London Road, Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks is a commuter town in western Kent, close to but but escaping from the spread of the conurbation. It is on one of the principal commuter rail lines from the capital.
The presence of Knole House, a large mansion, led to the earlier settlement becoming a village and in the 13th century a market was established. Sevenoaks became part of the modern communications network when one of the earlier turnpikes was opened in the 18th century; the railway was relatively late in reaching it. It has a large commuting population although a nearby defence installation is a large employer.
There are a number of independent educational establishments in the town, including the prestigious Sevenoaks School.
The town stands at the junction of two main routes from the north before traffic climbs over the Greensand Ridge which crosses Kent from west to east. That road was one of the earliest in the county to be turnpiked in 1709, because the clay soils required frequent expenditure in its maintenance.
The valley to the north is that of the River Darent and it is here that that river turns to the north to cut through its gap in the North Downs. There are several lakes along the course of the river here, the result of the extraction of sand and gravel in the past.
The built-up area of the town has mainly spread along the main roads. The village of Riverhead to the north-west is the largest; other parts of the town include Greatness, Wildernesse; Sevenoaks Common; and Kippington.
- Church of England:
- Baptist: Vine Baptist Church
- Independent evangelical:
- Methodist: The Drive Methodist Church
- Newfrontiers: Hope Church
- United Reformed Church: Sevenoaks URC
- Roman Catholic: St Thomas of Canterbury
There are few records earlier than the 13th century for the town, when it was permitted to hold a market. In the Middle Ages two hospitals were provided by religious orders for the care of old or sick people, especially those going on pilgrimage.
Sevenoaks School, at the south end of High Street, is the oldest secular school in England. It was founded by Sir William Sennoke, a wealthy London merchant, in 1432. Sennoke, an orphan, had been brought up in the town. In later life he became a wealthy merchant and mayor. Founding the school and adjacent almshouses was his thanks to the town. In 1560 it was ordered by Queen Elizabeth I that it be called The Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth. It was "for the education of boys and youths in grammar and learning".
In 1456, Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, purchased the Knole estate and built Knole House, which still dominates the town.
The eponymous oak trees in Knole Park have been replaced several times over the centuries. In 1902 seven oaks were planted on the north side of The Vine cricket ground to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII. During the Great Storm of 1987, six of those trees were blown down. Their replacements were planted in a ceremony involving a number of television personalities, but these trees were vandalised, leaving only one standing. There are now nine trees on the site, of varying ages.
A serious railway accident occurred nearby on 24 August 1927. A Southern Railway engine was derailed while hauling a Cannon Street to Deal express, knocking a road bridge and killing 13 passengers. The locomotive crew survived, although the entire K class of engines was subsequently rebuilt to prevent such an event from occurring again. The accident also called into question the quality of track laying in the area.
Sevenoaks is characterised by high levels of economic activity and a skilled resident workforce, together with a large proportion of that workforce commuting to their places of employment. Those factors, however, lead to high house prices and pressure on the local area to build yet more houses. Many of those houses attract high prices, making it difficult for lower wage-earners to live there: and a wide range of occupations are therefore in short supply. Industries such as finance and business services tend to predominate. Transport links are generally overloaded and town centre congestion is common. One description given is that the area in general is "cash rich but service poor".
The main industrial area is located north of the town, alongside the A225. Sevenoaks Quarry is on Bat and Ball Road, also to the north.
The shopping area in High Street includes the new Bligh's development. It is a typical small town centre, with no large department stores. Bligh's Shopping Development opened in phases in 2002 and began to fill with the usual chain store shops and cafés. Much of the architecture is based on slightly earlier periods but with a contemporary edge.
Sights around the town
Knole Park is a 1,000-acre park inhabited by deer and several million trees. In its centre is Knole House, the home of the Sackville family (the Earls of Dorset) since it was given to them by Queen Elizabeth I in 1577. The estate is now owned and maintained by the National Trust, although the Sackvilles still live there. It is frequently visited by the school.
Riverhill House and gardens are located directly to the south of Knole Park, on the southern edge of Sevenoaks. The house and gardens, which were first built in the 16th century, are privately owned by Jane Margaret Rogers but are periodically open to the public.
Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve: to the north of the town centre, around one of the former gravel pits. It is a "Site of Special Scientific Interest", covering some 175 acres.
Sevenoaks stands where two ancient roads meet heading south from London and Dartford to the Weald, which have become the A21 and the A225; the former now bypasses the town it created and feeds the M25 motorway. The east-west A25 road passes through the north of the town.
Sevenoaks has two railway stations: Sevenoaks and Bat and Ball: the latter name is from a nearby public house, no longer in existence.
There is a high number of independent schools in the town, incluising:
- Sevenoaks School: an ancient institution and now a co-educational boarding and day school
- Preparatory schools:
- Solefield School
- Walthamstow Hall
- New Beacon Preparatory School
- Sevenoaks Preparatory School
- Corinthian FC
- Sevenoaks Town FC
- Cricket: The Vine Cricket Ground is one of the oldest cricket grounds in England, with the first recorded match having been played in 1734. It was given to the town in 1773 by John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset, owner of Knole House at the time. It is the first place in Britain to play cricket with three stumps.
The Stag Theatre and Cinema complex is located at the top of London Road. Recently re-opened as a community arts centre, supported by a strong network of volunteers and Sevenoaks Town Council. The multiplex cinema is open daily showing films.
- Newspaper: The Sevenoaks Chronicle
- Sevenoaks Community Forum - discussion forum for News and Events
- Sevenoaks Scouts
- Sevenoaks Information - What's On events diary
- The Rural Landscape of Kent. (1973). S.G. McRae and C.P. Burnham, Ashford, Kent: Wye College. ISBN 0900947373
- One of the mature trees was left, so there were then eight trees
- Southern E-Group (2003) For an account of the Sevenoaks Railway Accident, retrieved May 11, 2009
- "West Kent Area Investment Framework and Action Plan" (PDF). http://www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/documents/westkentbook.pdf. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- "Sevenoaks Quarry, Sevenoaks" (PDF). http://extranet3.kent.gov.uk/cs/planapps/pdf/Item%20B2%20-%20Sevenoaks%20Quarry1.pdf. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- "Stag Community Arts Centre, home of theatre and the arts in Sevenoaks - Home". Stagsevenoaks.co.uk. http://www.stagsevenoaks.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- Kent History Illustrated Frank W. Jessup (Kent County Council, 1966)
- Railways of the Southern Region Geoffrey Body (PSL Field Guide 1989)