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Miss Norringtons History of Doddington
Contributed by Jean Hogben (nee Usher)

Here it is! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. It was put together by Mrs Veazey, the wife of the Rev. Veazey, vicar at Doddington, I think in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
I am in the process of clearing out my parents home here in the Highlands of Scotland and have several boxes of photos to go through, including old ones of Doddington. My mother died several years ago and my father has recently moved into a Care Home. They both grew up in Doddington and lived there for most of their lives before coming to Scotland to be near me and my sister. My father, Jack Usher, was the local builder until the 1970s when he retired, as was his father and his grandfather and great grandfather!
If I find anything interesting I will scan them and send down to you.
I was sorry to read of the death of Ken Parfitt. I remember him well. As local children we were invited to the Youth Hostel to join in their social events. Ken was very keen on amateur dramatics and events at the Hostel were always dramatic! He was also a member of the Doddington drama group - I think they were called the Doddington Players. He moved to Ellens Court to help the Stansfield Association before it became a Youth Hostel.
One day I will write my own history, taking over from where Miss Norrington stopped!

Jean Hogben (nee Usher)


chequersAs given to Mrs Veazey by Miss Norrington sometime is the late 1950’s

Since I came to Doddington in 1895 there have been many changes.  More houses have been built, in fact over 60 during that period.  The roads were rough, no tarring was done then and the footpaths were of gravel and had no kerbs.  There were more trees, the meadow now belonging to the school was almost surrounded by them and others along the road have been felled.  In front of the Chequers was a pond protected by a wooden fence and when frozen over in winter,  provided a lovely spot for children’s slides.

In 1895 there were three schools in the village;  the Board School, Doddington College and Gloucester House Academy.  

The Board School (later to become Doddington Primary School)  was a comparatively new building, the first master being Mr. Bisbey who died young and is buried in Doddington Churchyard.  The second master, Mr. T. Potts, was in charge for many years, a man of great ability and who took an active interest in all village affairs.  He formed an Ambulance Brigade which flourished during his term of office and also by his successor, Mr. B. T Beaumont.  Mr. Potts was organist, and choir master at the church.  The choir at that time being the best of any of the villages in the district.  Before the introduction of Council schools, parents of the Board School pupils paid weekly fees of 3d. for each child, which was later reduced to 1d.  

Thomas Potts and his wife, Elizabeth - who were Head Master and Mistress of the school for 41 years
Thomas & Elizabeth Potts

Doddington College was a school for the sons of gentlemen and was situated at the top of Chequers Hill.  They were boarders.  The master of the college was a Mr. Longhurst, a very musical man.  He was organist at the church prior to Mr. Potts.  He taught the boys under him the rudiments of church music and so was able to form a choir of boys well trained and capable of entering choral festivals at Canterbury.  He also found suitable men in the village to learn tenor and bass and so to form a male voice choir.  There was a flagstaff at the college gate with the letters D.C. on it for Doddington College.  Some children of the village used to say it stood for Dirty Children.  After Mr. Longhurst left it became less popular and was closed as many such kind of private schools were.  It was somewhat of a white elephant and stood vacant for a very long time until it was bought by Sister Mary Broad, a Wesleyan Deaconess.

Sister Mary Broad started a Home for Girls.  She and her friend, Sister Julia Langden, did much good work in the parish and were responsible for the money to build the chapel, now the Village Hall.  Previous to that the old chapel, a boarded structure, stood at the bottom of Church Hill.  There were very few Wesleyans in Doddington, but with Sister Mary’s Home and her great influence, the congregation grew.  I used often to go to the new chapel and sometimes played the organ when the organist couldn’t come, that is when I was free from church duties.  They had weekly guild meetings which were very interesting.  By chance when in London on one occasion, Sister Mary met a man who in her young days she had hopes of marrying and had not met since.  They became re- united and the chapel was licensed to enable them to wed.  She then became Mrs. Moxon and stayed at the Home several years after.

Gloucester House Academy, situated on the hill at West End,  was a school for tradesmen’s sons and daughters, both boarders and day scholars.  In my father’s boyhood days, somewhere about 1855, a Mr. Griggs was master and the children received a thorough education;  I know my father did.   After Mr. Griggs a Mr. W. Rudd took over and both my sister and myself later attended the school.  Mr. Rudd was musical and I received my first violin lessons under him.  He painted lots of pictures in oils.  He was also in union with the London College of Music.  The girls of the school had governesses.  The boys were taught by Mr. Rudd and Mr. Rounce.  I was very happy there.  When the Academy closed it became a private house occupied by Mrs. L. A. Smith.

