Introduction to the Villages
The Parish consists of three villages; Wickhambreaux,Stodmarsh and Grove.
Several parts of the parish are designated as Conservation Areas and remains largely agricultural; soft fruit, apples, pears, cereals and vegetable crops are widely grown and cattle and sheep pastured on the grazing marshes.
Wickhambreaux has a population of around 230 (Whickham meaning a dwelling by creek or meadow) is first mentioned in 948 A.D, then a grant of land was made by Eadred, King of the English. By the time of the Doomsday survey in 1087 the village was well established with 300 sheep grazing, two watermills and a hunting ground at Trenley Park. The suffix ‘breux’ was added after 1285 when William de Breuse or Braose had the manor.
The village retains its medieval roots with the church, rectory, manor house, inn and mill encircling the green. There are older cottages which were formally occupied by tradesmen and labourers, while Grove Road and The List have 20th century housing. The Little Stour river flows through the village, although its course was altered during the 18th century to support watermills. The Village Church, dedicated to St Andrew, dates from the 14th century.
Stodmarsh lies between the Great Stour to the north and the Lampen Stream to the south and was once a hunting forest owned by Bishop Odo, half brother of William the Conqueror. It was first mentioned in 678 A.D. when Lothaire, King of Kent, granted it to the Monastery of St Peter in Canterbury where the monks used the watermeadows for breeding horses. The Saxon word for mare ‘stode’ gave Stodmarsh its name. Today the population is around 70 but in 1934 was 107.
The village has several old buildings. The flintstone church, dedicated to St Mary, is believed to have been consecrated in 1240, although there is a small Saxon or early Norman window near the front. The tenor bell was cast around 1289 and is the oldest inscribed bell in Kent. The treble bell dates from the 16th century. The oldest house is Waterham Cottage, used by Edward VIII, the Prince of Wales, and Wallis Simpson. Great Puckstone Farm, 12th Century, is reputed to have Roman remains in the foundations and the post office has the date 1730 on its front elevation but may be older. The Oasthouse was built around 1750 and Undertrees Farm dates from 1698 but was extensively rebuilt in 1848.
The hamlet of Grove with a population of around 50, extends from Grove Hill (highest point in the parish) to Grove Ferry where the road crosses the Great Stour and the railway line.
There were formerly many small farms, with many of the old farmhouses bearing the original farm names, but most of the fields now belong to a few larger farms. The flat, open fields were once grazing marsh and in ancient times smugglers would bring their spoils upriver from Sandwich to Grove Ferry then carry them away across the marshes. The area was later drained by a series of dykes and the fields were cultivated. Lavender was once grown but this ceased in the 1930s and more recently turf was cultivated. In 1996 the land was brought by English Nature and became part of the Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve. The ferry was in use until 1962 when the road bridge was completed. The ferryman’s hut can still be seen beside the bridge. The railway station closed in 1966.