The following blog entry is a collection of further bits of information relating to the history of the Highbrooms area of Tunbridge Wells, taken from several different sources. I cannot vouch for its accuracy but much of it ties up with information on local historical societies. If you see something you know is wrong or can expand on further please let me know!
The whole area of Southborough was part of the Royal forest of Southfrith until about the middle of the 16th century, reserved by royalty for hunting. The settlement consisted of a number of isolated hamlets including Nonsuch Green, Holden Corner, Modest Corner and a few houses near the Common. High Brooms was a desolate tract inhabited by Romany Gypsies, very many of Kent’s population today will have Gypsy heritage – whether they choose to admit this is another matter.
Iron had been worked in the area since prehistoric times, since the underlying rock (the iron-rich sandstone of the Hastings Beds which make up the Weald) provided the raw material. From the mid-16th century onwards there were a number of water-powered furnaces on the two streams running through the town: one at Modest Corner; and three on the Southborough Bourne. The latter included the Vauxhall Furnace, operating from at least 1552, near Mote Farm in in what is now Vauxhall Lane: and the Brook (Broakes) Mill opened in 1553. The rock was dug from “bell pits”, and iron smelted here was worked at a forge nearby.
The forges probably continued working until the 18th century when the making of iron became uneconomical and in 1771 the sites was taken over for gunpowder manufacturing hence the name Powder Mill Lane. The mill blew up shortly afterwards but was replaced and continued manufacturing gunpowder. By 1845 a cornmill had been erected on the site, which continued in operation until 1942 when it was demolished. There are now no traces of any industrial workings on the site.
Southborough began to expand rapidly from 1879 when the Holden Estate was sold and laid out to accommodate 165 new dwellings. The High Brooms Brick and Tile Company started to build houses for its employees and the area expanded: it is now an industrial estate. (this statement is questionable, the old clay pits are now an industrial estate but the housing is not in the industrial estate!)
Its railway station is High Brooms railway station. It is connected by train to London and Hastings. High Brooms station was originally opened in 1893, known as ‘Southborough’ by the South Eastern Railway; it acquired its present name in 1925.
Between 1885 and 1968, the High Brooms Brick & Tile Company excavated clay in the area. It also had a siding for the railway line in order that it could transport the bricks and tiles that it produced.
The High Brooms Brick and Tile Company was founded in 1885 by John Smith Weare. He died in 1890,aged sixty-two. His son, Frank Weare took over running the firm, and he lived at “The Dell” in Ferndale, and walked to work daily. With the brickworks doing well, Frank persuaded his son, Frank Gerald Craven Weare to take up a directorship in the company, and he took over in 1941 following his father’s death. A slump in the building trade in the 1960s lead to the closure of the brickworks, but there is both a road and recreation ground in High Brooms named after the Weare Family
From the Southborough Society
The prehistoric remains discovered in the former brick works pit in Chapman Way in High Brooms led to the location being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The most notable find to date is the remains of an iguanodon from some 135 million years ago. The creature would have been swimming or splashing round a watery High Brooms during the Lower Cretaceous period as other fossils indicate it was a marshy or watery area.