This account was first published in 1883/4, republished 100 years later in 1984.

The village of Farnborough, whither we are now directing our steps, lies to the east of Keston, on the high road from London to Sevenoaks and Tonbridge. It is between three and four miles from the Bromley stations of the South Eastern and the London, Chatham, and Dover Railways, and about two miles from that of Orpington, on the Sevenoaks and Tunbridge (sic) line of the South Eastern Railway. The village is called in Textus Roffensis “Fearnberga.” Ireland, in his “History of Kent” says “it most probably took its name from the natural disposition of the soil to bear fearn or fern, the latter syllable, berge,  signifying in old English a little hill – an etymology well suiting the place.” It may be observed that the name of Farnborough is not uncommon in other parts of England. There is one near Blackwater, in Hampshire, another in Warwickshire, another in Berkshire, and yet another in Somerset, not far from Bristol

The parish lies on high ground, and  in the north-west parts, towards Hayes and Bromley, is most overgrown with coppice woods. A walk around the village, however, will reveal the fact that we are in the midst of the fruit district.  “Out of 1,411 acres, which is the estimated area of the parish,” remarks the author of “Unwin’s Guide” to the district, “about a quarter is devoted to the cultivation of fruit and vegetables to supply the London markets.

Even the hedgerows abound in fruit-trees, particularly the damson, which here grows to perfection; and no prettier sight can be imagined than when these trees are laden with blossoms, and later on with fruit hanging temptingly overhead. A large portion of land is taken up with the culture of potatoes, most of them going to the Borough Market.”  Some hundreds of acres of strawberries also are grown here for the London markets.

The village of Farnborough in itself possesses little or nothing to interest or attract the tourist; but it is of interest as having given the title of Lord Farnborough to Sir Charles Long, of the neighbouring parish of Bromley (see photo).  It is a quaint, straggling, irregular village, mostly on the high road. The sign of the “Woodman” marks an old roadside tavern, which may have been a public-house in the days of the Tudors, or earlier. Its red brick chimneys are far out of the perpendicular.

The liberty of the Duchy of Lancaster claims sundry rights over this parish, the manor of Farnborough having belonged to that duchy from its first erection.

In the reign of Henry III Farnborough appears to have been one of the fees belonging to Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who fell at the battle of Evesham, fighting on the side of the barons. His estates and honours were seized by the Crown, and were given by the king to his second son, Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster, of whom they were held, under Edward I, by the eminent family of the Grandisons, one of whom, in the reign of Edward III, was Bishop of Exeter. In the eighteenth year of that king, Henry, Earl of Lancaster, possessed this manor after the death of his brother Thomas, who had been beheaded at Pomfret. He had been restored to all his titles, and died in 1345. His son Henry, who succeeded to this manor, had been created Earl of Derby, and the property continued in the hands of that royal line till Henry VII, in his first year, broke the entail. The property was in the possession of Charles I at his death, in 1648. The royal estates being then seized by the Parliament, the Manor of Farnborough, commonly called the Duchy Court of Farnborough, belonging to the Duchy of Lancaster, was, in 1652, surveyed.  At the restoration of Charles II, in 1660, this manor again returned to the Crown, and it continued among its revenues, under the jurisdiction of the Duchy Court of Lancaster, without any grant being made of the same, till about the middle of the last century (sic!) when the Hon. Thomas Walpole obtained a grant of the property under the seal of the duchy court. The manor has since been held by the Bonds, Copes and others.

Farnborough Hall, at a short distance to the north-east of the village, is built upon an estate which appears to have been held by Simon de Chelsfield of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, in the reign of Henry III. About the middle of the fourteenth century the property was purchased by the Petleys, from whom it passed by sale to the Peches, and from that family it passed, by the marriage of an heiress, to John Hart. With the descendants of this gentleman the property remained till it was conveyed by marriage to the Dykes of Lullingston.

