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Biddenden Local History

Local History of Biddenden

Birds

Early Times

The area of the present Biddenden parish contained in Saxon times a number of separate ‘dens’ or small clearings in the great forest of Andred. Between 700AD and 900 AD freemen and swineherds would return to the same clearing in the forest, and this resulted in the dens becoming named after the family or household who used them.

Biddenden (Bydyndene in 993) was probably the den used by the family and followers of the Jutish man Bidda. Bidda’s main holding may have been near Wye. The many houses with ‘den’ endings to their names indicate where other clearings were made in this forest; many became attached to manors elsewhere in Kent.

The Chulkhurst Charity

According to tradition, twin sisters were born in 1100, joined at the shoulders and hips. The story describes how Elisa and Mary Chulkhurst lived in this condition for 34 years, when one of them died. The other, refusing, or more likely, it being impossible for her to be separated from her sisters body, died shortly afterwards.

Perhaps, as they were being carried on a litter to the care of the monks at Battle Abbey.
Local records show that for 400 years the church has gained an income from the 20 acres of land, west of the church. Believed to have been bequeathed by two sisters, and had been used for the benefit of the poor of the village.

CH_Biscuit

For most of this time, the charity has given bread and cheese on Easter Monday to the needy of the Parish.

Gradually, tracks became established and the clearings were enlarged for houses and crops. Eventually the village Centrex developed as a trading point where several tracks met and the first church was probably built there. In order to provide some footing in the mud of the old droves, causeways of Bethersden Marble were eventually laid by the Tudor clothiers for their pack horses.
Remains of theses can still be seen, not only on the village pavement, but also where footpaths cross woods and fields.

Quotations used in this local History Section come from the “The Story of Biddenden”, produced by the Biddenden Local History Society which is available form the village.

Flying Rook
Flying Rook

Historic Buildings in the Village

Birds

Biddenden Place

Biddenden Place and Hendon Hall face each other at the southern end of the village;

Both at one time belonged to the Hendon family. To the east, the house known as ‘The Place’ was owned by the Maynes for several generations

But at the end of Queen Elizabeth the 1st’s reign, Anthony Mayne (grandson of the founder of the village school) moved to Linton Place near Maidstone, and sold the estate to Sir Edward Hendon.

Biddenden Place

Hendon Hall

Hendon Hall was called Townland in 1838 and was built by the elder William Hendon.

It was then owned by the Taylor and Hague families. The ‘gazebo’ perched on the end of the garden wall, is believed to have been used as a lookout for the arriving stagecoach, and a horn blown there to announce it’s arrival.

Vane Court

Vane Court was probably built around 1420, and is the oldest house in the village. It’s name however is younger, so, not much is known about the owner’s through the centuries.

In 1939 it became a royal residence, the King of Siam (now Thailand) who lived there.

Vane Court

Birchley House

The older part of this house once belonged to the Randolph family. Dated to around 1562,

It contains some fine paneling, and during restoration earlier, some rare examples of Tudor wall painting were discovered.

On one small window pane the name ‘Bernard Randolph 1610’ is scratched.

Burchley House

Standen House

Turning along the Smarden road one soon comes to the hamlet whose name (Stanetandene in 858) meaning stony pasture, suggests that it stood on a very early track through the Weald.

The house, which has exceptionally fine decorative timbering and chimney stacks, is reputed to have once been part of a religious hostelry used by pilgrims or clergy on their way to or from Canterbury. The present house has the date 1578 on the chimney-piece.

Standen

Three Chimneys

This old inn stands just outside the parish boundary. Traditionally the name is a corruption of ‘trois chemins’, the junction of three roads marking the limit allowed for French soldiers to walk, when imprisoned at Sissinghurst Castle during the Seven Years’ war.

However the junction was so called long before any prisoners tramped through the Wealden mud.

Biddenden Windmill

A postcard entitled “Biddenden Mill from Playing Fields” lent to me by a friend, The view is from the A262 looking across the School playing field,

We think the postcard was printed about 1920. Old Mill Close was built on the site of the old Windmill that was demolished in the 1950’s

Biddenden Windmill

Flemish Weavers Cottages

Latticed windowed Flemish weavers cottages Stretch the full length of the south side of the High street.

A fine example of Kentish Timber Frame Construction.

These houses were built in the 17th Century and a deed dated 1689 shows them a 5 separate houses and a forge.

Flemish Weavers Cottages
Maids Sign

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