Kington's Market Hall
|OS grid reference|
|• London||153 miles (246 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Hereford and Worcester|
Kington is 2.0 miles (3.2 km) from the border with Wales and, despite being on the western side of Offa's Dyke, has been English for over a thousand years. The town is in the shadow of Hergest Ridge, and on the River Arrow, where it is crossed by the A44 road. It is 19 miles (31 km) north-west of Hereford, the county town. Nearby towns include Presteigne, Builth Wells, Knighton and Leominster. The centre of the town is situated at 522 feet (159 m) above sea level. The civil parish covers an area of 860 acres (350 ha).
The name 'Kington' is derived from King's-ton, being Anglo-Saxon for "King's Town", similar to other nearby towns such as Presteigne meaning "Priest's Town" and Knighton being "Knight's Town".
Kington is to the west of Offa's Dyke so presumably this land was Welsh in the 8th century AD. The land was held by Anglo-Saxons in 1066, but devastated. After the Norman Conquest Kington then passed to the Crown on the downfall of Roger de Breteuil, 2nd Earl of Hereford in 1075. Before 1121 King Henry I gave Kington to Adam de Port, who founded a new Marcher barony in this part of the early Welsh Marches. Kington seems to have been a quiet barony and was associated with the office of sheriff of Hereford. In 1172, Adam de Port, probably the great-grandson of Henry Port, rebelled and fled the country. He returned in 1174 with a Scottish army, only to flee from the resulting Battle of Alnwick to the great mirth of the Norman court. With this his barony of Kington was taken by the Crown and became an appurtenance of the office of Sheriff of Hereford, finally being granted to William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber in 1203 for £100. The castle then saw action in the Braose Wars against King John of England and was likely to have been destroyed by royal forces in August 1216. Within a few years a new fortress was commenced and the nearby Huntington Castle and Kington Castle were abandoned. All that remains of Kington Castle today is a great outcrop of rock topped by a few fragmentary earthworks. The old town clustered around the castle and Norman church on top of a defensive hill above the River Arrow.
‘Chingtune' was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086, the name meaning Kings Town or Manor, high on the hill above the town where St. Mary's Church now stands. The new Kington, called Kyneton in the Fields, was laid out between 1175 and 1230 on land bordering the River Arrow and possibly designated as part of the Saxon open field system.
Situated on the direct route the drovers took from Hergest Ridge and with eight annual fairs, Kington grew in importance as a market town and there is still a thriving livestock market on Thursdays. The town retains the medieval grid pattern of streets and back lanes.
In the chapel of St. Mary's Church, there is the alabaster tomb of Sir Thomas Vaughan of nearby Hergest Court, slain at the Battle of Banbury 1469, and his wife, Elen Gethin. The ghost of Sir Thomas, and also that of the Black Dog of Hergest are said to haunt the area around Hergest Ridge. The Black Dog's sighting reputedly presages death. It is also rumoured to have been the prototype for The Hound of the Baskervilles as Conan Doyle is known to have stayed at nearby Hergest Hall shortly before he wrote the novel.
Source: (Kington Town Parish Data Collected by the Herefordshire Council Research Team)
As with the rest of the UK, Kington benefits from a maritime climate, with limited seasonal temperature ranges, and generally moderate rainfall throughout the year. The nearest met office weather station is Lyonshall, around 2.5 miles (4.0 km) to the east of the town.
The absolute maximum temperature recorded is 33.5 °C (92.3 °F) during August 1990. In an average year however, the warmest day should record 27.8 °C (82.0 °F), with a total of 7.7 days reporting a value of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above.
The absolute minimum temperature is −16.5 °C (2.3 °F), reported in December 1981. Typically 44 nights should record an air frost.
Rainfall averages around 845 mm (33.3 inches) a year, with over 1 mm (0.039 in) falling on 136 days. All averages refer to the period 1971 to 2000.
|Climate data for Lyonshall, elevation 155 m (509 ft), 1971–2000, extremes 1960–2007|
|Record high °C (°F)||14.1
|Average high °C (°F)||6.4
|Average low °C (°F)||1.1
|Record low °C (°F)||−15.8
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||91.8
|Source 1: Met Office|
|Source 2: KNMI|
In the 13th century the new medieval town was formed at the foot of the hill and became primarily a wool-trading market town on an important drovers' road. Its location and historic character is the reason why so many waymarked long-distance footpaths pass through Kington today, including the Mortimer Trail, the Herefordshire Trail and the Offa's Dyke Path. The Black and White Village Trail follows the half-timbered cottages and houses in local Herefordshire villages.
