Edenbridge lies in west Kent, close to the Surrey border, and located at the bridging point of the River Eden which flows eastwards until it joins the River Medway at Penshurst. It’s the gateway to the Eden Valley, a landscape which can be broadly split into three areas.
The chalk grassland of the Kent Downs in the north forms a ridge running west to east across Surrey and Kent, featuring old orchards, ancient hedgerows and woodlands.
Dropping down into the plain, the River Eden starts in Surrey and then meanders along the valley. It is gently undulating with occasional steep-sided stream valleys, ridges and plateaux. Small towns and villages are scattered amongst a patchwork of woodland, permanent grassland, hedgerows and wetlands on the heavy clay soils.
Rising up again south of Penshurst, is the High Weald, a landscape of high forested ridges and valleys. The area boasts the highest proportion of ancient woodland in the country and is, essentially, still a medieval landscape. Follow a sunken lane and you will be treading in the steps of Saxon drovers and their pigs. It also includes the Ashdown Forest, one of the most important and extensive areas of heath land in south eastern England.
Edenbridge developed at a crossing point of the River Eden and the Romans passed through on the road from London to Lewes which first crossed the river here. The route is marked in the straight line of the main road.
For five hundred years Edenbridge was a tannery town until the tannery closed in the 1970s, unable to compete with imported leather. The office building, Tanyard House, remains at the southern end of the High Street, and curves from the site gateway can be seen on the ground of the Leather Market car park entrance. Opposite is the white-boarded ancient corn mill building of medieval origin, which contained a water wheel turned by the stream in the Mill Leat.
Edenbridge has been home to powerful historic figures: one, William Taylour of the Grocers’ Company, was elected Sheriff of London in 1455 becoming Lord Mayor in 1468, and his house Taylour House still stands in the narrowest part of the High Street opposite Ye Old Crown Inn.
The Great Stone Bridge
The first bridge was built in the reign of Henry VII; the present one is dated 1836. Records from 1595 show there were originally 12 wardens of the ancient Great Stone Bridge Trust – the names of two, George Langridge and Augustus Corke, are inscribed on the bridge. Over centuries the Trust built up funds which were used for the good of the parish, and it is still actively benefitting Edenbridge today.
Ancient inns and smugglers
Edenbridge was on the route from London to the coast and there were numerous coaching inns on the old High Street. The White Horse (now Costa Coffee) has former stable yards behind, and Taylour House was the Griffin Inn in the 16th century. The 14th century Ye Old Crown Inn, with its unusual sign spanning the street, has links to smuggling. In the early 19th century the Ransley Gang used it and upstairs was a concealed passage where casks could be hidden. Secret pipes led down to the bar and were disconnected if Excise men appeared.
Edenbridge expanded in Victorian times with the building of two rail lines. First, the Redhill to Tonbridge line opened in 1842, then the London Brighton and South Coast Railway reached town in 1888. The tunnel-under-a-cutting, at the lines’ cross-over point west of town, is an interesting construction feature.
20th century expansion
Major growth came in the 1950s and 60s with private and public housing developments, including two London County Council estates at Stangrove Park and Spitals Cross – both hailed for the town-in-country design quality of the homes. New industrial estates were also created, providing work for the incoming residents, but the town’s main industrial base is at the northern end.
21st century Edenbridge remains a vibrant market town, servicing the surrounding villages, and continues to develop and attract a wide range of outside businesses, securing its long term future.
Your Town Council
Edenbridge has had a local Council for well over 100 years. The Parish Council was formed in 1895 and, recognising the growing size and importance of the community, was renamed as a Town Council in 1982.
It was the first local Council in Kent to gain quality status. Although a Town Council the town does not have a mayor and the chairmanship of both Council and its committees tend to be for a two year term, subject to annual re-election.
Edenbridge Town Council consists of 15 members elected from the two wards of the parish. Council meetings are usually held on the second Monday of each month at Rickards Hall, behind the Museum in the High Street. Various other committee meetings generally take place on Mondays – lists of meeting dates and agendas are posted on the Council’s notice boards and website www.edenbridgetowncouncil.gov.uk and anyone is welcome to attend.
The Town Council office is at Doggetts Barn, 72A High Street, Edenbridge TN8 5AR (01732 865368) and has a wealth of information about Council activities on its website www.edenbridgetowncouncil.gov.uk
The Town Council is responsible for management of the cemetery, parks, open spaces and many of the local sporting facilities in the parish. It provides allotments and car parks, is the local contact point for reporting street light faults, and for the purchase of black, clear and garden refuse sacks. It also lets Rickards Hall for parties and local events and deals with bookings for Edenbridge WI Hall, on behalf of the Hall Management Committee.
The Council has been awarded the foundation level of the Local Council Awards Scheme and Edenbridge was the first town in Kent to become a Fairtrade Town.