Ashford, Kent

From Academic Kids


OS Grid Reference:Template:Gbmappingsmall
Region:South East England
Ceremonial County:Kent
Traditional County:Kent
Post Office and Telephone
Post town:ASHFORD
Dialling Code:01233

Template:GBdot Ashford is a town in the borough of Ashford in Kent, England. Its agricultural market is one of the most important in the county.

Ashford is a relatively common English name: it goes back to Old English æscet, indicating a ford near to a clump of ash-trees.



It is likely that the town originates from an original settlement established about 893AD, although a Roman road passed through here from the iron making area to Canterbury. It is listed in the Domesday Book, as having a church and two mills, under the name Essetesford. The manor was owned by Hugh de Montford, Constable of England at the time.

Its importance as a rural centre was confirmed in 1243 when it was incorporated, and by 1600 it had risen to become an important market town, primarily for livestock.

Parts of the parish church date from the 13th century but was substantially restored in the 15th century with many alterations since. In 1638 a free grammar school was founded here. It was built on the churchyard’s west side, and remained there until 1846.



Ashford was one of the towns that became a hub when the roads were turnpiked in the second half of the 18th century. Today it is on the M20 motorway which offers easy access to London, Maidstone and Folkestone, with junctions 9 and 10 serving Ashford. The A20 runs almost parallel with the motorway, and the A28 allows access to Canterbury and Tenterden. Also leaving Ashford are the A251 for Faversham and the A2070 for Brenzett and Hastings.

The A292 Ashford Ring Road is well known for being popular with boy racers.


The South Eastern Railway opened its main line from London to the town on 1 December 1842, and by 7 February 1844 trains were running through to Dover. The importance to the town of the railway, however, was when the company established its locomotive works here. Thousands of locomotives were built here during its lifetime: it shut in 1962, leaving behind the wagon works which still operates on a much reduced scale. The railway community had its own shops, schools, pubs and bathhouse, and much of the area retains the look of a “railway town” [cp Swindon and ]

Ashford became a junction with a line to Margate opened in 1846; in 1851 the line to Hastings was opened: and on 1 July 1884 the final connection, from Maidstone, was made.

When the Channel Tunnel was opened in 1994, the new Ashford International station began operating. It now serves the high-speed rail link that began service in 2003.

Ashford today

Ashford is twinned with Bad Münstereifel in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Fougères in Brittany and (since 1999) Hopewell, Virginia USA. The Ashford constituency's Member of Parliament is Damian Green (Conservative).

Essentially a modern town, little is left of the old Ashford, apart from some half-timbered buildings in Middle Row and around the churchyard in the town centre. A number of old buildings were removed to make way for the controversial ring road around the centre, built in the early 1970s. Three modern shopping centres are located in the town: Park Mall, County Square and the new Designer Outlet. Bank Street and High Street are traffic-free shopping thoroughfares.

The huge build-up of commercial importance of the town, as well as its strategic location, is witnessed by the number of industrial estates now opened up. They include:

  • Waterbrook - 74 hectares, a key site for production, storage and distribution with freight clearance facility
  • Eureka Science and Business Park - manufacturing sites and prestige office complexes
  • Orbital Park - 57 hectares
  • 14 other Business Parks and Industrial Estates

Famous people

Simone Weil, the French philosopher, died in Grosvenor Sanatorium, Ashford, in 1943, and is buried in the town's Bybrook Cemetery. Weil restricted herself to the meagre war-time diet she imagined her compatriots back in France would be eating; a coroner therefore recorded a suicide verdict when her condition was exacerbated by malnourishment. A road in Ashford is named after her.

Other personalities connected with the town are:

  • Sir John Furley - one of the founders of St. John Ambulance Service.
  • Sir John Foggle - Lord of Repton Manor he restored the parish church in 13th century and, at his own expense, built most of the bell tower.
  • Dr John Wallis - Internationally recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians, credited by Sir Isaac Newton as being the founder of his theory of gravity.


In 1801, the population of Ashford and Willesborough was 2,600; in 1861 this had more than tripled to 8,800; and in 1961 the figure was 28,000. The Ashford registration district in 2001 recorded 102,000.


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