St. Leonard's Tower, West Malling
|Post town:||West Malling|
|Council:||Tonbridge and Malling|
|Tonbridge and Malling|
West Malling (historically Town Malling) is a village and a historic market town in Kent, with a population of approx. 3,000 - 5,000.
West Malling contains many historic buildings, including St Leonard's Tower, a Norman keep, which was built by Bishop Gundulf c.1080. He also built the White Tower of the Tower of London, the castles of Rochester and Colchester, the Priory and Cathedral of Rochester. In c.1090 Gundulf founded St Mary's Abbey in West Malling for Benedictine nuns.
This historic site contains significant buildings from the Norman, mediæval, Tudor and Georgian eras. There is also a Grade II* Listed 1966 Abbey Church which is used by the Anglican Benedictine nuns who have made Malling Abbey their home since 1916.
Other buildings of interest in West Malling include the Prior's House, once a residence for those with leprosy; Ford House, over 600 years old; a mainly Georgian High Street; the Swan Hotel, an 18th-century coaching inn (Grade II listed), and Went House, built c.1720 and noted for its elegant brickwork.
Manor Park Country Park is just to the south of the town close to St Leonard's Tower and Douce's Manor, whose grounds the park once comprised.
This new parish is a mixed residential housing estate and commercial development formed from parts of West Malling, Mereworth, East Malling and Wateringbury. The 2004 Wealth of the Nation report lists Kings Hill as having the highest average income and the highest proportion of households earning greater than £100,000 a year in Great Britain.
West Malling is next to the A20 main road between London and the coastal ferry ports of Folkestone and Dover, so it has become a popular commuter town. It is about a mile from Junction 4 of the M20 motorway, and from Junction 2 of the M26 motorway which leads on to the M25. In 2007, road access was provided from the West Malling bypass, taking commuter traffic away from the High Street.
In the 1930s, Maidstone Airport was established two miles from the town, at Kings Hill. During the Second World War, RAF fighters were based at the then-named RAF West Malling, and several US Navy squadrons were based there during the 1960s. After closure as an operational air station in 1967, several commercial air-based activities moved onto the site, and a number of popular airshows took place - the last being in 1987. By this time work had started to convert the area to non-flying use, developing into the new parish of Kings Hill.
West Malling station on the outskirts of the town provides a regular service to Victoria and to Maidstone and Ashford. With the recent development of Kings Hill, the station was renamed West Malling for Kings Hill
West Malling is reputed to be the site of the first recorded cricket match in Kent. The ground, off Norman Road, was once the home of inter-county cricket in Kent, and it is known that in 1705, "West of Kent" played Chatham at Malling.
It is said locally that Charles Dickens was inspired by local grounds in describing the cricket match between All Muggleton and Dingley Dell in Pickwick Papers, amalgamating the grounds at West Malling and Maidstone. There is a resemblance to West Malling in the original illustration of the match. Others have it that Dickens was a regular visitor to Dingley Hall in the village of Dingley, Northamptonshire, where he would have encountered an annual cricket match against a team formed of men with the name Muggleton, from the next village of Wilbaston. (There is a Dingley Dell just south of that village, steep and wooded.) Dickens was however a Kentishman and his descriptions may be local colour as held hereabouts.
- West Malling Resource Centre community site
- Panoramic views of West Malling (BBC)
- Malling Action Partnership, a community-based partnership leading to a community-developed vision for the future of West Malling as a market town.
- Wealth of the Nation
- Geograph photo of the Cricket Ground
- The Swan Hotel, West Malling - British Listed Buildings