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The town lies at the intersection of two valleys in Kent – the south edge of the North Downs and the valley of the River Stour, at the confluence of the Great Stour and East Stour rivers. The Borough of Ashford lies on the eastern edge of the ancient forest of "Andredsweald" or "Anderida".This originally stretched as far west as Hampshire and formed the basis from which the Weald is formed.In the 16th and 17th centuries, Ashford became known for nonconformism.A local resident, John Brown, was executed for heresy in 1511, and may have inspired the later namesake of the song "John Brown's Body".The pottery industry expanded in the 13th and 14th centuries, with the main works based at what is now Potter's Corner, a few miles west of the town centre.Later evidence from examining waste suggests that production was on a large scale.A bomb fell on the railway works on 25 March 1917, killing 61 people, Ashford has been associated with the German town Bad Münstereifel since the 20th century.
A number of old buildings were removed to make way for the controversial ring road around the centre, including four public houses.Today, the church functions in a dual role as a centre for worship and entertainment.Ashford has two grammar schools; the Norton Knatchbull School and Highworth Grammar School.In the 1970s, a controversial ring road scheme and construction of the multi-storey Charter House building destroyed significant parts of the old town, though some areas were spared and preserved.
St Mary's Church in Ashford has been a local landmark since the 13th century, and expanded in the 15th.
Ashford has been a communications hub and has stood at the centre of five railway lines since the 19th century.