Monday, 24 March 2014

The origins of Mason's Hill Bromley

The origins of the name for Masons Hill are unknown. That much is clear. However the name was in use in the early years of the parish registers as two entries in the baptismal register for 1564 record the name as a dwelling for the Erly and Humfrie children baptised in April and May of that year.
One of the early buildings in Bromley History became known as Ravenscroft. In the 1594 will of Anthony Calthorpe (20 April 1594) he bequeaths "to Johane my wife my mansion house at Masons Hill in Bromley which I lately bought of one Pope."
Anthony Calthorpe was born in 1522 and appears to have been a member of the Mercers Guild in the City of London (he leaves plate to the value of £10 to them in the will).He had a large family of 7 sons and 9 daughters and died 19  July 1594 and was buried in Bromley Parish Church. A commemerative brass marked his grave and when his wife died her will with a codicil direct that she be buried "in the chancell of the Parish Church of Bromley, as near the body of my late husband as may be".
The Calthorpes appear to have resided on the site of Ravenscroft;the date on Ravenscroft's gable 1660 clearly implies the earlier building was removed.
Mason's Hill in the sixteenth century was largely farm land and by 1673 it is referred to in registers as Stubarfields or Stubberfield's Farm. The farming had by the nineteenth century ceased and the buildings became known as Sparke's or Clarke's Cottages, implicitly referring to their occupants.The Cottages are known to have been pulled down in 1877.
Mason's Hill Pond lay on one side of the highway and was used by passing horses for water and by carmen to "plim" their wagon wheels when shrunken in dry weather.
Mason's Hill linked town and common and on the right hand side of the hill leaving town stood an ancient Inn. The Rate books prior to 1697 only show rate levied on land but in 1706 they record a house,stables,barn orchard and meadows "at the back called Tygor Grove". This implies that the house was called the Tiger. Certainly by 1729 the burial of Richard Joans is recorded in the Parish Burial register as  "ostler at the Tiger's Head,Mason's Hill".
The later rebuilding has left modern day Bromley with a buildng called the Tigers Head (although in recent years this has been rebranded) and adjacent Tiger Lane now surrounded by the housing development which replaced the Bromley Cottage Hospital site with the demise of the Hospital on the land.
Whatever the origins of the name,Masons Hill has been part of daily Bromley life for centuries.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Closure of Cardiff Central Library Local Studies Unit

The sad news that as part of a budget cut for 2014-15 Cardiff Central Library made budget cuts of £500,000 including the closure of the Local Studies Library with transfer out of the city to Glamorgan Archives. 3 librarian posts are to be lost;library help desks reduced and the library closed for one weekday per week.
Cardiff is now the only city/large town in the UK without a Local Studies Unit; ironic since the Library in the city dates from 1861 with evidence of a Local Studies Unit since 1882.
Cardiff sadly has a history of regarding the heritage collection of rare books as a potential source of funding for new premises; after a public outcry worldwide amongst academics the heritage collection was transferred to Cardiff University as a jointly funded initiative by the University Welsh Assembly Government and the Higher Education Funding for Wales.
It appears at present that from 1 April all primary archive holdings will be moved to Glamorgan Archives. This cut is part of a total cuts package of £50 million forced on the Council by the central government funding announcement.

Monday, 17 March 2014

St Mark Aperfield register history and the origins of Biggin Hill

 The curious feature of the development of Biggin Hill is that it did not exist on a map until the twentieth century but was not planned as a settlement nor did it have settlement. It was simply farm land forming part of the Manor of Aperfield (first recorded as Apuldrefield).

As an unplanned and unregulated twentieth century development the fields and estate houses expanded in the early years of the twentieth century.
Documented are an ancient Biggin Hill Farm (on all sides of the junction between Main Road and Jail Lane) and the unfenced land bordering the road near the "Black Horse" was Biggin Hill Green but the present town was not planned as a new settlement but owes its development to the sale of plots of land by Frederick Henry Dougal of 148 Merton Road Wandsworth who bought at auction in 1895 the Aperfield Court Estate including the estate buildings and Aperfield Court itself . As the land acquired was not subject to any form of Building Regulation he proceeded to draw up numbered plots to sell to the public. The existing roads Main Road,Stock Hill,Polesteeple Hill,Norheads Lane and Oaklands Lane were unaltered and existing hedge boundaries simply had a parallel fence added to form access to the plots in fields on both sides. The only new roads needed were in places where the field boundaries did not permit plots on both sides. Flint and chalk are readily available from local pits in the area and this was simply compressed by steam roller to form a surface. Horse chestnut,lime and poplar trees were planted to create avenues.

