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St. Mildred's Church, Tenterden, Kent.JPG
Grid reference: TQ885334
Location: 51°4’11"N, 0°41’23"E
Population: 7,613  (2001)
Post town: Tenterden
Postcode: TN30
Dialling code: 01580
Local Government
Council: Ashford
Website: tenterdentown.co.uk

Tenterden is a town in south-western Kent. It stands several miles inland and yet it is a Cinque Port town, a limb of Rye, and up to the eighteenth century it was a port town, with access to the sea along the River Rother. The town today looks inland, standing on the edge of the Weald, and overlooking the valley of the Rother from whence came its wealth of old.

The town's name is derived from the Old English "Tenetwaradenn", meaning Thanet-folks' den (or forest clearing)".


There are two parish churches in the town:

  • St Mildred's is in the main part of the town. The church dates from the 12th century, and was progressively enlarged until 1461, when the distinctive tower was constructed. It was one of the churches in the 1588 system of warning beacons.
  • St Michael's: The suburb now called St Michael's was known as Boresisle until Victorian times, when a church dedicated to St Michael was built to serve this community. The church was consecrated in 1863, but construction of the steeple took a further 12 years.

The Unitarian Chapel in the town was originally a Presbyterian chapel, called the Old Meeting House. It was built around 1695. A plaque on the wall records that Dr Benjamin Franklin worshipped here in 1783, where he was to hear Joseph Priestley preach. Later the Unitarians took the congregation over.


The first record of dwellings in Tenterden can be found in a charter which mentions Heronden. The town began to grow from the 14th century around the wool industry. Unlike other such centres in the Weald it had the advantage of access to the sea. Much of what is now Romney Marsh was under water, and ships docked at Smallhythe. Timber from the Wealden forests was used to construct ships, and in 1449 Tenterden was incorporated into the Confederation of Cinque Ports as a limb of Rye. Ships built in the town were then used to help Rye fulfil its quota for the Crown.

A public grammar school was in existence here in 1521.

In 1903, Tenterden Town railway station was opened.

About the town

Though boats may no longer moor here, Tenterden's broad tree-lined High Street offers a selection of shopping facilities, making the town a centre for a number of villages in the area. Visitor attractions include the Kent & East Sussex Railway line to Bodiam and Chapel Down, a local vineyard.

Tentertainment Music Festival; and the Tenterden Folk Festival are held on the weekend of the first Saturday in October each year since 1993.

Big Society

Tenterden Lions Club was formed in 1958; its members serve the community by giving time to local needs and raising money for local, national and international good causes. Every December, Father Christmas travels around Tenterden and some of the local villages providing enjoyment, as well as collecting money to support various good causes.

The Tenterden and District Chamber of Commerce promote and support businesses in Tenterden and the surrounding area. The Chamber are a thriving group who hold regular networking meetings for members, run the Tenterden Town community website, publish the InCinque Newsletter, organise a Town brochure, have input into the many walking guides, organise Late Night Shopping, the Christmas street lights, the shop Christmas trees and various Christmas events, and support the Tentertainment Music Festival, an annual event normally held in July and the Folk Festival held in October every year.

At Christmas time, Tenterden has a tradition of late-night shopping on the first Friday of December, with Christmas lights, stalls, entertainment and goodies for the whole family, as well as free parking.

Tenterden steeple was the cause of the Goodwin Sands

There is a local saying that Tenterden steeple was the cause of the Goodwin Sands. It is used as the epitome of a non sequitur.

One tale told of the origins of the phrase is that one Goodwin, earl of Kent once owned an island off the Kentish shore, which land later passed to the Abbot of St Augustine's, who also held proprietorship of Tenterden's church. He spent so much time and money on building the steeple that he neglected the sea wall of the island such that in 1099 the sea broke over and ruined it, leaving it as no more than the treacherous Goodwin Sands.[1] This is a version of the myth of the "Island of Lomea" invented in the eighteenth century.

The more usual tale is that a Mr More (or sometimes Sir Thomas More) was sent with a commission into Kent to ascertain the cause of the Goodwin Sands. He called together the oldest inhabitants to ask their opinion. A very old man said, "I believe Tenterden steeple is the cause" and he explained that when he was very young he heard no trouble of the sands, but then the steeple was built on the church, and in his later years he heard no end of the perils of the Goodwin Sands.


  • Football:
    • Tenterden Town Football Club, established in 1889
    • Tenterden Tigers Junior Football Club, established in 1996.
  • Cricket: Tenterden Cricket Club
  • Badminton: Homewood Badminton Club
  • Golf: Tenterden Golf Club

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Tenterden)


  1. The hundred, town and parish of Tenterden, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7 (1798), pp. 200-219 [1]
The Cinque Ports
Cinque Ports Antient Towns Limbs

Hastings  • New Romney  • Hythe  • Dover  • Sandwich

Rye  • Winchelsea

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