The village started to grow in the 1830s. The houses and shops, with the exception of what is at present Circle C supermarket, from the Village Hall Car Park to the existing cycle shop were built in the 1830s. A firm called Spencer who owned Platt Brickyard were the builders. They also built Spencer Cottages in Station Road in the 1870s. Chapel Street from the Red Lion to the Rock Public House had many Seventeenth Century houses, some of which still exist.
In 1841 the census returns show 70 houses with 186 males and 174 females. The Basted Paper Mills were insolvent at the time so only 3 paper makers were listed. There were 41 agricultural labourers, 4 carpenters, 2 shoemakers, 2 smiths, 2 wheelwrights, 2 lawyers, 1 school mistress (private), 2 dressmakers, 1 publican (Black Horse), 1 beer retailer (Fox and Hounds), 1 tailor, and 1 baker. Butchers, doctors and dentists would probably have been in Wrotham Town. Henry Ashdown had the forge in Station Road. He sang in Platt Church Choir.
Can you imagine living in a house without mains water? In those times the only supply was from streams or wells adjacent to blocks of houses. This would explain the abundance of pubs and beer houses, drinking ale as a life giving beverage. Only one family was born out of the county and they were itinerant fishmongers.
Entries for 1861 show times are changing. The railways, not yet to the village, bring people from Scotland, Clacton, Newmarket, Isleworth and a visiting Baptist Minister from Shrewsbury. 64 houses were counted with 120 males and 121 females. The Seamark family are still running their large shop which they opened in the 1830s. This continued until 1895. 32 scholars were listed who would have attended schools at Ightham, Wrotham or Platt. Children under eight years were not allowed to work on farms. The only place names written were Long Pond, Thong Lane, Plaxtol Road, ( = High Street) and Chapel House.
The 1871 census finds James Methuen from Scotland farming Whiffens Farm employing two men and two boys. He had a boarder, a gentleman’s servant from Derby. Jane Robinson, widow of the Chapel pastor, had a visitor from Gorleston in Suffolk. Charity Pink aged 90 had a boarder, Rachel Wells, aged 73 from Pontypool. Basted Paper Mill, now owned by the Monktons, had more glaziers, paper makers, an engine driver, stoker and a machine assistant. There were now 9 people of independent means. Mary Saunders was the tollgate keeper. We have a very busy family, James Fitness had a grocers shop. He was also a bricklayer. Emma, his wife, ran the shop assisted by Rosa aged 15. Alice aged 17 was a dressmaker. Frederick at 13 was a bricklayer’s labourer, James, 9, and Ernest, 7, were scholars. Emily was 4, Joseph, 2, and Grace, 3 months. Older residents can remember the turnpike bungalow situated on the bend in Wrotham Road just past Tolsey Mead. 51 houses were counted with 116 males and 116 females.
By 1881 the village had started to expand. People were coming from far and wide. The railway opened seven years earlier as a single track and was doubled in 1882. 79 houses were counted. Spencer’s Cottages were all occupied and Jesse Callow had a watchmaker’s shop in Station Road. The Church Infants School on Quarry Hill Road was built in 1875. Esther Hewson had the Baker’s Shop, now Barclay’s Bank. Alfred Goldsmith had a butcher’s shop in the High Street, now Mrs. Penfold’s tea house. Alfred Baron had a draper’s shop, now the Scrub-In. Whoever thought of that name!?!
In determining figures from the 1891 census those parts of Wrotham, Ightham and Platt which now constitute the Borough Green Civil Parish were taken by the author together with Borough Green as it was then. This gives 156 houses, 4 of which were empty. Some have since been demolished, but have mostly been replaced by new houses. There were 347 males and 335 females of which 188 were scholars. By this time Western Road was established as a main road. Station Road was called Forge Lane and also Sandy Lane. Quarry Hill Road was High Street South and before that Thong Lane, a much nicer name. Basted Paper Mill employed 48 people. Seven farmers were listed employing 55 persons. Various trades included 2 builders and 25 craftsmen. The London, Chatham and Dover Railway employed 12 men. Mr. William Pink was reopening the Stone Quarry with one labourer. It will be appreciated this is the latest data available as census returns are only made public after one hundred years have elapsed.
As mentioned above the railway came to Borough Green in 1874. The first large development in the village came in 1877. This was a prime year for progress. Edison patented the phonograph, ball bearings were first used on bicycles and the Factory Act raised the minimum working age to 10 years. Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty and Swan Lake had its premiere.
