West Malling is a market town in Kent that holds a lot of history and it’s displayed by the many buildings that still hold so much of that history within the walls of the town. Within a few miles of North Downs, these old structures tell a story further than any eye can see.
St. Leonard’s Tower is one of the staples built in c.1080 by Bishop Gundolf. Gundolf also founded St. Mary’s Abbey in West Malling. St. Mary’s Abbey contains significant buildings from the Norman, medieval, and Tudor and Georgian periods. This structure is still used today as it is the home for Anglican Benedictine nuns who worship in a Grade II Abbey Church. This church is dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin. In the 1600s, the structure took on several modifications including rebuilding the complex from wood to stone, lengthening the chancel, rebuilding the tower, and hanging multiple bells. The structure was completely rebuilt in the 1700s after a fire and is now a total work of art with monuments to add to its beauty.
In the 1930s Maidstone Airport (later west malling airport and then owned by the RAF) was established in the area, and it was in full use until the airport was closed in 1967. From there, there were continued attempts to keep it functioning as a commercial air site by the popular air shows that took place. It is now the popular Kings Hill development.
West Malling is home to the first recorded cricket match in Kent, and in 1967 it was home to the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. The tour was filmed around West Malling around High Street and the airfield. High Street still holds many of the structural buildings from earlier eras, including the Swan Hotel, an 18th-century coaching inn, and The Went House, built in c. 1720. Dr. Samuel Johnson, the creator of the first English dictionary, was also found to be quite fond of West Malling, as he regularly spent time in the area.
Other notable structures in West Malling include the Prior’s House and the Ford House. The Prior House once a residence used to house people with leprosy and the Ford House is now over 600 years old.
West Malling is still very much a thriving community with a lot of commercial activity within the streets. The several thousands of residents who live here have come to enjoy occupancy here and look forward to the growing markets within the town. St. Leonard’s is among the many businesses thriving in this community.