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History of Elham

Elham comes from the Anglian word ‘ēl’ meaning an ‘eel’ with ‘hamm’ as ‘land hemmed in by water or marsh, a river meadow’; therefore ‘hemmed-in land where eels are found’. The Domesday Book records Elham as Alham. 


After the Conquest, William I granted the Elham estates to his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and, following Odo’s disgrace, to William d' Aubigny. Later John, Earl of Eu, a relative of the Conqueror, established himself in Elham by building a palace near to St. Mary's Church.

Elham parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin, and dates from the 12th Century. There are later additions to the building, including the North and South Aisles, added in the 13th Century, a chapel on the North side in the 14th Century and the 15th Century tower with a north porch-way. The Eastern end of the Chancel is a 13th Century extension to the basic 12th Century Nave and Chancel. There is a record of five bells in 1552. St Mary’s Sandwich donated five bells, cast by John Wilnar in 1639, following the collapse of their tower in 1667. In 1763, Lester and Pack recast all the bells into a ring of eight. In 1799, Edward Hasted described the Elham church as ‘large and handsome, consisting of three isles, the middle one having an upper range of windows, and one chancel, having a tower steeple, with a spire shast on it, at the west end, in which are eight bells, a clock, and chimes’. In 1908, the Revd A C de Bourbel commissioned the architect Francis Charles Eden to restore and refit the church.


Baroness Orczy, who wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel, based her hero on a man who regularly stopped and dined at the Rose and Crown, in Elham, while waiting for a fresh horse before continuing his race to France to rescue another aristocrat.


Elham railway station opened, on the South Eastern Railway’s, Elham Valley Line, on 4 July 1887. Southern Railway ceased passenger services on 1 December 1940, with complete closure on 1 October 1947.