Streets and Shops
Manchester House was built in the 1830s. We find James Seamark in 1836 paying the Poor Relief Tax. Together with his wife Elizabeth and eight children, they ran a grocers, drapers and hardware shop, later with beers and spirits. They sold out in 1895 to Mr. Thomas Day. He became Church Organist. Prices from extant bills were whisky at 3s 1d per bottle, ditto gin, with brandy at 4s 4d in the 1890s.
Cheese was 41/2 d per lb, butter 1s per lb. A pair of boots ran out to 8s 6d. A bricklayer would typically receive 7d per hour and his labourer 4d. One chimney pot was 2s 6d and six roofing slates 1s 6d. Coal was 11s 6d for12 ton. Mr. Day sold out in 1920 to John Cloke whose family moved to their their present premises in 1934. C.A. Smallbones altered the frontage and moved there in 1935. In the 1960s Cave Austin took over and now in the 1990s after several short-lived businesses we have Lloyds the chemists, open 7 days a week.
London House was built in the 1880s, the first family, comprising Alfred Barron, his wife Anne and two daughters, ran a drapers and grocers. The premises were owned by Mr. Thomas Seamark, a builder who lived at Fernlea in Western Road. He built and owned a lot of property in the village. He died intestate in 1888 and his estate was sold in 1907. Mr. W. J. Coleman from Wrotham bought London House for £820. Subsequently it was let to the Hubbard family followed by Mr. and Mrs. H.K. Bell. During the Second World War it was the Fire Station. In 1943 it was hit by an AA shell, which blew a billiard table into the cellar, and short circuited the air raid alarm which went on and on. In 1946 Mr. Coleman sold it to the Mid Kent Gas Light and Coke Company for £1200. It remained a Gas Showroom with Mrs. R. White as Manageress till 28 October 1970. Thereafter came the Launderette, initially under lease to Shaws Laundry and now in the 90s to Mr. and Mrs. C.J. Smith.
The current site of the National Westminster Bank was built as a bakers in the 1880s, run by Mr. W.H. Brown. The baker’s oven was made by W. Smith of London. In 1899 we find Mrs. Emily Brown, baker, renting it at £30 p.a. No doubt she was the baker’s widow. By 1902 Mr. F. Perkins was using it as a printers and did so till 1914 when he moved into his purpose built premises at Caxton House at the bottom of Station Road. In 1904 part became a bank opening only on Fridays. A Mr. Antram was the first manager followed by Mr. F. Sloman. It progressed throughout the years as an agency from Maidstone and became a full bank in 1957. Mr. C. C. Newman recalled in 1947 arriving 30 minutes late, spending hours moving snow from the frontage with only one customer, an errand boy wanting £1 of copper.
The present travel agents, 34 High Street, was occupied by Philip Neale, a jeweller and watch maker, for 20 years. He was followed by Mr. Edward Weeks, a retired policeman. He had previously opened up a small wooden shed where Circle C now trades, as a fishmonger. Mr. Weeks was born in Pluckley, so the premises became known as Pluckley House. Mr. Weeks advertised in the 1902 Rural Deanery Church magazine as “Fishmonger, supplying families daily, pony and chaise for hire, furnished apartments to let with cooking and attendance”. His widow carried on as a confectioner. She used to sell 2d canes with a curved handle and many mums had one hanging on the back of their chairs!
The Tea House at number 19 owned by Mrs. Penfold, was the Homestead, a farmhouse for Yew Tree Farm, and was long occupied by the Lewen Family. In 1877 it was purchased and sold by the Tomlyns. Alfred Goldsmith and his wife opened it as a butchers, aided by live-in George and Sarah Hodder. Henry Hoppe followed, who also had butchers shops in Wrotham, Ightham and Wrotham Heath. Mr. Stephen Kitney came next as removal and coal merchants. At one stage they had twenty-two horses! Removals to Cambridge took five days, Southampton six days and Bournemouth eight. He built the Western Hall in the late 1920s. Stephen, his son, married Irene and carried on the coal business. Irene will be remembered for her social work in the village over many years.
The ten tall shops were built by a Mr. Gregory in three stages between 1904-1908. The last to be built, number 21, opened as a Funeral Parlour, an undertaking to which it has now returned. I remember the late Mr. Tom Bennett saying that their builder’s horse and cart would have the sand or soil swept out, and a black cloth draped over it to create an instant hearse.
