Ashford, Kent

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Ashford (Kent) Town Centre, High Street, February 2012 Snow.jpg
High Street, Ashford
Ashford is located in Kent

 Ashford shown within Kent
Population75,000 (2011 census),[1]
OS grid referenceTR005425
    - London 39.1mi 
Shire countyKent
RegionSouth East
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townASHFORD
Postcode districtTN23, TN24, TN25
Dialling code01233
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK ParliamentAshford
List of places
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Coordinates: 51°08′47″N 0°52′03″E / 51.1465°N 0.8676°E / 51.1465; 0.8676

Ashford (Kent) Town Centre, High Street, February 2012 Snow.jpg
High Street, Ashford
Ashford is located in Kent

 Ashford shown within Kent
Population75,000 (2011 census),[1]
OS grid referenceTR005425
    - London 39.1mi 
Shire countyKent
RegionSouth East
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townASHFORD
Postcode districtTN23, TN24, TN25
Dialling code01233
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK ParliamentAshford
List of places

Ashford is a town in the borough of Ashford in Kent, England. In 2005 it was voted the fourth-best place to live in the United Kingdom.[2] It lies on the River Great Stour, the M20 motorway, and the South Eastern Main Line and High Speed 1 railways. Its agricultural market is one of the most important in the county. Ashford is a relatively common English placename: it goes back to Old English æscet, indicating a ford near a clump of ash-trees.


Ashford lies at the intersection of two valleys in Kent - the south edge of the North Downs and the valley of the River Stour. This made it an ideal place for a settlement.[3] The Borough of Ashford lies on the eastern edge of the ancient forest of "Andredsweald" or "Anderida". This originally stretched as far west as Hampshire and formed the basis from which the Weald is formed.[4] There has been evidence of human habitation around Ashford since the iron age, with a barrow on what is now Barrow Hill dating back to 1500BC.[5] During Roman Britain, iron ore was mined in the Weald and transported to Ashford where two ironworks processed the ore into a workable metal.[6]

The present town originates from an original settlement established in 893 AD by inhabitants escaping a Danish Viking raid on the nearby ancient village of Great Chart (Seleberhtes Cert in 762AD). It is listed in the Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, as having a church, two mills and a value of 150 shillings (£7.50), under its original Saxon name of "Essetesford" (or "Eshetisford," "Esselesford", "Asshatisforde", "Essheford").[7] The manor was owned by Hugh de Montford, Constable of England at the time. Writer Philpot believed Essetesford stood for "ash trees growing near a ford", while Lampard, a 16th-century local historian, suggested that it meant "a ford over the River Eshe or Eshet", which was the old name for the tributary of the River Stour between Lenham and Ashford.

Ashford’s importance as a growing agricultural and market town was confirmed in 1243 when it was incorporated, and by the end of the 16th century it had risen to become an important market town, primarily for livestock. The market was held in the High Street until 1856 when local farmers and businessmen relocated to Elwick Road and formed a market company that is the oldest surviving registered company in England and Wales.[citation needed] There is still a regular street market in the town, although the market company has relocated outside the town and is used by some 5,000 farmers.[8] Ashford has a quite interesting industrial heritage, from being the world headquarters of Letraset, the way to create posters prior to desktop publishing. There was also the company which was the colonial supply company for Zambia.[citation needed] The Ashford Cattle Market Company, the oldest registered company in Britain, was founded in 1856.[9]

Parts of the parish church date from the 13th century but was substantially restored in the 15th century with many alterations since. In 1638 a free grammar school was founded here, it was built on the churchyard’s west side, and remained there until 1846, now used as a museum.[10]

Its closeness to London has always made Kent a strong influence on the capital, and vice versa. Thus by the end of the 16th century Cade (of Cade’s Rebellion) was credited by William Shakespeare in Henry VI, part 2 as being from Ashford. The play includes an Ashford butcher called "Dick" who looks forward to removing officialdom after the rebellion and says: first thing, let’s kill all the lawyers.[citation needed]

As a market town, Ashford has for centuries been a local communications hub for surrounding villages and has stood at the centre of five railway lines, (Ashford to Ramsgate (via Canterbury West) line, Swanley to Ashford (via Maidstone East) Line, South Eastern Main Line, Kent Coast Line and the Marshlink Line) since the 19th century. With the opening of the international passenger station it is now an important European communications centre, with new lines running between London and the Channel Tunnel (via High Speed 1).

