It is most famous for the nearby medieval manor of Ightham Mote (National Trust) although the village itself is of even greater antiquity. Ightham is not mentioned in Domesday Book but place name evidence implies the name is derived from the Saxon 'Ehtaham'. 'Ehta' is a Jutish personal name, while 'ham' means settlement. The source of the River Bourne is within the parish.
The parish church dates from the 12th century and in 1336 Edward II granted a request for permission to hold an annual fair in the village.
Ightham was famous for growing Kentish cob nuts. These seem to have been cultivated first by a James Usherwood who lived at Cob Tree Cottage. There was a public house nearby called the Cob Tree Inn but which has now reverted back to a private house. There are still a number of cob trees in and around the village, but the work of pruning them and picking the nuts is labour intensive and the industry has fallen into decline.
One of the great village characters was Benjamin Harrison, who lived from 1837 to 1921. He was a grocer by trade, but an archaeologist by inclination. He won international recognition as a pioneer in the subject. He found flints in the pre-glacial drift on the North Downs near Ash, which he contended were artefacts, thus vastly antedating the antiquity of man.
It was at Ightham Church, in 1570, that William Lambarde, author of the first English county history, A Perambulation of Kent, married his first wife, Jane.
Lord Eversley (when Mr. George John Shaw-Lefevre), and his wife, Constance, lived at Oldbury Place in Ightham during the time he was Postmaster General. He was responsible for carrying the Act of Parliament that established sixpenny telegrams. Although, in 1877, it had only been possible to send a telegram via Wrotham Telegraph Station, in 1884 the first sixpenny telegram was sent from the House of Commons, received by the Postmaster of Ightham, Joshua Durling, and dispatched to Oldbury Place.
Ightham also has its own football team, Ightham FC. Home games are played at the recreation ground adjoining the A25.