What to do, see and eat in Westerham, Kent
PUBLISHED: 10:58 12 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:58 12 November 2019
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Close to Sevenoaks and with links to not one but two famous leaders, Westerham is a small country town with a big personality
Set in a valley, the town has a history reaching as far back as the Neolithic era. The remains of an Iron Age fort were found on the Squerryes Estate and the 'Westerham Hoard' of ancient coins, including one thought to be the earliest ever struck in Britain, was also found nearby.
The Romans first brought vines to the area and found the fertile soil perfect for growing grapes; today, the same fields are planted up as the vineyards of Squerryes Winery.
But it was the brewing industry that brought the town fame and provided the main source of local employment for centuries. One of the county's biggest breweries, Black Eagle, was based in Westerham until the mid-sixties. In recent years brewing has returned to the town thanks to Westerham Brewery.
The heart of this historic town has remained largely unchanged for centuries, with a pretty green surrounded by friendly pubs, shops, restaurants and cafés.
And there's no missing the fact that Westerham was home to Winston Churchill for much of his life.
A bronze statue of the great politician takes centre stage on The Green, welcoming visitors who come from all over the world. Depicting him in a seated position, on a rough limestone plinth, the striking statue was a gift from the Yugoslav people in 1969.
Churchill is said to have fallen in love with the stunning views, peaceful countryside and easy commute that Westerham afforded, and he and his wife Clementine bought Chartwell in 1922.
Their family home until his death in 1965, the house and its estate are now cared for by the National Trust, and it is one of its most popular properties.
The second of the two impressive statues to stand proudly on Westerham's Green is that of General James Wolfe.
Born in the town in 1727, he became known for his victory over the French at the Battle of Quebec in 1759 and is regarded as Britain's most celebrated military hero of the 18th century. The National Trust also looks after his former Westerham home, now Quebec House.
Meanwhile, Emmetts Garden in nearby Ide Hill is another National Trust property. Laid out in the 19th century, the garden stands at one of the highest points in Kent and offers spectacular views.
Without doubt, the jewel in Westerham's crown is Chartwell. Visitors can see Churchill's beloved family home dressed as it would have been during the 1930s, complete with many of the treasures he amassed during his lifetime.
Book a guided tour or explore in your own time rooms including the drawing room, study and Churchill's own art studio. With formal gardens, a walled kitchen garden and 80 acres of grounds to take in, it's a perfect day out.
Nestled in one corner of The Green is another of the area's historic buildings, St Mary's Church. The earliest parts of the present church date from the 14th century but a board shows the names of every vicar since 1278. The church itself is of note because its bell tower boasts a fine 14th-century spiral staircase. The church register records the baptism not only of General Wolfe but also of three of Churchill's grandchildren.
The National Trust's Quebec House, built in the 1500s, is a short walk away. The house has had a varied past but it's as the home of the Wolfe family in the 1700s that it's best known.
Dressed as it would have been during the General's childhood, it offers an interesting glimpse of Georgian home life and includes an exhibition about the military campaign that made Wolfe a household name.
For more military history, Biggin Hill airport is only a short drive away from Westerham. The most famous fighter station of the Second World War, it recently opened the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum in honour of 'The Few'. The museum is on the same site St George's Chapel of Remembrance, and tells the story of the airport through the personal experiences of those who served there.
As you might expect, there are all sorts of local community groups and clubs in the area too. Fans of am-dram can get involved with Westerham Amateur Dramatic Society (WADS). Cinema lovers will be pleased to hear that, although there isn't a multiplex nearby, Westerham does boast its own Fleapit Cinema Club.
Operating at Westerham Hall, and with modern projection equipment, there's an annual membership fee or you can drop in and pay a guest fee.
A popular area too for both keen walkers and cyclists, the town also has an active ramblers group.
The community comes together for a number of events throughout the year, including Westerham Rocks music festival at the King's Arms hotel in June and the annual 'Beating the Bounds of Westerham Parish' walking event, held alongside the Rotary Fair in May. And Westerham Country Fayre and Flower Show comes to The Green every September, laid on by Westerham Town Partnership.
Still to come this year is the Westerham Fireworks Spectacular (9 November), held outside Westerham Brewery's Beggar's Lane tap room and shop, and later in the month the Christmas light switch-on is always popular with families.
Eating and shopping
Restaurants include Napoli E, Chow's, Rendezvous Brasserie and Tulsi. Making a name for itself only a year after it opened, new restaurant The Old Bank is set in the heart of the town - in the recently converted old Natwest building. Chef-patron Adam Turley's food has been receiving rave reviews.
Westerham boasts several historic pubs, including The Grasshopper on The Green and The King's Arms, and cafés include the Tudor Rose Tearoom, Food For Thought, The Courtyard and Deli di Luca. Flint & Oak is a new farm shop and deli with a café bar, housed in a converted miking parlour.
Visit Westerham Brewery's tap room, which also serves street food, and Squerryes Winery, which now has a terrace restaurant. And wine bar No 17 in Market Square is a great spot for a cocktail.
Westerham's shops range from a local greengrocer and butcher to fashion boutiques, gift shops and interiors stores.
Look out for local favourites Chocs on The Green sweet shop, Posy & Wild florist and Manuka Shoes, The Vintage Home Co, Orvis, Entre Nous, and Zebra Zebra.