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  • 1911 Show

    1911 SHOW

    On the 17th April, 1911, a show was put on in the village, under the direction of W.G Draffin, in what was called the Theatre Royal, Otford Lane.  Admission was free.

    A copy of the programme for this event can be viewed and downloaded via this link.

    Theatre Royal
  • Anna Atkins


    Blue-Plaque-3Anna Atkins (1799-1871) was born Anna Children of Tonbridge. Her father, John George Children (1777-1852) was a scientist who became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1807 and was a secretary to the Royal Society in the 1820’s and 1830’s. He was a librarian in the British Museum from 1816 to 1840; his scientific interests included mechanics, mineralogy and astronomy as well as biology.

    Children left his Cambridge college in 1798 to marry Miss Holwell and Anna was born in the following year, her mother dying in childbirth. Anna was brought up by her father (he remarried twice in later life) and thus received an unusually scientific education for a woman of her time. he had a large and very well-equipped scientific laboratory in his home at Tonbridge - there is an account of meeting there in 1813 to investigate the properties of his large battery when 38 of the leading English chemists of the day (including Davy and Wollaston) dined and were all able to be accommodated overnight at the house.

    a_pictureMuch of her early work in science was in helping her father, particularly in producing 250 detailed engravings to illustrate his translation of Lamarck’s  classic treatise, ”Genera of Shells”.

    In 1825 Anna Children married John Pelly Atkins and came to live at Halstead Place. After her marriage she devoted more of her time to her own interests in biology and started a collection of dried plant specimens, providing some for the museum at Kew gardens. In 1839 she was made a member of the Botanical Society of London, one of the few scientific bodies which at this time admitted women. Her plant collection was finally presented to the British Museum in 1865.

    Atkins knew both William Fox Talbot and William Herschel; both were friends of her father and her husband also knew Talbot well. Talbot wrote to her father about his invention and she became one of the first women to take an interest in photography. However, she was not the first woman photographer. Both Atkins and her father took a great interest in photography, buying a camera in 1841, but no photographs by either have survived.

    a_235BAtkins saw photography as a time-saving method to produce the kind of scientific illustrations she had laboured over for her father. In 1841, William Harvey had published his “A Manual of the British Marine Algae”, a key work in the area, which established methods for identifying the different species, but was unillustrated.  Atkins set out in her “British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions” to provide a set of identified specimens as cyanotype photograms to aid in the identification of the specimens he had described.

    As was usual at the time, this work was brought out in a series of parts over the twelve years 1841-1853, providing a total of about 400 prints for each copy. Around a dozen copies are still in existence and these were probably all that were produced.

    a_im00248Atkins produced many other cyanotype illustrations, including other books -- particularly her “Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns”, started in 1853, and also some more experimental images. Much of her work was made in collaboration with her lifelong friend, Anne Dixon (1799-1864).   Dixon was born Anne Austen, a second cousin of the writer Jane Austen, and she collaborated with Atkins in writing a biography of John George Children after his death.

    The cyanotype process has many advantages for this work, not least that it is relatively stable - many if not most of her prints are still in excellent condition. The paper is also easy to make and to process - the blue image appears on exposure and the paper then simply has to be washed and dried. Her father’s laboratory and its giant battery were probably the source of the ferric ammonium cytrate needed for the process, as well as the potassium ferricyanide.

  • E Nesbit


    Nesbit1Nesbit was born in 1858 at 38 Lower Kennington Lane in Kennington, Surrey (now part of Greater London), the daughter of an agricultural chemist, John Collis Nesbit, who died in March 1862, before her fourth birthday. Her sister Mary's ill health meant that the family moved around constantly for some years, living variously in Brighton, Buckinghamshire, France (Dieppe, Rouen, Paris, Tours, Poitiers, Angouleme, Bordeaux, Arcachon, Pau, Bagneres de Bigorre, and Dinan in Brittany), Spain and Germany, before settling for three years at Halstead Hall in Halstead in north-west Kent, a location which later inspired The Railway Children (this distinction has also been claimed by the Derbyshire town of New Mills.)

    When Nesbit was 17, the family moved again, this time back to London, living variously in South East London at Eltham, Lewisham, Grove Park and Lee.

