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History Of The Villages

(Extracts from Horton Kirby and South Darenth – “Pictures and Memories of 100 Years 1894-1994” published by the Parish Council April 1994)

Horton Kirby and South Darenth developed as villages along separate and distinct paths. Evidence of human settlement in the Darent Valley goes back at least 5000 years – Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age peoples settled here.  The valley was extensively utilized by the Romans – there are the remains of a large Roman granary in Westminster Field – and both villages were settled by the Saxons as shown by the burial grounds at Riseley, near Eglantine Lane, at present-day South Downs and at the top of New Road.

The Domesday Book (1086) records the village of Hortune as being divided into four manors – Court Lodge, Reynolds Place, Franks and South Darenth. The Normans built a castle (now part of Court Lodge) and St Mary’s Church was built about 100 years after the Normans. In the late 13th Century the village took the name of Horton Kirkby, changing eventually to Horton Kirby.

During Tudor Times Horton Kirby continued to prosper – Franks Hall was built and Reynolds Place was re-built (the East wing is original and contains Tudor stone fireplaces and stained glass windows); other Tudor buildings are Old School Cottage and Royal Oak Cottage, which, having fallen into disrepair was restored in 1946.

By the late 1700s South Darenth consisted of only a few buildings and four scattered farms, 2 small flour- mills and a blacksmith’s forge. Giffords and The Towers were built in the early 1800s but it was the Victorian Era that had a great impact on the growth of South Darenth. This development was the result of the expansion of the paper mills and the coming of the railway. The impressive viaduct was built in 1858 and two years later Farningham and Sutton Railway station was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company.  Although not in the parish, the station at Farningham Road has been the cause of the modern development of both South Darenth and Horton Kirby.  South Darenth, in particular, was transformed by the Industrial Revolution.

Today some of the old has gone – the mills in South Darenth and Westminster Mill in Horton Kirby – but change has continued with the development of new housing although Horton Kirby still has many of its original buildings.

The HKSD Local History Society has published many books and leaflets about the history of the villages and these can be bought from the Parish Office.