The historic and picturesque village of Elham is in the heart of the Kent Downs, about half-way along the meandering valley that bears its name and that links Folkestone to Canterbury. Its 43 listed buildings and unique setting make it one of the most historically interesting and picturesque villages in East Kent. For much of its history Elham was a small market town. It retains many of the fine buildings of its late medieval and Tudor heyday, including the large Grade 1 listed church of St Mary, a number of fine timber-framed houses of the 15th, 16th and 17th century, and two market places in the Square and at the bottom of the High Street where the road widens out.
Things to do and see
The Square dates from 1251 when the future Edward 1 granted a market charter to the town. The market continued until about 1830. A row of cottages, which marked the fourth side of the square in front of the church, was demolished in 1940.
Church of St Mary the Virgin dating from about 1180, with the North chapel and aisle windows added in the 15 th century. The interior is richly furbished.
The Old School House, the Square was built as a timber-framed structure with brick end walls in about 1620 and it still has the original oak roof. A new brick front was added by Sir John Williams who left the house to the parish in 1723 to be used for the education of six poor boys.
The Old Bakery, the Square This fine house was also built in 1620. It served as a Shop and Bakehouse for many years.
Kings Arms, the Square Records show that an inn known as the Signum Galli existed here from 1605. The name is Latin for Cock Inn. Cock fighting took place here for over 200 years until it was banned and the inn was renamed Kings Arms in 1830.
Off the Square: The Pound The name of this street reflects its past use to hold stray livestock.
The High Street
Abbots Fireside Hotel was built in 1614 and was used as an inn before being divided into three cottages and then being returned to its former use as a hotel in 1938.
The Rose and Crown was built in the 15 th century and for many years the Elham Petty Sessions were held here.
Poors House/Masters House This 18 th century house features a central carriageway and was once used to accommodate the poor of the parish.
Coopers The house was built in 1724 by Matthew Cooper, a carpenter and barrel maker, on the foundations of an earlier house.
The Row This narrow street runs parallel to the High Street and was the old main road through the village.In the Row Anns Cottage was built in 1744 and 100 years later a foul murder was committed here!
Well and Updown Cottages This was originally timber-framed and incorporated a medieval hall house. The well is hidden under the extension to the side of Well Cottage.
The Old Hospital This building was connected with the Poor House/ Masters House, which is just behind it, for the care of the poor and sick in the parish.
Mill House A reminder that Elham once had a windmill behind this house. The first mill burned down in 1830 and its replacement was demolished in 1924.
Old Manor House Records for this house date back to 1387. The L-shaped building includes the old hall and a large wing extending down Cullings Hill.
Elham Valley Vineyard, Breach, near Barham, Kent
Look round the vineyard and see how the vines grow in the sheltered, tranquil valley that gives the vineyard its name. The vineyard is open all year. There is a shop on site selling wine and crafts, a pottery and teashop. Disabled access, parking on site, coaches by arrangement Teashop opening Monday to Fridays 09.00 – 17.00 (Saturday and Sunday 11.00 – 16.00). Wine tasting, light lunches and cream teas.
Where to walk
Elham Valley Way is a walking route that runs from Hythe to Canterbury, following the courses of the Seabrook Stream and River Nailbourne. The route is way marked. Park Gate Down just under a mile north west of Elham, is a small nature reserve and one of the top orchid sites in the country. This grassland site supports up to 12 different species of orchid during May and June, some of which are nationally scarce.
Elham Park Wood Sparrowhawks hunt here and you may hear and see woodpeckers, tawny owls, yellow hammers and tree creepers. You may also spot foxes and badgers, enjoy the wild flowers in spring and the chestnuts in the autumn.