History 4 - An Introduction to the Origins and Development of the
"Thanington High Lanes" area outside Canterbury
The author's thanks go both to all those residents who have provided him with
information (whether written or oral) and to the staff of the Local Studies Centre
(Canterbury Library), the Cathedral Archives and the Kentish Studies Centre (KCC
Maidstone) who found materials and answered questions. Any errors are his alone. And
any corrections or additions will be gratefully received. Copies are available on the
websites of both Hilltop CA (Canterbury) and Thanington Without Civil Parish Council.
Clive H. Church
30 July 2005
If you stand at the top of the University Road and look south west across the city to the
hills beyond, one thing might strike you. It is that, apparently in the middle of nowhere,
there is one line of houses running diagonally up a slope (but stopping well short of the
summit). Whereas elsewhere buildings are clustered together, here they are starkly on
their own. So why should these houses (and the ones behind which are not really visible
from the top of St Thomas"s Hill) have been built there ? And why are there houses only
on one side of the road?
While there is much that we do not know, the answer to the first question seems
to be that the houses are a chance by product of the vicissitudes of English agricultural
society over the last 250 years. This brought otherwise unrelated lands together and
then made them available to people from Canterbury who were able, between the two
World Wars, to exploit them for their own purposes. Hence history has produced an
unusual community, involving the Stuppington Court farm complex, houses at the top
of Hollow Lane, Iffin Lane, New House Lane and Upper Horton Farm.
Many call this area "Hilltop" although it is actually on the side of a hill rather than
on its top. In any case, it is unhelpful geographically, doing nothing to make it clear to
outsiders exactly where it is. The Cornish would have called it "Thanington High Lanes",
given that much of it is in the Civil Parish of Thanington Without. Moreover, it has
developed along a series of lanes crossing the hills on the south-east of the Stour Valley
and leading into Canterbury.
What unites this somewhat scattered area is partly its often unappreciated
history, partly its relative isolation on the rural fringe of Canterbury and partly a number
of social factors. These include its population"s use of St Faith"s Hall as a centre for
social activity and organization (led by Hilltop Community Association) and being mostly
in the South Ward of Thanington Without Civil Parish Council [TWCPC]. Thus there is
much evidence of local involvement in TWCPC whereas contacts with the neighbouring
parishes, to which fringes of the area belong, seem to have been virtually non-existent
since the centres of gravity of Lower Hardres and Chartham were so far away.
In the long term past there were only a few farms in the area. In the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries many of them passed into the hands of large scale landowners.
However, this changed after the First World War when new forms of agricultural
development began between Iffin and New House Roads (as they were then called). Out
of these emerged a certain amount of residential development, often created by the first
residents, and this despite the lack of facilities in the area. However, legislation has
sometimes limited the areas where building could take place, a fact which answers the
Development increased in the 1930s and especially after the Second World War.
At the same time the residents responded to their situation by attracting new facilities
and creating new institutions for their social life. Such change continued into more recent
times as the fragmentation of holdings increased. The new community has also adapted
to meet new challenges. All this seems to testify to the existence of a community spirit
which was visible both to outsiders and residents. However, this has not prevented
problems from emerging. Maintaining interest has often been difficult and not everyone
has been drawn into shared activities.
This imprecise initial account draws on interviews, local histories and some
written and printed records, some from residents and others from official sources. It
tries to create a basic narrative which traces the essentially social process by which a
community emerged. Unfortunately, we know virtually nothing about how national
political events affected the area. Equally, because of the nature of the sources it is
often easier to show what we do not know than to prove what actually happened. And
our memories of the past can vary. Nonetheless I have tried to sum up what is presently
knowable about how a community of bricks and people emerged in Thanington High
Lanes in the hope that others may be able to build on it. For, without doubt, there is
more to be learned, particularly from residents themselves.
The Long Term Past
The Thanington High Lanes area, or parts of it, seems to have been used, possibly
settled, for many centuries, albeit extremely very sparsely. How do we know this ? The
answer is things like the fact that a neolithic axe was found at Upper Horton in 1949.
There is also a Bronze Age tumulus in Iffin Wood. Moreover an Iron Age lynch pin has
been found on Iffin Meadow farm land, while Swarling has a burial site from the same
period. However, there does not seem to have been much real settlement until Roman
times. Before then the area was probably too heavily forested.
With the Romans a proper road - known as Stone Street because of its method
of construction - was cut through from Durovernum (or Canterbury) to Portus Lemanus
(or Lympne). When this got close to Canterbury it turned into the southern part of Iffin
Lane. However, crop markings suggest that it did not actually continue all the way down
Iffin and Hollow Lanes as is usually thought. Rather, from the old Iffin farmsite it went
straight on to Stuppington Lane and entered the town from that direction, possibly joining
the end of the footpath that runs downhill from the junction of Hollow and Merton lanes.
Today"s Iffin Lane in fact meanders slightly to the west of the old road line.
And, as some residents are aware, there are also several Roman settlements in
the area. Thus remains have been found near the "Plantation" and, more importantly,
under the A2 shortly before it crosses Hollow Lane. Here there was evidence of
buildings, pits and a pottery kiln. Further south, in fields running uphill from Stuppington
and Merton there is evidence of another settlement, roughly in line with the little
unnamed lane at the top of the settled part of the New House Lane. Many coins and tiles
have been found there and some residents believe there to have been both a villa and
a fort. The former seems the most likely since, the settlement was probably too far east
of Stone Street to be able to control it militarily.
In any case the road must have helped to open up previously virgin woodland.
The evidence of both a Roman settlement at Swarling and of Romano-British burials
pottery, dating from 80-100 AD, at New House Farm reinforces this idea. Branching out
from a road, surrounded by cleared margins, would have been much easier than trying
to create clearings in the middle of a wooded nowhere. But we do not know how much
land was reclaimed from the forest under the Romans. However, it is possible that some
present day footpaths emerged at this time.
The coming of the Jutes must have increased such opening up, since there was
a cemetery and settlement on the hill above Horton Manor. More significantly, by AD 791
there was a settlement in the Great Stour valley at Thanington, a name many think
means the pasture of the men of Thanet. It points to a staging point along the road to
their summer pastures in Tenterden at which they could guard their cattle overnight. The
settlement would have been small, given that there were then probably only 50,000
people in the whole of the modern county. Others attribute the name to a founder known
as Teyna, who also settled Teynham.
The Middle Ages and After
By the time of the Norman Conquest some of the settlements in the area were clearly
well established, and were therefore turned into feudal manors, many of them passing
into the hands of the Archbishop. This was true of Horton, Milton, Thanington, Tonford
and Iffin. The Iast, which means the settlement of the young, was there from 1086. It
may have belonged to the family of a knight called Vitalis who is pictured in the Bayeux
Tapestry and who founded the churches of St Edmund Ridingate and its successor the
old St Mary Bredin. The mediaeval parish of St Mary Bredin was the only one in the city
which spread outwards out of the city into the country, going almost two miles to reach
Stuppington. The latter was linked to a now lost manor called Dodingale (or Dungeon).
In fact Merton Lane seems to owe its name to one passing mediaeval owner of the
manor, one Elias de Merton.
Churches seem to have followed the manors, as with the chapel of St Leonard
in Iffin Manor which dates from 1185. Interestingly, about that time the Bailiff of Petham
and Swarling Manors was one Geoffrey of Thanington which suggests both that
something like New House Lane already existed and that the Thanington High Lanes
were already, to an extent, linked up. Indeed Iffin Manor was described as being in
Thanington. St Nicholas Church, Thanington itself was originally a wooden Saxon
building. It was rebuilt in stone in the 11th century and extended in the 12th century. Most
of the area was in the Lathe of St Augustine (previously Borowart) and the Hundred of
Bridge and Petham, which again suggests that communication along the lanes was
possible. Land on the other side of the Stour was in Westgate Hundred.