During World War II Ashford's importance as a transport (railway) hub and its location between the continent and London made it a target for bombing by the Luftwaffe. The Joint Services School of Intelligence was based at Templer Barracks in Ashford, until the barracks were decommissioned in 1997 and then demolished to make way for High Speed 1.[11] In 1982, Prince Andrew, Duke of York was involved with the "School".


Ashford lies in a valley at the confluence of the Great Stour and East Stour rivers, where the Great Stour turns northwards to go through the Stour Gap in the North Downs towards Canterbury, Sandwich and the English Channel. To the south lies the Weald.

The original town of Ashford, in common with most such towns, has outgrown its original size and has combined with smaller villages in a conurbation. These villages include Bockhanger, Kennington, Sevington, Singleton and Willesborough. In addition, housing estates have been built in the open spaces amongst Bybrook, Godinton, Kingsnorth, Park Farm and Stanhope.

Essentially a modern town, little is left of the old Ashford town centre, apart from a cluster of medieval half-timbered buildings in Middle Row and around the churchyard in the town centre. A number of old buildings were removed to make way for the controversial ring road around the centre, built in the early 1970s. Three modern shopping centres are located in the town: Park Mall, County Square, and the new Designer Outlet. Bank Street and High Street are pedestrian shopping thoroughfares.

The increase in the town's commercial importance, as well as its strategic location, is witnessed by the number of industry, business and retail parks in the town. These include Waterbrook, a 740,000-m² (183-acre) site for production, storage and distribution with a freight clearance facility; Eureka Science and Business Park, including manufacturing sites and prestige office complexes; the 570,000-m² (141-acres) Orbital Park; the Ashford Designer Outlet shopping centre, which has won a design award; and fourteen other business parks and industrial estates. There is a prominence of food, scent and flavouring manufacturers with offices and production sites based in Ashford, examples of these being Brakes, Premier Foods, Givaudan, Coty, Inc. and Artisan du Chocolat.

The 2007 Kent earthquake, which registered 4.3 on the Richter scale, was felt in Ashford, though its effects were greatest in Folkestone.


As can be seen below, Ashford has a significantly (6.8%) higher percentage of White British inhabitants than the England average. There are also a higher number of White Gypsy/Travellers and Other Asians. On all other ethnicities, Ashford is below the national average percentage, which is due to the large White British population.

Ashford compared
2011 UK CensusEngland %Kent %Borough of Ashford %Ashford %
Total population53,012,4561,463,740117,95674,733
White British79.889.189.486.6
White Irish1.
White Gypsy/Traveller0.
Other White4.
Mixed - White & Black Caribbean0.
Mixed - White & Black African0.
Mixed - White & Asian0.
Mixed - Other0.
Asian British - Indian2.
Asian British - Pakistani2.
Asian British - Bangladeshi0.
Asian British - Chinese0.
Asian British - Other (Mainly Nepalese)
Black British - African1.
Black British - Caribbean1.
Black British - Other Black0.


Rainfall in the area is highly influenced by the North Downs and the High Weald. In the summer (June to September) the rainfall is more showery, falling over shorter periods and is normally more intense than in the winter (November to February), where it comes along with low pressure area frontal systems and falls over longer periods of time.[12] Over the course of an average year, some 116.1 days will record over 1 mm of rain. The nearest weather station for which records are available is Wye, about 3½ miles to the north east of Ashford town centre, but the nearest official Met Office station is located in Faversham which is 14.3 miles (23.0 kilometres) north east of Ashford town centre.

