The earliest version of the name Fawkham was “Fealcnaham”, where “Fealcna” is possibly a Saxon first name, or possibly the Saxon word for “falcon” and “-ham” denotes the “home of” Fealcna.
The first time the name appears in writing is in the will, of about 964, of Byrhtric of Meopham and his wife Aelfswyth who gave “the land at Fealcnaham…to St. Andrews [at Rochester].”
The notes below give an overview of the history of Fawkham. Much of the content of this based on the book “Fawkham – the Story of a Kentish Village” which was written by W. Frank Proudfoot in 1951, to mark the Festival of Britain, and on his later, unpublished extended and corrected version, and we would like to thank Christopher Proudfoot for providing notes from this. A copy of the book can be borrowed from Fawkham Parish Council, please contact the clerk should you wish to do so.
It is believed that the area of the North Downs that is now Fawkham was settled in the Stone Age, and many shaped flints have been found to support this. Benjamin Harrison, a grocer from Ightham and also an amateur palaeontologist, reported finds in the area in the 1890s and early 1900s. In 1908, he recorded finding some stone implements on the eastern slope by the church (i.e. Old Downs/ Forty Acre).
Close to the railway line is a field called Sot’s Hole, where remains have been found of a large enclosure, in the shape of a pentagon, approached by a roadway or ditch. These types of “banjo enclosures” are believed to be associated with stock management in the Later Prehistoric period.
There is some evidence of Roman occupation in the Fawkham area. A Romano-British farmstead, dated from about the time of the conquest and abandoned not later than A.D. 100, was discovered in 1957 at Eastwood Farm, in Rogers Wood Lane. The site consisted of two ditches forming three sides of a small enclosure of just over an acre. A small pit, a deep shaft and a localised scatter of occupation debris were uncovered, but no trace of structures was found. Pottery was found in large quantities, including Samian and Patch Grove ware, plus six bronze brooches, and animal bones.
Additionally, two cremation burials were found in the 1960s when trenches were being dug for foundations for a new cottage. Pottery was recovered including a beaker of brownware containing burnt bones and a bead rimmed pot, plus fragments of a Patchgrove jar of black, also containing burnt bones. The pottery was dated to 50-80 AD.
Further Romano-British pot shards from the 1st century AD have been found around Dene Bottom Farm/Fawkham Park Business Park.
The land at Fawkham had apparently passed to King Harold by the time of the Conquest. The land was then seized by William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Odo of Bayeux, along with many other manors in Kent.
However, by the time of the Doomsday survey, Fawkham had been returned to the Bishop of Rochester and is named in the Doomsday book as Falceham. The survey shows a manor with around 400 acres of land, including a church, two mills, four meadows and enough wood for 30 swine.
It is believed a Norman family established themselves in Fawkham, adopting the name of the village as their surname, de Fawkeham (or various alternative spellings). This was in the reign of Henry I (1100-1135) and it is thought they replaced a Saxon wooden church with the present Norman one. For more history of the church, please see their website.
The first Fawkham manor house is believed to have been in Church Meadow, behind the church (and now gives Castle Hill its name). The ruins of a building existed there until 1846-57. The main demolition occurred in the winter of 1846-7, by the tenant of the field, James Longhurst, who sold the stones for repair of the London Road at Greenhithe. However, a Cooper (probably George) had the land in 1857 and was said to have removed ‘walls and foundations’. Archaeological excavations took place in the 1960s and again from 1997-2005, which identified a possible main hall or undercroft and three outbuildings, with flint walls and pottery shards found, and evidence points to occupation from around 1100 (or possibly even earlier) until the mid-14th century. It is hoped that a report on the later excavations will in due course become available. See a summary of the early history of Fawkham and the de Faukeham family by Roger Cockett.
The manor of Fawkham was passed down through members of the de Faukeham family, of whom the most notable was Sir William de Faukeham, a Marshall of Henry III’s household and much favoured by the king. In 1270, the ageing king needed much firewood to be cut, and William de Faukeham had to see to it that the wood was cut from one spot so that it could be replanted – sustainability is nothing new. After William’s death, the manor was divided between his two daughters, Rose and Sarah, into “the manor of old Faukeham, alias Ashe Faukeham” and “New Faukeham”, about 1300. By passing into the female line, both halves of the manor fell by marriage into the ownership of absentee landlords, who remained in their own houses.
Old Faukeham, into the Tudor period
In the 14th century, the manor of Old Fawkham passed through two Kentish families: the Malemaynes, based in east Kent, and the Grandisons. The last of these, Sir Thomas Grandison was the first lord of Fawkham to receive the Order of the Garter in 1370. He died without children and the barony fell into abeyance.
Following the Grandisons, the manor was held by the Bryans, with ownership of the estate contested by various heirs. One lord of Fawkham, Sir James Ormond, was beheaded during the War of the Roses, with his head placed on London Bridge. The Bryan inheritance was in dispute for many years, but ultimately the lordship of Old Fawkham came to the Percys, the earls of Northumberland, who sold the manor in 1531 to Henry White, a landowner from London.
Thomas Walter acquired the freehold of the Manor from White in 1571. Walter was a Kentish yeoman, meaning he was a small landowner. The Walter family was already established in Fawkham and remained here until the end of the 17th century. Thomas Walter built a mansion at Pennis, which effectively became the manor house of Old Fawkham.
In 1608 the estate passed to Thomas’s oldest son John who, by his marriage to Dorcas, joined a family of high standing, and was granted a coat of arms in 1613. He established a charity to provide annual gifts of clothing for two poor men and two poor women from each of the parishes of Fawkham, Ash and Hartley, on Christmas Day, after which they were to attend church, and then return to Pennis for dinner. This continued into the 20th century. There is a memorial to John and Dorcas Walter in the church, along with gravestones and brasses of other family members.
The Gifford family of Eynsford purchased the estate in the late 17th century and lived at Pennis, which was passed to the Selby family, of Ightham Mote, by marriage.
The manor of New Fawkham, for which the Court Lodge was probably built in the early 14th century, passed from Sarah to Gilbert de Kirkeby (of Horton Kirby), and it later passed to the Dyggis (or Digges) family, the Barhams (of Barham Court), the Botelers and, in 1772, the Bouveries, the family of the earls of Radnor, who owned much of Folkestone. The Hon. Philip de Bouverie also inherited the Pusey estate in Berkshire, with the condition that he took the Pusey name, and thus arose the Bouverie-Pusey name, often shortened to Pusey.
The family sold their Fawkham lands and, probably, lordship of the manor, in the 1830s, but retained their half of the advowson (the right to present a rector to the parish).
In 1771, Thomas and Mary Cooper were living at Pennis, and Mary was a Selby relation or connection from Ightham. The Cooper family remained in Fawkham for over 100 years, farming various farms as owner or tenants, including Scudders and Pennis Farms. The Selbys sold Pennis in about 1805, when the mansion was demolished, leaving the original farmhouse, a length of wall and an 18th-century stable block to accompany the Regency villa, Pennis House, which took its place.
Edward Hasted, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 2 (Canterbury, 1797), describes Fawkham Parish as “a lonely and unfrequented place, and contains about a thousand acres of land, of which about 250 are wood, having no public high road through it. It lies on high ground, among the hills; the soil is inclined to chalk, and is very flinty and barren, but though poor, yet this, as well as the neighbouring parishes in a like situation, is in some measure recompensed by being exceedingly healthy. There are two hamlets in it called Fawkham-green and Fawkham-street. The church stands near the northern boundary of it”.
Fawkham Street was essentially the original village of Fawkham, from the church to the Court Lodge, with the village cross probably at the bottom of Pennis Lane. A small area of granite setts, installed in 1977, marks the likely site of the cross (next to Cross House) and this is now a piece of Common Land. Pennis Lane is the Fawkham end of a road that once went to West Yoke, where Butcher’s Lane is the other end; footpaths now cover this route.
Fawkham Green was originally the hamlet of Ilkenden (there are various spellings). When, or why, the name was changed is unknown; in 1571 it was ‘Iltenden’, by 1769 it was ‘Facome Green’.
In 1838 the Rector and landowners of Fawkham agreed to the commutation of the tithes due to the church. A map was drawn up showing who owned which parts of the 1,195 acres of the parish. It shows there were 287 acres of woodland, 846 acres of arable land, 22 acres of meadow and 38 acres under hops. This map can be seen in Proudfoot’s book.
There were many farms at that time in the village, including:
- Pennis Farm – 119 acres
- New House Farm (now Churchdown Farm) – 43 acres
- Scudders Farm – 220 acres
- Court Lodge Farm – 215 acres
- Old Downs/40 acre field – 45 acres
In 1845 Kelly’s Directory describes Fawkham as “a small village of no importance”.
The Hohler family came to Fawkham in the 1860s, when Henry Booth Hohler bought the Court Lodge estate (i.e. New Fawkham). He apparently bought it purely for investment, and granted a building lease to a prominent architect, E.B. Lamb, to build himself a house in Parkfield Wood, which was to be called Parkfield House. When Lamb ran out of money with the house only half completed, Hohler took it over, completed it, re-named it Fawkham Manor and moved in during 1870 or 1871. Hohler served as Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Kent, and when he died in 1916 he owned much of the land in Fawkham, having bought the Pennis estate, soon after his arrival, from its then owners, the Westminster Hospital.
