The History of Teynham

He that will not live long.
Let him dwell at Murston, Teynham or Tonge.

The old rhyme had some relevance in days gone by when low-lying Swale creekside villages, like Teynham, tended to be pretty unhealthy spots to live.

Now largely a rural residential area, Teynham was once an important industrial and agricultural parish. It is situated three miles east of Sittingbourne and four-and-a-half miles from Faversham. It possesses a station on the South Eastern Railway and is about 43 miles from London. The parish is large, covering the area between the A2 London Road and the River Swale. The area of the parish is 2,472 acres together with 279 acres of foreshore and 115 of water and tidal water.

Near the Swale were large brickworks engaged in the manufacture of the machine-made stock brick, which along with the once cement mills at Conyer, are now closed. Many of the fields around the locality show evidence of having been excavated for brick-earth.

The southern part of the parish is mainly devoted to residential housing and orchards. Near the Swale is a large tract of land known as the Teynham Level, which is devoted mainly to the raising of sheep. At one time these marshes were not properly drained, and malaria was prevalent in the parish; so much so that Teynham became known as an unhealthy place as the above poem signifies. As the result of the draining of the marshes, carried out under the direction of a Com­mission formed for the purpose, the village became healthy.

Whilst there is little hard evidence of extensive prehistoric settlement in the area, examples of flint tools and weapons have been found, notably a very fine polished flint axe head in the brickfield near Teynham Station, now in the British Museum. Examples of everyday flint tools have also been found on the surface in and around Teynham.

In Roman times Teynham was on the outskirts of Dvrolevum the prosperous country town district between Ospringe and Faversham. Being situated near Watling Street and a navigable creek of the River Swale it is likely that the regions along the road supported a fairly numerous population of Romano-British farmers. The house of one of these was discovered in nearby Deerton Street and had substantial masonry walls and a tessellated pavement. Similar buildings existed elsewhere in the Teynham area and bricks and tiles were made from the local clay.

Teynham is mentioned as having been the town in which Archbishops resided in early times. Kenulf, King of Mercia, who reigned between the years 794 and 819, gave the place to Christ Church, Canterbury, and afterwards a palace was built in the village or town as it was known then. Archbishop Baldwin (1184-91).

Teynham became a Manor of the Archbishop of Canterbury (the other two Manors on the Swale, Milton and Faversham, were Kings Manors). The land is mentioned in the Monk's Doomsday in the Library of Canterbury Cathedral considered to date from 1086. It was independently compiled from the returns on which the Doomsday Book itself was based but contains many Manors not included in Doomsday because they were Church lands. The manor house stood in what is now the orchard bounded on the east by the road leading north to Teynham Court and on the north by the road to Conyer.

Archbishop Lanfranc in 1070 improved the buildings of the manor house to make it fit for the Archbishop's residence. It is likely it was also used as a stopover point for clergy traveling to or from Canterbury on the route to London, it being a convenient day's traveling distance from Canterbury. Archbishops Hubert Walter (1193-1207), Simon Langton (1207-29), and Walter Reynold (1313-28) in turn lived at Teynham. Archbishop John de Stratford in 1345 entertained King Edward III at Teynham, and King Henry III granted the town the right to hold a market and fair.
The older village centre was once at Teynham Street, near the church and the site of a former archbishops' palace, where the hamlet of Conyer was its creek-side wharf.

The Parish Church now broods peacefully among the orchards that protect it from the bitterly cold winds that sweep across the marshy flatlands bordering the Swale, away from the parishioners it was built to serve as the result of the migration due to the ‘Black Death’. It is dedicated to St. Mary and is built in the form of a cross of flint in the Early English and Perpendicular styles. The tower contains six bells. Evidence of Roman tile and brick making can be seen in the fabric of the church. There are several stained glass windows and also a number of brasses in fair condition in the Church. In 1873 the spacious chancel was restored. The registers date from the year 1538. Skirmishes from the Civil War have left the scars of the combatants' bullets on its massive old door.

The Church was very close to the Archbishop's Palace and The Manor Rolls in 1086 give Teynham as the mother church for the parishes contained within the Hundred of Teynham for administrative purposes with Doddington, Iwade, Selling and Stone as the chapels.

Richard Harrys, a fruiterer to Henry VIII lived at Teynham, and he planted 105 acres of land with cherries and apples that he had obtained from abroad, and thus the village is one of the earliest in which the cherry was grown in Kent.

When William Lamparde wrote his Perambulation of Kent in the 16th century, Teynham was still a garden within the Garden of England. It was here that, during the reign of Henry VIII, Richard Harris planted his orchards of sweet cherries and apples that made the village 'the most dainty piece in all our shire' as Lamparde put it in his first of the English county guide books.

Harris was born locally - a house called New Gardens in Conyer is sometimes claimed to have been his home. The story goes that when he heard of Henry VIII's passion for cherries and some of the apples he had found growing in France on one of his visits there, the Kent businessman went to the Continent himself and bought some trees which he brought back with him and planted on his own land at Teynham.

Greenstreet forms part of what is now known as the A2 London Road that is considered to follow the route of the Roman Watling Street with what was the Fox Inn (now apartments) at one end, the Swan and the George next door to each other halfway along and the Dover Castle Inn at the other end. The western mile of the 2 mile stretch of Watling Street which lies in the old 'Teynham Manor' is known as Greenstreet. The road divides the parishes of Teynham and Lynsted, so wrote Harris in 1719. He continued: 'Greenstreet is a considerable village on the London Road, partly in Teynham and partly in Lynsted. A fair was held here for cattle etc. on May 1st annually until 1885. Treacle rolls were apparently the great speciality".