Tenterden, Kent County, England
A watercolor of St. Mildred's Church in the 1800's.  

St. Mildred's is one of the great town churches of
Kent, a county where many rural churches are small
and with low towers and spires. The church of this
prosperous medieval town (a limb of the Cinque Ports
Confederation) had its lofty and conspicuous tower
added in the fifteenth century.

A shell limestone comprised predominently of
fossilised freshwater snails and known locally as
Sussex Marble or Winkle Stone can be seen in the
walls St Mildreds Church, Tenterden, Kent.
In Roman times, the Weald of Kent and much of East Sussex were covered by a huge expanse of
forest. A Roman road from Thanet passed through the district, but it was not until Saxon times that
a settlement was recorded.
In Old English "Tenet Waraden" described a den or clearing in the forest belonging to the men of
Thanet, and the town's name is derived from this ancient identification.

Tenterden first rose to affluence as a centre for the wool trade in the 13th Century. In 1331 Edward
III prohibited the export of raw wool and brought weavers and dyers from Flanders to teach the
English to manufacture finished cloth, and in the subsequent decades Tenterden's prosperity grew.

Despite this relative affluence, a number of townsfolk supported the Peasant's Revolt and joined
Wat Tyler's march on Canterbury and London in 1381.

The town, unlike other wool centres in the Weald, has the advantage of access to the sea. Much of
what is now Romney Marsh was under water, and ships docked at Smallhythe. Wood from the
Wealden Forest was used to construct ships, and in 1449 Tenterden was incorporated into the
Confederation of Cinque Ports as a limb of Rye. Ships built in the town were then used to help Rye
fulfil its quota for the Crown.

As a Cinque Port, Tenterden enjoyed virtual self-government, was exempt from national taxation
and represented at the coronation of the monarch. The latter privilege is still jealously guarded
and the town still retains a mayor, but sadly exemption from taxes no longer applies!

In the 15th and 16th Centuries changes in the coastline meant that the Cinque Ports lost much of
their influence - indeed Tenterden lost all access to the sea, and today is some ten miles from the

The town has escaped much of the major development now commonplace elsewhere, and
remains one of the most picturesque in Kent. Its broad tree-lined High Street offers a selection of
shopping facilities, and is dominated by the pinnacled tower of St. Mildred's Church. The church
dates from the 12th Century, and was progressively enlarged until 1461, when the distinctive tower
was constructed. St. Mildred was the granddaughter of Egbert - founder of Thanet's Minster Abbey -
and it is believed that a Saxon church dedicated to her stood in the parish from the 8th Century.

The suburb now called St. Michael's was known as Boresisle until Victorian times, when a church
dedicated to St. Michael was built to serve this community. The church was consecrated in 1863,
but construction of the steeple took a further twelve years. Throughout the 20th Century the area
was the focus of much of the expansion in housing for the town.

The pioneering printer William Caxton is reputed to have been born in or near the town, and the
town archive includes a copy of a book published by Caxton in 1482. Actress Dame Ellen Terry is
another of Tenterden's famous former residents. Tenterden and District Museum, situated in Station
Road, has exhibits covering more that a thousand years of local history.