Ch 1

Cover

Train at station

CHAPTER ONE

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.


The Ossiferous Fissures of the Valley of the Shode

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.

Public Houses

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.

old_ black_ horse
The Old Black Horse, demolished 1901
rock tavern
The Rock Tavern, 1901, landlord Mr. C. Ransley

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.

Social Conditions

Snippets from earlier years

Poor House

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

15s 0d

1786 Paid Mr. Wells for the Wrotham Turnpike

£3

1795 Paid Morgan for carrying the poor people to Wrotham Pest House

1s

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

£12

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.

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20 responses to “Ch 1

  1. Re : A map of Kent, published January 1st, 1793 by J.Cary, Engraver & Map seller, Strand, London.

    I’ve had it hanging on the wall for nigh on the last 35 years, and hadn’t checked for BG – I hadn’t really expected to see same there.

    Well, now I’ve done my research – and it shows : ‘Borough Br.’ with representation of buildings at south side of BG Crossroads. Could that be Bridge,…or?

  2. Looking again at the map, there are Fifield Gr. and Colysore Gr. (Culverstone) south of Meopham – and Facombe Gr. (Fawkham) to the west.
    And south of Plaxtol are Dunks Gr., Elots Gr. and Goose Gr.
    But – being preceded by B-r in Borough, may have helped contribute to a mistake being made.

    • I cannot think that within the small triangle of BG’s centre that there would have been much needing a bridge.

      I remain less than convinced about the Green part meaning the green for the borough. This is because there was no clearly defined borough and the neighbouring settlements had plenty of green spaces of their own and the need so a separate allocation is not strongly set out.

  3. Sally Humphries

    Hello, the man outside the Rock Pub is Arthur Russell, not Mr Ransley. Arthur Russell was my grandfather and I think I have a copy of the original photo. This was when he was married to his first wife, who died after being hit on the head by the well bucket, leaving Arthur with 4 young children, all girls. I have the family bible which outlines who was born, when. He went on to have 6 further children with his second wife, Rosina. I have lots of photos of them. My Mum (his last daughter) died 2 years ago at the age of 92. Unfortunately, I never met either of my grandparents. However, I do have a collection of birth, death and marriage certificates as well as photos that go back to 1850s on my grandmother’s side.

  4. John Carruthers

    Sally:
    So, [copied from chapter 3] your grandfather had a greengrocer’s shop at the foot of Western Road.
    Was landlord of the Red Lion and The Rock simultaneously.
    Used the old chapel as a bothy for horse drivers at the Stone Quarry.
    And built the house [Toogood’s Dairy, when I attended school with Monica Toogood] next to The Rock.

    So Arthur Russell was a busy man indeed : the father of 10 children – and here I was, thinking that yourself and Stephen and Peter Russell – would have inherited piles of money!
    It would sure be good to see some of those photos on this website – with your Mum, and Stephen and Peter’s Dad pointed out..

  5. John Carruthers

    Sally:
    I vaguely seem to recollect a Mr. Humphries, who I think was connected with retail groceries or bakery products during the mid to late 1940s.
    I have a blurred picture of him in my mind, carrying /delivering a basket of same – and was wondering if he might be related to you.
    Thanks.

    • Sally Humphries

      Thanks for your recollections John. You correct that Arthur Russell ran the Greengrocers; my mum, Daphne, worked in there before, during and after with her brothers Ron and Sid. They often told me stories of having frozen hands when they had to pick the Brussel Sprouts in winter, or finding the odd, loose grape in the bottom of the tubs the bunches came in, that were filled with bran. I have recently moved house so when I dig out the boxes of photos I will post them (if I can work out how to do so!). It would be marvellous if you do recognise him from the photos!

      Best wishes, Sally

  6. Hi my name is Alan Cockrill,
    I found your site quite by accident, have read it all i’ve been looking for my Great Grandfather, Regier Frank Bryant whose wife was Jane Louise Bryant. I have documents from 1911 census place them in Gas Works House, Borough Green at that time. Reading through your site unfortunately it doesn’t mention them at all. I can’t even find Gas works house on any map i presume it has gone by now. I just wondered if you had any info or mention of there names at all.
    I would be very grateful if you had anything that would help me. Oh by the way Regier was born in 1884 Richmond, Surrey. And according to the census form he was a gas fitter.

    • Thanks for the commment. I am unlikely to be able to give more info on the family, I am sorry to say. Gas Works House was on the site now occupied by Chirnside’s near Long Pond, which does feature on this site. I do recall visiting when Dad was working for SEGAS. The gas works closed some years back and the building itself is no longer there, if I recall the location correctly. I think the Driver family ived there at one point, with whom Dad used to work. I would need to check that though.

  7. John Carruthers

    Sally : Thanks for that.
    ‘Sid’ was Stephen and Peter’s dad, and they lived in Western Road?
    Sid market gardened by Basted House during the 1940s/50s, supplying your grandmother with some of her greengrocery stock?
    I’ve been trying to place your mum Daphne – her name sort of rings a bell, and I’m wondering about her surname when married.

  8. Can anyone tell me about the land where Conyerd Road, leading up to Staleys road is?

    • Thanks for the comment / question. It may help if you might say quite what sort of information you are looking for.

      • Yes sorry I wasn’t very clear. I believe the land was farmland and there was some cottages which have since been dismolished, if anyone can reacall where these where? Thank you.

      • I have a development map drawn up by the the builders, probably Gouch Cooper, and will look to see if it pinpoints existing features. I think not as it sets out how the estate and roads will look. I do not recall any photos and would also guess that before the estate much of that land was in Ightham.

      • Yes I believe it was in Ightham. Before Gough Cooper acquired the land there is not much talk of the area, only of some of the houses to the top of Quarry hill road (which I believe was called Thong lane?) but nothing further down. Thank you for your response and a map would be great if you have one.

      • It’s more likely that the ightham Scociety may have details but I have o idea if they might charge for looking stuff out. I have a digital photo of the map. It’s too large to scan on a domestic scanner, being a development map.

      • I believe the land was previously owned by Charles and Marian Stone and was sold in 1959. I’m not sure if they were well known in the village at that time.
        Thank you for your time.

    • Ok thank you for your comments.

      • I have found the images for the development. They do not give detail of what went before and white-out the land to the south. A couple of buildings are shown on the Basted side of Conyerd Rd which I do not recall being there. Interestingly Tilton rd and Conyerd Rd names are swapped over – perhaps an inattentive draftsman?

  9. Thank you for taking time out to look at this for me. I know the land was originally owned by Charles Stone and sold in 1959, I’m not sure if he was a well known gentleman in the village?

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