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History of Saltwood

Saltwood comes from the Anglian word ‘salt’ meaning ‘salt, possibly also brine pit, salt-pan’ with the Old English ‘wudu’ as ‘a wood, timber, or wood’; therefore, ‘wood where salt is processed’ – wood provided timber for salt production. The Domesday Book chronicles Saltwood as Salteode.


Saltwood Castle is a Grade: I listed building. In 488AD, Oisc - the first King of Kent - built the castle on an earlier Roman site. King Ecgberht refers to Saltwood in a 9th century charter, and in 1026, it passed to the church. Local villagers often sought refuge in the castle during troubled times. King Henry II refused Thomas Becket’s request to restore the castle as an ecclesiastical palace, and gave it to Ranulf de Broc. It is believed they plotted the murder of Thomas Becket at the castle on 28 December 1170. Following the death of Becket the castle returned to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and remained in the possession of the See until King Henry VIII claimed it. However, Saltwood Castle became uninhabitable following an earthquake in 1580.


Edward Hasted describes the castle ruins, in 1799, as being ‘very spacious and magnificent. The outward walls are partly remaining, being of an oval from, within which is a very broad and deep moat, now dry. The inner gatehouse, which has but lately been made use of as a farm-house, is very stately, having two fine circular towers one on each side, and the inside finely valuted, and arched in every part with ashlar stone. Over the moat to it was formerly a drawbridge, and over the arch of the gateway is a hollow, where the portcullis used to be let down. It was, the greatest part of it, rebuilt by archbishop Courtenay, in the reign of King Richard II. whose arms being, Three besants, with a lable of three points, are on one side, as they are, impaled with those of the see of Canterbury, on the other. On the inner side of the moat is a very high and strong inner wall, with towers and bastions at distances throughout it. Within the space of it are very stately ruins, particularly of the chapel, finely valuted underneath; the great hall, the great dining-room, and other apartments of distinction, and many inferior offices about them; and at a small distance a large square well, steined with quarry-stone.


The Archbishop of Canterbury restored Saltwood Castle in the 19th century when he started to use it as a residence again. Herman Goring ordered the Luftwaffe, during WWII, not to bomb Hythe as he planned to make Saltwood his home following the invasion. In 1955, Kenneth Clark purchased the castle, and it still remains in that family.


Saltwood parish church is a Grade: II listed building; dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The Normans built it towards the end of the 11th century, with extensions and additions in the following three centuries. In 1552, there is a record of four bells in the tower. In 1723, John Waylett added a tenor to make five bells. Edward Hasted describes the church, in 1799, as ‘handsome and well built, consisting of two isles and a chancel. The southern isle is very wide and spacious, having a very fine span roof of timber over it; the northern one is very low and narrow. At the west end is a square tower, having a tiled ridge roof on it, which disfigures the rest of the building much. There are four bells in it.’


The Victorians carried out restoration work to the Saltwood church in the late 1800’s, with most of the stained glass windows supplied by Clayton and Bell. In 1912, Mears and Stainbank recast the bells into a heavier ring of six and rehung them in a new frame.