AIRCRAFT & BOMBS – Here are two eyewitness accounts recorded by Miss May Chaplin:
"During the war years there were many incidents in Hildenborough, caused by aircraft, bombs and guns; but, thank God, there were few casualties. I will record just two of these incidents. One was in the earlier years of the War. A Sunday morning at the time of the 8 o'clock Holy Communion Service. We are kneeling at the altar rail, then the deafening noise of an aeroplane coming over the village very, very low. What was going to happen? Was Hildenborough going to be wiped out? Then a horrible thud, and then silence. What had happened? We thanked God we were safe. A British airman had been shot* and killed, and the plane had come lower and lower until it came on the ground at the rear of the Half Moon Inn." See also The Half Moon. "Then in the summer of 1944 – tea-time on a July day – the Vicar and wife out to tea – suddenly a bomb fell on the Recreation Ground. No one was hurt, but very few village folk had much to eat that tea-time, for ceilings came down on the food, and bits of doors and windows were blown up garden paths. The most damage was done to the Church and Vicarage. At the Church the three large stained-glass windows in the north transept were smashed to fragments, and at the Vicarage the French window towards the lawn was broken in pieces and scattered all over the room." (Plain glass was fitted in it's place remaining until June 1994 when new stained glass windows were installed to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Church being built.) Another resident, a schoolboy at the time, recalls three other incidents. In the early 1940s, a German aircraft was forced to land at the Old Barn airfield. It was brought up to the Half Moon where the wings were cut back so it could be taken by road through Sevenoaks to a dismantling depot at Sundridge. Another German aircraft was brought down by our night fighters and fell on the greenhouses at Hollanden Park, then occupied by Rachel McMillan Training College. Of the many incendiary bombs which fell, on one occasion a fuel train had stopped for the night in the down sidings at Hildenborough station and incendiary bombs fell beside the train but did not explode.
Of the V1 Flying Bombs or Doodlebugs landing in buzz-bomb alley," reports a local paper. " eleven landed in or near Tonbridge and 98 in surrounding villages". By the time a map was published in the Kent Messenger in September 1944 15 V1s had landed in Hildenborough. One landed in Cow Park between Stocks Green Road and London (now Tonbridge) Road.
*The cause of the crash is not known but was possibly due to anoxia – "The Battle of Britain, Then & Now"
BEATING THE BOUNDS – An account recorded by Edwin Francis of an old custom revived in November, 1923: "The members of the Parish Council were interested in the boundary of the Parish so it was decided to walk the boundary. A small service was held in the church at 9.00 am, then a party of about 30 led by E. Francis and A. Smith made for the starting point: the Roundhouse near the Grenadier public house. All landowners were notified that the party was coming. At 10.00 am A.F. Buxton Esq., was waiting at the Roundhouse with maps, etc., to conduct the party through his property. From Tinley Lodge to Hoad Wood a little time was wasted trying to find a boundary stone in Dene Park Wood – then on to Horns Lodge and Frogs Bridge; here we met a gamekeeper, who was trying to throw his weight about and wanted to send us back, but when shown a permit from the owner we were able to go on peacefully to Cage Farm. When getting over a prickly fence a member of the Girl Guides made a jump and landed in a dirty ditch. After a halt cleaning her down, on to Tile Barn corner, turning then to Little Trench and High Hilden, and over London Road to Hawden Farm, and to the Plough Inn. Here Mr J. Mackney had been waiting for one-and-a-half hours to give us a good meal, which we had in a field: we had made a mistake with our times! After our meal it started to rain, and on we went to Lower Street Farm and the Blue Anchor public house. Here we met a member of Sevenoaks R.D.C. who told us we were not on the boundary line; he agreed it was not worth the trouble climbing the hedge in two places for a small corner in the field. Still raining, and on to Old House Farm and the railway arch Irons Lane, to Elses Farm; here we found a boundary stone and the nearest boy to the stone was caught and had his head bumped on the stone – he received 6d. for this bump! On then through Stoney Wood to Morley's Hut. Here we made a stop, everybody wet through and arranged to carry on the following Saturday. Starting again with a few more followers, on we went to Rumstead Farm (now St. Julian's). Here was a stone that connected three parishes; the usual bumping and a photo taken of the party. On then to Kentlands, Great Hollanden Farm and Stone Cottages, Grenadier. Here the boundary runs through the middle of four cottages, so some of us went through one of the middle ones and some through the other. On then to the Roundhouse where we started the week before."
BOER WAR – In 1899, Fred Dolding and George Seal left this parish to serve Queen and Country in South Africa. In September 1902, a dinner was given by the Institute to welcome home all the soldiers from this parish who had returned from the front. They were: Corporal Wm. Garrett and Privates Harry Bardon, Fred Dolding, Jesse Porter, Fred Dale, Walter Dale, James Longley and Walter Clements.
