Hayes, West Wickham and Keston in old picture postcards

Hayes, West Wickham and Keston in old picture postcards

:   Muriel V. Searle
:   Greater London
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-4694-4
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Hayes, West Wickham and Keston in old picture postcards'

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Maps from only about 130 years ago (a mere four or five generations back) show Brornley as a little market town, starting at the historie College and ending about where is now the ChurchilI Theatre. Even sa, it was considered to be of some irnportance , by virtue of its Bishops' Palace , its market , then of some seven centuries' standing, and its position on the main road to Tunbridge Wells and the Kent ports; the first stage outside London for changing harses.

Having such relative importance, it naturally had a ring of smaller satellites, equivalent to suburbs, whose names today are merely identifications for parts of a big town which are completely indistinguishable from the general sweep of urban development: Plaistow, Farwig, Southborough, Bickley, Widmore, Sundridge, and eventually the much later New Bromley. All of them were then separated by open countryside, or the spreading Palace estates. Today the notion of walking across fields to somewhere as close as Farwig seems inconceivable. A second ring of satellite villages lay further out, between about two and five miles away, but were still tied up with Bromley for trade (a market for their farm produce and simple manufactures ) and for support of human Iife (for shopping, medicine and entertainment). They included places like Hayes, West Wickham, Keston, Farnborough, Orpington and Beckenharn. The latter two were swallowed whole by Bromley during the great 1930s suburb-building boom, linked into one continuous sprawl of modern residential roads, their old village eentres pulled down for building the parades of largely all-alike new shops required by the residents of the new all-alike roads and avenues. Not to mention the addition of cinemas and new public houses.

The major factor encouraging this swift and all-ernbracing transformation of village into suburb was Southern Railway electrification, making what we now call commuting sa quick

and cheap that living in semi-country while werking in London was more practicable than ever before for ordinary young husbands with mortgages. For their grandfathers' generation. living in places like Farnborough while working in Town was initially the prerogative mainly of big businessmen with private carriages to ferry them over to Beckenharn or Bromley to travel First Class to their board rooms.

Now there were the new trains, and with them came a new demand for more modest houses in the !400 to !650 bracket and a !25 deposit, which every speculative builder in the district was more than ready to cash in upon. Directly the mortgage agreements were signed, the next two fields were bought from farmers equally willing to cash in; within a few years the countryside wasgone.

However, several others of the farmer outlying villages stood, and mercifully still stand, between rural and urban states, again largely for railway reasons. Hayes and West Wiekham acquired the advantage of their own branch line's electrification, but the operative word was 'branch'; a little quiet terminus instead of a main line rushing through linking everyone with everywhere; a useful but specifically local route. Suburbanisa(ion certainly came to them bath, but it had an outer limit instead of sweeping on and on. They were linked up in the railway's vicinity to places like Shirley and Eimers End, but to the south were very noticeably less developed. Today there is still this same dual character to bath Hayes and West Wickham; archetypal Thirties suburbs where suburbia suddenly stops, in the same places where it stopped in the Thirties; behind the houses on such roads as Corkscrew Hili spread the same miles of rolling Kent/Surrey border country over which they looked when newly built.

Thirdly, there were the villages that remained more truly villages, albeit with a modicum of new roads. Again because of

railways or, rather, lack of railways. Had all the schemes and dreams for lines into Farnborough and Keston materialised, they would probably now be , at worst, another Penge, at best another Petts Wood. In the event, trains passed them by; not least because the hilly terrain making this countryside so beautiful would also have made it expensive to engineer; even by Victorian standards the number of cuttings and, possibly, tunnels required would have made such ideas as linking Lewisharn, Bromley and Croydon cross-country prohibitively expensive compared with possible passenger use. As a result, they are still in essence country villages; in Keston's case, complete with windmill, ponds, and sweeps of gorse and heather, that could be the other end of the world from London, or even modern Bromley or Croydon.

