The hamlet of Etchinghill lies at the southern end of the Parish of Lyminge. Its original name was Tettinghelde 1240 (Tetta’s slope). A spring rises to the north side of Westfield Lane, (the road to Tolsford Hill) and the resultant stream flows across the fields to join up with the Nailbourne that rises in Well Field, Lyminge. This stream is known as the East Brook and probably in the Saxon period, when the settlement got its name of Tetinghelde, the volume of water would have been much greater. By the 15th Century the hamlet’s name had altered to “Etynghyld” and “Etynghyll”. Later known as Eachendhill or Etchinghole before settling to become Etchinghill. For centuries the hamlet remained a small farming community around the cross-roads, one of which led to Dover; one going south to Hythe and north to the village of Lyminge where the church is; the track up Westfield Lane over Tolsford Hill led people to West Hythe no doubt, but the importance of this waned as the coastline altered; and a final lane (now vanished) led to Newington.
The village has a standard golf course, noted for its hills, and a pub/restaurant, the Gatekeeper Inn (formerly the New Inn).
Village facilities include a basketball court, two football goals, a pétanque court and an excellent village hall. The Elham Valley Pétanque challenge was won in 2013 by the Etchinghill team which consisted of Graham Barber, Jeff Baker, Tony Williams, Frank Hogben, John White and Barbara Moon (pictured above). Please use the 'This is Kent' link, at the bottom of this page, for more information.
The area at the top of Tolsford hill has an excellent network of footpaths, notably the North Downs Way and the Saxon Shore Way. A large BT Group communication mast standing 70 metres high, which was used as a telecommunication relay during the Cold War, still stands at the top of the hill, a 10 minutes walk along Westfield Lane from the centre of Etchinghill. There are fine views from the top toward Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel, across the English Channel to France and over the North Downs.
The land, although used for cattle and sheep grazing, is owned by the Ministry of Defence and walkers are asked to keep to the designated footpaths as army excercises are often carried out in the area.
To the North-East of the Village are the remains of the Elham Valley Railway, characterised by steep-sided cuttings and tunnels. The line which ran from Canterbury to the port of Folkestone, was closed in 1947 and dismantled between 1950 and 1954. The line is crossed by Teddars Leas Road (bridge) and Badger's Bridge as well as the Golf Course. Although there was no station in Etchinghill, villagers could catch the train by travelling to the neighbouring village of Lyminge, approximately 2 miles to the North via road or one of the many public footpaths.
During the war, Etchinghill was home to the famous 'Bosche-Buster', a large gun, mounted on a railway carriage which could be retracted into one of the many tunnels to provide cover from aerial photography and German bombing raids. The gun could fire across the channel into German-occupied France with a range of over 30 miles.
For more information about disused railway stations, please see 'Useful Links' at the bottom of this page.
In 1835/6 the first major change came to Etchinghill with the opening of the Elham Union Workhouse.
Prior to this each Parish had relieved the poor the best way they could, usually by allowing them to remain in their own homes and giving them dole. This had, by the 19th Century, become very difficult to maintain and in 1834 Parliament passed an Act reforming poor relief and suggested parishes grouped together. Fifteen Parishes, including Folkestone, grouped together to form the Elham Union. The bought two acres of land at Etchinghill for £120 and built a house to accommodate about 300 paupers at a cost of £6,500. The house was run by a husband and wife team entitled the “Master” and “Mistress”.
They were assisted by a clerk who kept the accounts, etc. A schoolmaster and schoolmistress were also provided and, later on, a nurse.
All the other work was done by the inmates. The conditions were very harsh. Husbands were separated from wives and mothers from children. The diet was very basic, usually bread and cheese with vegetables on some days and meat only on Sundays. Alcohol was strictly forbidden, although this didn’t prevent the board of Guardians meeting weekly at the Coach and Horses in Lyminge! The elderly, who were obviously expected to spend the rest of their days in the workhouse, were not even allowed out for an occasional visit. In 1841 an additional building was erected to house some of the many vagrants who wandered the countryside.
To pay for their bed and bread and water they were expected to pick oakum and break stones for the roads. What the local residents thought of them, whose numbers eventually became so great some had to be housed in the stables, is not recorded! Fortunately, public opinion began to alter. It was realised that poverty, and especially poverty and old age, could not be avoided sometimes even by the most hard working and by 1930 the workhouses were handed over to County Councils and ceased to exist and many – as was the case with Etchinghill – were turned into old people’s homes.
For information on the Elham Workhouse (erected in Etchinghill in 1835) please see 'Useful Links' at the bottom of this page.
St Mary’s Hospital, as it was then known, was bright and cheerful and was run by dedicated staff, helped by a very active League of Friends, who raised money to provide many additional comforts for the residents.
Over the years the hamlet has grown with additional development on all four of the roads leading from the crossroads, the establishment of a cricket club and, more recently, the creation of a golf course spreading across the land which separates Etchinghill from Lyminge.
Until the early 1990s, the village was dominated by St Mary's Hospital until it closed and all the buildings, with the exception of the un-consecrated chapel, were demolished.
52 houses now occupy approximately two thirds of the land, with a new village hall and amenity land for all to enjoy,