|Fairby Updated 23.7.2010|
If you live on the west side of Ash Road between Chapel Wood Road and Parkfield, then the chances are (with a few exceptions) that you are living on part of Fairby Farm. We first meet the farm in 1420 when it was owned by John Feerby, he only owned the 34 acres roughly between Castle Hill and Fairby Lane. By the late c15th it was owned by the Overy family. When John Overy died in 1555, Fairby was the classic mixed farm with wheat, barley, oats, cows, sheep, pigs and poultry. He also owned the smaller farms of Woodins, Mintmakers (Church Road) and Forge Cottage (Ash Road). Moving three generations on to 1604, the Hartley estate was owned by brothers John and Richard. They decided to partition the lands between them, John was allotted "Farbyes" and "St Peters" (Mintmakers). Some time about 1650 Fairby passed out of the family and was bought by Thomas Young, who hailed from Southfleet.
The remaining part of the later farm, that south of Fairby Lane and north of Castle Hill has a very different history, as it was associated with Pennis in Fawkham and Hartley Manor. Sometime about 1500 a London haberdasher, Elias Bingham, bought this and lands in Fawkham and Ash from merchant taylor Laurence Harris. About the same time he had purchased Hartley Manor and Dawsland. He may have overextended himself for in 1515 he had to mortgage the estate and two years later this part of Fairby was purchased by the masters of the Savoy Hospital, which they sold on for £110 to one William Vertue. A few years later it had come to the White family. They eventually sold it to their long time tenant, Thomas Walter of Pennis in 1571. He divided his Hartley lands between his sons in 1590, and thanks to this we get a detailed list of the "Fairby" fields given to son John. This of course is the John who set up the coats and gowns charity and whose effegy can be seen on the fine wall monument in Fawkham Church. By 1657 the estate was heavily indebted and the heir Bennett Walter was forced to sell to Thomas Young, not before fighting a legal challenge to her husband's will by her two sons. This sale thus created the Fairby estate that lasted up to a century ago.
It was Thomas (d 1688) who built the house we see today and moved there. He was succeeded by his son John (1643-1713) and grandson Thomas (d 1747). John added to the Hartley estate by purchasing Hartley Cottage, Stocks Farm and Forge Cottage. Thomas had no surviving male heir so Fairby passed to Richard Treadwell (1711-1803) who had married Mary Young (1721-98). His son Francis (1758-1851) matched him for longevity. Thus Fairby had only 2 owners in over a century.
Fairby was sold in 1852, the advert gives a detailed description of the farm, and Mr J T Smith became the next owner. He sold it to James Timmins Chance, an industrialist from Smethwick. Then Thomas Morton bought the house and 20 acres of land for £1,000 in 1905 and then spent £4,900 on the buildings and gardens. It was at this time the house came to be called Fairby Grange. She was succeeded by Robert Emmet in 1910. The remainder of the estate was bought by Smallowners Limited and divided into smallholdings.
This was the time when people enjoyed taking long country walks for recreation. One such sightseer was Alfred Salter (1873-1945), a doctor and Christian Socialist from Bermondsey. He remembered seeing Fairby, and bought it when it came up for sale in 1917. He converted it into a convalescent home for poor women, consumptives and conscientous objectors (around 150 were able to stay here in WW1 (John W Graham - Conscription and Conscience, 1922), and later gave it to the borough of Bermondsey as a home for mothers and children after childbirth and illness. The children were known locally as "basket babies", from the distinctive prams that became a familiar sight in Hartley's lanes. Fairby was also a plant nursery for the borough The name of a house in Round Ash Way commemorates this remarkable man.
Bermondsey Borough sold the house in the 1950s and it reopened as a retirement home in about 1958. Many planning applications were made by interested parties for the 20 acre grounds, but in the end Ron Billings successfully applied to build Round Ash Way and the roads around it. He offered part of the land to be the site of the new primary school, which the council accepted although their original plan was to build it where Billings Hill Shaw is today.
Fairby Farm in 1844
1. Hartley Hole Field & wood
(Arable 4acres, Wood 1a)