                                                            Frederick Henry Dougal

Dougal looked at the names of SW18 to create Melody,Melrose,Rosehill and York Roads as well as Lebanon Gardens and East Hill. Elsewhere Royal Christian names Victoria,Edward,Alexandra and Arthur and descriptive names like Hillcrest, Highfield, Belvedere and The Grove were chosen. Dougal favoured the name Biggin Hill  to be included in his advertising of Aperfield Court Estate,Biggin Hill Westerham Road Cudham Kent.
As the 250 plot lands were acquired rapid settlement took place and local firms began to erect many wooden bungalow style buildings. The former estate brick buildings  sold at a premium but the plots of land were affordable as weekend homes. In 1914 a bungalow in Saint Mary's Grove was rented by Madame Clara Novello Davies,founder and conductor of the Royal Welsh Ladies Choir and her reputation as a singing teacher brought to the plots around the "Singing Colony". In a Romany Caravan on the plot of his mother's bungalow the young David Ivor Davies later Ivor Novello came to live. The "Singing Colony" also attracted an artistic community and Noel Coward had a weekend home in the 1920's. Biggin Hill was under the direct flight path taken by the German Gotha bombers bombing London to the North and ended the Singing Colony during the First World War. The Royal Flying Corps were attracted to land at 600 feet above sea level and soon established what was to become the most famous fighter airfield (RAF Biggin Hill) of the Second World War.  The RAF station added further to to development of housing and population growth.
The Vicar of Cudham during Dougal's planning to market land was Reverend H.A.Curtis. In 1903 he presided over one of the first meetings of plot owners with the purpose "to consider whether some further provision could be made for the spiritual needs of Biggin Hill". In response Dougal offered to donate land at the corner of Main Road and Polesteeple Hill to erect a Mission Church and a further £25 contribution.Other donations enabled a newly formed Committee to work on acquisition of a Mission Church.
Within a year a temporary iron structure at the time manufactured by Boulton and Company Norwich was built at a cost of £230 and the dedication service by the Lord Bishop of Dover took place on 21 January 1904. As a temporary structure St Marks was not a parish but it did have Baptismal  register from 1907-1924. Marriages could not be held there until 1937 and the first marriage register covers 1937-1947;earlier marriages for Biggin Hill will be found in the Cudham Parish Marriage register. Kent Online Parish clerks will transcribe the Baptismal Register for Saint Mark in 2015 for online publication.
The remarkable story of the permanent church site and construction is told in the Moving Church as the deconsecrated and disused church in Davey Street Peckham was moved brick by brick to Biggin Hill.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The early register of Bromley Parish and the effect of "the wars among ourselves"

