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Thanington Without Parish Appraisal

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(REVISED 2006)

Introduction (From First Edition 1989)

The aim of this Appraisal is to give an outline of Thanington Without as it has been, as it is now, and as it may develop. It has been drawn up because of the need to take stock following the enlargement of the Parish and in order to help in the creation of the Rural Plan for Canterbury City Council area, something which has long been desired by many other parishes. As well as being useful to the latter we hope that the resulting booklet will be of help both to the Council itself and to the parishioners in general. It is thus designed to try and identify problems and needs, so aiding the Council to formulate relevant policies. Equally, we see it is a brief guide to the Parish for all who are interested and especially for newcomers to Thanington.

The Appraisal was produced by a team drawn from the Council and volunteers from the public and some of the voluntary organisations in the Parish. Given the sad loss of the intended leader of the appraisal team and the shortage of time and resources, it was decided not to proceed by means of a major questionnaire, although a brief one was - fruitlessly - circulated through the Church Magazine. Instead it was decided to work from the basis of individual insight and research. Members of the team were invited to pool their ideas on all the topics selected for investigation and to take charge of a specific section. These were then considered by the team and an edited version produced for final consideration.

The team consisted of Clive Church, Charles Day, Sue Knott and Graham Page from the Parish Council together with Pam Blackman and helpers from the Women's Institute, Colin Spicer, Tony Martin and helpers from the Youth Club, Fiona Heatlie and Fiona Hughes. Thanks are due to them and to all those who helped in devising the project, providing information and commenting on drafts. Much of the information was provided by the Parish Clerk, Esther Eyles, without whom it would not have been possible. Finally we are grateful both to her and to a former Clerk of Lower Hardres, Stan Hughes, for undertaking the word processing of the Appraisal.

In order to make present problems and future prospects more comprehensible, the Appraisal Report looks first at the general history of areas which have gone to make up the Parish, together with their administrative history and structure from the creation of Parishes and Assemblies in 1894 onwards. It then turns to the geography and environment of the enlarged Parish, its apparent economic basis and facilities, and its traffic and transport features. Finally, it considers the problems presently faced by the Parish, together with future pressures and prospects, and planning constraints involved in solving them. Since so many uncertainties remain, we expect that this Appraisal will have to be updated in the not too distant future. This will be yet another chapter in a story, which as the first chapter makes clear, began a very long time ago.

Introduction - 2006

As some 17 years have passed since the first edition of this appraisal, the Parish Council has decided it is time to update the information to reflect a number of changes in the Parish.

In 2003 Thanington lost it's Post Office, which was a major blow to the community, despite objections from residents and the Parish Council. The same year the telephone kiosk at the bottom of Strangers Lane was also removed.

Over the past decade Thanington has seen the closure of Perrings Warehouse and the relocation of Townsends (Surgical Shoe and Appliances), both from Ashford Road.

On the positive side there has been the formation of the Thanington Neighbourhood Resource Centre (on the playing field), the development of Warren Lodge Retirement Apartments (Ashford Road), and the building of Ashford Road Community Association Club House to replace Ashford Road Social Club. The Hilltop Community Association (Canterbury) has been reformed as a charity, and is going from strength to strength in the South Ward.

Since the first edition of this appraisal there has been the development of the former Bretts site in Wincheap, leading to the creation of Safeways (Morrison), Halfords, Mothercare, Boots as well as Office Supplies 'Staples and Petsmart - animal provisions, various recycling facilities are available in the site car park.

Chapter One

A Brief History of Thanington Without and Milton

Every day thousands of people hurry along the busy A28 to and from Canterbury, a mile or so away. They pay little attention to the beautiful Stour Valley and to the places of interest nearby and they think of Thanington as an outer suburb of the city. They do not know either that the area has a long and very interesting history of its own, or how it has changed during the past many thousands of years. Evidence has been found of peoples of the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages, and at Iffin Farm an ancient tumulus or burial mound has been excavated. Long before the coming of the Romans, Iron Age people had built a stronghold at Bigberry on the high ground overlooking the valley and the river crossing at Tonford. This site has been extensively excavated and mapped and many items discovered, showing that the people who lived there kept horses and cattle. Julius Ceasar's soldiers had a hard fight to capture Bigberry before marching on west to the Thames.

Burial mounds with urns

Later, under the long Roman occupation of Britain, when the town of Durovernum (Canterbury) was built to the east as a centre of administration and roads, Bigberry was abandoned. Two Roman roads passed then through the Thanington area. One, at Stone Street, went along the present Hollow Lane and Iffin Lane, and the other went over downs, westwards, to the iron workings of the Wealden Forest. No trace of Roman villas has been found in the area. This seems strange but some may yet be discovered. In 1949, workmen at New House Farm found the remains of Roman-British graves. Very likely there was a Roman or British settlement nearby. The farm itself dates back to the thirteenth century.

