Beautiful England - photos of England and the UK


Biddenden displays perfect examples of English architecture, from late medieval times to the 17th century. The well preserved timber-framed houses line the road, which links the churchyard with a small green. Here the village sign stands, depicting the famous "Biddenden Maids".

Elizabeth and Mary Chulkhurst were twins, born to a wealthy family about 1135. The year of birth of 1100, stated on the village sign, is likely to be a misreading of an early document. They were joined at the hips and shoulders and lived for 34 years. They died within hours of each other, the remaining twin refusing to be separated from her sister. In their will, they bequeathed 18 acres of land to the poor of Biddenden, so that even now, on every Easter Monday, pensioners who present themselves at the Old Workhouse, receive a gift of bread and cheese and visitors to the town that day, may receive a commemorative biscuit bearing an impression of the twins and their date of birth.

The Old Workhouse was built in the 15th century and late in the 18th century, converted into the present almshouses. Biddenden was a centre of the cloth trade in medieval and Tudor times. On the main road is the Old Cloth Hall, a half-timbered building where the finished cloth was assembled. Off the main road, the High Street contains 15th century houses and shops, originally the homes of weavers from Flanders, who set up home here 500 years ago. Around the village, are ancient causeways paved with irregular slabs of local Bethersden marble. The causeways were laid as paths for heavily laden pack animals carrying wool from outlying farms.

In the main street, Claris’s Tea Shop, bedecked with trailing flowers, must be one of the most photographed in the country. This is the epitome of an English tea shop, where traditional afternoon tea can be enjoyed in an authentic, low beamed room.