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The Rype, Lydd - - 215217.jpg
The Rype, Lydd
Location: 50°57’8"N, 0°54’26"E
Population: 5,782  (2001)
Post town: Romney Marsh
Postcode: TN29
Local Government
Council: Folkestone & Hythe
Folkestone and Hythe

Lydd is a town in Kent, lying in the Denge Marsh, part of the Romney Marsh. It is one of the larger towns on the Marsh, and the most southerly town in Kent. Lydd was one of the first sandy islands to form as the bay evolved into what is now called the Romney Marsh. The name Hlyda, which derives from the Latin word for "shore", was found in a Saxon charter dating from the 8th century.

Notable buildings in Lydd include a Guildhall and a mediaeval courthouse. Chamberlain's and Churchwardens' accounts of the fifteenth century survive alongside the town charters.


Lydd reached the height of its prosperity during the 13th century, when it was a corporate member of the Cinque Ports, a "limb" of Romney.[1]

As with much of the Marsh, the town was a base for smuggling in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Before the First World War, Lydd became an important artillery practice camp. Experiments with high explosives carried out on the shingle wastes around 1888 led to the invention of the explosive "Lyddite". Lydd was at one time a garrison town, and the area is still an important training ground for the military, at one time having an extensive narrow gauge railway network.

Lydd is also the site of an airfield, the first constructed in Britain after the Second World War. Lydd Airport is now known as London Ashford Airport.[2]

Lydd during the Second World War

On the 3rd of September 1940, four German spies landed near the town on the coast between Hythe and Dungeness, but were soon caught. It would seem they were ill trained, with only one able to speak English. One of the German infiltrators was arrested in a local pub, the Rising Sun (owned by Clifford Cole), at 9.30 am, because he wanted to buy a drink, and locals would have known the pub did not open until 10.00 am. This suspicious behaviour at the time tipped off a local Royal Air Force officer, and the visitor failed to produce a required permit permitting him to travel freely along the coastline, and was handed over to the local Police. Another of the four was caught and it was discovered he had hidden radio equipment in a tree not far from the Lydd to Dungeness road. At least three of them were sentenced to death by hanging at Pentonville prison. At least two of the men proved to be Dutch in origin, and were recruited as spies as a result of their complicity in currency smuggling.

On October 21, a Dornier was forced to land at the Lydd aerodrome, short of fuel, having been confused in his bearings whilst attempting to return to France, by the use of recently invented equipment devised to interrupt the homing beams sent from Germany to guide such planes. The Dornier was the first example of this new type of Bomber to fall into the hands of British Intelligence. Lydd's wartime airfield was situated north of the town - only one nissen hut now remains.

A Wellington Bomber had the misfortune to crash-land on 26 June on returning from a 1500-plane attack on Bremen. The 19-year-old pilot managed to get the plane down safely near Lydd, and the crew survived the crash, but were not certain they were in England until rescuers came to their assistance.

On the 27 November, a railway train came under attack by two Focke-Wulf 190's. The train was just departing from Lydd station and had its boiler hit. The resulting jet of high pressure steam from the engine hit the aircraft, causing it to crash-land nearby, the pilot was found dead, but no railway staff or passengers were injured. The two planes, had been heading over the coast after a raid on Ashford.

Project Pluto

A pumping station was built at Lydd, linking Dungeness with a petroleum pipeline from Walton-on-Thames. Although top secret at the time, this was part of the project Operation Pluto: 'Pipe line under the ocean', a secret plan to supply petrol across the Channel, to fuel the invasion forces. Begun in 1942, the plan included a thousand miles of pipelines linking Grain on the Hoo peninsula, and other oil refineries, first to Dungeness, and soon afterwards to Sandown on the Isle of Wight, where pumping stations were set up to successfully carry over 6000 tons of fuel a day to Cherbourg. The Romney Hythe and Dymchurch light railway was used to assist in the construction of this project, which at its peak in 1945 was able to deliver one million gallons of fuel a day to the allied armies in Europe.

The fuel was pumped through steel pipes made by Stewarts and Lloyds at their (then) recently completed, integrated Iron & Steel tube-making plant at Corby in Northamptonshire. Sections of straight steel tube were welded together before being wound like a thread onto a huge drum - called HMS Conundrum, which was towed across the Channel several times to lay the network of pipes required. The company made a film about the project just after the war, which can be viewed at a heritage centre near Corby.

Parish church

Extrapolating from the work of the late Mr Leland Duncan, "The Monumental Inscriptions in Lydd Church and Churchyard", it is evident that a large number of sailors rest in the parish churchyard of the ancient Anglo-Saxon church of Lydd, all victims of the stormy seas along this dangerous coast. Of these, six were drowned with the wreck of the "Northfleet" in January 1873, and Tom Edgar who was with Captain Cook in 1779, when he sailed around the world and then was killed in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii, by cannibals. Edgar ended his days as a coastguard at Dungeness on the southern edge of the parish.</ref>Gravestone now preserved in side chapel of church</ref>

The church was long thought to be Saxon in origin, but recent studies have dated the oldest section to the latter half of the fifth century, making it Romano-British. The earliest existing tomb in the churchyard belongs to the Strugell family and dates from 1551. "It is one of the earliest extramural monuments in the country".

Within the church, which is the longest parish church in Kent, the ancient family of Godfrey of Lydd are represented by a brass in the C13th nave which has the date 1430 upon it, and a bust set in the north wall of the chancel; descendants of this family are to be found on World War II memorial. The church was adorned with paintings, and writings provided by Churchwarden John Marketman in 1611. The church interior was restored in the eighteenth century when box pews were replaced with oak pews to give a seating capacity of 1,000. In 1940 the chancel was destroyed by a stray bomb; being re-built after the war in the early English style and removing the Victorian 'restroration' of the east end.

The tower, at 132 feet, is one of the tallest in Kent, with a fine ring of eight bells. It overlooks an old holm oak, on top of which several heron nests can be observed on open days.

The list of rectors includes Thomas Wolsey (later Cardinal Wolsey under Henry VIII) though it is doubtful that he ever attended, as he held a number of churches in plurality, employing a curate and keeping the tythes for himself.

The church registers for christenings and marriages begin in 1542; for burials, 1539.


Outside links

The Cinque Ports
Cinque Ports Antient Towns Limbs

Hastings  • New Romney  • Hythe  • Dover  • Sandwich

Rye  • Winchelsea

Lydd  • Folkestone  • Faversham  • Margate  • Deal  • Ramsgate  • Brightlingsea  • Tenterden