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Aylesham Biography

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Aylesham is a village nearby Dover, occupying a shallow valley in the North Downs. Archaelogical evidence suggests the area has been inhabited for thousands of years. Aerial photographs show crop marks which suggest the whole area is one vast archaeological site. Some of the remains are prehistoric. There is also evidence of Roman farmsteads and associated field systems. The name of the village dates back to Saxon times and means "Aegel's settlement."

The present village is an entirely new development built to serve the East Kent coal field. The site was chosen because it lay halfway between Snowdown Colliery and a proposed new pit at Adisham which was never developed. The idea was to combine workers from more than one pit so that the population would be more varied. The regional plan for 1925 which was devised by Professor Abercrombie envisaged that the town would grow to an initial target of 10,000 people with the possibility of expanding to 15,000 at a later date.

Abercrombie was inspired by new towns such as Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. Most of the houses he planned were either semi-detached or small terraces. They all had gardens and there was plenty of open space. His scheme also included a range of community facilities including churches, schools and a community centre.

Work began on the new town in 1926. Soon miners and their families began to arrive from every coalfield in the country in search of work. Aylesham railway station opened in 1928 and Snowdown colliery brass band and male voice choir were formed in 1929.

Unfortunately this did not last long; within a few years the Inter-War depression brought development to a halt. Of the twelve coalfields that were started only four were ever properly developed.

Nowadays Aylesham has a population of about 4,000 people, which is still less than half the number originally envisaged. Some areas of the village remain incomplete. The Boulevard, for example, was planned to continue east beyond the market place. The reduced growth has also left the commercial centre of the village underdeveloped. The problem was made worse in the second half of the 1980s following the closure of the East Kent coal field.

The danger of relying on one form of employment was recognised by local people many years ago. In the 1960s, the Parish Council conducted a vigorous and successful campaign for an industrial estate. This has provided some alternative employment and is now used for light industry and haulage companies. In 1991 a further ten hectares on the north side of the village was zoned for industry. New shops, houses and community facilities were planned at the same time.

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