By the fifth century A.D. migrant farming people were coming across the sea from Northern Europe and settling in the fertile river valleys. Many local place names date from this period, although much changed over the years. At first pagan, they became Christians after the coming of St. Augustine in 597 A.D. and the conversion of King Ethelbert.

The first church in Thanington was built of timber and thatch, and the old yew tree may have been there then. The newcomers neglected the roads and all traces of their wooden dwellings have gone, but, as the river valley was very marshy, the settlement was on higher ground.

With the coming of the Normans much of the land passed to the Church. The Parish Church was rebuilt of stone and dedicated to St. Nicholas. Two small Norman windows still exist in the chancel. The Churches of Thanington and Milton figure in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The manor of Milton was in the hands of the Norman family of Septvans until 1448. This Church and manor were a short distance upstream of Thanington and had a mill, hence its name.

By the early middle ages, several manors had been built, the work being done by serfs. The remains of a manor at Iffin have been found in the woods but as yet have to be properly excavated.

In 1381, Milton Manor, as the home of William Septvans, the High Sheriff of Kent, was attacted by Wat Tyler's rebels in their protest at the hated poll tax and their conditions of serfdom. The great barn is near the site of the old manor.

Several manors remain, however, one of the most interesting being that of Tonford. This had been fortified during the Wars of the Roses and had a moat and inner courtyard. Later most of the building was destroyed - perhaps during the civil wars - and only the Tudor gateway and part of the north wall remain. The young Henry VIII stayed at Tonford where it is said that he enjoyed the falconry. Later a Queen Anne house was built in the courtyard. In recent times this was the home of Christopher Hassall the playwright. Thanington Court near the Church is another old manor dating back to Norman times, although the present house is early Georgian but with a much older rear building. In Tudor times it was the house of the Hales family, one of whom, Sir James Hales, committed suicide in a nearby stream. The report of this death in Mary Tudor's reign may have been the source of the words of the gravediggers' scene in Hamlet.

Tonford Manor

Howfield Manor to the west is just outside the parish and dates back to at least 1181 when it was in the possession of the Priory of St. Gregory. Most of the old stonework has now gone and the brickwork is seventeenth century. It has been enlarged recently and is now a private hotel.

Cockering Manor is also very old but the present building is seventeenth century. Part of the manor was once the vicarage. Two other local buildings of this period are the picturesque Reed Cottage, once the home of the water bailiff, and the flint Tudor cottages at the top of Tonford Lane. The old yew tree in the cemetery may have been the inspiration of Gray's famous Elegy and there is some evidence to support this.

In the late eighteenth century, the road over the downs was turnpiked and one of the tollgates stood near Ada Road in Wincheap (OE Waggon Market). Soon after this the lower road was built by French prisoners of war. The last public execution took place at the Two Mile stone in 1800 for sheep stealing. This is still called the Hanging Banks.

The flat Stour Valley was ideal for the building of the railway to Ashford in 1846, connecting Canterbury to London by rail for the first time. On the northern edge of the parish the railway line to Dover was built in 1861. By the mid-Victorian period farm workers' cottages were being built in the area which was rich in fruit orchards and hop gardens. A small school was held in a cottage opposite the playing fields. This was demolished for the road widening of the 1960's. The general health of the people improved with increased medical knowledge, purer waters from the new water works and better hygiene.

During the Great War of 1914-1918, the hop garden near the water works was a large army camp, and later this became the site of a large council estate. Many new houses were built between the wars and ribbon development took place. In the early 1920's the first bus service to Ashford began. The early vehicle had solid rubber tyres. Recreational facilities also greatly improved in Thanington in the 1930's with the new King George playing field, and the generous gift by Mr. Frank Hooker of the Larkey Valley Woods. Sadly much of this wood was destroyed during the great gale of October 1987.

Much of the Battle of Britain took place over East Kent and bombs landed in Thanington destroying the Post Office and several houses. Since 1945 much building has taken place in Thanington and the population has increased. This has brought much of the Parish into closer contact with the City. Two social clubs have been built and a new Church Hall has been built in New House Lane, eventually superseding the old one in Hollow Lane. In 1987 the civil parish boundaries were enlarged and the population greatly increased, as is discussed below.

St Nicholas Church

Chapter Two

The Making of a Parish (The Administrative History of Thanington)

Origins of Parishes

A Parish is the most ancient type of local government in Europe, and in England has been used for some civil purposes since the 8th Century. In 1974, the present Parish and community system was redefined, and is the latest version of a local system which has been developing since the 16th Century. Under Elizabeth I the Parish was the area for Poor Law administration and administrative powers that were given to a number of different authorities, operating within the ancient boundaries.