Mr. A. Ashton DCM took over the premises in 1912 as a cycle maker and motor engineer. His wife and their son, Arthur, carried this on till 1980, developing into the fields of radio, electrical and television.
There have been too many changes in this parade to record them all. Number 23 was the Primrose Dairy with Mr. Coakes in charge. Mr. S.A. Bramley had the Labour Exchange there for some years. Before this he ran it from a shed in his garden at number 3 before this and ended up at Caxton House. This service in Borough Green was wound up in 1958.
Number 25, now an optician, opened in 1908 as a car showroom! The Borough Green Working Mens’ Club followed with Mr. A. Bouts as steward. Mr. Starkie used it for photography. Mr. Cotgreave leased it as a dentist, Lidstones had it as a flower shop. Mr. Coleman, a butcher, had it after World War II, though he never obtained a license and the shop remained unused for forty years.
Number 27 has always been a newsagents, Sashwell, then Goldspink in the early years, followed by Clarkes, who was a K.C.C. surveyor. Mr. and Mrs J. Bates had it for thirty years from 1953-1983. Daltons followed them and the obliging Sneha Patel family are the present occupants.
The Bailey family at number 29 had a shoe shop from 1907 till 1968. They also had a repair factory at the rear. Mr. Charles Bailey was a keen football supporter and organiser of many whist drives. The arrival of Rhona’s saw the usage change to drapers and it has remained as such, with Vivienne’s as the occupier for the past eighteen years.
Number 31 was called the Union Jack House. It housed Belgian refugees in World War One. It was a Maidstone and District Booking Office for many years when Mr. and Mrs. Game ran it as a confectioners. After leaving the Bakery Mr. and Mrs. Pocock opened it as a ladies fashion shop. Mrs. Cooper followed in the same line and later sold it to the Chowdhury family who run it as an Indian restaurant.
Number 33 started as Cutbush, a butchers. In the 1920s under Mr. Gribble it opened as a chemists. It remained so until 1993, being run for many years by Mr. Baldock with Mr. Ives, a very helpful and obliging chemist. Between the wars it was called Welfare House. District Nurses were based there as was the School Dentist.
Number 35 was a corn chandlers run by the Bulled family. This family built what is now Lillico’s and the site occupied by Magnet Southern in Ightham. This shop later became a grocers with the Clark family, followed by the Wadsworths and the enterprising Manklow family, who are currently running three of the ten shops.
Number 37-39. The first two shops next to the Bank were built as one called the Arcade. A glimpse at the buildings prove this. George Edwin Hill had this up until 1912. In 1924 the first one became a showroom for the Mid Kent Gas Light and Coke Company. This lasted until 1946. Before this Mr. R.S. Willard leased it as a parcel agency and carrier for Southern Railway between Maidstone and Borough Green. He obtained orders one day from around the villages and collected from Maidstone the following day by horse and cart. Number 37 has been a confectioners for many years – Kings, Lawrences, Curtis, Rons, Kings and now Mrs. L. Pierce.
The site of the Cycle Shop, number 62, and numbers 58 and 60, was a Dame Private School in the 1830s and was known as Rock Villa when built. The shop was added on to number 60 in 1888/89. Mr. Jesse Callow, who in 1876 had a watch maker and jewellers shop at Stanley Cottages in Station Road, moved in to the newly built premises with his wife Elizabeth and their family. He bought the premises outright in 1907 for the sum of £610, having rented it for £40 p.a. He was sub-postmaster and carried on his trades along with stationery goods, sheet music, cameras and necessary requisites. He also had charge of the first telephone exchange for the area, which the family ran till 1927, when the first purpose built telephone exchange opened in Western Road. He retired in 1922 when his son, Frank, took over adding newsagent to the business. The sorting office was at the rear and four postmen were employed. Just fancy, 2 old pence for delivering a telegram to Stansted or Mereworth Woods by cycle on Christmas Day! He gave up the Post Office in 1936 when Cloke Brothers took it over. His wife and daughter carried on the shop, with Miss Edie Callow finally retiring in 1989. Treksport now have a cycle shop, a thriving seven days a week concern, a definite asset to the village, the go-ahead proprietors being Messrs. John Bishop and Howard Chambers.