The Tomlyn family, the owners of Yew Tree Farm, sold 56 acres of land from the High Street to Fairfield boundaries, Western Road was laid out in the plan. The Beehive Shoe Company from Northampton purchased most of the property. They built Messrs. Cloke’s shop, carried on a brickyard until 1911 and opened up the Wrotham Road sandpit. Two reserved lanes were kept, one from Fairfield area and one, which is still there, from Western Road for access to the station. What a blessing they would have been. The Fairfield area was laid out in 1 and 2 acre plots. Later development maps showing the centre of the village reveal how these plots were halved then quartered into ever smaller areas. The Post Office at the time was at the bottom of Western Road. From then on the village expanded quickly. By 1900 most of the Victorian-style houses had appeared.
The Wrotham Urban District Council was formed in 1894. In 1911 they planned a main drainage scheme for Wrotham, Borough Green and Platt which was eventually completed in 1932. Their minutes show that they twice endeavoured to disband the council. A cutting from the Sevenoaks Chronicle in 1922 states: “They had a pantomime at Seal last Saturday evening, but in comparison with the entertainment provided at the Wrotham Urban District Council meeting at the Railway Hotel on Monday, it was a milk and water affair. If they wish to assist the rates they should open their meeting to the public at a charge of 8d (2d tax).”
It was not until 1934 when Malling Rural District Council was formed that real planning commenced in the area. The Crow Hill Estate was built in 1919 – I remember my Mother saying that my Father, a carpenter, had his first sight of ready made stairs. Council houses were erected on Hill View in 1928, complete with gas lights and double burner gas ring sets. Town gas was made by the Wrotham and Borough Green Gas Co., started in 1880, taken over in 1904 and fed via high pressure mains by the Mid Kent Gas Light and Coke Co. from Snodland. Piped water came from the Mid Kent Water Co. in 1900 also at Snodland. It was not until 1930 that Kent Electric Power Co. from Rochester brought electricity to the village. Hughes the Bakers had the first supply.
The line from Otford to Maidstone was opened 1 June 1874 as a single track. It was upgraded to double track in 1882. It was run then by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. This later became the South Eastern and Chatham Railway ( slow, easy and comfortable riding ) then in 1923 the Southern Railway. On 1 January 1948 this in turn became Southern Region, part of the nationalised British Rail. The line was electrified on 2 July 1939 when the footbridge was built. The author has a photo from the late 1930s of the full complement of the station staff, some fourteen people. Today we have but two clerks. When the author attended school in Maidstone in the 1930s the return rail fare was 1s 9d and a return to London cost 4s 6d.
The station had a goods yard, parcel offices, sidings for sand and ragstone, hops and fruit. In addition there was a wharf situated at the rear of the chestnut trees for tip-up horse-drawn carts delivering stone from the Quarry. One siding was for the delivery of cattle and sheep to local farms or the butchers. W.H. Smith and Sons had a bookstall, library and large paper delivery rounds. Taxi services have flourished through all the years. The first taxis were owned by Mr. F. Cooper who started out on the site of the bus depot. Part of this site was a large pond. The longest owner was Mr. C.E. Kennett, who also had a lockup shop in the High Street, together with a garage at the rear of the National Westminster Bank. Mr. Kennett was a founder member of the Borough Green Fire Brigade and later became sub-officer in charge.
The building known as the Old Manor House was listed as a much restored sixteenth century Grade II farmhouse by Malling RDC. On the 1841 Tythe Map it is indicated as two tenements, garden, barn and orchard, 1 acre 2 roods 13 rods in area. It was still two cottages up till the late 1930s when Mr. H. Dixon of Wrotham Heath performed the excellent restoration to its present state for the musical Roy family.
Tudor Cottage and the two houses behind are listed as Grade II. Originally a farmhouse they stem from the Sixteenth Century. For many years they were four dwellings. The present owners have brought them into the Twentieth Century whilst doing well to preserve their elevations.
Hunts Farmhouse is also listed as Grade II, Eighteenth Century. Fourways House (occupied by Mr. Morrison the dentist) is Grade III, dated 1751. Whiffens Farmhouse is a restored Sixteenth Century farmhouse and is listed as Grade II, the large weather-boarded barn being Grade III.
Similarly listed is the Red Lion dating from the Nineteenth Century, with an older plastered wing at the rear. (Seventeenth Century) The adjacent cottages are listed as Grade II. The core of these cottages is probably a framed structure from the Seventeenth Century with the facade dating from the Eighteenth Century.
Five other premises in the village listed as Grade III have been demolished. This has come about through lack of maintenance. Other houses – all unlisted – demolished since 1945 include three cottages, and a stone barn opposite the Church, six in Chapel Street, five wooden bungalows on Quarry Hill Road and a nursery in Western Road. Another property, known as Rosemary, at the bottom of Crouch Lane has also gone. It was the dwelling house for the garage owners on Maidstone Road, in particular the Davey family. Repaired after severe damage by lightning in 1910, it declined in the 1970s and several houses have recently been put up on the site.