"Hamstreet is 'interesting' and retains the characteristics of a traditional and proud working village, something that is increasingly rare," - Kent Life Magazine.
This Kentish village is affectionately known as ‘the gateway to the marsh’, being located six miles south of Ashford where the ridge of clay hills meets the flat expanses of Romney Marsh, an area once awash with smuggling. The village was bypassed in 1994, but remains an important junction and is twinned with the little town of Therouanne in France. Therouanne was once a city with a cathedral which was sacked by the troops of Henry V. The stone cannonball near the flagpole in Hamstreet was a gift from the mayor of the twin town, presented with the words 'You can have your cannonball back!' More local history can be perused on the Forge Gardens noticeboard and at the station.
Traditional weather-board buildings and a generally unspoilt appearance make the place well worth a detour from the beaten track. Three long distance footpaths pass through the village; the Royal Military Canal Path follows the peaceful banks of a 28-mile waterway - the UK's third longest defensive structure, and the Saxon Shore Way and Greensand Way pass through the expansive deciduous woodland that is Hamstreet Woods. In fact, the Greensand Way begins its 110-mile course to Haselmere at the village crossroads. A walk incorporating both the canal and Hamstreet Woods was featured in the 'Top 50 best summer walks in Britain' in the Independent newspaper. A second area of public woodland is located northeast of the village at Orlestone Forest.
To get a reasonably accurate population for the village as a socio-economic entity, add together the populations of Orlestone and Warehorne, for the boundary runs through Hamstreet itself. This amounts to around 1,800 people (2011 census). Orlestone is the original location of the village - now just a hamlet, a mile to the north, centred around the eleventh century parish church of St Mary. The Church of the Good Shepherd is a more modern place of worship in the village's High Street and the ancient church of St Augustine's in Snave also comes under Hamstreet and holds one service annually at harvest festival. The church in Warehorne is dedicated to St Matthew.
Hamstreet's Claims to Fame
Until 2013 there were five pubs within three miles of the village cross. At present there are three - the Duke's Head in Hamstreet itself, The Woolpack Inn in Warehorne and The White Horse in Bilsington. The Blue Anchor (Ruckinge) and World's Wonder (Warehorne) have sadly been allowed to disappear.
In the High Street there is a Post Office / general store, fish and chip shop, The Old Schoolhouse Indian restaurant, a curtain / blind shop, the 'Saw Joinery' DIY / joinery store, Lilly's Ink tattoo studio, The Cosy Kettle cafe and the Butterfly beauty therapy centre.
Marsh Road has Annings' Motors garage, Smart Dogs grooming centre and the Wyevale garden centre which also has a cafe. Hamstreet Primary Academy (the school) is located in Ashford Road.
In Warehorne Road there is a dental clinic, the Chris Cane hair salon, Angela Hirst estate agency and a floral arrangements outlet, and Ruckinge Road is the location of one unit currently available to let, Joanne Fuller Beauty and Hamstreet Surgery. A little further out of the village on Ruckinge Road is Meadow View Industrial Estate which contains several businesses.
Fun and Festivals
The village has a games area/tennis courts and a bowling green, as well as many clubs and associations too numerous to list. These include the Ruckinge and Hamstreet Scouts and Guides (HQ in Ruckinge), the Royal British Legion and the football club. Activities from coffee mornings to Zumba take place around the village at locations such as Victory Hall, Cosy Kettle cafe, primary school and Church of the Good Shepherd (which has its own hall attached).
The Pound Leas pavilion has its own bar area, augmenting the flood-lit 'multi-use games area' and football field, all of which are the result of many years of fundraising. The Festival of Transport which used to take place every June was featured in a Live TV (satellite) documentary programme in 2009. Time will tell if Hamstreet can breathe new life into its summer calendar as this event folded in 2016. There are however regular 'bikejumble' events on the fair field for petrol heads.
As well as daytime bus services to Ashford, New Romney and Lydd (Mon to Sat), Hamstreet has a railway station on the Ashford to Hastings line - one of only two remaining diesel lines in the provincial Southeast. Trains run direct to Hastings and Eastbourne and are half-hourly to Ashford and Rye at peak times on weekdays.
