The Gardens of England
“I have left cities behind me, and I have followed the course of rivers towards their source…” Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, 1938
Ickham, Littlebourne and Wickhambreaux are three exquisite Kentish villages east of Canterbury and west of Sandwich. A compact and discreet part of the countryside, the villages lie along the rolling floor of this shallow valley surrounded by fields of corn or cows grazing among wintercress. This area of southeast England is Country Life country life. Midsomer Murders on heat. Medieval patterns of development. Victorian houses still considered ‘modern’ (slight exaggeration but Elizabethan to Georgian is the norm). The Old Rectory is the most popular house name in Little Stour Valley. The meandering Little Stour River eventually feeds into the Great Stour confluence at Plucks Gutter.
At the heart of Ickham is of course an ancient church. St John the Evangelist Anglican Church is Grade I Listed. Its Listing states: “This church originally belonged to Christ Church Priory. Early English with transepts added in second quarter of 14th century. Built of flint. Cruciform building with aisles to the nave, south porch and west tower with broached shingled spire. Norman west doorway with embattled moulding billet hood and scalloped capitals. The nave, aisles and tower are late 12th century, the chancel is 13th century, the transepts are 14th century, the south porch is 19th century. The whole building was restored in 1901. The north transept belonged to the owners of Lee Priory and has a 14th century tomb of Sir Thomas de Baa. Wall monuments. Double piscina. The churchyard contains some 18th century headstones with skull, urn or cherub motifs.”
A long row of thatched roof timber hung wall converted barns lines the one edge of the open space in front of the church off The Street. Set back on the opposite side of The Street are four converted kiln oast houses. Other landmark buildings in between the cottages along The Street include The Old Rectory (a patchwork of the best bits of architecture across a few centuries) and Ickham Hall (an early 19th century country house faced with Roman cement set in a mini estate behind a high wall). There are two Grade II* Listed Buildings in the village and 22 Grade II.