Visit to St Mary’s Abbey, Swan Street

Posted on Mar 23, 2019

Visit to St Mary’s Abbey, Swan Street

Tuesday 16th July at 2pm at St Mary’s Abbey, Swan Street Maximum number of guests would be 25. There will be a Tour of the Abbey at 2pm with refreshments from 3pm in the Centre, you may also like to know that the sisters sing the office of “None” (pronounced No Nay) at 3pm, which lasts 10 minutes. Any who wishes to would be most welcome to join us in the guest chapel for this service. Then we would all adjourn to the Guest House to join the rest of the group for tea. There will also be a chance to speak with the sisters and purchase books and other items during refreshment time. Please contact Eileen Vago to book your place. First Come, First Served. Once you have contacted Eileen and reserved your space, download the Reservation form on the Newsletter, please complete the form, and send or take your cheque made payable to The Malling Society for £5.00 per person to Eileen Vago 116 St Leonards Street, West Malling ME19 6PD before 30th June...

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A little piece of West Malling’s World War 2 History is about to be demolished!

Posted on Jan 9, 2019

THE STARTLED SAINT The house at the corner of Teston Road and St Leonards Street was formerly “The Startled Saint” Pub. It was the local pub used by airmen and ground crews stationed at close by RAF West Malling (now the Kings Hill estate) during the second World War. Under a recent ‘Planning Application’ approved by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, it will be “bulldozed”, and replaced by 5 Houses. Thus, suffering exactly the same fate as its identical sister pub “The Duke Without a Head” at Wateringbury. The original “Pub Landlady” Alice Baker, claimed it was opened on the day WW2 started in 1939. Other reports suggest it was built later in early 1940. Whatever its origins the pub with its unique sign “a portrait of Saint Leonard being buzzed (or startled) by a Halo of Spitfires” was a haven to countless RAF fighter pilots flying from the airfield 1940-45. ln his book ‘Enemy Coast Ahead’ , Guy Gibson (later a VC for his Dam Buster raid) says of West Malling ‘that night we stood by, but the weather was bad, and the Group released the squadron at about nine. Down to the Startled Saint we went, complete with ground crews, to sample the beer, it was good and everyone was happy’. Guy Gibson after flying over Kent also wrote – ‘the Garden of England, with its green trees and green fields was cratered with thousands of white chalk bomb holes, in the area known as ‘Bomb Alley’. Other famous pilots and crew who flew from the airfield, and possibly leant against Saint’s bar, included John “Cats Eyes.” Cunningham, who supposedly ate carrots to improve his night time vision. His staunch navigator / radar operator ‘Jimmy Ranwsley’ co-authored the book ‘Night Fighter‘. By the time he came to West Mailing as Station Commander in 1943 Group Captain Peter Townsend was already a ‘Battle of Britain’ fighter ace. Later becoming equerry to King George 6th, he said ‘I was a professional airman with an irregularity of conduct and character which doomed me from high office’. Unfortunately, he became better known for his relationship with HRH Princes Margaret the Queens sister in 1950s. Not just Fighter Pilots were successful! In early 1943 the West Malling duty controllers managed to lure 3 brand new German Focke-wulf 190 Aircraft to land by error, on the airfield in thick fog. Thus, capturing one of these new fighters completely intact! In June 1944 the ‘Doodlebug Flying Bomb’ was launched against Britain. West Mailing became the main base for coping with the menace. Its’ Fighter Pilots, learnt the dangerous tactic, discovered by Roland Beaumont (later a famous test pilot) of flying within inches of the bomb’s wing to disrupt its flight and send it crashing to the ground. Maybe the “the new developers” can find some way of creating a memorial here, not just Pilots,...

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The Ancient House or Priest House, High Street West Malling

Posted on Jun 18, 2018

The Ancient House List Entry Summary This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest. Name: THE ANCIENT HOUSE List entry Number: 1292809 Location 65 AND 67, HIGH STREET – THE ANCIENT HOUSE, HIGH STREET The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority. County: Kent District: Tonbridge and Malling District Type: District Authority Parish: West Malling Grade: I Date first listed: 01-Aug-1952 Date of most recent amendment: 14-Oct-1996 Legacy System Information The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system. Legacy System: LBS UID: 392348 Asset Groupings This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information. Details TQ 6957 WEST MALLING HIGH STREET 3/16 Numbers 65, 67 and The Ancient House 1.8.52 GV I Shops and storeroom, possibly originally priest’s house to nunnery, other building in monastic ownership or merchant’s house, later inn and jail. The Ancient House is circa 1160-80, with some possible 14th Century alterations, reroofed circa 1460 and refenestrated in early 19th Century. Nos 65 and 67 are 15th Century. Number 67 was rebuilt in the 17th Century but with link block to the Ancient House probably 16th Century, refenestrated in mid-19th Century. The Ancient House was originally a chamber block above undercroft with external staircase no longer extant and possibly part of a larger structure. Built of ragstone stone rubble and some tufa blocks with roughly quoined corners. Tiled roof and one 19th Century brick chimneystack. Two storeys. North front has 2 19th Century inserted casements with brick dressings. Ground floor has a 14th or 15th Century blocked pointed arched doorcase to ground floor left which led to the undercroft and a low positioned medieval blocked rectangular stone window opening. There is also a later doorcase with 20th Century door and 19th Century inserted plank door and adjoining casement. The East wall has part of a low semi-circular tufa arch remaining, indicating external staircase. Lack of evidence for windows on west end wall suggests there may have an earlier hall on the site of current 16th Century link block. Interior first floor chamber contains two windows of c1160-80 with chevron arches and scallop caps to first floor, a 15th Century stone chimneypiece with wooden bressumer and intact 15th Century sans-purlin roof with 3 tall chamfered crownposts with four headbraces. The crownposts are similar in type to Old Gilwyns Chiddingstone, dated to c1460. Evidence from a former inhabitant suggests there may be an undercroft with wooden access trap. Front part of numbers 65 and 67 is timber framed, refronted in stucco with old tiled roof with central brick chimneystack. Two storeys and attics. Number 65 has 2 casements to first floor and a 19th Century shopfront. Number...

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The Startled Saint

Posted on Jun 17, 2018

The Startled Saint, St Leonards Street, West Malling The Startled Saint used to be the local pub for the airmen stationed at nearby RAF West Malling during and after the second World War. The original Landlady, Alice Baker, claimed it was opened on the day WWII started in 1939. The Pub’s most famous client was Wing Commander Guy Gibson (centre) who led the famous Dam Busters Raid in 1941. Unfortunately, due to it’s remoteness from West Malling, it closed in the late 80’s early 90’s and is now a private dwelling. The pub sign, above, a copy of which still adorns the front of the house, depicts St Leonard being ‘buzzed’ by several Spitfires. Images collected from various unknown locations if it is yours let me know and I will add a...

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