Bridge House (Clokes) was built circa 1887/1889 by Joseph Walls, whose firm bought most of Yew Tree Farm. John Francis followed him, then Tully, Thornes, McMasters and then Messrs. R. L. and R. Cloke. The village owes a lot to the Cloke Brothers, most importantly the existence of our Fire Brigade. Robert served on the Parish Council for forty years and worked hard behind the scenes for many village improvements.
There are far too many shops and businesses in the village for it to be possible to record all their histories. The stone quarry under various names provided much employment, as did Basted Paper Mill, now Butterworths. Mr. F. Weller, the saddler and harness maker, started his business in 1903. In 1897 there must have been a rabies scare, for we find Mr. Weller then working in Ightham making many dog muzzles. He was followed by his two sons who also did shoe repairs. The two sons moved in 1954 to the premises near the Red Lion, retiring in 1978.
In the early 1900s the Crossroads was known as Council Square. In 1900 Mr. Banfield built the butchers shop on the site where Mr. Palmer now has his offices. Mr. Sharp had the fish shop and poulterers opposite. Mr. E. Atkins had the large shop, now Mr. and Mrs. Knight’s Fourways Furnishing. After Atkins took over their purpose built shop in Western Road the large shop became the Red Tea Caddy. Mrs. Wilcocks ran the cafe and her husband was a builder. He built the last houses on the right along Sevenoaks Road. In 1935 the prices were £475 for the houses and £375 for the bungalows, £25 deposit and £1 per week. He was also responsible for houses along Wrotham and Platt roads. Mrs. Wood followed and then in 1948 Mr. Harold King took over what became the Four Ways Cafe. This closed in 1966, after which the Knights took over, some 27 years ago.
F.P. Caine the builders started up in 1903 with Mr. L. Curtis as the founder. Mr. F. Weller Snr. had part of the building as the saddlers shop. Mr. F. Caine, foreman carpenter during the construction of St. Edith’s Hall at Kemsing, joined this firm in 1912. It then became Curtis and Caine. In 1948 it became a limited company trading as F.P. Caine Ltd. Mr. F. Davies and Mr. D. Squires took over the business in 1981.
The Cross Roads
The Wrotham Urban District Council had the site now occupied by the Co-op, which gave the name Council Square. Both the fever and cesspool emptying carts were based here. Mr. Isaac Woodhams was employed as a cesspool emptier – at first a bucket was used to pour into a tank on a cart. A hand pump followed later and the waste was emptied onto various farms. They grew marvellous cabbages! Later a proper tanker was deployed – the driver of this vehicle used to claim the material they carried was his bread and butter! He drove the tanker during the 1926 General Strike. Lorries then carried the notice “Food Supplies”. His tanker was marked accordingly! Mr. C. Naylor, a farmer lived here for many years with his family, some of whom are still with us. When the Naylors left Mr. L. Cooper built the existing premises as a cycle shop. The frontage was an underground WWII air-raid shelter. The Co-op took over the premises in 1948.
Thong Lane, High Street South, Quarry Hill Road
Mrs. Hollands’ premises, Junes the hairdressers, was a grocers before and after World War I. The grocer’s name was Bunyan. Hearndens followed and Mrs. Hoadley carried on the shop from 1933 till 1971. She also had a shop at Platt. Borough Green House was the Homestead for Borough Green Farm. John Stevens had the farm in 1800. He had a daughter, who was to become the supernatural writer writer, Catherine Crowe. It is said that her books were superior to those of Mary Shelley, creator of “Frankenstein”. Mr. E. Biggs, a retired engineer, was the owner in 1826. He quarried a hard sandstone at Oldbury Hill. It was carried by local farmers to Larkfield, then to barges on the Medway and transported to London for road making. He found the transport charges excessive. In 1844 he built a steam traction engine to pull the carts. The threat was effective and prices were lowered. In the event the engine was not allowed on the roads and was eventually towed away by a firm from East Peckham. A Mr. Tompkins followed him, the house was seriously damaged by fire and rebuilt. The Nisbett family came in 1910.