    A follower of William Morris, 19-year-old Nesbit met bank clerk Hubert Bland in 1877. Seven months pregnant, she married Bland on 22 April 1880, though she did not immediately live with him, as Bland initially continued to live with his mother. Their marriage was an open one. Bland also continued an affair with Alice Hoatson which produced two children (Rosamund in 1886 and John in 1899), both of whom Nesbit raised as her own. Her own children were Paul Bland (1880-1940), to whom The Railway Children was dedicated; Iris Bland (1881-1950s); and Fabian Bland (1885-1900), who died aged 15 after a tonsil operation, and to whom she dedicated Five Children And It and its sequels, as well as The Story of the Treasure Seekers and its sequels.

    E-Nesbit-&-SonNesbit and Bland were among the founders of the Fabian Society (a precursor to the Labour Party) in 1884. Their son Fabian was named after the society. They also jointly edited the Society's journal Today; Hoatson was the Society's assistant secretary. Nesbit and Bland also dallied briefly with the Social Democratic Federation, but rejected it as too radical. Nesbit was an active lecturer and prolific writer on socialism during the 1880s. Nesbit also wrote with her husband under the name "Fabian Bland," though this activity dwindled as her success as a children's author grew.

    Nesbit lived from 1899 to 1920 in Well Hall House, Eltham, Kent (now in south-east Greater London). On 20 February 1917, some three years after Bland died, Nesbit married Thomas "the Skipper" Tucker, a ship's engineer on the Woolwich Ferry. She was a guest speaker at the London School of Economics.

    Towards the end of her life she moved to a house called "Crowlink" in Friston, East Sussex, and later to St. Mary's Bay in Romney Marsh, East Kent. Suffering from lung cancer, probably a result of her heavy smoking, she died in 1924 at New Romney, Kent, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary in the Marsh.

  • Fort Halstead

    fort_halstead_aerial_webFORT HALSTEAD

    Fort Halstead is a research site of  Dstl, an  Executive Agency of the UK Ministry of Defence. It is situated on the crest of the Kentish North Downs, overlooking the town of Sevenoaks. Originally constructed in 1892 as one of a ring of fortresses around London, Fort Halstead was to be manned by volunteers in the event of a crisis.

    The base went on to become home to the Ministry of Supply, from which it became the headquarters of the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE).

    History of RARDE

    Two departments, the "Research Department" and the "Design Department", were established in 1922 at Woolwich Arsenal. During the Second World War, the Design Department moved to Fort Halstead, followed by the Research Department. It is believed that Britain's development of the atomic bomb, hidden under the name High Explosive Research ("HER") was initially based at Fort Halstead, where the first atomic bomb was developed under the directorship of William George Penney, who had been appointed Chief Superintendent Armament Research ("CSAR", called "Caesar") by C. P. Snow.  Operation Hurricane saw the bomb conveyed by frigate to Australia and successfully exploded in the Montebello Islands.  In 1950, it is thought that the "HER" research was moved to a new site at Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston in Berkshire.

    In 1955, the two departments were merged to give the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), which was granted the title "Royal" in February 1962.  In the 1980s, RARDE was amalgamated with the Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE) - formerly the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) - with sites at Chertsey and Christchurch, and the Propellants, Explosives and Rocket Motor Establishment based at Waltham Abbey and Westcott.

    Following the December 1988 Lockerbie bombing, forensic experts from RARDE's explosives laboratory examined material recovered from the crash scene, and subsequently testified as expert witnesses at the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial.

    Evolution to DERA

    On 1 April 1991, the Defence Research Agency (DRA) was set up by bringing together Royal Aerospace Establishment (RAE), Admiralty Research Establishment (ARE), RARDE, and the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE). It was an executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence. Four years later, when DRA was itself merged to form the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), the forensic explosives laboratory came under media and scientific scrutiny. In 1996, amid allegations that contaminated equipment had been used in the testing of forensic evidence, an inquiry was set up under Professor Brian Caddy of Strathclyde University to investigate the laboratory's alleged shortcomings.

    Following the split of DERA in 2001, the Fort Halstead site was gifted to QinetiQ who leased part of the site back to Dstl.  Its most recent principal functions have been research and forensic analysis into explosives, and the site's explosives laboratory was again used in the investigation following the attempted 21 July 2005 London bombings.  The facility has been the largest employer in the Sevenoaks district, with 1,300 personnel working on the site in 2000.

    In March 2006, QinetiQ sold the Fort Halstead site to the international property company, Hines, and to Deutsche Bank for an undisclosed sum.

