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ASHFORD, a market-town in the Southern or Ashford parliamentary division of Kent, England, 56 m. S.E. of London by the South-Eastern & Chatham railway. Pop. of urban district (1901) 12,808. It is pleasantly situated on a gentle eminence near the confluence of the upper branches of the river Stour. It has a fine Perpendicular church dedicated to St Mary, with a lofty, well-proportioned tower and many interesting monuments. The grammar school was founded by Sir Norman Knatchbull in the reign of Charles I. Ashford has agricultural implement works and breweries; and the large locomotive and carriage works of the South-Eastern & Chatham railway are here. At Bethersden, between Ashford and Tenterden, marble quarries were formerly worked extensively, supplying material to the cathedrals of Canterbury and Rochester, and to many local churches. At Charing, north-west of Ashford, the archbishops of Canterbury had a residence from pre-Conquest times, and ruins of a palace, mainly of the Decorated period, remain. On the south-eastern outskirts of Ashford is the populous village of Willesborough (3602).

Ashford (Esselesford, Asshatisforde, Essheford) was held at the time of the Domesday survey by Hugh de Montfort, who came to England with William the Conqueror. A Saturday market and an annual fair were granted to the lord of the manor by Henry III. in 1243. Further annual fairs were granted by Edward III. in 1349 and by Edward IV. in 1466. In 1672 Charles II. granted a market on every second Tuesday, with a court of pie-powder. James I. in 1607, at the petition of the inhabitants of Ashford, gave Sir John Smith, Kt., the right of holding a court of record in the town on every third Tuesday. The fertility of the pasture-land in Romney Marsh to the south and east of Ashford caused the cattle trade to increase in the latter half of the 18th century, and led to the establishment of a stock market in 1784. The town has never been incorporated.

See Edward Hasted, History and Survey of Kent (Canterbury, 1778-1799, 2nd ed. 1797-1801); Victoria County History—Kent.

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