Hollingbourne is a historic village noted for its superb landscape where ancient buildings add to the rural heritage. Springs from the North Downs give rise to tributaries that join the River Len; these springs feed mill streams and ponds, and their neighbouring meadowland and woods, all of which have ensured Hollingbourne’s historic prosperity. Prehistoric routes add to this scene: the North Downs Way and Pilgrim’s Way pass east-west along the Downs. Its status as nationally cherished land is confirmed by its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Within this landscape lie three historic settlements that date back to Anglo Saxon and Roman times. These three distinct village-groups are still very much recognisable today – Broad Street, Eyhorne Street and Upper Street. Virtually every building in these settlements has been listed as having special architectural or historic interest, in fact there are 106 such listings including a Grade I Church, as Grade 1 Manor House and two exceptional timber framed Tudor houses listed as Grade II.
Many ‘finds’ have been uncovered in Hollingbourne over the years, which give vital clues to our history: flint instruments of the New Stone Age or Bronze Age found near the River Len, a Late Bronze Age excavation where Anglo Saxons later buried the cremated remains of their dead, Early Iron Age and Anglo Saxon pottery remains, and coins from both the Anglo Saxon and Roman era. Hollingbourne’s name is believed to originate from the name of an Anglo Saxon/ Jute leader, Hola, who is considered would have owned the area around the bourne (or stream), hence a derivation from ‘Hola’s bourne’. Eyhorne Street is derived from an old English word, haegthorn, meaning hawthorn.
Hollingbourne’s future was shaped when the son of King Ethelred the Unready gave the land here to Canterbury’s Christ Church, for monk’s use, around AD980-AD1015. There are references to the village in the Domesday Book and clues to its growing prosperity – Hollingbourne Manor was already established, as were the other manors of Greenway Court, Ripple, Murston, Penn Court and Hollingbourne Hill, and two mills. The record of vicars in Hollingbourne begins in AD1270. Although there is evidence in the church’s building fabric of Roman, Saxon and Norman work, it was probably almost completely rebuilt during the 14th Century, parts before the Black Death in 1349 and others after the great earthquake in 1381 which severely affected Hollingbourne. When monasteries were dissolved in 1539, Hollingbourne church was surrendered to King Henry VIII, who granted it to the newly-appointed Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, who then leased various parts of the manor, including part to the Culpeper family who owned it for several generations. After the church, the present Manor House of Hollingbourne (built around 1570) is probably the oldest property in the village to remain more or less as it was built. The Culpeper family was well connected and family members included the Lord Chancellor of Henry VIII. In 1783 William Colgate was born in Hollingbourne who subsequently emigrated to America in 1795 with his parents and later went on to make tallow and soap. The business eventually became Colgate-Palmolive. The village was visited by William Cobbett in 1823 and was mentioned in his Rural Rides when he rode down Hollingbourne Hill and described the view as “the Garden of Eden”.
Hollingbourne’s economic wealth (enough to support a Church, the Manor House and other substantial manors in the parish) was based on agriculture, which benefited from the usable power provided by the flowing stream. The village had four mills until the 19th century, 3 corn-mills and 1 that pioneered the development of paper-making. But with the advent of the industrial age, new forms of energy made water-mills less viable and without a navigable river, Hollingbourne economy weakened. This was temporary until the installation of the Railway Station in 1883 provided the impetus for new enterprise: the development of a brick and tile works in Eyhorne Street which used the local seam of gault clay. Please also see: