Old Wives Lees 

Old Wives Lees, the second largest village in the Parish. is situated high on the North Downs, near the northern boundary of the parish in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Whilst not itself noted for its beauty. the village is surrounded by orchards, hop gardens and arable fields, and from its higher elevations it affords uninterrupted views over hills, woodlands and the Swale Estuary. A triangulation pillar at 120 metres (394 feet) surmounts the Mount, the highest point in the village. In the winter of 2000 the  mount was used as a film set in the making of 'Last Orders' staring Michael Cain and Bob Hoskins

History & Development: Originally Oldwoods Lees, the village takes its name from John Oldwood who owned the manor in the area in the mid-l5th century. Just how the name came to be corrupted to its present form is not known but at all events it remained a minor hamlet comprising a modest scattering of medieval farmhouses and cottages until well into the present century.

Development of the village as we now know it dates from the years following the First World War and, except for a break during the Second War, has continued steadily up to the present time. Thirty-one new homes have been built since the last Parish Appraisal in 1978 while a further 5 have been created from the conversion of redundant farm buildings. Today, the village is a pleasant and reasonably compact community comprising 235 dwellings in a mix of private, council and housing association homes, sited mainly along the four roads leading from the village centre. 

Agriculture: As a young village, Old Wives Lees retains more of a rural flavour than its neighbour Chilham and is more closely linked to the agricultural scene. Three farms, one of which includes a fruit packing and storage facility, lie partly within the village curtilage and there are two further fairly sizeable farms in the immediate vicinity. But where the pattern elsewhere in the Parish has been one of consolidation, here the sale and breakup of one of the larger farms has enabled the re-emergence of some smallholdings. As elsewhere, arable farming predominates but a significant proportion of the remaining fruit bearing acreage in the parish is concentrated in the Old Wives Lees area; commercial crops include apples, pears and smaller quantities of cherries, soft fruits and hops.

 

Shops & Facilities: As a relatively new development. Old Wives Lees had little opportunity to acquire the traditional trappings of village life before these again succumbed to the advance of a changing lifestyle. 'Roseway' general store closed in 1989, as did the Sub-Post Office with its integral general store in August 2000. There are, however, several delivery services and the domestic trades available locally afford both the village and Parish a near unique range and quality of service.

THE STAR INN Selling Road

The long-established Star Inn closed for some years and was renovated and reopened as a free-house by its present owners in 1999.About five miles from Canterbury this attractive inn sits on top of the North Downs in the middle of the tiny village of Old Wives Lees. Just a few hundred yards away is the Pilgrims' Way, the age old path trodden by those who want to worship at the shrine of Thomas Becket. The path is still walkable, although the deep ruts caused by off-roading vehicles render some parts tricky to negotiate after a downpour. Signposts are not all that frequent along the Pilgrims' Way, but the route to and from the city follows the foot of the Downs, frequently skirting woodland. 

Public Services: The range of public services has also not in all cases developed commensurately with the growth of the village. Old Wives Lees has never had a resident Police presence or a full-time doctor and has remained dependent on Chilham and the neighbouring towns for schooling and most recreational facilities. Road connections to the village are narrow and of limited capacity and mains water supply continues to be subject to problems of low pressure and periodic interruption in some parts of the village.

On the credit side, all other mains services are now fairly widely available. Limited street lighting has been introduced. A weekly doctorís surgery now operates from the village hall and there is an improved bus service linking Old Wives Lees with the two other Parish villages and with Ashford, Charing and Canterbury.

Social & Community Services: The village has a good community spirit and participates jointly with Chilham and Shottenden in a range of social and recreational activities. Additionally, there are several local clubs and societies, mainly concerned with womenís and childrenís interests, and an active neighbourhood watch scheme has been re-established.

 

The village hall, formerly the old Mission Hall, has recently been refurbished and provides a comfortable venue for village clubs and committees. A monthly service of Christian worship has been reintroduced at the hall, supplementing those held each Sunday at the Methodist chapel.

 

Text from Chilham Parish Appraisal1996