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A Saunter through Kent with Pen and Pencil


1. Lynsted

2. Greenstreet

3. Teynham

4. Stone-by-Faversham

A Saunter through Kent with Pen and Pencil by Charles Igglesden (1928) - Volume 21


Saunter through GreenstreetTHE traveller when passing through Greenstreet will be led to think that it lies in a country far from picturesque. Certainly it is a long, closely-packed street, possessing buildings neither fronted with bright gardens nor sheltered by spreading trees. No; this is not quite fair, for I noticed one tall tree growing alongside the road some halfway up the street and very pompous it looked, proud of its distinction as the sole survivor of a belt of trees that once stood along this part of the street and sheltered passers-by. There is no rusticity about the place, yet judging from its name you might expect grassy swards each side of the road, tall hedges with fern and wild flower lurking underneath, and trees of all sorts overhead, sending out their willowy branches, a mass of foliage in summer-time. But it is a green street only in name and very similar in style to many places that line. Watling Street, the great Roman highway that leads from the coast of Kent to London.

Out of the street is a road that leads to Teynham proper and of which Greenstreet is but an adjunct; and this brings us to the interesting fact that as a parish Greenstreet does not exist and never has existed, for the middle of the road is actually the boundary line between parishes, the land and houses on the north side belonging to Teynham and those on the south side to Lynsted.

Greenstreet as it appears to the traveller is somewhat remarkable for the absence of large buildings, either of a private or business character, but you will very seldom find such varied types-redbrick, yellow-brick, some with tiled and others with plastered fronts, and here and there weather-boarded. At one spot there is a thatched [32] roof surmounting a red-brick house, and as we approach the place from the direction of Faversham we find a timber-framed house some three hundred years old, with buff-coloured plaster as a filling. This is Whitehall and was originally owned and occupied by one of the leading families in the district. Until recently it was surmounted by a thatch roof. The timbered frame was built on a brick foundation. Further along is the traditional village smithy with an old building behind it—a house with many roofs at odd angles and as undulating as the waves of the sea. As your eyes wander along the street here and there you find a block of houses, low-pitched and with overhanging upper storeys now encased in boarding or plastered over. The timber of the wooden frame can be detected in some cases. One of these ranges of buildings possesses windows of the old bay type very popular a hundred years ago.

There appears to be no important residential part of the street, shops being intermixed with private houses, some of which are built flush with the footpath and others recessed. A break in the row of houses on one side of the road is caused by a timber yard and a bright touch of colour is to be found in the signs of the Fox Inn, the George, the Swan and the Dover Castle. We are told in big letters that the Dover Castle stands exactly halfway between Canterbury and Rochester. Far beyond, at the other end, stands a cluster of oasthouses to remind us of one of the industries of this part of the world.

Public buildings are of a modest description and fail to stand out with distinctiveness. At the east end of the street stands a red-brick building now used as a chapel of ease to the parish church of Teynham which stands a mile north of Greenstreet, and those who wish to attend its services must needs pass across bleak and open country. It was a local benefactor, Mr. James Lake, who resided at Newlands, who conceived the idea of providing services for the population residing at Greenstreet, and he presented this building in 1881. According to a brass plate within the chapel he called it a Mission Chapel, and, in addition to handing over the building, invested £300, the interest of which was to be devoted to assisting poor people. Another brass on the wall was erected to the memory of Dr. G. F. Pritchard by two hundred and fifty of his patients, while £56 was collected and invested for the benefit of the poor. The worthy doctor died in 1887 at the early age of [33] forty-seven. The interior of the chapel is bright and plain in regard to ornamentation. The walls are white, relieved by a deep blue dado, but an impressive effect is created by the heavy timbering of the roof at the chancel end, the brackets that support the cross-beams being supported by stone corbels carved with a floral design. Then there is the Wesleyan Chapel, a red-brick building with a cement front and bearing the date of 1841. The Salvation Army, the Red Triangle Club and the St. John Ambulance all possess headquarters of a modest character. The only other public building is the Queen Victoria Jubilee drinking fountain with the following inscription :- " To the worship of God and in loyalty to the Throne, this memorial was set up with offerings from the parish of Teynham and Lynstead in the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee."

Such is Greenstreet to-day, but it stands in the very heart of a country that became famous years ago and known as the " Cherry Garden and Apple Orchard of England." It happened in this way. One Richard Harrys, Fruiterer to King Henry the Eighth, conceived the idea that the land hereabouts would be distinctly suitable for the cultivation of the cherry, and he planted several acres with young trees. The result was startling. So luscious was the fruit produced that henceforth this part of Kent supplied the country with the best of cherries, and the imported ones from the Continent—almost the sole supply up to that time—had to take second place.

It should not be thought, however, that cherries had not previously been grown in England, for Pliny tells us that the Romans first brought them to Britain in very early days. But they were cultivated on unsuitable land and could in no wise compete in flavour with cherries produced across the Channel. Later on the Normans brought a fresh supply, but here again the soil in which they were planted- must have been unsuitable, for, according to Lambarde, they deteriorated to such an extent that but for the timely action of Richard Harrys the stock would have died out. The manner in which King Henry's Fruiterer—the royal tradesman in those days was entitled to a capital letter—turned this part of Kent into the Garden of England is related by the Kent historian, Lambarde.

Writing on the same subject a hundred and thirty years ago Hasted says that nearly all the orchards had been displaced by hops, but, he adds, "hops are soon likely to give place to fruit trees [34] again, owing to the little profit of late years accruing from them." Hasted was right. Hops are grown on either side of Greenstreet, but the vast acreage of orchards shows that fruit growing is the staple industry of this part of Kent to-day.

And so I come to the end of a description of a spot which is neither a parish nor town nor village, and yet, if we may judge by the yellow signs of the Automobile Association at each end, it becomes dignified with a name and is apparently more important than the historic villages on either side, and to each of which it contributes a large slice of land and many houses.

Finally, why is it called Greenstreet? The explanation is simple enough. During the reign of Henry the Eighth there lived in this locality a knight by the name of Sir John Norton, and to his paramour was born a son who was outwardly known as Thomas Norton, but by law as Thomas Green. Thus started the family of Greens, who owned much land in Teynham, Lynsted, Tong and Bapchild, and it is assumed that Greenstreet owed its name to this family.

Greenstreet Sautnre through Kent Many years ago a live-stock fair was held on May 1st in Greenstreet, but it was discontinued some time since. It must have been an important affair, for we are told that from one end of the street to the other stood cattle, sheep and pigs collected from a radius of many miles. At one of these fairs " Mr. Thorne's pigman for a wager drank six half-pints of beer in one minute and asked for a seventh "—a performance recorded in the Sporting Chronicle in 1777.