Tubbendens is another ancient seat in this district, the demesnes of which lie partly in this parish and partly in that of Orpington. In the twenty-first year of Edward I it was possessed by owners of the same name, as it appears that ”Gilbert  Saundre of Orpington, demised several parcels of land to John de Tubbendens, of Ferneborough, and his sons.” According to Hasted, “in 1660 W.Gee conveyed it to Thomas Brome, serjeant-at-law. His arms are in one of the windows of Gray’s Inn Hall. He resided at Tubbendens and died in 1673, and was buried in Farnborough Church. He was succeeded by his son, William Brome, barrister-at-law, whose son, Colonel John Brome succeeded him. Both were buried in Farnborough Church.” Colonel John Brome married Elizabeth, only child of the Rev. George Berkeley, Prebendary of Westminster, second son of George, first Earl of Berkeley. Their daughter Maria married a Mr John Hammond, of Chatham, who in right of his wife, became the owner of Tubbendens, of which he died possessed in 1774, leaving two daughters, one of whom, Anna Maria, married James Primrose Maxwell, whose grandson, Colonel George Shirley Maxwell, now owns the estate. It will thus be seen that Tubbendens has passed from one generation to another, either in male or female descent, for upwards of 200 years. From an old book, entitled “Stemmata Chicheleyana” it appears that through the Bromes and Berkeleys the present owner of Tubbendens is descended from the father of Archbishop Chicheley, who died in the year 1400.

The present house dates from the seventeenth century, but has of late years been partially rebuilt and modernised. The estate, comprising about 170 acres, has this much of interest attached to it: that it has remained the same in extent for centuries past, except when a small portion was taken by the South Eastern Railway to construct the chalk embankment on which stands the Orpington Station. At the entrance gate of Tubbendens is a milestone over a century old, marking fifteen miles from London Bridge.

Farnborough was till lately a chapelry annexed to Chelsfield, the untied living being in the gift of All Souls’ College, Oxford, but it was constituted a separate parish in 1876.  It is in the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the diocese of Canterbury and the deanery of West Dartford. The church, dedicated to St Giles the Abbot, stands prettily on a steep slope overhanging the road at the south-east end of the village, a little way out of the high way, on the road to Downe. It consists of a simple nave and chancel, nearly and plainly “restored.” The edifice dates from the early part of the seventeenth century, when its predecessor having been considerably damaged by a violent storm of wind in December 1639, it was found necessary to take it down and rebuild it. One or two lancet windows in the chancel are all that remains of the original fabric. The windows of the nave and the east window are poor and square headed. The font is of Perpendicular date, and handsomely carved in diaper work. The low square tower, of brick and flint, was erected in 1838. The church contains several monuments to the Bromes and other families.

On the chancel floor are some finely carved monumental slabs of the last century, one of them to a Mr Meetkerke, Rector of Chelsfield, who died in 1775. On the north wall is a mural tablet bearing the following quaint inscription:-

“Beloved; lamented; Rebecca Floyd, wife of Lieut.-General Floyd; victim of maternal affection; she nursed her fever’d infant in her bosom. One fate attended both.
One grave contains the mother and the child. Almighty God receive their souls.
Flavia Floyd died Feb 1 1802, aged 4 1/years. Rebecca Floyd died Feb 3 1802, aged 30 years.”

By a Commission of Inquiry in 1650, it was returned that Farnborough had been a “chapel of ease to Chelsfield, and was already fitly divided; it had only one acre of land, and an old house belonging thereto; the parsonage being, at most, worth only £30 per annum.” In 1821 there were only 91 dwellings in the parish of Farnborough, the total number of inhabitants at that time being 533. According to the last census returns, the population now numbers some 1,200 souls.

About a mile eastwards from the village, and at the junction of the high road with that leading northward to Orpington, is the little hamlet of Greenstreet Green, a locality frequented by pleasure parties because of its proximity to the Knockholt Beeches, a favourite resort of holiday-makers during the summer months. This famous clump of trees, standing on a knoll, forms a prominent landmark, and is conspicuous for many miles. Chevening Park, the seat of Lord Stanhope, lies in its immediate vicinity, and will be found full of interest to botanists. Both Knockholt and Chevening, however, lie beyond the scope of our jurisdiction......

This is part of Chapter X111 of 'Village London' Vol 2, published by The Alderman Press March 1984.  First published 1883-4 by Casssell & Co Ltd., under the title 'Greater London'. 

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