Fashions in dress were vastly different to the present day.  There were very few ready made garments and children mostly wore pinafores to school.  The women had three kinds of dress, an old one for work with coarse aprons, (no overalls and smart aprons in those days!).  In the afternoon they donned something a little smarter and a special one for Sundays and worn only on that day.  Underclothes were chiefly sewn by hand as sewing machines were not common.

The children in those days had very few toys, no fancy dolls prams, bicycles or scooters, just iron hoops for the boys, humming tops and whipping tops and also marbles.  The girls had wooden hoops, skipping ropes and shuttlecocks.     

When I first moved to Doddington there were no motor cars or buses and very few bicycles and women cyclists at first were not looked upon very favourably.  I was 24 before I had one and was proud to be the first woman in Doddington to have a free wheel.  I learned to ride on a fixed wheel prior to which I had a tricycle with solid tyres and a spoonbrake.  Before that to go to Faversham we walked or endured the journey in the carrier’s van which ran from Lenham to Faversham three days a week – most uncomfortable squeezed between heaps of parcels and other passengers.  I can remember my father riding a penny farthing bicycle;  later what were called safety bicycles with cushion tyres were introduced and finally the pneumatic tyre, a vast improvement but owing to the stony and often sharp flints on the roads, were liable to many punctures. The roads were occasionally lined with large stones and crushed by a steam roller but in the by-lanes they were left to be gradually worn flat by carts and vans, which took a long time.  All tradesmen had horse and vans to carry their goods and were exposed to all kinds of weather as they were all open.

The village shops were of great importance as there was very little means of transport to get to town.  The bakers shop was what is now ‘The Old House’ (between Doddington school and Churchhill) and was occupied by a Mr. Reuben Sellen.  In the kitchen was a well and of course it still is there, but properly sealed over.  Mr Sellen was rather an eccentric character.  He used to start out with his bread for distant customers very late in the afternoon driving a pony and cart.  He used to allow the pony to go as it pleased, often wondering to and fro across the road.  Some of his customers who went to bed early he did not see, but placed their loaves in outhouses or lavatories. Some people were not above taking what they needed when he was inside somewhere.  He had a fine falsetto voice and was often persuaded to sing at smoking concerts, his usual choice being ‘A Fine Old English Gentleman’.

The Forge (between the Primary School and the Chequers) was a busy place run by members of the Bensted family.  As everything in farming and business was carried by horses, much shoeing took place.

The most important grocer’s shop was the Corner Stores, opposite the Chequers.  People named Fisher lived there in those days and the room with the large window was the drapery department where one could buy dress lengths and all kinds of material by the yard.  The room above was used by Mrs. Fisher for dressmaking.  The large building facing the Chequers was a furniture store, earthenware of all kinds and household utensils.  People used to come from miles around on Saturday nights to do their shopping there.  The Fishers had a large family; the girls all had flower names, Daisy, Lily, Violet and May, and the boys more aristocratic names, Archibald, Gilmore, Francis and Vernon.  After the Fishers the business declined and more recently was run by Mrs Mowat. 

Mr John JarvisThe Post Office became more important.  It was built by Mr. John Jarvis, who farmed at DownCourt.  His oldest son, Henry, took over the shop.  He had 11 children but only 5 are living today.  His son followed (Mr. Alan Jarvis) followed by his son, Mr. Brian Jarvis.

Mrs Alan Jarvis moved into ‘Rapsons’ opposite the Chapel.  In years gone by a tailoring establishment owned by a man named Rapson occupied the house, hence the name given to it by Mr. Jarvis when he moved there.  Tailoring was done to make uniforms for gentlemen’s servants, butlers, footmen, etc.  Several men were employed there.  It has since been altered considerably.  It was at one time a laundry.

‘Centuries’, at the west end of Northdown, was formerly called ‘High Trees’ owing to the fact that six very high trees grew in a crescent fashion in the front garden – very beautiful they were.  The house was divided into two dwellings.  Amy Butler lived in one part with her uncle and a lodger who was also her sweetheart.  They courted for twenty years or more and finally thinking they suited each other, got married.  His name was Davis.  When he died she moved to be with friends at Rainham and, strange to say, on the day she died those six trees were felled.  The East Kent Gazette headed the report in these words ‘As the trees fell, so she died’. 

