Farningham - A Walker's Guide
Park at the 18thC Lion Hotel and walk along the river bank in front of it. You pass a structure like one side of a bridge. Said to be a cattle screen, it dates from the mid-18thC. The river is shallow here where the road forded the Darent before there was a bridge - you can see where it entered the water. From the bridge there is a good view of the Lion Hotel.
Leave the bridge and walk up the High Street past the Lion. Over the wall behind it you can see part of the Tudor building at the back.
Go back to the Chequers and up the High Street passing Saddlers House [18thC], once a harness makers.A
little farther, behind an old garden wall, is The Cottage, perhaps the oldest house in the village. Then comes Fernwood [18thC] and, abutting it, The Nook [early 19thC], formerly the Bricklayer's Arms.
Cross the High Street into Sparepenny Lane which gained its name in the 18thC when a penny could be 'spared' by using this lane instead of the Sevenoaks turnpike at the other end of the village. The first building here is The Mount, an elegant Regency house, built in 1820 for William Colyer.
From here you have a view over the village to the hills on the other side of the valley. A Roman Villa once stood on the far side of the river below you.
Retrace your steps to the High Street and down towards the bridge. Most of the buildings on the south side of the street are shops. One, Sparrow's'Herne, dates from the 17thC. On the wall of the last in the row, between it and the butcher's cottage, hangs a plough to mark that it was once a forge.
Cross over the road and walk up towards the church. Behind the low flint wall lies Market Meadow named for the monthly market and yearly Fair held here in the last century. A castle once stood on it and, in Tudor times, the Ropers built a manor house here. When a new house built in the 18thC, burnt down, the house opposite became the Manor House. There Bligh, once captain of the Bounty, lived for a time.
On the far side of the meadow is the village hall whose weather vane shows Wadard, an intendant (quartermaster) to William the Conqueror, who held land in the manor of Farningham. He is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. The fine flint barn, formerly George Barn, was an outbuilding of the manor and is now converted into private dwellings.
As you cross the road to the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, note the attractive white house (1717)
behind the bank. This was the parsonage from the 16thC until replaced by a vicarage [now Glebe House]
on the far side of the church. The tower of the church was erected 500 years ago (15thC) but the nave and chancel are 200 years older.
The weatherboard house opposite the church is The Bakery. The last baker retired in the early nineteen-seventies but the fine 19thC bread oven in the former bake house is still in working order. Hodsoll House, next to The Bakery, is from the 18thC. Its red brick neighbour, Farningham House, was built in 1745 by J. Pratt of the Bull Inn. The Colyers added the large extension behind its garden wall in the early 19thC but the cottage on the other side is 17thC. The lane beside the cottage leads to George Meadow where cricket has been played for at least 135 years since Farningham C.C. was founded in
1857. On the other side of the lane stood the village school.
Walk on up the High Street past a row of old cottages and note the projecting upper storey windows. Opposite is the Bull Yard. The Pied Bull was already a large inn in the 17thC; but imagine the scene in the 18thC and 19thC when it was a stage coach house on the main Dover road with stabling for fifty horses. Later it was the terminus for horse drawn and motor buses from London. Its records go back to 1587.
The white weatherboard building next to the Bull yard, housing the Village Club, was called Little Croft. It stands at the entrance to The Croft, a good looking Regency house, almost hidden by another of Farningham's old walls.
Beyond the cottages, seven 19thC houses form South Terrace. The post office used to be at No 1, the pharmacy at No 7 and in Pinehurst [early 19thC], lived a doctor named Slaughter!
The white house opposite is named South Hall. In the early 18thC it was a simple, double fronted red brick cottage. If you look carefully you can see the bump in the roof and changes in parapet level showing where it has been extended.
Text and Design by Peter Saunders
Drawings by Carloine Gould