April 2015 Media Report
Discovering how a part of Swanley has altered through the years was the subject of the April meeting of Swanley History Group. Esme Hodge guided us, using photographs, maps and newspaper articles, from Five (or sometimes referred to as Four) Wents, along New Barn Lane and into Leydenhatch Lane .
Starting from Five Wents, notable buildings mentioned included Five Wents Farm which was substantial, being 100 acres including a hop kiln. Agricultural workers were housed at the farmhouse, known to be infested with rats. Esme showed advertisements of the sale of the farm and a later sale (1860) of farm implements. The estate was later acquired by prominent market gardener Frank Ladds who built Keston and The Beeches. Some of us remembered Five Wents Cottages in Swanley Lane, which were demolished in 1970. Five Wents House (where the houses of Five Wents are now) was once the home of Miss Isobel Pigou and her Aunt Florence. We examined a map showing an area called Hatchfield which is thought to have been an enclosure or pound where owners had to pay to retrieve their animals. The Memorial Hall has offered a place to meet and be entertained since 1921. A publicity photograph showed a group called ‘The Vostocks’s’. Does anyone remember them singing Apple Blossom Time?
Travelling up New Barn Lane we were reminded of the importance of market gardening to the area. The photographs and information of well-known nurseries and the families who owned them, helped us see this lane as it used to be. Growing flowers for the London markets was big business – Stuart Ogg specialised in Dahlias (400 varieties grown). The Veitchii Nursery is still there.
The Avenue of Limes which joins this lane could clearly be seen on the 1842 Tithe Map shown. There was some discussion as to whether New Barn Farm House was originally two separate houses. We enjoyed seeing the development of New Barn Park (now Swanley Park) over the years and who has noticed the stone marker bearing the name Cooper Estates?
Our photographic route then took us into Leydenhatch Lane. Judging by a tax assessment dated 1780; Leydenhatch Cottages are thought to be the oldest houses in Swanley Junction. A ‘now’ photograph showed metal gates, behind which is the Brethren Meeting Room. A ‘then’ photograph showed Birchwood School, opened in 1912 with 190 children. Harfst Way is named after Miss Harfst, Headmistress of the school from 1951 to 1979.
Christina Tyler, Programme Organiser
Photos supplied by Esme Hodge in Gallery Four