First World War
Fawkham lost seven men during the First World War. They are commemorated on the war memorial, and further information can be found on the War Memorial page.
After the First World War, the Trustees of the Hohler settled estates sold the Court Lodge and much of its land in smallholdings, as well as plots on Castle Hill from the former Pennis estate, resulting in scattered development northwards from the village hall and along Three Gates Road and an increase in population.
Photocopies of these auction particulars may be borrowed from the Parish Council; please contact the clerk should you wish to do so.
World War Two
In 1944 a flying bomb fell in the field known as Small Grains. It destroyed the Mission Hall and the Woodman alehouse, which stood where Woodman Villas now stand. Other bombs fell in various parts of the parish (including one in the Rectory cesspool), and some of the resulting craters are still evident.
Most were probably dropped by enemy aircraft shedding their load on the return flight from London. Another V1 destroyed the North Lodge of the Manor, and the blast damaged the ancient thatched cottage known as Little Wickhams, which was demolished about 1960.
The village only has one person commemorated from World War 2 on our war memorial: George William Booker, Private 5343754 of the 5th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. George died on 14th August 1944, aged 28. He was the son of George William and Clara Booker (née Divall), both of Speedgate, Fawkham, and was born in 1915. George started at Fawkham School in October 1920, as number 834 on the register. He worked at the village grocer’s shop which was also the post office. He married Maud Alice Booker (née Gregory) of Ash on 13th May 1940. He is buried in Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery, Calvados, France.
A VE Day Grant of £22 was received from Dartford Rural District Council to celebrate. The Parish Council Minutes say: “The Chairman said that the Parish Council had granted £10 to the Entertainments Committee on V.E. Day and that the children and grown-ups had apparently had a very happy day. Lady Shaw said that it was a well planned day with the Service on the Green in the morning, sports and tea after lunch and a dance in the evening. There still remained £12 to be discussed. Mr. Martin said that there had also been a bonfire on V.E night. Mr. Martin presented the account of the expenditure for the V.E. day:
- Cheque from Council to come £10.0.0
- Takings from side shows and refreshments £11.15.0
- Total = £21.15.0
- Accounts paid out:
- Rising Sun £4.19.0 1/2
- Prizes for races £2.8.0
- Foster Horton Kirby £1.10.0
- Hicks Longfield £1.10.0
- Chase Fawkham 7.6
- Band for Dance £12.0.0
- Rent for Hall 7.9
- Total paid Out £23.2.0 1/2
- Takings £21.15.0
- Paid out of reserve £ 1.7.0 1/2
“The Chairman pronounced this very satisfactory. Miss Hilbert said £12 seemed a lot for a band. The Clerk said that as it was V.E. Day the price was doubled. Miss Hilbert said she wondered if we could keep the £12 till Japan was beat and Lady Shaw said that “if it were not spent it must go back”.”
The Minutes of the Parish Council during World War Two contain some interesting information:
- A meeting was held by the Air Raid Precaution Officer in November 1939, at which two ladies were elected Intelligence Officers. A Parish Councillor stated he thought two men should be elected as “it did not seem to be a job for ladies”.
- There were discussions regarding the digging of trenches in the village, and the Council’s view was that “there would be little use in, or practicality of, constructing trenches”. It was thought a trench could be dug at Castle Hill and another at Fawkham Green although “elderly people could hardly be expected to go into a trench on a winter’s night”.
- In July 1939, the Council was asked what accommodation was available for the education of children who would be sent to Fawkham from other districts in the event of war. The accompanying form was duly returned along with a letter from the Chairman suggesting “boys assisted in various ways in the lighter forms of agricultural work, and the girls in the housework of hostesses, helping the local Red Cross detachments, etc.”
Read further extracts from the World War Two Minutes.
H.B, Hohler’s son, Sir Thomas Hohler was also High Sheriff of Kent and the first Chairman of Fawkham Parish Council upon its creation in 1935. Sir Thomas died in 1946 and his son sold the estate to Mr Ronald Billings in 1949. Some farmhouses and land, including Pennis and Scudders, were soon sold, and the Billings family remains in Fawkham and still owns and farms much of the land.
A photocopy of the auction particulars may be borrowed from the Parish Council; please contact the clerk should you wish to do so.
