Copyright Kent Past 2010
The History of Kent
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History of Hythe
Hythe comes from the Old English ‘hyð’ meaning a 'landing place on a river, an inlet port'. Although, Hythe is by the sea, the name refers to a landing place on the river Limen. The Domesday Book records Hythe as Heda or Hedae.
Hythe parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to St Leonard, and built around 1100. In 1175, they expanded the church with a larger nave, and added the north and south aisles in the 13th century, and the north and south transepts in the 14th century. Also around that time, they rebuilt the chancel to provide a bone store, eventually holding 2000 skulls and 8,000 thighbones. In 1481, there is a record of five bells, although, by 1697, this had risen to six. In 1739, an earth tremor brought the tower down with a party of visitors waiting for the sexton to unlock it, so they could climb to the top. Fortunately, no one lost their life, and the parishioners rebuilt the tower in 1750, with six bells and a clock.
In 1799 Edward Hasted described the Hythe church as a ‘fine handsome building, consisting
of three isles, a north and south cross, and three chancels, with a tower steeple
at the west end, in which are six bells and a clock. The church stands on the side
of a high and steep hill, a considerable height above any of the town, having a very
In 1802, Thomas Mears I, recast the bells into a ring of eight. In 1861, Thomas, Mears II cast two trebles to make 10. Unfortunately, the trebles did not fit in becoming obsolete, and scrapped in 1891. In the 1880’s, the architect John Loughborough Pearson carried out alterations and restoration to the church. In 1901, public subscription paid for a new clock in memory of Queen Victoria. In 1992, Whitechapel added two treble bells to make ten, which rang for the first time on Christmas Day of that year.
In about 1050, the five ports of Dover, Sandwich, Hastings, Romney and Hythe joined
together to provide ships and men for King Edward the Confessor. They became known
as the Cinque Ports (after the Norman French word for five). In return for providing
naval and ferry services, these towns received many rights and privileges. Hythe
held the oldest charter, granted in 1278 by Edward I, other charters included Richard
II dated 1392 and Elizabeth I in 1575.
In the following centuries, the town continued as a south coast port, albeit in slow decline. The harbour began to silt up, despite strenuous dredging efforts, and gradually became impossible to use.
In the 18th century, Napoleon threatened invasion, which led to the construction of the and the Royal Military Canal.
Hythe railway station opened on 16 July 1927, as the northern terminus for the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway’s line to Dungeness.