The new monasteries, like that of St Gregory, may have played a part in
developing farming in the area. Later on the Eastbridge Hospital seems to have acquired
land in Thanington High Lanes. However, it was not until the thirteenth century that most
of the building took place. Stuppington (a possession of Christchurch Priory) is recorded
in 1233, followed by Cockering in 1235 and New House Farm in 1270 while Iffin Manor
was redeveloped in the early 14th century. The area may have been affected by the
Black Death and the Peasants Revolt of 1381 since some of those involved came from
just south of Canterbury. Equally the Wars of the Roses may have hurt the area. Thus
Iffin Manor seems to have abandoned in 1465 while Tonford Manor also had its
Conversely, Milton Manor seems only to have emerged between the 15th and 17th
centuries. Little seems to be known about Merton Manor and it may have ceased to exist
quite early, or been downgraded to being simply a farm without feudal influence.The
Lordship of Thanington, however, survived almost into the 1930s as a legal entity. It
seems to have embraced much of the High Lanes area as well as land down the hill,
although it probably got detached from any particular building such as Thanington Court.
Under the Tudors and Stuarts stability seems to have returned. There is no
obvious evidence of disturbances during the Reformation and the Civil Wars even
though much of the land was then in the hands of the Hales family who were involved
in religious conflict in the 16th and 17th centuries. This could have produced upheaval.
In fact the family were to be Lords of the Manor of Thanington from at least 1697 until
the mid 1770s. At the same time farming seems to have developed over this period,
from being mainly wheat and arable. Thus hops began to come in during the late 17th
century. And some large farms also began to grow more fruit, mainly for the London
As to ownership, like Milton Manor, New House Farm passed into the hands of
the Hales family by the 16th century which suggests it was an attractive proposition.
However, they may not have farmed it themselves, preferring to rent the land out. In any
case settlements were still very small, Milton having no more than 20 people and
Thanington about 150. Moreover they were purely agricultural, the cloth manufacturing
expansion of the times passing them by. And the Reformation probably led to the decline
of some churches such as Horton Chapel, suggesting that the area was still very underdeveloped.
Nor was there was no sign of any real unity in the area.
The Preludes: From the Eighteenth to the early Twentieth Century
Some things began to change in the eighteenth century, a time when English society
was expanding and large estates were being created. The main one in the area was the
Gipps estate which, at its full extent, comprised lands in Bekesbourne, Thanington High
Lanes and elsewhere. But the Milton Estate, based then on Cockering and Milton, which
passed from the Hales family to the Bells, ought not to be forgotten. These new estates
flourished for the best part of a century but, after 1870, British agriculture entered a
period of difficulty just at the time that the area acquired its own local government
Eighteenth century Estates
In 1775 the Hales family - who were then moving, possibly to Bifrons - sold Thanington
Court to George Gipps MP. He was already the owner of New House Farm. He may
have lived in the former before moving to Hall Place in Harbledown, from where his wife
came. Indeed, although the Farm looks to have been built earlier, it could have been
erected by Gipps in the 1770s, a few years before Iffin and Stuppington Farms were
Gipps, who was born in 1729, was the son of an Ashford stay-maker. He then
became an apothecary and hop merchant in Canterbury. Thanks to this and his first
wife′s wealth, by 1780 he was able to become one of the two MPs for Canterbury as well
as serving as an Alderman and, on occasion, Mayor. About this time he also became
a partner in a bank run by a nephew, himself a Sheriff of Canterbury. This traded as
Gipps, Simmonds & Gipps out of what is now the Lloyds Bank site in High Street, the
bank being ultimately absorbed into the Lloyds family.
By the time he died in 1800 George Gipps had assembled a good deal of land
around the town. This meant that he also succeeded to the Lordship of Thanington and
other manorial rights. His was not an isolated development but part of a general
expansion of larger estates. This trend seems to have profited from the fact that small
holders had been undermined by a depression earlier in the eighteenth century. It may
also have owed something to the fact that the new style agriculture of the times was
capital intensive. The new estates also had to support social status and the things which
went with it, such as cricket, notably at Kenfield, and to profit from the growth of turn7
piking, which affected parts of Stone Street between 1750 and 1780.
In any case, one of George Gipps′ children unsuccessfully tried to become a
Conservative MP for Canterbury in the 1840s and 1850s while another, also called
George, served as MP for Ripon between 1807 and 1826. He was ultimately to be
based at Howletts, a house previously built in the 1780s and owned by the Hales family,
although he too may have lived at New House Farm at one stage. He was there in 1830
during the so called ′Swing Riots′ against mechanization on the land when a threshing
machine in Bekesbourne was burned. His lands eventually passed on to his grandson,
George Bowdler Gipps JP Lord of the Manors of Bekesbourne, Debden, Howfield and
Thanington. G.B.Gipps lived in Howletts until about 1913 although he had, before then,
started to sell off land. However he retained the Lordship of the Manor of Thanington.
He and his father, yet another George, had earlier been instrumental in building St
Nicholas both in the 1840s and again in the early 1880s.
At the same time as the first George Gipps was buying land, John Bell of Street
End House and Bedford Square London, a Cambridge educated lawyer, academic and
magistrate, who was born in Kendal in 1764, also began to build up another estate round
Milton. The Lordship of Milton came into the hands of the family which was already well
established in the district. He and some of his family are buried in the undercroft of
Milton Church. His grandson, Matthew George Edward Bell of Bourne Park, was also
a magistrate. More importantly perhaps, he was an army officer of a (probably territorial)
kind, rising to be a Lieutenant Colonel by 1919. In any case he also continued to buy up
land, including in September 1910, some of the Gipps′ holdings in Thanington High
Lanes, including New House Farm. This transfer was to be significant.
Nineteenth century changes
Around this time Gordon Neame and the Wacher family owned much of Stuppington and
Merton farms. Neame seems to have sold some of his land, often used for cherries and
other fruit, to the Ashendens in the 1850s. However, even then, few if any of these
large scale landowners actually lived in, or worked, the farms. The land was leased out
to tenant farmers as an investment. However, the owners could be called on to provide
new facilities and it may have been thanks to this that a series of ′cottages′ - actually
semi-detached houses - were built on several farms in the 1880s. This was true of
Upper Horton, New House Farm, Wincheap, Stuppington Hill and Merton farm. They
may well have been needed because of a further interest in orchards and dairy farming
for the London market, by then accessible by train, which required more labour. The
switch to fruit was probably due to rising prosperity, the popularity of jam making and a
malaise in hop growing.
There were other changes in the area in the second half of the 19th century. The
building of St Augustine"s Hospital thus led to Upper Horton being carved out as a
separate farm from the old Horton estate. In the 1880s Milton Parish was merged with
St Nicholas Church, at which point Milton Church - the Rector of which had, on
occasions in the previous century, also been the Curate at St Nicholas - seems to have
changed its dedication from St Nicholas to St John the Baptist. This would have been
to avoid confusion.
Even so Thanington remained small. In 1870 there were probably only 43
inhabited houses and 209 inhabitants in the parish in 1870, according to returns for the
Education Act. By 1890 Thanington Church Parish still only had no more than 680
people. It did, however, have a school which few other settlements did. Moreover, things
were happening that brought it closer to the High Lanes.
In fact the area was caught up in a national restructuring of local government.
Thus in 1894 a new Local Government Act created two new Thanington civil parishes,
Within and Without. Both of these were actually well outside both the city walls and the
main area of settlement in Wincheap. The former started half way along Wincheap and
ended at a toll bar around the St Jacobs area while the latter went far up the hillside to
the south west as well as towards Ashford. The Within Parish lasted only a few years
since it was absorbed into the city in 1912, leaving little or no trace.
Thanington Without, on the other hand, proved longer lasting, despite an
uncertain start. Because it had less than the minimum required number of voters, it was
initially run not by a Council but by a Parish Meeting of male parishioners. Theoretically
the Meeting should have started in 1894 but in fact the first meeting did not take place
until 1899. This was because, according to the Kentish Gazette, nobody turned up to the
initial meeting. Their non-appearance would have prevented the taking of decisions and
the holding of regular meetings. Only when other Parish Councils were having new
elections in 1899 did this change and annual meetings started. The Meeting ran the
Thanington Without Civil Parish until it grew large enough to gain its own Parish Council
in the mid 1930s.
The Meeting was then dominated by tenant farms such as the Lillywhites, of
Thanington Court, and the Miles brothers, of New House and Iffin Farms. They all also
acted as administrators of the Poor Law, the predecessor of national assistance and a
major element in local life throughout the country. Their role shows both that the High
Lanes farms were able both to cooperate and to play a major role in the new parish.
