John Parfitt and Papers – from the start of the Historical Society, 1981

The Leigh & District Historical Society had its inaugural meeting on 9 October 1981.  It always had the words “and District” in its title, although whether the early Committee and in particular its founder, John Parfitt, were unclear how far their geographical remit might stretch or whether John – a man of super-human energy and hugely wide-ranging knowledge – wished to take over the West Kent world, was never clear!

John lived with his family at Bombers in Lower Green and had been excavating two mediaeval timber–framed houses within the moat at Great Barnetts.  They dated somewhere between 1270 and 1320.  John had produced a scholarly 30 page dissertation about the site in 1977 .

John also obtained a large version of the 1840 Tythe Map of Leigh which he redrew to include all the field names and again produced a detailed report on what the map revealed.

The early Committee consisted of Roger Britten – Headmaster at Knotley Hall – as the secretary; Adrian Argent – Treasurer and Membership Secretary; Bill Hayter – who had been the village blacksmith; Lawrence Biddle – who in later times always had to refuse to be chairman because Nancy, his wife, said he was busy enough; and Dick Wood – who for years was known by three Christian names (Henry and Victor, as well as Dick).

Looking through the early minutes, some things never seem to change – difficulties with the Kent Archives; discussions about membership income (although it only seems to have been £78 initially); insurance; next year’s programme and so on, but they also decided to record the memories of some of the village’s other residents on tape.  James Cook has these recordings for anyone who wishes to hear them.

John Parfitt, sadly, died some years ago but Suzanne Hartley, his partner, has kindly donated twenty large volumes of Archaeologia Cantiana and a large number of the magazines, the Kent Archaeological Review, as well as numerous papers from the early days of the Society.  We are endeavouring to find a good use for all these but it is good to have a reminder of a remarkable man from the village.  However, if anyone is interested in either the twenty volumes of Archaeologia Cantiana or the 68 issues (1966-1984) of the Kent Archaeological Review, the Society would happily give them to a good home.


Chris Rowley (July 2010 Parish Magazine Article)