All these one-time villages (urban, suburban and rural) were copiously portrayed on the picture posteards whose heyday ran from about the time of Edward VII's accession to just after the Second World War, when the telephone beeame virtually universal in private hornes. Previously, postcards perforrned the same function, eonveying simple messages from person to person. Mailbox c1earanees and house deliveries were as a result so frequent that a card saying simply 'Will be over to tea this af ternoon' could be posted at breakfast time, reeeived soon after lunch, and the table be laid when the visitors arrived. Every uneventful triviality for which we would piek up the phone was conveyed by picture posteard; so neeessary were they, therefore, that mothers of ten kept a number always in a handy drawer, ready for das hing offfor the priee of a ha 'penny stamp. The card itself rnight have cost one old penny (V3p). Today they are collecter's fair items, at antique prices. The addition of a few market stalls or a polieeman on horse back may push the eost of a one-time penny postcard to no, or even more. The ability of dealers to demand, and get, such prices, sterns from

the universallaw of supply and demand. No longer a means of sending family messages. they have become transformed by time into invaluable mirrors of the past. One of the best means of building up a very complete picture of how one's own area looked in great-grandfather's day.

This was the period when any place was changing faster than ever before; the cards he and his family sent therefore show so many scenes that were quickly to vanish for ever. Every bit of background is important to we who now colleet local cards; the buses, trams, butcher boys' delivery cycles, dairyrnen's milkearts, shop advertisements on the walls. They are the pieees of social history that give life and meaning to the actual settings, whieh have themselves also aften since changed beyond recognition. Small wonder that collectors' fairs limited entirely to old posteards, some of them featuring fifty or more dealers with huge stocks, attract buyers from many rniles around, eaeh looking for one more piece in the jigsaw that is the history ofhis own town, willing to pay more for one eard that he badly needs than the person who penned it would have earned in a working week. The author quite recently (albeit grudgingly) paid HZ for a seence featuring her grandfather's old shop premises in Bromley; exaetly his pay for managing the same business for a month. Was it worth it? Intrinsieally, no; it was still only a penny postcard, and none too clean. Historieally, yes; it was the first time she had ever aetually seen wh at the shop looked like, the kind of stock it sold; the window dressed with his own hands. That is the fascination of posteard eolleeting. Above all, ifone's interest is an area like this, on the dividing line between age-old countryside and ever-ehanging twentieth eentury suburbia.

June 1988

Muriel V. Searle

15667 HA YES LA,. E & CHURC

1. Horse transport through an otherwise deserted Hayes, long befare addition of the present shops and houses. The church was therefore still the centrepiece, bath visually and socially, periodically added to by parishioners who could afford la cornrnernorate themselves or their families for future generations to rernernber. Two of the more recent donations were windows given in 1858. One, a resurrection scene, was given 'by the family ofthe late Samuel Neville Ward Esq., of Baston ,and with adedication 'to the memoryofhim and ofhis wife'. The other, also in the chancel, showed Christ healingthe sick, but was more unusual in that those subscribing financially towards its installation were not publicly thanked by name; the local paper simply recorded that it was 'placed there by the Gentry of the Parish'.

2. Though largely rebuilt in 1880, St. Mary The Virgin at Hayes stands on a very hallowed site. A new church was built in about 1200, but presumably replaced an even older one, as the list of Rectors' names starts a quarter of a century before that date. Altered into the then fashionable Early English style in about 1400, it eventually went through the usual Reform period additions of a gallery and a towering pulpit to emphasise the great importance of the sermon. Three tiers tall, it ascended from the parish clerk, seated at ground level, to the presiding clergyman of the day in the middle, to the preacher himself on the top deck, with his hour-glass or sermon-glass measuring out his dissertation in trickling grains of sand. And it could weil last a full hour, through to its interminabie winding-up sequence of Fifthly, Sixthly, Finally, Lastly and In Conclusion. With the clerk and two c1ergy warehing form this viewpoint. who dared fall asleep?

3. One of the strangest Pitt family stories about Hayes Church (seen here in about 1902) concerns the funeral of 'the great Lord Chatham' in Westminster Abbey, where the elaborate heraldic banners carried in the procession were afterwards hung on display. But later they came to the Pitts' own Hayes parish, where for about seventy years they hung gathering both historie interest and dust. Then they disappeared, never to be seen again. Popular hearsay believed that a house-proud (or, rather, church-proud) charlady, whose feeling for cleanliness was offended by their grubbiness every time she scrubbed the church, sneakily removed them and gave them decent burial, probably in her coal fired kitchen range. Luckily, pictorial reproductions existed, and in about 1920 Mrs. Torrens of the Crove presented a new banner copied from the old, to be hung over the chancel screen. It showed Lord Chatham's coat of arms between a !ion and stag, with his coronet, and the motto 'Benige Numine'.