  • Halstead on the Web

    To read an article about Halstead on the BBC Kent website, “Off the Beaten Track : Halstead”, by local author Bob Ogley, click here

    For those who remember the Lockerbie air disaster in 1988, there is an article on the BBC History site about the role of Fort Halstead in investigating the crash.
    First Clue to Lockerbie Crash Found


    There are a number of articles in the BBC World War 2 archive about people with connections with the village.



    To download a copy, please click on this

  • Historical Photographs

    These photographs are on an automatic 5 second loop.
    If you wish to scroll thrugh the photos more quickly, simply hover the cursor over a photo and then click on the backward or forward arrow

  • History of Kent (1797) : Vol 3

    HISTORY OF KENT (1797) : VOL 3

    Below is an extract from a book from 1797 called “ The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, (pp 13 -19), written by Edward Hasted.


    WESTWARD from Shoreham lies HALSTED, which takes its name from the height of its situation, quasi altus locus; a place situated on a hill.

    THIS PARISH lies on high ground among the hills. It contains about nine hundred acres of land, of which about eighty are wood. The soil is either chalk or a stiff clay, much covered with flints. The Placehouse, with the church near it, is situated about half a mile westward from the high London road, leading through Farnborough towards Sevenoke, at the distance of about eighteen miles from London, on which is a hamlet called Lock's Bottom. The village of Halsted stands about a mile south-eastward from the church; southward of which the parish is bounded by a large coppice wood, reaching almost as far as Madamscott-hill, the whole of it is rather a lonely unfrequented place, having nothing further worth mentioning in it.

    THIS PLACE was, in very early times, owned by a family of the name of Malavil, who held it of the archbishop of Canterbury. They bore for their arms, Gules, a lion passant-guardant or, crowned argent; as the same is now quartered by the family of Dering. Roger de Malvil was one of the Recognitores Magna Assisle, or justices of the great assise, in the 4th and 7th years of King John. Philip de Malvil is mentioned in one of the inquisitions made in the 12th and 13th years of that reign, of knights and other services, held of the king in capite, and returned by the several sheriffs to the king's treasurer, as possessing half a knight's see in Altestede of the archbishop. William de Malevill was in possession of this estate in the reign of king Henry III. as appears by the escheat-rolls; (fn. 1) soon after which it came into the family of Chellesfield. In King Edward III's reign it was owned by Ralph Savage, whose widow, Lora, heir of Reginald de Preston, paid aid for it in the 20th year of that reign, as half a knight's see, which William de Chellesfield before held in Halsted and Preston of the archbishop. (fn. 2)

    At the latter end of the above reign, this place was become the property of John, son of William Burys, who, as appears by an old deed, held it in the 4th year of king Richard II. his descendant, William Burys, was sheriff of this county in the 11th year of king Henry VI. and died possessed of Halsted in 1444. (fn. 3)

    After which it did not continue long in this name; for in the next reign of King Edward IV. Thomas Bourchier, archbishop of Canterbury, was in possession of it. He died anno 1486, and by his will, that year, devised the manor of Halsted to his kinsman, Sir Thomas Bourchier the younger, whose descendant Alyce Bourchier, carried it in marriage to William, second son of Richard Petley, who bore for his arms, Argent two bends engrailed sable, a canton of the second. (fn. 4)

    William Petley died possessed of Halsted in 1528, and lies buried in this church, with Alys his wife, by whom he left two sons; Stephen, of whom hereafter; and Thomas, who was of Vielston, in Shoreham, and was ancestor of the branch of this family settled there, and of those now remaining at Riverhead, in Sevenoke, where further mention will be made of them.

    In whose descendants it continued down to Thomas Petley, who possessed this estate, and levied a fine of it in the 17th year of Queen Elizabeth, and quickly after passed it away by sale to Sir Thomas Watson, a generous benefactor to this church, who died in 1621, and was buried in it, with Elizabeth his wife, who survived him, leaving an only child and heir, Elizabeth, who carried this manor in marriage to Sir William Pope, of Wilcot, in Oxfordshire, knight of the Bath and baronet, (fn. 5) who was in 1628, anno 4 King Charles I. created baron Pope, of Belturbett, and earl of Downe, in the kingdom of Ireland. (fn. 6)

    He had issue two sons, William, who died in his life-time, leaving a son Thomas, heir to his grandfather, and earl of Downe; and a second son, Thomas, afterwards likewise earl of Downe. (fn. 7) Thomas, earl of Downe, succeeded his grandfather here, and afterwards passed away this manor, with the seat called Halsted court-lodge, and the lands belonging to it, to Mr. Edward Ashe, of Heytesbury, in Wiltshire, who bore for his arms, Argent, two chevrons sable. (fn. 8)

    He left a son Joseph, and a daughter Elizabeth, married to Thomas Foley, of Kidderminster, father of the late lord Foley.

