History of Ashford Kent

The history of Ashford Kent goes back over a thousand years, from its early beginnings as a small market town to one of the country’s fastest growing towns today

First up in the history of Ashford Kent, this website.
We first appeared in 1998 with our logo featuring some of Ashford’s landmarks. They are, from left to right –
Willesborough Windmill, which was built in 1869 on top of an even earlier mill.
The Designer Outlet, transforming shopping in Ashford when it opened in 2000.
St.Marys Church, constructed in the 12th century probably replacing the one mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086.

Ashford International Station, which opened in 1996 providing direct rail access to Europe and continuing Ashford’s railway heritage.
Together they are a reflection of Ashford’s changing landscape over the last thousand years.

The main photo above is of the Hubert Fountain, situated in Ashford’s Victoria park since 1912. Cast by french foundry Barbezat & Co, it was first erected in the Royal Horticulteral Society garden exhibition in London in 1862. The fountain was then dismantled and moved to Wye in Ashford before its current resting place in the park.

Early History:

It seems that Ashford most probably originates from an original settlement established around 893AD. Becoming large enough to have a mention in the doomsday book, listed with a church and two mills under the name ‘Essetesford’ in 1086.

Ashford officially became a market town in 1243 and by 1600 it had risen to become an important market town, primarily for livestock. Parts of the parish church date from the 13th century. It was substantially restored in the 15th century, thanks to Sir john Foggle, with many alterations since. 1636 saw Ashford’s first Free Grammar School built on the churchyards west side. It remained there until 1846.

Railway History:

By far one of the most important times for Ashford was in 1842, with the arrival of the railway. And in 1846 with the building of the railway works. This helped the town double in size by 1861. The railway community had its own shops, schools, pubs and bathhouse. The works closed in 1981.

1996 continued the railway tradition in Ashford, with the opening of Ashford International Passenger station. Part of the high speed rail connection network between Britain and the continent, bringing the journey time from Paris to Ashford to about 2 hours 30 minutes.
In 2009 the high speed rail link began operation, cutting journey times from London to Ashford to around 38minutes.

Ashford had one of the first known purpose built cinema’s in 1911. However, the town also spent most of the ’90’s without a cinema due to the building of Ashford International Station. But now, boasts one the largest cinema complex’s in Kent – Cineworld Ashford. With another, Ashford Picturehouse, which opened in the new Elwick Place complex in the town centre this year.

Julie Rose Stadium:

Finally, there is the Julie Rose Athletics Stadium. Opened in 1997 it was named after Ashford’s British athletic star Julie Rose. Julie was unfortunately killed in an air-plane crash in 1985.

In 1986, the first Julie Rose 10k Memorial Race took place, started by Steve Cram. This now a firm fixture and a popular annual event in Ashford, attended by thousands of competitors and spectators alike. The stadium and facilities are now rated one of the finest in the country.

Renowned People connected with Ashford :

Sir John Furleyone of the founders of St.John Ambulance Service.
Simone Weil.- French Authoress,philosopher,political activist buried in Brook cemetary. (Do not confuse with Simone Viel).
Sir John Foggle – Lord of Repton Manor he restored the parish church in 15th century and, at his own expense, built most of the bell tower.
Dr John Wallis – Internationally recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians. Credited by Sir Isaac Newton as being the founder of his theory of gravity.
(click/tap on the names to learn more about them)

Lastly, in the history of Ashford Kent, we should also mention the famous scientist William Harvey. Although born down the road in Folkestone, he does have a pub and a hospital named after him in Ashford. The first person to correctly describe bloods circulation within the body back in the early 1600’s.