Smugglers, stamps and the Saxon Shore
"Hamstreet is 'interesting' and retains the characteristics of a traditional and proud working village, something that is increasingly rare"
- Kent Life Magazine
PHOTOS OF HAMSTREET:
2 pages of great pictures!
B2067 - the official website
Hamstreet author Adam Colton's books on Kindle (paperback editions below)
Mud, Sweat and Beers - Hamstreet to Ham Street walk - Greensand Way hiking adventure
England and Wales in a Flash / Bordering on Lunacy
Get the latest news on the parish council's official site here
Check out Hamstreet's original village site here
Local folk duo, Adam & Teresa, have been played on BBC Radio Kent and have a download album to sample on iTunes, Amazon and other online stores.
Rock & Roll Renegades - Live at Warehorne music festival
Also check out For Emotion (local rock/alternative band) and Anderida (Hamstreet based folk trio)
Includes travel jottings, local sayings and a free surreal short story here
Vacant shop in High Street location (former floral arrangements outlet)
Introduction to the Village
The Kentish village of Hamstreet 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 (link here) in France. Therouanne was once a city with a cathedral which was sacked by the troops of Henry V. The stone canonball 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; one follows the peaceful banks of the Royal Military Canal - the UK's third longest defensive structure, and two pass through the expansive deciduous woodland that is Hamstreet Woods. A walk incorporating both the canal and the 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 ancient 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
H E Bates who wrote the Darling buds of May would have known the village well, and both Noel Coward and the writer Joseph Conrad resided at nearby Aldington. Within a five mile radius of the village, we have seen the likes of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, Paul O'Grady, Julian Clary, the actress Jan Francis and international golfer, Peter Mitchell. Hamstreet has also been featured in futuristic writings by Sir Peter Hall and David Boyle. But what of the village itself?
Mountain Farm in Hamstreet once featured in Blue Peter as a base camp for an expedition up the 'Marsh Mountain’. Romney Marsh is of course completely flat, so this humorous concept involved presenters turning a map of the area upside down and crawling along the road!
Hamstreet had its real moment of fame in the early 1990's, with maps of the village appearing on postage stamps all over the UK. John Craven even did a 'Countryfile' special on the village - video clip here. This was to mark 200 years of the Ordnance Survey. Hamstreet was chosen because the area was the first to be mapped as part of a nationwide survey and the changes to the village over the years showed up very well on a series of stamps.
The village is also on the route of the Tour of Britain cycle race which passed through in September 2006 and the Olympic Torch relay passed through the village en route to London for the 2012 Olympic Games - video clip here.
Visitors enjoying the huge potential for walking and cycling around Hamstreet will find that villagers enjoy a good range of amenities:
Post Office/supermarket - open until 10pm daily - includes fresh butcher's meat and vegetables in its range (The Street)
Old Schoolhouse Indian restaurant - also provides a takeaway service (The Street)
DIY/joinery store (The Street)
Tattoo studio (The Street)
Beauty therapy centre (The Street)
Garage (Marsh Road)
Dog grooming centre (Marsh Road)
Garden centre - includes cafe (Marsh Road)
Hardware/cycle shop (Ruckinge Road)
Dancing school (Ruckinge Road)
Doctor’s surgery - declared the best surgery in Britain for customer care in 2005 (Ruckinge Road)
School (Ashford Road)
Hairdresser (Warehorne Road)
Estate agent (Warehorne Road)
Dentist (Warehorne Road)
Antiques dealership (Warehorne Road)
Meadow View Industrial Estate - contains several businesses - located half a mile out of the village towards Ruckinge.
