A History of YALDING, Kent, England


In the Church Guide is a photograph of the Blunden Window in the chancel there.
At the window dedication service on Friday 28th September 1979, he was quoted as being “a man of peace, kindly and unassuming, whom war impelled to be a soldier, and brought him a title of poet of peace and war". Part of the engraving is of a trench, rusted barbed wire as living briar, and shell burst as a tree in blossom. The photograph was made more dramatic by capturing the grass from the churchyard. The other pane contains three verses from his celebrated poem "Report on Experience". Many of his poems derive from the life and landscape of rural Kent.
His father Charles Edmund, an only child, was born in 1871. He decided to take up teaching as a profession and became a pupil teacher in Maidstone in 1886, before moving to Chelsea.
Charles Edmund Blunden and his wife Georgina Margaret (nee Tyler) trained as teachers, he at the College of St, Mark and St. John, and she at Whitelands College, London. They met at St. John's School, Fitzroy Square and were married at nearby St. John's Church. Both church and school were destroyed in World War II. Georgina's mother, also Georgina Margaret, had by 1890 been admitted to the mental asylum at Barming, where she stayed until her death in 1911. Edmund recalls visiting Barming, and was thus provided with personal details for his later poem “Mental Hospital”.
On 1st November 1896, Edmund Charles Blunden was born at the family home in Tottenham Court Road, London and in 1898 a daughter, Charlotte, was born at Sandgate, Kent, the home of Charles' mother.
About 1898 Charles and his family moved to Framfield, East Sussex, where he took charge of the school. Then, in 1900, they moved to Yalding where he took the Headship of the Boys' School, now the Lower School and housing the reception classroom, library and resources room. They lived in the adjacent school house, which is now all used by the school.
Their garden consisted of what is now the infants' lawn together with part of the present cemetery. Externally the house and school have changed little since their days, but the two south facing classroom doors were inserted in the early 1970's. Whilst at Yalding Charles served for twelve years as church organist, remembered by a brass plate on the side of the organ console He was a keen cricketer, being a fine left arm bowler, and serving as Secretary/Treasurer of Yalding Cricket Club. On occasions the Vicar would call and take him from his work to play cricket! Charles was never connected with Cleaves school as some records state.
Five further children were born at the Boys' School House, Gilbert in 1900, Phyllis in 1901, Lancelot in 1902, Geoffrey in 1904 and Annie in 1906. A move was made to Congelow Farmhouse, Benover Road, then one large house, and Frances was born there in 1908. However, Congelow proved to be a cold house and three moves followed in cuick succession, to Roslin, Benover Road, where Hubert John was born in 1910, to Burnt Oak, Benover, and finally by 1912 to the Lock Keeper's cottage near Twyford Bridge, situated almost opposite the Anchor Hotel and set some distance back from the road, and which was demolished in 1968, The family had become progressively poorer and at times found life very difficult.
Georgina Blunden was Head Mistress of Yalding Infants School, now part of our Upper School alongside Vicarage Road. She is said to have taken six weeks' leave before each birth and six weeks leave afterwards. Admission registers show that Edmund started school at Framfield, presumably when he was just three. Still only three he was admitted to his mother's school on 29th January 1900. He was taught by the assistant teacher Mrs. Mitchiner, with whom he kept in touch until 1964, when she was 90. His time was punctuated by a period in a dame school in the village run by two ladies.
It is assumed that Edmund transferred to Yaldinq Boys' School before entering Cleaves Grammar School (on the north side of Yalding village green) in 1907. Academically he was an able boy and in 1909 he won a scholarship to Christ's Hospital School near Horsham, Sussex, in 1914 he became Senior Grecian, that is Head Boy, and won the Senior Classics Scholarship to Queen's College, Oxford, but volunteered for war service. He joined the 11th Batallion, Royal Sussex Regiment, served in France and was awarded the Military Cross.