Returning up the High Street to North Street, opposite 1 Middle Row, face the splendid Georgian and Jacobean buildings of North Street.
On the left-hand corner stands the site of the Saracen’s Head Inn, which counted celebrated C18th bluestocking Elizabeth Montagu and among its patrons. Jane Austen attended assembly balls there, while visiting her brother who owned Godmersham Park.
Dating from the C14th, it developed from lodgings provided for stewards of the Lord of the Manor, eventually becoming a community hub until the C19th when it was sold and finally demolished in c1860. The original inn was replaced by a smaller building (depicted in the photograph), retaining the name, Saracen’s Head, which remained an important coaching inn into the 1930s. It was demolished to make way for the current shop in the 1960s.
7 North Street, now Cargill’s optometrists, was built by the Lord of the Manor for his blacksmith. It was occupied by blacksmiths into the early 20th century and the forge behind the house, in the building that is now HRGo recruitment agency, remained in operation until the 1930s, shoeing horses and servicing coaches and wagons visiting the Saracen’s Head Hotel, only closing when the use of motor vehicles led to a decline in trade.
13 North Street was the home of Capt. Francis Eppes, who in 1635 sailed to Virginia in a ship of named Hopewell. Eppes convinced six desperate people to accompany him, who he then sold as indentured servants. They would have had to work for between three and seven years. This started a small population for the first time in that part of America which was named after the ship that originally carried Eppes to Virginia. As well as the money paid for the contracts for the servants, Eppes was granted a headright of 50 or 100 acres per servant. He undertook six such journeys, on the third of which he took his family to Virginia who he settled in a house he built on headright land. He was then able to claim headright on himself and his family.
At the far-right end of the road is the Masonic Lodge, which holds a secret – it is the birthplace of Sir John Furley, who founded St John Ambulance in 1877. John Furley introduced a number of innovations for first aid. An example of the Ashford Litter built by local company, Ashford Wheel and Wagon Works, is displayed in the Museum
Read more about some of the buildings in North Street:
- 14 North Street
- 16-18 North Street
- Knott’s Cottages
- 20 North Street
- 22 North Street †
- 24 North Street †
- 26 North Street †
- 28 North Street †
- 30 North Street †
- The Masonic Temple and North Street Hall †
- 7 North Street
- 9 North Street
- 11 North Street †
- 13 North Street †
† Comprises only an extract of the list entry for the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990