Located on the River Great Stour which provides power for the paper mills. The name literally means ‘Village on rough ground’, and the word "Chart" is also found in other villages in Kent with this meaning. Paper making has been a major occupation for the last 625 years. The Paper Mill in Chartham dates from the late eighteenth century and specialises in the production of tracing paper. In the summer, many caravans park up outside the Paper Mill in their annual Caravan Paper convention.
The village is served by Chartham railway station.
The church of St Mary the Virgin, is located next to the village green and is remarkable for containing the oldest peal of bells in Kent. It was built in approximately 1294 and features a number of impressive brasses, including that of St Robert de Setvans.
The village is continuous with the smaller Shalmsford Street to the west, and was until recently the location of St Augustine's Mental Hospital, formerly known as the East Kent Lunatic Asylum. The site on which St Augustine's stood has now become a housing estate. The northern, upper, part of the village is known as Chartham Hatch. The civil parish area also includes Mystole and the village is part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.