    Joseph Ashe was of Twickenham, in Middlefex, and was created a baronet in 1660. His descendant, Sir James Ashe, bart. was likewise of Twickenham, and sold this estate to Lansdell, in whose descendants it continued till the year 1738, when John Lansdell, esq. of Halsted, whose arms were, Azure, a chevron counter componée or and sable, cotised argent, between three crosses moline of the same, conveyed this manor, Halsted-court, the park, with sundry farms, messuages, lands, woods, &c. in Halsted, and the adjoining parishes, to trustees for the use of lord Vere Beauclerk, third son of Charles, first duke of St. Albans, by his first wife the lady Diana Vere, eldest daughter and at length sole heir of Aubrey de Vere, the last earl of Oxford of that name, who entering into a maritime life, distinguished himself in several commands, and by gradual promotions, rose to be admiral of the blue squadron of his Majesty's fleet, and in 1750, was created lord Vere, of Hanworth, in Middlesex.

    In April, 1736, his lordship married Mary, eldest daughter and coheir of Thomas Chambers, esq. of Hanworth, by whom he has had three sons, of whom Aubrey only is surviving; and a daughter, Mary, married to lord Charles Spencer, next brother to the duke of Marlborough. (fn. 9)

    He died in 1781, and was succeeded in title and in this manor (the court-lodge, now called Halstedplace, having been sold off by his father lord Vere, some time before, as will be seen hereafter) by his only surviving son Aubrey lord Vere, who on the death of George, the late duke, succeeded to the dukedom of his grandfather in 1787, and in 1793 alienated this manor to Mr. William Brooks, of this parish, the present possessor of it.

    The manor of Halsted extends over part of Chelsfield. Besides the relief paid by the tenants of the quit-rent, there is paid a heriot of the best living beast, or otherwise three shillings and four pence for a dead heriot.

    The mansion-house, or court-lodge of the manor, formerly called Halsted-court, but now HALSTEDPLACE, with its appurtenances, and some little quantity of land adjoining to it, being the two walks and roads leading to it both from London and Sevenoke, and two other pieces of land, containing in all about eight acres, were in 1755, sold by lord Vere, and Mary his wife, which sale was confirmed by an act passed next year, to Robert Bagshaw, who some time afterwards passed them away to Robert Ralph Foley, esq. who, in 1767, was created a baronet, being descended of a family of antient standing in Worcestershire; one of whom, Thomas Foley, by Anne his wife, daughter of John Browne, esq. of Spelmonden, in this county, left several sons and daughters; of whom, Thomas, the eldest son, was father of the late Thomas, lord Foley; and Philip, the youngest son, was of Prestwood, in Staffordshire, esq. and left two sons; Paul, who succeeded him at Prestwood; and Robert Foley, whose eldest surviving son, RobertRalph Foley, married Dorothy, daughter of Thomas Hinchcliffe, esq. of Yorkshire, and purchased this seat as before-mentioned. (fn. 10)

    He resided at Halsted-place for some years. After which he sold it, with the lands belonging to it, as before-mentioned, to John Sargent, esq. who resided here and died in 1791, after which it was sold to Arnold Arnold, esq. who now possesses it, and resides here.

    There are no parochial charities.

    HALSTED is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester, and being a peculiar of the archbishop, it is as such in the deanry of Shoreham.

    The church, which is dedicated to St. Margaret, consists of one isle and a chancel, with a small chapel on the north side, and a pointed steeple, in which are four bells.

    Sir Thomas Watson, lord of the manor of Halsted, was a great benefactor to this church; in the year 1609, he rebuilt from the ground the fair chapel of free-stone, on the north side of it, and adorned the east end of it, with curious painted glass, richly ornamented, now destroyed; he likewise new-built the steeple with stone from the ground, repaired and newtiled both the church and chancel of it. He built the porch, and gave four new bells, a reading-desk, and pulpit, and made a wall from the north to the west side of the church-yard.

