Ashford in 1836 (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)
ASHFORD, a market-town in Kent, on the west side of the Stour, just below the confluence of the two upper branches : it is on the road from London (through Maidstone) to Folkestone, 53 miles from London, 19 from Maidstone, and 14½ from Canterbury. It is called in Doomsday book both Estefort and Essetesford, and in other ancient records Esshetisford, taking its name from the Esshe or Eschet, a now obsolete designation of the west branch of the Stour from its source near Lenham to this place.
The situation of this town is pleasant and healthy, being on a small eminence, with a gentle ascent to it on every side. The houses are well built, and the main street (through which the Folkestone road passes) is of considerable width, and is paved. The market house is in the centre of it, and the church on the south side. At the east end of the town is a stone bridge of four arches over the river Stour. The market is on Saturday. There is a monthly fair or market for the sale of fat and lean stock, held on the first Tuesday in the month ; and there are four other fairs, as far as we can gather from our authorities. Several genteel families reside in the town. The population of the parish in 1831 was 2,809.
Adjoining the church is a grammar-school of some repute, founded in the reign of Charles I. by Sir Norton Knatchbull. The master is still appointed by the Knatchbull family.
The church is in the form of a cross, with a tower rising from the centre, lofty and well-proportioned, and surmounted by four pinnacles. The church is in the perpendicular style, and has some good doorways and windows. Several sumptuous monuments of the Smyth family are in a chapel adjoining the south transept. The tower was erected in the reign of Edward IV by Sir John Fogge, who also much repaired, if he did not rebuild, the church; and founded a college or choir (consisting of the vicar as master or prebendary, two fit chaplains, and two lay clerks), which appears to have been suppressed before the Reformation. A chantry founded in the time of Edward III was also suppressed during the progress of the Reformation. The living is a vicarage in the presentation of the dean and chapter of Rochester. There are places of worship for different denominations of dissenters : also two national schools, one for boys and one for girls.
The greater part of the parish constitutes what is termed the liberty of the town of Ashford, and is separated from the jurisdiction of the hundred. It has a constable of its own. The town is governed by a mayor, and has a court of record every three weeks for all actions of debt or damages not exceeding twenty marks (£6, 13 shillings, 4 pence.)