4. An incalculable unwitting crime against local art was perpetrated at the George in Hayes, 'A quaint picturesque place (that) boasts of a remarkable public picture gallery, the sign of the George & Dragon being, it is said, an early painting by Sir J.E. MilIais, ' as was remarked in a guidebook of the 1890s. The 'picture gallery' was in fact just one painting, not in a museum but hanging outdoors in all weathers. The young Millais when visiting the George supposedly gave its landlord - possibly inlieu of cash, as was done in contemporary France by the impecunious Barbizon painters - a gift whose modern value would be in tens of thousands of pounds; a new sign specially painted, showing George with the dragon. A later publican unknowingly sent it to destruction by trying to preserve it, for by about 1875 it was only fit to be described as 'toa much blackened to be made out'. Aware of its interest. and rat her than trust a village artisan, he sent it for cleaning to a conceited minor Keston artist. The latter decided to do even better and update it. Millais' art was completely burned off, and replaced by a daub of his own!

5. A modest country hostelry, the New Inn as shown here bears no relationship to the present massive mockmedieval baronial hall, opposite Hayes station; an unusual and rather magnificent exercise in almost monastic splendour. This smaller and older New Inn, no more than a local beerhouse serving villagers, cyclists and ramblers, vanished in about 1935 when the great rush of incoming suburbia seemed to demand sernething more towny. The newer New Inn, still flourishing today, was erected by aMidlands brewery company, apparently in a fantasy style much favoured there , but unique in Kent. It was heavily damaged in the 1940 blitz and remained partly wrecked Ior several years - (and two men died in the raid) - but was restored to its massive glory in 1962.

6. Symmetrical Georgian elegance in Hayes Grove, whose formal grounds have unusual tree associations. One, a huge Cedar of Lebanon, is said to have been planted by a woman missionary, who left a similar permanent memento wherever she stopped to preach. Another, an English aak, allegedly commemorated the union of England with Scotland. Lady Baker Wilbraham, who once lived at Hayes Grove, befare her marriage in 1930, was descended from Hayes forebears of two centuries before. After various wartime uses, the house became a rest home for invalid ex-nurses, bought for this purpose by King Edward's HospitalFund and leased to the London Hospital for only nominal rent. This view appears to have been posted by a very old and infirm resident, as an Easter card.

7. One of the first motor buses trundles into Hayes on an otherwise deserted raad. 'Outside only' meant just that: on top, outside under the wind and rain, huddled into blankets or waterproofs. Decades after top decks were covered in, busmen today still some times use this expression instead of the more logical 'On top only', By this period, the 1920's buses were greatly improved on the skeletal services passing for a timetable in the early days of public transport. When trains came to Bromley, almost the only means of going on to the town's outskirts was by such routes as Fownes's Keston Omnibus, connecting with a mere handfu! of daily trains. From Keston in 1865, for exarnple, they ran for the 9.54 and 10.43 am, or the 3.34 and 8.09 pm from Bromley to London, from the Red Cross. On Sundays, missing the 10.30 am bus, (which involved a long wait for the 11.54 am train) meant either waiting some nine hours for the next, or not travelling at all. The card is captioned 'Mary's Cottages, Hayes' and postmarked 1924.

8. Hayes gained its first Post Office, in Baston Road, in 1883; just one year afterthe railway came to heraldits first steps towards modern development. About twenty years later this attractive postcard went on sale , showing a combined cake shop and Post Office, the shop being basically the largest front parlour of a cottage; much like Miss Sands' butchery of 1899, started in the front room of one ofthe nearby St. Mary's Cottages and very unusual in being run by a woman. Robert Pearce, the village postrnaster, started in 1894; he worked right through to 1934, spanning the most dramatic and dras tic period of residential development the place had ever seen. His first custorners were villagers, every one known by name; his finalones were new suburbians, more distinguished by their numbers and their newness than as personal friends. A white-bearded Santa Claus, he was reckoned to have plodded the equivalent of four times around the world, on the lanes of Hayes, starting his first round at 6 am, and his last round thirteen hours later.

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