Old Wood Cottage
History of No.3 (and No.4) The Green, later Old Wood Cottage, The Green
There is no evidence of the date of the cottage and no expert has assessed its age. (Lawrence Biddle says built in the 17th century or earlier and probably fronted directly onto the Green). A comparison of the 1757 map with that of 1841 indicates that the front garden was probably an encroachment on the Green. It was originally two cottages and must be – with Old Chimneys and possibly Elizabeth Cottage – one of the oldest houses in the village.
The cottage/s were part of the Hall Place Estate (i.e. rather than Penshurst which owned several properties round/near the Green including Elizabeth Cottage). In a conveyance dated 20 October 1954, Rt Hon Geoffrey Hope Baron Hollenden; Claude Hope Hope Morley; Lawrence Austin Biddle conveyed the property to Kathleen Mary Haviland and Norah Haviland – the properties known as the Two Cottages Leigh Green.
The Hall Place Rent Books now held by the Society show the rents and who was living at (not necessarily owning) the cottages between 1930 and 1942:
Wooden Cottage no. 48 The Green (the numbers 48 and 49 were the numbers in the Hall Place Rent Books)
1930-33 Mrs Grant £1.6.0 quarter
1934-36 Mrs Grant £1.6.0 quarter
1940-42 F Grant £1.19.0 quarter
Wooden Cottage no. 49 The Green
1930-33 F. Faircloth £1.15.9 quarter
1934-37 F. Faircloth £1.15.9 quarter
1938-42 F. Faircloth £1.15.9 quarter
According to Maurice Martin, by the 1930s, both halves of Old Wood Cottage were owned by Miss Haviland (or the Misses Haviland). But this would not have been the case. The Hall Place Conveyances, referred to above, show that Old Wood Cottage itself was only conveyed to the Miss Havilands in 1954, so they may have lived there but not owned it, prior to purchase in 1954. Part of Old Wood Cottage, probably No. 4, was occupied by her chauffeur.
(Maurice Martin also thought that the Havilands had bought next door’s Old Chimneys (No.1 and 2 The Green) from estate agent owner, Mr Richard Card, in the late 1930s. Again this is not clear at the moment: we know that Mr and Mrs Gawne were living at Old Chimneys from 1939 and through the 1940s, although they may have only rented it: it may still have remained in the ownership of Mr Card, or perhaps the Havilands).
Fred Faircloth was born in 1884. He grew up to be a cricket ball maker and was a leading member of the Leigh Fire Brigade and eventually its Chief Officer. See the articles about the crashed Messerschmitt and the Iron Cross. His father, Harry, known as ‘Potty’ had had four sons and in the 1930s and 1940s, the family were very omnipresent in the village – with the Brookers. Fred had married Elizabeth Blackman (Kate Elizabeth Blackman) in 1911. She had been born in Cranbrook and Barbara, their daughter, was brought up in No. 3. Barbara moved out when she married Harold Hinge whom she had met at the army Demob Camp which was located in the fields near the Weir in 1945/46. Harold and Barbara moved to Harold’s town/suburb of Hanworth in Middlesex and their son, Bob, was born in Chiswick in 1946. After the marriage broke up in 1949, Barbara and Bob moved back to No. 3 and Bob lived with his mother and grandparents, Fred and Elizabeth, from aged four until around 18. [His memories are given separately].
Brian and Dorothy Dixon
The Dixons bought both halves of the cottage from Miss Haviland around 1960 with the Faircloths as sitting tenants of No.3. Only after Fred Faircloth had died, around 1960 and Barbara married Maurice Martin in 1965 did they move to Maurice’s home at No. 6 Garden Cottages and the Dixons took over the whole cottage and start converting it. Dorothy loved her gardening – which she did in an old fawn mackintosh – which led to her being called ‘The Mole’. Sadly she had a fall – over a bramble in her garden and died soon after. When Brian died, Dorothy’s daughter by an earlier marriage, Mrs Joan Gray, moved into the cottage where she lived until retiring to Devon. The cottage was then sold to Mark and Beverly Docherty [?]. Beverley was active in village affairs – in spite of a major job in the City and with two daughters. In 2014, Beverley moved to the US, renting the cottage to Jay and Caroline Wood and their three children.
In the 1940s and 1950s, there was a central path (as now) from road to house (no drive). The well which was reinstated by Beverley Docherty around 2005 was not evident in Bob’s day. Two front doors – No. 3 on left as now and No. 4 almost straight ahead of the path (to the left of triple window; just visible inside and out in brickwork and wooden beam). To get to both No. 4 and No. 3 back door, which most people use, you had to go round to the right hand end of the house. In the back garden there was a huge bramley apple in the vegetable patch near No. 3 back door. A central path – still there – led down to a large shed which served as a fruit store and tool shed. Part of the shed had been converted into a workshop for Fred’s carpentry. Originally (i.e. end 1940) Bob remembers there were two privies opposite each other, one on either side of the path. “Not very nice to go to on a wet evening”, says Bob. They were probably the ‘bucket’ type rather than the deep hole type. The cottage (no.3) had a coal store for the fire, which was on the right of no.3’s back door – behind where the bathroom had been built. Rather than flowers, vegetables were grown [always done by the men] which included potatoes, runner beans, carrots, onions, cauliflowers and broad beans. The front garden again had fruit tree/s and a few flowers, with a low privet hedge at the front so you could look across the Green.
In the 1940s, the cottage (no. 3) was heated by a coal fire in the main room and there was paraffin stove in the kitchen as well as the gas stove for cooking. There were no coal fires in the bedrooms and in winter there was often ice on the inside of the windows. It was much colder in the winters in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Bob Hinge remembers borrowing Dick Wood’s skates (which the Rowleys now have in their barn) and skating all over the flooded field around the Leigh Weir.
The hall and stairs are much as now but kitchen ran through towards the front. Halfway upstairs round corner there is still a ledge where the candle was placed to light one up to bed. The dividing wall is shown today by the remains of a brick wall which was taken down in 1962/3 when Brian Dixon (school teacher at Tonbridge school who had lived on Bidborough Ridge) and his wife, Dorothy, acquired the second part of the house (No. 3), having already bought No. 4 a year or so earlier.
Behind the stairs there had originally been a coal hole – the sacks of coal were emptied into it from the outside. But Bob’s uncle (Barbara’s brother-in-law), Frank Swaffer, made it into a bathroom with bath, basin and toilet. So not much difference in use today. The kitchen was where it is now at the back (but only half as wide – up to brick wall). However, it was deeper than now, running right to the front door. The kitchen only had one cold tap, with water heated on the gas stove in the kitchen, half way down on the left as you come in the back door.
The first room at the top of the stairs was the main bedroom which was much as it is today. Then there were two other small bedrooms. The one directly ahead – changed in shape now – was Bob’s. There were no stairs up to the current attic rooms. [Brian Dixon was very proud that he had painted every joist and rafter with anti woodworm liquid by hand when the two cottages were being converted 1962/63]. The present small bedroom in the front was again a slightly different shape in those days.
Chris Rowley/Bob Hinge (August 2018)
Memories of Bob Hinge
Leigh Historical Society records
On-line sources: census; civil registration