On one side of the house was a harness maker’s shop.  Each week two men came from Eastling to repair collars and harness and take new orders.  Farm workers and others came from all round the district to this shop.  On the other side of the house Doctor Selby visited three times a week as his surgery.  The house was bought by Mr. Leese.

On top of Chequers Hill close to the Southdown Home, stood a windmill – very picturesque.  The windmill was a very busy place and beautiful wholesome flour was served over a large area.  Mr. William Jarvis, father of Mrs. Coleman, was the last miller to grind corn there.  Before him Mrs. Stanley Norrington was the miller before he moved to Canterbury.

Doddington Windmill

Mr. James Usher was the builder and bricklayer in the village.  He lived at Yew Tree House.  When he retired his son, Jack, took over the business.  Jack was known as ‘Jolly Jack’ and was a well known entertainer  both at the Chequers and local Music Halls.  His son, also Jack, now runs the business from his builder’s yard on Chequers Hill.

The Norringtons owned a Wheelwright’s business in both Doddington and Newnham.  This successful business ran until about 1930 when it became a dying trade as did the blacksmiths everywhere.

The farms in the district were chiefly owned by Sir John Croft and the de Laune family, and worked by tenants.  One exception was Groundsel Farm, now known as Court Lodge.  Two Pilcher brothers worked together there until the partnership was dissolved and Mr. G. Pilcher and sons remained for many years.  Then it changed hands several times, one of which was to an African man.  As a baby in his native land he was very ill and thinking he would not live, is parents handed him over to the missionaries who nursed him and adopted him.  They gave him a good education and during a visit to Africa by King Edward VII, he became his interpreter.  He married an English woman and had several half coloured children.  He also farmed Bistock Farm for a time.  He used to sing in Doddington Church Choir until the Revd. Bennett, who was a great musician, asked him to try and keep a little more in time with the rest of the choir and he took offence!

Sharsted Court was an important mansion and large estate in my early recollections.  That was in the lifetime of Chapman De Laune Faunce de Laune.  He owned extensive hop gardens and nearly everyone in the villages went hop-picking for him.  He used to give prizes to the cleanest pickers, that is free from leaves and bunches, and a large free party in the Oast house at the end.  He tried an experiment in growing tobacco but with little success.  I watched his funeral procession (all horse drawn vehicles of course) passing through the then famous Sharsted walks.  His son, Alured, succeeded him and was very popular.  The gardens were thrown open every Sunday throughout the summer.  There was a lovely cricket ground and many grand matches took place, also the annual flower show and sports, which attracted crowds from miles around.  He married Miss Jamieson and had one son who survives him.

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Doddington Place was built by Sir John Croft Bart, with the red bricks made on the estate.  He had 17 children, 13 of whom lived to grow up.  They were all very gay.  Several daughters were married at Doddington and they were grand affairs.  Lady Croft started the first ladies’ choir giving all the members purple robes and caps together with black skirts.  They were all grown up women from the village including her three youngest daughters.  The gas house built by Sir John, was used to general acetylene gas for the mansion and the men who worked there were Mr. Welfare and Mr. Rose who lived in cottages at the bottom of Church Hill, now converted into a house occupied by Dr. Wall and Mr Bax.

When we first came to Doddington, Mr. Sage was landlord at the Chequers.  One of his daughters was a teacher in the Sunday School.  Later on Mr. G. Sargent too over the public house.  They were the first to own a motor car in Doddinton and the first to have awireless set in the village.  There wer no water mains at that time and all water was drawn from wells, and when water from mains was availaboe, ver few had it laid on at first.  For one thing it was too expensive and most people considered the well water  better.  They don’t think so now!  The Gas Company acted more wisely.  They canvassed every house asking if they would like to use the gas and if they agreed installed a cooker and lights free of charge.  Not many refused.  A few years later, the Electric Company came alsong erecting pylongs and poles.  They wer also quite generous and fixed the cable to the meters of those who had wired their houses, free of charge.  I was the first one id Doddinton to have my house wired.  What should we do without these amenities now?

