Historic Eynsford

This article from the Kentish Times published on 17 May 1973, was recently found in the Council's files and marks the designation of the conservation area within Eynsford.

'Eynsford - the protected village with chocolate box charm

Picture postcard Eynsford, the old Saxon village of Aegen's Ford, has just been designated a Conservation Area of special architectural and historical interest in a new list of 12 protected villages. Some residents have raised an eyebrow at the news. Not that they have any doubts about the beauty and history. They just thought it had been designated years ago!

It's easy to see why it has been, now. The famous Arthur Mee pointed out that from his home on Eynsford Hill he could see a straight mile: unique on the map of rural England, with Roman, Normal, Saxon and Tudor architecture. From medieval to mid Victorian, the pretty cottages line the streets, while that famous bridge and ford scene has gone round the world on calendars as the epitome of tranquil English country charm.

The designated area extends in the north from Little Mote, once called Sibylls (the medieval manor house restored in 1908 and later inhabited by the redoubtable Lady Fountain), now the home of London surgeon Mr Rex Lawrie, to Elm Cottages in the south-west. It stretches west to Darenth Cottage and Toll Bar Cottage, opposite the entrance to Sparepenny Lane, take in Home Farmhouse, and parts of a river-bank as well-known as "Wind in the Willows".

Eynsford bridge and ford, the ancient parish church of St Martin's, the Norman ruins of Eynsford Castle, parts of Station Road with wooden Elliott cottages, and Bower Lane are also included. The protected area is large and cross-shaped, and takes in what it tactfully calls "parts of the High Street". It doesn't say what parts it leaves out!

Visitors to Eynsford, hugging their fishing nets and buying their ice-creams don't often go off the main street. But if they visit the Castle with its fine curtain-wall, they will pass into the quiet close where stands New Place, a house rebuilt with Tudor wood beaming in the early 20th century. And they will see not only the new, but the old wooden village hall, with its five doors where villagers had to enter for different purposes, even to have free baths.

All the houses in this close have some connection with the stalwart Mr Elliot Till, the man who loved and dominated Eynsford in the early nineteen hundreds. A keen temperence man, he took over the local pub, called it the Castle, and kept to a "one drink one man one day" policy that led to court battles with the brewery. He restored, defended, instiagated Arbor Day in England - the plant a tree year of the day - and built those controversial replica stocks on Bower corner. Villagers who recalled a man dying of exposure in the stocks there, for once, contested him. They pulled down the stocks, and in a fit of pique, he did not leave the village hall to the parish.

The parish church which bears the Browning inscription, "Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be", remembers Elliot Downs Till, who died in 1917. But it has memories of much more famous figures in history. The door is the one that was closed against William de Eynsford on the orders of Becket, Jean Anouilh's play, centered on Becket, was performed in the church this year, and won the Kentish Times Drama Award.

Eynsford has a portrait gallery of characters in its history, including, of course, the great Hart Dyke family. Graham Sutherland, the artist, once lived at Willow Cottage and Philip Heseltine (Peter Warlock) the composer, lived in the house next to Munns, the grocers - an establishment he immortalised in gravestone verse. Warlock, a flamboyant character who walked in "Jesus" costume of long robe and sandals, scandalised the village by driving through it naked on a motor cycle. He filled his cottage with cats and mistresses. The cottage now bears a blue plaque put there by Dartford Rural Arts Council. It seems lucky that his day came later than Mr Elliot Downs Till.

By the time the Doomsday Survey was made in 1086, Eynsford was already a thriving manor, with two churches and two mills, held by Ralph, son of Unspac, as part of the manor of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Today the village has many new buildings and we see ancient and modern side by side. "Keep Eynsford Safe" could be a good motto for a village, which is the most highly surveyed by school parties of any in the country. One blot on the village is a weed-tangled site full of Council vehicles and mess, slap bang in the High Street opposite the protected Bower cottages, where the workhouse once stood. And who owns this blot? None other than Kent County Council - the authority who have just put the preservation order on the village. '

This photo is not from the article and is of the ford in the 1950s (we think).

Photo of Riverside from the 1950s

We think this one was taken in the 1930s.

Photo of Riverside from the 1930s

Upcoming dates

Grace Center Community Picnic
27th May 2024

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