The village is well signed on the A2070 trunk road between Ashford and Brenzett, and between Aldington and Woodchurch on the B2067. The village used to be signed comprehensively in Tenterden and also from New Romney, Lympne and Appledore Heath. In spite of past campaigns for a return to better signage on grounds of being a junction point on a trunk road and a hub for local services, the village remains signed at the most basic level. Interestingly, there is a memorial at the southern exit for Hamstreet on the A2070 in honour of Liuetenant Johnson, a USA pilot who lost his life here during World War II after allowing his crew to parachute to safety.
Details of useful cycle routes can be found in the 'Royal Military Canal and Associated Routes' blog and circular walking routes can be found in the 'Smugglers and Saxon Shore Walks' blog. The A2070 and B2067 also have narrative blogs about features along these routes, and the 'Ashford and Shepway Roads Database' blog details routes around the wider area (all originating from March 2016).
The house on the corner of Ashford Road and Warehorne Road is believed to be the oldest in the village. It was a bakery until the 1980s, and a post office too until 1970, when a new post office was built at Bridgewell (now a private house in the one-way street). In the 80s the post office moved to the Mace store (now the dancing school), finally settling at its current location in the McColl's store, which itself was previously an independent store, then VG and then Costcutter. Hamstreet was briefly graced with a baker's shop again when the Chocoloate Box newsagency closed in 2012. There was a second newsagency (Harden's) located at Old Stores House in The Street until the 1990s.
Prior to its current use as a beauty therapy outlet, the shop at Woodville was an antiques shop, and before this a butcher's store. When the butchery closed in the 1980s, a butcher's counter was positioned at the rear of the VG store (now McColl's) for a number of years. Villagers had a choice of garages, both with filling stations, at the time too. The second of these, Tippen's, was located where the small housing development between the former Chocolate Box and the church now stands.
Until the 1990s Hamstreet had a police house in Warehorne Road. The Indian restaurant was the original site of Hamstreet School until the current school was built in 1882. Prior to its current use the Old Schoolhouse was an antique shop, a photocopier centre, a tea room and the Master's restaurant.
The shopping area in Warehorne Road housed a greengrocer and a wool shop in the 1980s. It is also believed that when Viaduct Terrace was constructed in the 19th century, there were plans for the southernmost end of the terrace to be a pub. The Duke's Head is in fact a rebuild; the original pub opened its front door directly onto The Street and was originally named 'The George', 'The Three Mariners' and then 'The Duke of Cumberland'. The twin pub of the current Duke's Head was the former Stonebridge Inn at Woodchurch. Hamstreet also had a twin station building, at Winchelsea in East Sussex.
Meanwhile, the former World's Wonder in Warehorne was one of five Kentish pubs which were built to the same design. The others were the now-bulldozed Ship at Lade (Romney Marsh), the former Bell Inn at Coxheath, The Redstart Inn at Barming and The Papermaker's Arms at Hawley (Dartford).
Hamstreet exchange phone numbers comprised of four figures prior to standardisation of the 01233 Ashford area code. The telephone exchange is still located next to the railway station. The old exchange is located at the top of a flight of steps to the south of the railway bridge in Ashford Road.
The truth is that one person cannot change a village, and I wonder if values have changed, with quaintness and protecting property prices now being the trump card. I hope I am wrong and that Hamstreet's commercial heart can grow rather than contract. I would personally encourage villagers to use the 'search' and 'comment' facility on Ashford Borough Council's planning website to support new amenities and object to further losses of business space whenever such proposals arise.
I hope that the quote from 'Kent Life' magazine which began this post will be as true in years to come as it is at the time of writing.
Credits and links
This page has been put together by Adam Colton, a local author of UK travel and short stories. Please visit my author page on the Amazon website, Smashwords, iBooks, etc. for details of available books. Also, please search for the names of any of the businesses, clubs, amentities or venues mentioned on this page that aren't listed below.
Old Schoolhouse Indian restaurant - also provides a takeaway service (The Street)
Beauty therapy centre (The Street)
Curtains and blinds (The Street)
Dog grooming centre (Marsh Road)
FORMER DANCING SCHOOL UNIT TO LET (Ruckinge Road)
Joanne Fuller beauty (Ruckinge Road)
Doctor’s surgery - declared the best surgery in Britain for customer care in 2005 (Ruckinge Road)
School (Ashford Road)
Scout and Guide associations (shared with Ruckinge)
Loving Hands knitting sewing and crochet group
The Victory Hall committee
Link to 'bikejumble' events