Blackfen Farm (east)
The history of the Lamorbey Estate is closely intertwined with the history of Blackfen.
In 1608 the Goldwell family’s Lamorbey estate included a 54 acre farm at Blackfen. This later got passed around as fortunes rose and fell. In the 18th century landowners bought up parcels of land to convey their wealth, political power and social status. William Steele enhanced his Lamorbey estate by buying up land in Blackfen in 1745. But it worked both ways: when Robert Owen Jones died and his Blackfen home was put up for auction in 1861 a key selling point was the fact that the property adjoined big estates like Lamorbey and Danson. Estate agents were at work even then!
And when Blackfen’s Church of the Good Shepherd was built in 1967 it was Lt-Col G. I. Malcolm of Poltalloch (a descendant of the Malcolms of Lamorbey) who laid the foundation stone.
The Grade II listed Lamorbey House (now the home of Rose Bruford College) is open to visitors as part of Open House next Saturday 22 September 10am-3pm. https://www.bruford.ac.uk/news-events/events/lamorbey-house-part-of-open-house-london/
Townshends of Scadbury and Frognal
Glamorous landlords! One of Blackfen’s farms, on the east side of Days Lane, was owned from the early 1800s by the Townshends, including the politician John Robert Townshend, 3rd Viscount and later 1st Earl Sydney. The family also owned fields in what is now the Boundary Road area. They lived at Scadbury in Chislehurst and later at Frognal House. All the land was sold off as part of the vast Frognal and Scadbury estate in September 1915.
Each year there is an Open Weekend at Scadbury. You can see excavations of the ruined remains of the medieval manor house and moat, plus WWII defences. There is a self-guided tour of the site and there is a bookstall and refreshments. It takes place this year on 15 and 16 September 2pm-4.30pm. Well worth a visit. http://www.odas.org.uk/open-weekend/
Michael Heaslip of Blackfen Farm
Michael Heaslip was born in Newmarket, Co. Cork and came to England with his young family in the 1890s. He worked as a haulage contractor in north Woolwich and also ran a pub there with his wife Margaret. He bought a farm in Blackfen as grazing for his horses and liked to use it as his weekend retreat! His granddaughter Kathleen used to help pick the strawberries (which grew where Bargain Booze is now!) and said they were the best she’d ever tasted. As they were Catholics they went to Mass in Sidcup on Sunday mornings, bringing back Father O’Knight for lunch and later playing cards round the dining table.
The farm was sold off for 1930s housing development, but it is fitting that Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Church was later built on land next to the Heaslip farmhouse. The Catholic Church was in high demand in the 1930s while house-building was active in Blackfen as there was a large Irish population who came to find work.
Blackfen in 1822
While carrying out my New Year’s Resolution of having a bit of a tidy up/clear out, I was looking over my Blackfen research papers (I have boxes and boxes of them…), and I came across a copy of the Survey and Valuation of all the Rateable Property in the Borough of Bexley taken on 11 April 1822. It provides a fascinating snapshot of the Bexley area at that time.
Blackfen at that time was just a tiny hamlet. Its inhabitants consisted of:
James Townsend: house, garden and orchard (owned by James Townsend)
Edmund Newsted: house, garden and orchard (owned by James Townsend)
Thomas Tyler: farm house, barn, yard, stables, garden, orchard, arable and meadow land (owned by Lord Sidney)
Robert Ingram: farm house, yard, barns, stable, garden, arable and meadow land (owned by Messrs Day)
Thomas Warde: house and garden (owned by John Johnston, Esq.)
William Smith: house and garden (owned by John Johnston, Esq.)
Staples: house and garden (owned by John Johnston, Esq.)
Newsted: house and garden (owned by John Johnston, Esq.)
Foster: house and garden (owned by John Johnston, Esq.)
Near Black Fenn, on Danson land, were the Whale family living in a cottage with stable and garden. This fascinated me at the time because whale jaw bones had been discovered when Westwood Lane was made up in the 1930s. I had no idea what whale jaw bones were doing there and wondered if it was anything to do with this family named Whale!
Blackfen homegrown strawberries! Does anyone else grow strawberries in their garden? Blackfen has a tradition of growing them. James Lee grew them at ‘Strawberry Gardens’ (where Gwillim Close is now) until he went bankrupt in 1906 after bad crops due to 3 years of wet weather. Blackfen Farm also had a strawberry field where RACS Stores (now Katie’s Playpen, a chemist and off-licence) was later built, and according to the farmer’s granddaughter, they were the juiciest she’d ever eaten.