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Hythe, Kent facts for kids

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Hythe Town Hall.jpg
Hythe Town Hall
Hythe is located in Kent
Population 14,516 (2011)
OS grid reference TR158350
Civil parish
  • Hythe
  • Folkestone and Hythe
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town HYTHE
Postcode district CT21
Dialling code 01303
Police Kent
Fire Kent
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
  • Folkestone and Hythe
List of places
51°04′18″N 1°05′02″E / 51.0716°N 1.084°E / 51.0716; 1.084

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.

Royal Military Canal and Martello Towers

View of Hythe ca. 1830, showing the military canal and four Martello towers near the shoreline. Source: Ireland's History of Kent.

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 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 west end of the church of St. Leonard, Hythe - - 1258543
St. Leonard's Church
Skulls in St Leonards
Shelf containing skulls in the ambulatory below the chancel, commonly but inaccurately described as the crypt.

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 medieval 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.

Other curiosities are worth looking for. On pillars on the south side of the nave are medieval 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 medieval 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.

Castles at Saltwood and Lympne

Hythe was once defended by two castles, Saltwood and Lympne. Saltwood derives its name from the village in its shadow. During the reign of King Canute the manor of Saltwood was granted to the priory of Christ Church in Canterbury, but during the 12th century it became home of Henry d'Essex, constable of England.

Thomas Becket had sought from King Henry II restoration of the castle as an ecclesiastical palace. Henry instead granted the castle to Ranulf de Broc.

That the castle had been returned to Becket, as Archbishop of Canterbury, and remained a church property until the reign of Henry VIII, when Hythe and Saltwood were to be sequestrated to the Crown, suggests that some complicity by the baron Rranulf de Broc was possible in the murder of Becket. It was during this time at Saltwood, on 28 December 1170, that four knights plotted Becket's death the following day. Hugh de Moreville was one of the knights, along with Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracey and Richard le Breton.

From the moment Hythe came under Crown control, the senior official of the town was also a bailiff appointed by the Crown. This state of affairs (uniquely for a Cinque Port) remained until 1575 when Elizabeth I gave the town control of its affairs.

The last Crown bailiff became the first mayor. His name was John Bredgman. A brass inscription bearing his name remains in the parish church, dated 1581.

Cinque port Court of Shepway

A monumental cross now indicates what was from 1358 a meeting place of the confederation of the Cinque ports, several miles west of Hythe, known then as "the Shepway crossroads". Shepway cross, erected in 1923, the monument to the Court of Shepway, is beside the Hythe to Lympne road (B2067). The lathe of Shepway was the Saxon name for south-east Kent, roughly corresponding with the modern District of Shepway, comprising Folkestone, Hythe, Romney Marsh and nearby villages as far north as Elham.

Many think this monument marks where the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports held his court for Shepway, and it is referred to as the "Shepway Cross". In fact the Shepway Cross is a civic war memorial erected in 1923. It was placed on the top of Lympne Hill because that was traditionally the site of the Court of Shepway.

Shepway Cross was paid for and unveiled in August 1923 by Earl Beauchamp, the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, attended the ceremony. The memorial now shows signs of decay. The lettering denoting the monument's true purpose is hardly legible.

School of Musketry

The School of Musketry was established in Hythe in 1853.

Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

Hythe is the northern terminus of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, running third-scale steam and diesel locomotives. The track runs parallel to the coast through Dymchurch and New Romney to Dungeness. The founders were Captain J Howey and Count Louis Zborowski. It opened in 1927. The trains run on a gauge of 15 inches (380 mm) and the track is nearly 14 miles (23 km) long. During the Second World War the service transported the Operation Pluto pipeline.

Hythe Town Band

Very little is known about the band's formative years except that reference is made in a press article of August 1890 to the formation of a 'Brass and Reed Band' from the existing town band which had, at that time, been running for at least ten years.

In August 1891 the band gave a notable public performance which prompted the following comment in the local press: The Hythe Town Band played in front of the Sea View Hotel, Seabrook, last Tuesday from 8 - 10pm. This is the first time the band has appeared in uniform, which is very similar to the undress uniform of the East Kent Volunteers, excepting that it is a little neater!

In 1894 the band's name was changed to the Hythe Town Military Band. At the turn of the century the band split up after disagreements and in September 1900 some musicians broke away to form the Hythe Excelsior Band.

By 1903 it would seem that whatever had caused the rift had been resolved, and the two bands decided to amalgamate and during that year gave 89 public performances.

A successful period followed, and by the 1920s the band had won an impressive list of competitions and medals. There had also been occasions when the band played to support public appeals, possibly the most notable being in 1912 when the band took to the streets to raise money for the relatives of the victims of the Titanic disaster.

In 1939 the band voluntarily broke up as the 'call-up' took its toll. It was resurrected in 1945 and was able to be ready to play for the VE Day celebrations.

As the Hythe Town Military Band it continued to play until the early 1990s, when the name once again changed to the current name: Hythe Town Concert Band.

Every two years, Hythe Corporation hosts the Hythe Venetian Fete, when organisations and individuals create decorated floats which travel up and down the Royal Military Canal.

Folkestone and Hythe are represented in Parliament by the Conservative MP Damian Collins, a former advertising executive and Oxford alumnus, re-elected in 2015.

Local places of interest

Sport & leisure

Hythe has a Non-League football club, Hythe Town F.C. who play at the Reachfields Stadium.


Folkestone & Hythe Operatic & Dramatic Society owns the Tower Theatre at Shorncliffe. It is a charitable organisation which performs several shows a year.

Notable people

  • The novelist Elizabeth Bowen spent her childhood in Hythe and retired to 'Carbery' on Church Hill, overlooking the parish church, where she died.
  • Saltwood Castle was the ancestral home of Lord Deedes and later home to Lord Kenneth Clark, the art historian, and his son Alan Clark, Conservative minister, military historian and renowned diarist.
  • The novelist Daphne du Maurier lived with her family at Hythe in the early years of the Second World War.
  • Francis Pettit Smith, inventor of the marine screw propeller, was born and brought up in Hythe; a plaque is on the wall above The Post Office in the High Street.
  • Charles Wakefield, 1st Viscount Wakefield, philanthropist, founder of the Castrol Oil Company, Lord Mayor of London, a great benefactor of Hythe who lived at 'The Links' overlooking the town (destroyed by fire during 1960s)
  • Sir Henry Lucy was a parliamentary journalist who built (1883) 'Lucy's' on what is now Lucy's Hill in Hythe
  • Noel Redding, bassist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, gave his first public performance at Hythe Youth Club.
  • Monte Saldo, a strong man.
  • Colonel Gaddafi, leader of Libya, was trained by the British army in Kent

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Hythe (Kent) para niños

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