Hythe, Kent

Hythe, Kent

Infobox UK place
official_name= Hythe
country= England
region= South East England
population= 14,170(Parish)
os_grid_reference= TR158350
latitude= 51.074
longitude= 1.082
constituency_westminster= Folkestone and Hythe
civil_parish= Hythe
shire_district= Shepway
shire_county= Kent

Hythe (IPAEng|haɪð, or "haithe") is a small coastal market town on the edge of Romney Marsh, in the District of Shepway (derived from Sheep Way) on the south coast of Kent. The word "Hythe" or "Hithe" is an Old English word meaning "Haven" or "Landing Place".

The town has medieval and Georgian buildings, as well as a Saxon/Norman church on the hill and a seafront promenade. Hythe was once defended by two castles, Saltwood and Lympne. The town hall (formerly Guildhall) was built in 1794, its fireplace designed by the Adam brothers.

Hythe's market once took place in Market Square (now Red Lion Square) close to where there is now a Farmers' Market every second and fourth Saturday of the month. Hythe has gardening, horse riding, bowling, tennis, cricket, football, squash and sailing clubs. Lord Deedes was patron of Hythe Civic Society and the hounds of The East Kent Hunt are kennelled in nearby Elham.

Hythe is one of the Cinque Ports, but although it is beside a broad bay on the English Channel, silting removed its harbour hundreds of years ago. Hythe was once the central Cinque Port, between Hastings and New Romney to the west and Dover and Sandwich to the east.

According to Hasted, a French fleet approached Hythe in 1293 and landed 200 men, but "the townsmen came upon them and slew every one of them: upon which the rest of the fleet hoisted sail and made no further attempt".

In 1348 the black death afflicted Hythe, and in 1400 the plague further reduced the population.

The Royal Military Canal

Romney Marsh lies west of Hythe. The Royal Military Canal runs across the northern edge of the marsh, to Winchelsea, along with a series of Martello towers built at the same time from Folkestone to Seaford. Three of the 43 towers survive at Hythe. One was converted to a house in the 1930s, the other two are on the beach and are owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Geologically the town developed on a succession of parallel terraces, rising from the level ground around the Royal Military canal towards the steep incline upon which the parish church of St Leonard was built.

Running under Stade Street, the old Royal Military canal (intended to repel invasion during the Napoleonic wars (1804–15)), gives central Hythe its character. Now shaded by trees, the canal, 30 ft (10m) wide passes into the marsh from the middle of the town. The canal begins at Seabrook and runs through Hythe and across Romney Marsh to Winchelsea. Its 26 mile length can be walkedotpath. From the High Street alleys lead up to the steeper levels of the town.

The 11th century parish church of St Leonard

The large 11th century church is up the hill; the tower at its eastern end was destroyed by an earth tremor in 1739 and restored in 1750.

The chancel, from 1220, covers a processional ossuary – a bone store, more commonly found on the continent – lined with 2,000 skulls and 8,000 thighbones. They date from the medieval period, probably having been stored after removal, to make way for new graves. This was a common in England but bones were usually dispersed, and this is thus a rare collection.

Lionel Lukin, credited inventing of the lifeboat, is buried in the parish churchyard.

The castles at Saltwood and Lympne

Hythe was once defended by two castles, Saltwood and Lympne. Saltwood derives its name from the village in its shadow. During the reign of king Canute the manor of Saltwood was granted to the priory of Christ Church in Canterbury, but during the 12th century it became home of Henry d'Essex, constable of England.

Thomas Becket had sought from [Henry II of England|King Henry II restoration of the castle, as an ecclesiastical palace. Henry instead granted the castle to Ranulf de Broc.

That the castle had been returned to Becket, as archbishop of Canterbury, and remained a church property until the reign of Henry VIII, when Hythe and Saltwood were to be sequestrated to the Crown, suggests that some complicity by the baron Rranulf de Broc was possible in the murder of Becket. It was during this time at Saltwood, on 28 December 1170, that four knights plotted Becket's death the following day. Hugh de Moreville was one of the knights, along with Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracey, and Richard le Breton.