In 1834, the Poor Law authorities began to group parishes into unions, and as the original ecclesiastical units remained for church purposes, a distinction was soon recognised between civil and ecclesiastical as well as between the respective functions in the Parish. Civil functions had grown in a haphazard fashion to meet particular needs, and so were committed to the management of the body which seemed the most appropriate. By 1894, it was not uncommon for six differently constituted Parish authorities to exercise different functions in the same place. These included the incumbent, the churchwardens, the overseers, urban sanitary boards and the vestry. Moreover, many Parishes had special Acts of Parliament and ancient local customs.

The Local Government Act of 1894 tried to rationalise the situation. Under the Act some Parishes became urban districts, and it created the Parish Meeting and the Parish Council. The Council and the Meeting of the rural Parish divided between them the powers appropriate to a civil local authority, while the responsibilities of the ecclesiastical Parish were confined to church affairs and ecclesiastical charities. In 1920 these latter authorities were modernised and most of their administrative functions were given to parochial church councils. This situation prevailed until the late 1960's when the whole system of local government was reformed to provide a framework more in line with the needs of an industrial and urbanised society. The Local Governments Act 1972 came into effect from 1st April 1974. The rural parish was continued in England simply as the Parish, and arrangements were made to enable former boroughs and urban districts to become Parishes. This was because they were to be subsumed in counties and districts.


Thanington was an ancient Parish, subject in part to the Local Government of the Westgate Hundred and partly to that of Canterbury.

Thanington Within Civil Parish had only a very brief life. It was created in 1894 from the part of Thanington Ancient Parish in Canterbury County Borough, and by 1912 it was entirely abolished and the area was given to Canterbury Civil Parish. The Local Government was previously under the Bridge Poor Law Union and the Canterbury County Borough. For parliamentary purposes both Thanington Within and Thanington Without came in the Canterbury Division/County Constituency from 1918.

Thanington Without Civil Parish was created in 1894 from the part of the Parish not in the Canterbury County Borough. Local Government responsibilities were exercised by the Bridge Poor Law Union and Rural District (1894-1934). The latter evolved into the Bridge-Blean Rural District Council (1934-1974).

Milton Ancient Parish was part of the Westgate Hundred, and in 1932 the Civil Parish was abolished. It then became part of Thanington Without Civil Parish. The first recorded annual Parish Meeting was held on 11th August 1899 in Thanington Schoolroom. In 1927 the Rating and Valuation Bill came into effect and meant that no overseers or assistant overseers were appointed, these offices being abolished.

The Local Government Act 1933 (Section 43, sub-section (2)) stated that, if a Rural Parish had not a separate Parish Council, the County should establish one, provided the population of the Parish was 300 or ore, based on the last census. The Parish of Thanington Without was within the Rural District of Bridge-Blean and was a Rural Parish without a Parish Council. The population at the time of the last published census was 325. As a result Kent County Council ordered that there would be a Parish Council for the Rural Parish of Thanington Without, and the number of Parish Councillors should be 7. These would come into office on 15th April 1935, and would be only for a two-year period. The decision was made on 21st January 1935.

A Parish Meeting held on 19th February 1935 elected 7 Parish Councillors to form the first Parish Council to be established under the Local Government Act 1933. The parish Councillors were: Messrs. F. G. Leigh, S. Wells, P. H. Hoare, A. Legge, W. E. Lillywhite, W. J. Knott and L. J. Slatter. The Parish functioned unchanged for nearly fifty years although the area around had, as has been shown, changed considerably in size.

In the 1980's the Local Government Boundary Commission reviewed Parish boundaries. As a result, with effect from 1st April 1987 the Thanington Without Local Government doubled in size, from some nine hundred electors to about two thousand. This meant there would have to be seven representatives from the North Ward (instead of the original five) and two from the South Ward. The new boundary runs along the centre of the A2 bypass from where it crosses Hollow Lane to the Canterbury to London railway line, and then south of the line to the A28, after passing through Howfield Farm to the eastern side of Howfield Manor. It then runs along the bridle paths through Milton Manor, Larkey Valley Wood and New House Farm until it meets Iffin Lane. From there it runs down Iffin Lane and Hollow Lane to the bypass. The result of this was that all the houses to the south of Thanington and Ashford Roads which had not been Parished became part of Thanington Without Civil Parish. In addition, some land in Hollow Lane was returned to the City while a strip of land south of New House Lane was added to Chartham which included part of Larkey Valley Wood.