In the 1870s, an assessment was thus: "The trade of the town is chiefly with the agriculturists of the adjoining county of Radnor. There are two banking establishments, viz., the head offices of the Kington and Radnorshire bank (Messrs. Davies, Banks, & Davies), established in 1808, and a branch of the Midland Banking Company, Limited. There is an extensive iron foundry, nail, and agricultural implement manufactory carried on by Messrs. James. Meredith & Co., and the building and tanning trades are well represented. There are also some extensive corn mills and malt-houses. About four miles west of the town are the Old Radnor lime rocks, which are celebrated for their superior quality for building and for agricultural purposes. The market day is Tuesday, considerable business being transacted on that day in eggs, butter, poultry, &c., and is the mart to which the Welsh send their produce, to meet dealers who frequent this town from all quarters."
During the Second World War, the large Kington Camp was constructed close to the town by the War Office. It was first used by the British as a re-grouping point after Dunkirk, housing returned soldiers in often poor conditions. In 1943-4, Wimpeys built two US General Hospitals to cater for predicted wounded from the European campaigns. Each employed 500 US military and administrative personnel and 50 local people. There were administrative buildings, labs, operating theatres and dental clinics as well as personnel quarters, chapels, rehabilitation wards, cinemas, mess halls, warehouses, and laboratories. Between 1944–1945 there were 13,000 patients. After the war buildings were used by the Polish Resettlement Corps (many of the Poles who had fought alongside Western allies did not wish to return to a newly communist dominated Poland). Many of the buildings at the Camp remain standing, although two-thirds have disappeared since the Second World War. Some are used by local businesses.
The Kington economy has suffered along with the fortunes of the farming industry in the area. Its rural location and lack of good transport connections means local unemployment has been high for many decades, with low pay rates and many part-time occupations in small businesses including farming and the retail and service sectors. There is a small tourist industry, though concentrated in the summer months, but it maintains the air of an unspoilt town on the borders. There is a traditional livestock market, situated off Duke Street, on a Thursday, where farmers bring their stock to market. There is currently a weekly food and crafts market every Friday and also a W.I market in Bridge Street on Friday morning, home cooked goods are sold. The High Street has a number of resilient and interesting independent shops. During the 2020 pandemic disastrous plans to close the High Street to traffic were fought and beaten off.
Kington Connected (KC3)
KC3 was begun in 1993, when BT, Apple, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Rural Development Commission chose Kington to host a pilot study into the effect that IT and sophisticated telecommunications might have on small communities. 15 ISDN lines were installed for digital data transmission and KC3 became a remote office and payroll service for companies including ICI and banks, with remote "teleworking". There was also significant support to local businesses and schools. In 2006 KC3 split the commercial side from the community and voluntary side. The community and voluntary side ceased trading in March 2007 and Marches Access Point was formed to continue to provide computer access, resource centre and training opportunities. The commercial side of KC3 became KC3.net and in 2009 there was a further management buyout by V8 media which signalled the end of KC3.net in Kington, and in spite of much fanfare, and subsidies, grants, and encouragement, the project was over.
The town has a primary school and a combined secondary school and sixth form — the Lady Hawkins' School. Sir Francis Drake's cousin Sir John Hawkins married, and in her will, Lady Hawkins left £800 to the town to establish the school. The school is unique in having special permission from the Royal Navy to fly the Red Ensign on its foundress day. Notable former students include singer Ellie Goulding and actor Jessica Raine.
The A44 road heads around the town on a bypass; it previously went through the town centre.
Bus services run to Newtown, Powys, Llandrindod Wells, Knighton, Presteigne, Leominster and Hereford. The town has its own bus company, Sargeants Brothers, which was founded in the 1920s, and today provides bus services to Hereford and Mid Wales, though this is no longer run by the brothers, but their sons. Their bus depot is on Mill Street.
The Leominster and Kington Railway received royal assent in July 1854, and the 13 miles and 25 chain length opened to Kington in August 1857. Leased to the Great Western Railway from 1862, it was later amalgamated with it. When the Kington and Eardisley Railway replaced the tramway in 1875, it built a new through station at Kington, which it jointly owned with the Leominster and Kington Railway. The old station, slightly to the south, became the goods depot.
Traffic rose during World War II, with the US Army hospital camp at Hergest. Decline set in after the war, and it closed to passengers on 5 February 1955. Freight traffic ceased in 1964, after which the track was taken up and the line abandoned.
Today the nearest station is Knighton on the Heart of Wales Line, though Leominster is quicker to drive to and has more frequent services, being on the Welsh Marches Line. Bus services mostly connect with Hereford railway station, as well with Llandrindod railway station.
