History of Blean

The village has a long history and is situated equidistant from the City of Canterbury and the coastal port of Whitstable.

The village name of Blean is thought to have derived from the Old English word ‘blea’ which means rough ground. Records show that the name has been spelt in its current form since 724.

Unlike the typical nucleated English village, which has a single centre of settlement round its church or manor house, Blean would appear to resemble other small villages and hamlets in Kent which are located in areas that were heavily forested. As larger settlements expanded additional pasturage was sought on areas of less fertile soil and cleared areas were only used for summer pasture with a return to the chief settlements for the winter months. Gradually the summer shelters turned into permanent settlements. The ‘Old English’ word ‘blea’ would appear to suggest that the current village of Blean could have originated as one of these small summer settlements serving perhaps the larger settlements of Canterbury or Whitstable.

From the1st to the 3rd centuries a Roman villa existed to the south-west of the site of the present day church. It has been suggested that, in 598, monks accompanying Augustine from Rome, set up a shrine to the Saints Cosmus and Damian who were well known in Rome at that time. The shrine was located on the ancient Salt Road which was the main thoroughfare from Seasalter and Whitstable to Canterbury, and runs past the site of the present day church. The Domesday Book (1086) records twelve farmsteads or holdings in the area and in the 13th century a fortified manor was known to have existed on the same site as the villa. At that time the church would probably have been a wooden structure within the fortifications. The present church dates from around 1233 and was rebuilt, by order of the Crown, at a cost of £20.3s.8d. A Victorian extension was made during the 1830’s and the original appearance was totally altered.

In 1359 the lordship of the manor was formally confirmed. It seems that the manor went into decline and was abandoned in the late 14th or early 15th century due to fire damage. There followed a decline in population in the area around the church which can probably be linked to both the Black Death and the drift towards settling closer to roadways that were becoming more widely used. As the track along the route of today’s Canterbury to Whitstable road grew in popularity a few dwellings were built along that route near to a necessary source of water – the Sarre-Penn brook. In the 1800’s the track developed into a Turnpike road and more dwellings were built along its route drawing people away from the location of the church and thus leaving the church standing on the edge of the village as it is today.

The centre of the village is now located around the area where Tyler Hill Road meets with the main road from Canterbury to Whitstable.