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.