As I am working through the earliest parish register to transcribe births marriages and deaths it occurred to me that although microfilm is a wonderful media for preservation it has pitfalls for the transcriber.
I have just had the experience of seeing images obtained from Derbyshire Record Office at Matlock after FamilySearch Indexing treatment of the early parish register for BLAYDON entries. Imaginatively these have been rendered as a number of names PARDONE being but one example. The comparison between a digital image from microfilm and the permitted ultra violet image of the same entry from the damaged original parish register clearly yields BLADON entries.
I work from original parish registers and have used Ultra violet lighting for many years. Microfilm is a flat one dimensional image; handling the original and being able to control light sources and magnification enables the experienced transcriber to produce a consistent transcript. FamilySearch does not seem to realise the limitations of volunteers seeing only a handful of images. It appears that the margin for error in their material is therefore increased. The search for the correct surname is fruitless; the original parish register yields dozens of results.
Bromley has an original register which is a composite register in which Baptisms marriages and burials are mingled in a series of pages in a sort of chronological order which becomes more established when it is rebound into three sections in 1652.
The original purpose of the parish register was set out in 1538 by Henry VIII as part of his Reformation of the Church.Elizabeth I further ordered that a Register Book be provided in every parish to record the births death and marriages in the parish. Thus the first volume of the Bromley Parish Registers bears the title:
"The Register of Bromley in Kent,begun Anno Domini 1558,was all new bound w[ith] addicons of new leaves,Anno Domini 1652".
here the transcriber handling the volume has an immediate advantage of the context of each sequence of pages ; the microfilm view has limited context.
Also within the heading there is an entry:
Baptisms, 29 November 1558-13 January 1715
Burials, 13 November 1578-27 July 1678
Marriages,24 January 1575-31 January 1734.
The register is remarkable in recording events during the anarchy of record keeping during the Commonwealth and I know of no recorded history of conflict in the town. The baptismal register contains an entry on the only page apparently affected by upheaval.The Minister of Bromley Parish from 1640-1646 was Richard Antrobus, The year which contains fewest entry is 1644 and a 1646 entry has been inserted into a page which had been drafted for that year. The 7 leaves of the Commonwealth years baptisms are with the exception of 1644 and 1645 reasonably consistent and may represent all baptisms; in 1844 there are only 7 entries including the christening of  Richard Antrobus' own son given the name Richard. The page contains an entry "this was the register in the wars among ourselves". The last months of the year maintain an order and 11 entries are recorded for the following year 1645; 1646 has 22 entries and thereafter the record appears to represent a full record of baptisms.
In 1646 Richard Antrobus was replaced as Minister. According to Lambeth Palace records on 18 April 1646 John Harvey replaced Antrobus who had presumably drafted a page for entries for 1644; the 1646 insertion of  a baptism onto the 1684 page is presumably the hand of Harvey.
On 22 August 1648 Harvey is replaced by Joseph Jackson; in the same year Henry Arnold begans his ministry which runs from 1648-1662.
Bromley is unusual in maintaining greater consistency in records than other parishes in the district and therefore offers greater record sources than other parishes nationally.
I am also indebted once again to the work of Arthur Gresley Hellicar one of the 19th century long serving Vicars of the parish for his description of the contents:
"There are eleven leaves of the Register filled with Baptisms in Queen Elizabeth's reign,over 850 in all,as there is an average of 39 on each side of a leaf. The Baptisms in James I's reign fill 8 leaves(making 624): those of Charles I 7 leaves (546); those of the Commonwealth 7: and those of Charles II,12 (936)"
The transcript is undergoing several stages of proof reading to resolve some issues in the marriage register and will be available later this year at Kent Online Parish Clerks. The marriage register has some entries in the 1600's which need context to narrow the year of the event. It is interesting to see the variant spellings of the surname which becomes fixed as JEWEL[L] in different hands and to see that surnames can shift in different hands within a few years difference.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Joseph Wells(1828-1910) professional cricketer

Joseph Wells (14 July 1828-14 October 1910) was born at Penshurst,Kent.
Joseph occupies a place in Bromley history; he is the fisherman who caught the last 2 pound trout in the River Ravensbourne. It is hard to conceive nowadays that the Ravensbourne was a fishing river. The demise of angling was as a result of the construction of the Gas Works. These had an underground ammonia tank which sometimes overflowed into the Ravensbourne. The Gas Company were successful in winning  a legal action brought to try to maintain fishing and the Ravensbourne like the London rivers Fleet and Wallbrook ceased to be the stocked river it had been. Nowadays it is largely hidden. To read more of the river see Friends of Beckenham Place Park
His uncle was Timothy Duke, a cricket Bat and Ball Manufacturer, the Duke family had begun making cricket balls in 1760 at Redleaf Hill Penshurst as a domestic or cottage industry.
Joseph appeared in 1856 at Bromley Cricket Club and in partnership with Richard Stubberfield,a police constable, revived the local club after a period of decline in population and activity in the town. From 1857 to 1869 Joseph was one of the professionals of the West Kent Cricket Club.From 1869-1872 he played for Bickley Park Club.
Joseph married Sarah Neal, a former domestic servant and they were to have four children.
Their youngest child nicknamed Bertie was Herbert George Wells. His christening is found in the Bromley Parish Register  entry 684 on  21 October 1866 and Joseph in described as a China Dealer. The shop was acquired as a result of an inheritance and also sold sporting goods. The shop was later acquired by Medhurst's and its site became part of the large Medhurst store later a branch of Allders of Croydon and currently trading as Primark.
The shop premises were at Atlas House 47 High Street Bromley but at the time Joseph was a professional cricketer for Kent. The shop failed in 1877 when Joseph fractured his thigh.
As can be seen from Joseph's Wisden Obituary he achieved the feat of being the first bowler to achieve four wickets in consecutive balls whilst bowling for his county at Brighton against Sussex in 1862 with his fast round arm bowling style. The Wisden obituary is online here.
Joseph's cricket career statistics reflect that he played county cricket at the age of 40 see Cricket Archive.
Joseph's inabilty to support the family resulted in all four children entering apprenticeships whilst Sarah re-entered domestic service as a lady's maid at Up Park House near Hastings in Sussex. The couple were separated as a result of the employer's stipulation that her post did not include accommodation for Joseph or her children.
However when her son H.G. Wells had failed in 2 apprenticeships he was allowed to stay at Up Park House. His mother was to be instrumental in H.G Wells entering a pupil/teacher post.