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Dymchurch Beach
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Location within Kent
Population3,752 (2011) [1]
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district TN29
Dialling code 01303
Police Kent
Fire Kent
Ambulance South East Coast
UK Parliament
List of places
51°01′37″N1°00′00″E / 51.027°N 1.00°E / 51.027; 1.00 Coordinates: 51°01′37″N1°00′00″E / 51.027°N 1.00°E / 51.027; 1.00

Dymchurch is a village and civil parish in the Folkestone and Hythe district of Kent, England. The village is located on the coast five miles (8 km) south-west of Hythe, and on the Romney Marsh.



The history of Dymchurch began with the gradual build-up of the Romney Marsh. [2]

New Hall was rebuilt in 1575 after an earlier wooden structure was destroyed in a fire. It was used as a court room for the Romney Marsh area. The head magistrate was known as Leveller of the Marsh Scotts. It was there that the so-called Scot tax [3] was introduced, levied on residents to fund maintenance of the sea wall. Those directly outside the boundaries and thus not eligible for the tax were said to have got away "scot free".[ citation needed ] Residents with land were required to grow thorn bushes for building of the wall, as thorn twigs were believed impervious to sea water. Failure resulted in an ear being cut off.[ citation needed ]

During the 17th and 18th centuries, smuggling was rife all along the south-east coast of England. Due to its remote location, Romney Marsh and the surrounding areas were amongst the busiest locations for illicit trade. This inspired Russell Thorndike to set his Doctor Syn smuggling novels in Dymchurch. Every two years a celebration of the novels is held, usually on August Bank Holiday.

Dymchurch played a significant rôle in the Anglo-French Survey (1784–1790), which linked the Royal Greenwich Observatory with the Paris Observatory using trigonometry. There were two baselines for the English part of the survey, on Hounslow Heath and on Romney Marsh. The Romney Marsh base-line extended from Ruckinge to High Nook, on the sea-wall near Dymchurch.

Dymchurch Martello towers

Several Martello towers were built in the nineteenth century as part of an Empire-wide coastal defence programme: most have since fallen into the sea or become dilapidated. Tower 23 was restored externally in the early 1970s and is currently a private residence. Tower 24 has undergone renovation and using Tower 23 used as a guide: in 1969 it became the first Martello tower to be opened to the public and remains as a museum of Martello Towers, owned by English Heritage. Tower 25 is possibly the only empty tower that is regularly maintained. [4]

Dymchurch Redoubt

Two redoubt forts were constructed into the south coast Martello chain to act as supply depots for the local Martellos, and were originally described as "eleven-gun towers". A four-gun tower was originally proposed at Dymchurch, but this idea was revised at the Rochester conference of 1804. Dymchurch Redoubt was built between 1806 and 1809 to the same specifications as its Eastbourne counterpart, although Dymchurch does not have any caponiers. A caponier is a type of fortification structure. The word originates from the French word caponnière. It is a type of fortification structure which allows firing along the bottom of a dry moat that surrounds the main fortress.

The Dymchurch Redoubt Dymchurch Redoubt.jpg
The Dymchurch Redoubt

In 1908, Walter Jerrold described the village as "a quiet scattered village and a delightful place far from the madding crowd". It is typical of this part of the coast, having originally been a very small village which became a much larger settlement during the 1930s. Many of homes from this era were converted railway carriages: very few of these remain, although a few similar ones still exist in nearby Dungeness. Dymchurch is now a popular seaside resort complete with holiday camp, caravan parks, light railway station and amusement park. Today the village is relatively large and mainly dedicated to seasonal tourism.

Second World War


Dymchurch is part of the electoral ward of Dymchurch and St Mary's Bay. The population of this ward at the 2011 Census was 6,291. [5] In 2018, Thomas Quaye was elected to the Parish Council. [6]

Famous residents and cultural connections

In January 1867, the Courier de Dieppe was spotted foundering in a gale off Dymchurch, with the crew clinging to the rigging and one by one dropping off into the sea. After repeated attempts, a line was thrown to the boat, but by this time there was only one of its crew left. The Reverend Charles Cobb, rector of the parish, volunteered to swim to the boat to try to save the last man. Encouraged by his wife and the gathered crowd, he dived into the troubled waters and swam the 50 feet or more to the vessel. He was then joined by a local coastguard, John Batist. Together they reached the trapped man, and managed to carry and drag him back to shore, where they received much applause for their heroism. The rescued man was the only survivor of a crew of four from the ship. Cobb was awarded the Albert Medal of the First Class and Batist was awarded the Albert Medal of the Second Class. The street nearest to where this heroic action occurred was later named "Charles Cobb Close" in his memory.

