Brookland is a small village, five miles west of New Romney, on the edge of Romney Marsh. Tourists are attracted by the unusual bell tower of St. Augustine’s Church. This sixty feet high three tier structure, is completely separate from the church building and resembles the stave churches seen in Norway. The wooden bell tower dates from 1260, the same period as the main church building. It was originally an open square structure, which supported a single bell. It was changed to an octagonal design in 1450, when it was enclosed. The current cedar cladding dates from 1936. The tower was constructed away from St. Augustine’s Church to avoid excessive weight on the church, bearing in mind the soft marshy ground on which the church sits. The church contains a round beaten lead font of Norman French origin, but it is not known how it was obtained. It is regarded as the foremost example of the lead fonts, which exist in England. It portrays the typical labours of the months of the year, using signs of the zodiac to represent the twelve months. St. Augustine’s Church has a timber 14th century north porch with half doors.
The locality of the village has meant that smugglers, in the 19th century, sought refuge in the village from the authorities. They often hid in the church. Pear Tree House was the home of a doctor who was forced to treat wounded smugglers. In 1821, a battle took place between the Aldington Gang, a notorious band of smugglers and the Customs and Excise Men. Five smugglers were killed and many injured. The gang leader, Cephus Quested was tried and hung at Newgate Prison in London.
In recent years, Brookland has lost most of its shopping facilities, but still has two pubs. The Royal Oak, next to the church, was constructed in 1570, as a dwelling for St. Augustine’s Parish Clerk and Sexton. This continued until the 18th century, when a licence was granted to “suffer ale to be tippled”. At one time, the pub was called the Ewe and Yew. The pub attracts many tourists who come to visit the curious bell tower.
The Woolpack Inn is one mile south of Brookland. It dates back six hundred years and was a smugglers haunt. It has a large inglenook fireplace and quarry tiled bar.