Tag Archives: Gordon Road

High Brooms from the air!

Lots of people tell me that they don’t understand ‘Twitter’ as a vehicle for social media or that they don’t see the point of it. I try to explain that it is a way of either disseminating information to a greater audience or indeed filtering back information from the millions of tweets sent every day to find something for your own interest.

And every now and then it throws up a real gem such as the aerial image below that was taken by @NPAS_Redhill  (the National Police Air Service based at Redhill) on the 11th September 2013.

Aerial view of Highbrooms - photo courtesy of @NPAS_Redhill

Aerial view of Highbrooms – photo courtesy of @NPAS_Redhill

Looking at the photo you can see that this is the view looking south over modern day Highbrooms, the major road in the foreground is Highbrooms Road with the one way system with Stewart, Gordon and Wolseley Roads spurring off and the Brick Works Freehouse standing in the island (@the_Brick_works). To the right of this you can see St Matt’s Church (@stmattschurch) at the end of Gordon Road and then the large white building which used to be the Longbow pub, now Longbow Court, standing on Colebrook Road just below the green on the corner of Southview and Colebrook Road with footpaths diagonally crossing it.

In the middle ground on the left side of the photo and adjacent to the train line you can just make out the metal cage of the dis-used gas works, this is currently being dismantled (see earlier blog posts) and won’t be there much longer so its great that this photo has been taken with it still in place. The roads running from left to right across the photo are Holmewood, Cambrian and Dynevor Road, all joining up with Woodland Road.

Further south you can see across the wooded and open areas of Grosvenor and Hilbert Park to the left and Silverdale Road stretching back up the hill towards Queens Road and Stephens Road and reaching further into the St Johns area of Tunbridge Wells on the centre and right.

If you are struggling to see all of this it may be easier if you use the annotated image below although it is at a slightly different angle of view but the best that I could do quickly.

Bing mapping tool - 3D map of similar area

Bing mapping tool – 3D map of similar area although at a slightly different directional view

If you have something to contribute to this blog, or just want to let me know you are enjoying it feel free to comment below, email me at HighbroomsSociety@gmail.com or send me a message on twitter to: @HighbroomsSoc

Copyright for all images belongs to Daniel Marsh @danieljmarsh unless otherwise stated – please do not replicate or use in any form without prior permission being granted.


More eyes in the sky looking out over Highbrooms….

One of my earlier blog entries was about the Victorian finials, or ridge tiles as they are also known, that were made over a century ago and still stand high on the houses in Highbrooms with my favourite being the dragon mounted on the house next to St Matt’s church on Gordon Road.

N.B. Clicking on the images opens up a full resolution image in a new browser window if you want to view in more detail

Dragon finial  - Gordon Road

Victorian Dragon finial – Gordon Road

I have also been keenly following the progress of the renovation at the soon to be opened ‘Brick Works’ pub, aka ‘The Highbrooms Tavern’ so was really pleased to see that as they completed the  roof repairs they have also installed a new finial… and its another dragon. Although not a Victorian original I would love to think that maybe it too will still be looking down on people using a proper pub in Highbrooms in another 100 years time!

A new dagon in Highbrooms

A new dragon in Highbrooms on the Brick Works pub

The new watcher in the sky....

The new watcher in the sky….

Whilst on site to take the photos I stuck my head through the open door and work is going well on forming the single room inside and obviously I enquired when it was due to be completed and the residents of Highbrooms handed back a watering hole … and was told it is due to open in just FIVE WEEKS TIME, although they are slightly behind in the work (as of June June 9th 2013)

Highbrooms Tavern - June 2013

‘The Brick Works’ aka The Highbrooms Tavern – June 2013

Hopefully I will get to see a few of you there in the very near future…

If you have something to contribute to this blog, or just want to let me know you are enjoying it feel free to comment below, email me at HighbroomsSociety@gmail.com or send me a message on twitter to: @HighbroomsSoc

Copyright for all images belongs to Daniel Marsh @danieljmarsh – please do not replicate or use in any form without prior permission being granted.

Southborough Society talk about the plaques and finials in Highbrooms

This is just a brief addition to the blog to advertise a very relevant event that may be of interest to you if you have been enjoying this blog:

Maxwell Macfarlane of the Southborough Society will be giving a talk entitled  “The High Brooms Plaques and Finials” on Tuesday 19th March 2013 at St Matthew’s School, Powder Mill Lane, High Brooms


I am sure all are welcome, although you could contact the Southborough Society in advance to check or instead why not come along and become a member which currently costs only £6 per year giving you access to several talks and quarterly newsletters full of interesting articles each year as well as contributing to the conservation of the area.

Maybe see you there?