From the moment Hythe came under Crown control, the senior official of the town was also a bailiff appointed by the Crown. This state of affairs (uniquely for a Cinque Port) remained until 1575 when Elizabeth I gave the town control of its affairs.

The last Crown bailiff became the first mayor. His name was John Bredgman. A brass inscription bearing his name remains in the parish church, dated 1581.

The Cinque port Court of Shepway

A monumental cross now indicates what was from 1358 a meeting place of the confederation of the Cinque ports, several miles west of Hythe, known then as "the Shepway crossroads". Shepway cross, erected in 1923, the monument to the Court of Shepway, is beside the Hythe to Lympne road (B2067). The lathe of Shepway was the Saxon name for south east Kent, roughly corresponding with the modern District of Shepway, comprising Folkestone, Hythe, Romney Marsh and nearby villages as far north as Elham.

Many think this monument marks where the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports held his court for Shepway, and it is referred to as the “Shepway Cross”. In fact the Shepway Cross is a civic war memorial erected in 1923. It was placed on the top of Lympne Hill because that was traditionally the site of the Court of Shepway.

Shepway Cross was paid for and unveiled in August 1923 by Earl Beauchamp, the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, attended the ceremony. The memorial now shows signs of decay. The lettering denoting the monument's true purpose is hardly legible.

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway

Hythe is the northern terminus of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, running third-scale steam and diesel locomotives. The track runs parallel to coast through Dymchurch and New Romney to Dungeness. The founders were Captain J Howey and Count Louis Zborowski. It opened in 1927. The trains run on a gauge of 15 inches (380 mm) in width, and the track is nearly 14 miles (23 km) long. During the Second World War the service transported the Operation Pluto pipeline.

Every two years, Hythe Corporation hosts the Hythe Venetian Fete, when organisations and individuals create decorated floats which travel up and down the Royal Military Canal.

Folkestone and Hythe are represented in Parliament by Conservative Michael Howard, former home secretary and former Conservative party leader.

Local places of interest

*Brockhill Country Park
*Port Lympne Wild Animal Park & Gardens
*Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
* [http://www.rarebreeds.org.uk/ Woodchurch Rare Breeds Centre]


The Folkestone & Hythe Operatic & Dramatic Society owns the Tower Theatre at Shorncliffe. It is a charitable organisation which performs several shows a year.

Notable people

*The novelist Elizabeth Bowen spent part of her childhood in Hythe and retired to a house on Church Steps (overlooking the parish church) where she died.
*The novelist H. G. Wells built Spade House at nearby Sandgate.
*Saltwood Castle was the home of Lord Deedes and was the home of Lord Kenneth Clark, the art historian, and his son Alan Clark, Conservative MP.
*The novelist Daphne du Maurier lived with her family at Hythe in the early years of World War II.
*Francis Pettit Smith, inventor of the marine screw propeller, was born and raised in Hythe; a plaque is on the wall above Paydens Chemist in High Street.
*Charles Wakefield, 1st Viscount Wakefield, philanthropist & founder of the Castrol Oil Company.
*Michael Howard is Member of Parliament for Folkestone & Hythe; he lives at nearby Lympne.
*Noel Redding (1945-2003), bassist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, gave his first public performance at Hythe Youth Club.
* The former Royal photographer, Lisa Sheridan, lived at Hythe until her death in 1966.
* Comedians Julian Clary and Paul O'Grady (Lily Savage) live in Hythe.

External links

* [http://www.shepway.gov.uk/ Official Shepway site]
* [http://www.towertheatrefolkestone.co.uk The Tower Theatre website]
* [http://www.andrewleaning.com/cms/index.php?view=article&catid=40%3Aromneymarshes&id=6%3Aromneymarshes&option=com_content&Itemid=27 Information on the area by local resident]
* [http://www.hythe-kent.com/hythe01.htm Hythe, Kent]
* [http://www.hythetownfc.co.uk Hythe Town FC]

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