However, the Civil Parish remained a very formal and inactive body before 1914.
Nonetheless, when the First World War broke out, the leading figures, including the
Miles, were made special constables in case there was any disorder. Luckily they never
seem to have been called on to use their new powers despite the stresses that the
conflict would inevitably have placed on the district, as the War Memorial in St Nicholas
Problems on the land
Yet, despite such developments, the situation of landowners was deteriorating.
Competition from the USA and South America, made possible by the completion of
transcontinental railways and the introduction of refrigerated ships, undercut British
production especially of grain and meat. Dairy farming and fruit did better but returns
fell and many landlords sought to divest themselves of land. Locally the value of farm
output declined by a fifth between 1870 and 1911. This meant that rents and returns to
landowners fell at a time when their expenses were rising. Hence, as we have seen, in
July 1906 George Bowdler Gipps sought to sell his estate at auction in London. This was
a preliminary to him moving from Howletts a few years later. He may have moved to a
smaller residence in Thanington. This may have been why he held on to its Lordship,
continuing to hold manorial courts at the ′Hop Poles Inn′ to levy feudal dues when land
changed hands as a result of sales or bequests. Some of the lands in the High Lanes
area later bought by Lt Colonel Bell was subject to this kind of quit rent.
The lots initially put up for sale included New House Farm, Thanington Court,
Tonford, and Howfield, together with land in Petham and around both Howletts and
Bekesbourne. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the conditions, much of it failed to reach
its reserve price and was withdrawn from sale. This was the case with New House
Farm. Much of the land was put back on the Canterbury market in July 1909 through
E. Gardener, a local landowner and agent. 41 lots were made available, not just the
earlier offerings but also land in Chartham, Harbledown and Wincheap. Amusingly, part
of the latter was then seen as having potential for a golf course.
While William Lillywhite (who already leased Thanington Court) bought Wincheap
Farm and its hop gardens but New House Farm, on offer at £ 1900, failed (like some of
the other lots) to find a buyer. But this, like other lots, was as we have seen, later
bought up privately by M.G.E Bell. The farm had been tenanted as far back as 1894 by
the Miles family who also farmed both land in Cockering and, until 1911, Iffin Farm. In
that year Iffin Farm was taken on by one James Gibbs, again presumably as a tenant.
In 1914 and 1917 Bell also bought up more land in the area probably previously owned
by the Eastbridge Hospital, and including the central portion of land to the south east of
New House Lane. This was to prove a crucial step in bringing together the core High
Lanes land under one owner. However, there was then no suggestion that it would be
broken up or used for anything else than farming. What was still going on then was the
accretion of large estates. Much of this was then rented out to people like the Miles
family who had worked both Iffin and New House Farms for many years and were
working the land between the two Lanes as well.
By the beginning of the twentieth century in fact the High Lanes hillside was an
area without any real suggestion of community. It was described as mainly ′productive
arable′ and pasture, with some ′capital grazing′ for sheep and no doubt a good deal of
woodland as well. There were few if any hops although down on the main road there
were some highly reputed hop gardens, hence the name of the pub. Even so this area
was itself still underpopulated with 104 people in the Civil Parish and 825 in the Church
Parish which went a good way along Wincheap towards the city. It was also probably
quite a poor area, the Rateable Value of Thanington Without in 1905 being only £ 1834
and even after the war the Church was providing free coal to the poor of the Parish. So
one commentator said that it was ′a tiny parish, scarcely worthy to be called a hamlet′.
However, all this was to change and Bell′s acquisitions were to prove short term
purchases since war was about to change things dramatically.
The Real Beginnings: From One World War to Another
The old pattern of isolated farms above a centre of gravity along the Ashford/Thanington
Roads was soon to change thanks to the underlying weaknesses of English landed
society and what were to be the difficulties of market gardening in the inter-war years.
In fact, just as there was development down in the Stour Valley, so a small new
community began to emerge on the hillside to the south. Although life was difficult there,
people made a go of it and, by the outbreak of the Second World War, there were some
33 houses between New House Road and Iffin Road. And this was not just a matter of
a few houses but of an emerging community. This was soon well integrated into the Civil
Parish of Thanington.
The crucial sales
On 20 September 1919 Finns of Canterbury sought to auction the 1350 acres of the
Milton Estate for Lt Col. M.G.E Bell. This included land in Milton, Thanington,
Nackington, Petham and Lower Hardres parishes. The auction was part of a nation
wide sell off of land due to rising costs and falling agricultural income plus the imposition
of death duties. In fact, in 1885 the Duke of Marlborough had said that ′were there any
effective demand for the purchase of land, half the land in England would be in on the
market tomorrow′ .With revenues briefly rising due to the war many held off selling but,
from 1918 death duties had major impact due to the high casualty rate amongst landed
families in World War I. They provided a large number of the young officers who died.
Tax changes and the withdrawal of war time guaranteed prices for grain also had an
impact. All this led to a huge sell off of landed estates, often to sitting tenants. In fact
one quarter of all land in England may have changed hands at this time making it the
largest transfer of property since the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.
While New House Farm, described as arable, pasture and woodland, with three
buildings, was not sold, the arable land between Iffin Road and the ′road from
Canterbury to Petham′ as it was then usually known, was sold at auction. The lot
amounted to 68 acres 1 rod and 21 perches (on which tithes were payable to
Thanington Church as was a quit rent to the Manor of Thanington). We do not know
what the price was.
The land was bought by one William Henry Vipan, a name is still remembered by
some older residents. He was a well-to-do retired surgeon then living in Canterbury. His
residence was a large new property, known as Castle House, 37 Castle Street which
later became the (now lost) Norman Castle Hotel. He was born of good family in Soham
in Cambridgeshire in 1842 and had probably lived in Southend and Hampshire before
moving, about 1896, to Horton Court outside the city. Although he was then described
as a farmer-surgeon, he was probably retired from both, as he is not recorded at the
Kent and Canterbury and used a bailiff for the land he had bought south of New House Farm, possibly
from the Eastbridge Hospital. This purchase probably explains why he was also
interested in land in Thanington High Lanes. By the time of his main purchase, some
twelve years after he moved into Canterbury, he was officially described as a ′retired
surgeon′. He probably died in 1924 or 1925
In any case, on 20 September 1919 he (and a sleeping partner called Philip
Currie from Dorset) acquired our 68 acres from Lt Col. Bell and Sir Charles Sackville-
West, another senior army officer and probably also a sleeping partner. This was to
prove a crucial decision because rather than adding to other farm land, the purchase
was divided up into seven smaller lots of about ten acres each and sold off within six
months. This was presumably by private treaty as no adverts seem to have survived.
Interestingly, the sale excluded mineral rights which remained with Bell and Sackville-
West. Maybe they hoped that the recent discovery of the East Kent coalfield might be
repeated in Thanington High Lanes.
Nonetheless, the lots seem to have sold rapidly, no doubt because of the desire
of tenants and others to get land of their own, in line with the national trend. Others may
have seen their purchase as part of the ′land fit for heroes to live in′ promised after the
war. In at least one case Dr Vipan seems to have advanced the money for the purchase,
providing a full mortgage of 𧶀 for the ten acre plot. This must have been very helpful
for the very modest purchasers. It also suggests that Dr Vipan did not see his dealings
as simply the chance for a quick profit, perhaps as a means of paying off other
obligations. He too may have felt an obligation to help post war reconstruction. By then
he was nearly 80, and seems to have had no issue, so he may have wanted to tidy up
his estate in a generous way.
In any case it was his purchase and subsequent sale which ultimately made
possible the development of a new community. Without it the land could easily have
been absorbed into neighbouring farms and remained undeveloped. So, by taking
advantage of the new availability of land (following the war and the agricultural
depression), and especially by breaking it up and selling it to a very different kind of
person from the big landowners of the past, he is, in a way, the grandfather of ′Hilltop′.
But, of course, it was not inevitable that there should have been building after the sale.
Other factors were to explain this.
