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(A Notorious Gang of Smugglers)
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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 'The Treasury'.

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 public houses.

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.

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