A letter from Horace Bridge

to the Monthly Journal of the Ashford Institute

Issue No. 260 Vol VIII May 1915

We have received an interesting essay from an old Ashfordian in Sydney, who asks us to read it at one of our literary meetings. The occupation of our buildings by the Military Authorities, however, makes this impossible at the present time and we therefore have much pleasure in presenting it to our members in the Journal.

Sydney, Australia
January 11th, 1915

The Secretary of the Ashford Institute

Dear Sir, - My brother has sent me a copy of the "Ashford Guide." As an old Ashford boy it is extremely interesting. I regret that I am so far away that I cannot become a member. You appear to have your literary evenings. I am sending you a little essay which I shall be pleased if you will read to your members. That is the best I can do under the circumstances.

Your billiard room is almost a facsimile of ours.

Possibly, in your audience, there will be an elderly man who will remember, yours very faithfully,


P.S. - Sydney possesses a splendid library where I have looked up Ashford.


(Several paragraphs of text-book history.)

The Guide shows that the town has greatly extended of late years. When my grandfather (whose ashes lie in the old burying ground) removed to Ashford from Smarden, the town population was 2,150 inhabiting 411 houses. In 1804 my father was born in New-rents. In those days merchandise from London was conveyed in a hoy to Faversham. My grandfather's waggons brought them from that town to Ashford. When Napoleon threatened to invade England the waggons were commandeered to carry the women and children to London Happily they were not required. To go to London and back by coach in those days was quite as serious an undertaking as taking a trip to Australia in these days - with even more misgiving. Many a time my father said that he had seen the coach and four horses draw up at the end of Park-street, perfectly covered in mud and panting with exhaustion. The roads were without stones and the streets of the town were but little better. In the Spring of 1815 a regiment of artillery was drawn up in High-street. The soldiers were billeted in the houses. A wag of a soldier was on sentry with loaded musket. As the sun was rising a flock of pigeons flew over his head. Like a good sportsman he let fly at the birds. The soldiers awakened by the report rushed out of the houses towards the cannon. Probably it took place on the first of April. A few weeks later the victory of Waterloo was proclaimed. The brewers of the town showed their patriotic joy by sending barrels of beer in the High-street. where whosoever wished could get paralytic, and nearly all the fellows did so.

Forty years ago the town authorities were talking about planting ornamental trees in the centre of High-street. The Guide shows that you have not yet begun to plant. They should see the splendid gardens and rockeries which adorn the magnificent city of Melbourne. How beautiful could High-street be made from the London and County Bank to the drinking fountain. Twenty yards from Charlie Farmer's chemistry establishment there is plenty of room for a lofty graceful pine tree. The Guide shows the old church yard just the same as it was half a century ago. The old headstones of forgotten and unknown residents are not particularly beautiful. Why not embower them in a grove of rhododendrons of various coloured flowers and stud the ground with crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths.

Surely the people of Ashford ought to be proud of the noble old church with its ancient associations. How many people realize that for 500 years the services were conducted in the Latin tongue, and the people so loved the church that the edifice had to be enlarged to accommodate the congregation when at the time, the population of the village was small. ...

It is now nearly 60 years since Canon Alcock took little me in his arms at St. Mary's font as he did to eight others of us. Sunday after Sunday, both morning and evening used we to tramp from the old fifteenth century farmhouse at Beaver to the services. Possible the first occupants of the ancient dwelling noticed the steady rising of the church tower four hundred years before.

My object in writing this little essay is to point out the importance to England of preserving her historical monuments ...