There’s a curious thing at the end of a little path beside the school in the Kent village of Chiddingstone. It’s a great lump of sandstone, formed when this area was a swampy mess about 135 million years’ ago. And this large rock is called ‘the Chiding Stone’, because nagging wives and other wrong-doers were brought here and rebuked – or chided – by the massed villagers. Nice idea, eh? Regrettably, no one seems to know whether it’s true or not. Other suggestions are that the stone was a Saxon boundary marker, a place where the ancient Britons conducted their judicial affairs, or that it had an interesting part in a Druid ritual.
Remarkably, I didn’t know anything about this until my son, a mere strap of a lad, told me about it. It’s encouraging to think he may have a taste for the bizarre, just like his old man.
Some maintain that the village name means ‘stone of Chidda’s tribe’. My trusty Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names says that Cidingstaene means a stone associated with someone called Cidd or Cidda. So there you go. It is said the area prospered on pig farming, because the large number of oak trees in the forest gave the pigs lots of scrumptious acorns. Later, a primitive iron industry flourished.
Chiddingstone now is tiny, quite lovely and has been used as a film location. The village is almost entirely owned by the National Trust, who purchased it in 1939 ‘to ensure its preservation’. There must be a story behind that, surely? Why didn't they buy Croydon? In any event, Chiddingstone is apparently a wonderful example of a Tudor one-street village in typical Kent style. Almost three-quarters of the buildings are more than 200 years old and the village post office dates back to 1453 – the time of the Wars of the Roses. There’s a great looking pub, the Castle Inn, and St Mary’s church looks a real gem. The tower was smothered in scaffolding when we visited though, so another trip is called for…next time, maybe I could risk a little chide...
Chiddingstone is located on a minor road between Edenbridge and Tonbridge; the River Eden flows just to the north.