The original village of Walmer is, today, usually referred to as Upper Walmer. It developed around a Manor House and an associated farm and the Old St Mary's Church, both built in the early 12th century.
The original St Mary Parish Church Upper Walmer shops Entrance to Walmer Court, Church Street
The original St Mary Parish Church Upper Walmer shops Entrance to Walmer Court, Church Street

Cottages for workers and tradesmen soon followed and by Victorian times the small agricultural community had become a thriving village containing the Manor House (Walmer Court), its farm and the church together with a school, shops, inns, a large brewery and a convent with a chapel.

The brewery, originally Tudor, probably had the most significant impact on the area. In 1816 Edmund Thompson acquired the brewery and operated it as Thompson & Sons. In 1867 John Matthews bought the business. He greatly expanded and modernised it but kept the title of Thompson Brewery. Eventually the maltings, bottling plants, brew house and stables - complete with a blacksmith - covered a large area in the village and created much employment. Further houses were bought in Dover Road for use as offices and to house staff, and a long terrace of brick cottages was built in Belmont to house more workers. Production ceased at the brewery in 1974 and it was demolished in 1981 to make way for the housing development at Downlands. An old bell - once housed in the belfry at the brewery - can be seen in the last remaining public house in the village, The Thompson Bell on the Dover Road.

Across Dover Road from the brewery was a large builder's yard owned by the Denne family. Major players in brick-making and building trades for over 400 years, they built the seawall in Ramsgate as well as houses and civic buildings all over East Kent. Wellington House on Dover Road, owned by Mr. William Denne, was sold in 1887 but the adjacent builder's yard was retained and only closed at the end of the 20th century when it was developed as St. Margaret's Close.

The Dover Road at Upper Walmer The Convent Church The Thompson Bell public house
The Dover Road at Upper Walmer The Convent Church The Thompson Bell public house
Fleeing from persecution in Poland and Germany, the Convent of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary moved to Walmer in 1875. It occupied Roselands, an estate of seven acres with a large late-18th Century Georgian house on the eastern side of Dover Road. The main convent building was completed in 1881, followed by the Sisters' Choir and the Gothic Chapel of the Sacred Heart, designed by Pugin, in 1890. The convent, an enclosed order, left Walmer in 1971 because of increasing traffic noise. Most of the convent was demolished in 1982 and its land used for housing on Roselands and Poet's Walk. However, its walls and the chapel were retained. The chapel's impressive tower, immediately beside the Dover Road, is a distinctive landmark.

Unsurprisingly, many other buildings at Upper Walmer have altered over the centuries. Some of the shops, the schoolhouse and two of the inns are now converted into dwellings.

However, the old St Mary's Church - set in a burial ground in Church Street - remains and communion services are still held there every Thursday morning. The tiny church features rough flint walls with a single aisle, nave and chancel. It was possibly built as a chapel for the d'Auberville family who came with the Norman Conquest. The ruins of their original Manor House can be seen from the churchyard and are now an Ancient Monument. A yew beside the church porch is estimated to be 1,000 years old. The Duke of Wellington regularly attended services in the church and is rumoured to have had a tendency to nod off if the sermon proved too long.

Walmer Court, with its small flint gatehouse and long wooded drive, has been converted into flats. Much of Upper Walmer is included in a designated Conservation Area which offers important safeguards against unsympathetic future development.

The above article is based on information derived from The Walmer Design Statement
(published by Walmer Parish Council) and various other sources.