This page covers the main London to Hastings road known these days as the A21.
Note that ‘Hastings Road’ on other parts of this web site refers to the small section between the village green and Bo Peep corner.
The scope of this page is beyond that of the village of Pembury but as the A21 is such an integral part of accessing the village we feel a need to record its history. The range of interest will be roughly Kippings Cross to Fairthorn / Pembury Walks / Castle Hill Farm.
Please see the Milestone Location page for further information on the historic A21 / London to Hastings Road.
The old road from London to Hastings and Rye dates back to Saxon times and beyond, mostly following high ground where possible. This was to avoid low, wet, boggy areas during winter and to have good visibility of the landscape and good sight of landmarks. The stretch through Pembury is along a thin ridge. Just traveling from Woodsgare Corner in the High Street to Bo-Peep Corner in Hastings Road it is easy to see the terrain dropping away in all directions. It is very common for towns and villages to be placed on hills and ridges – high streets got their names for a very good reason.
The first 3 maps below show the A21 alignment, and its changes, over the years.
To help recognition with the 21st century some long term landmarks are highlighted –
the electricity pylons are marked in green,
what would be Longfield Road in marked magenta, and what would be the
A228 bypass to Maidstone is shown as a red stub.
The same 1937 map showing the overlay of the 1988 dual carriageway bypass.
The status of ‘A21’ is now given to the bypass. The High Street/Tonbridge Road is declassified.
Blackhurst Lane, just north of the hospital, is now truncated. This is the site of a footbridge.
The remaining parts of the road from Bo Peep to Kippings Cross are known as Old Hastings Road.
Two stubs of the old road exist as access roads to Kippings Cross Farm and Past Heap Farm.
The A21 dualling project had the task of building a new footbridge across the A21 between the hospital and the footpath that was Blackhurst Lane. At a meeting in 2014 at the Mercure Hotel a reason for the bridge was given – It was to replace an old bridge from years ago. The completion of the A21 bypass (1988) caused the truncation of Blackhurst Lane with the old A21, so a footbridge was constructed to enable pedestrians access from Blackhurst Lane to the hospital. Around this time it is rumoured that a road traffic accident involved a vehicle crashing into the base of the bridge, resulting in its closure and eventual demolition. Details of this incident are missing. The Sevenoaks Chronicle quoted this in 2015 – “At the Blackhurst Lane footbridge, there is a pedestrian crossing at the moment where there is a gap in the barrier but in the past there have been fatalities and as part of the scheme there will be putting in a footbridge. ” Sure enough, Google images show a gap in the central reservation armco barrier allowing pedestrian access across the A21 dual carriageway.
1988 A21 Pembury Bypass
The 6 images below were scanned from a 1988 pamphlet belonging to John Hawker.
A21 Bypass 1987 – 1988 The following 5 photographs appeared on the Kent Live web site in March 2017.
They have been reproduced here with kind permission of the Kent and Sussex Courier
Video of the 2015, 2016, 2017 Roadworks
The first video below was made by David Doré as a memory of the old route along the A21 from Tonbridge to Pembury. The journey takes us from the slip road at Tonbridge along the old alignment of the A21 to the Longfield Road roundabout, and off down Tonbridge Road toward the hospital.
When we got sight of the video we asked David to do another, and another, and another. The changing landscape during 2015 and 2016 will soon be forgotten when the diggers have gone, the grass returns and the trees have regrown. Our memories will fade and we will have difficulty recalling how it was. As a history web site, looking to the past, we are jumping the gun and pre-loading our history requirements in the making of these videos.
Many thanks to David Doré for the making and the supply of such remarkable records.
This section of the old A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury in 2015.
A return trip from Longfield Road to Tonbridge, then down the first part of Longfield Road, and back to the A21.
Thanks to David for accepting our request for making this video.
More to come.
Compiled by Tony Nicholls 2015, 2016, 2017