The Coronation Oak
This title relates to the tree at the junction of Rock Road and Quarry Hill. The first tree was planted here on 2 June 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. This tree did not survive however and the Wrotham UDC, with their customary promptness, planted a second on 22 June 1911 to celebrate the coronation of King George V, the reign of King Edward VII having slipped by unmarked. In the 1950s Messrs. Chirnsides saved the tree from an “ingrowing” metal guard and quite recently Kent County Council rebuilt the retaining wall. The village owes a debt of gratitude to members of the community in that area who plant bulbs and flowers around the tree.
Western Road was planned in 1877 on the sale of Yew Tree Farm. Yew Tree House and Yew Tree Cottage were the first houses to be built after this, numbers 24 and 26 respectively. Wrotham Urban District Council minutes state that Western Road was levelled and metalled in 1897.
The premises owned by Mr. and Mrs. Moye in 43 Western Road have a fascinating history. Originally built by the Bible Christians as a place of worship, they changed in 1901 to the Alexandra Hall and became the small village hall. The Church held their socials there and a pantomime was staged in 1909. In World War I the site formed the HQ for the Borough Green Home Defence Force, part of the Royal West Kent Regiment. It was also to house the Borough Green Working Mens’ Club. From 1925-1936 a Miss Webster from Seal ran a private school from there.
In the late 1930s the Bailey family moved their shoe repair factory there from its High Street site. Mr. Frank Bailey took charge. Alexandra House was built by Mr. and Mrs. Bailey Senior. The factory proved very successful carrying out a lot of outside and army contracts. Mr. E. Moye, pursuing the same line of work at the Old Forge at the Crossroads, and who had previously worked for the Baileys, took over the business in 1963. He converted the metal building into a bungalow with a shoe shop in front. Later he added an upper storey. His son Roger has followed him helped by his wife, Sue. They both have entered into village life with strong interests in scouts and tennis and the Christmas street illuminations.
The building now used by GA Property Services at 51 was built by Durlings for Mr. E. Atkins when he moved from the Crossroads. The window frames and doors are all of good English oak, now sadly covered over with paint. Mr. Maynard opened up a nursery where the parade of shops now stands. It was he who supplied the Coronation Oak tree. Redgrove and Patrick continued the business. Mr. F. Haines followed with a fish shop. Previously he was a chimney sweep.
Opposite Mr. and Mrs. Pierce ran a grocers shop for many years. Number 28 was a greengrocers for many years. The Cooper family ran it followed by J Beech and then Mr. A.E. Humphrey. Mr. and Mrs. Charlaye took over in the 1970s as a motor cycle shop, the site now being a machine repair depot.
In the early 1930s a Mr. H. Williams converted part of Manchester House in the High Street into a hairdressing salon. He ran it till 1959 when Mr. Bligh took over and named it “Raymond’s”. He ran it there successfully for 22 years, then moved to his existing premises in Western Road, where he has been for 12 years. Previously it had been Webbs the butchers for many years.
The Davey family had a blacksmiths where Plaxtol Bakery now stands and were later to open the first garage on the Maidstone Road. The first milkman in Borough Green was a man named Hillier. He lived at South View Cottages and stabled his horses at the rear of the National Westminster Bank. Next door was Mr. Lee, the village barber, numbers 36 and 38. Mr. W. Furmnger (“Sweeny”) followed as a barber based at number 39 for many years. Haircuts were 4d, a shave 6d. His son Percy followed in his footsteps.
On the corner of Western Road with Sevenoaks Road stood Mr. A. Russell’s greengrocers shop, now demolished – the building was hit by at least two lorries. A go-ahead man, Mr. Russell was landlord of the Red Lion and The Rock simultaneously. He used the old chapel as a bothy for horse drivers at the Stone Quarry. Employing Durlings as the builder he built the house next to the Rock, first used as a laundry, then Toogoods Dairy, now Tangles, a hairdressers salon.
Station Road was Sandy Lane – Forge Lane
The street of football, Fivestones and “Fagcards” interrupted only by the odd horse and cart! Fagcards? You flipped cigarette cards against the base of the wall. If you covered one with your throw, the cards on the ground were yours.
Mr. G. Hewson built the Bakery, where Barclay’s Bank now stands, and the four houses below. His widow succeeded him and then came Mr. H.C. Hughes, there from 1923 till 1944. Dunfords followed, then Walklyns and it was in 1967 that Barclay’s Bank converted the premises. Mr. H. Bennett was a high class shoe maker at number 13, later a vets and now Levicks, the Accountants. The rear of London House was the Gas Board’s workshop and garage from 1946 to 1970, when Mr. C.J. Smith took over as car repairer. Number 59 was a grocers for many years, Waterman (Fuller) then Paynes.