    Among other monuments and inscriptions in this church, in the isle, is a grave-stone near the pulpit, with the figure of a man in armour, with a greyhound at his feet, and inscription in brass in black letter, for William Burys, esq. formerly lord of Halsted, obt. 1444, the shield of arms are lost. In the north chancel, two grave-stones, one for Sir Thomas Watson, of Halsted, obt. 1621; the other for Elizabeth his wife, the stone was laid by her grandson, Thomas, earl of Downe; at the east end a mural monument for Sir James Ashe, bart. of Twickenham, whose only surviving daughter Martha married Joseph Windham, esq. obt. 1733. In the high chancel, a monument for Thomas Holt, of London, obt. 1761, arms, argent on a bend engrailed sable, three fleurs de lis of the field. On the south side a gravestone, with the figures of a man and woman in brass, over their heads a dove, and beneath an inscription in black letter for William Petley, and Alys his wife, he died 1528; round the verge of a large gravestone in the middle of the isle, was an inscription in brass, capitals of the 13th century, cut separately into the stone, which are now all picked out, except one letter, so as not to be legible. Philipott supposes this to be the memorial of William de Chellesfield.

    It is a rectory in the patronage of the archbishop of Canterbury, being part of the antient possessions of that see. In the 15th year of king Edward I. it was valued at one hundred shillings. (fn. 11)

    By virtue of the commission of enquiry in 1650, issuing out of chancery, it was returned, that Halsted was a parsonage, with a house and little barn, and fifty-one acres of land, valued at thirty pounds per annum, master Cottingham being the minister, and master J. Ash the proprietor thereof. (fn. 12)

    It is valued in the king's books at 5l. 17s. 11d. and the yearly tenths at eleven shillings and nine-pence halfpenny. (fn. 13)

    It has now only seven acres of glebe land.

  • History of the Cock Inn


    Halstead-Cock-InnThe inn known as The Cock was built during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) in the year. The origin of the sign of the Cock dates back to the reign of Richard I (1189-1199) and refers to the days of chivalry when knights made their vows at a tournament banquet, before a peacock served up in all its magnificent plumage.

    The inn, when first built, was a farm dwelling part of a considerable estate.  The earliest recorded occupant is one Francis Jessel, a farmer of the parish of Knockholt, who purchased the property in 1639. Sale documents show that four acres of arable land were included as well as several outbuildings and a stable.  Jessel lived here with his wife Naomi, four sons and three daughters. In 1653, the property was again sold. At this date only two and a half acres of land are included in the inventory.

    In 1702, the property was purchased by one Thomas Hatherall who is described as a beer retailer and farmer of the parish of Chelsfield.  In August of the same year Hatherall was granted a licence to sell ales and ciders only.  The property thus became a "registered ale house" which entitled its keeper, under the authority of two justices, to administer ale between divine service.  The punishment for doing so was a fine, a day in the stocks and in some cases a flogging.  In a licensed transfer of 1718, the house was registered under the title of the "Cock".

    In 1734, the "Cock" was closed for a period of six weeks while justices sat in debate on the conduct of one Thomas White, innkeeper of Bromley, who had applied for a licence at the "Cock" in July of that year.  White was refused a licence on the grounds of having previously kept a disorderly house and the inn was resold to a grocer of Orpington, one James Smeed.

    The "Cock" is mentioned in the last will and testament of one Cedric Roper drawn up in 1758 when he decreed that "My hospicum situate and being at Halstede known by nayme and sine of the "Cocke" with its lande thereto belonginge upon my passinge, shale the dedes and tytle be deliverede up toe my wife Anne and lete nothinge contrarie to the trewe meaninge of this my will and testament".

    In 1782, a private coach heading for the "Cock" was hailed by a highwayman. His plans to rob the passengers however were thwarted by the quick thinking of the coachman, a man named Greaves, who it is said "drove the team at such a furious speed in the direction of the "Cock" tavern that it allowed the ruffian no time to collect himself.” Coachman Greaves was rewarded with a guinea for his bravery.

    In 1811, the "Cock" was purchased by one Francis Young, former town-crier of Bromley.  The inn remained in the possession of the Young family for over forty years.  During the great drought of the 1880s all water needed at the "Cock" had to be carried in buckets from the big well at Halstead Place.  When contractors demolished the old church, the pulpit stood for many years in the yard of the "Cock".

