Woodnesborough (Wodens beorg, meaning “Woden’s Hill) stands on an old Roman road from Richborough to Dover. The village takes its name from the Saxon god of wisdom. Woden has given his name to the third day of the week, originally called “Woden’s Day” but now known as ‘Wednesday’. The village is also associated with another Saxon deity: the main street was once called Cold Friday Street after the goddess Friga.

Certain wells, trees and stones were considered sacred by the Saxons and one of these was at Woodnesborough, dedicated to the worship of Woden.

According to legend, pagan meetings were held on Fir Tree Hill – a large mound on which the present church is built. Until the middle Ages, Kent was separated from the Isle of Thanet by the sea and this would have been a splendid site overlooking the water. Legend also says that a solid gold statue of Woden is buried in the hill.

There are many other stories about the mould which is supposedly artificial. It is said to be the burial place of King Vortmer, who died in AD 457 and, according to chroniclers, “desired to be buried near the place where the Saxons used to land, being persuaded that his bones would deter them from any attempt in the future”. Another theory is that the hill was the burial mound for the dead of the great battle between the kings of Mercia and Wessex which was fought at “Woodnesbeorh’ in 715. No one knows the truth of these myths but a number of Anglo-Saxon artefacts have been found on the site.

In the 16th and 17th centuries Flemish refugees settled in the area to escape religious persecution. Their influence can be seen in the old brick houses such as Melville House and Street Farm House of which have typical Dutch gables. The refugees also reclaimed the marshes north of Woodnesborough for market gardening. These are called ‘polders’ after the reclaimed land in Holland.

The Church was built in 1180 by Ascelinda de Wodenberg. The tower once had a steeple but this was taken down in 1740 when the present wooden copula and balustrade was added, an unusual and possibly unique feature. Fortunately it survived restoration in 1884.

In 1910 work began on a colliery at Woodnesborough to exploit the newly discovered Kent coalfield, but it soon closed. In the 1920s, further plans were drawn up for a new pit and mining town to house 12,000 people. Again the scheme was abandoned as the great Depression set the economy back.

An extract from http://www.woodnesboroughpc.kentparishes.gov.uk/ – all rights preserved.

This entry was posted in About Woodnesborough, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to History

  1. carol says:

    I would be most grateful for any information in respect of an Ann Brice who
    married William Dennis in Woodnesborough in May, 1773. It may be the same
    couple who were buried in Woodnesborough being described as of Sandwich
    and with the surname spelt Dennice. I have not been able to find a definite
    baptism for Ann Brice. The Ann Dennice buried Woodnesborough in 1794
    aged 43 years should have been born c 1750/1751. Ann’s mitochondrial DNA
    haplogroup is J and she had some subclades in common with the mother of
    King Richard III although their common female ancestress may have lived a
    considerable time ago. It would depend on the accuracy of current scientific
    thought in relation to mutations.

  2. Keith says:

    On another matter:

    I am currently involved in writing a book on the Whitefriars Carmelite Friary at Sandwich. It was in 1306 that Thomas Shelving gave the friars a small plot of land, 12ft square, at Woodnesborough in which there was a spring, to become known as Convent Well. Water from this well was delivered through an underground conduit to the friary, a little over a mile away. Many of you will know the site of Convent Well, at least from maps – on the corner, by the security camera. I visited last Saturday and found no trace of a well – indeed the site looked to be one of the driest spots in the area – So what happened to the well? I need your help; anyone got information?


    • Keith,

      I believe that the land owner has done some exploration of the well. Send me an email (admin2@woodnesborough.com) with your details and I will forward on to him.

      Happy Blogging, Administrator

  3. Hi bobbyfamilytree,

    An absolutely facinating insight into the past of Woodnesborough and one of its sons. Feel free to post a new thread with link to your own blog.

    Happy Blogging, Administrator

  4. bobbyfamilytree says:

    I have an interest in the area as this is where my ancestors come from. I have photo’s of gravestones (barely illegible though) , birth, marriage and death documents, and old tithe map from around 1840. The earliest ancestor photo i have is from a chap born in 1821 – the photo of him was done around 1885, his name William GAMBRILL, and that is my paternal line and he stole from a local chap John DILNOT in the late 1830’s.

    Hope this site grows from strength to strength.

    • TheH-Man says:

      Our house was owned by John Dilnot up until his death in 1843, so it may be that the three watches were stolen from here. I’d be interested to learn if tithe plot 465 is the corner one on the Drainless Drove/Hammill Road crossroads, as I haven’t been able to locate a copy of that tithe map yet. I have an abstract of the title for this house from 1912, tracing the title back to John Dilnot, so I’m fairly sure he lived here.

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