The absolute maximum temperature reported was 38.5 °C (101.3 °F),[13] set in 2003. The average maximum temperature in the summer months (from May to September)day would be 31.5 °C (88.7 °F), and the average summer temperature is 19.62 °C (67.32 °F) with 10.43 days[14] being 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or higher.

The absolute minimum temperature of −17.8 °C (0.0 °F)[15] was set in January 1985, though 43.9 days in total will report an air frost.

Climate data for Faversham Weather Data 1981-2010 (15km from Ashford - nearest official Met Office Station)
Record high °C (°F)20.1
Average high °C (°F)7.4
Average low °C (°F)1.7
Record low °C (°F)−17.8
Precipitation mm (inches)71.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours59.679.6115.3174.1205.2200.1213.7210.3152.2118.271.949.81,649.9
Source #1: Met Office[16]
Source #2: KNMI[17]


As far as roads are concerned, Ashford was one of the towns in Kent to become a hub when the roads were turnpiked in the second half of the 18th century.[18] Those roads later became the A20 road from London to the Channel ports; and the A28 which runs from Margate, through Canterbury onto Tenterden and Hastings. Junctions 9 and 10 on the M20 motorway serve the town. Additionally the A251 links the town with Faversham and the M2. The A2070 links the town with Romney Marsh and Rye.

Operation Stack on the M20, usually implemented in response to industrial action in Calais, used to bring Ashford to a halt several times each year until the new service station off Junction 11 on the M20 was built.[citation needed].

The A292 Ashford Ring Road was created in the 1970s around the town centre in an attempt to relieve congestion along the previous main thoroughfare in the town centre, the narrow East Hill. The Ring Road has recently been converted to two-way traffic again, to minimise the "race track" feel and help bring the isolated town centre back into the rest of the area.[19]

The railway came to Ashford when the South Eastern Railway's London to Dover main line opened between 1842 and 1844, and the company established its locomotive works here. The railway community had its own shops, schools, pubs and bathhouse, and much of the area retains the look of a "railway town"; the works closed in 1981. Ashford became a junction when the line to Margate was opened in 1846; in 1851 today's Marshlink Line to Hastings was opened, and on 1 July 1884 the final connection, from Maidstone, was made.

Ashford International

The Ashford International station opened with the Channel Tunnel in 1994. It now serves Eurostar trains on High Speed 1, with trains to London, Lille and Paris and connections to the rest of Europe. In November 2007 direct services to Brussels were withdrawn and the frequency of trains to Paris was reduced to three per day when Ebbsfleet International railway station opened. Local firms, residents and politicians were amongst those seeking a less drastic change in the Eurostar timetable. With the introduction of domestic train services in 2009 along the new High Speed One line to St Pancras and Stratford in East London, travel time from Ashford to London was reduced from 83 to about 37 minutes.[20] A limited preview service for the high speed trains began in July 2009, and the full service launched on 14 December 2009.

Ashford was formerly served by Lympne Airport, commercial services ceased in 1974. The airport at Lydd, designated London Ashford Airport and approximately 17 miles (27 kilometres) from Ashford, has regular flights to Le Touquet, France by Lydd Air. London Gatwick Airport, the nearest fully international airport is 58 miles (93 kilometres) from Ashford.

Stagecoach in East Kent serve the town and to other towns in east Kent. Local buses serve Ashford Bank Street and rural bus routes serve Ashford Park Street.

The Stour Valley Walk also follows the main river, connecting with other such long distance footpaths in this part of Kent, including the North Downs Way.


William Harvey Hospital, named after the doctor who discovered the blood circulatory system, is in Willesborough. It is the district general hospital, and was commissioned in 1977.[21] It is located just off Junction 10 of the M20 in the Willesborough area. It is also home to the Arundel Unit Mental Health Centre and the Paula Carr Centre.


