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
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.
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.