Bishopsbourne sits in the Nailbourne valley in Kent about 4 miles from Canterbury and has a population of approx 200. The village sits on the ‘Elham Valley Way’, which runs from one end of the village to other and continues off towards Folkestone. At one end of the village is the church, St Mary’s, which dates from at least 1086, when it was mentioned in Doomsday, and has many fine features, including 14th century wall paintings and a stained glass window by Edward Burne-Jones.
Next, as one walks through the village from the Church one comes to the Old Forge on the left. Until only a few years ago this was still a working forge, and the then Blacksmith, Len Hutton, was well known for the quality of his ironwork. When Len retired no alternative tenant could be found to take on the forge, so the building is now a residential property. A little further on comes the village hall. This is called the Conrad Hall, in honour of the author Joseph Conrad who lived in the village at the house called ‘Oswalds’ just opposite the church, and who is buried in Canterbury cemetary. In 1927 a committee of worthies raised donations to build a new porch (with plaque) on the front of the hall in commemoration of the great man, and although, strictly speaking, it should only be the porch that should be called the ‘Conrad Porch’, in practice his name attaches to the enitre hall. The hall is available to hire for parties, events etc at highly competitive rates and one can find contact details etc on this website.
Beyond the village hall one comes to the pub, the Mermaid, which dates from the 19th century. Landlords, Gill and Pete, not only provide a great atmosphere, fine beers, wines and excellent food but also host numerous village events at the pub, making it a focal point of village life. Keep an eye on the diary dates page for forthcoming events
Apart from Conrad, the village has been home to other historical figures such as Jocelyn Brooke, the naturalist, but by far its most notable and venerable inhabitant must have been the great ecclesiastical writer Richard Hooker, often referred to simply as ‘The Judicious Hooker’. He was Rector here for the last five years of his life (1595-1600) and it was here that he wrote the last few volumes of the eight volume “Of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity”, a work that would later shape not only how the Church of England developed in the early years after the Reformation, but also, through its influence on philosophers such as Hobbes and Locke, how the political institutions of the country as a whole changed and shifted after the civil war of 1642-1651.
Other famous visitors to the village have included Mozart, who came to Bourne Park in his childhood, and Churchill, who visited the village during the second world war to inspect the massive gun that was housed on a great carraige at Bishopsbourne station, and which bombarded occupied France from afar.
As one follows on past the pub and out of the village one follows the driveway to Charlton Park, which is often host to village events and where the owner Gubby Twigg runs a variety of courses and classes for the public.