The artist Paul Nash settled in Dymchurch in 1919, and lived there for a number of years, painting a number of important paintings, as well as producing lithographs and wood engravings, based on the sea wall and the surrounding countryside. [7]

Dymchurch is the setting for the opening and concluding scenes of 1964 film First Men in the Moon, although these sequences were not actually filmed in the town. [8]


The main road into the village is the A259.

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway was originally opened in the 1920s, but closed temporarily during the Second World War. Dymchurch railway station was reopened after the war by Laurel and Hardy.

Bus routes

Three main bus routes serve the area: the 100, 101 and 102 Dover to Lydd-on-Sea or Hastings via Lydd, operated by Stagecoach.



Dymchurch has a blue flag awarded sandy beach and is surrounded by flat countryside that is well suited to walking and cycling. [9] It has two nearby holiday parks, and an amusement park with "the usual offering of Ghost Train, Dodgems, Log Flume and other rides which will keep the whole family entertained".

The Dr Syn Books

Russell Thorndike, the creator of Dr Syn, was born on 6 February 1885 in Rochester, Kent.

Thorndike was a British actor and novelist, best known for the Dr Syn of Romney Marsh novels, and brother of renowned actress Dame Sybil Thorndike. Thorndike's first appearance on stage was in Cambridge in 1904.

In 1914, Thorndike joined the army as a trooper in the 1st Westminster Dragoons, but due to being severely wounded at Gallipoli in 1916, he was discharged and returned to acting.

Touring the USA with his sister and a theatrical company, a murder took place outside their hotel. The body was left all night on the street below their window. Unable to sleep, they passed the time by telling stories. The character of Dr Syn is said to have been created that night.

Due to his successful life as both a Shakespearean actor, a writer and playwright, in 1922 Thorndike played the leading man in his own Dr Syn play, which he adapted from his books.

During his lifetime, Thorndike created and published seven Dr Syn novels; he died on 7 November 1972.

Several films featuring Dr Syn were made in and around Dymchurch, including Doctor Syn (1937) with George Arliss, Captain Clegg – the lead character was renamed for legal reasons (1962) featuring Peter Cushing, and the Disney TV film The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1963) with Patrick McGoohan.

Russell Thorndike was buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul's Church, Dymchurch.


There is train station here, situated on the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway.

Sea defences

Dymchurch has had a sea wall since Roman times, with the original development being constructed to protect the harbour at Port Lympne. The original structure is believed to have run for some 4 miles and to have stood 20 ft high. This wall, together with the Rhee Wall erected between New Romney and Appledore, ensured that the rich alluvial land deposited by the river Limen (Rother) which had initially been used as salt pans, slowly became rich and fertile farmland.

In July 2011, a new sea wall, built at a cost of £60 million, was officially opened by Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency. He announced that "the scheme was implemented by the Environment Agency as part of the wider Folkestone to Cliff End Sea Defence Strategy, the sea defence project which will protect 2,500 properties from flooding. The high cost of flooding underlines the importance of investment in reducing flood risk." He also added "The agency said storms and raised sea levels are due with climate change."

The wall between the High Knocke Estate and Dymchurch won a British Construction Industry Award in 2011. [10]

The new wall allows pedestrians to walk the sea shore for the entire length of the village, approximately four miles, from Hythe Military Rifle Ranges in the East to St Mary's Bay Boundary in the West. Cyclists have the same freedom but must dismount for about 500m around the area of the public amenities. Dymchurch Wall


The population has grown due to large development since 2001 and is estimated at 5820 (Est 2004). The village has one primary school which was rated "requires improvement" by ofsted in 2018. [11] The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is broadly average. Most pupils are of White British heritage. The proportion of pupils from minority ethnic heritages is much lower than average, as is the percentage who speak English as an additional language. The proportion of pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities is broadly average, although in some year groups it is much higher. The school caters for children in the Early Years Foundation Stage in a Reception class. The school has about 180 pupils. (Source: OFSTED Report 2011)

Buildings of note

The Norman church in Dymchurch

Dedicated to St Peter & St Paul, [12] is classic Norman, built in about 1150. The first recorded rector was Richard de Bello in 1260. The church remained virtually unchanged for nearly 700 years. In 1821 the population of Dymchurch increased to the point where extensions and modifications were required, and the north aisle was extended and the nave re-roofed giving the church its present lop-sided appearance.

