Historically named Greenstreet Green, this is today virtually the first built up area that is reached when approaching Greater London from the M25 along the A21, the former turnpike road from Sevenoaks and Hastings. 

However, before the nineteenth century it was just a hamlet, with a few buildings clustered around the point where the road toward Orpington and the industrial sites along the Cray Valley diverged from the turnpike just before it climbed up Old Hill en-route to Farnborough. 

Unlike today it lacked a church, and was, as a consequence, within the Parish of Farnborough, the centre of which is about one mile and a half away. The parish of Green Street Green and Pratts Bottom came into being only in 1937.

Old maps show a modest village ‘square’ where the two roads met, with the original ‘Rose and Crown Inn’ on one side and the ‘Royal Oak’ on the other.  The Royal Oak is still in place, but the building of Farnborough bypass, opened in 1927, caused the Rose and Crown to be demolished and replaced by the current building a short distance removed. The ‘square’ disappeared at the same time .

The Fox Family / Oak Brewery

The awakening of Green Street Green as a place with its own identity was due in no small measure to the opening of a brewery business by John Fox. The brewery buildings were located a short distance from the junction referred to above, in the Orpington direction.

Two further generations of the Fox family ran the business until its eventual sale.  

The brewery is no longer there, but the maps show its location, both before and after the building of Farnborough bypass.

Follow the Oak Brewery  link in the menu to the right for the full story of the rise and decline of the brewery as a business.

Over three generations the Fox family contributed greatly to the expansion of Green Street Green into a village in its own right.  While undoubtedly part of the motive for the family was to establish a stable, healthy and relatively well paid pool of employees for their business, it can probably also be assumed that they were genuinely motivated to improve the lot of their workforce. 

Perhaps in pure business terms they carried this too far - the company was for long periods heavily in debt, which led to its eventual bankruptcy and forced sale.  What was remarkable is that the members of the Fox family subscribed to many denominations of religion in addition to the Church of England, and that they managed to strike a workable accommodation between the increasing teetotal teachings of some of these with running a business based on brewing alcoholic drinks.

The remainder of this article, also the three further 'Fox Family' articles accessed using the menu on the right, are drawn from 'Michael Frederick Kempton U8737912 A826 - a dissertation submitted for an MA degree in History in 2014'.

All material is reproduced here with the agreement of the author.     .

Philanthropic Intentions and Impact of a Kentish Brewing Family 1836-1909

This study examines the reasons for, and impact of, a Kent hamlet brewing family’s philanthropic provision of workers’ and community facilities connected with employment at the brewery, operating from 1836 until 1909. This provision is compared with that of other brewers, industrialists and philanthropists to determine whether it was normal or exceptional for their wealth and class.

Annotated Ordnance Survey map extract, First Series, Sheet 6, 1856

In 1836 Green Street Green was a hamlet of farm cottages, some at Oak Farm, where John Fox had helped his wife’s uncle Samuel Woodhams, since 1818 . Fox was born into farming in Bedfordshire in 1787 and later farmed in Hertfordshire. He married Susannah Beardsworth from Farnborough, Kent, and sons John Woodhams and William Beardsworth were born in 1815 and 1816, respectively.

At Oak Farm another, Thomas Samuel was born in 1818. Samuel Woodhams died in 1825, leaving the farm to Susannah, who herself died in 1828, Oak Farm passing to John Fox and his children.
Fax Family Tree, Click to enlarge

John Fox continued a tradition of brewing at Oak Farm, for himself, his farm-workers and neighbours. The latter included Sir John Lubbock, a friend and fellow-supporter of local education, churches and recreation, living one mile away at High Elms. Local spring water and brewing scientific expertise produced particularly high quality ale and, encouraged by friends, Fox decided to found the ‘Oak Brewery’ in 1836. 

Nourishment and safety were qualities of beer, promoted by brewers and doctors alike during the nineteenth-century, as water was boiled during the brewing process. 

Until the 1830s, temperance organizations supported beer-drinking in their battle against the evils of gin. Later, when public houses were condemned for the drunkenness and excesses of the poor and working-classes, the Foxes, by then owners of most local public houses, experienced the dilemma of alleviating a social order problem for which they were partly to blame.

The major paternalistic activities of John Fox and his family were to provide housing for workers, education for workers’ and local children, recreational and sporting amenities for workers and community, and to facilitate Anglican worship. However, William Beardsworth Fox, baptised into Anglicanism, became a Nonconformist and farmer in Chelsfield, helping to found a Methodist Chapel there. Later, he and sons William and Edwin became Congregationalists. When John Fox died in 1861, sons Thomas Samuel and John Woodhams continued brewing, until in 1883 the latter sold his share to his brother. Thomas Samuel died in 1886, leaving the brewery to sons Thomas Hamilton and Walter St. John, who ran it until its 1909 closure.

Over three generations, family members were involved locally, and in some cases nationally, in areas of philanthropy and civic duty.. Voluntary activities involving Thomas Samuel included membership of the Board of Guardians, Highways Board and Order of Foresters (a friendly society). William Beardsworth was a Way Warden, Overseer, Guardian and local Fire Brigade Board member. Thomas Hamilton was a JP, Order of Foresters member, Honorary Treasurer of the National Committee for the Prevention of Destitution, a Conservator of Farnborough Commons, and represented the Brewers’ Society on the Council of The Bribery and Secret Commissions Prevention League. Walter St. John was also in the Order of Foresters, a Conservator of Farnborough Commons and was awarded the MBE and OBE for services as a Special Constabulary Commander.

All, including W.B. Fox’s sons, were involved in education.
Motives for establishing expensive worker and community facilities are explored in the further pages on this website. Issues include: ‘competition for souls’ between Anglicans and Nonconformists within churches, chapels, schools and Sunday schools; paternalistic employers seeking to minimise the risk of bad behaviour and disorder by imbuing the people with middle-class morals and values; improved employment prospects through education, supported only by some denominations; the supply of future workers, into whom the values of hard-work, loyalty and discipline had been instilled; the availability of good quality housing close to the brewery; and recreational facilities as alternatives to public houses.
Pages concerning religion, education and workers’ housing and recreation, use primary sources, most importantly from Lambeth Palace Visitation Returns, Canterbury Cathedral Diocesan Inspector’s school returns and National Archives school building records. Secondary sources are employed to investigate: Sunday school provision, relationships between local religious denominations, and between religion and business; motivations for school establishment and attendance, religious influence in schools and  education legislation; and employers’ provision of workers’ housing and recreational amenities, the latter using reading rooms and working men’s clubs as comparisons.

Finally, conclusions are drawn about why Fox family facilities were provided, whether this provision was exceptional, its impact on the local community and how it compared with that of other businesses and philanthropists


Fox burials at Farnborough

James Fox and his wife  Susannah are buried in this grave topped by a large monument in the churchyard at St. Giles, together with their daughter Sarah Susannah, who died in 1829 aged 18 months, eight months after her mother.

In this grave are also documented earlier burials with surname Cooper and Beardsworth. At the moment the relationship between the Cooper family  and the Fox family members is not known. However Barbara Beardsworth is almost certainly related to Susannah Fox, as Beardsworth was Susannah's maiden name.  There are two other Beardsworth burials in a further grave nearby.

William St. John Fox (bottom right in the family tree) died in 1928. He also has a grave at St. Giles but the location is unknown.

There is information from other sources
that his parents Thomas Samuel Fox and Rachel Mary Fox are also buried at St. Giles, most likely in the same grave as their son, but this has not yet been confirmed from church records.

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