The Snowdown colliery pit head was located about two miles south of Aylesham and raised its first coal in 1912, five years after initial excavations began. It was the first commercially viable pit in the county and by the following year was raising 800 tons of coal a week from a depth of nearly 1,400 feet. Pearson& Dorman Long purchased the colliery in 1924.
Snowdown was often known as Dante’s Inferno owing to the sheer heat and humidity. Sometimes miners would be working at more than 3,000 feet below ground, finding it more comfortable to work naked while cutting coal.
Industrial relations in the Kent coalfield were often tense and there were a number of disputes over the years. Matters came to a head in 1984 with a national miners’ strike. This would last for a year and proved very difficult for all involved. With the resulting downsizing of the industry that followed, Snowdown, along with nearby Tilmanstone colliery finally ceased operations in 1987.
The danger of relying entirely on one form of employment had been recognised in Aylesham several years before. In the 1960s, the parish council successfully campaigned for an industrial estate to be built at Cooting Road. Another would follow in the early 1990s off Ackholt Road.
At around this time, initial discussions took place around building new houses and shops in Aylesham. It took 15 years of negotiation and planning before the first bricks were laid to build the Aylesham Garden Village development of 1,200 new homes, on farmland just off Dorman Avenue North. The layout of the development keeps to the design principle of Abercrombie’s original plan of semi-circular main roads with smaller ones radiating from them.
The first 200 properties had been built and occupied by 2016 with the remaining 1,000 expected to take between eight and 10 years to complete. By then, the population will have grown from about 5,000 in 2015 to a figure which is set to be greater than the market town of Sandwich, about 12 miles from Aylesham.