There are a five pubs within two and a half miles of the village cross (basic details can be found on the walking page):
Duke's Head - serves take-away fish and chips 6pm-8pm Tues-Sat (The Street)
Woolpack Inn (Warehorne)
World’s Wonder Restaurant (Warehorne)
Blue Anchor (Ruckinge)
White Horse (Bilsington)
The village also has a tennis courts/games area, a bowling green and a hot-air-ballooning company which regularly launches from the football field, as well as a full range of Scout and Guide associations (shared with Ruckinge). Other local organisations include the Royal British Legion, bowls club (Fri in summer), short mat bowls (Tues & Fri - Hall), mother and toddler group (Weds - Hall), Margaret Morris exercise (Mons - Hall), Zumba fitness (Mons - School), dance club (Tues - School), dog training (Thurs - Hall), coffee mornings (Fri - Church), lunch club (Weds - Church), line dancing (Weds - Hall), table tennis (winter Fridays - Hall), over 60s (Fri - Hall), cell groups (Church), coffee mornings (Fri - Church), WI (Mons - Hall), Tai Chi (Thurs - Hall) and much more.
Events and festivals
Also look out for posters for Hamstreet bonfire and fireworks on Pound Leas each November and the music festival in Warehorne village hall every July. For those wishing to stay in the village, accommodation is available at the Duke's Head (subject to availability).
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 Brighton via Hastings and Eastbourne and are half-hourly to Ashford and Rye at peak times on weekdays. Timetable here.
This is an opportunity for visitors to see the kind of challenges that villages face. In 2008 Pumpkin TV produced a DVD for geography students which used Hamstreet as a case study. The author of this site has actively campaigned for many issues, including the following:
A request for staffing of Hamstreet railway station after six months of closure in the late 1990s, suggestions for an annual village bonfire (made with many other villagers), a request for more trains to operate from Hamstreet during a review of the line in 2005, support for the Indian takeaway, support for increased pub licensing hours (in line with other local rural pubs), the suggestion of a plaque depicting points of interest on the village sign, support for Hamstreet Surgery to expand, support for chip shop planning permission (although not realised), campaign for a return to full staffing at Hamstreet railway station in 2012/13 and promotion of the village locally as a rural tourism destination.
A request for the authorities to act to save Hamstreet's final filling station from closure in 2001, a suggestion for brown 'local services' signs on the bypass to encourage greater use of amenities, a request for Hamstreet to be linked to the national cycle network with an official route to Ashford and along the canal to Ruckinge (currently in limbo), a request for tax discs to be made available at the village Post Office, a suggestion of improved road signage for the village, plus a suggestion of a questionaire seeking the views of the whole village to reduce opposition to new amenities (2007).
Call to Action:
1) Villagers: There is a tendency in Hamstreet for a minority of individuals to oppose new and expanded services on grounds such as parking, noise and litter. In truth, the feared situations rarely materialise at all. This site wishes to promote Hamstreet as a living village. Any villager who wants to see more in Hamstreet should pen their supporting views to Ashford Borough Planning Department, Civic Centre, Tannery Lane, Ashford, Kent or express them by using the search facility and online comment option here whenever they read of applications to provide new, increased or diversified amenities for the village.
2) Councillors / Authorities: Because the 'no' voices always speak up, the authorities are being given an unrepresentative view of what the village wants. We have the houses; now let's have the services! The village will not survive if it doesn't embrace change. This site urges those who represent the village to realise that the objections of a few should not preside over the wishes of the majority.
Committees / Businesses: This site also urges
amenities to support one another. There is nothing more alienating
to new villagers than local 'politics'. We want to support all
aspects of village life and see less 'us and them'.
Conclusion & contact
All in all, there is much to be positive about in Hamstreet and it is clear that campaigning can work if more villagers speak up. So please BE VOCAL and SHOP LOCAL.
And if you don't live here, why not pay us a visit and perhaps try some of the walks and quiet country cycle rides? To contact this site email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Original site copyright 2002. Hamco Publishing, Hamstreet, Nr Ashford, Kent. Last updated Nov 2013.
Want more from your village shop?
Can't find what you want at McColl's? Email: email@example.com
stating the missing product and emphasising that it is the only general store in the village. Be prepared to be persistent. This is a far more pro-active approach than taking your custom out of the village.
Old Shops / Services
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 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 it 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. The World's Wonder in Warehorne parish is also one of five Kentish pubs which were built to the same design.
Hamstreet exchange phone numbers comprised of four figures, with the code being 022373, 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.