The Story of Biggin Hill: a plotlands development and post-war exurb in Greater London

The Sale of the Aperfield Estate

Frederick Dougal, (c 1849 - 1904) was an Irish Law Agent who lived in Wandsworth and ran an unclaimed money office at 453 Strand in London. He seems to have treated Aperfield as a country retreat, retaining his home in Wandsworth after the purchase. He kept both the house and the surrounding park for his own use but quickly began to sell the surrounding farmland as building plots at a cost of £10, claiming them to be the “cheapest plots near London”. Even though he required a deposit of just £1, the plots sold slowly. Biggin Hill was remote and as the name suggests, hilly, so the cost of transporting building materials from the nearest station was prohibitive. Dougal and his agents worked hard though, meeting prospective buyers at Orpington or Bromley stations, transporting them by motor taxi to the estate and showing them round on arrival.

After Dougal’s death the plot sales continued and soon small bungalows began to appear in the valley, most used as weekend homes for suburban dwellers. Many used the cheapest and lightest materials they could; wood, brieze blocks, asbestos and corrugated iron being especially popular. Home ownership was still comparatively rare and some purchasers were happy just to have some land of their own, visiting at weekends simply to picnic in their little piece of countryside.

The first decade of the 20th century saw the development of the Garden City Movement which made the move from the city fashionable. The growth of Biggin Hill was part of the exodus but completely different in execution from the carefully planned developments at Letchworth and Welwyn. Biggin Hill was part of a different trend, albeit one that used the fashionable Garden City concept as a marketing ploy. It was part of what became known as the Plotlands.