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Harbledown and Rough Common History

Historice Stone

Harbledown and Rough Common civil parish now consists of three villages separated by the busy Harbledown by-pass.  Behind that bald statement lies a fascinating history of very early settlement and a rich legacy of churches, houses and farming communities.

Everywhere in Harbledown and Rough Common there are reminders of the past. We can imagine Caesar`s troops marching to Bigbury: the woodmen of Rough Common toiling in the ancient forest of the Blean: the pilgrims on their way to Canterbury marvelling at the ancient relics at St.Nicholas`Church: the well-to-do of Canterbury moving to their spacious new houses on the hill. The Clergymen, artists and hop pickers all add to our Harbledown and Rough Common story.

Our steep little valleys are the result of the rocks which lie beneath the North Downs dip slope. The area was once covered by the dense forest of Blean and after the end of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago the forest would have been cleared gradually and the first trackways established, following the streams down the River Stour. Summer Hill may have been an earlier habitation than the marshy Stour valley.

One of our greatest treasures, the Norman leper church of St. Nicholas was founded by Archbishop Lanfranc. Henry II gave an annual grant of 20 marks to the lepers of Harbledown as part of his reparation for the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170.  Along this road came kings, archbishops and pilgrims to the great shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury. Gradually more land was cleared for fruit and hops. This was the main road from London to Dover. Cottages were built along the road and the prosperous  residents of Canterbury in Georgian and Victorian times built mansions and terraces on Harbledown`s breezy hillsides.  Growing 20th. century traffic congestion was eased by the 1976 by-pass road, restoring tranquillity to this ancient settlement. The green wedge of Jubilee Field and Duke`s Meadow beyond St. Michael`s Church: preserves the village from encroachment from Canterbury.