Early Life, Folks and Fauna
Borough Green is situated around the junction of what is now the A25 and A227. This was the origin of the hamlet, an ideal spot for wheelwrights, blacksmiths and inns. The Roman Military Way Westward was the forerunner of the A25. Traders and merchandise from Gravesend proceeding to Tonbridge and beyond were the source of the A227 route. It was formed as a civil parish under the Kent Review Order of 1934. Prior to this it was part Wrotham and part Ightham and it is in their records that some history can be found.
Its name has had various spellings over the years – Barrow Green, 1575, 1587, Boroe Green 1594, Burrough Green, 1697, Burrow Green, 1713. The exact source of the name is unknown. The original parish of Wrotham was divided into six boroughs, Town, Stansted, Nepicar, Winfield, Roughwaye and Hale. It is thought that Borough Green was the site for games and sports for the area, not a village green, but a “Borough Green”. Another theory is that it was Barrow Green, of which there is some evidence. A further theory is that it was Boroe Green from the Anglo Saxon for a place of refuge.
A number of Roman cinerary urns were unearthed on Barrow Field, off Staley’s Road in 1839. On a farm, belonging to a Mr. Biggs at Borough Green, some labourers came upon a cinerary deposit, about the year 1839. Several of the urns were taken home by an old man working on the spot, but as this act was followed by bad luck or ill-health, he buried them in the garden. He regarded them as uncanny things, and the actual spot of their re-interment is unknown. In the 1880s on a site north of the station there was a much bigger and more important find. Sand was being excavated here and in 1899 a local archaeologist, Mr. Benjamin Harrison of Ightham, heard of some funeral urns. The owners had been destroying the remains as they were uncovered. Mr. Harrison persuaded them to stop and he called in Mr. George Payne, F.R.S., F.A.I. He identified them as Roman. There had been rows of them six feet apart and two feet deep. He made a list of those salvaged, some whole, some broken. The list is as follows:
1. Cinerary urn of red-brown ware containing calcined bones.
Height 12 ins, diameter 8 3/4 ins.
2. Ditto. Height 12 ins diameter 10 ins
3. Ditto. Height 12 ins, diameter 7 3/4 ins
4. Ditto. Much broken.
5. Patera of pseudo-Samian ware.
6. Ditto with leaf pattern.
7,8,9 Paterae of ditto, plain and broken.
10. Vase of Upchurch ware, ornamented with the usual dot pattern.
Height 6 18 ins, diameter 5 ins.
11. Ditto with square group of dots arranged diamond wise and repeated six times round the body of the vessel.
Height 4 5/8 ins, diameter of bulge 31/8 ins, mouth 2 ins, base 1 1/4 ins
12,13 . Vase of same ware, in fragments.
14. Cup of pseudo-Samian ware.
15,16. Goblets of red ware, in fragments.
Further deeper excavations revealed Belgic remains circa 100 BC. Certainly Borough Green had some Ancient Britons. At Stangate Quarry in July 1953 Messrs. C. Lowes and E. Maynard unearthed a Belgic cremation burial, now in Maidstone Museum.
In 1891 a ragstone quarry was re-opened, south of the A25. Large underground fissures were found and the owner, William Pink, called in experts from the R.G.S.,Over 100 species of vertebrates were identified. At the time it was the greatest discovery of such remains.
The photo was taken in 1894 on that part of the quarry at Basted called the Isles, now worked out. The exploration of the fissures was carried out by Messrs. B. Harrison, W.J. Newton Abbott, H.J. Osbourne White and E.T. Newton. Results were published in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society Vol. 1, page 171 and 188. Fauna and the bones of hundreds of animals were identified and thirty types of mollusca and eighty-four species of vertebrate were recognised. The vertebrates included among others mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, wolves, Norwegian and Arctic lemmings, brown bears, giant polecats, spotted hyenas, Siberian voles. Many of these are extinct, some are now only found in cold climates and others remain as indigenous species. Most date from the Pleistocene era, that is within the last million years, but some fossils may date from the Pliocene period and be up to 12 million years old. Both the River Shode and the now small stream from Borough Green washed into these fissures which were much larger then as the valleys themselves make plain. The landscape was also moulded by the Ice Age and its passing.
These fragments show the great variety in prehistoric life in the area. For a fuller account of this subject the reader is referred to the late F.J. Bennet’s book on Ightham. The prevalence of sand, ragstone and clay gave prosperity to the village and the arrival of the railway in 1874 boosted this trade tremendously. The former site of the famous Wrotham Slipware pottery is now within the parish bounds. It flourished from 1620 – 1718. One potter named John Eaglestone had descendants still owning land here in 1877, next to what is now Tudor Cottage on the Wrotham Road. Jugs, tygs, candlesticks, breakers, dishes and posset pots can be seen in many museums across the world. The Glaisher collection at the Fitzwilliam is the largest.
There was a white sand quarry on the site of the station and itinerant traders used to hawk the sand to publicans for floor coverage around the spitoons. The fertile loam in the area supported several farms (alas now built on) which gave employment to many families. Hops, fruit and cereals were the main crops. In 1573 the Virgin Queen passed through here on her way from Knole to Birling.
