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The History of the Coalfield Parishes

Chillenden Mill
Chillenden Mill

One of the oldest trees in Kent
One of the oldest trees in Kent

Barfeston Church
Barfeston Church

"Inland from Dover is some of the loveliest country in Kent .... unspoilt countryside, with villages such as Barfreston, where the small Norman church is the supreme example of its kind in England. As worthy of a visit as the churches of Canterbury and usually, more peaceful."

"Kent is not all citadel and harbour, however, not entirely hop-fields, fruit and fishing smacks. It is also industry and coal. In the triangle behind Dover and Deal, is the Kent Coalfield, with three collieries, one of which is Snowdown, in close proximity to villages as unspoilt as Barfeston, countryside as beautiful as around Waldershare."

From "The Bulwark Shore" (pp 177-179)by Caroline Hillier (1980).

The Coalfield Parishes were once home to coal mines and other industry, served by the East Kent Light Railway. The parishes of Ash, Aylesham, Chillenden, Eastry, Eythorne-with-Elvington, Goodnestone, Nonington, Northbourne, Shepherdswell-with-Coldred, Staple, Tilmanstone and Wingham comprise the Coalfield Parishes. The Kent Coalfield developed after the presence of coal was confirmed at Shakespeare Cliff in the 1880s as part of an early Channel Tunnel attempt. The site of former Shakespeare Cliff Colliery is now part of Samphire Hoe. Many trial borings were sunk in East Kent, and a number of coal mines were established. The East Kent Light Railway was built to serve the coal mines and other industry of the area. The coal mines at Snowdown, Tilmanstone and Betteshanger were finally closed in the 1980s. Today, the Coalfield Parishes are an area of attractive rolling downland countryside, a landscape rich in hedges and ancient woodlands. There are few areas of chalk grassland left to remind us of the chalk beneath, but there are important areas for wildlife in the wetland landscape around the former Betteshanger colliery, the waste tip of which is being developed into a new country park.