A Kent Village Remembered poster

15 July 2004 -- A Village Remembered

Mr Monty Parkin gave an interesting & informative talk, primarily based on Kemsing near Sevenoaks, but could relate to any Kentish Village. The population now is 4,500.

There was a well in 1886 & children would fill up water after school but some would fall down the well steps. However, a young chap from the pub, actually fell and drowned. We saw a picture of the Church where five children under 5 were buried in the Churchyard.

The Gentry had now moved into the village, to an estate called Barclay Fields. The crest is still on some houses including the Oast Houses. Men wore cocked caps & women covered their heads when Barclay Fields went bust & the estate was sold off after WW1.

St Clare House was the next biggest house where Matthew Nichols was Head Gardener. The Collets & Normans lived there, 2 Governors of the Bank of England. (Lord Montague Norman was Governor was 21 years). Female Servants lived in the attic & male gardeners in the Botheys.

We saw pictures of hop gardens & an extract was read from a poem – ‘I am but a poor blind boy, with my fingers, my Mother’s face I can trace’. A wooden clapper was used to scare birds & a spudger (Kentish dialect) used to clean mud off forks & spades. Ox & cart was used to travel from Sevenoaks to Kemsing and the farmers in the fields lived a poor subsistence. However, Hay workers had beer as part of their wages, in the hay making harvest. One wife threw herself in the pond after having 10 kids in 11 years or so. .

The Blacksmiths shoed heavy horses, weighing over a ton, where the horses would be leaning on them. The Dogs had the right to eat the hoof trim & Russian prisoners boiled the hooves of dead horses to eat.

Once the new wife of a Woodlands Manager, who lived in a remote area, wanted to call the Emergency Dr, but the Housemaid said, we die naturally here, don’t bother with the Dr!

The Rat Catcher was an entertainer & at fairs he would fight a rat with his head in a sack. You would see various birds too. The sky would be black with Starlings for the Autumn.

Potter Hodden kept pigs & his garden backed onto the school & so the boys used to see where meat came from. At another house, a donkey used to go through the house & out again, whilst at another small house, there were 16 kids. Boys were taught gardening/woodwork with Girls learning cooking/needlework.

WWI men camped in the fields, where they held their practice sessions. Village Halls were turned into hospitals for Soldiers & in 1921, there was a War Memorial for Lord Sackville-West, father of Vita. We learnt of the Great snow of 1927/28 & that in the 1930s there were more houses than fields.

A 100 acre field was planted with flowers & the RAF used it as a marker. Then there was the Land Army local & London girls at the same time, but some worked at brick works & a plot at Otford Village Pond.

Looking at current pictures, we saw a picture of a Hay cart in a filed, where the M26 now runs through, with Barclay Field as the only house of the Gentry left. You could send postcards from the big house to say when you were coming home & could be delivered the same day- now it might take a month!

Last Revised: 26 January 2005

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