These notes gives a brief history of Church Farm and the Parish Council’s plans for the conversion of the existing buildings and use of the land adjoining this former farmyard which it now owns as open space.
It is a very brief account and the Parish Council intends to carry out fuller research so as to make a display of the sites history. Any information about the past use of the farm including recollections of older residents would therefore be appreciated.
The Tithe Map 1859
The brick buildings are probably mid- 19th Century as none are shown on the Tithe Map and Agreement approved at the old ‘Bull Inn (now ‘Inn House’ newsagents) on 14th March 1838.
That map shows the area of the farmyard as Plot 206, owned by Sir John Twisden of Bradbourne House, East Malling and described as farm building. The adjoining land, of which the Parish Council owns the remnant, was Plot 200 and 207 also owned by Sir John and called ‘Letts’. This ‘Letts’ farm was occupied by Charles Miles who also appears to have farmed Broadwater Farm, East Malling.
To the north where the motorway now runs was ‘Cowhurst Orchard’.
The Later 19th Century To Coming Of The Motorway
Larkfield Church, then called New Hythe, was built by the Wigan family of Clare House in 1855. It must be since
then the group of buildings came to be called ‘Church Farm’ although older residents have always called it Chapman’s Farm’ after the farmer who last farmed it for dairy purposes By the turn of the century maps show the present layout ‘P buildings with a number of small barns and sheds now
The land and buildings continued as an active farm until the early 1960’s latterly as a dairy farm run by the Chapmans.
Up until the 1950’s the cows were driven up and down New Hythe Lane to graze on the marshes at New Hythe where there are now the lakes.
In the mid- 1960’s the scheme for the M20 began to become a reality and the final side road order was made in 1968.
The Area of Church Farm to the north of the buildings was taken for the new motorway from the then owners, Mr. J. E. and Mrs. R. E. Offen described as orchard and pasture land. With the development of the surrounding land for
houses this was really the end of farm use“
During the construction of the M20, which opened in 1970, spoil was placed to the land to the east of the lime trees
creating a mound shielding some of Larkfield Green from the new road. This mound still remains, now being covered
by gorse and small trees.
The Parish Council Enters The Scene
With pressure for new open space the remaining land at Church Farm was shown on the old Town Maps as proposed
open space and in 1971 it was agreed the area including spoil be sold back to the Parish Council. After much negotiation the purchase by the Parish Council was completed in 1979 when the 4.2 acres was purchased for £6,400.
In the meantime efforts to obtain the rest of the site occupied by the buildings were delayed by a planning application for houses but this had been rejected following a Public Inquiry in August 1976. After further negotiations, a new house was allowed on part of the land (now No. 156 New Hythe Lane) and the rest was to be sold to the Parish Council in 1980 thus reuniting the remnants of Church Farm.
Following final acquisition, the Council cleared the old chicken and wooden sheds and negotiated planning permissions for the brick buildings which was finally granted in 1986.
This provided for the conversion of the front building, formerly a cowshed, to a Council Meeting Room and Parish
Office which is now complete. This releases the old office at Larkfield Village Hall for village hall purposes such as storage and improvement of changing facilities.
The subsequent phases will allow the conversion of the barn building to a small public hall and the ‘newer’ building to the south for craft workshops which the Council intends to let. A car park will be built to the rear. It is felt the hall will provide for smaller functions and meetings for which the village halls are unsuitable and for small exhibitions.
The land will be used for informal open space retaining the large trees and the mound incorporating an urban nature trail and walk. There is also a possibility of providing a fenced childrens play area to current safety standards including safer surfaces.
The whole concept is to create a development retaining the pleasing character of the old farm buildings for community use and at the same time retaining one of Larhfield’s last green areas.