The Parish Council had hoped that the name of the enlarged Parish might be changed to Thanington to indicate that it now included a much wider area. However, this was not accepted by the authorities. The elections for all seats on the enlarged Parish Council were held on 7th May 1987. In recent years the rateable value of the Parish has gone up dramatically because of inflation. In 1971 it was 28,739 and by 1978 it was already 81,971. In 1985 the figure passed 100,000 and with the boundary extension it rose again to 177,530. In 1989/90, the last year of the rates, it was 192,892, which is a fall of some 700 on the previous year. The product of a penny rate has risen in line, from 271 in 1971 to 790 in 1978 and 1,080 in 1986. With the extension it rose to 1,725 and in 1989/90 it was 1,865.

Even after expansion the Parish is not financially well endowed. This is also true of its powers. Local Government in general has been losing power and standing over the last few years, and even Counties and Districts, which share the bulk of revenues and responsibilities, have lost ground to Central Government. Parishes are in an anomalous position. They are not subordinate to Districts and Counties, and cannot therefore be told what to do, but the law allows them only limited resources and powers. They can do only what Parliament expressly allows them to, mainly through the Local Government Act of 1972. Their sphere of responsibility includes allotments, arts and crafts, baths, cemeteries, churchyards, entertainment, footpaths, halls, lighting, litter, open spaces, parking, parks, planning, shelters, seats, signs, tourism and general expenditure. However, under the latter they can spend up to a two-penny rate - the so-called "free two pence" - on any other matter of value to the Parish as a whole, or any part of it.

Even so, such rights are severely circumscribed in practice since Parishes do not have either the resources or the legal powers to tackle many of the problems their constituents would wish to see tackled. Thus they are not a planning authority, and merely have the right to be informed about and comment on planning applications. Their powers are often dependent on other local authorities' taking action to improve their area in fields which are not within the remit of the Parish. So they are a pressure group and a source of information, not a powerful executive body.

The Parish Council devotes a good deal of attention to things like the functioning of street lights, the dangers of overhanging hedges, the state of footpaths and the upkeep of road signs. Also a good deal of attention is given to the state of roads and pavements, using what influence it has to try to ensure that the relevant authorities act on potholes, flooding, illegal parking and other difficulties. It also tries to ensure that bus schedules are maintained and telephone kiosks repaired. Of course another occupation of the Council is commenting on applications for planning permission in the Parish, to ensure that sensible developments are not obstructed, while changes that threaten others and seem likely to add to traffic congestion or otherwise adversely affect the quality of residents' lives are resisted.

Chapter Three

Geography and Environment

As we have seen, the Parish forms a rough kind of triangle, the boundaries of which are about 10 km in length. Both administratively and geographically it falls into two distinct halves, or wards. The South Ward consists of the hillside which rises from the Stour Valley above Wincheap to Iffin Lane (the old Roman Road into Canterbury) and New House Lane. The Northern Ward consists of the valley bottom, along the Ashford Road, together with the sloping land between the northern bank of the river and the railways, and the southern slopes which start in Strangers Lane and run south and west through the Hanging Banks to Milton. The two areas are connected by a network of footpaths, and also have a number of protected trees, but they also have their own distinct characteristics.

If the two wards seem to be about the same size, at some two square kilometres, they differ very much in the density of population. The bulk of population of the Parish is concentrated in the flatter landscape of the North Ward. The 1989 electoral register lists 2,003 electors in the enlarged Parish. The total population is probably about 2,500 all told. Some 1,700 or more of the electors live in the North Ward and under 300 in the South. This suggests that the populations of the two wards are 2,050 and 350 respectively. Apart from the enlargement of the Parish these figures do not seem to have changed much over the years. Thus in the old Parish the number of electors rose from about 750 in 1954 to under 850 some fifteen years later, with the majority of the additional population coming in the South Ward.

North Ward

Most of the development in this ward has occurred since the 1920's. Housing begins just past the Hanging Banks and is linear until the Flint Cottages on the north side of the road. Here housing branches off to the north in the Tonford Lane/Grays Way/Hassell Reach development. As a whole development on this side of the A28 is sparse although over a number of years church land has been sold resulting in a few minor building projects. The latest has seen the introduction of five luxury houses sited together. This is Thanington Court Farm.

Opposite the Flint Cottages on the south hillside is the majority of the North Ward's housing. This community has seen the erection of a new executive estate of approximately forty houses, Manor Close. The "Council" estate much of which is now privately owned, the core of which is pre-war, covers a large part of the ward and accounts for roughly half of its housing.

Although the estate has lost some of its shops and consists of a variety of types of housing: terraces, semi-detached, flats and bungalows etc.

Most of the land to the north side of the river is orchard, land west of the hillside development is pastoral and arable.

Tonford Manor and the Old Manor at Cockering Road are both listed buildings.

Brett's excavation sites to the north side of the River Stour have been flooded, forming a set of attractive lakes.

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