Locksbottom lies in a slight hollow, or bottom, just over 12 miles south of London on the route to Tonbridge and less than a mile from Farnborough village, an important stopping place on the London road. From at least the 17th century there was a coaching inn —now called Ye Olde Whyte Lion —at Locksbottom. But the name Locksbottom probably did not exist before the 1700s.

John Lock almost certainly gave his name to the area –Lock’s Bottom. He first appears in the Land and Window Tax records in 1766, when he was assessed for 14 lights (windows). His name also appears as assessor for Land Tax in 1767. He owned land in the area and lived in a farmhouse which still remains to day just north of the inn. Over the years the name gained acceptance as a single word —Locksbottom.

On ancient maps John Lock’s farm was called Chalk Farm but later became known as Fern Lodge and more recently as Farnborough Lodge.

Travelling from Bromley to Orpington along the A21, the house is just round the corner as you turn left into Crofton Road, hidden behind a wall and alongside the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbytery and some 1960s development.

The land to the north of Chalk Farm towards Bromley was heavily wooded, and in May 1652 John Evelyn, travelling alone on horseback from Tunbridge Wells to London, recorded in his diary that he was attacked, robbed and tied to a tree within three miles of Bromley. This incident would have taken place in the vicinity of Locksbottom in an area then known as Chalk Down and Brasted Green

Although this part of north-west Kent was sparsely populated and open country, Chalk Farm was on a route that was historically always important —the Rye and Hastings road to London. The road was second only to the London-to-Dover route, and it was used over the centuries for all types of trade, both legal and illegal. Couriers for the Crown and the Church travelled by horse between London and the coast and on to the Continent. A variety of commercial trade wagons carried produce along this route and oak from the Weald for housing and shipbuilding on the Thames also came this way. Cattle and sheep were driven by this route to the London markets too. In the 1660s Tunbridge Wells became a popular spa town and the carriage traffic using the road would have increased considerably.

In 1750 the road [now the A21] became a turnpike road and a regular stagecoach route. The Royal Mail service from London to Rye and Hastings on the south coast operated from the 1700s.

      The Whyte Lion in the early 20th century had stables, and a pond at the front

The original Chalk Farm red-brick farm building with 72 acres to the east and north was probably Elizabethan and it stood at a favourable location close to the junction of a north/south route and an east/west route with the market towns of Bromley and Croydon easily accessible.

Around it is a triangular area of common land, originally named The Slead, which runs north and west, both sides of the Hastings and the Croydon roads. This still remains green and partly wooded. In the past the southern tip of The Slead almost encircled the house at the front. It is now a grassy area in front of the British Queen public house, some shops and the old Police Station, [now a hairdressers and spa]. The common land extended to the western side of the A21 and included the site of the Chapter One restaurant.

There have been many owners and occupiers over the centuries. In 1780 the house was purchased by Robert Harrison, who left it to his niece, a Mrs. Wilson. A tenant in the 1800s was John Floyd, who had been a distinguished army officer who saw active service in India. He had risen rapidly through the ranks, being promoted to General in 1812, and in 1816 he was created a Baronet. Floyd carried a bullet in his neck from his time in the army.

When Floyd was stationed in Ireland in 1820, as second-in-command of the British Army, his daughter Julia met her future husband, Sir Robert Peel, in Dublin. Peel, when he was Home Secretary, opposed Catholic emancipation but subsequently he changed his position. He became Prime Minister twice and was responsible for introducing the first London police force in 1829. Peel’s sister and husband lived for a short period in Farnborough Lodge. With these local connections, did he, one wonders, have any influence in Farnborough having one of the earliest police stations?

Farnborough Lodge continued to have distinguished occupants. Sir John Lubbock lived in the house temporally in 1841 while his nearby residence of High Elms, located between Farnborough and Downe, was in the process of being rebuilt.

During the 1840s the original old red-brick farmhouse, two stories with attics above, part-covered with ivy and Virginia creeper, was considerably improied and altered and  a porch supported by Georgian-style pillars added at the front. A gardener’s cottage was built, a coach house and greenhouses added and a good sized vegetable garden aid out to supply the requirements of families and servants living in the house.

Locksbottom also began to develop in the early 1800s. On the Crofton Road frontage a small number of shops and houses were built. This resulted in a staggered road junction where the Croydon Road crosses the Hastings Road. A short distance up the hill, Farnborough Hospital, originally a workhouse and infirmary, was built in 1858 by the Bromley Board of Guardians. Demolished in recent years, it is now the site of the Princess Royal University Hospital.

                              March family grave in Farnborough Churchyard

To the right of The Whyte Lion Inn stood a Victorian house named Goddendene, home of the March family of sculptors. The six brothers and one sister produced many bronze memorials, the largest a First World War memorial for Canada. Their memorial sculptures went all over the world. At the rear of the house, now Sainsbury’s car park, there were two huge moveable iron sheds on a track for the creation and production of their sculptural works.

From 1892 to 1910, Henry Wilson MA and his wife lived in Farnborough Lodge. On the 1901 tithe map and list, Mrs Sarah Wilson is recorded as owner of the farmland and James Russell the tenant of the land, which included pasture, arable, woodland and a hop garden. The tenant of a smaller parcel of land close to Crofton Road was a General Williams. His property was described as a “Pleasure Ground, Garden and the Black Horse Mead”.

At the start of the 20th century the area of Chalk Down continued to be farmed by various tenants of the land. But Farnborough Lodge was now enclosed behind a high red brick wall with access from Crofton Road, which was somewhat secluded by tall trees.

Locksbottom remained a small collection of houses, weatherboard cottages and shops, including a forge and a bakery, on the south side of Crofton Road continuing past the police station round to The Whyte Lion Inn.

In 1923-24 most of the farmland belonging to Farnborough Lodge, including the house and adjacent gardener’s cottage, coach house and vegetable garden, was purchased by Rogers Brothers. They also bought part of the Holwood Estate in Keston.

Both areas were developed to form a spacious development of quality properties —Keston and Farnborough Parks. The shops on the north side of Crofton Road at Locksbottom were also built around this time and Eric Rogers became the owner and managing director of Keston and Farnborough Park Estates.

Farnborough Lodge itself was not demolished and Ernest Selby, with his family, rented the house in 1924 with three acres of land for £150 a year. It was a lovely old house but without electricity. After Mr Selby died in 1940his widow provided accommodation for medical students for the duration of the war. Mrs Selby left in 1948 and Robert Illiot, a “faith healer”, occupied the house rent-free until he died in 1960. He was followed by a Mrs. Wynne for two years.

  Farnborough Lodge today, surrounded by housing and the Roman Catholic church

Eric Rogers died in 1974 and his wife was obliged to sell Farnborough Lodge, with the adjoining property, to pay death duties. It was bought by a builder who intended to demolish the house and build on the site but was prevented from doing so as the house is a listed building. For some time it remained empty and the property continued to deteriorate.

In 1984 Farnborough Lodge was purchased by the McGrath family, who realised its potential. There were many difficulties with the building and some parts had to be pulled down as they were dangerous, but English Heritage and Bromley Council were very strict in ensuring as much as possible was preserved, resulting in a first-class restoration

Leonard Smith 2011

This article was written for the Bromley Borough Local History Society and is reproduced here with their permission.

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