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(Smugglers, Iron and Forests)
Built on a hill with sweeping views over the surrounding countryside,
Goudhurst can be found 9 miles east of Royal Tunbridge Wells on the A262.
The village has in the past been known as Goodherst, Goutherst and Goudherst.
The high street is lined with a wealth of old weatherboard and traditional
Kentish tile-hung houses.
The Bedgebury estate is one of the oldest in Kent dating from 815AD, lying between
Hawkhurst to the east, Flimwell to the south, Kilndown to the west and
Goudhurst to the north. William the Conqueror gave the manor to the de Bedgebury
family who owned it until 1450 , when the Culpepper family acquired the land.
Queen Elizabeth I knighted Alexander Culpepper in 1573 when she stayed at the
In 1309 a weekly market and two annual fairs were established by the wife
of Roger de Bedgebury.
In 1341, the Archbishop decreed that the Rector of Goudhurst should recieve an
annual tithe including herbs sown in gardens. This led to a dispute as to
whether hops are grown in gardens or fields. the vicar wished for a greater
tithe, and tried to claim a part of all hop production, he lost the argument.
However the hop fields are known locally as 'Hop Gardens'.
The area had many immigrant Flemish weavers brought into England by
King Edward III, much of the wealth of Goudhurst was founded on weaving and hops.
The church houses many memorials to the Culpepper Family. These include painted
wooden effigies of the Iron Master Sir Thomas Culpepper and his wife, which were
carved and painted in 1537. The family owned an iron foundry at the nearby
Manor of Bedgebury , where they cast guns some of which were used in the fleet
that fought the Spanish Armada in 1588.
The parish church of St Marys was built mainly in the 15th century. The tower
which was built in the early 1300's was struck by lightning in 1637 and caught
fire. The fire was so intensive that the bells melted, and the tower had to
be rebuilt. Over 50 churches can be seen from the top of the tower, from
Romney Marsh to the North Downs.
In 1680 Bedgebury estate was sold, the manor house was demolished, and a new one built
which in the 1920's became the famous Bedgebury Girls School .
In 1747, William Stuart, an ex-army corporal, with a hastily recruited militia,
took on and defeated the notorious Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers. The gang had
terrorised the countryside for miles around Hawkhurst , and hearing of the
formation of the militia, they threatened to burn down every house in Goudhurst
and kill all the residents. However on Monday 20th April 1747 the villagers
fought and defeated the smugglers in a pitched battle.
Bedgebury Forest was acquired in 1924 by the Forestry Commission. The Royal
Botanical Gardens ayt Kew created the Pinetum in order to grow rare foreign
trees and shrubs which could not survive in the polluted London air. The
Bedgebury Pinetum houses the largest collection of conifers in Europe.
During the Second World War in 1940 the church was damaged by two parachute mines,
which exploded destroying most of the windows. The church tower was used by the
Home Guard as an observation platform.
| Goudhurst has a few small shops, with the main shopping centres being at
Royal Tunbridge Wells 9 miles west, and Cranbrook about 6 miles east.
The nearest trains can be caught at Marden about 5 miles north on the main
Ashford to London line providing frequent servuices to the Capital.