Driving back from Ashford earlier this year I looked out for the chalk cross at Lenham. It’s a sight I have seen hundreds of times before but, this time, the sun was shining and the poppies were in flower, so I just had to take a photo.
Once home, I casually mentioned the scene to my mum and a few days later a copy of Kate Bergamar’s Discovering Hill Figures popped through my letterbox.
Draped across the hillside, the cross is 189 feet (57.6 metres) long and Kate’s book reveals that, at the end of the First World War, a collection was held in order to build a memorial for the forty-two men from the parish who had fallen during the conflict.
What to do with the funds, however, appears to have been hotly debated. In the end, a design for a simple chalk cross upon the Downs was proposed by Mr C.H. Groom, who in 1922 was the headmaster of the local village school, and this was accepted. A granite memorial stone, bearing the names of those it was dedicated to, was also to be erected and, overall, it was felt that the cross would provide a ‘highly visible landmark, not excessively expensive’ which ‘would provide a fitting focus for the annual Service of Remembrance’.
The Latin styled cross has certainly succeeded in its original aim and everyone who passes along the A20 is reminded of the men’s sacrifice. Its eye-catching design proved slightly problematic during WWII, however, and in order to remove the landmark from enemy sight, the cross was camouflaged with soil.