CORONATION OF EDWARD VII – To celebrate the occasion, the following programme was arranged for Saturday, 9th August, 1902:
1.30 Divine Service at the Parish Church
2.15 Procession to Cricket Field, headed by Band
2.45 Sports, Prizes, Punch & Judy performances
4.30 Children's tea
5.45 Adults' tea
9.45 Torchlight Procession.
A band was in attendance throughout the afternoon and there were stalls for sweets and light refreshments. Provisions for the teas included 168 lbs. ham; 290 lbs. beef; 90 lbs. mutton; 124 loaves and 224 cakes. The total number provided with tea was 1147.
CORONATION OF GEORGE V – To mark the Coronation on 22nd June, 1911, 404 mugs were distributed to all children under 14 years and 1182 men, women and children sat down to tea.
CORONATION OF GEORGE VI – 12th May 1937. In the morning, following the distribution of medals to the school children, there was a parade and church service. In the afternoon May Queen, Joan Fox, was crowned and after maypole dancing, everyone processed to the recreation ground, where she planed a Coronation tree. Sports, tea and entertainment followed. During the evening, there were fireworks and a bonfire, followed by a dance in the Drill Hall. Throughout the evening, free beer was provided by Major Charrington of Vines.
CORONATION OF ELIZABETH II – The festivities arranged to celebrate the coronation on 2nd June, 1953 commenced with a parade, followed by a fancy dress competition, judged by Mrs C. Charrington and Mrs G. Fraser. Sports were arranged on the recreation ground by Mr L. Haisell and parents, and the W.I. provided tea for about 450 in the Drill Hall. The children were then entertained by a magician and a Punch & Judy show. A 20-foot high bonfire erected by the Gardeners' Society on the recreation ground was lit at 9.45pm and the British Legion was responsible for the fireworks display which followed. Mr Woodhams and Miss Moore organised the decorations throughout the village, and the day ended with a dance in the Drill Hall.
EMPIRE DAY – was celebrated by the village in the primary school playground on 24th May each year, from 1902 to 1959. Two May Queens were present (the old and the new), and all the 5-year-old girls who wishes to be attendants wore long dresses, white for the new queen and pink for the old. One girl was chosen by the staff of the school to be the flower fairy, who presented bouquets to the Queens and to the local dignitary. A fancy dress parade was held, with dancing round the maypole and entertainment for the village audience. Empire Day commemorated the assistance given by the colonies in the Boer War, and is now known as Commonwealth Day.
FESTIVAL WEEKS – from 9th – 14th October 1961 and 23rd May – 12th June 1965. The Festival week in October 1961 was held to raise money to provide adequate heating, stacked chairs and storage accommodation for the Village Hall, Riding Lane. The festival provide entertainment for all ages: events included table tennis and darts tournaments, whilst drives, bingo, Scottish songs and dancing by the schoolchildren, convent pupils and keep-fit class, a quiz, a play by the Masque Players, a jumble sale, scouting display and a dance. The W.I. held a fair. A total of £359 was raised. The slogan for the week was "Help to swell the week's receipts for better heat and seats". The 1965 festival started with a church service. Events included an art and photographic competition, whist drive, bingo, jumble sale, keep-fit display, a play by the Masque Players, music and dancing displays, children's sports, cricket match, barbecue, baby show and a dance held at the Green Rabbit. The festival raised £461.16s.6d. of which £327.2s.0d. was spent on installing proscenium curtains, repairing brickwork, painting the kitchen and lowering the ceiling in the Village Hall. The slogan for the week was "Renovation, Modernisation and Decoration". This festival was planned to coincide with the centenary of one of Hildenborough's most distinguished former residents – John Frederick Herring.
FIRST WORLD WAR – By September, 1914, there were 30 young men from the village serving in the Royal Navy and land forces. Older men were encouraged to become Special Constables. One of their tasks was to guard the railway bridges and some members of the Boys' Brigade joined these patrols. Weekly work parties started in October, 1915 in the Drill Hall to provide hospital requisites and when the War Work Depot closed in 1919, which by then was affiliated to the surgical branch of Queen Mary's Needlework Guild, the work accomplished included 5337 bandages, 470 pairs. Slippers, 1029 treasure bags, 390 pairs. Socks, 274 pairs, mine sweepers' gloves and 837 various other items. At Christmas 1915, 137 men received parcels containing 1/2 lb. chocolates, a tin of bullseyes, 50 cigarettes and for those in England, a plum pudding. The plum pudding was replaced by a pair of socks for those me on foreign service. Also in 1915, a National Egg Collection commenced and in the first month, 1171 eggs were sent from Hildenborough, for distribution to hospitals with sick and wounded soldiers. By May, 1916, 5661 eggs had been sent. A Government appeal in 1916 for women to offer their services for work on the land, resulted in the registration of 61 women who were willing to help farmers if required. A jam scheme started in 1918, produced 4048 lbs. jam and resulted in a profit of over £50. The Committee was: Mrs A. Johnson of Oakhill, Mrs Tester, Mrs Gallon, Mrs Hodder (wife of the headmaster) and Nurse Genese. In 1919 and 1920, welcome home dinners were held at the Drill Hall for 190 soldiers, sailors and airmen who had returned from the War.