See complete list of schools at List of schools in Kent

Ashford is home to nineteen primary schools and six secondary schools. There are also two colleges of further education and three of the secondary schools have Sixth Form education included.

The John Wesley School for primary education, built on the junction of Chart Road/Cuckoo Lane, Singleton, opened in September 2007.

In June 2006, because of there being 1,007 empty school places in Ashford, Kent County Council discussed the Kent Primary Strategy proposing merging Ashford South Primary School and Oak Tree Primary School, also suggested for amalgamation are Beaver Green Infant and Hopewell Junior schools. Now, 2008, Beaver Green Infants and Hopewell Juniors have joined to form Beaver Green Community Primary School, the head teacher being A. Macey.

The two grammar schools in Ashford are the Norton Knatchbull Grammar School for Boys and Highworth Grammar School for Girls.

Development of the town[edit]

The population growth of the Ashford Borough

Ashford is one of the fastest growing areas in England, and was designated a 'growth area' by the Labour Government in 2003. In 2004 Regional Planning Guidance for Ashford set out plans to deliver over 13,000 homes by 2016, and higher targets of 31,000 new homes and 28,000 new jobs in the borough by 2031 were later set. However, the formation of the coalition government in 2011 saw regional planning targets scrapped, along with growth area status. Ashford has continued to develop, with new homes planned for urban areas such as Repton Park, Park Farm, Singleton and Chilmington, and planning permission granted for a new £25m college campus, a John Lewis At Home store and commercial quarter.

The town centre ring road was converted back into a two-way operation in 2007, after 30 years as a one way system, at a cost of £10m.[22] The aim of this scheme is to allow the town centre to expand and accommodate an increasing population.[19] The new two-way route incorporates the first shared space scheme in the country. An art installation, Lost O, curated by the artist Michael Pinsky, was developed as part of the ring road's redevelopment but was highly controversial[23] and has since been removed from the road to avoid confusion by the passing drivers.

The town's main shopping centre, County Square, expanded in 2008 to include 50,000 sq ft of new retail space, and attracted many popular 'high street' retailers.[24] Outside of the town centre is the Ashford Designer Outlet, which attracts around 3 million customers a year, and a new Waitrose store opened in November 2009 on the former Rowcroft and Templer Barracks site (the site, known as Repton Park, will eventually provide 1,250 new homes and a new primary school.

The new train line, High Speed 1, provides access to London in 37 minutes.[25] Preview services launched in July 2009 and the fully operational service launched on 14 December 2009.


Mk. IV tank

In 2011, St Mary's Church in Ashford town centre was 're-ordered' to improve its dual function as both a place of worship and an arts centre and performance space. Around £1.7million was spent improving the venue for high profile acts (taking inspiration from Union Chapel, Islington), and featured performances from the Lightning Seeds, Johnny Flynn, Eddi Reader and Maddy Prior.

Within the town there are some tourist attractions, among them being Ashford Borough Museum, Godinton House and Gardens[26] and the Willesborough Windmill. In addition to the main library in the town there are some local, smaller libraries. A First World War Mk. IV tank built in Lincoln was presented to the town on 1 July 1919 to thank the townsfolk for their war efforts. It is displayed in the town centre.[27][28]

The Ashford Green Corridor is a linear park alongside the two main rivers through the town.

The motto of Ashford Borough Council is "With stronger faith", taken from, To Lucasta, Going to the Warres, a poem by the 17th-century poet Richard Lovelace from the borough,[29] the relevant verse being[30]

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Ashford is twinned with:

Local media[edit]


Ashford no longer has a local commercial radio station, KMFM Ashford. Their Ashford studios used to host both local and networked programmes for KMFM stations until all output across the network was networked from the Medway studios. The town is also served by other county wide stations BBC Radio Kent, Heart Kent and Gold.

