Hawkhurst is an affluent village and civil parish in the borough of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England.
- Area:37.598 km2
- Elevation:247 m
- Local Government Area:Wellington Shire Council
Hawkhurst is an affluent village and civil parish in the borough of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England. The village is located close to the border with East Sussex, around 12 miles (19 km) south-east of Royal Tunbridge Wells, and within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Hawkhurst itself is virtually two villages: The Moor, to the south, consists mainly of cottages clustered around a large triangular green, while Highgate, to the north, features a colonnade of independent shops, two country pubs, hotels, a digital cinema in a converted lecture hall, and Waitrose and Tesco supermarkets.
There are four designated conservation areas in Hawkhurst parish – one at Sawyers Green, two in Highgate (Highgate and All Saints' Church) and one at The Moor. There are also over 200 listed buildings across the parish.
Since boundary changes in the 2010 general election, Hawkhurst is part of the parliamentary constituency of Tunbridge Wells, represented by Conservative Greg Clark. Prior to this it was in the Maidstone and The Weald constituency, formerly represented by Ann Widdecombe.
Hawkhurst has over 1,000 years of recorded history. The oldest known settlement was the Saxon manor of Congehurst, which was burnt by the Danes in 893 AD. There is still a lane of this name to the east of the village.
The 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 – there are several in West Kent and East Sussex. The 11th-century Domesday Monachorum refers to the village as Hawkashyrst, belonging to Battle Abbey. In 1254, the name was 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.
## Iron industry
The village is located towards the Eastern end of the Weald, where iron has been produced from Roman times. The Weald produced over a third of all iron in Britain, and over 180 sites have been found across the Weald. Ironstone was taken from clay beds, then heated with charcoal from the abundant woods in the area. The iron was used to make everything from Roman ships to medieval cannon, and many of the Roman roads in the area were built to transport the iron. William Penn, founder of the state of Pennsylvania, is erroneously claimed to have owned ironworks at Hawkhurst. The industry eventually declined during the industrial revolution of the 18th Century, when coal became the preferred method of heating, and could not be found nearby.
## Hop growing
In the 14th century, Edward III, wanting to break the Flemish (Dutch) monopoly on weaving, encouraged Flemish weavers to come to England. Many chose to settle in the Weald, because it had all the elements needed for weaving – oak to make mills, streams to drive them, and fuller's earth to treat the cloth.
The Kentish domination of the hop industry was stimulated by that same influx of Flemish weavers, who brought with them a taste for beer, and beer making skills. Several wealthy Kentish farmers invested in this new opportunity and approach. Although not the centre of the industry, Hawkhurst Brewery and Malthouse was built in 1850, on the edge of The Moor (now a house).
Hop growing also gave the area its distinctive skyline of hop gardens and oast houses, which were used to dry the hops. Nowadays, most hops are imported. However, at its peak 35,000 acres (140 km2) of hop gardens existed in England, almost all of them in Kent, including much around Hawkhurst. Eventually mechanisation and cheap imports ended the industry, but the oast houses remain.
## The Hawkhurst Gang
A witness before a 1745 Committee of Enquiry estimated there were 20,000 smugglers operating in Britain at that time. An infamous group, the "Holkhourst Genge", terrorised the surrounding area between 1735 and 1749.They were the most notorious of the Kent gangs, and were feared all along the south coast of England. At Poole in Dorset, where they had launched an armed attack on the customs house (to take back a consignment of tea that had been confiscated), several were hanged including Thomas Kingsmill, one of the gang's leaders.
A number of inns and local houses in Hawkhurst claim associations with the gang: high taxation on luxury goods in the early 18th century had led to an upsurge in smuggling, and the gang brought in brandy, silk and tobacco up from Rye and Hastings to be stowed away in hidden cellars and passages, before being sold off to the local gentry. It was reputed that when needed for a smuggling run, 500 mounted and armed men could be assembled within the hour. The Battle of Goudhurst eventually brought their career to an end.
# Things to do