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Hawkhurst is a village and civil parish in the borough of Tunbridge Wellsmarker, Kentmarker, Englandmarker. The parish lies to the south-east of Tunbridge Wells.

Hawkhurst itself is virtually two villages—one, the older of the two, consisting mainly of cottages clustered around a large triangular green known as the Moor, and the other, farther north on the main road, called Highgate. Each part has a different character. Highgate stands on a crossroads and is where the shops and hotels lie.

The village was involved in the Wealden iron industry until the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th Century. William Penn, founder of the state of Pennsylvaniamarker, owned ironworks at Hawkhurst in the 17th century.

Also, Hawkhurst Court is the name of a street in Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne, Australia.

Hawkhurst Village is also the name of the artisan market of the Utah Renaissance Festival and Fantasy Faire held the second and third weekend each May, in Marriott-Slaterville City, Weber County, Utah. Located on a 130 year old farm, first settled by Mormon pioneers, Hawkhurst Village is home to dozens of feral birds of prey, that enjoy protected status.

Origin of name

The place name Hawkhurst is derived from Old English heafoc hyrst, meaning a wooded hill frequented by hawks—'Hawk Wood'. Hurst (Hyrst) in a place name refers to a wood or wooded area. In 1254, the name is recorded as Hauekehurst; in 1278, it is often shown as Haukhurst; by 1610, it had changed to Hawkherst, which then evolved into the current spelling.


The village was involved in the Wealden iron industry from early times. Hawkhurst was the site of "Fowlers," an ancient mansion belonging to the Kilburne family. Richard Kilburne died at Hawkhurst on November 16, 1678, at age 74. Fowlers later became the seat of Sir Richard Grant of the Royal Navy. Kilburne is buried in the chancel of the church at Hawkhurst under a flat stone inscribed with Latin declaring him "an ornament and an honor to his country." He had several children; his daughter Elizabeth married William Levett, "Gent.," of Hastingsmarker, Sussex.

Kilburne, born in London to a Kentish family, was a lawyer and historian. He was the author of an early history of Kent, published in 1657, entitled A Brief Survey of the County of Kent (published in a 1659 edition as A Topographie, or Survey of the County of Kent). Another frequently republished Kilburne work was Choice Precedents upon All Acts of Parliament Relating to the Office and Duty of a Justice of Peace, which first appeared posthumously in 1680.



Hawkhurst lies at the intersection of the A229 and A268 (see map). The village lies on the route of a Roman road which here crossed the Wealdmarker.


There was previously a branch railway line from Paddock Woodmarker, on the London – Dover main line, opened on September 4, 1893; however, as all the stations on the line except Horsmonden were some distance from the villages they purported to serve, the line finally closed on June 12, 1961. The station site is now an industrial area just off the Cranbrook Road but some original buildings are still standing and in a good state of preservation. The nearest open station is now Etchinghammarker.


There was originally a parish church serving each part of the village: the northernmost church dedicated to All Saints is, , closed.

St Laurence’s parish church remains at Hawkhurst Moor. During World War II a bomb fell on its churchyard, destroying most gravestones and stained glass.


Hawkhurst is home to three schools, one local authority primary and two independent preparatory schools.

The Hawkhurst Gang

High taxation on luxury goods in the early 1700s led to an upsurge in smuggling, and Hawkhurst gave its name to one of the most notorious gangs of ruffians and smugglers. They terrorised the countryside: several of the local houses, including Hawkhurst Place, the Tudor Arms hotel, the Oak and Ivy pub and Tickners, claim associations with the gang. They were the kings of the trade, bringing brandy, silk and tobacco up from Ryemarker to be stowed away in hidden cellars and passages before being sold off to the local gentry. The Battle of Goudhurstmarker eventually brought their career to an end.

Hawkhurst celebrities

The 19th-century astronomer Sir John Herschel (1792–1871) lived in Hawkhurst for thirty years. William Penn (1644-1718) became a Quaker and owned ironworks in Hawkhurst before emigrating to America and founding the Commonwealth of Pennsylvaniamarker, which later became the U.S.marker state of Pennsylvaniamarker.

Philip Langridge, the 20th-century operatic tenor, was born in Hawkhurst.

Hawkhurst lays claim to be the birthplace of the Rootes car empire. It was here, in the village, that William Rootes set up shop as a cycle trader before ambition and opportunity conspired to take him and his two sons, William and Reginald, into the rather more lucrative production of Hillman, Humber and Sunbeam cars and so into English automobile history.

The Tongswood Estate was in the 19th century the home of the Cotterill family, merchants and tea brokers, who rebuilt the Mansion in the 1860s. The Gunther family were the last private owners of the estate before it was acquired by Stanley Harris as a home for Saint Ronan's School.

Charles Eugene Gunther (above left) was born in 1863 and he and his first wife, Leonie (above right), bought the Tongswood Estate (at that time c. 3,500 acres) in May 1903. Charles Gunther had made his fortune as chairman of the parent company of Oxo. (We have the copies of the sale details which included the freehold of a number of farms and the former ‘George and Dragon’ Hotel at Four Throws.)

By 1908 the Gunthers had built a three storey extension to the building, adding on what we now know as the Great Space and all the rooms above. The work was done by Messrs Davis of Hawkhurst, a company still going strong today. They have a collection of photographs of the building works.

Charles and Leonie had four children: Edith (b. 1887), Charles (b. 1890), Herbert (b. 1894) and Norman (b. 1897), but soon after moving tragedy struck. Firstly, Leonie died of an illness in 1910 and then two of Charles’ three sons were killed in northern France in The Great War. Herbert died at the age of 51 whilst Edith, who married Mr Alexander of Wilsley in Cranbrook, lived to 84.In 1912, Charles remarried an heiress called Helen Bell, and they went on to have two sons, James (known to the family as Jimmy) and William (known as Billy). Helen was largely credited with the development of the gardens

The opening of the largest country home of the Dr. Barnado organisation, named "Babies' Castle" took place in 1886 by HRH Princess Mary Adelaide,Duchess of Teck and her daughter Princess Mary, later George V's Queen Mary. The home became an adult care centre in 1963, and was recently purchased by private developers to be turned into flats.

Hawkhurst is also the birth place of TV comedian and actor Alexander Mitchell, who is best known for his roles in Turkey Shoot and Radio Flyer, where he played Flexy. Alex most recently played a mutant Hillbilly in the Blockbuster Wrong Turn 2, the film made a gross profit of $12 million which was largely down to the scary nature of the superhuman locals. Alex was cast for the part because of his natural looks, during the shoot Alex was actually confused for Sloth out of the cult classic The Goonies, which caused much amusement. It was agreed this was without doubt one of Alex's finest hours.

Alex playing mutant local:

Alex's newest project is the next series in the Wrong Turn Films, Wrong Turn 3, which comes out early 2009.


  • The Place Names of Kent, Judith Glover.
  • The Origin of English Place Names, P.H.Reaney.
  • The Dictionary of British Place Names
  • Dictionary of English Place Names, A.D.Mills.


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