Shobdon Aerodrome is located close to the town.
Kington Golf Club at 1,284 feet (391 m) above sea level on Bradnor Hill is the highest 18 hole golf club in England. It provides wooden shelters on the course for golfers caught out by the weather.
Kington has also been the host town for the Marin Rough (cycle) Ride since 2003.
Kington Museum is open April to September inclusive, and is located on Mill Street in the town centre. Near the town is Hergest Croft Gardens, part of the Hergest Estate, which is open to the public March to October. In June, for several weeks, is the annual Kington Festival in the town.
The Burton Hotel is a relatively large hotel and health centre, situated on Mill Street. The town also has a Youth Hostel, situated on Victoria Road, which is open from late March to late October.
Kington has been twinned with the commune of Marines in northern France since 1979. The two places are of a similar population. In Marines there is a residential side-street called "Place Kington", whilst in Kington there is a covered space by the market hall called "Place-de-Marines".
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- Chris Menges Cinematographer and film director. Member of BSC & ASC. Two times Oscar winner for Cinematograhy, The Killing Fields The Mission
- Stephen Kemble, of the acting family, the Kemble family, born here in 1758.
- Mike Oldfield lived at The Beacon, on Bradnor Hill near Kington, in the mid-1970s, the nearby Hergest Ridge inspiring the album of the same name. Oldfield turned parts of the house into a recording studio, where he recorded his 1975 album Ommadawn.
- Australian artist Sidney Nolan lived a few miles north of Kington, right next to the Welsh border, from 1983 until his death. A trust established in his name supports the arts in Herefordshire and further afield, and now owns the property and farmland.
- Pauline Murray, best known for her portrayal of nurse Pauline in the leading role of the 1966 alternate history British film, It Happened Here, died in Kington on New Year's Eve 1994.
- Singer Ellie Goulding, olympic Equestrian Leslie Law and actress Jessica Raine attended Lady Hawkins' School in the town.
- Composer Ernest John Moeran lived in Gravel Hill Villa in the town from 1938, where he composed his Rhapsody, Sinfonietta and parts of his Cello Concerto. He was married in St Mary's Church in 1945.
In popular culture
Robert Goddard's 1995 murder mystery novel "Borrowed Time" is set in Kington. Sue Gee's 2004 novel The Mysteries of Glass is set in and around Kington and Lyonshall in 1860/61 and includes references to many local landmarks.
- "2011 CENSUS KEY STATISTICS Kington ward/market town" (PDF). Herefordshire Council. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- Office for National Statistics 2011 Census for Kington parish – population and area
- Ordnance Survey mapping
- Sanders, I. J. (1960). English Baronies: A Study of Their Origin and Descent 1086–1327. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. p. 57. OCLC 931660.
- Ash, Russell (1973). Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Reader's Digest Association Limited. pp. 320–321. ISBN 9780340165973.
- "Kington Town ward population 2011". Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Kington Town population data from the Herefordshire Research Team". Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- "1990 Maximum". Retrieved 3 March 2011.
- "1971-00 Average warmest day". Retrieved 3 March 2011.
- "1971-00 Days >25c". Retrieved 3 March 2011.
- "1981 Minimum". Retrieved 3 March 2011.
- "Climate Normals 1971–2000". MetOffice. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
- "Climate Normals 1971–2000". KNMI. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
- Source: Extract from Littlebury's Directory and Gazetteer of Herefordshire, 1876-7.
- Handley F., C. Fforde, J. Gardner & M. Fforde (eds) 2008. The Story of Kington Camp. Hereford: Logaston Press.
- http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=97158 A breath of fresh air. TES Magazine, 18 August 1995
- "Lady Hawkins School History". Archived from the original on 5 March 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2009.
- "LHS Matters October 2007" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 September 2011. Retrieved 3 February 2009.
- Railway Magazine September 1957 pp. 599–605
- Railway Magazine September 1957 p. 603
- "Kington Golf Club". Retrieved 7 February 2008.
- FA Full-time website
- Kington Museum
- "Hergest Croft Gardens". Retrieved 7 February 2008.
- "Kington Festival". Retrieved 7 February 2008.
- Historic England. "Ye Olde Tavern, Kington (1360790)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- Brandwood, Geoff (2013). Britain's best real heritage pubs. St. Albans: CAMRA. p. 46. ISBN 9781852493042.
- Burton Hotel
- YHA Kington
- Kington Town Council Archived 17 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Twin towns
- KINGTON LIBRARY HOSTED BOOK LAUNCH Archived 18 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2 June 2015.
Media related to Kington, Herefordshire at Wikimedia Commons