The plots (most of which were then, as we have seen, being leased by George
Miles) were transferred to new owners between 11 and 31 March 1920. We know that
the initial buyers and their purchases were as follows, working up the hill from the
junction of Hollow Lane and New House Lane:
Of these, two were sold on very rapidly, the smallest plot probably being sold on to
Percy Southfield in the early 1920s and the Ford plot seems to have gone to a builder
from Wincheap called David Amos. ′Tommy′ Tucker was described as a labourer. When
he died early in 1940, his plot was sold by his executor Edmund Lillywhite, the son of
William, who then worked Wincheap Farm. It was bought in December of that year by
Arthur Legge, a builder"s foreman and former Parish Councillor, then living in Iffin Lane
and known locally as a poultry farmer. The price was 𧵎. This lower price reminds us
that farming continued to be difficult in the inter-war years and required people who were
willing to become pioneers of a sort.
- Amy Christian Head 5 acres (31 March 1920)
- George James Ford 10 acres (11 March 1920)
- Thomas Moat Tucker 10 acres (11 March 1920)
- Percy Henry Hoare 10 acres (11 March 1920)
- Charles Baker & Fred Baker 10 acres (11 March 1920)
- Percy Adolphus Tolputt 10 acres (25 March 1920); and Edward Gibbs & Albert Edward Gibbs 13 acres 1 rod and 21 perches (31 March 1920).
The pioneering phase
The initial purchasers also seem to have been ordinary Canterbury people, often living
in Wincheap, which may explain how they knew that land was available on the hillside.
Their motive for buying was not development but, as one long time resident says, to be
able to live off the land. Thus the Southfields raised chickens, and, less successfully,
sheep. Their eggs were sold to a visiting carrier. They also sold clover and other
foodstuffs for horses belonging to a Mr Pope who farmed on the opposite side of Hollow
Lane from Wincheap Farm. And some of the plots were soon in operation as market
gardens, sometimes providing produce for their own shops, whether cabbages,
potatoes, fruit or even eggs. This was the case with the Bakers who had a greengrocers
in Church Street St Pauls and the Hoare plot which supplied the family business in
Union Street. By the late 1930s several residents of Iffin Lane were also described as
small-holders, poultry farmers or greengrocers. The main orchard area went to Tucker
and Hoare. There may also have been a few hops grown, somewhere near where St
Faith′s now stands.
Not all the purchasers actually lived on their land at the start. Some, however,
used ex-army huts then being sold off by Ministry of Munitions after war, possibly coming
a sale at Shornecliffe on 25 February 1920. Four of these huts were cut in half and then
brought up on carts, three going into Iffin Lane (′The Bungalow′, ′Fairview′ and ′Orchard
View′). There was also one in the bottom part of New House Road, which was later
replaced as were those in Iffin. More orthodox houses followed in the early 1920s, built
by the Southfields, the Tolputts, the Tuckers (in Greenlands) and, later the Hoares. By
1930 there were about 18 houses in New House Road, including some in what is now
the Close, and rather fewer in Iffin, although this seems to have developed first. Some
of these, were built on slices of the original plots. Thus Tucker sold the plot on which
Sandford was built (the name coming from the architect who donated plans as a
wedding present) to the Knotts, ′Mulroy′ (now no 51) went to Captain E.A.Smith, an
engineer of Petham, while ′Belmont′ and ′the Haven′ were built in what had been the
garden of "Holmewood" (now ′Torn an Forth′) Some of the initial purchasers, notably the
Bakers and the Tolputts, also seem to have bought land beyond their initial ten acres.
The Gibbs, who may have been related to earlier tenants of Iffin Farm, may have added
their 13 acres to Iffin Farm since there seems to have been no building on their land.
There seem to have been three reasons for the new building. One was the desire
for new "rural" homes close to Canterbury which encouraged the emergence of a market.
This enabled people to recoup some of their initial outlay and pay off any loans they may
have incurred. The second reason was the fact that some of the initial purchasers were
themselves builders. Thus Amos and Tolputt both sold off land and built new properties,
sometimes doing this to finance home improvements of their own. Thus it was the
former who built the old wooden "Greenlands" for Tommy Tucker.
In the latter"s case he reworked some of the houses at the bottom of the Lane.
He also used materials from a French Jesuit educational institution, installed in Hales
Place over looking the city in St Stephens and which was sold off in 1928, to build
concrete houses at the top of the lane on the land which he had bought from Dr Vipan.
He also sold off a certain amount in the second half of the decade to a former miner
called Troup. Tolputt was also known as a "dealer" and went round the streets buying
and selling. He probably used a shed known as the "Old Tabernacle" as one of his
workshops. This was situated in what was then nicknamed the Red Road - the inlet
leading to Guest′s farm - because, as can still just be seen, it was surfaced with red
bricks and dust. His main residence was eventually in ′St Omer′, now no 59, part of
which he once rented out. William Boughton, who was to be a pillar of the Community
from the 1930s, was also a builder and erected his own house.
The third reason for development was that it proved very hard to make a go of
market gardening. When people moved in the area was "rough, wild and open" with few
facilities so it had to be fully cleared and made ready for vegetable produce. But this
needed water, which was not easily available, save for one or two wells and these were
not always available for general use. For a while, in fact, water had to be lugged up on
carts from the waterworks whether for plants or for work on the houses being erected.
And it was often touch and go as to whether the plants got enough water. The first
houses thus had large rain water tanks with crude filters on their roofs to provide their
water. Life in Thanington High Lanes then needed a pioneering spirit. And charity grants
suggest that, no more than the Ashford Road area, was it a very prosperous place.
This helps to explain why there were so few facilities in the area. Indeed, such
was the lack of services in the Lanes that residents said it was called Thanington
Without because it was without all the things they wanted. It did, from 1927, have a shop
but not much else. The shop, known as May Cottage Stores was a wooden hut in the
front garden of ′Maycott′ or what is now 34 New House Lane. Prior to the Second World
War it was run by Mrs J. Austen (mother of Doris Boughton) and her husband Victor,
a victim of a gas attack in the ′trenches′. There was also a library of kinds nearby, open
for an hour on Tuesday evenings in the old Mission Hall in Hollow Lane, which was
situated opposite the entrance to Hollowmede.
But for the rest, the area was indeed deprived. From the mid 1930s demands
were made for a phone box, for street lighting, for piped water and for a school bus.
Only the call for piped water was successful. This was provided in the later 1930s when
Sewage, however, depended on septic tanks until well after the Second World War.
Some residents have unhappy memories of digging them out as late as the 1950s.
Electricity was demanded in 1934 and again in 1939 but did not arrive until the late
1940s. So linked hopes for street lights, six in New House Road and one in Iffin Lane,
came to nothing. People apparently depended on carriers such as Mr Scrivener and Mr
Goodman bringing lighting oil and soap up. However, some road signs were installed
and it is probable that the road was metalled (or gravelled) before the war. Yet there was
then so little traffic that grass still grew in the middle of the carriageway. This was
maintained by a road sweeper called Revell who lived on the site of what is now
The lanes also began to get names. In the documents of the early 1920s they
were still referred to as ′the road to Petham′ and ′Stone Street′. But, by late 1920s,
when the line of the former was altered, it was referred to as either New House Farm
Road or just New House Road. The naming may have been done by Mrs Southfield who
had to give GPO some indication of where to deliver. However, there was no numbering
and names seem to have been changed quite frequently so that it is difficult to know
precisely how many there then were. What we now think of as the Close was then
known as New House Lane. The next inlet was, as we have seen, known as the Red
Road. However, no name seems to have been given to the next inlet up the hill, where
there was then, in any case, only one house, a bungalow known as Clydebank. Iffin
Lane seems to have settled down as a ′Lane′ although it had was often known as a
Road, and could be spelt Iffen.
A developing community
Some of this may have been due to the fact that the emerging community was quite
active in the Civil Parish. By 1935, as we have already seen, Thanington was big
enough to justify an appeal to Kent County Council to endow it with a Council instead
of just an annual Meeting. Its first Chairman was F.G.Leigh, a retired sanitary engineer,
of Dunrovin (32 New House Close) who moved in around 1930-31. He had previously
chaired the Parish Meeting and been active in its affairs, apparently riding round the
area on a large tricycle. Leigh was to serve as Chairman until 1939-40 and remained on
the Council until 1946. He also represented the parish on Bridge Blean Rural District
Council, then the main local authority for the area around canterbury. The Lanes also
had other councillors including Percy Hoare and, as we have seen, Arthur Legge of
Orchard View, Iffin Lane. They both served in 1935-37. William Knott, who joined the
Council in 1935, was to be the Council"s longest serving member.