Commonwealth War Grave

The village holds one war grave from the Second World War – 1074227 Gnr Arthur William Heyhoe, 519 Coast Rgt, Royal Artillery, who is the only soldier buried in the Dymchurch cemetery under a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. Arthur was 28 the day he died, on 20 November 1940. He was serving as an anti-aircraft artillery Gunner overnight at Dover, and on the regrouping of his Battery in the morning, he was found to be 'Missing In Action', 'MIA'. His body was found later that day, having washed up on the beach at Dymchurch very close to where he now lies. Arthur is remembered on the war memorial at Tilney St Lawrence, Wisbech, Norfolk. Arthur’s birth was recorded in Mitford, Norfolk. The local Branch of the Royal British Legion remember him every year. [13]

Local media


Dymchurch has two paid-for newspapers, the Romney Marsh Herald (published by Kent Regional News and Media) and the Kentish Express (published by the KM Group). Free newspapers for the area include the Folkestone and Hythe Extra, part of the KM Group, and Your Shepway, part of KOS Media.


The local radio station for Dymchurch is KMFM Shepway and White Cliffs Country which is hosted by local Yates Owner and Blue Borough General, DJ Paul Lane. The area is also served by the county-wide stations Heart, Gold and BBC Radio Kent. Cinque Ports Radio 100.2FM is the community radio station for Romney Marsh, Hythe and Rye and has been broadcasting since 7th March 2022. This replaced Shoreline FM which broadcast since January 2020 and is now an online radio service for Romney Marsh called Shoreline Easy [14]

Related Research Articles

The Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn is the smuggler hero of a series of novels by Russell Thorndike. The first book, Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh was published in 1915. The story idea came from smuggling in the 18th-century Romney Marsh, where brandy and tobacco were brought in at night by boat from France to avoid the tax. Minor battles were fought, sometimes at night, between gangs of smugglers, such as the Hawkhurst Gang, and the Revenue, supported by the army and local militias in the South, Kent and the West, Sussex.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Folkestone</span> Town in Kent, England

Folkestone is a port town on the English Channel, in Kent, south-east England. The town lies on the southern edge of the North Downs at a valley between two cliffs. It was an important harbour and shipping port for most of the 19th and 20th centuries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway</span> Light railway in Kent, England

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RH&DR) is a 15 in gauge light railway in Kent, England, operating steam and internal combustion locomotives. The 13+12-mile (21.7 km) line runs from the Cinque Port of Hythe via Dymchurch, St. Mary's Bay, New Romney and Romney Sands to Dungeness, close to Dungeness nuclear power station and Dungeness Lighthouse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Romney Marsh</span> Wetland in south-east England

Romney Marsh is a sparsely populated wetland area in the counties of Kent and East Sussex in the south-east of England. It covers about 100 square miles (260 km2). The Marsh has been in use for centuries, though its inhabitants commonly suffered from malaria until the 18th century. Due to its location, geography and isolation, it was a smuggler's paradise between the 1600s and 1800s. The area has long been used for sheep pasture: Romney Marsh sheep are considered one of the most successful and important sheep breeds. Criss-crossed with numerous waterways, and with some areas lying below sea level, the Marsh has over time sustained a gradual level of reclamation, both through natural causes and by human intervention.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hythe, Kent</span> Town in Kent, England

Hythe is a coastal market town on the edge of Romney Marsh, in the district of Folkestone and Hythe on the south coast of Kent. The word Hythe or Hithe is an Old English word meaning haven or landing place.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New Romney</span> Town in Kent, England

New Romney is a market town in Kent, England, on the edge of Romney Marsh, an area of flat, rich agricultural land reclaimed from the sea after the harbour began to silt up. New Romney, one of the original Cinque Ports, was once a sea port, with the harbour adjacent to the church, but is now more than a mile from the sea. A mooring ring can still be seen in front of the church. It is the headquarters of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lydd</span> Human settlement in England

Lydd is a town and electoral ward in Kent, England, lying on Romney Marsh. It is one of the larger settlements on the marsh, and the most southerly town in Kent. Lydd reached the height of its prosperity during the 13th century, when it was a corporate member of the Cinque Ports, a "limb" of Romney. Actually located on Denge Marsh, Lydd was one of the first sandy islands to form as the bay evolved into what is now called Romney Marsh.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Folkestone and Hythe District</span> Non-metropolitan district in England

Folkestone and Hythe is a local government district in Kent, England, in the south-east of the county. Its council is based in the town of Folkestone. The authority was renamed from Shepway in April 2018, and therefore has the same name as the Folkestone and Hythe parliamentary constituency, although a somewhat narrower area is covered by the district.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dymchurch Redoubt</span>

Dymchurch Grand Redoubt is a fortification at Palmarsh on the coast of Kent in England, built during the Napoleonic War as part of a large defensive scheme to protect the country from an expected French invasion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Military Canal</span> Defensive canal in southern England

