Spotlight on Sevenoaks
Situated in the weald of Kent, the opulent town of Sevenoaks is surrounded by a plethora of striking countryside with panoramic views to rival any other. However, here the visually beautiful goes hand in hand with practicality. Only 24 miles outside of London, and with frequent train links in and out of town, Sevenoaks not only offers a wealth of grandeur and beauty, but it remains a popular choice for the daily commute. In addition, the town is just a stone’s throw from the M25 major road links. It is such definitive features as these that ensure the district is just as highly regarded for its locality as it is for its profusion of rural picturesque villages. For this reason, it is no surprise that the intriguing town of Sevenoaks remains at the forefront of Kent’s destination guide.
With few records pre 13th Century, and prior to establishing itself as a victorious market town in 1200, Sevenoaks was originally very much a part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Manor of neighboring Otford. The significance of Sevenoaks’ position was only realised after the two main roads from London and Dartford were merged into one main route, easing access through the weald to the south coast. Only after such a realisation, Sevenoaks developed into a core market town. However, it was still only once the town secured a high influx of trade resulting in an economic rise, that Sevenoaks become a manor in its own right.
The revolution of the marketplace was a major development in medieval England; not only did it generate a sense of livelihood via trading with local produce, it ensured that many unbeknown districts such as Sevenoaks were now on the map as a result of their own successes. Despite a history spanning over 800 years, this prosperous and wealthy town continues to triumph its market-town status today by ensuring it remains a poignant feature in the heart of the town centre – a narrative the locals alike seem to champion.
So with the decease of the market unfeasible, what better way to celebrate Sevenoaks’ origins than a trip to the town’s weekly market for your fresh meats, plants, home wares and much more? Located in Buckhurst car park every Wednesday from 9am to 4pm, or alternatively each Saturday on the high street (near Chequers Inn) between 9am and 5pm, this market remains a popular choice with the locals. The Market at St Luke’s offers another fine selection, with quality local Kent produce its main vice. This can be found in Eardley Road on Thursday mornings between 9 and 11am. If crafts are your preference, Sevenoaks’ Bligh’s Meadow Country Craft and Fayre Market every Saturday is well worth a visit. In addition to this, keep an eye out in local publications for notification of annual international food markets hosted in the town.
Meanwhile, rich in heritage and periodic architecture, Sevenoaks town centre is not short of historic haunts which capture the ambience of the old town. If this is your penchant, take a stroll down to the southern end of the high street, home to many of the town’s distinguished buildings. The Old Vicarage, The Old House and The Chantry are among the listed buildings here that were built in the 18th century, whilst the notable St Nicholas Church in the same area is a must-see as its gothic features and perpendicular structure showcases remnants of typical 13th century design. Adjacent to St Nicholas church is Rectory Lane, off of which is the renowned Six Bells Lane. Take a walk down the narrow alleyway of Six Bells to catch sight of the distinctive and picturesque 18th and 19th century cottages steeped in history.
If instead you fancy some light relief through the means of retail therapy, why not head to Sevenoaks’ unique abundance of eclectic shops and independently run boutiques. Interspersed in between the lanes, you will find everything from inimitable jewelers and antiques to fresh produce and unique handmade crafts. Remember, if the talk of all of this is already sounding tiring, there are plenty of charismatic coffee houses along the way to plan a well earned rest.
Making a full day or night of it? The Stag Community Arts Centre, originally the Playhouse Theatre, could be the perfect way to start or finish your evening festivities. The Art-Deco style 1930s building seats 450 and boasts critically acclaimed comedian sets amongst other performances. The theatre is also home to two cinemas, both of which screen all of the latest films.
If like me, food is never far from the mind, Sevenoaks has an extensive range of eateries from well known chains to independent fine dining restaurants and traditional English pubs. The Vine Restaurant occupies the perfect position in town and offers a stylish and sophisticated menu. Meanwhile, if you’re after traditional pub food, The Chequers is in a prime location on the Sevenoaks high street and boasts good reviews for its historic exterior and selection of ales.
If you want to immerse yourself in the many historic relics outside of the main town, Sevenoaks magnificent Knole Park and House on the eastern side of town is perhaps the most dominant and famed gem of all. Purchased in 1456 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourchier used the 100-acre estate to accommodate the construction of Knole House. Since its build, both Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth I have both been in residence, before passing it on to relative Thomas Sackville in 1566. Although the building is now owned by the National Trust, Sackville’s descendants still own the majority of the property today as well as the encircled estate that attracts thousands of visitors year on year.
Surrounded by 1000-acres of Kent’s last medieval deer park, the charm of Knole House has not gone un-noticed and remains one of England’s greatest treasures since its opening to the public in the 17th century. If you simply fancy a walk around the stunning deer grounds or want to soak up some of the history in the house itself, Knole Park and country residence is the perfect offering of Kent culture for all ages.
If it is horticultural splendour you are seeking, there are many private gardens open to the public in the surrounding villages of Sevenoaks. Emmett’s Garden on Ide Hill offers beautiful scenery, with contrasts of an impressive exotic plant collection with that of quintessentially English displays of bluebells. Unwind here with the family or head across to nearby Ightham Mote for a peek inside the historic manor house and magical gardens. A visit to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve is also a must. Whether you consider yourself a wildlife enthusiast or not, spend time in the peace of the preserved natural habitat and enjoy relaxing in this outstanding haven.
With a population and tourist base increasing all the time, it is clear to see that it is ever more ostensible that Sevenoaks, illustrious for its charm and character, continues to epitmomise the ideal vibrant community that frankly we all want to be a part of. With its history at its heart but future growth in its sights, the town’s motto ‘Floreant Septum Quercus’, meaning ‘May the Seven Oaks Flourish’, seems a dictum that rings ever more true…if the towns astounding popularity is anything to go by! With all of this on your Kent doorstep, it would be rude to not pay the delightful town of Sevenoaks a visit and see for yourself, so what are you waiting for?
by Gemma Dunn