These processes of change and expansion were not unique. In the late 1920s
both New House Farm and Iffin Farm were finally sold by the Milton Estate which had
been running them under a Bailiff, Reynard J.Cooper of Cooper & Wacher. The first
went to the King family, who were related by marriage (and by origin as butchers) to the
Ashendens of Cockering Farm and Thanington House (now Hotel) while the second was
bought by the Mounts. At the same time there was a good deal of building, both private
and public, down on the A 28, with the beginnings of the Council Estate on land in part
reclaimed by the City from Thanington Without. Another change came with the death of
George Bowdler Gipps on 12 November 1929. Following this the Manor Court lapsed
while his remaining quit rents could be redeemed by one off payments. This was much
to the amazement of some in the area who had not known their property was still
′feudal′. Tithes also disappeared after the mid-1930s.
One of the strange things is that, in all this, there was - as we noted at the start -
no development on the north western side of New House Road. The reason for this
seems to have been that KCC placed a block on this through a Restriction of Ribbon
Development Order of 19 May 1937 made in pursuance of the 1935 Ribbon
Development Act Section 2. This banned development on the fringes of narrow lanes
on road traffic grounds. The order covered New House Road from the Chartham Downs
junction to the junction with Stone Street at the City boundary. Unfortunately its exact
terms are now lost. It may have been that the Lillywhites of Wincheap Farm, and others
applied for compensation because the Order prevented them from erecting any new
buildings close to the roadside.
The order remained in force until at least 1949 but may then have been
superceded by one of the post war Town and Country Planning Acts. The Act itself was
finally repealed in 1989. Long before then precedent, and the strength of Wincheap and
New House Farms, helped to ensure that there was no new development on the city
side of New House Road. There is no evidence to suggest that a similar block existed
in Iffin Lane although one resident of Hollow Lane claims that there was a ban on
building behind the phone box because there was a spring which fed the waterworks.
Despite this, it is clear that there was the beginnings of a small community of
perhaps 50 or 60 people. Amongst the houses in New House Lane, not so far
mentioned, they lived in ′The Nest′, ′May Bungalow′, ′Sunnyside′ , ′Tower View′,
Bankside, Noranda, Hereitis, Highlands, Heytor, Pallanza, Mostyn, Greenways,
′Fairview′, ′Orchard Close′, ′A la Montee′, ′Sunnyview′ and ′Kaysashwell′ plus, in Iffin,
′Wisteria Cottage′, ′St Marguerite′, ′The Hideaway′, ′Turramurra′ and ′Woodside′. In fact
development was probably more restricted to these two roads than has subsequently
become the case. And we do not know if the community then included Stuppington or
the one new house in upper Hollow Lane. In any case, it was still a modest area. Thus
there was apparently only one private car plus a lorry or two before the war. Yet it was
an active and self aware community even if local Directories seemed uncertain whether
to classify it as part of Thanington or as an integral part of the city. The fact that
children had to walk long distances to school may have helped the community spirit.
The Second World War
This was to be reinforced by the impact of the Second World War. This was brought
home no doubt by the fact that, as the war memorial in St Nicholas shows, people from
round about lost their lives whether as combatants or civilians. Some people along the
Ashford Road were in fact killed by air raids. And no doubt many more served in the
forces. Whether any of those whose names are recorded on the War Memorial in St
Nicolas′ Church came from the High lanes is not known.
In part it would also have been brought home by the fact that New House Farm
was a Home Guard post, based on the Nissen Hut which still stands below 77 New
House Lane. Personnel - who were always in short supply - used to bunk down in the
farm. There was also an Air Raid Precaution hut on the corner of the Red Road, while
on the field opposite there was an army gun and some army tents. This was probably
another anti-aircraft battery along with the one stationed on Upper Horton Farm, where
Nissen huts still survive. Apparently some houses in the lane were hit by the shrapnel
the guns created while the soldiers would provide local children with the odd hot meal.
One resident also remembers that telegraph poles were once placed in the field facing
the Lane to stop German gliders from landing in case of an invasion. Equally, there were
barrage balloons tethered in the grounds of Wincheap School, though this apparently
did not prevent it getting bombed. At least one house had its own Anderson shelter. And
the congregation of St Nicholas were given instructions on what to do if there was an air
raid during a service.
The war also made an impact thanks to things like a flying bomb landing near the
Waterworks (or in the woods opposite Upper Horton) a rear gun turret coming down
near Iffin Lane and, so it would seem, a Spitfire crashing at the entrance to New House
Farm. A number of high explosive boms also fell between Iffin Lane and Nackington
Road. Dog fights and Baedeker raids were also visible overhead at times. And many
residents also recall large flotillas of RAF bombers, with their fighter escorts, flying
overhead on their outward path to the continent and fighters limping back. V2 trails
were also visible on occasion.
Some of the empty plots in the middle of New House Lane were also used as
allotments during the war. Then, for a few days before D Day a Canadian battalion was
stationed near Hands Wood, just south of the bridle way between New House Lane and
Iffen Lane. And no doubt the war had other, less visible, impacts on the new community
and its spirit. There is thus a report of a VE Day party, for the whole Road, held in the
Red Road with ice cream supplied by Jack Short, manager of Jackson′s scrap metal
merchants in Canterbury. So clearly, the War did not undermine the new community.
Indeed, it may have encouraged thinking about the future.
Post War Consolidation
In the 40 years following the end of the Second World War the Thanington High
Lanes community saw a fivefold consolidation of its physical and social existence. To
begin with, the pattern of farming began to change. Secondly, there were major
changes in housing. Along with this came, on the one hand, the advent of the car
which significantly changed the nature of the area, and, on the other, the provision of
new facilities. Finally, its community life took on a more institutionalised form, thanks
to the erection of St Faith"s. However, by the mid 1980s, if not before, this
consolidation began to slow down somewhat as the post war dynamism ran down.
The agricultural side
Although the main farms in the area remained in place they were to change in
several ways. Wincheap Farm, which was a varied operation with hops at the bottom
and arable plus sheep (with some cows) in the fields opposite New House Lane,
remained in the hands of the Lillywhite family until the 1960s when it eventually
passed to the Howlands. Stuppington, Iffin and New House Farms all began to move
into intensive fruit farming, at the expense of arable. The last in fact moved into both
′Pick Your Own′ and into association with the East Kent Packers′ organization. For a
while it was also linked to Iffin Farm which passed from the Mounts to the Kings in
the early 1970s. However, Iffin was soon sold off and went its own way. Upper
Horton Farm also grew ′Pick Your Own′ strawberries at one stage. Conversely the
Merton farm lands to the east of Iffin, which had been given over to fruit, began to
revert to arable.
What was perhaps more significant, was that between the two main lanes, a
new fruit farm emerged, starting a little above the Close and running up to the
′Clydebank lane′ as well as through to Iffin Lane. This was built up by Ken Guest and
his family. Beginning in 1951, after working for Finns, he bought six acres from the
Bakers. This was followed by purchases from the Hoare plot and from others,
possibly successors to Legge, called Butterfield and Knife. The latter was himself a
small holder with pigs who, lacking a boar, brought his sows up the lane to the
Guest′s boar to be serviced. But, along with livestock, the farm became one of the
last cherry orchards in the Canterbury area, and expanded to take over orchards
previously farmed by the Hoares, which initially included rows of conference pears,
French plums and soft fruit. The farm also supplied fresh eggs and other produce to
residents. Unfortunately, the measures needed to protect the cherries against birds
did not always go down well with other residents.
Number 76 was also given planning permission in 1982 to become a small
holding although this did not happen. A Dutch farmer did, however, grew lettuces in
the Plantation area where there were also other unsuccessful efforts at farming. All
this helped to keep a rural element at the heart of the community. And some
residents still remember that there were still dew ponds around while the fields still
had proper boundaries so that rain water did not run down the highway.
While this was happening, the extremities of the new farm were becoming more
developed. In fact over 80 new homes were built in the area between 1945 and 1985.