The Royal Military Canal is a canal running for 28 miles (45 km) between Seabrook near Folkestone and Cliff End near Hastings, following the old cliff line bordering Romney Marsh, which was constructed as a defence against the possible invasion of England during the Napoleonic Wars.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Russell Thorndike</span>

Arthur Russell Thorndike was a British actor and novelist, best known for the Doctor Syn of Romney Marsh novels. Less well-known than his sister Sybil but equally versatile, Russell Thorndike's first love was writing and, after serving in World War I, he devoted himself to it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hythe railway station (Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway)</span>

Hythe station is the northern terminus of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. The station has curved platforms with an overall roof, loco release road, former engine shed, signalbox with 16 lever frame, and a turntable. In terms of passenger bookings Hythe is the busiest station on the railway.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Greatstone-on-Sea</span> Human settlement in England

Greatstone is a beach-side town, the third town up from the "point" of the Romney Marsh area of Kent. It is situated near the largest town there, New Romney in Kent, England. Although permission was given for a company to construct large numbers of homes and facilities in the 1920s, only a small number were actually built. There was widespread development in the 1960s and 1970s, however, leading to a sizable community. The church of St Peter's, built in the 1960s, is a daughter church of All Saints, Lydd, in which parish half of Greatstone is situated. It is in the civil parish of Lydd. There is a small group of shops at one end of the town, and the other end simply melds into Lydd-on-Sea. The local school is the Greatstone Primary School, from which most students either go on to The Marsh Academy, the Folkestone School for Girls or the Harvey Grammar School.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Old Romney</span> Human settlement in England

Old Romney is a village and civil parish in the Folkestone and Hythe district of Kent, England.

Newchurch is a village and civil parish in the Folkestone and Hythe District in Kent, England. The village is located on the Romney Marsh, 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Dymchurch

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Burmarsh</span> Human settlement in England

Burmarsh is a village and civil parish in the Folkestone and Hythe District of Kent, England. The village is located three miles (4.8 km) west of Hythe on the Romney Marsh. The Burmarsh Road connects the village to the once fully operating Burmarsh Road train station. The closest major settlement is Folkestone which is a minimum of 9.5 mile car journey.

<i>Doctor Syn</i> (film) 1937 British film

Doctor Syn is a 1937 British black-and-white historical dramatic adventure film, directed by Roy William Neill for Gainsborough Pictures. It stars George Arliss, Margaret Lockwood, Graham Moffatt, and Ronald Shiner. The film is based on the Doctor Syn novels of Russell Thorndike, set in 18th century Kent. The character of Syn and the events at the film's climax were both softened considerably in comparison to Thorndike's original storyline.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dymchurch Martello Tower</span> Martello Tower in Dymchurch, Kent, England

Dymchurch Martello Tower is a Martello tower in Dymchurch, Kent England. It stands immediately behind the sea wall.

Palmarsh is a community in Folkestone and Hythe district, in the County of Kent, England. In origin it was a hamlet on the edge of the Romney Marsh, but modern development to the west of Hythe in a corridor along the A259 coastal road, has led to the joining together of the ancient town and cinque port of Hythe and the rural hamlet of Palmarsh in a single conurbation.


  1. "Civil Parish population 2011". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  2. "Dymchurch:The Romans and the Sea Wall". Village Net: Dymchurch. Archived from the original on 21 January 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  3. The name given, historically, to any such tax raised to share burdens in a community: Concise Oxford Dictionary
  4. "Martello tower number 24". martello-towers.co.uk. Archived from the original on 28 March 2007. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  5. "Dymchurch and St Mary's Bay ward population 2011". Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  6. "Dymchurch Parish Council". www.dymchurch.org. Archived from the original on 25 September 2018. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  7. David Boyd Haycock, Paul Nash (2001), 38-40
  8. "First Men in the Moon (1964)". imdb.com.
  9. "Dymchurch Tourist Information". www.dymchurchonline.com. 2014. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  10. "Winners 2011". www.bciawards.org.uk. 2011. Archived from the original on 15 December 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
  11. "Dymchurch Primary School Ofstead Report". ofstead.gov.uk. ofstead. Archived from the original on 12 July 2020. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  12. "St. Peter and St. Paul's church website". Archived from the original on 13 April 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  13. "Tilney St Lawrence Memorial Norfolk". Archived from the original on 17 April 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  14. static.ofcom.org.uk/static/radiolicensing/html/radio-stations/community/cr103150ba1shorelinefm.htm

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Dymchurch at Wikimedia Commons

BOOK: Eighth Airforce Bomber stories AUTHOR: Ian McLachlan / Russell J Zorn Chapter 9: The Dymchurch Bomber Recounting the story of the USAAF Heavy Bomber that crashed in Lyndhurst Road.