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(A Notorious Gang of Smugglers)
The parish church of St Laurence stands at the south
end of the village known as the Moor, which is the
older part of Hawkhurst . It is likely that a church
has stood on this site since 1100, or even earlier
when Hawkhurst belonged to the Abbot of Wye. After
the Battle of Hastings William the Conqueror gave
the village to the Abbot of Battle . The first mention
of the church is in the charter of 1285, and its
first rector was Richard de Clyne in 1291.
The Chancel and North Chapel are the oldest parts of
the church. The Great East Window was built about 1350
and has been described as one of the finest pieces of
architecture in the country. Most of the rest of the
church dates from around 1450, when the nave was
lengthened and raised, the aisles, porches and tower
added, and it took on its present appearance.
The room over the North porch was used by Battle Abbey
officials for rent collecting, and used to be called
Hawkhurst's history is dominated by the notorious
Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers who terrorised the
surrounding area between 1735 and 1749.
The first reference to this gang was in 1735, as the
'Holkhourst Genge'. They were the most notorious of
the Kent gangs, and were feared for miles around their
home base in the village of Hawkhurst . Their headquarters
was the 'Oak and Ivy Inn', a still thriving public house
in the village.
The Hawkhurst Gang ranged the full length of the South Coast,
and were perfectly situated for working the Marshes which
began a few miles away at Newenden . It was reputed that
when needed for a smuggling run, 500 mounted and armed
men could be assembled within the hour. They were also
only 13 miles from Rye , a favourite haunt of theirs.
It was quite common for the gang to be seen at the Mermaid
Inn, where they would sit and drink with a loaded pistol
on the table. The looked after their own, but were totally
ruthless with anyone who interfered or crossed their path.
In 1944 a German flying bomb fell in the churchyard, and
caused considerable damage, and the church was put out
of action until 1957. Part of the flying bomb can be seen
on the south side at the back of the church.
| Hawkhurst has a wide range of small shops, and
The main bus services to the surrounding area are
based at the garage in the village.
Trains can be caught to Hastings and London, from
Etchingham about 5 miles to the south east.
The main shopping towns of Maidstone about 15 miles
to the north, and Hastings about 15 miles south
provide the usual large town services.
| Hawkhurst has a pretty white boarded 'Colonade'
of shops in the village centre.
From the cross roads in the village centre carry
on down to the Moor, which is on the Hurst Green
road. This area near the church is the old village
green, and is surrounded mostly by old Kent
weatherboard shops and houses.
Access to Bedgebury Forest can be obtained by travelling towards
Cranbrook and taking a left turn.