There are few written records of Sevenoaks prior to the 13th century, and it is the neighbouring village of Otford, rather than Sevenoaks, that is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It was in Otford that one of Archbishop Lanfranc's manors was built.
The importance of Sevenoaks grew from the merging of the two main roads from London and Dartford into one main route heading south through the Weald to the coast. It was therefore a suitable venue for a market and this was probably established some time in the mid 13th century. Sevenoaks has remained a market town to this day.
In 1450 the rebellion against Henry VI led by Jack Cade involved the Battle of Solefields, at which Cade defeated the troops sent against him by the King. There is a plaque to commemorate this at the junction of Tonbridge Road and Solefields Road.
In 1456 the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Bourchier, purchased the 100 acre estate of Knole and built the great house which lies to the eastern side of the town. This was later appropriated by Henry VII and then passed on to Queen Elizabeth I who gave it to her cousin Thomas Sackville.
Sevenoaks was not directly involved in the Wyatt rebellion in 1554, although there was some support for it from local people. During the Civil War, Lord Sackville, the then owner of Knole, was arrested and the house searched but the nearest battle took place at Tonbridge where the loyalists were defeated.
The High Street at the South end of Sevenoaks is home to many notable buildings;
The Old Vicarage (late 18th c), the Old House (c 1700), the Chantry (late 17th c) and the Manor House which has links with the Sackvilles of Knole built in the late 18th century. In this area is also St Nicholas Church which has features of successive Gothic styles from the 13th century.
Adjacent to the church runs Rectory Lane off which Six Bells Lane, with its delightful row of 18th and 19th century cottages, winds around to rejoin the High Street. At the junction of the High Street and London Road is Loch Fyne Restaurant which although hung with 19th century fish-scale tiles, probably dates back to the 15th century, and was the residence of the agent of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Further north along the High Street is The Oak Tree which was once an isolated tudor farmhouse and now a pub and restaurant. A little further north is the Vine Cricket Ground with its 19th century weatherboarded cricket pavilion which is a listed building.
Between the London Road and the High Street are Dorset Street and Bank Street - running on either side of the old Market House (1843) and "The Shambles", which in mediaeval times housed the booths and slaughterhouses of the butchers. There are several tile-hung timber framed buildings still to be found here.
One of many great houses in the area have had to give way to development but a couple remain worth a mention. Kippington House in Kippington Road was purchased in 1630 by Thomas Farnaby, a famous classical scholar who sailed with Drake on his last voyage. It was largely rebuilt in the following century and has since been converted into flats.
In the nearby parish of Seal, Dorton House, which has served several purposes including a hospital for the war wounded and is now a school and college of further education for the visually impaired, was originally known as Wildernesse and was approached along an impressive avenue of lime trees. These trees, which were planted to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo, still remain. The house, built in 1700 for a Lord Chief Justice, was later owned by John Pratt, Baron Camden, who became Lord Chancellor of the Kingdom.
The Town has grown considerably since the building of the railway in 1862 when the town became a fashionable place for London commuters to live. Covering an area of 15.5 sq km its present population now stands at about 18,500. A few light industrial estates close to the town blend harmoniously with the otherwise rural scenery.
Links with Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks is twinned with Pontoise in France
With the signing of a Charter in 2002, almost 40 years of informal twinning by Sevenoaks with the French town of Pontoise was finally made official. As a twin for Sevenoaks, Pontoise is ideally situated, being about as far north-west of Paris as Sevenoaks is south-east of London. Pontoise is situated on a rocky limestone outcrop overlooking the River Oise, from which the town gets its name. The city walls still remain along with much in the way of medieval architecture, in particular the Cathédral Saint-Maciou. Also, the annual Foire Saint-Martin has been held every year since 1170!
Camille Pissarro made Pontoise his home, attracting many other impressionists, notably Cézanne, Gauguin and Monet. Two excellent museums house numerous paintings from the period.
For more information about the Friends of Pontoise visit their web sites :-
The official Pontoise website - www.ville-pontoise.fr
Sevenoaks is twinned with Rheinbach in Germany
In March, 1995, the Sevenoaks Town Council was approached about forming a friendship link with the town of Rheinbach in Germany - a small, pleasant modern town with some earlier features - the attractive inner town has many striking half-timbered building and the remains of a castle. The population, including surrounding villages, is about 30,000.
A school exchange is up and running and work experience for a few students is organised each year. Rheinbach has three grammar schools, a music school, a College of Technology and a superb sport and swimming centre. It is well-known for its glass industry, including a major training facility glassmakers from Bohemia re-located to Rheinbach in 1945.
For more information about the Friends of Rheinbach visit their web sites :-
Rheinbach twinning dual language website - www.freunde-von-sevenoaks.de
Rheinbach German language website - www.rheinbach.de
Sevenoaks is a Fairtrade Town
In October 2005 Sevenoaks was awarded Fairtrade Town status, joining over 120 other towns, cities and boroughs within the U.K. The Fairtrade movement is growing fast in Great Britain, which is now the world leader in fairly traded goods. There are a large number of outlets in Sevenoaks and the surrounding area which sell products bearing the FAIRTRADE mark and numerous organisations support the initiative, which guarantees third world farmers a fair price for their goods.
The Sevenoaks Fairtrade Network appreciates the support of the Town Council and residents of Sevenoaks, without which they would not have achieved their goal of Fairtrade Town status.
For more information about the Fairtrade in Sevenoaks visit these web sites :-
The Sevenoaks District Council weblink - www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/initiatives
The National Fairtrade weblink - www.fairtrade.org.uk
Sevenoaks Town Council Offices n Bradbourne Vale Road n Sevenoaks n Kent n TN13 3QG