    The "Cock" has seen and undergone many changes since it was first built.  In 1985 it underwent an ambitious refurbishment but the historic atmosphere remains unchanged.  So stay, enjoy the fayre and reflect on those bygone days.

  • History of St.Margaret's Church


    From local historian Geoffrey Kitchener

    St Margaret's Church at Halstead, an unpretentious building with bell turret, low sweeping roof and knapped flint walls, is Victorian. But inside, its memorials name members of the community back to the 14th century, and these were taken from the old church, when demolished in 1880-1. The remains of that building lie some two hundred metres away, in the grounds of Halstead Place School, most of its remaining memorials having been vandalised, largely in recent years.

    Original Halstead -ChurchThe early origins of church and community may be inferred from these sources. First, a church at Haltesteda is recorded in the manuscript known as Textus Roffensis (c.1115), as part of a list of churches believed to be based on a Saxon original. Secondly, the site adjoined, and lay well within the private grounds of, Halstead Place. This was an 18th century mansion that replaced an earlier manor house, which suggests a continuity of relationship between church and principal landowner. In conjunction with the evidence of Textus Roffensis, this could point to origin as a private chapel erected by a Saxon thane next to his residence. Place-name evidence suggests that, in common with many other settlements ending in "-stead" high up on the downl
    and, Halstead was an outlying secondary settlement, perhaps used for stock grazing, from middle or later Saxon times.

    The church was rebuilt in the 13th century. Halstead does not enjoy the richness of medieval ecclesiastical records that its neighbours, Otford and Shoreham, possess. There are records of church bequests, proceedings for debt against the rector, and even excommunication of William Bebyngton, the incumbent in 1419. But the general paucity of information reflects the fact that this was a very small and impoverished parish. In 1377, only 38 persons over 14 years old paid their groats for the poll tax. In 1535, the living was assessed as worth £5 17s. 1d per annum, plus an additional 3s.4d allocated solely to the priest. By way of comparison, Shoreham with Otford was worth £56 gross, Chevening £21 6s.8d and Brasted £32 6s.8d.

    In these circumstances, the parish might be fortunate in possessing a rector who was able to devote care and attention. Examples are John Hoadly (rector 1678-1725), who kept school "when I was young and Able"*1, or John Cottingham, for whose appointment during the civil war the parishioners petitioned the House of Lords. Although the Commonwealth in 1653 took away from clergymen the conduct of marriage ceremonies, the marriage register shows that Cottingham was still prepared to marry in the old way. These examples may be contrasted with the non-resident Carswell Winder (rector 1742-70), who was 'better known as a Fox hunter than as a Divine', according to Streatfeild, the historian*2.

    Halstead's community began expanding in the 19th century, with the growth of the London fruit market. Woods were grubbed, and the ground laid to soft fruit. Halstead became famous for strawberries: the fields and fruit-pickers' huts are depicted in one of the south windows of the present church. Several rectors commented on the tensions created by fruit growing, especially drunkenness through money earned and anti-clerical feeling amongst farmers. By 1885 there were some fifty dissenters in the parish, with a focal point provided by Albert Bath of Colgates farm, described by the Bromley Journal in that year as "a well-known local politician holding advanced radical views"*3. He campaigned through the Farmers Alliance against the extraordinary tithe rent charge payable on hops, obliging the Halstead rector to seize his produce to secure payment.

    Halstead's population was increased by migratory fruit-pickers, leading Harry Cumberlege (rector 1891-1900) to institute open air services for them on summer Sundays, as well as providing a class on Saturdays for the children. He continued Sunday schools, which had been run by his predecessors from at least the 1870s (attendance about 30 in 1876, 50 in 1880, 87 in 1885). Fruit pickers' children were also encouraged to Sunday school by Francis Deane (rector 1903-1915), with the added attraction of lemonade, ABC biscuits and "hundreds and thousands". His wife ran temperance socials for young men and women, with tea in huge urns being provided. A frequent injunction to her daughter was "Take this strong one to so-and-so, who is here drunk again!"*4

    With Halstead's 19th century expansion came a proposal to demolish the old church and build anew. Four factors may have been involved in this proposal.

    First, it has been claimed that the old church was pulled down as being in a dangerous condition. The evidence for this is not convincing. Secondly, the population was increasing. However, average congregations were in the order of two thirds of the church capacity. Thirdly, the Victorian period was one when substantial private benefactions for religion were not uncommon. Fourthly, T F Burnaby-Atkins had inherited Halstead Place in 1872. He contributed most of the building costs and would have been conscious of the advantages of removal of all access to the church through his grounds, and removal of the bells from outside his windows.

