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The History of Kent

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History of Westenhanger

Westenhanger appears in the register of the monastery of St Augustine as ‘Le Hangre’ - meaning ‘hungry, weak, starved’. In later records, the names Ostenhanger and Westenhanger distinguish the east and west manors. However, in 1509 Sir Edward Poynings unified the two parishes as Westenhanger.

Westenhanger parish church, is dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin, and stood to the west of the manor house, which went out of use in 1542. The Normans probably built the church in the 13th century, although, the construction, in 1520, of a domestic chapel, dedicated to Saint John, contributed to its gradual abandonment.

Westenhanger castle/fortified manor house is a Grade: I listed building and built by Sir John de Criol in 1385, under a licence granted by King Edward III in 1343. Criol constructed a moated castle, curtained wall, seven towers and a gatehouse plan. In 1540, Sir Thomas Poynings gave Westenhanger to King Henry VIII, who intended it to be a royal residence, and spent large sums extending the deer park. In 1547, the King gave it to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. The house then had many owners until its transference, with the estate, to Thomas Smith by Queen Elizabeth I in 1585.

RAF Westenhanger commandeered Folkestone racecourse in 1940 as a decoy airfield with dummy aircraft strategically placed to make it look active. 660 Squadron arrived on 23 April 1944 with Auster Mark IV single-engine liaison aircraft. They used the racecourse to practice operations with army units. On 12 July 1944, the squadron left Westenhanger for France, and the airfield returned to a racecourse.

Westenhanger & Hythe railways station opened, on the South Eastern Railway’s (SER) Ashford to Folkestone section of the London to Dover trunk line, on 28 June 1843. In 1888, SER dropped the suffix ‘& Hythe’…. more