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History of Otford

Otford comes from the Old English ‘ford’ meaning a ‘ford’ combined with a warlord’s name; therefore, ‘Otta’s ford’. The Domesday Book chronicles Otford as Otefort, and the Textus Roffensis records it as Otteford.


Otford parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to Saint Bartholomew, and built as a Chapel-of-Ease to Shoreham. The church dates to the Saxo-Norman overlap, with the addition of a tower around 1175 – spire not added until the 17th century. The rebuilding of the chancel followed in the 14th century, and the addition of the south aisle and chapel over 100 years later. A fire in the 16th century resulted in further rebuilding. In 1622, Thomas Bartlett cast and hung a treble bell. John and Christopher Hodson added a tenor in 1674. In 1797, Edward Hasted described St Bartholomew’s church as consisting of ‘two isles and one chancel, having a pointed steeple at the west end, in which are two bells’. The Victorians completed some restoration in 1845. The architect G E Street carried out more extensive restoration work in 1863. Whitechapel refurbished the two bells and cast a further four to form six, in 2000.  Later that year on 26 November the Rt Rev’d Brian Smith Bishop of Tonbridge dedicated the bells.


St Bartholomew’s had the benefit of St Thomas Becket as chaplain for a while, and later as Archbishop he resided at Otford Palace. There are many local beliefs associated with the saint, for example:  on finding his house needed a well, he struck the ground with his staff (like Moses) and water issued forth. The well is in Castle Farm grounds, and the sick resorted to it for healing as late as 1914. In 1228, a leper colony instituted itself around the well, with many miracle healings claimed from the waters. The saint is also said to have banished all nightingales from the area because their sweet songs disrupted his prayer.

The Archbishop's Palace existed in 1150. Archbishop Winchelsea, who died in there in 1313, often entertained King Edward I at
Otford. In 1514, Archbishop Warham rebuilt the Palace and tower, making it larger than the first Hampton Court. Warham entertained King Henry VII and Henry VIII at Otford - Henry VIII liked it so much that he took it from Archbishop Cranmer in 1538. He also camped at Otford with Catherine of Aragon and an army of five thousand men on his way to the Field of the Cloth of Gold. At the end of the Tudor period, the Palace gradually fell into ruin. 

Otford railway station opened on the London Chatham and Dover Railway’s eastward extension to Maidstone on the Bat & Ball route, on 2 June 1862…. more