FLOODING – has always been a problem for the lower part of the village. A large proportion of the Brookmead estate was badly hit by floods in 1968 when an exceptionally high tide made already swollen rivers overflow. Many homes lost furniture and fittings from ground floor rooms, those in bungalows being particularly hard hit. Six years later in 1974, nearly 80 houses were again flooded after heavy rain. See Flood Barrier.
FLOWER SHOWS – have been held annually by the Gardeners' Society except for the war years. The first was held on 19th August, 1896 in the meadow adjoining the church, by kind permission of the president, Mr Fitch Kemp. The second show was held in August 1897 in the grounds of his home Foxbush, and he addressed the judges, committee and others after an excellent luncheon provided by Mr A.J. Waller of The Gate Hotel. He pointed out that the association had begun on a modest basis, and was intended solely to develop the noble art of gardening in the little hamlet of Hildenborough. Gardening was one of the best and happiest pursuits people in the country could indulge in and if they went into the higher branch of floral culture, there was unlimited scope for the ability of any man. In 1899, the annual show included the additional attraction of a poultry show and bee tent was held in the grounds of Hollanden Park, home of the Rev. and Mrs Stewart Savile. The jubilee show in 1946 was the first to be held since before the Second Word War, and was staged in three marquees on the recreation ground. The Bosanquet Trophy was presented for the first time to the winner of the highest cash prizes. In 1948 two more challenge cups were presented, the Oakhill Cup by Elliot & Spear and another presented by Mr de Rougemont.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II'S SILVER JUBILEE – was celebrated in the village on Saturday, 28th May, 1977 with a fete on the recreation ground opened by Mrs Margery Finzi, an arts and crafts exhibition in the primary school, Riding Lane and a flower festival in the church. A group of trees and bushes was planted opposite the church hall by Mr Philip Toy, Chairman of the Parish Council and Mrs Joan Dash (see photograph below), bought with money raised by the sale of waste paper. A children's climbing frame was erected in the recreation ground by the Parish Council to mark the occasion.
QUEEN VICTORIA'S DIAMOND JUBILEE – was celebrated on Tuesday, 29th June, 1897 which was a public holiday. The committee appointed to make the arrangements was: The Vicar, C. Fitch Kemp, R. Bosanquet, H. Hitchock, E. Hendry, C.W. Middleton Kemp, G.W. Johnson, C. Crowhurst, W. Holmwood and M.C. Morris. Every child in the school (206) received a commemorative medal. The festivities took place on the Oakhill Cricket Ground which had been decorated with bunting. Over the entrance gate there was an archway bearing Her Majesty's gracious Jubilee message "From my heart I thank my beloved people; may God help them – V.R. and I" made by Mr R. Treadwell. 530 inhabitants sat down to dinner in a huge marquee. The afternoon was spent in games and sports, and at 5.30pm. 550 sat down to tea. The day was brought to a close by "a very fine display of fireworks". A stone drinking fountain which was moved to the Village Green in 2005, was erected in the Tonbridge Road (opposite the newsagents) to mark this occasion.
SECOND WORLD WAR – Local activities recorded in the Parish magazine included the following items: In 1940 Mr E.C. de Rougemont of Coldharbour, chaired the War Comforts Fund, an appeal for donations to send comforts to the men and women of Hildenborough serving with H.M. Forces at home and abroad. The Women's Institute made jam, some of it for the retail trade including J. Sainsbury, South Suburban Co-op and E. Hendry. At the end of the season in October, 1943 the inspector from the Ministry of Agriculture commented on their excellent quality jam and added, "This centre has worked very well this season, has made very good standard of jam and most professional finish to jars. A valuable contribution to the Nation's need". They had made a total of 784 lbs. of jam and chutney. They also collected newspapers.
Dr D.B. Fraser, chairman of the War Weapons Committee, wrote in the parish magazine of 1941, "Bring out every penny you can and invest it. You are not asked to give, but to buy a sound investment that you can turn into cash if and when you need to. The money so raised helps to equip those fighting for us, and the better they are armed, the fewer will be the casualties when the fight comes. Thus your money will save precious lives. Why risk keeping your savings in notes? Notes may get burnt. If a War Savings Certificate or Bond gets burnt it is replaceable. Save, and go on saving all you can, defeat the enemy and help our lads to whom we owe so much."
The Red Cross solicited gifts of onions. In 1943 Hildenborough collected 7 cwt.
The cubs made mats "for our men in submarines to sit on", made from old stockings, cut into strips, rolled and crocheted. A Welcome Home dinner was arranged by the Parish Council for all ex-servicemen and women of the parish on Wednesday, 22nd January 1947 at the Old Barn.
SHAREOUT & SMOKING CONCERT – held at The Gate Hotel. Entertainers included B. Smale who played banjo and mandolin.
WHEELBARROW RACE – 1899. From Pembury Road, Tonbridge, down Leigh Road to Powder Mills and back. At the Flying Dutchman, landlord William Pratt handed out beer.