Kent TN30 7NG



This medieval hamlet lies on the Levels below the cinque port town of Tenterden in south-east England.  Tenterden is now 10 miles (16 km) from the sea but in 1252 the River Rother flowed through the flat land below the town.

Royal Dockyard in 1400's
The river was probably a mile (1.6 km) wide at this point which led to the development in 1401 of a shipbuilding industry and royal dockyard.  It is hard to believe that 1,000 ton wooden ships were built here.  All that is left now of the river is a narrow drainage ditch. The estuary is flat fields dotted with grazing sheep.
There seems to be nothing left of the ancient port but if you look carefully you can still find evidence of an ancient shipbuilding industry.  For a start, the Old English word hythe means ‘landing place’.
Ellen Terry Museum
Smallhythe Place was built in the late 15th or early 16th century. This half-timbered house was originally called 'Port House' and was the home of the harbour master before the sea receded.  It is now the Ellen Terry Museum and a National Trust property.
St John the Baptist Church
If you look carefully at the door of the extraordinary red medieval red-brick St John the Baptist Church you will find it is studded with shipbuilding nails! Records show that this church was rebuilt in 1517 following a massive fire which swept through the hamlet.  The dockyard was so important for building Royal warships that the vilage and church was immediately rebuilt.
Medieval warship 'Jesus' built here
Documents record that Royal warships were built between 1410 and 1545.  The second largest medieval ship ever, the ‘Jesus’ was built here between 1415 and 1417 for King Henry V. The king actually visited to see his ship being built.  Records also state that in 1538 King Henry VIII did the same thing and came to see one of his warships being built.
Time Team Dig
In 1999 TV’s Time Team did an archaeological dig of Delph Field and Smallhythe Place and discovered that there had indeed been a thriving shipbuilding industry on the banks and inlets of the river.  Old ships were being hauled out onto the beach to be repaired or broken up while new ones were being built, finished and launched onto the high tides.
Tourists are now mostly interested in the great Victorian actress, Ellen Terry, or to do a spot of wine-tasting at the famous Chapel Down Winery or to attend a performance at the Barn Theatre at Smallhythe Place.  However, the hamlet’s other ancient buildings associated with its vanished maritime history also make it an interesting place to visit.
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Getting There
The village meanders along the B2082 road between Tenterden and Wittersham.  It is about 2.6 miles (4.2 k) from Tenterden.
Google Maps - Smallhythe Village