Originally part of the Manor of Dartford, Hawley and Sutton At Hone were once two very distinct hamlets, each with a fascinating history. Their residents have also been a colourful bunch, including lords of the manor, merchants and evacuees – so let’s walk through their history and see how this corner of Dartford has developed over the years…

Did You Know?
The original name for Hawley was ‘Hagelei’ and Sutton was listed as ‘Suthuna’ and ‘Sudtone’ in the Doomsday Book (supposedly meaning South of Dartford).

Records from 1086 also include ‘At Hone’ with reference to it being low in a valley and on stony ground. Hawley and Sutton At Hone were always closely linked and there is evidence of them becoming one ‘ward’ from the twelfth century. By 1108 much of the area was owned by Henry de Port, who was Sheriff of Southampton at the time. The de Ports were big in Hampshire (they owned most of it) but also had financial ties with parts of Kent, including Rochester Cathedral.

National Trust members will already know St John’s Jerusalem, the chapel and garden now run by the charity and open to the public on specified days (check the website www.nationaltrust.org.uk for details). The 13th century chapel was established by the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John, a Catholic military order. Medieval sections were built around 1234, carved from oak trees cut down in Tonbridge Forest. The chapel is surrounded by a moat leading from the River Darent.

Quick Quiz:
Which apple was first grown in Kent in the St John’s Jerusalem garden?
a) Kentish Pippin
b) Cox
c) Braeburn

By 1388 the chapel became a private residence and its gardens were planted as orchards from the 1600s, producing local cider and perry. Notable tenants included the Kent county historian Edward Hasted and Abraham Hill, a City merchant and treasurer of the Royal Society. The grounds were later remodelled to contain a walled garden and vegetable garden, as well as the planting of willow and sweet chestnut trees. Sadly, many of its mature trees were damaged in the 1987 storm and restoring the garden is still a work in progress.

IMG 8618 | Dartford Living

Mystery at the Manor!
Meanwhile, Hawley had its own ‘big house’ further along Hawley Road, in what is now the office complex of Hawley Manor. The building is Tudor in parts, with various later additions which reflect its various owners’ changing fortunes – and often dramatic events. The house is grade two listed, along with the early seventeenth century dovecote in the grounds, which is a registered scheduled monument. In 1919 a mystery fire broke out in the property, killing its owner Mr Temple Johnson. Newspaper reports claim that, although Mr Johnson’s arms and legs were burnt, his clothes showed no fire damage! Theories were put forward that it was a pre-planned, arson attack, or that he had been killed before fire broke out. The mystery was never really solved, but his wife, Mrs Temple Johnson, remained at the house, having much of it rebuilt in an Arts and Crafts style.

Far less grand are the Wrott charity almshouses, located on the main road in Sutton At Hone. Dating back to the sixteenth century, the red brick and tile buildings are grade two listed and were provided for the poor of the parish by Katherine Wrott. The Wrott coat of arms is still intact, along with an inscription to Katherine. Locals have always been a charitable bunch, as refuge was later provided during World War Two in both Hawley and Sutton At Hone for London evacuees. The fascinating local blog www.suttonathonehistory.co.uk. records that numerous local residents were Billeting Officers and ‘Official Helpers,’ charged with accommodating and overseeing the new influx of children. Apparently little Hill Cottage in Devon Road had twenty eight evacuees staying at one point!

So, far from being two unassuming, quiet valley hamlets Hawley and Sutton At Hone have been home to both the grandest of residents and the poor and misplaced. Remember that, next time you head up Hawley Road – and see if you can solve the mystery of Hawley Manor…

Clair Humphries is a Script Consultant for ATS Heritage and Content Partner for Ordnance Survey.
Twitter: @clairhumphries
Instagram: clair_humphries

The answer is a) Kentish Pippin.