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Hartley Wood Corner

Pictures of Hartley Wood Corner, the old barn and a map showing the extent of the farm.  In 1844 field 1 was called Wood Field (arable, 13a 2r 31p) and field 3 was part of a larger field called Four Acres (arable, 9a 2r 27p)

Hartley Wood Corner was once a 21 acre farm in its own right, which would have encompassed the land bounded by Springcroft, Manor Drive and Hartley Wood, and probably the future site of Southdown in Manor Drive.  The present pair of brick and slate cottages were built in the middle of the last century.  Originally they were "two up, two down", but both have been added to in more recent years.  Since early days there has been a barn here, the present barn has been dated to the late 1700s.  There is also a well, although in later years water was piped from Hartley Court.

It is probable that Hartley Wood Corner was not one of Hartley's ancient farms, my feeling is that it was created sometime in the 17th century as a new take from Hartley Wood (one of its fields was called Wood Field).  Another important fact that lends itself to this theory is that Hartley Wood Corner is the only farm in the village that was not customary freehold and recorded on the manor roll.  Customary freeholders had to pay a nominal quitrent, and also had to attend the manor court, and for want of an heir the lands could "escheat" (revert) to the lord of the manor.  The one part of the village that was, like the manor held from the crown in chief was Hartley and Gorse Woods (modern freehold owners hold their land in chief from the Crown too).  In the early 17th century this land was owned by the Beresford family of Westerham, who also owned Goldsmith's Cottage, but they did not own any other house in Hartley.

The first time we meet Hartley Wood Corner itself is in 1642, when it was sold together with Stocks Farm by Alexander Skeath to John Edwards of Ridley.  Some disagreement arose between these two gentlemen, for a few months later the Centre for Kentish Studies has an arbitration agreement to resolve "all discords, variance, strifes, etc (between them). ... from the beginning of the world until the day of the (present) date ...".  The upshot was that Mr Skeath could remain as tenant for another 10 months, although the actual occupant appears to have been one John Gardner, probably one of the family who had been in Hartley by then for at least a century.  John conveyed the farm to his eldest son Peter in 1658, but by the time of his death in 1667, he was the owner again, having apparently outlived him.  So he left Hartley Wood Corner to his other son, also called John Edwards, who sold the farm in 1667 to John Round.  Mr Round (1606-82) was an important citizen of Dartford, being churchwarden of Holy Trinity Church from 1644 to 1647.  He was by trade a mealman, with his business in the High Street.  When he died he left a 20 shilling annuity for the poor of the town to be paid by the owners of the Bell Inn in Lowfield Street.  At this time Hartley Wood Corner consisted of mostly arable, but also some pasture and wood.

The next time we hear of the farm is in 1681, when it was sold by John and Margaret Miller to George Gifford of Pennis House, Fawkham for £100.  It was described as containing a house, barn, stable, garden, orchard, 20 acres of arable land and 2 acres of wood.  

George Gifford died in 1704 and is buried in Eynsford Church, in his will he writes his own epitaph, in it he describes himself as "the son of the grave and brother to the worms, my name has vanished with my life"; his son Thomas followed him there the following year.  Thomas was survived by three daughters, who partitioned his lands between themselves.  The Hartley lands went to Margaret, who had married one Thomas Petley, the heir to the family estate at Riverhead near Sevenoaks.  The Petleys were an old west Kent family, and Thomas's father Ralph had been sheriff of Kent in 1679/80.  Thomas's son died childless in 1751 and left his lands to Charles, eldest son of his brother John.  John Petley's estate was not great and in his will he requested that "my coffin be very plain, and to be buried very privately at the least expense that may be".  He was interested in art, and left Charles his painting box.

In a family settlement of 1752, Charles Petley gave the farm together with land at Chiddingstone, Hever and Horton Kirby, to his widowed mother Jane.  It is described as a house called "Summings" and 48 acres of land in Horton Kirby and Hartley.  I am uncertain whether Summings was the name for Hartley Wood Corner then, as it seems to relate to a field called Sonnings in Horton Kirby.  However the tenants of this holding - Edward Kidder and Thomas Fielder, most definately lived in Hartley, as their children were being Christened at Hartley Church at this time.  And the house clearly appears on the Andrews Drury and Herbert map of 1769.  In 1772 John Johnson took up the tenancy of this farm and Stocks Farm, and gradually the two became managed as one unit.  The next tenant, Joseph Mepham, also farmed both.  In addition, by the time of the tithe survey of 1844, the two holdings are treated as one.  

The farm eventually passed to Elizabeth Petley, but in 1799, William Smith was the owner when he paid £73 to have the Land Tax redeemed.  Formerly all land was subject to land tax, but from 1798 owners could, for a lump sum, redeem the tax forever.  The tax was abolished in 1963.

William Bensted senior of Hartley House, Ash Road, bought Hartley Wood Corner about 1808.   Thereafter, like much of Hartley, the house's history is linked to that of Hartley Court, finally coming into the hands of Smallowners Limited in 1913.  The 19th century brought important changes, for in the middle of the century the house was rebuilt as a pair of farm labourer's cottages, and the tenants in the censuses of 1841-91 are mostly farm labourers, but in 1891 the tenants were George Hollands, gamekeeper, and his family; and Walter Apps, bailiff, and wife.  At the time of the previous census in 1881, the Wharton family lived there, and Mrs Phillis Wharton's profession was laundress - one of the few cases a female profession is given in the censuses of the last century for Hartley.

A good description of the cottages is given in the 1901 sale particulars of the Hartley Court Estate: "Two capital brick and slated cottages, each with three rooms and wash-house.  Brick, flint and tiled oast house (used for storage).  Pheasant house, hen house, open shed.  New brick and tiled dairy with slate shelves and sink.  A young orchard and timbered and thatched open shed and towel house."   The oast house was demolished soon after, although its outline can still be seen.  By 1901 hop production at Hartley had virtually ceased (in the agricultural returns of 1897, only 3 acres were devoted to hops in the whole of Hartley).  Apparently the hops were were grown in the field behind the house, to be replaced by an orchard of which a few cherry trees still survive. Originally the barn was thatched, but this was replaced with the corrugated iron roof about sixty years ago, more recently it has been restored.  

For much of this century, no. 1 has been occupied by the Boorman family, who came to Hartley in 1926.  Percy Boorman was head gardener at Hartley Manor with a staff of two.  Previously he had been head gardener at Kingsgate near Whitstable, but had to move when the owners there sold up.  Amongst others he was responsible for the kitchen garden, fruit trees, potting shed and the lawns and grass tennis courts, but he missed the greenhouses of Kingsgate.  He continued working there until the age of 80.  No. 2 was bought by Charles and Maud Harris of Bexleyheath in about 1921, they were friends of the Marsh family who later bought the land opposite.  They moved in about 1930 and then the MacDonald family lived there a few years.  At the time of the tithe returns in 1936, a Mr Gayes of Chiswick owned No. 2.  He seems to have let it to a series of tenants, although one member of the family was living here in 1940.  Recently the barn became the venue for a production of "Readings from Shakespeare" by Roy Boutcher.