Ashford (St. Mary)

ASHFORD (St. Mary), a market-town, parish, and the head of the union of West Ashford, in the hundred of Chart and Longbridge, lathe of Shepway, E. division of Kent, 20 miles (S. E. by E.) from Maidstone, and 54 (E. S. E.) from London; containing 3082 inhabitants. This place, originally Asscheford, rose from the ruins of Great Chart, an ancient market-town, which gave name to the hundred, and was destroyed during the Danish wars. The town is a liberty of itself: it is situated on an eminence rising from the northern bank of the small river Stour, over which is a bridge of one arch; the houses are modern and well built, and the principal street, which is nearly half a mile long, is lighted. A suite of assembly-rooms has been erected on the site of the ancient manor and market-house, and assemblies occasionally take place; there are two subscription libraries, and races are held annually for one day. The only branch of manufacture is that of linen, which is carried on to a small extent. The market is on Tuesday and Saturday; there is a cattle-market on the first and third Tuesday in every month; and fairs are held on May 17th, Sept. 9th, and Oct. 24th, for general merchandise, and in the first week in Aug. for wool. A new turnpike-road, in a more direct line than the old road, has lately been completed between the town and Canterbury; and the South-Eastern railway passes near it: an act was obtained in 1845 for a railway to Hastings, 29 miles long; a railway was opened to Canterbury in Feb. 1846, and extended to Ramsgate, April, same year. Great works have just been formed for the construction of steam-engines and the manufacture of carriages, for the South-Eastern Company's use; some of the piles of building are of extraordinary dimensions. A court leet is held annually, at which a constable, borough-holder, and other officers are appointed. The powers of the county debt-court of Ashford, established in 1847, extend over the registration-districts of East and West Ashford.

The parish comprises 2800a. 3r. 17p., of which about 290 acres are woodland, and 92 acres roads, waste land, and the town. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £18. 4. 2.; net income, £460; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Rochester: the glebe comprises about 14 acres. The church, formerly collegiate, is a spacious and handsome cruciform structure in the later English style, with a lofty and elegant tower rising from the centre, and at the southern entrance a fine Norman arch: it was rebuilt in the reign of Edward IV., by Sir John Fogge, Knt., who erected the beautiful tower, and founded the college for a master, two chaplains, and two secular clerks. In a small chapel adjoining the south-western transept are three sumptuous monuments of variegated marble, to the memory of the Smyths of Westenhanger, and one to the Duchess of Athol. There are places of worship for Particular Baptists, the Society of Friends, the Connexion of the Countess of Huntingdon, and Wesleyans. The free grammar school was founded in 1636, by Sir Norton Knatchbull, who endowed it with £30 per annum, and vested the appointment of a master in his own family; national schools are supported by subscription, and by a bequest in land, producing £35 a year, from Dr. Turner, in 1702. The poor-law union of West Ashford comprises 12 parishes and places, and contains a population of 11,329. A mineral spring was discovered a few years ago, in a field called Sparrows gardens. Robert Glover, an industrious antiquary of the sixteenth century; his nephew, Thomas Miller, eminent as a herald and genealogist; and Dr. John Wallis, the celebrated mathematician, were natives of the place. It confers the inferior title of Baron on the family of Keppel, earls of Albemarle.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.