The History of Meopham

That this area was inhabited in the Stone Age has been established by the finding of a flint knife in a field north of Camer Park. Positive evidence of more recent times was the discovery of a Romano-British farmstead just south of the original village centre.

Several archaeological digs yielded ditch boundaries and artefacts dated to AD 80-120. The original name “Meapa-ham” shows that an early settler was Meapa, probably a Jute, and this name appears in a deed of AD774. By the tenth century, the manor of Meopham was owned by Byrhtric, a very rich Saxon, who owned many other manors in Kent and Surrey. He made his will in Meopham and established the connection with Canterbury.

About 1272 a boy was born, named Simon, and in due time he entered the Church, finally becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. Surnames were not in use at that time so he was known as Simon de Meopham and Simon recorded that his parents were buried in Meopham churchyard. Also well known Meopham men were the two John Tradescants, father and son, who were gardeners and plant explorers. Between them they introduced many species to this country, and they are commemorated by the street name “Tradescant Drive”. In 1723, a workhouse was established in every parish and Meopham was no exception. The building still stands in the Street as a private house.

Milling has long been undertaken in Meopham, the earliest mill being near Westdown. At least eight mills have been used over the centuries, and the last one still stands near Meopham Green. Apart from being open to visitors as a mill, the premises also serve as the office for Meopham Parish Council. Meopham Green is also the ground of Meopham Cricket Club, which has been in existence for well over 200 years.

The turnpiking of the road from Gravesend to Wrotham in 1825 led to the operation of the first bus service, Green’s Omnibus, which left Plaxtol at 6am and reached Gravesend at 08.30, returning at 6pm. The railway station opened in 1863, starting the London commuter process, as well as providing access to the coastal resorts of Kent.

Schooling in Meopham started in the middle of the 18th century, under the will of Thomas Copland, probably at Well House. In 1839 the National School was built with funds raised by appeal. Now Meopham has four schools. In the past, Meopham has been well supplied with Public Houses, six have closed down but five remain in business.

[Information prepared by Jim Carley, President of the Meopham Historical Society.]