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

The Plotlands

There were plotlands on the fringe of most of Englandís major cities, but it was in the hinterlands of London that they became most popular. Utilising cheap land, the result of poor soil, poor communications or being prone to frequent flooding. South Essex, the Thames estuary, the Isle of Sheppey and parts of the Sussex Coast soon filled with this type of development. Biggin Hill was part of the North Downs developments stretching from Walderslade, near Chatham to Effingham near Leatherhead.

The almost total lack of national planning regulations meant once you had paid your deposit it was up to you what you built and the early sales catalogues were full of pictures of houses of every shape, size and style. This was very popular with the plot owners but less so with other town dwellers who saw the countryside they had once visited gradually fill with houses, some little more than shacks, in a very haphazard way. Access was via unsufaced tracks, described in the brochures, as ďprivate roads". Water and drainage facilities were poor too. The plots were designed for occasional and weekend living. The pipes could cope with this but as more people made Biggin Hill their permanent home the inadequacies of the mains became apparent. Soon local authorities, in Biggin Hillís case Bromley RDC, were pressing for powers to prevent this blight. The result was the planning laws and green belt policies we have today. Before this could happen however, in 1920 Aperfield Court was demolished and the remaining part of the estate was divided into yet further plots.

Despite the unfashionable nature of this early development, Biggin Hill can boast one famous early resident: the composer, Ivor Novello. Around 1914, he spent his summers living in a Romany caravan in the garden of his motherís bungalow in St. Maryís Grove, where she had set up an artistic community.