Further proof of Borough Green’s early origins can be found in the history of the ale houses. The Red Lion, formerly the White Bear, has been traced back to the 1500s. On 19 April 1586 Richard Chowning, being a common ale house keeper at Borough Green allowed in his house the unlawful game of common dicing, and was fined 2s 0d. On 4 October 1604 Richard Chowning, for not removing a stranger, was fined 3s 4d. The Black Horse, originally named the Bull, had a landlord named William Walters. On 5 April 1592 he was fined 3s 4d for harbouring a stranger. Two years later on 17 October he assaulted Walter Stayley of Ightham and drew blood. He was fined 3s 4d. The Licensed Victuallers Registers start at 1753, 1872 and 1903 as and when new laws were issued. Many inns appear as license renewals, including beer houses from 1872. Publicans were important figures in those days and quite often held the office of Village Constable, serving on the Vestry controlling the village. Their names appear in old records, handling building repairs and providing transport. They and their descendants held the property for generations. Most sales and auctions of land etc took place at licensed houses. In later years the Wrotham Urban District Council used to meet at the Railway Hotel on the last Monday in the month on or before the full moon.
Convictions against landlords were few. One mine host not too far from Borough Green in the 1900s was convicted of being drunk on the highway. The Inspector of Registers crossed it out at the next Sessions. He had to commit it on his premises for this to be recorded against him. One other was convicted of selling whisky 60% under proof. Whisky, gin and brandy were selling at three shillings and one penny a bottle in the 1890s.
As previously mentioned the Red Lion, then the White Bear, was in existence in 1586. In 1694 Thomas Haley, landlord, was “paid one shilling for Ye Queens Burial” ( Mary II, wife of William III). In 1753, when the Register opened, William Haley was mine host. An entry in Wrotham Church records a birth, “Sarah, natural daughter of Sarah Welch, the reputed father, Thomas Hawley at the Bear Inn.” The premises up until 1934 were in Ightham Parish. On 31 December 1902 Mr. Arthur Russell, landlord, had a silver medal presented to him as Primo, Royal Ancient Order of Buffaloes, the membership of which was over 150!
The Black Horse Inn was formerly called the Bull. The 1753 Register opens with William Walters as landlord, quite probably from the same stock as the Walters at the Bull in 1592. From Wrotham records we have “The Parish Constable, June ye 8 1748, William Walters for paid and Ascitance and for carting the woman to Meddistone Gaol, for eating and drinking three and sixpence.” William Walters died in 1774 and his wife Elizabeth held the license until 1795, when she died of the smallpox aged 80. A Robert Evenden changed the name to the Black Horse in 1804. I have a list of all the landlords of this inn from 1753 to the present day.
Under the Enclosure Act of 1814 a sale of 15 acres of waste land was held at the Bull Hotel in Wrotham in 1815. A William Williams paid £60 for 2 acres. He subsequently built the Fox and Hounds and in 1837 we find Rebecca Williams having a six day beer house. In 1872 it was owned by a Mr. Biggs, William Eversfield being the landlord. In 1900 it was owned by Walter Morgan of Nepicar Brewery. William Eversfield was a wheelwright, his wife was Jane. They had three daughters and one son. They also had a lodger, a retired grocer from Marden. William probably worked for Henry Malyan whose premises were behind Knole Cottage. Henry is buried in the chapel cemetery.
The Rock Public House is shown on the 1841 Tythe map, described as a chapel, owners being Trustees. The actual chapel was a building with a steeple and bell tower, demolished in 1904 when Mr. A. Russell built the Laurels. Later Poor Relief records name it as a Friends Meeting House. The 1891 census calls it the Chapel House, occupied by William and Maria Mercer. In the 1872 Register it is a beer house with Mary Cheeseman in charge. Presumably she had a husband, so the premises opened between 1861-1872. Alas in 1993 the site has gone to the developer.
The Railway Hotel is much younger, built circa 1878. The first landlord shown in 1879 is James Edward Shrubsole who was also mine host of the Bull at Wrotham. Henry Simonds of Crouch House was the first owner followed by Style and Winch. One of the stables was used for some years as a mortuary by the Wrotham Urban D.C. A feature of the place was a magnificent Chile Pine which unfortunately fell victim to the hurricane of October 1987.
Wrotham Town Surveyors Book
1776 – 1796
A list of the inhabitants liable for duty according to their respective dues and work done. Surveyors were appointed each year by the Vestry to collect rents which were actually rates applied to freehold property owners. At the end of the year the books were inspected by the magistrates. Many publicans are named as paying rents and finding the necessary labour.
Many names are still with us: Bennett, Crowhurst, Chalklin, Edmeads and Hubble to name but a few. Workers were :
Mick Whiffen paid £6 16s 6d for 91 days works;
Mr. Bennett paid 6s 6d for the hire of his horse and cart and three loads of stones;
Mr. Chapman paid £4 16s 9d for 64 days and his boy £1 18s 9d for 79 days.
Borough Green Road and Thong Lane were constantly being repaired. A labourer was paid 1s 6d per day, boys at the rate of 9d. In 1786 the rent was extended to every house and many amounts of 2d are listed. Each surveyor recorded their work in beautiful copper plate writing.
Snippets from earlier years
The cottages on the right at the top of Quarry Hill Road were used for this purpose.
The Wrotham Overseers were rated:
1729 The Officer of the Parish for the Workhouse at Borough Green
1786 Paid Mr. Wells for the Wrotham Turnpike
1795 Paid Morgan for carrying the poor people to Wrotham Pest House
Paid John Glover of the Parish of Wrotham for four people sent to the Pest House with the smallpox five weeks at 12s each per week
1760 People were paid for getting rid of vermin
April 7 paid at the Vestry
Thos. Everest 6 haghog (hedgehog) 2s
Dame Eagelstone 1 haghog 4d
Thos Halley 1 haghog 4d.