Aldington is a village and civil parish in the Ashford District of Kent, England. The village centre is eight miles (12 km) south-east of the town of Ashford. As with the village centre, set on a steep escarpment above agricultural Romney Marsh and the upper Stour is Aldington Knoll, which was used as a Roman burial barrow and later beacon; it has a panorama towards the English Channel and of low land such as Dungeness.
The village of Aldington is steeped in history: more than 50 buildings of historical or architectural interest are in the civil parish. Beside the church was one of the Archbishop of Canterbury's palaces, of which only ruins remain. Court Lodge Farmhouse was its manor house and hunting lodge, particularly favoured and improved by Archbishops Morton (1486-1500) and Wareham (1508-1532), both of whom also embellished the adjacent parish Church of St. Martin. The house, park and chase (1000 acres) were bought and extended by Henry VII of England in 1540, the whole complex said to have 5 kitchens, 6 stables and 8 dovecotes.
After the Napoleonic Wars, Aldington was the stronghold of The Aldington Gang, an infamous band of smugglers who roamed the marshes and shores of Kent plying their trade. The gang's leaders, Cephas Quested and George Ransley, natives of Aldington, made the Walnut Tree inn (see below) their headquarters and drop for their contraband. High up on the southern side of the inn is a small window through which the gang would shine a signal light to their confederates on Aldington Knoll.
Aldington Knoll itself is the subject of local and wider legend. Traditionally, it is said to be the burial site of a giant and his sword and is protected by murderous ghouls who will kill anyone attempting to flatten the area. Ford Maddox Hueffer's poem "Aldington Knoll" is inspired by this legend. Others, including HG Wells, with is lush wooded slopes have suggested that it is the entrance to a fairyland.
In 1511 Erasmus of Rotterdam, the theologian and scholar, was appointed rector of Aldington by Archbishop Warham. He lived at the rectory next to the church in what is now called Parsonmage Farm. Erasmus spoke Latin and Dutch but no English. He could therefore not preach to the English congregation and resigned one year later after a kidney complaint, which he blamed on the local beer.
Elizabeth Barton born in the village in 1506, became a maid to one of the local families, but claimed she had visions. She was provided a place in the convent at Canterbury, and through some manipulation by Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More she prophesied that King Henry VIII would die a villain's death if he divorced Catherine of Aragon.