New development embraces a colourful history at Kings Hill
Kings Hill, located to the south of the village of West Malling in north Kent, has been taking shape since the late 1980s. Together with approaching 3,000 new homes, the 800-acre village also has a large employment zone providing opportunities for some 5,000 jobs and a wealth of shops and amenities.
It has won a number of awards and is hailed as an exemplar of its type, transforming the former site of RAF West Malling in to a brand new community. Across the whole village, there are numerous reminders of its former military role. There are streets and developments named in memory of key figures involved with the airfield since its founding in the First World War and an array of public artworks that commemorate aspects of its operations.
The latest of these was unveiled this September. ‘Kings Hill…A Place of Landings’ was commissioned by Kings Hill developer Liberty Property Trust UK and Kent County Council and is centred around the Art Deco Control Tower that has been retained on the site.
It comprises several different elements, including brass reliefs, large-scale roundels embedded in the ground, and word trails. They represent some of the aircraft which operated from the airfield, slang and anecdotes recalled by the veterans stationed here and one even shows the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour bus, recollecting the time that the Fab Four filmed their surreal movie on the airfield.
“Public artwork has significantly contributed towards the highly aspirational new community we see today and which has been recognised nationally as best practice in placemaking and new community creation,” said John Simmonds, deputy leader of Kent County Council, at the unveiling of these artworks. “Kings Hill is a ‘garden village’, demonstrating the benefits of an excellent and well-balanced public/private sector collaboration.”
Kings Hill has been developed by Liberty Property Trust, which has overseen the creation of homes by many of the UK’s best housebuilders over more than 20 years. It has also ensured that the original vision of Kings Hill as a place to live has been seen through, involving the creation of its employment zone and amenities which now include two primary schools, a village green and pub, an 18-hole golf course, two major supermarkets, numerous other small shops and businesses, medical and community centres, a nature park and a host of sports facilities.
Consistently cited as a model from which other mooted ‘garden villages’ across the UK should learn, Kings Hill continues to develop and forge a future that may be as significant as its past.
- The cricket green (complete with the village pub, The Spitfire) is one of Kings Hill’s most treasured amenities. The cricket club was established in 2006 and now runs several teams for players of all ages.
- The control tower was built in 1942 and is considered a fine example of Art Deco architecture. It has been restored and extended, now providing a cultural centre, café and office space.
- There are numerous public art works located all over the Kings Hill site, such as this one, called Tug of War. Cast in bronze, this work by W Stanley Proctor was installed in 2002.
- In summer 2013, the people of Kings Hill commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters. The squadron’s commander Guy Gibson was based at RAF West Malling (on the site of which Kings Hill is built) with 29 Squadron in 1941. A Spitfire flew down from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to perform a flypast over the event.
- One of the guests of honour at the Dambusters event was 89-year-old Warrant Officer Neville Croucher, who was based at RAF West Malling during the War. Neville recalled how orders were received from the Control Tower and how he was kept on there afterwards, saying: “By the end I’d clocked up 800 hours and 20 minutes of flying time. I was a Warrant Officer and we were looked after very well. The contrast between being at war was huge – it was a different world.”
- In September 2014, the latest public artwork “Kings Hill...A Place of Landings” was unveiled, developed and written by curators Futurecity, designed by artist Richard Wolfströme and fabricated by Millimetre. Community engagement consultants Futurecreative gathered stories, memories and poems about Kings Hill and West Malling via community engagement sessions, school workshops and hundreds of postcards sent out in the local area, inviting contributions. Local historian Peter Hall authenticated the information used in the artworks.
- Kings Hill Golf Club offers an 18-hole course designed by David Williams with a links-style terrain. Established in 1995, the Club is a major focal point for the village and attracts players from all over the local area and further afield. Players of all ages and abilities are welcome, and the Club has been awarded Golfmark (incorporating Clubmark) status, a national scheme that identifies and recognises junior- and beginner-friendly golf facilities at high-quality courses.
- New homes continue to be built at Kings Hill. Crest Nicholson is currently building Woodland Place, a collection of two- and three-bedroom cottages and four- and five- bedroom houses. Current prices from £312,000 to £512,000.
- Hillreed Homes, which specialises in homes inspired by the Kent vernacular architectural style, is now working on its latest Kings Hill homes at The Poppies, a scheme of two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom homes. Current prices from £258,000 to £464,950.
- Bellway Homes is the third housebuilder with a scheme underway at Kings Hill at Signature, a development of two-bedroom apartments alongside houses with two to five bedrooms. Current prices from £242,995 to £548,995.