Meapaham (Meapa's village): it is first recorded in 788, in the reign of King Offa. The modern pronunciation of the name comes from different ways of writing and spelling.
Benedictine monks established a priory hospital at Meopham in the 12th century and throughout the Middle Ages three medieval manor houses - those of Meopham, Dodmore and Nurstead - governed the land now encompassing the parish. Edward Hasted in 1797 described the village as being "out of the way" and with "no well frequented thoroughfare through it". Since the 1920s, when the road numbering scheme started, the main road through the village, the A227, has become busier as a through-route connecting North Kent with the M20 motorway at the foot of the North Downs, although this now has been somewhat relieved by the M25.
The parish comprises the main village, divided into four named settlements; the outlying village of Harvel (approx 2 miles south-east); and two other settlements: Dodmore (still comprising mostly rural land from The Street southeastwards for approx 1 mile towards Harvel) and Culverstone (approx 1.5 miles to the south). The Parish Council, which now owns the lordship of the manor of Meopham, meets at Meopham Windmill and consists of twelve members (aka joint trustees of the ancient manor).
The main village
From the north along the main A227, the four settlements are Hook Green; The Street (Dodmore); Meopham Green; and Culverstone. The first three contain conservation areas. There were originally seven village greens in the parish; only three remain today.
Hook Green is the most northerly of the settlements. Originally called Hoo Green, it lies around a small triangular village green to the west of the main road. There are again many listed buildings in the area, including the Weavers Cottage. More modern developments are situated near to Meopham Railway Station to the north, as is The Railway Tavern. There is also an Italian restaurant, Bartellas, formerly the Fox & Hounds public house.
The Street (Dodmore) is the oldest of the village's settlements, where parts of the medieval manorial mansion of Dodmore stand, although the original structure was badly damaged in an earthquake of 1382: it is close to the 14th-century church, the parish church of St John the Baptist. In addition, there are many other historic buildings, including The George Inn, where the manorial court of Dodmore once sat. At The George Inn there is still the Courtroom Bar, the room in which the court baron of the manor was held. The present lord of the manor of Dodmore owns the Tudor manor house. The family of the cricketer Thomas Nordish worked Dodmore Manor Farm. In the late 20th century Ifield CC relocated to within Dodmore's ancient manorial boundaries, becoming New Ifield CC.
Meopham Green is by far the largest remaining village green in the parish. The main road passes to the west; around the other two sides are buildings, many of which are of 18th- and 19th-century origin. Here are two public houses: the King's Arms; and The Cricketers' Inn, previously The Long Hop. Just to the north of the Green is Meopham Vineyard.
Meopham Green is home to a cricket pitch, where the sport has been played every summer since at least 1776, and which is one of Kent's idyllic settings for the game; the former Prime Minister, Sir John Major, is a patron of Meopham Cricket Club where he stood on a soapbox during the 1992 general election campaign. Meopham Windmill is nearby.
Culverstone Green is the most southerly of the main village settlements. The original village green has mostly been given up to road widening. On the main road, and down Whitepost Lane to the east, are both older and modern houses; a small supermarket; and a petrol station. A notable local house is "Lacknut House" (circa 1843) named after the area of land "Lacknuts" which was used as a fruit farm and is located directly opposite Culverstone Green.
There is a considerably built-up area between the main road and Harvel. This is known as Culverstone Valley: it covers some 250 acres (100 ha) and lies among woodlands. It is described as a unique development, which in its origins was the result of the sale of plots of land in the 1930s. Originally, chalets, shacks and caravans were built on the plots. Since then unauthorised developments, often extending the original buildings, have taken place in an area which is now Green Belt. Poor access and limited facilities such as proper drainage has led Gravesham Borough Council to take action by curbing this trend.
The other two main settlements in the parish are Nurstead (until 1935 a separate civil parish), where Nurstead Court is located next to the parish church, with former estate workers' cottages nearby; and Camer, once home to the family of Smith-Masters, with a few cottages near Camer Park.
The windmill was built by James Killick, a millwright from Strood, in 1801. After his death in 1823, it passed to his wife Sukey, then to his son James, and after to his grandson Thomas who died in 1891. The Killicks lived in Strood where the family also owned mills and were reputed to walk the eight miles to Meopham each day. The mill worked by wind until 1929 and then by engine until 1965. It has been fully restored and is now in full working order.
There are two Church of England parish churches (now combined into one benefice): the grade I listed parish church of St John the Baptist, Meopham and Nurstead's 14th-century church of St Mildred. Other churches include Mount Zion Baptist Church built in 1828 and nearby Meopham Green, South Street Baptist Church, to the north of Culverstone and the Roman Catholic Church of St Paul, consecrated in 1965.
There are three state schools in the village: the secondary Meopham School has developed as a specialist sports academy, and this is where Meopham Library is situated too; there are two primary schools: Meopham Community Academy (formerly Meopham Community Primary School) and Culverstone Green Primary School. Gravesend Grammar School is within the borough, and nearby are fee-paying schools, such as Cobham Hall, and King's School, Rochester.
Famous residents have included:
- Simon de Mepham, Archbishop of Canterbury (1327–1332)
- John Tradescant the Elder (c. 1570-1638)
- Cuthbert Hilton Golding-Bird, notable surgeon, Meopham historian, and son of Golding Bird
Residents in more recent times have included:
- Michael Gilbert (1912–2006), author
- Spencer Gore (1878–1914), artist
- Hughie Green (1920–1997), television presenter
- Sir Roger de Grey (1918–1995), entertainer, President of the Royal Academy
- Sir Edmund Irving (1910–1990), hydrographer
- Kelvin MacKenzie (b.1946), former editor of The Sun
- Daphne Oram (1925–2003), composer and electronic music pioneer
- Harry Price (1881–1948), psychic researcher
- Graham Sutherland (1903–1980), artist
- Richard Warwick (1945-1997), actor
Current residents include:
- Donald Adamson, the author and historian
- Sir Michael Gambon
- Major Sir Richard Gethin Bt who lives at Sole Street.
- Dr John Physick CBE FSA
The Arnold family were seated at Meopham Court, lately represented by Major Ralph Arnold, son of the eight-times Mayor of Gravesend and County Alderman George Matthew Arnold JP DL FSA and whose relations include the solicitor, George Arnold, of Milton Hall, Kent, Sir Arthur Arnold and Sir Edwin Arnold.
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