Womenswold is a very small, picturesque village with it’s main street lined with a variety of period houses centred around the Grade I listed Church, which is dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch.. You might wonder why a place as small as Womenswold should have
its own church? The answer may well lie with Womenswold’s location on the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route from England to the holy places of Christianity in Europe (Rome and Santiago de Compostela) and on to Jerusalem in the Holy Land. It is still used by modern-day pilgrims who follow the route of the modern North Downs Way from Canterbury to Dover.
Norman tax records show the presence of “a chapel in Winlingsweald” in the late 11th century (ca. 1090). This would not have been the church we see today, but rather a Saxon or early Norman building. The Early English style of today’s church indicates its origin in the 12th and 13th centuries around the time when the Church became the responsibility of the College of Canons founded at Wingham in 1282. The Nave is the oldest part of the current building, dating from the late 12th century. The Chancel dates from the mid-to-late 13th century and the tower from the late 13th century. All three parts of the current church incorporate elements of walling and other materials from the earlier building.
St Margaret’s has, of course, evolved further since then. The main changes took place in the 18th century (porch added in 1729, bell
in 1749 and various wall monuments) and the 19th century (two major restorations in 1869 and 1894). In the 20th and 21st centuries there have been no major changes; rather the works undertaken have been to repair and restore the ancient fabric of the building.
There are several Grade II listed houses in the village. The village is in a Conservation Area and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which should ensure the essential character of the village is retained. All the properties have sufficient off street parking, with the Church and school having their own parking areas. There is no street furniture (street lighting, road markings etc.) which ensures the traditional, ancient street view of the village is preserved.
The area was originally a farming community, with many farm workers living in tied cottages. Most of the properties are now privately owned, with some of the residents commuting to nearby towns and London to work.
Most of the period properties are of red brick, with some flint, and Kent peg tile roofs, dating from around 1700, although some date to earlier periods. There is also black weather boarding to several properties, with two thatched cottages which date from the 17th century or earlier. Several properties front onto Snowdown Road. Hamilton House was built as a rectory and after being a hotel for several years, is now a private residence.
Denne Hill lies to the west of the village in parkland. The listed buildings are in the Dutch style and a business centre is run in the old stables in an attractive courtyard setting.
The arable farmland surrounding the village is managed from Denne Hill, which also run a riding centre and shoot.
The Victorian primary school closed around 1980 when it became a resource centre run by the Church Commissioners. The building was subsequently sold and is now a resource facility for the Learning Opportunity Centre based in Ringwold. This privately owned organisation helps disadvantaged children with learning difficulties. The school involves the community in several social events and the building is also currently used for Parish Council meetings and organisations in the village for talks & presentations for fund raising events in the Parish.
The North Downs Way, which forms part of the historic Pilgrims Way, runs through the village. There are several public rights of way, which allow for interesting walks through the surrounding countryside. A small campsite lies at the entrance to the village, where many visitors return regularly to enjoy the peace and quiet of the site.
There is no transport in the village, although Snowdown Station is approximately 1.5 miles away with regular services to London, Canterbury and Dover. The high speed line to London from Canterbury West takes 58 minutes. Buses to the surrounding villages and towns are accessible from the nearby villages. Canterbury is approximately 6 miles and offers a wide range of educational, recreational and leisure facilities. The nearby villages of Aylesham, Bridge and Barham provide very good day to day amenities, including Post Office, Health Centre and dentist.