Sunday, 27 February 2011


Ash is a large parish in the centre of an important agricultural area, as it is part of the East Kent fruit belt. It was once relatively much more important than it is now and supported a wide range of small shops and businesses such as Gardners Brewery and all the supporting agricultural businesses like blacksmiths.
It is now largely a dormitory village, but there is a keen interest by the community in its heritage. This goes back at least 50 years, stemming originally from a local history exhibition in the village hall in 1952.
Many written records of village life as it was once lived here still survive. Old deeds, farm and business accounts, club and voluntary organisations’ committee minutes, collections of old photographs going back to the 1870s, as well as a few artefacts, including old farm implements and archaeological ‘finds’
These have already come together informally from many sources into several houses in the village. Especially prized are the original ’family reconstitution records’, derived from the parish registers from 1558 and other records in a joint project with the Cambridge School of Population Studies.
The sheer bulk of papers is already something of an embarrassment, and their caretakers - as they grow older - are worried about their future safe custody. It is believed that more, perhaps many more documents and other such things are still scattered about the parish on farms and in private houses.
But it is also known that while owners are keen to deposit papers, they often want to feel that they will remain safely in the parish in or for which they were originally created, rather than elsewhere in larger repositories in less sharply focused collections.
During 2007 and 2008 there were discussions in the village, in which both the Parish Council and the Ash Village Hall Committee were involved. A Heritage Group was formed and investigated the need for a centre and the interest within the parish for such a centre.
Many people expressed an interest and concern during the Parish Plan Open Day. It was evident that there was enthusiastic support for a project to provide a dedicated and safe repository in the parish, where parishioners and research students could consult the archives, and where indeed the children and young people of the village might discover an interest in - and perhaps derive inspiration from - the heritage of the community in which they live.
The Parish Council expressed a willingness to take part. So did the Village Hall Committee, so that successful fund raising in 2010 resulted in an extension to the village hall with access to the foyer and facilities of the main building.
The extension is using the grassed area at the back of the storage area, which is owned by the village hall.
It is a flat roofed extension in order to be totally in keeping with the present flat roofed building. It is a brick/concrete block construction in order to safely store archive material. This is suitably clad to be in keeping with the present building.
It is approximately 30 t by 14ft, to allow for storage space and space for the archives to be used by members of the community and anyone interested in historical research.
The community use of the archives is a vital part of the project, which is why this is such an excellent site. The hall is the centre of village activities, so parishioners can feel ownership of the Heritage Centre.
It will be practical to manage and has the added advantage of a library in the same building. We are grateful to K.C.C., The Foyle Foundation, the Jack Foat Trust, The Kingsland Trust, Ash Parish Council, the Neighbourhood Forum, Bridging the Gap and the many private donors who helped us to raise the funds - and the Village Hall Management Committee - for their support.
The next task is to fund and put up shelving and furnish the interior to accommodate the archival material.

Please tell us if you have any historic photos or documents about Ash.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


The Chequers, in Chequer Lane, and The Volunteer at Guilton are the only pubs left in the village now.
High running costs and cut-price competition from supermarkets have forced many pubs across east Kent to close.
Yet 40 years ago, there seemed to be a pub on almost every corner of Ash. As you came in from Canterbury, there was The Volunteer, The Chequers, then The Ship and The Lion about 100 yards apart on opposite sides of The Street.
As you headed out of the village towards Sandwich, you passed The First and Last. If you took the other fork in the road towards Wodnesbrough, you soon came to The Crooked Billet on New Street.
Houses now stand on the sites of The Ship, The First and Last and The Crooked Billet.
The Lion became an Indian restaurant, Lagaan, until it was seriously damaged by fire in January 2009.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


(From the Dover Express, January 28, 2010, under the headline: Ash Heritage Centre appeal)

AN appeal to raise the cash for a heritage centre in Ash will be launched next week.
The Ash Heritage Group are on a mission to gather £70,000 to build the centre, which will house items as diverse as 16th Century parish documents and 1950s cine films.
The idea was first mooted two years ago by group chairman Ann Foat. Since then planning permission has been gained and the group have already raised £27,500. Part of the cash came from Kent County Council and a £6,000 Big Lottery grant.
The lottery cash enabled the Ash and East Kent Community Project to put on a promenade performance, re-enacting the Swing Riots of the 1830s through the streets of the village. The performance last year generated cash for the centre and was used to get residents and school-children interested in the history of Ash.
Grandmother-of-five Mrs Foat said: “We want to build the heritage centre on the back of the village hall. There is a lot of stuff in the village, all in private houses, which we would like to keep.
"We have historic photos and books which go back two centuries. There are records from the parish council and cricket club which cover quite a considerable length of time.
“We have the planning permission and now we are in the business of trying to attract funding.”
The appeal will launch on Saturday, February 4 at the village hall where there will be a showing of 1950s cine films of the Ash Flower Show. The show became a massive event over the years with thousands of people flocking to the village to see the displays, high-wire acts, gymkhana and ice shows.
Mrs Foat, 69, said: “The flower show was a massive event. It got so big it had to be stopped in the end because it was too difficult to maintain. It is a part of our history.”
The fundraiser will also have a DVD showing of the Swing Riots performance, which took place last summer.
The planning application made to Dover District Council by the Ash Village Hall Management Committee it says: “It is evident there is enthusiastic support for a project to provide a dedicated and safe repository in the parish where parishioners and research students could consult the archives. Schoolchildren and young people in the village might also discover an interest in, and perhaps derive inspiration from, the heritage of the community in which they live.”
The application also says the heritage group hope to be able to put on exhibitions several times a year.
The heritage event starts at 7.30pm. Entry is £3, or £2 for group members.
Mrs Foat, married to group treasurer Graham, said: “Hopefully people will come along and also pledge to give a note for heritage.”
The application also says the heritage group hope to be able to put on exhibitions several times a year.
The heritage event starts at 7.30pm. Entry is £3, or £2 for group members.
Mrs Foat, married to group treasurer Graham, said: “Hopefully people will come along and also pledge to give a note for heritage.”
Anyone who is unable to attend on the night but would like to pledge cash can call Mrs Foat on 01304 812121.


Each year, the Heritage Group intends to arrange events of interest to members, and to supplement the income from subscriptions.
Four such events are planned in 2011.
1) Thursday, April 7 - a talk will be given at Ash Village Hall by Clare Ungerson, entitled 'The Jewish Refugee Camp at Stonar.'
2) There will be a Heritage Walk as part of the Sandwich Festival.
3) Saturday, July 9 - the Snowdown Male Voice choir will perform at St Nicholas church in aid of Heritage funds.
4) The 'David Downes Memorial Lecture' will be held in the autumn.


It is time to renew your annual subscription for the Ash Heritage Group. It was decided at the annual general meeting of the group in December that membership should be £5 each year. As you will have seen, the building of the Heritage Centre is proceeding well and there will be a grand opening later in the year. The yearly subscriptions from members will be essential to pay for the day to day running of this room where the Village Archives will be kept and made available to the general public.