    The old church was pulled down in 1880-1, and the new one built in the separate cemetery grounds, converting a burial chapel of 1855 into the chancel. An unfortunate omission marred the transfer of the church. The rights of the old church as a place for the solemnisation of marriage were not transferred, with the result that the 112 marriages celebrated at the new building until 1919 were, strictly speaking, invalid. A sizeable proportion of the village population was accordingly illegitimate, until the marriages were validated by an Order, confirmed by a special Act of Parliament in 1920.

    At that time, the civil and ecclesiastical parishes were smaller than at present. Most of Otford Lane lay in Shoreham parish, and the fruit growers there faced a walk of two or three miles to their proper parish church. The Otford Lane Mission Church, a small wooden building, was opened for their benefit in 1891. Other straggling communities in the large Shoreham parish were similarly served by mission churches at Twitton (1890) and Well Hill (1893). Both Otford Lane and Badgers Mount, which had no separate church, were brought into Halstead ecclesiastical parish in 1938.

    The consolidation of the Parish of Halstead, which was instigated in 1938, was carried out by two Rectors John Barker and then Grosvenor Aslachsen.

    1967 saw the appointment of a new Rector on the retirement of Grosvenor Aslachsen who had seen St Margaret's through the war years and quite a period of change. Not only a new Rector but a new Rectory built on land next to the Church and the old Rectory being sold off by the Church Commissioners into the public domain. The Rev. Nowell Wood had experienced many years of commercial life before entering into the ministry and brought with him a variety of skills and enthusiasms that benefited both the Church and the village. It was during his incumbency that several organisations were started, St Margaret's Players and The Ladies Fellowship being two of them which brought villagers and churchgoers closer together.

    Three further Rectors followed Nowell Wood before the appointment of Michael Woodcock in late 1999. All Rectors have held the position of Chaplain at Fort Halstead and during the early 70s the Director of the Fort was Fred East also Lay Reader at St Margaret's. This unique link with both civilian and military personnel brought extra enthusiasm and talent to the service of St Margaret's. In 1983 the two livings of Knockholt and Halstead were combined although separate parochial church councils were continued. The vision and commitment of the Rector Malcolm Bury enabled the building of the North Room onto the church in 1992 which allowed for informal gatherings after services, creche facilities in services, space for meetings of adults and children. The closure of the Otford Lane Mission Church in 1985, with only a small residual congregation, marked the end of another era.

    Since then the varied talents of John Benson and Hugh Thomas see the spiritual life of the church continuing to grow.

    *1  Archbishop Wake's Survey of Peculiars, 1717, Lambeth Palace Library MSI 115.
    *2  Annotation in Streatfeild's copy of Hasted's History of Kent, BM ADD MS 33880.
    *3  Bromley Journal, 20 August 1885.
    *4  in litt., Mrs G C Griffiths to G T Aslachsen, 11 October 1952

  • Old Churchyard Site


    Halstead-Church-OldThe oldest ruins in Halstead are to be found at the Old Churchyard site at Halstead Place which is classified as a "Scheduled Ancient Monument". The first written record of a church was in 1120AD, but the church was almost certainly older and probably originated as the private chapel of an Anglo Saxon thane as part of his estate, now known as Halstead Place.

    The church was enlarged and altered over many centuries but, despite an extensive programme of restoration between 1866 and 1873, a surprising decision was taken in 1880 to demolish the church and build a new one at the current site of St Margaret's. As Geoffrey Kitchener mentions on page 65 in his book Millennial Halstead, much of the flint from the demolished church was reused and many ornaments transferred.

    Extra space for burials had been needed for many years, and in 1854 John Pelly Atkins the owner of Halstead Place donated land for a new burial ground, which was consecrated in 1855, and forms the main part of the present churchyard. A burial chapel which was erected on this land forms the chancel of the new church.

    An interesting footnote in the history of the village is the omission of the transfer of the right to solemnise marriage in the church when it was rebuilt, with the result that 112 marriages celebrated there until 1919 were invalid, and many villagers therefore illegitimate. The marriages were validated by an Order, confirmed by a special Act of Parliament in 1920. Some years later when Halstead Place became a school, the children of J B Priestley were pupils there, leading to speculation that Halstead's unlawful marriages formed the basis of his play "When we are married".

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