The Highbrooms Brickworks – an overview

Highbrooms Brick Works

Highbrooms Brick Works

Well I guess you can’t write a blog about Highbrooms and it’s history without talking about the Highbrooms Brick and Tile Company (HBBC) at some point, especially as evidence of the unique industrial past is stamped all over the original houses built in the area. In a previous entry we talked about the geology of the area and the rich Wadhurst clay as part of the Wealden beds that are close to the surface in this area so it is not surprising that the Victorians would extract it to help with the mass building that took place as part of mass industrialisation swept the nation bringing in new wealth to many, the brick works in Highbrooms was not the only one operating in the area , there were also several along St Johns Road in Tunbridge Wells and another in Castle Hill, Tonbridge, but it is certainly the most celebrated.

Highbrooms Brick Works - North Farm Road

Highbrooms Brick Works (in background behind the newly built industrial estate) on North Farm Road

There is evidence of there being brick works in the area from 1855 and the HBBC was founded by a Methodist builder, John Smith Weare, in 1885 and continued to operate as a family run business until 1968. Many a local school boy know of the family homestead of the Weares as the grand house was called ‘Southfields’ which stood on the land between St Johns Road, Powdermill Lane and Yew Tree Road, now owned by the Skinner’s School and used as their recreational playing fields.

There are also two adjacent roads in Highbrooms named after Weare and Andrew, who were the two directors of the HBBC.

Highbrooms Brick Co.

Highbrooms Brick Co.

The companies head office was located on the North Farm Road, where it still stands as the ‘PK Motors’ office today.The brick works was also located adjacent to the ‘Southborough train station’, nowadays renamed as the Highbrooms station, and it even had its own sidings so it could load and transport its products for wealthy clients in London.

Prior to the brickworks being established in the area, Highbrooms was occupied mainly by Romany-Irish gypsies living in small woodland encampments but when the new industry came it bought changes that rapidly shaped the development of the area into something closer to what we see today.

HBBC head office

HBBC head office as it is today

HBBC head office - side view

HBBC head office – side view

An indication of how much influence that the HBBC had on the establishment on the modern day Highbrooms is seen in the census where in 1871 the population was 28 but by 1891 it had grown to  1038. The latter census has ‘road caravans’ registered alongside built houses used as addresses on the Highbrooms Road. Many of the original Romany – Irish gypsies in the area still have their descendants living here today with several family names, such as ‘Beany’ or ‘Beeney’, being prominent.

The original occupiers did not welcome the new in-immigrant population, as well as objecting to the stripping back of the woods to make way for new homes, and this led to much conflict with reports of bloody fights breaking out and of the police only patrolling in pairs in the area during the 1890’s.

Early brickworks in Highbrooms

Early brickwork buildings in Highbrooms, now gone but the gasometers still stand

What makes the Highbrooms brick and tile company stand out from other local works is the unique features left on the houses built on the roads around the clay pit. Many of these were built for the HBBC employees, but not exclusively, and there is a fine display of finials, plagues and moldings as well as colorful use of ornate brickwork on the North Farm Road and also on Stewart, Wolseley and Gordon Roads ( incidentally these roads are named after three respected generals from the Crimean war), we will be looking at these features in far more detail in a later blog entry.

North Farm Road finial

North Farm Road finial

Dragon finial  - Gordon Road

Dragon finial – Gordon Road

Many of the skilled brick workers were recruited from the Staffordshire brick fields, with a lot of these having previously worked at the Doulton works. Henry Doulton had been recruiting graduates from the Lambeth School of Arts and by the 1880’s had over 200 artists on his payroll. It is highly likely that many of these workers appreciated the ethos of combing artistic creations alongside the monotony of mass production of bricks.

HBBC 1885

HBBC 1885

It is also interesting that many of the features were made from terracotta, a building material that had been out of fashion for many years and had previously only been used on innovative building projects for the very rich (several London palaces display this type of work) but here they were being used to decorate affordable housing for the working classes.

I am sure that we will be back to revisit the brick works at some point soon as it has had such an influence on the development of the area but a final thought for this entry is what do you think happened to all the seconds, the bricks that were unsaleable?

HBBC seconds, forming the retaining  walls along North Farm and Highfield Roads

HBBC seconds, forming the retaining walls along North Farm and Highfield Roads

If you have something to contribute to this blog, or just want to let me know you are enjoying it feel free to comment below, email me at HighbroomsSociety@gmail.com or send me a message on twitter to: @HighbroomsSoc

Some of the material used here has been researched from the internet but special thanks must also go to Clare Hardy (The development of a brick making community High Brooms 1870 – 1900) and local historian, Fiona Woodfield (Civic society newsletter Autumn 2000).

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