Crockenhill's earliest documented history starts in 1388, when the village, or hamlet as it was then, was known as Crockern-Held, which translates as "the hill where stands a pottery kiln".
This bore fact to the heavy clay soil, sand and woodland that provided the resources to make, in this case, tiles for the surrounding areas, hence current names, like Tylers Green Road and
Tilecroft. In Henry VIII's time thousands of tiles were supplied for the huge kiln at Dartford which was to smelt 'gold' found by Frobisher in Canada - the whole enterprise collapsing when
the ore was found to be 'fool's gold'.
In the 15th century a large tract of Crockenhill was given to the nuns at Dartford Priory, who
held it until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. After holding it for a few years, in 1540 the King gave Crockenhill to one of his favoured courtiers, Sir Percyval
Hart of Lullingstone, and it remained part of the vast Lullingstone estate into the 1930s, when the estate was broken up.
It seems that Crockenhill really started to come into its own when the hamlet was deemed large
enough to support its own church in 1851, All Souls'. Not that the hamlet was without a place of worship, since the Baptists had founded a chapel there at least by 1801, and before that
meetings were held in an ordinary house. The Baptist presence went back further to the 1690s, as evidenced by their Old Burying Ground at Darns Hill.
By the mid 19th century, market gardening was booming, especially strawberries which grew well on recently grubbed-up woodland. London was readily accessible by road and rail, and with the
benevolent rent policy of the Hart Dyke family, the most enterprising smallholders gradually became wealthy farmers.
Two such people were brothers, Thomas and John Wood. Thomas became fascinated with steam
power in the 1860s and introduced steam traction for agricultural purposes to the district. His descendants still live and work in the village. John Wood concentrated on large-scale fruit
growing and also established a series of greenshouses in the village. Among the more exotic crops grown were grapes at Chalks greenhouses, while for a hobby he cultivated bananas and paw-paws
in the greenhouses at his home, The Mount.
There was so much soft fruit produced that much of it went towards making jam, the Woods at one time having a jam factory in neighbouring Swanley. Market gardening provided employment in
Crockenhill right up to the 1960s when cheap imports made production uneconomic. However, in the 1990s it returned to Wested Farm where JJ Barker produces spring onions and iceberg lettuce for
Today Crockenhill continues to be a thriving community with a good social mix of
well-established families and new ones. Most employment is now found away from the village, but its sense of identity remains strong and Crockenhill fiercely defends its status whenever it
feels a threat.
Article provided by Dr Susan Pittman (Local
Photographs from various sources