A brief history of Plaxtol

The name Plaxtol is Anglo-Saxon in origin and is a corruption of ‘plaistowe’ or ‘playstool’, which means a play-ground. However, there is little (if any) evidence in the history of this village to suggest that there was much time for frivolity amongst the earlier inhabitants. The evidence goes back a long time: Early Stone Age implements have been found in different parts of the village and an Iron Age stone semi circle was discovered just south of the village street.

The rich farming soil, the ready supply of water from the Bourne river and the sheltered valley undoubtedly attracted the Romans to this area – and indeed subsequent farmers and millers. The valley consists mainly of pasture, arable land, orchards and hops (though hop growing ceased in 1989). Not surprisingly, a succession of farmers, butchers and tanners over many centuries became wealthy and this is reflected in Plaxtol’s numerous fine and old houses - many of great architectural interest. This has been a village based on agriculture with most of the inhabitants involved in working on the land, or associated with it. One major exception was the papermaking at Roughway Mill, which began in 1807 with fine water-marked paper being made for £5 bank notes and for postage stamps.

The Romanised Briton, Cabriabanti, was the first Plaxtol inhabitant whose name we know because, working as a potter and tile maker, he stamped his tiles “Cabriabanti fecit” – made by Cabriabanti. He worked at the large Roman villa, the remains of which were discovered on the banks of the Bourne (near Allen’s Farm). These buildings first came to light between 1837 and 1859 when labourers on the farm were deep ploughing a piece of arable land to plant hops. The lovely little bronze statuette of the goddess Minerva Victrix was also found at the villa. Most of these finds are now in the Maidstone Museum. In the 1980s, a second Roman villa was discovered and excavated within the parish and this was dated to about 150 AD.

About 1290, in the reign of Edward I, William le Hore built the manor house of Sore, or Hores - later called Old Soar Manor. By 1348, the Colepepers were the owners. They were the leading citizens of this part of the world and their house reached a standard of luxury undreamt of by most ordinary people. The house remained in the family for 250 years. Built of Kentish ragstone, it could be defended if attacked - arrow slits were built into the walls covering all approaches.

Centuries later, in the 1790s, a rural economist wrote of John Golding of Plaxtol that he “observed in his grounds, a hop of extraordinary quality and productivenes, propagated from it and furnished his neighbours with cuttings from its produce”. This was the now famous Golding Hop, which is still grown extensively in Kent and which became the parent of more than half those grown in the USA.

Edward Cazalet was a Huguenot refugee who in 1872 bought the great house and estate of Fairlawn. The house and family remained a pivotal part of Plaxtol for 100 years. During the first half of the 20th century, Fairlawne became one of the notable country houses of England. Visitors included Winston Churchill, Queen Victoria, Edward Prince of Wales, King Carol of Rumania, Lloyd George and Rudyard Kipling. The last Cazalet to live at Fairlawn was Peter, who became racehorse trainer to the then Queen Elizabeth (later The Queen Mother) and the present Queen Elizabeth’s steeplechase horses. The present owner, Prince Khalid bin Abdullah, is also a leading racehorse owner and breeder.

It is interesting to note that the population of Plaxtol has remained at around 1000 for several hundred years, despite the fact that the occupations of the inhabitants have changed markedly over the centuries. In more recent years, Plaxtol’s proximity to London has proved an additional attraction for people to settle here.