Elham (pronounced Eel-um) is a village and civil parish in East Kent situated approximately 9 miles (14 km) south of Canterbury and 5 miles (8 km) north east of Folkestone in the Elham Valley. At the 2011 Census the population included the hamlet of Ottinge and village of Wingmore.
The origin of the village's name has always been a matter of argument. The village is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Alham. This may have derived from Ulaham, which it is referred to in an Anglo Saxon charter of 855 A.D. The suffix "ham" is derived from the German word "heim", meaning "home". Thus, it is assumed that Ulaham means homestead of a person named Ula. Another theory is that the name originates from the presence of eels once found in the Nailbourne centuries ago.
The discovery of hundreds of Neolithic hand axes, scrapers and worked flints at Dreal's Farm on the chalk plateau to the east of the village is the earliest evidence of human activity in the parish. Bronze Age remains have also been discovered indicating continuity of settlement. There is also a cluster of Bronze Age tumuli in Elham Park Wood and there is a further tumulus on the hillcrest between Ottinge and Rhodes Minnis. Evidence of Roman occupation is limited to discoveries of coins and pottery and there is little Anglo Saxon archaeological evidence although the Anglo Saxon cemetery at Lyminge may extend over the parish boundary.
St Mary's Church  dates from about 1200 whilst the Abbot's Fireside Restaurant on the high street is of Stuart origin (built in 1641). This is reputed to have been the headquarters of the Duke of Wellington during the times when there was a threat from Napoleonic invasion. In the centre of the village is the Square. This dates from 1251 when the village was granted a market by Edward I and was in use until the early 19th century. The village once had two windmills but both now no longer exist.
19th century to present day
The population of Elham was 1,192 in 1881. Elham Valley Railway opened in 1889 and closed in 1947. There are still traces of its existence throughout the parish such as the remains of the station platforms at the bottom of Duck Lane. Until the early 1900s a brickworks existed within the village (the Elham Valley Brick and Tile Company) with kilns situated on the east side of the valley.
Elham Parish Council oversees matters within the village. The parish is very large for such a small settlement, stretching to the edge of Lyminge in the south, to the hamlet of Breach in the north and east to Acrise and west to Stelling Minnis. Elham is situated within the Elham and Stelling Minnis ward within the local government district of Folkestone and Hythe. The population of this ward at the 2011 Census was 2,087. The present local councillor for the Elham and Stelling Minnis Ward is Pamela Carr. The village is located within the constituency of Folkestone and Hythe and is represented in UK Parliament by Damian Collins.
Economy and services
Elham Church of England Aided Primary School provides education for children from the age of 4 to 11. There is also a pre-school playgroup that operates within the village hall and a surgery. Elham has retained a village stores and there is also a farm shop at North Elham. A farmers' market operates from the Rose and Crown pub every other Sunday. At the hamlet of Breach just outside the parish is the Elham Valley Vineyard. There are two pubs, the Rose and Crown and the King's Arms and one restaurant, the Abbot's Fireside. However, services have declined in the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st century and there is no longer a baker's, butcher's, garage, post office, newsagents or bookshop within the village. The New Inn has recently been closed and converted to housing.
Similar to many other villages in the UK there is a shortage of social housing but there is no obvious sign of real demand. There is availability of property for families and those on ordinary incomes. Improvements in agriculture and the decline of local businesses has resulted in fewer employment opportunities within the village than there were in the early 20th century. Elham is located on the 17 bus route from Folkestone to Canterbury operated by Stagecoach.
Environment and conservation
Elham is situated deep in the heart of the North Downs and within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Whilst much of the countryside surrounding the village is arable farmland there are still patches of unimproved or semi-improved grassland where wildlife is allowed to flourish such as Baldock Downs and Hall Downs. These sites often support many typical chalk downland species such as Common Milkwort (Polygala vulgaris), Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)and Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) as well as orchids such as Fragrant (Gymnadenia conopsea), Common Spotted (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and Pyramidal (Anacamptis pyramidalis).
Park Gate Down nature reserve is situated within the parish and is well known for its extensive downland flora. The site and the roadside nature reserve near the chalk pit are managed by Kent Wildlife Trust. Several other areas of land within the parish are maintained under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme whilst there are also designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest at Park Gate Down and Shuttlesfield Down. Elham Park Wood is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission. Local volunteers and farmers also carry out work to conserve and manage the environment. There is also an active environmental group who aim to reduce carbon emissions within the local community and receive support from Kent Energy Centre and Kent County Council.
Kent and England wicket-keeper Les Ames was born and brought up in Elham. Another Kent and England cricketer Mark Ealham used to live in the Square. Academy Award-winning actress Audrey Hepburn spent some of her childhood in Elham. Prime Minister Anthony Eden lived at Park Gate just northwest of Elham during the Second World War. Katie Johnson, an actress best known for her acclaimed performance as the elderly Mrs Wilberforce in the 1955 film The Ladykillers, died here in 1957. Professor C. Northcote Parkinson, historian and inventor of Parkinson's Law, lived in the Manor House in the late 1940s. Actress Pam Ferris has lived in Elham since 2009.
- "Parish population 2011". Retrieved 5 October 2015.
- Hart, Brian; Lawton, Eila (1997). The Elham Valley Way. Great Britain: Kent County Council. ISBN 1-873010-95-8.
- "Elham". Domesday Book. The National Archives. 1086. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "A Brief History of Elham and The Square". Elham Valley Website. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
- Glover, Judith (1976). The Place Names of Kent. Guildford, Surrey: Biddles Ltd. ISBN 0-7134-3069-9.
- Tuson, Dan (2007). The Kent Downs. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7524-4405-5.
- Elham Parish Appraisal 1996
- Hart, Brian (1989). Elham Valley Reflections. Uckfield: Millgate Publishing. ISBN 0-9510454-2-3.
- "Elhma and Stelling Minnis ward 2011". Retrieved 5 October 2015.
- "Shepway District Council – Cllr Miss Pamela Carr". Shepway District Council. 11 July 2007. Archived from the original on 14 February 2009. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
- "Park Gate Down (The Hector Wilks Reserve), Elham". Elham Valley Website. 3 December 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
- "Elham Environment Group About Us". Elham Environment Group. 3 December 2007. Archived from the original on 13 October 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
- "Famous and Notable People "In and Around" the Elham Valley". Elham Valley Website. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
- Sturt, Sarah (13 December 2016). "Pam Ferris in 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt'". Kent Life. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
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