A short history of Tenterden’s Limes Land, formally Gallows Green

A short history of Tenterden’s Limes Land, formally Gallows Green

Limes Land is the swathe of some 44 acres of farmland nestling between Appledore Road and Woodchurch Road; it has an interesting history both from the geological and human perspectives.

Limes Land is on Kent clay and sits adjacent to the predominant sandstone buttress running alongside the north side of Woodchurch Road. Local people are aware that a major fault in the land, where the Wadhurst clay and sandstone meet, runs alongside the Woodchurch Road where it dips into Limes Land. This extensive fault continues along the road for nearly one mile to the golf course on the edge of Shirley Moor. Where the clay has slipped into Knockwood it has left a low sandstone ‘cliff’ along the south-east side of the road, in some places over five metres high. Other similar faults run across Limes Land and are clearly visible to the naked eye with the most recent notable landslip, where sections of the land dropped in places by some three metres, occurring in 1915 and followed a dry summer.* This was caused by seismic activity in the English Channel which caused serious landslips and damage to several towns inland, including the collapse of lengths of sea cliffs and the total destruction of the coastal railway line near Folkestone.

*Kent Archaeological Society Lebon and Miles. Searching for Ebony 2017

The watershed north of Woodchurch Road commences with the very deep disused mill pond at Goldsmiths Court. Heavy rain causes this pond to flood with waters then crossing the Woodchurch Road and invariably flooding houses, the most recent serious flooding along Woodchurch Road occurred as recently as August 2018 and involved the Water Authority attending to clear raw sewage. Because Limes Land is on clay, this flood water then washes across the surface of the fields which, over many years, has created its own waterways, some sub-surface, and two major open-water gullies leading to Appledore Road.

Historically, the high point of Limes Land, opposite Knockwood Road, with its open views of the surrounding countryside, was ideal for the location of a Saxon hill fort, one of a number of such early observation points in the vicinity. This man-made elevated square of about two acres can still be clearly seen from the public footpath crossing Limes Land. Moving to the 12th Century, Kent was divided into areas called Hundreds. The Hundred of Tenterden had its own Court with jurisdiction that extended to dealing with murders, manslaughter and robberies. It was King Henry II who introduced the practice of hanging murderers, villains and thieves and so a gallows was set up in Tenterden where Limes Land is today. From 1449 the Bailiff, later the Mayor, would administer justice and the gallows was regularly used with a new gallows having to be ordered in 1706 to be erected on the same site, complete with a new viewing stand. Public hangings were continued as a very visible form of punishment with the bodies being removed for on-going public display from the nearby Gibbet Oak. All the records of these executions were destroyed by fire in 1661. The last recorded public hangings on Gallows Green took place on 27th August 1785. At the Court Sessions held in the Town Hall on 10th August 1785 two local men, George Edmett and Joseph Taylor, were convicted of burglary and sentenced ‘to be severely hanged by the neck until they be dead’. This gruesome but popular event took place at Gallows Green with the main viewing stand occupied by the Mayor and seven jurats, with others on horseback. Records show that the event was well attended, with most of the town’s people present, and was the last execution in Tenterden.

The exact location of Gallows Green, alternatively known as Gallows Green Field, can be seen on many ancient maps to extend across the whole of Limes Land. It is clearly shown on the Tenterden Tithe Map of 1843 which can be viewed in Tenterden Museum.

Thomas and Elizabeth Manclark owned the mansion on the corner of the land, known today as Stace House but sometime before 1871 the building changed its name to The Limes, presumably after the long line of Lime trees along the Appledore Road. This is confirmed by auction papers in 1897 when the house was described as The Limes. Sale records show that on 28th October 1920 Arthur Manclark sold Limes Land and the farmhouse to a local farmer. The land was thereafter known, as it is today, as Limes Land.

Part of Limes Land was used by the military in WWII and the concrete remains of their structures can be seen near the junction of Woodchurch Road with Appledore Road. Post war, local children were known to have recovered a number of pieces of abandoned military equipment from the site, including some buried ammunition, a practice which parents then wisely banned. During WWII several German bombs fell on Limes land and the neighbouring Leigh Green farm, damaging local houses. It is believed a number failed to explode and remain undetected.

Sheep have been grazed on Limes Land for centuries. There is a covenant covering the use of this land which dates back to a marriage settlement between Thomas Manclark and Elizabeth Hyland Weston dated 1822. Today, apart from the sheep, it is home to a wide variety of wildlife, a number of wild boar have been seen by a local vet near the golf course and the resident buzzards keep the land clean. With its gentle views across Tenterden, Limes Land has, so far, survived a number of attempts by developers to build on it.

Dr Adrian Greaves
Author of The Gruesome History of Tenterden

Limes Land flood map

Posted by Siggi Nepp
Friday 27th March 2020

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