Chilham Parish


The parish of Chilham is situated in the Valley of the North Downs ridgeway and the River Stour. It contains the villages of Old Wives Lees and Shottenden.

Chilham village itself retains is quaintness which attracts visitors worldwide. It's medieval buildings cluster around a 15th century market square with the castle and the church occupying opposite sides of this square. The village has been the setting for several film and television programmes such as the BBC's adaptation of Jane Austen's 'Emma' in 2009.   

The original octagonal Norman keep of Chilham Castle dates from 1174, it was built during the reign of Henry II. The castle became the home of the de Lucy, Baddlesmere and Chene families to name but a few. The castle as it stands today is Jacobean, constructed in 1616 for Sir Dudley Digges, Master of the Rolls to James I. Please see Links below for more information.

The village benefitted from both road and rail transport from 1846.

Old Wives Lees is situated on the higher northern part of the parish of Chilham. The village is a small rural hamlet with fruit and arable farms scattered around its centre. It was originally called 'Oldwoods Lees', a name taken from the occupant of the Manor in the 15th century.

Shottenden is situated in the north west of the parish of Chilham. In the past, Shottenden's high downland landscape was used as the hunting grounds for manors in the vicinity.  The small village once had all community essentials including shops, a school, a public house and a post office most closing before 1994. 


For more historical information please visit:

Surrounding Parishes

Molash, Godmersham, Crundale, Selling, Badlesmere, Leaveland, Sheldwich. 

Chilham People

From census and trade directories it appears that Chilham was a prosperous community with agriculture and trade as its main focus.The 1855 Post Office Directory shows this focus greatly with a variety of trade and services mixed with farming occupations. The presence of two public houses and transport trades such as wheelwrights and saddlers show the village was on a main trade route by road and rail. Also with numerous shopkeepers serving the local communities' needs. 
By the late 1800's, Chilham parish had witnessed an increase in population. However, this dropped in the following census, this was probably due to the combination of the hamlet of Shottenden becoming part of the parish and also the migration of workers out of the parish as agricultual methods improved. The main employment was still agriculture in the various arable and fruit farms in the area. 


The chart above shows the fluctuations of Charing's population during a 120 year period. The sharp rise in population as road systems were improved and trade in the town became settled, and the steady decline after the railway came to the town in the 1880's. The chart is based on census, trade directories, and Victoria County History of Kent figures.

  • Census:All exist.
  • Wills - Tudor and Medieval wills can be found on Kent Archaeological Society website here
  • Hearth Tax 1664:please go to Hearth Tax Online and download their .pdf document.


A separate National and Infant school are mentioned in the 1855 Post Office Directory. In 1862 a mixed school was built in the village for 147 children and 65 infants.

Church & Religion

The Church of St. Mary has Saxon beginnings and is listed in the Domesday Monachorum as a mother church of the area.

The church was severely damaged by a fire in 1590 and rebuilt and restored over the following 30 years. Further information on this fire and its effects can be found on Here's History Kent, and Kent Archaeological Society websites.

Monumental Inscriptions within the church and the churchyard include dedications to the families of Dering, Honywood, Sayer, Norwood, and Chapman.

The church was completely refurbished in the 1870's by the Rt. Reverend E.W. Tufnell.

Charing Heath: Parishioners of Charing Heath have been served by the Church of Holy Trinity since the 1870's.

  • Parish registers of Charing parish church: date from 1537. Registers in existence are: Baptisms 1537-1930; Marriages 1537-1930; Banns 1754-1884; Burials:1537-1930.
  • Transcriptions of Charing parish records by KFHS are available: Baptisms 1590-1965, Marriages 1590-1905, Banns 1754-1823 and Burials 1590-1867 on CD25 (please see main Kent Family History Website for update on errors to Charing Marriages on this disc).
  • Other transcriptions of marriages 1754-1911 can be found on Mid Kent Marriages website.
  • Monumental Inscriptions for St. Peter and St. Paul, Charing: can be seen on Kent Archaeological Society website with churchwardens notes here.
  • War memorials for Chilham, Old Wives Lees and Shottenden can be seen on

Other churches and chapels:

A 13th century chapel existed in the grounds of Pett Place manor. By the visitation of 1511 the chapel was in a state of disrepair.

In the grounds of Newland manor estate, Newlands Studd chapel, built in the late Norman era, was still in use in the 1500's. Today, the chapel is used a barn with a few original architectural features surviving.

A Wesleyans chapel is mentioned in trade directories from 1882.


  • Lathe of Shepway (PO Directory 1855)
  • In the hundred of Felborough (1855 PO Directory)
  • East Ashford Union (1855 PO Directory)
  • Ashford Petty Sessional Division (1913 Kelly's Directory)
  • Canterbury County Court district (1913 Kelly's Directory)
  • Benefice of Charing with Charing Heath and Little Chart (Present)
  • Rural Deanery of West Bridge (1913 Kelly's Directory) Deanery of Ashford (Present)
  • Archdeaconry of Canterbury (1913 Kelly's Directory) Archdeaconry of Maidstone (Present)
Ashford Villages

Bethersden Biddenden Bilsington

Bircholt Bonnington Boughton Aluph

Brabourne Brook Challock

Charing Chilham Crundale

Egerton Godmersham

Great Chart Orlestone/Hamstreet

Hastingleigh High Halden Hinxhill

Hothfield Hurst nr. Aldington

Parish Records

Kenardington Kennington Kingsnorth

Little Chart Mersham Molash

Newenden Pevington nr. Pluckley

Pluckley Rolvenden Ruckinge

Sevington Shadoxhurst Smarden

Smeeth Stone cum Ebony Tenterden

Warehorne Westwell Willesborough

Wittersham Woodchurch Wye