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Transport and communications

Carriers and stage coaches

Ashford was designated a post town in 1675, and mail was carried to Maidstone and Canterbury throughout the next two centuries. Roads improved after the introduction of the turnpikes 1762-1795, but even then the maintenance of Ashford bridge continued to cause problems. The bridge had been rebuilt in 1638, but the twelve complaints registered between 1709 and 1795 suggest that it was little improvement on its precursor. Nevertheless, by 1830 Ashford was the centre of coaching routes to Hythe, Maidstone and Canterbury. After the railway came in 1842 a network of horse-drawn coaches and carts linked the villages to their nearest railway station.

The railway

The South Eastern Railway line from London to Dover, via Ashford was opened in 1842, and the Ashford to Canterbury line was opened three years later.

In 1847 the engineering workshops of the South Eastern Railway opened in south Ashford. Alfred Town, an estate of 72 workmen's cottages, was built to house the employees. Soon renamed New Town Estate, it was provided with a general store, public baths, a school, a small reading room and library, a church and a Mechanics' Institute (but no public house until The Locomotive was built in 1866). This was one of the earliest examples of industrial planning in England, comparable with Bourneville in Birmingham and the railway towns of Crewe and Swindon. By 1851 the workshops were supporting almost 3,000 people, including wives and children of the workmen

The Ashford, Rye and Hastings line was built in 1850, and in the same year carriage and wagon departments were established at the workshops. By 1865 the volume of goods and passengers had increased so much that Ashford railway station had to be reconstructed. Ashford West goods station opened in 1884 and remained a passenger station until the company merger in the early twentieth century. It was a goods station for many years. The engineering workshops were enlarged in 1894 and 1900.

In 1912 New Town Estate was expanded to 272 houses and a girls' school was built. When the Southern Railway Company was formed by amalgamation in 1922 the engineering works at Ashford were retained.

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