Most people will remember Dr. Josiah Oldfield, the noted fruitarian.  He came from Bromley and opened a hospital at Margaret Manor which was then known as ‘Greet’ where at one time was a farm.  The Oast House he turned into a hospital for more or less mental patients.  He was very eccentric but clever, born of very poor parents, his father being blind.  Dr. Oldfield worked very hard, sometimes at manual work, in order to save money to enter college.  This he managed and went to Oxford.  He wrote many books and whenever possible stressed his dietetic principles.  He was very hospitable and often gave parties at his home.  He changed all the old familiar names;  thus Greet Farm became Margaret Manor;  Little Greet became Little Greetyinge;  the Oast House he named Ellen’s Court.  A deep valley on part of his land known and loved by all children as Clifford’s Mountains, he named The Valley of the Pilgrims.  There was no authenticity in any of his changes.  An old cow lodge which he marvellously converted into a dwelling for himself, he designated ‘The Monk’s Hut’.  The quaint little church which he had built had strange seating arrangements, carvings done by an old Polish patient, a stained glass window depicting St. Margaret by a patient skilled in that craft;  and mosaic pavings which were comprised of fragments of pottery picked up round the place and laid down artistically.  The little choir of girls wore white caps with M.M. on the front and at every service recited the words from Psalm 133 describing the oil that ran down Aaran’s beard to the skirts of his clothing, while the doctor in his academic robes began the service with Genesis Chapter 1 verses 29 to the end, describing God’s gifts of seeds and herbs, etc. for man’s use.   Each year Hemlock Sunday was observed commemorating the life and death of Socrates.  He often had a special speaker and one particular year invited a Greek official from London and as there were many hemlock plants in the garden a long procession walked round the garden singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’.  Real hemlock he brought from Oxford.  There were no musical instruments.  The doctor liked everything natural.  Harvest Festivals were great occasions.  He often asked me to sing a verse or two of a hymn and I always complied if I might pitch the tune myself otherwise it might to sky high and no-one could reach it – rather amusing.  There is so much that could be said of Dr. Josiah Oldfield.  His sister Ellen lived at Newlyn, a dear old soul and regular churchgoer.  My sister and I were great friends of hers.

When we came to Doddington the vicar was Revd Monk.  He it was who built the Sunday School which was a most useful building until about 1947.  Everything connected with the parish affairs, the Sunday School, Council Meetings, whist drives, Magic Lanterns, Mothers Union and girls robing room for the choir were held there, but those days are past.

The Revd. Hughes Oames (?) followed.  He was much liked and stayed for ten years.  Some parts of the church interior ceilings wer unsealed in his time.  The Rev. Hall followed, an Irishman, he too was keen on church restoration as he had done at his previous parish of Hythe.  Mrs. Hall was a great lady, at home in any society and did much to make up for her husband’s apparent coldness of manner.  Mr Hall worked enthusiastically for the preservation of the church which was in a somewhat precarious state at that time.  Mrs. Hall introduced the Mothers’ Union.  The family comprised six daughters and three sons.  The three youngest daughters were married at Doddington.  They were in residence for fourteen years.  The Rev. Kent came next.  He was deaf.  He had been a coffee grower abroad and came home to be ordained.  He worked very hard in both parishes and raised money to obtain an organ for each church.  He changed livings with the Rev. Bennett who followed – a sick man during most of his vicariate, but a professional musician.  He was a great friend of Backhaus, the noted German pianist, who came at Mr. Bennett’s invitation to give a recital in Canterbury Cathedral.  He also came to Doddington during Mr. Bennett’s last illness and played the piano to him.  His son is now vicar of two parishes in Northumberland, but of late in Cumberland, the 9th in succession of the Bennett family to take Holy Orders.  We had a good choir and much singing during those six years.

I do not think there is anything more that I can write about our parish.  I am not a good historian but I hope that what I have noted down will be of interest to you.

I would like, however to add a little postscript about my family if you will bear with me.  I have said very little about the Norringtons in these reminiscences.  They are one of the oldest families in Doddington.  My grandfather, Mr Henry Norrington and my uncle, Mr Harry Norrington, carried on both wheelwright shops at Newnham and Doddington until my grandfather built ‘Fernlea’ and moved to Doddington and placed the Newnham business over to my father, Mr William Norrington.  After the death of my grandfather we moved to Doddington and Mr. Alfred Humphrey Senior carried on the Newnham business.  My Uncle Harry also moved to Newnham retiring from work and occupied the cottage now called ‘Cross Ways’.  A Norrington kept the Corner Shop and when Mr. Fred Elvy’s house adjoining this was restored, a small board was unearthed bearing the name ‘T. Norrington, March 1st, 1797’.  The school house was at one time occupied by a Norrington and when restoration took place there a tombstone was found bearing the name of Norrington.  Sir Edward Dering is well known in the parish as the founder of Dering’s charity;  a Norrington was married to one of that family and tombstones in the churchyard bear witness to many members of the family who lived at Doddington in years gone by.

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