A brief exploration of Biggin Hill….part one

1. BIGGIN HILL – LOCATION: Biggin Hill lies at the western end of the North Downs and is at the extreme westerly end of the old county of Kent. Nowadays the modem Kent boundary cuts across the A233 between Biggin Hill and Westerham, leaving Biggin Hill the most southerly part of the London Borough of Bromley.
Biggin Hill is about 20 miles from central London, 9 miles from Bromley and a similar distance from Croydon. Situated at the point where the boundaries of Greater London, Kent and Surrey meet and surrounded by open countryside, Biggin Hill offers many of the advantages of ready access to town whilst still being typically rural.
2. BIGGIN HILL’S SPECIAL FLORA: Because Biggin Hill is situated on the North Downs, chalk lies very close to the surface over much of the area giving rise to typical chalk downland flora where not affected by intensive farming methods. In 1965 the eminent lady botanist Dr Francis Rose, identified ‘Saltbox Down’ as one of the top one hundred sites in the whole of Kent.
In the early 1980’s the London Borough of Bromley obtained a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ (SSSI) designation for three separate sites within the area of Saltbox Down in an attempt to protect them. Here can still be found cowslips, man orchids, bee orchids, fragrant orchids, pyramid orchids and common spotted orchids, etc.
Pyramid orchids. Bee orchids. Cowslip.

Man orchid. Common spotted orchid.
3. VILLAGE or TOWN?: Biggin Hill residents have some confusion about this question. What can be said is that Biggin Hill does not appear in the ‘Doom’s Day Book’ neither can any reference to a Biggin Hill village be found until the early part of the 20th century. It must therefore be concluded that Biggin Hill is not an ancient settlement, but rather a merging of part of Cudham with the Aperfield Court Manor Estate. There are, however, references to an ancient Biggin Hill Farm, and a Biggin Hill Green going back several hundred years.
4. THE VILLAGE’S DEVELOPMENT: The village’s development resulted from the sale of the Aperfield Court Manor Estate at the turn of the century (1895). The Estate was purchased for the sum of £11,320.00 by Mr F.H. Dougal who lived in Wandsworth. I suppose he can be regarded as the first local speculative developer in Biggin Hill.
To begin with he divided the area into a series of plots, some of which were a basic 20′-0″ (6m) wide, many of these plots were sold for as little as £10.00 each, payable over 10 years. Roads were laid-out, but were to remain little more then tracks for many years. Mr Dougal employed a Mr J. Terry as his Estate Agent, with a little office almost opposite The Black Horse public house. Many of the plots were bought in groups of two’s and three’s and the resulting plot developed with a single shack, which would have been used initially as weekend/holiday accommodation or smallholding.
5. EARLY BIGGIN HILL: The Biggin Hill of 1910 -1950 presented a picture more reminiscent of an American frontier town than a picture book English Village. There are still a few of the early shacks surviving, one notable example can be found adjacent to 30 Arthur Road. Over the years many of these original shacks were replaced by more permanent homes, sometimes by the simple expedient of raising brick walls around the outside of the original shack and adding a new root 11A Victoria Gardens is a good example of this type of upgrade.
One story passed on to me by an elderly lady resident, who remembered the early years as a young girl, tells how, because of the often ‘weekend only’ use of the shacks, families would run the ‘union jack’ up a flag pole when they were in residence thus letting the community know that they were around for
that weekend.
An early resident from 1914 was the famous singer Ivor Novello and his mother, they rented a bungalow in St Mary’s Grove, where they were joined by a group of other singers to form a ‘Singing Colony’, however their stay was only for a short period. I have been unable to establish the actual location of the bungalow and can only suppose it was lost to redevelopment.
6. THE BIGGIN HILL TOWN MAP: Pre 1964 Biggin Hill was part of the Orpington Rural District Council and thus part of the County of Kent. In the 1950’s Kent County Council produced its ‘Biggin Hill Town Map’; this was a consultative document which set out the proposal for the ‘Village’ population, circa 4,300, to grow to that of a small town of 16,000 people. These proposals were eventually adopted by the Greater London Council (GLC), who under the Major Local Authority Review of 1964 had became the strategic authority for a much enlarged London which included Biggin Hill.
The ‘Town Map’ split Biggin Hill into three geographical areas, namely the Top Plateau, Northern Valley and Southern Valley, it then established the density (number of houses to the acre) of development that would be permitted in each area, the lowest density being the top plateau and the highest being the southern valley area. It established where schools, shops, etc would be provided. It also envisaged the necessary infrastructure (roads, sewers, etc.) being provided as the growth took place.
This somewhat loose planning policy was overtaken in the early 1980’s by the’ Bromley Borough Plan’ this sought to apply similar planning standards to similar areas within the borough, by requiring new development to match the existing spacial standards of the road. This Bromley Borough Plan was later replaced by the ‘Bromley Unitary Development Plan’ (UDP) which whilst taking much of the earlier
plan on board, sort to provide a more strategic guidance to development.
As of 2014, the local authority is once more seeking the views of the public on it’s next strategic Plan which will look forward to the next 10 to 15 years.