So, whereas one resident remembers that there used to be many empty plots on the
Lane, this became much less common. Some of this development came through the
selling off of part of existing small plots for houses. This was very much the case with
parts of Iffin Lane and the "Clydebank" lane. The latter went from one to three and
eventually five houses by the 1980s, the size of plots getting smaller as the process
went on. There was also infilling in the Red Road and New House Lane itself where a
builder called Kelk put up at least five houses in the 1960s. Hollow Lane was also
affected by this process of fragmentation, partly because the land was sold off by an
unsuccessful farmer-builder called Murphy.
At the same time, a number of houses were considerably changed by their
new owners. New exteriors and extensions were common. Indeed the wooden
Clydebank turned into a brick bungalow in the early 1950s while "Westwinds"
replaced an earlier residence. This happened in other places. It all meant that names
could often change and are not easy to correlate with the present numbering. Those
who are interested in this can find a listing on the HCA website to which they can
The major consolidation, however, was in the completion of what was to
become the Close. There were a number of houses there before the war but the
track serving them petered out some hundred yards from the main road, thus
justifying its title of a "lane". Then, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this changed.
On the one hand there was a sixteen bungalow development by Cardy beyond the
track, ending with a turning circle at the Iffin Lane end. This was probably built on
land originally owned by the Amoses and then sold on. Peak Developments also
apparently built bungalows between the old houses and New House Road. Owners
of the older houses complained about what this was doing to their track and then
about the fact that, when the Rural District Council agreed to make up the Close in
1972, all houses had to share the costs. A meeting was held with KCC in February
1973 to clarify the situation. This seems to have been successful. Most of the houses
in the Close are subject to a covenant not to raise pigs, possibly to protect existing
pig farmers from competition or infection.
The following year there was an application for planning permission to build 30
homes somewhere in Iffin Lane but this never materialised. Nonetheless, by the late
1970s development in both lanes had become more continuous and modern. In the
course of this, a number of old passage ways, usually running behind gardens, were
subsumed into the gardens of new houses. However, with one exception, there was
still no building on the city side of New House Lane. The exception was ′Windy-
Ridge′, a property built, after much argument with Bridge Blean planners, as a farm
manager′s house. This suggests that, by then, the Ribbon Development Order had
The coming of the car
Part of the development was clearly due to growing prosperity. This encouraged a
trend, first seen in the 1930s, to a wider and more varied social composition in the
area. Purchasers were less local than in the past and came from different social
backgrounds. All this also promoted car use so that some front gardens became
given over to parking. The new houses in the Close, of course, all came with
garages. Indeed, their availability was one of the things which made such properties
saleable and usable, there still being no public transport in the area.
Cars made an impact in many other ways at this time. So there were
unsuccessful calls for a 30 mph limit in both 1954 and 1974. There was also a
demand for road markings for instance a white line near New House Farm, none of
which were acted on at this time. However, the central turning zone was established
at the junction with Hollow Lane in 1984. In the 1960s, on two occasions linked to
new development and facilities, the question was also raised as to whether the roads
should not be widened and proper lay-byes created. This reflected annoyance at the
way that kerbs and pathways were being eaten into and mud spread on the roads.
Indeed a public meeting was once held to protest against the impact parking was
having opposite numbers 37 to 39 New House Lane.
Road safety was also a problem, especially with a crash of lorries in Hollow
Lane which threatened children walking to school. This was one reason why in the
1950s there was much interest in getting a proper footpath to town for children and
others. Eventually, despite objections from environmentalists, a high level path was
agreed and the land was made available by Edmund Lillywhite of Wincheap Farm in
return for diverting a path which ran straight across his land. This was constructed at
a cost of ٠ 500 in 1959 but it soon caused problems because of a lack of safety
railings which took time to install. The path also rapidly became overgrown. It could
also be misused by young cyclists. Car usage also tended to reduce the number of
children and others who walked down the lanes.
The state of the roads also became a major cause of concern as traffic
increased. With the road clearly metalled, it being chipped and rolled in 1980, water
increasingly tended to run down the road. This continued even though a soakaway
was installed in February 1964. There was also concern about the state of Hollow
Lane where rubbish was often dumped (attracting rats), chalk and stones slipped into
the roadway and the trees grew too close overhead, reducing light. Nonetheless,
while the motor car brought the community closer to Canterbury, it also increased
awareness of the way transit and parking affected the Lanes. So it both helped and
hindered the development of community feeling.
Probably because of the car, the community also lost as well as gaining facilities in
these years. By the 1950s the shop was being run by Mrs Goldrup, a distant relation
of the Boughtons. She then sold up when her husband died leading to a number of
owners, none of whom seem to have been able to meet the challenge of the new
supermarkets. In May 1955 for instance, a Mr Parr from the shop approached the
Civil Parish for support in an application for sub post office, as requested by a
petition by residents. Unfortunately this was turned down in mid 1956 because it was
under two miles from the existing Post Office in Wincheap. By the time the shop was
revived by the Richards, who hoped in 1973 to get an off licence, it was probably too
late and the shop closed a few years after. It was later, after some rebuilding, hoped
to make it a day centre for the elderly but this never took off.
Against this must be set things like a telephone box, street numbering and the
provision of mains sewage. The idea of having a phone box, which had been sought
before the war, was renewed in 1946. But the GPO, as it then was, would only install
one if there was a subsidy from the Parish Council. This it was not at first prepared to
give. But in 1948 it agreed to do so, only to find soon after that, happily the
government was making funds available so that the subsidy was not needed.
Thereafter phone box continued to serve the community for many years, despite
vandalism. This started early so that in 1968 thought was given to having it moved up
the road to St Faith′s where it would be less hidden from view.
The idea of renumbering had been mooted in 1944 and seems to have
partially existed, informally, before the War. This would explain the running round of
New House Road numbers into what was then New House Lane. However the real
impetus for change came from the Civil Parish Council which, in May 1964, called for
New House Lane, New House Road and Iffin Lane to be renumbered. The proposal
was referred to Bridge-Blean RDC which agreed to the first two suggestions and
erected the requisite name plates. However, Iffin Lane was never given numbers. In
the process New House Road seems to have been turned into New House Lane.
Why this was is not clear. In fact a good deal remains unclear about the whole
business of renaming and numbering.
The name Close - for what had previously been known informally as New
House Lane - was suggested by the Parish Council in February 1967 in conjunction
with planning application for the 16 bungalows. This change may have been to make
the new properties more saleable. It could also have ended the problem of traffic
turning into the track, thinking this was where the main road went, and not realising it
was a cul-de-sac. Calling it a Close might have made this clearer to drivers.
However, the Council told a parishioner at an Annual Assembly that it was
GPO who wanted the changes. The proliferation of houses may have made it feel
that there would be too many names to be easily located. It was possibly also
because of the way numbers tended to get mixed up because the existing informal
numbers in the Lane went round into the Close. However, instead of making
numbers jump across the Close, the numbering of the upper part of the Lane started
where the old numbers left off. So while the Close got a rational system of numbers ,
the Lane was left with a gap. Not surprisingly the GPO apparently went on making
mistakes about which numbers were where, so that mail was still misdelivered. Later
infilling has complicated matters, at both ends of the Lane, but there has never been
any stomach for a wholesale and more logical renumbering.
Drainage came in later in the 1960s thanks to public pressure in 1965. This
led to a public meeting with the Bridge-Blean engineer engineer. Drainage schemes
were laid before the Annual Parish Assembly (as the general meeting was called by
then) in 1966-67. Work started the following winter but the contractors went bankrupt
and another firm called Bowzell was successfully called in during early 1967 to finish
job. This was completed by 1968 and cess pits were, at last, left behind.
In the 1950s and 1960s other facilities were considered. Thus there was
regular pressure for a bus service, such as existed in the North Ward. But either the
cost was likely to be too much or companies like East Kent Road Cars and Drews
refused to reroute their services. There was also a call for the old library to be
restored in late 1952. This seems to have started up, in St Faith"s no doubt, the next
year. Unfortunately, by the winter of 1960 it was reported that ′Mr Goddard could no
longer look after it′. A meeting held but this produced no volunteers to take over
responsibility and it seems to have lapsed for a while. However, by the mid 1970s
KCC was paying the Church rent for using the Hall as a Library. This must have
ceased by the beginning of the next decade.
