History

History

During the Middle Ages, Kings Wood, as it was known, was an area of coppiced wood and farmland which provided rich pickings as a medieval hunting ground. In 941 King Edmund gave it to Abbey Church in Rochester. It later passed to St Mary’s Abbey in West Malling and provided the nuns there with boar’s heads and bees wax to pay their tithes.

With the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the land passed into private ownership and coppiced wood from here was used for hop poles and fences and later for charcoal. By the mid nineteenth century, the site was called Kings Hill Wood and Abbey Woods and the whole area cultivated as woodland.

During World War I, the area was used as an emergency landing ground and Kings Hill’s role in aviation history began. RAF West Malling officially opened in 1941, having been acquired as a fighter command sector station two years earlier.  Home to as many as four day and night fighter squadrons at a time, the base was active in missions over France and Germany, as well as intercepting doodlebug flying bombs launched towards London from the French and Dutch coasts.

It remained in use until the early 1960's as Britain’s premier night fighter station and then became home to several squadrons of the US navy. In 1964, the US navy transferred and West Malling was returned to the RAF. Annual air shows celebrated its illustrious past.

In 1971 the Ministry of Defence put the land up for sale for £475,000 and it was bought by Kent County Council. Two decades later, the Council started to investigate development options with the key aim of generating economic growth. It held a competition for developers to pitch their ideas for the site and Liberty Property Trust UK (formerly Rouse Kent) won.

In 1989, Kent County Council and Liberty Property Trust UK entered into a development agreement, which is in operation to this day.  The public/private partnership has been successful in transforming the former airfield into one of the largest and most successful mixed-use developments in Europe. The new community benefits from its own strong sense of history and thoughtful development has created a an aspirational community with its own sense of place.  Kings Hill is now a parish in its own right.

You may also be interested in: