View through the Valley from Mill Lane

Eastling Manor House

The oldest dwelling in the Village

The Carpenters' Arms

The only retail outlet left

Section 1: Introduction

The village of Eastling is described by Arthur Mee in "The King's England" as a "hamlet of great delight in the high country of the North Downs". It is situated towards the northern extremity of the North Downs approximately halfway between Faversham and Lenham, and the road network connecting them provided routes between the radial arteries known as A2 and the A20 connecting London and the Channel Ports.

The parish has an area of some 3 square miles, and stretches from New York Larches in the east, and land adjoining Frith Farm in the west, and between North Eastling Hill in the north, and Pettfield Hill Lane below Huntingfield in the south. The major landowner is the Belmont Estate, which farms about 1,000 acres within the confines of the parish. The major industry within the area has traditionally been agriculture, particularly sheep rearing followed by fruit farming. Most of the cherry orchards dating from the mid 19th Century have been grubbed out, and converted to arable or other uses or replanted with the more modern miniature varieties of trees.

Historically the present village stands on the site of much older community. Its flint beds and chalk would have been a source of raw materials in Neolithic times, and artefacts have been discovered, indicating that there was some form of human activity here then. A trade route seems to have passed nearby, and historians have indicated that a permanent settlement was first built in the area in the 5th Century. By the time of the Norman Conquest it was well established. The "Domesday Book" of 1086 shows that the village was in the possession of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and that there were four manors within the parish - Arnold's Oak, Divan Court, Huntingfield and North Eastling.

In the 16th Century King Henry VIII appears to have been the driving force behind the introduction of orchards into Kent. Being concerned about the constant importation of produce from the Continent, he decided upon a serious "grow your own" project based at nearby Teynham. One of the end results of this policy was that Eastling was for years a provider of many of what are now considered to be traditional Kentish fruits: Apples, Cherries and Hops. Fruit growing was the major business of the landowners, or tenant farmers in the vicinity. There were a number of ancillary concerns - blacksmiths, livestock farmers and retailers. Again Arthur Mee described the church spire surrounded by cherry blossom in May as "standing like a ship's mast rising from a sea of foam".

Since the end of World War II, most of the orchards have been grubbed out. Many of the old tenant farmers have gone, and the bulk of the land has reverted to the Belmont Estate. This is, at present, mainly an arable holding growing a variety of crops, largely cereal and oil-seed rape. Much of its acreage is made up of ancient woodland, which harbours an abundance of indigenous wild life, and is also used to rear game birds for the local sporting guns. The blacksmith and the retail outlets, which had survived until the 1990's, have closed. The public house remains.

The present trend towards agricultural mechanisation has greatly reduced the number of people who work on the Estate. The population of the Parish appears to have fluctuated considerably over the years. In 1569 it appears that there were 24 householders and 87 communicants. This number recorded by the Census had increased to 481 by 1881. Of the 263 people who appear on the 2003 electoral roll, probably less than 20 work in the parish. Of the 100 children in the village primary school, only 37 live within the parish. Apart from the Estate, there are very few actual employers who operate within the confines of the parish. None could be considered to be a major employer of labour.

They can be listed as follows:

• The Estate

• Eastling Primary School

• The Carpenters' Arms

• Churchfields Farm

• BT Exchange

• The Water Pumping Station

• Newnham Lane Business park

• Belmont Timber Services

Eastling is largely a dormitory village, from which people commute out to work and return to sleep.

Section 2

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