Consideration was also given to having gas installed in the area in 1961-2 but
the cost was so large that the idea was not preceded with. Equally, while children
were often allowed to play in the field opposite St Faith′s after lambing, there was no
children′s playground. The idea was frequently mooted but none of the local farmers
were, into the 1980s, willing or able to provide any land for this even though a grant
was made for equipment by the local Lottery. But demands for a larger post box were
And while electricity supply, which was anticipated when new houses were
being built in Iffin Lane in the late 1940s, became a norm, the community failed to
agree on the provision of street lights. The idea of having them was renewed in the
late 1940s and early 1950s but public meetings in 1947 and April 1951 voted against
the idea. Subsequent enquiries in the 1960s also led nowhere and it was not until
the. late 1970s that the Parish Council decided to act and signed an installation
contract. This was resisted by residents who signed a petition but a referendum in
1979 showed 72 in favour and 43 against. However, since the idea was to have
lights on existing poles, ′way leave′ for their installation had to be sought and this was
more often than not refused. Intrusion into what some residents saw as the "rural"
nature of the Lanes seems to have been the main reason for rejection although they
would also have impinged on some specific houses.
So, in the end only three lights were actually installed. These were in New
House Lane at a cost of 𧽴. The whole affair got very heated and left the Parish
Council and the proponents of the scheme somewhat bruised. This was probably the
least happy experience of the period. And it showed that there were limits to the
depth and unity of community feeling.
Despite this the community was able to institutionalize its existence in several ways.
To begin with in 1947 the Parish Council area was divided into two and a separate
South Ward was created with two councillors allocated to it. This came into effect in
1948 along with minor changes to its boundaries The Parish also attracted charitable
donations. What it did was reported on notice boards, situated first at Homewood
and then, after vandalism, in front of St Faith"s. In the 1950s some St Nicholas PCC
meetings were held in St Faith"s. Annual Civil Parish Assemblies also began to be
held there on an alternating basis from the 1960s. The Hall was then used as a
polling station in replacement of the Hollow Lane Mission Hall which was not used
after the 1950s. By the 1970s Councillor Knott wanted St Faith"s to be use for
ordinary Parish Council meetings, in alternation with ARSC, but this did not happen.
Yet when it came to things like VE day, the Coronation and the Silver Jubilee the
South Ward went its own way, organizing its own events and often raising more
money than its larger northern neighbour.
All this became important when Parish Councils were invited into the town and
country planning process. Planning matters were discussed in passing from 1959
and from January 1962 the Rural District Council regularly made brief details
available to the Parish Council so that it could comment. This it did, establishing a
special sub-committee that year. The habit continued after 1974 when, as part of a
national re-organization, Canterbury City Council replaced Bridge Blean. Residents
soon responded to the trend by seeking Parish Council support for their applications.
Generally the Council was supportive of developments which did not incur objections
Even more significant perhaps was the creation of permanent social and
cultural organizations for the area. The roots of this are hard to discern as the
relevant minutes and accounts are both incomplete and often hard to interpret. We
do know that on 12 October 1945 24 residents met in "Homewood" and decided to
build a hut for "social gatherings and religious services". Oddly enough there is no
mention of where the hut would go presumably because it was known that land would
be available. In fact, on 7 March 1946 Victor Austen of Maycott sold the plot on which
St Faith"s now stands to the PCC of St Nicholas (and the Diocesan Board of
Finance) to be used for "ecclesiastical" purposes.
The reasons for all this were probably that services had already been held in
the road and there was some public pressure for more Christian activities in the
Lanes. And in 1940 it had been said that while people would like to go to St Nicholas,
this was difficult because they felt it was "so far away". Given that much the same
thing was already happening in the north of the parish, where the old Ashford Road
Social Club grew out of a VJ Day celebration there, it may also have reflected
optimistic post war social aspirations.
In any case, the New House Road residents set up a committee and raised
money for the hut through various social events, such as theatre visits, trips and
notably regular Whist Drives. There was also a box in the shop for contributions. A
non denominational Sunday School, which was to be run for many years by Doris
Boughton of "Mostyn", began in April 1947. She like her husband was also to be a
driving force in the Lanes. Open air services were also on the site in the summers of
1947 and 1948.
Raising money, however, proved easier than getting the hut. The expectation
had been that they could buy one ready made but this proved hard since prices were
rising along with the costs of proper installation. There were also difficulties with the
PCC who the Committee had opted to have manage their funds and buy any hut.
There was some doubt about the propriety of the PCC doing this but this was
eventually overcome and the Committee was reconstituted as a sub-committee of the
PCC and residents were co-opted on to the latter. Interestingly the new Vicar, the
Rev. Arthur Stevens, observed in March 1949 that there "seemed to be more
community spirit" on the Lanes than in other parts of his parish.
Even so, with little apparently happening on the hut front, the residents
seemed to grow restive and canvassed the return of their monies. The PCC also
seems to have had some reservations about the residents′ interest in the project.
However, the difficulties were overcome by mid 1950, though how we do not know. It
was certainly agreed that a more permanent hall would be built using voluntary
labour, which had previously been resisted. Professionally prepared plans inspired by
sketches drawn up by Mr Shand of ′Here-it-is′. Thanks to an interest free loan from
the brother of a resident, the New House Lane committee was able to provide the
PCC with a further sum for the scheme while both St Nicholas and the Diocesan
Board of Finance made contributions. By this time good relations seem to have been
Work started in the spring of 1951 and proceeded very quickly and
successfully thanks to the labour of the local residents and machinery from
Wincheap Farm. The hall was dedicated to St Faith because the dedication service
was to be held on St Faith′s Day, 6 October 1951. Pictures of both were printed in
the Parish Magazine which had carried regular reports on the project. The finishing
touches were added in 1952 and the Hall went on to become a major resource for
the community. Day to day responsibility passed to the Residents′ Committee on 1
January 1952. At first it seems to have been used by a specific subscription charging
Club - which offered badminton amongst its activities - but this only lasted about
three years. The fact that it did not remain a closed Club may well have made the
Hall more accessible to the wider community.
Life with St Faith"s
Keeping things going thereafter was not always easy. On the one hand, maintenance
was a problem with the roof needing work in 1955. Things must have been especially
difficult when heating was by coal fired stoves which had to lit and cleared. This
ended in 1959 when Mr King of New House Farm financed a new heating system.
The following year the hall was redecorated. The heating had to be renewed in the
1980s. On the other hand, not everyone enjoyed having the hall nearby and, almost
from the beginning, there were complaints about children hanging around outside
and excessive noise at the end of events.
There were also regular uncertainties about the management of the hall. n
theory locals were responsible for the day to day running of the Hall but this did not
always work and there was some discussion about this with the Rev. Skepper in
1967. However, in the late 1970s and early 1980s the Rev. Louis Baycock was very
active in organizing repairs and activities. Thus the outside was then painted, the
floor resealed and insulation improved. A joint management committee was then set
up. The Lanes were regularly represented on the St Nicholas PCC and took a not
insignificant part in its affairs, whether financial or in producing its magazine.
Moreover, socially things did not always go so well. By 1954 the Whist Drives
were reduced to once a fortnight instead of once a week and eventually they petered
out altogether. And there were complaints about lack of interest and the difficulty of
finding officers. Nonetheless, the Social Committee ran musical and gramophone
evenings, Beetle drives, sales of work, theatre outings and combined pantomime
visits and children′s parties. A Teenage or Youth Club was also established but
apparently closed in May 1967 though it may have re-emerged in the 1970s for a
while. The Hall celebrated its 25 anniversary th with a dinner in 1976.
Nonetheless, for all this period regular services and a Sunday School was
held there. Services were at first weekly, normally evensong, but from 1967 this
became fortnightly and in the mornings. Attendance at major festivals like Christmas,
Easter and Harvest was good. Indeed, when invited to join with St Nicholas for
harvest, the residents made it clear to Rev. Baycock that, thinking of themselves as
a village as they did, they preferred their own events.
Such activities thus managed to give some shape to what had become a
community of some 140 houses and perhaps 300 people. Indeed when one resident
asked for planning permission on Iffin Lane his case was dismissed by the
authorities, inaccurately and - for some risibly - because the proposed building was
′outside the village′. Nonetheless, despite being as one resident called it, isolated, all
this was a real advance on the situation at the end of the war. So, by the late 1980s it
was recognizably what it is today. It had obtained most of the facilities that it had
been demanded when development first started. But it had not overcome all its
problems and divisions. Not everybody, in other words, was always active in the new
community. Nor did everyone agree about its nature and activities. And the High
Lanes were still exposed to the influence of outside events over which its inhabitants
had only limited control.