Ashford also has its own community radio station - 107.1 FM AHBS Community Radio. This started broadcasting in May 2011 and includes programmes from the Ashford Hospital Broadcasting Service, Ashford's hospital radio station, which has been operating in Ashford since 1971.


There are three local newspapers in Ashford - the Kentish Express, published by the KM Group; yourashford, published by KOS Media; and the Ashford Herald, published by Kent Regional News and Media. This started publication in 2009, replacing the Ashford Adscene.


Notable people[edit]

Ashford has housed many musicians and many up and coming singer/songwriters from skiffle band Mungo Jerry founder, Ray Dorset, Chart-topping pop-punk band Dum Dums founder Josh Doyle to the organists and composers Sir Sydney Nicholson, New Zealand born singer/songwriter Herbie Sherman and Sir Malcolm Sargent. Roger Dean the artist featured on Yes' album covers, Frederick Forsyth the author of The Day of the Jackal and Dudley Pope, a writer, were born in the town. The singer, Oliver Sykes, of the famous metalcore band Bring me the Horizon was also born here. Actors, Patsy Byrne (Nursie in the sitcom Blackadder II), Mark Rylance and Alex Arnold from Skins were born in the area, with other personalities from the town including satirist John Wells from That Was The Week That Was and Bob Holness, a television presenter. Leon Camier, a British Superbike champion and World Superbike racer, also hails from Ashford. Comedians Paul O'Grady and Julian Clary are local residents. Cyclist Jamie Staff (BMX cycling World Champion and Track cycling multi medal winner) lives in the area.

Notable people of the area from the past[edit]

The Catholic section of Bybrook Cemetery in Ashford, near to where Simone Weil is buried.

Poets, Alfred Austin (Poet Laureate in 1896), John Fuller lived in the town. Philosopher Simone Weil also lived here; upon contracting tuberculosis she was moved to a sanatorium at Kennington, and declared the town "a beautiful place to die", later being recognised by the town's council naming a section of the A28 road after her. Dr John Wallis, the internationally recognised mathematician was here. Arthur Charles Evans CBE (21 March 1916 - 18 March 2011) is the author of Sojourn in Silesia and lived in Aldington (a village outside of Ashford), he worked for Kent County Constabulary and was Chief of Administration at Ashford Police Station, a position he held until 1981. Verena Holmes was born in Ashford and went on to become the first woman member elected to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2011 Census - Built-up areas". ONS. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ Lawrie 2004, p. 10.
  4. ^ Lawrie 2004, p. 12.
  5. ^ Lawrie 2004, p. 6,10.
  6. ^ Lawrie 2004, p. 13.
  7. ^ "Ashford". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1911. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Lawrie 2004, p. 66.
  10. ^ Ruderman 1994, p. 44.
  11. ^ Kings College, London
  12. ^ BBC weather
  13. ^ [) "1990 Maximum"]. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  14. ^ [) ">25c days"]. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  15. ^ [) "1985 Minimum"]. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  16. ^ "Climate 1981-2010 Averages WYE". MetOffice. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  17. ^ "Climate Normals 1971–2000". KNMI. Retrieved 28 feb 2011. 
  18. ^ The Rural Landscape of Kent, S.G. McRae & C.P. Burnham, Wye College,1973
  19. ^ a b Kent County Council
  20. ^
  21. ^ Kent & Medway Hospitals
  22. ^ 9 June 2006
  23. ^ 9 July 2007
  24. ^ History of County Square
  25. ^ Ashford best placed in Britain
  26. ^ Godinton House and Gardens
  27. ^ Article on the 90th Anniversary of the WW1 Ashford tank.
  28. ^ History of Ashford
  29. ^ International Civic Heraldry
  30. ^
  31. ^ (See the German language page for Bad Münstereifel and the town's location on Multimap.)
  32. ^ "British towns twinned with French towns [via]". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  33. ^ (See the French language page for Fougères and the town's location on Multimap)
  34. ^ (See the town's location on Multimap)

External links[edit]