Leeds Village History
A Potted History of Leeds
Lower Street - Leeds, Kent
Leeds village in Kent cannot, of course, be compared with Leeds in Yorkshire which is probably the first 'hit' you get when searching for Leeds on the web. We are a small community with fewer than 1000 inhabitants, nestling at the foot of the North Downs in the heart of the Kent countryside five miles south east of Maidstone.
The village may have taken its name from the stream known in early times was known as the Hlyde…… the loud or noisy one. We know the original settlement was called Hlydes – 'belonging to the noisy one' and is recorded as Esleades, 1086, Hlydea, Hledes c.1100 and Leeds 1610.
Leeds Castle, Kent
Sadly, the noisy one has now been muffled by being diverted through an underground conduit – the sound of merry water being replaced by the rumble of traffic.
If this is the true origin of the name, it would pinpoint the location of the original settlement as being in the hollow where now stands the George Inn and the cluster of delightful period homes.
Of course, much of Leeds fame is due to its proximity to Leeds Castle. Nowadays a Mecca for tourists but up to 1974 it was privately owned, keeping many people in Leeds and nearby Broomfield employed both in the castle and on the surrounding farmland.
There was an Anglo-Saxon fortress on the site of Leeds castle as early as 978 AD and, as you would expect, has had a colourful history through the ages with much of the British monarchy passing through its portals. Now many thousands of people from all over the world are attracted to its moated magnificence, to the beauty of its surroundings and to attend the many concerts - classical, jazz and pop – held in the grounds throughout the summer.
As you come into the village from the busy A20 you are aware of another landmark – our ancient Norman church its suggestions of earlier Anglo-Saxon origins. It is a beautiful building with its surrounding churchyard which in spring time displays a marvellous carpet of snowdrops and later daffodils – worth a journey in itself. Do take time to walk round the graveyard and read some of the ancient gravestones which give us fascinating glimpses of social history through the years.
Leeds Priory, Kent
In the middle of the village, behind the George Inn on the rise of land and set back from the road is the site of the old Leeds Priory. We understand that it was founded in 1119. The Priory flourished for 420 years until King Henry VIII with his relish for purging the land of Papal error and replenishing the royal coffers at the same time, ordered its dissolution. Not surprisingly, the site is reputed to be haunted.
Around the turn of the century a retired policeman recounted seeing a ghost that changed into four different figures before vanishing in broad daylight. Opposite the Church is the Leeds and Broomfield Church of England Primary School – opened in 1874. Today, it is still thriving.
Historically, Leeds would have provided employment for the majority of its inhabitants on the land, in the castle, or in the many trades that proliferated before the advent of the motor car.
Its inhabitants now travel to London – by car and train – to all places around the M25 and to Maidstone and its surrounding area.
The road through Leeds has become a major access to the M20. There are no longer any shops in Leeds but there is always a warm welcome in our two public houses, the George Inn and the Ten Bells.
We are a friendly village with many activities in which to take an interest. The Parish Council meets on the second Tuesday in the month in the Pavillion at 7.30pm with the exception of January and August. Everyone is welcome to come and time is given for the residents to comment on their concerns. Residents also receive a free copy of the Church & Village News, which is published by the Leeds& Broomfield Parochial Church Council.
This is only a potted history of Leeds village. There are links to Leeds Castle, the village school, church, the local pubs and the many other organisations and societies that make up our community.