Hartley Hill Cottage, Church Road, Hartley, Kent
Occupying the corner plot of the junction of Church Road and Hartley Hill, Hartley Hill Cottage was probably the most pictured house in the village before the current hedge was planted. On the eight acres that went with the house, the houses of Ship Cottage, The Willows and Applegarth, Church Road now stand; as well as Hillside and Longview in Hartley Hill.
It is a timber and brick built cottage, described in 1910 as having 3 bedrooms up-stairs and 3 rooms downstairs. Then as now, the garden was a noted feature of the house. The English Heritage lister (it has grade II listing) estimated that it was 17th century or earlier, and this is consistent with the documentary evidence.
It is probable that the land making up Hartley Hill Cottage was owned by John le Clerk in 1288, one of the defendants sued by John Eylnoth to recover a 45 acre farm that had belonged to his uncle Walter Blodiner. However the defendants successfully proved that they had bought the land.
We next hear of the land in 1547 when it was left by Christopher Humphrey of Hor-ton Kirby in his will to his brother and joint owner John Humphrey. Their descen-dant, Thomas Humphrey, sold the 8 acres to Nicholas Ellis in 1604.
When Nicholas Ellis bought the land, there was no house, but there was one there when he wrote his will in 1614. So the building of the house can therefore be dated to between 1604 and 1614, more likely near the earlier date as the Ellis family was living there.
Nicholas left a life interest in the house to his wife Katherine (d 1627), and then it was to go to his daughter Anne Ellis and son Nicholas Ellis.
By 1662 Hartley Hill Cottage had a new owner, Henry Piggott (1614-1678). How he came to be the owner is not clear, whether it was by inheritance, marriage or pur-chase. He was the son of Thomas Piggott, the vicar of Meopham, so may have moved here when he got married. He was succeeded by his son Nicholas Piggott (d 1690). After him a dispute arose between Hannah Piggott, the widow of his son Nicholas, and Thomas Piggott his surviving son. This may be the reason that Nicholas Pigott and Jane his wife, sold the cottage to William Knight, together with some land at Stansted in 1693. The eight acres that went with it were then devoted to arable and orchards.
In the 18th century the freehold of the house passed to the Crowhurst family, who owned land in Longfield. Thomas Crowhurst lived here himself from 1748 to 1751. It was then owned by the Taylor family, before being bought by William Bensted of Hartley Court in the early 19th century. Tenants included Richard and Mary John-son (1751-57); Richard and Susannah Wingate (1757-66); and newlyweds William and Mary Johnson (1766-84), who had been married at Hartley Church.
For almost a century, the Pettmans or Packmans were the tenants of Hartley Hill Cottage, beginning with Henry and Mary Pitman in 1790. They were followed (1828) by Robert Pettman and his wife Jane, Robert is presumably Henry's son, but does not appear on the baptism register for Hartley. Robert was a shepherd at Hartley Court, but one of their nine children, William (b 1841) rose to become a farm bailiff. For a while two of their daughters kept a school at the house, one of them, Amy Russell of Ash, was still living in 1927 when Rev Bancks wrote 'Hartley Through the Ages'. Robert died in 1864, but it was not until 1901 that Jane, now aged 96 and living at New House Farm cottages was reunited with him in Hartley Churchyard.
When the Valuation Office visited in 1911 the tenant was one Alfred Marsh, who paid the princely sum of 4 shillings (20p) per week, and the house was valued at £105. Smallowners Ltd purchased the freehold in 1913, but by 1918 the owners were Mr Frederick Robertson and Miss Eveline Robertson, who lived here until 1960. Mr Robertson was well known as a beekeeper and the adverts in the Parish Magazine with some justification called it 'finest Kentish honey', for he had won prizes at shows in Cambridge, Bromley and Rochester. And the Dartford Chronicle of 5 September 1924 had the headline 'Local Successes at National Show' with details of the prizes he had won at the Crystal Palace National Show. Locals at the time used to call Hartley Hill Cottage, "the Honey House". The paper also noted the gift of a plaque to be attached to the War Memorial by Miss Robertson in 1939. Mr Robertson was also a keen photographer, and it is thanks to him that a fine set of photographs showing the working of Hartley Bottom Farm in the 1930s before mechanisation, still survives.
Map showing extent of Hartley Hill Cottage holding, Church Road, Hartley, Kent