Ashford is a town in the county of Kent, England. It lies on the River Great Stour at the southern or scarp edge of the North Downs, about 61 miles (98 km) southeast of central London and 15.3 miles (24.6 km) northwest of Folkestone by road. In the 2011 census, it had a population of 74,204. The name comes from the Old English æscet, indicating a ford near a clump of ash trees. It has been a market town since the Middle Ages, and a regular market continues to be held.
St Mary's Church in Ashford has been a local landmark since the 13th century, and expanded in the 15th. Today, the church functions in a dual role as a centre for worship and entertainment.
The arrival of the railways from the mid 19th century onwards, created a significant source of employment contributing to the town's growth as a rail hub at the centre of five distinct railway lines. The high speed rail line (HS1 High Speed 1) between London and the Channel Tunnel passes through Ashford's International Railway Station thus linking the town to Paris and other European destinations. The M20 motorway connects Ashford to the Channel Tunnel, the national motorway network (via the M25 Motorway) and to London (via the A20).
Ashford has been marked out for growth in several Government plans from the 1960s onwards. In the 1970s, the construction of a controversial four-lane ring road together with the multi-storey Charter House building led to the destruction of significant parts of the old town although some areas were spared and preserved. Other changes in the last 40 years include the construction of the County Square shopping centre, the redevelopment of the Templer Barracks at Repton Park, the Finberry estate to the southeast, and the award-winning Ashford Designer Outlet.