About Hythe - Kent - UK

Hythe is a coastal market town on the edge of Romney Marsh, in the district of Folkestone and Hythe on the south coast of Kent.
The word Hythe or Hithe is an Old English word meaning haven or landing place.
The town has mediaeval and Georgian buildings, as well as a Saxon/Norman church on the hill and a Victorian seafront promenade.
Hythe was once defended by two castles, Saltwood and Lympne.

The town hall, a former guildhall, was built in 1794, its fireplace designed by the Adam Brothers.[citation needed] Hythe's market once took place in Market Square (now Red Lion Square) close to where there is now a farmers' market every second and fourth Saturday of the month. Hythe has gardening, horse riding, bowling, tennis, cricket, football, squash and sailing clubs. Lord Deedes was once patron of Hythe Civic Society.
As an important Cinque Port Hythe once possessed a bustling harbour which, over the course of 300 years, has now disappeared due to silting.
Hythe was the central Cinque Port, sitting between Hastings and New Romney to the west and Dover and Sandwich to the east.
According to Hasted, a French fleet approached Hythe in 1293 and landed 200 men, but "the townsmen came upon them and slew every one of them: upon which the rest of the fleet hoisted sail and made no further attempt". In 1348 the Black Death afflicted Hythe, and in 1400 the plague further reduced the population.
Hythe has no coat of arms; but the corporation seal represents an antique vessel with one mast, two men in it (one blowing a horn) and two men lying on the yard arm.
Hythe was the home of the Mackeson Brewery, which after changes of ownership, closed in 1968.
It was the birthplace of Mackeson Stout, a type of beer first brewed in 1909, which went on to become a national brand. Mackeson stout is no longer brewed locally but is produced under contract by one of the major national brewers.
Hythe Ranges is a military training ground that takes up a large section of the Hythe shoreline.
Access to this section of the shore is restricted when red flags are showing..

Royal Military Canal and Martello Towers
The Royal Military Canal runs across the northern edge of the marsh, to Winchelsea. Running under Stade Street, the canal, intended to repel invasion during the Napoleonic wars of 1804 to 1815, gives central Hythe its character. Now shaded by trees, the canal, 10 yards wide, passes into the marsh from the middle of the town. The canal begins at Seabrook and runs through Hythe. It follows the original haven that was once Hythe's harbour as far as the light railway thence across Romney Marsh to Winchelsea. Its 26-mile length can be walked.Also built around the same time as a defence against possible invasion by Napoleon were the Martello Towers. In total 74 of these towers were built between Folkestone and Seaford.

The walls were up to 13 ft (4 m) thick, and each tower held 24 men and had a huge cannon mounted on the top. They were named after a similar tower at Mortella Point in Corsica which the Navy had captured from the French. Although never needed for their original purpose they were later used to combat smuggling and also acted as signalling stations and coastal defences during the two world wars. Three of the towers survive at Hythe; one was converted to a house in the 1930s and can be seen along West Parade, and the other two are on the beach and are owned by the Ministry of Defence.Geologically the town developed on a succession of non-parallel terraces, rising from the level ground around the Royal Canal (previously named the Royal Military Canal) towards the steep incline upon which the parish church of St Leonard was built. From the High Street, alleys lead up to the steeper levels of the town.This publication may show the Royal Canal named as the Royal Military Canal because that was its previous name.

11th-century parish church of St Leonard

The large 11th-century church is up the hill; the tower at its eastern end was destroyed by an earth tremor in 1739 and restored in 1750. The chancel, from 1220, covers a processional ossuary (a bone store, more commonly found on the continent) lined with 2,000 skulls and 8,000 thigh bones.

They date from the mediaeval period, probably having been stored after removal, to make way for new graves. This was common in England, but bones were usually dispersed, and this is thus a rare collection. Several of the skulls show marks of trepanning.
This is one of only two surviving ossuaries in England; the other is in Holy Trinity church in Rothwell, Northamptonshire. The chancel is closed in winter.Other curiosities are worth looking for.
On pillars on the south side of the nave are mediaeval graffiti depicting ships.
The vestry door, on the north side of the nave, is usually unlocked; open it to see a very fine early Norman doorway.
It has been suggested that this, which in late mediaeval times was apparently on the outer wall of the church, was once an internal wall, with the earlier Norman church a stage higher up the hill.
This would make the existing chapel of St Edmund (or north transept) the original chancel, with the original nave being on the other side of the north wall. Evidence of earlier masonry is visible on the north wall. Going round into the north transept, it is clear that Roman masonry was re-used in the building of the arch, which is narrow and late-Saxon in style.
At the time of Hasted's 'History of Kent' this doorway was blocked up and not visible on the inside.Lionel Lukin, credited with inventing the self-righting lifeboat, is buried in the parish churchyard

Page updated May 2021
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