Westerham is a town and civil parish in the Sevenoaks District of Kent, in South East England with 5,000 people. The parish is south of the North Downs, ten miles west of Sevenoaks. It covers . It is recorded as early as the 9th century, and was mentioned in the Domesday Book in a Norman form, Oistreham (compare Ouistreham in Normandy, Oistreham in 1086).Hām is Old English for a village or homestead, and so Westerham means a westerly homestead and the source of the English word "home". The River Darent flows through the town, and formerly powered three watermills.
There is evidence that the area around Westerham has been settled for thousands of years: finds such as a Celtic fortification (c 2000 BC) and a Roman road are close by, along with the remains of a Roman encampment just past the ruins a of tower south of the town at the summit of Tower Woods.
The tower dates back to the 18th century, and was originally constructed by an ancestor of the Warde family, the present owners of Squerryes Court as a folly for their children's amusement. A romantic, if erroneous, theory is that the folly is in fact a medieval watchtower, a tale which has been further embellished by a few fanciful locals who insist that it may have been the holding place for Anne Boleyn on her journey from Hever Castle to London for her trial and execution. (Anne Boleyn's family originally hailed from Chiddingstone and then, later, owned and lived at Hever Castle. King Henry VIII is reported to have, on Anne Boleyn's execution, confiscated Hever Castle and kept it as his own). No evidence for this theory exists, and indeed it conflicts with the knowledge and belief of the Warde family themselves.
The manor was originally run by Godwin, Earl of Wessex and later by his son Harold Godwinson the last Saxon King of England. The first Norman lord of Westerham was Eustace II of Boulogne, and the town appears in the Domesday Book as Oistreham. By 1227 Henry III granted Westerham a market charter, making the new village a major player in the buying and selling of cattle in Kent, a tradition that survived to 1961 when the last cattle market was held. St Mary's Church is thought to date from the 13th century, although it is much altered in Victorian times. In 1503 the Protestant martyr John Frith was born in the town.
The Warde family have lived at Squerryes Court since 1731, their home is a tourist attraction. Interior and exterior scenes for the 2009 BBC mini-series Emma were shot at Squerryes Court with the house appearing as Emma Woodhouse's home Hartfield, while exterior scenes were shot at Chilham, Kent.
General James Wolfe was born in the town in 1727 at what is now known as the Old Vicarage due to a terrible storm on the night he was born. He lived in Quebec House - many streets and buildings are named after him and St Mary's contains not only the font in which he was baptised but also a memorial window to him by Edward Burne-Jones. The town square contains statues to both Wolfe and Churchill.
Alice Liddell, cited as the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's children's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland lived in the Vicarage for a brief period. Alice rented 'The Breaches' just before she died and then when she became very ill she went to stay with her sister Rhoda at Hoseyrigge in Westerham' She was born at Westminster and when she died aged 82 a memorial service was held for at St Mary's Church. She was not buried in Westerham. Brian Higgins and his famous pop music production team Xenomania, who have provided hit singles and albums for artists such as Girls Aloud, Kylie Minogue, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys, Texas and Franz Ferdinand now occupy what used to be known as the Old Vicarage.
During a January 1967 visit to Knole Park in Sevenoaks to shoot a promotional film for Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, John Lennon stopped into a Westerham antiques shop and purchased a poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal, which later inspired the song, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
As well as the parish church (a Grade II*-listed building), there is a Grade II-listed chapel associated with the Congregational Federation and a Roman Catholic church. Westerham Evangelical Congregational Church dates from 1839 and St John the Baptist's Church opened for the Catholic community in 1955.