Merryfields is a small development of 5 large detached houses, built in 1995 on the site of a house in Merton Avenue called Wild Barfield.
Merton Avenue was part of a large field purchased and laid out in building plots by Payne and Trapps Co Limited in 1907 (for further details see the article on Payne and Trapps). Before the second world war, only two houses (Somerleyton and View Point) had been built in Merton Avenue as this aerial reconnaisance photgraph taken by the Germans in 1940 shows. Larksfield is numbered 1, Wellfield 2, Merton Avenue 3 and the junction of Church Road and Ash Road 6.
Merryfields Close comprised plots 151-156 on the estate, which were purchased on 26 April 1910 by William Kirby of 105 Newington Butts, London SE. He seems to have done little with the land, when the Valuation Office visited in 1913 they could not trace the owner of most of this side of Merton Avenue. This was not unusual, in fact they could not trace the owners of 529 of the 640 plots on the estate, which might explain why so little was done with the land.
On 1 August 1958 the owner of the land applied to Dartford Rural District Council to build a house in Merton Avenue (ref 58/306). The council refused because it was not their intention to allow building there at that time, and they wanted a more comprehensive scheme for the whole area. To this end they had obtained planning permission for outline development of what became the Wellfield Estate in 1954, although they did not own the land. But this permission had the effect of blocking other applications for planning permission.
The owner appealed. The planning inspector found a house here would not be out of keeping with the rest of the road, and said that unless the council were prepared to compulsorily purchase the land, then their plans for the area were unattainable. Therefore he overturned the council's decision and granted permission (9 July 1959). The following year the house had been built to the design of Turner & Kitching of Gravesend. The house must have been fairly striking for Hartley, as it was a flat roofed one storey house.
Planning permissions were granted to add a porch and garage in 1966; and a playroom, study and WC at the rear in 1971.
In 1978 the then owners Sevenoaks District Council sold the house with this covenant:
"The Purchasers to the intent and so as to bind the property hereby transferred and each and every part thereof into whosesoever hands the same may come and to benefit and protect the adjoining and neighbouring land belonging to the Council and each and every part thereof hereby covenant with the Council that neither they nor those deriving title under them will use the property hereby transferred or any part thereof for any other purpose than that of a single private bungalow for the occupation of one family only."
This covenant might have made the development of Merryfields Close impossible! But this was amended by the Lands Tribunal in 1994 to allow construction of up to 5 houses.
The idea of developing the site of Wild Barfield further dates back a long time. Planning records show there was an outline planning application to build 9 detached houses here in 1970.
The owners tried again in 1972 for 8 dwellings. Dartford Rural District Council refused this on the grounds that it was piecemeal and uncoordinated development. They appealed and lost, the inspector said a cul-de-sac would be needed taking up a disproportionate amount of land - "In my view, however, the site is laid out, it is most likely to result in some at least of the plots being cramped, awkwardly shaped or having inadequate frontages."
A wider scheme to demolish houses and construct 29 houses in 1974. These were refused and another outline application was withdrawn in 1977. It was at this time a new issue was raised about the access from the Wellfield Estate to Ash Road, petitions with 800 signatures were submitted, asking Sevenoaks Council to make up Merton Avenue and divert some of the estate traffic along there. The Merton Avenue residents were unhappy at this, so they constructed a bund across the road, to make it a cul-de-sac, which the legal department of the council confirmed they were entitled to do as it was a private road.
Finally the Council granted planning permission for 4 detached houses and 4 semi-detached houses in 1984, the developers, Wards Construction (Medway) Ltd agreeing to make up Merton Avenue between the site and the Hawthorns. But development did not take place because of the covenant on the land saying that only one house could be there. There is a letter from 1991 from the Council's housing department saying they still intended to enforce it.
Wards went back to the council with revised plans for 12 houses, but settled for 5 in 1991. They made further revisions to the house types in 1994, and crucially got the covenant amended to allow the construction of 5 houses. The houses were completed in 1995.