The Contemporary Scene: Adaption and Renewal
The last twenty years have, in fact, seen further alteration in the life of the
Thanington High Lanes area. Thus there have been further changes in the setting
notably where farming is concerned. Equally traffic has remained a major problem
even though there has been much less in the way of new development and facilities.
And the community has been able to adapt to both of these thanks in part to the
revival of its own social organization.
Changes on the land
The land in which the Thanington High Lanes are set changed quite drastically from
the 1980s. On the one hand, fruit cultivation began to decline. The Guest farm
ceased to grow cherries commercially and grubbed up a number of trees switching to
set aside and grazing. Both Upper Horton and, later, New House Farm gave up ′pick
your own′, to concentrate on contract production for supermarkets and food
manufacturers, often using East European student labour. This may have been
related to the rejection of an application to create a proper Farm Shop on the
premises The old Iffin farm was also split and reverted from fruit to pasture. Part of
this was used by horses, linked to the Riding School that emerged, somewhat
controversially, at the top of the Lane. In fact there was something of a trend to
business development in the area, beginning with the creation of a Montessori
Nursery School in Orchard House in the late 1980s. Some residential properties have
also been used for professional activities.
Another example of farm land being used for new purposes came in Wincheap
Farm. In 1986 this ceased to operate in the old way and its implements were sold off.
The part of the farm below the new A2 was for a while a farm shop before being used
for machinery workshops and furniture warehouses and, ultimately, a site for new
housing. The rest of the land was bought up by a farmer who had lost his land to the
Channel Tunnel. His first thought was to build a large new house on the site of the
old hop sheds but this was rejected. Hence in the late 1980s he applied to turn the
land above the A2 into a golf course. This was granted in1991 and then extended to
a further nine holes. However, since then, although the planning permission has
been regularly renewed, there have been no moves to develop the land so far.
Instead it has been used as a contract operated arable farm. The old owners of
Wincheap Farm also turned the bulk of their part of the old Iffin Farm into a new
mixed farm under the name of Iffin Meadows Farm. In the course of all this field
sizes seem to have grown.
This was part of a further, albeit limited, development of housing. About one
house has been added each year, often quite large ones, and usually as infilling. This
happened in Iffin Lane, lower New House Lane and Hollow Lane. In some cases
some of the very oldest houses in the area have been, or will be, replaced. At the
same time buildings damaged by fire were replaced. Extensions to existing houses
were again quite common. All this gave a new twist to the appearance of the area as
did the arrival of double glazing and bricked forecourts. There was also one new big
venture, in Stuppington Court Farm where, from the mid 1980s, Knights both
developed the farm buildings as attractive houses and added some new large
houses. However, rumoured expansion behind New House Close was blocked by the
planners. All of this suggests further changes in the social composition of the High
Traffic and Facilities
These developments have obviously had an impact on both traffic and facilities. Fruit
lorries, nursery school run SUVs and extra cars in new houses added to the traffic
flows, as did the discovery of the lanes as a rat run avoiding blockages on Wincheap
and elsewhere. Parking and deliveries added to the problems. All this led to controls
including the long desired 30 mph limitation and the creation of some more lay-bys.
Wear and tear obviously increased so that much of the area had to be resurfaced in
the early 1990s. But pot holes remained a problem as did surface water. However,
on one occasion at least in the early 1990s, the trees in Hollow Lane were cut back
to help visibility.
In terms of facilities, the idea of street lighting surfaced unsuccessfully in the
early 1990s. Gas finally came to the Lanes a few years later although, because of the
charges involved, many have continued to rely on oil delivered by tankers. Before
this a Mobile Library began to call on alternate weeks and a Post bus to link the area
with Canterbury twice a day. Milk and newspaper deliveries also found their way up
the hill much more regularly than in the past.
In terms of institutional identity, there have been three main changes since the
mid 1980s. To begin with, the boundaries of the South Ward and the Parish in
general were changed in 1987, following on the building of the A2 bypass. Because it
was beyond the by-pass the Council estate was added to the Civil Parish. The latter
also lost both its part of Wincheap (and the land up Hollow Lane to the south of the
A 2) and the land immediately north of the Downs Road. This was added to
Chartham. Thanington Without gained land on the north side of the river under the
shadow of Harbledown Hill. Given the merger the Civil Parish Council asked for the
name to be changed to the simpler - more accurate and historical - Thanington but
this was rejected. Canterbury preferred to stick with what they, wrongly, thought was
the romantic old name.
This change widened the civil parish spread of the community. And for the first
time in almost 50 years, the Lanes provided the Chairman of the Parish Council. It
also continued to supply a Vice Chairman into the new century and, for the first time,
the Parish Clerk. The Parish Council now hears reports on activities in the area as
part of its Annual Parish Meeting, held each spring. These are still held alternately in
St Faith"s and the Ashford Road Community Association Hall. Attendance remains
Secondly, the apparent decline of social activity was reversed. Because of the
stagnation of the early 1980s, in April 1986 a questionnaire was circulated seeking
interest in the Social Committee. Out of this came an infusion of new blood, reflecting
the expansion of housing in preceding years, and the renewal of the Hilltop Social
Club. This began to play a wider role, symbolised by the production of a quarterly
newsletter, ′Hilltop News′.
Then, when a regular Quinquennial Inspection by Diocesan Architects
suggested that St Faith′s was at the end of its useful life, and this at a time when, in
line with national and local social trends, the numbers of people from the Lanes
attending services were falling so that the Church was seen as unlikely to be able to
sustain the hall, a further initiative was undertaken. Following a public meeting on 19
October 2000, a new body, the Hilltop Community Association, was set up. This drew
on the impetus of the Social Club and inherited its name, though because of the
imprecision of the term ′Hilltop′, Canterbury has been added to its official title.
Run by an elected executive committee and a Board of Trustees HCA sets as
its objectives the continuation of a vibrant local community; the retention of the
′village hall′ the maintenance, management and refurbishment of the hall; the
provision of non-denominational services; and the development of recreational
activities for the under 12s. The Association came into existence in the autumn of
2000 and, through its various working groups, has done a great deal of remedial and
upkeep work on the Hall. And taking the Social Club under its wing, it has also
provided recreational facilities for many residents as well as the young, including quiz
evenings, Tai Chi and a lending library of fiction. It also started new fund raising
activities including barbecues, themed evenings and a 100 Club. Moreover, a
website has also been created and a new storage unit placed behind the hall which
has now been redeveloped for social use. Unfortunately its value to the community
have not always been fully appreciated since the Hall and its surrounds have
suffered a certain amount of vandalism.
The Association became an officially recognised charity as the Hilltop
Community Association (Canterbury) in 2003. It then entered into what proved to be
difficult negotiations with the Church over the possibility of taking over the hall.
Consideration was therefore given to entering on an "Albermarle" scheme for leasing
and running the hall. Thought has also been given to the possibility of rebuilding the
hall. This would be financially and legally challenging.
The third element was the renewed sense of identity developed by the
drawing up of a Village (or Community) Design Statement in 2004-5. A VDS is a
document detailing the nature of a community and its desires for future development.
It is meant to serve as supplementary guidelines for planning applications affecting
the community. Producing one for the High Lanes began with discussions with
Canterbury City Council. Following a workshop in July 2004 it has been drafted by a
volunteer team of residents and will be developed as a result of suggestions both
from the City and from the generality of residents to whom it will be submitted, along
with a questionnaire. As well as offering a voice in future planning decisions, the act
of drawing up a VDS also has the merit of focussing residents′ attention on the
nature of the area, its history, and its present needs and priorities, helping to keep
alive the life and unity of the area. It may also offer a spring board for future
All this should help residents collectively adapt to the ever changing
environment in which the High Lanes community exists. In other words, while the
community may now be "made" thanks to its 85 year history, it is far from being
"finished" let alone set in stone. Change is bound to come whether because of
developments outside the High Lanes or, as in the past, because its residents
generate their own internal dynamics. And if this introductory survey contributes to a
general understanding of the past, present and future of the new community, it will
have served its