Fawkham was prospering as a village, with the population growing, until the repeal of the Corn Laws, when agriculture began to decline. Census returns and other documents show:
- 1800 – 149 people and 29 houses
- 1821 – 168 people and 31 houses; half the population in a list of parish poor
- 1831 – 204
- 1841 – 277 and 50 houses
- 1851 – 249
- 1891 – 232 (or 247)
- 1911 – 231
- 1931 – 357
Fawkham School was founded in 1873 when Sarah Ellen Howle, an ex-pupil teacher (provisionally certificated), took charge of Fawkham Mixed school. The school was formally opened on Monday evening July 14th with a tea to the parents which was given by Mr and Mrs Hohler of Fawkham Manor. The school admitted 18 girls and 10 boys, varying in age from 12 to 3.
Prior to that, a school had been built in 1841 at Hartley Green “for the children of the labouring, manufacturing and power classes” of the parishes of Hartley, Fawkham and Longfield.
Miss Lucy Hilbert was headmistress of Fawkham School from 1905 to 1938, and lived in what is now called Manor Cottage, close to the school.
Steephill school was founded in 1935 by Miss Eileen Bignold, who established an excellent reputation for high academic standards. Miss Bignold was also the longest serving Parish Clerk, from 1940 to 1973.
Following the death of Miss Bignold in 1989, the school became a charitable trust administered by a Board of Governors. Silver birch trees were planted in Miss Bignold’s memory in the churchyard close to the pond.
Longfield railway station was called Fawkham Station until 1961. Although situated in Longfield, the station was originally named Fawkham when it opened in June 1872 at the request of H.B. Hohler, of Fawkham Manor, who offered land and cash for provision of a station and wanted his guests to know where to book to.
The original station was destroyed by fire around 1900, but rebuilt in the same location; this distinctive and attractive station was in turn demolished and rebuilt in 1971. The railway line through Fawkham station was electrified in 1939 with electric trains operating between Victoria and Gillingham. Steam trains also continued to pass through the station on their way to and from the Kent Coast until June 1959 when those services were then also turned over to electric operation.
With the start of summer timetable in 1961, the true location of the station was recognised when it was renamed ‘Longfield for Fawkham & Hartley’. By the end of the 1960s the long name was dropped in favour of simply Longfield.
There was a second railway station in Longfield that opened in 1931: Longfield Halt. This was on Whitehill Road and had a service from Farningham Road station to Gravesend West, via Southfleet and Rosherville. This service was withdrawn in 1951.
Parish Council Minutes contain various references to the bus service that used to run through the village:
- In 1949 it was noted that “the local bus services, it was unanimously agreed, did not provide for the local housewife’s needs”. There was no provision for a return after the 1 o’clock bus to Gravesend. The issue of the need for improved hours continued to be raised until a 2:43 return service, arriving at the green at 3:22, was introduced late in 1952.
- In 1951 the Council received a complaint that the bus fare from Cross House to Longfield was too much, at 3d.
- In 1958, the 492 bus service was withdrawn and “disgust” was expressed “that a village in the London Transport Area shouldn’t be served by public conveyance”. A letter was written to the Minister of Transport, who replied that he could not intervene. It was then proposed that a service of two journeys be requested: to and from Gravesend on one day a week; or one service each way on two days, preferably Tuesdays and Fridays. Further efforts to return a bus service continued in 1960 and 1961, and again in 1985.
- In 1962 a Dr Heffernan received a licence to operate minibus.
- Before a mail cart was introduced in the 1880s, post was brought once a day by foot from Dartford.
- Main water arrived in Fawkham in 1901; a report in 1982 showed there were possibly 10 wells in the village.
- Electricity arrived in the 1930s, when a comment was made about poles being put up that would “spoil Fawkham’s old-world charm” – but can you imagine not having electricity!
- Mains drainage arrived in Castle Hill around 1970, and was extended south along the Valley Road in the early 1980s, followed by the area around the green about 1985. The Minutes include a comment from 1974 of a “ad smell” noted from the cess pit in Small Grains.
- Gas is still only provided to houses from Longfield to Castle Hill.
- Broadband is still patchy in places!
Extracts from Parish Council Minutes
Some further interesting snippets of history can be found in these Extracts from FPC Minutes.
W. Frank Proudfoot, Fawkham – the Story of a Kentish Village, Fawkham
W. Frank Proudfoot, A Parish History from the Earliest Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century, unpublished typescript, circa 1995 – with grateful thanks to Christopher Proudfoot
Arthur Barker, 1951
Archaeologia Cantiana, Vol LIV for 1941, p.74); Vol CXV for 1995, pp.121-135