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  • Otford

    According to the legend, it was Becket who provided the place with water when he struck the ground with his staff and a spring gushed forth. He is also said to have banished nightingales from the palace precincts after one disturbed his prayers with the splendour of its song, and to have laid a curse on all blacksmiths at Otford, condemning them never to prosper there after one accidentally lamed his horse while shoeing it.
    In fact, nightingales do sing in Otford, and blacksmiths did prosper there long after Becket had gone to glory glory. Perhaps canonisation gave the prelate a change of heart so that he lifted his ban and his curse port mortally. There is no practising blacksmith in Otford today but the Old Forge there can still be visited. It is a restaurant now, just opposite The Bull Hotel.
    After Becket, successive archbishops stayed at Otford. One, Archbishop Winchelsea in 1313, died there. Cranmer wrote his THIRTY-NINE ARTICLES there, and it was he who gave the palace to King Henry VIII, the newly self-proclaimed head of the Church of England, after the king, queen and five thousand retainers had stayed there on the way to Dover and the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
    The king was characteristically ungrateful, grumbling that it was a 'rheumatick' place and deciding that he would use Knole at Sevenoaks whenever he travelled this way in future, and the rest of his household could stay at Otford.
    In fact, he quickly tires of both places. Otford was sold to pay Army wages during the 16th century, and its roof was stripped of lead to make ammunition. After that, inevitably, it soon declined into ruin and today almost nothing is left, apart from a bit of a tower and a few cottages. The village declined with it.
    Then came the railway in 1862. It brought some growth, although the village remained mainly agricultural until the 1930s when the railway was electrified. Since WW2, Otford has been very largely another of the Kent commuter villages.

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