The ford through the Darent
|Population:||1,800 (2005 est.)|
Eynsford is first mentioned in writing in 864, as Egenes homme. The derivation is unclear, but one possibility is that it represents ‘Ægen’s river-meadow’, from the Old English hamm ‘river-meadow, enclosure’. In 1801 the village had the highest population in the Dartford area at 841 persons.
In the centre of the village, which is six miles south of Dartford, is a ford through the river, with a picturesque hump-back bridge alongside. There are many old buildings including the 16th century Plough Inn and the Old Mill. The railway station is situated on the Swanley to Sevenoaks railway line, opened on 2 June 1862.
The Church of England parish church is dedicated to St Martin.
Eynsford Baptist Church was founded when in 1775 a Baptist Preacher, Mr. J Morris opened his house in Eynsford for the preaching of the Gospel. This was the beginning of a Baptist Community, which grew despite opposition from the Established Church. In 1802, it is recorded in the history of the Church that when Mr Rogers came to be Pastor "great difficulty was experienced in obtaining lodgings for the young Minister, that at one time the prejudice against a Baptist Minister was so strong that the people with whom he lodged had notice to quit their house unless he left, and it was with the greatest difficulty he secured a house when he married."
The first dedicated Baptist Church in Eynsford was completed in 1806, giving way to the present enlarged building in 1906. The work has continued to flourish, and the Church still supports its own full-time Minister, at a time when the Church of England has to share a vicar between three parishes.
In about 1163, Thomas Becket Archbishop of Canterbury is reputed to have excommunicated William de Eynsford, the owner of Eynsford castle. The excommunication was cancelled by King Henry II and the issue became part of the quarrel that led to Becket's murder in 1170.
John Wesley is thought to have preached here: he was a friend of the then vicar of Shoreham, the next village along the valley. The Wesley Stone by the bridge commemorates the spot.
It was near Eynsford village, at Austin Lodge, that Percy Pilcher constructed and flew successful lightweight gliders. On 30 September 1899, having completed his triplane, he had intended to demonstrate it to a group of onlookers and potential sponsors in a field near Stanford Hall. However, days before, the engine crankshaft had broken and, so as not to disappoint his guests, he decided to fly the Hawk instead. The weather was stormy and rainy, but by 4 pm Pilcher decided the weather was good enough to fly. Whilst flying, the tail snapped and Pilcher plunged 30 feet to the ground: he died two days later from his injuries with his triplane having never been publicly flown.
Another famous resident was Arthur Mee who built and lived in Eynsford Hill, a grand house overlooking the village. Mee edited both the weekly Children's Newspaper and the Children's Encyclopaedia, in which the design and construction of Eynsford Hill was chronicled. Whether the name of Eliza Doolittle's husband Freddy Eynsford-Hill in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion is connected to the house is a matter of conjecture.
The village was scandalized in the 1920s by the antics of composers EJ Moeran and Peter Warlock who rented a house there; Warlock's habit of riding his motorbike round the village naked was matched by his housemate's singing sea shanties on a Sunday morning to try and drown out the congregation in the Baptist chapel next door.
Sights of the village
Within the village are three impressive sites: Eynsford Castle, Lullingstone Castle and the Roman villa.
Dating from 1088, Eynsford Castle is one of the most complete Norman castles in Britain. Ransacked in the 14th Century it fell into decay and is now in the care of English Heritage and open to the public. For years it was used as dog kennels by the Hart-Dyke family of nearby Lullingstone Castle.
Not a true castle, but a manor house, built in the 15th century and substantially rebuilt in the 18th Century by Sir Percyvall Hart in honour of Queen Anne, who often stayed there. In 1875 Sir William Hart-Dyke and two of his friends framed the rules of lawn tennis at Lullingstone and first played the game there, using a ladder supported on two barrels for a net. It was here that the silk farm was situated which supplied Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, with silk for her wedding dress, though by the time the Lullingstone Silk Farm provided Lady Diana Spencer with silk for hers, the establishment and its silkworms had moved to Dorset.
In 2004 the current heir to the estate, Tom Hart Dyke, created the World Garden of Plants in the grounds from a design made in 2000 while he was held captive by rebels in Colombia. The 2 acre walled garden is laid out like a map of the world, containing some 10 000 species planted to create the shapes of their areas of origin. Both house and garden are open to the public, and the garden in 2005 won the British Guild of Travel Writers' 'Best UK Tourism Project' award.
Also in the grounds is the parish church of Saint Botolph, recently restored and containing some of the oldest stained glass in England.
Lullingstone Roman Villa
Lullingstone Roman villa was discovered in 1939, and contains some of the finest excavated remains of a Roman villa in Britain, including a Romano-Christian chapel.
- Football: Eynsford Football Club, who play at Harrow Meadow in the heart of the village.
- Mountainbiking: Though far from any mountain, "Team M.A.D" the largest Mountainbike Stunt Team in Europe were formed in Eynsford in 1996.
Eynsford in film and on television
- 20 Miles from Piccadilly Circus was a documentary in 1994 with of six half-hour episodes about various aspects of life in the village.
- Save Lullingstone Castle was a six-part series by Keo Films, aired between 4 April and 9 May 2006, on BBC2. It followed the fortunes of Tom Hart Dyke as he developed the World Map of Plants and attempted to thereby turn the fortunes of the estate. A second series, Return to Lullingstone Castle aired between March 19 and April 23, 2007.
- In the film Love Actually, the vicar at Eynsford church at the time played the vicar that married Juliet and Peter.
- "Kent place names" Spelling of placenames in Kent from BBC website.
- "Jungle captive's garden designs". BBC News. 2004-10-12. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/3736646.stm. Retrieved 2006-10-04.
- World Garden Aerial Views
- "Award for jungle captive's garden". BBC News. 2005-11-14. http://18.104.22.168/1/hi/england/kent/4435042.stm. Retrieved 2006-10-04.
- Lullingstone Castle
- Eynsford – A Story Through The Ages, by W.I. Curnow. First published by the Eynsford Village Society in 1953.
Various publications are available from the Farningham & Eynsford Local History Society.
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