At number 79 Harmsworth’s was a hardware shop. The 1891 census shows William Harmsworth as a port signalman. His wife Sarah ran the shop – they had four sons and three daughters. The Old Forge where Henry Ashdown plied his trade has had
many changes. Fred Cooper – cycle shop; Mr. Pierce – builder; Mr. Cox – builder; Mrs. Powell – cake shop; Mr. Rogers – cycle repairer; Mr. Truephit – furniture repairer; and now Brit Sales dealing in computers.
Caxton House at the bottom right as mentioned elsewhere was built as a printers, with Mr. F. Perkins being the owner in 1914. During World War II the Air Raid Precautions HQ was based here. After World War II Mr. S.A. Bramley ran the Labour Exchange there, then Mr. L.S. Daniels an accountant took over, followed by Levicks accountants.
Spencer Cottages were built by the enterprising J. Spencer of Platt Brickworks (later Pascalls) in the 1870s. Legend has them as being built for workers building the railway, but the census returns give evidence which refutes this idea.
Lighter moments 1921-1923
Number 10 Station Road
The author’s Father Mr. R.G. Bangay founded the local British legion Band.
The Sevenoaks Chronicle, 1922, reports:
“Strange noises have been heard in Station Road recently. Presumably the big drummer is practising, will he please note the slates on a nearby stable roof are in a shaky condition.”
The band practised in the front room which gave onto the street. Local lads thought to give greater effect during a practise of the 1812 Overture by putting a firework through the letterbox!
Sevenoaks Chronicle, 1923
“Now will Borough Green have a Fire Brigade?
Why were the lengths of hose and hydrant not traced till the morning after the fire? Fate plays strange tricks, the occupant is an ex-fireman and also agent for a well-known Insurance Company. And is it really true that an Inspector called the next day to ask how many buckets of water had been used? The “Gossips” who are entertaining at the Palace this week proved willing workers at the fire.”
“How many people were at the Church on Sunday last when the bellringer rang for the 8.00 a.m. service? Hadn’t he heard about the clocks being put back?”
Village Life in the 1930s
In the 1930s Borough Green was a thriving, growing community. The facts below, although rather dry, bear out this statement, which posterity should note:
|1 cafe||2 chemists||2 hairdressers|
|1 bank||3 plumbers||1 Fire Brigade|
|2 farms||1 jeweller||1 sand quarry|
|5 pubs||3 butchers||1 stone quarry|
|1 cinema||1 solicitor||1 gas showroom|
|2 bakers||1 fish shop||1 chimney sweep|
|1 church||1 shoe shop||4 confectioners|
|1 chapel||1 registrar||3 coal merchants|
|3 garages||1 blacksmith||5 shoe repairers|
|1 dentist||1 nurseryman||2 hardware shops|
|1 saddler||1 brickworks||1 mens outfitters|
|1 printer||3 cycle shops||1 labour exchange|
|3 dairies||1 corn stores||2 electrical shops|
|1 drapers||1 basket maker||3 haulage contractors|
|10 grocers||1 taxi service||3 newsagents/stationer|
|3 builders||2 fence makers|
|3 carriers||1 ladder maker|
|3 bus services
2 of which used Rock Road, parking by the Church (Auto Car and Red Car)
|One of the newsagents was W.H. Smiths bookstall and library at the Station. Mr. Tom Cresswell was the manager.|
Post War Building
Tollgate Estate was built in 1947-1948 and Fairfield Estate started in 1952.
Wye Road and Annetts Hall rose in 1958-1959, Roman Court some 30 years later in 1989.
Valley View 1960
Woodlands 1960 – 1961
Lingfield Road + Ascot Close 1958
Sandy Ridge 1959
Hunts Farm 1985
Eaglestone Close and Tolsey Mead 1985
All were built on good agricultural land, the majority view of the Parish Council being that building be restricted to the village confines. Street lighting on parts of Valley View was not authorised by Ightham Parish Council. Under the conditions of a boundary review this is now all under Borough Green.