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 THE ALKHAM VALLEY

Nestling between the busy towns of Dover and Folkestone in Kent sits the Alkham Valley.  The Alkham Valley as a place name cannot be found listed on the ordinance survey maps; the name is derived locally from the road that passes through the valley between Dover and Folkestone. OS Grid Ref: TR254422

The valley is an agricultural area with chalk downlands and ancient woodland.  The valley is now recognized as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and along with ancient wooded areas it also boasts Special Landscape Areas, Sites of Scientific Interest , Conservation Areas and 17 Grade II listed buildings. The Alkham Valley like most of the valleys in east Kent has been settled for thousands of years. Since the last Ice Age, evidence for the activities of people has been found in the form of Lithic and pottery material, recovered from various locations both atop and within the valley. Despite these finds, relatively very little is known of the archaeology that lies beneath the soil largely due to limited excavations having been carried-out. Of these investigations, most have been due to modern construction activities and restricted in scope to small areas. In the 1980s, when a site near the village church at Alkham was cleared to erect a barn, an Iron Age cemetery was revealed. Susan Less (village resident and local historian) promptly reported the site to the archaeologists. Finds from the site now reside in the British Museum; include an Iron Age bucket used to contain cremated remains. Further modest archaeological undertakings in the form of a watching brief, were conducted during the laying of water mains through the valley during 2005-6.  Despite little being known about the archaeology of the Alkham Valley it is surrounded by sites and finds of historical importance.

Situated at the top of the Alkham Valley 3 miles from Dover in one direction and Folkestone in the other are the remains of St Radigund's Abbey.  The abbey was built in 1191 and occupied by monks from Premontre in France.  In it's early days the abbey increased in wealth and reputation and many notable people wanted to be buried there.  In 1302 Edward I received the great seal at St Radigunds' and delivered it to William Greenfield his then Chancellor.

Little is known of the abbey's subsequent history beyond a list of successive Abbots and Priors who allowed the buildings to fall into disrepair.  The abbey was suppressed in 1538 along with the lesser monasteries.

Today, the remains include the gatehouse (or tower) pictured above, the nave, transept, chapter house, cellarer's buildings and the refectory.  Extensive archaeological excavations have been carried out here over the years.

St Anthony's Church which sits in the village of Alkham and overlooks the village green is Grade I listed and the surrounding church yard contains 15 Grade II listed headstones.

The origins of the church are 12 Century and were linked to the occupants of St Radigund's Abbey.  Inside the church is a coffin lid bearing one of the oldest inscriptions in Kent.  The coffin belonged to Herbert de Averenches, a monk at St Radigunds.

 

Above: St Anthony's Church. Below: Alkham Village Green.

Some 1400 years ago when the Anglo Saxons settled in Kent homesteads were established in the Alkham Valley and one of the most important was 'Eahl-ham' which literally meant a settlement besides a heathen temple.

Eahl-ham or Alkham as it became known is not mentioned in the Domesday Book but it does appear several years later in 1093 as a subordinate church to Folkestone.

Alkham's proximity to Dover makes it an ideal site to find good archaeological remains.  Dover, the gateway to England has itself yielded many treasures.  In 1992 a Bronze Age Boat was discovered in the town and has become a find of worldwide importance. Overall some 45 Bronze Age sites (mainly burials) have been discovered in the Dover area. 

In 1951 during an excavation in the Buckland area of Dover an Angle Saxon cemetery was discovered and after further graves were found it became one of the largest Anglo Saxon cemeteries in Britain.

Over 60 Roman sites have been found in the Dover area and many are well preserved, namely The Roman Painted House (Dover town), The Roman Lighthouse or 'Pharos' (Dover Castle grounds) and the Roman Fort at Richborough near Sandwich.

William The Conqueror also left his mark on Dover when he vastly improved Dover Castle.  This icon of military and defensive strength also survived the threats from Napoleon and Hitler both whom had designs on Dover and it's strategic importance.

         

              Sladden Wood. A Kent Wildlife Trust Reserve              An Alkham Valley Summer

        

               A Woodland Walk                                                       Poppies blowing in the wind on the chalk downlands.

 A Stormy Sky Over The Alkham Valley.