THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: A GENERAL VIEW
The deaths of John May in 1805 and of Robert Lord Romney in 1794 meant that ownership of virtually the whole of Snodland parish changed hands within a decade. John May’s trustees took charge of his estates, Holloway Court, Lad’s Farm and ‘Gassons’ passing to Edward Wickham, and the Manor of Veles with Courtlodge to Thomas Beech, and the mill to Thomas Spong. Lord Romney’s lands were put up for sale in July 1808 and were purchased as follows:
Punish Farm & bsp; &nb p; & bsp; William Tidd £3600
Middle Farm (with Buckland Tithe) Thomas Whittaker £4500
Cox’s Farm &nb p; &nb p; & bsp; & bsp; William Gorham £4000
Austin’s Farm nbsp; &nb p; &nbs ; & bsp; Thomas Beech £2300
Holborough Farm & bsp; &nb p; & bsp; Edward Wickham £2000
Gilder’s Farm [Holborough] nbsp; John Goodhugh £2120
& bsp; Year & bsp; Males &nb p; &nb p; Females nbsp; &nb p; Total &n sp; &nb p; Houses
& bsp; &nb p; 1801 & bsp; &nb p; & bsp; &nb p; & bsp; &nb p; & bsp; &nb p; 312
&nb p; 1811 & bsp; &nb p; 174 & bsp; &nb p; 176 &nbs ; &nb p; 350 &nbs ; &nb p; 53
& bsp; &nb p; 1815 & bsp; &nb p; 198 & bsp; &nb p; 186 &nbs ; &nb p; 384
& bsp; &nb p; 1821 & bsp; &nb p; 240 & bsp; &nb p; 198 &nbs ; &nb p; 438 &nbs ; &nb p; 59
& bsp; &nb p; 1831 & bsp; &nb p; 271 & bsp; &nb p; 247 &nbs ; &nb p; 518 &nbs ; &nb p; 73
& bsp; &nb p; 1841 & bsp; &nb p; 271 & bsp; &nb p; 229 &nbs ; &nb p; 500 &nbs ; &nb p; 102
& bsp; &nb p; 1851 & bsp; &nb p; 299 & bsp; &nb p; 318 &nbs ; &nb p; 617 &nbs ; &nb p; 118
& bsp; &nb p; 1861 & bsp; &nb p; 552 & bsp; &nb p; 525 &nbs ; &nb p; 1077 & bsp; &nb p; 205
&nb p; 1871 & bsp; &nb p; 954 & bsp; &nb p; 890 &nbs ; &nb p; 1844 & bsp; &nb p; 372
&nb p; 1881 & bsp; &nb p; 1478 & bsp; &nb p; 1348 & bsp; &nb p; 2826 & bsp; &nb p; 521
&nb p; 1891 & bsp; &nb p; 1642 & bsp; &nb p; 1545 & bsp; &nb p; 3187 & bsp; &nb p; 575
&nb p; 1901 & bsp; &nb p; & bsp; &nb p; & bsp; &nb p; & bsp; &nb p; 3091
Every ten years from 1801 a census was taken. We are left only with the barest statistics for the first three of these, but from 1841 onwards full lists of names of parishioners are given, and the censuses from 1851 add more precise details concerning their ages and places of birth. The 1815 census in the list seems to have been made by the Rector on his own initiative.
Comparisons of the relative sizes of local parishes early in the nineteenth century are startling. In 1821 Snodland was actually smaller than Birling and Ryarsh, and little larger than Leybourne. It can be seen that there was a slow population growth during the first half of the century, becoming static around 1840. But the enlarging of the paper mill and the growth of the lime and cement industries, drawing people from the land and attracting workers from other parts of the country, and above all the building of the railway, caused a tremendous leap in the size of the village after 1860. Close study of the family names and their places of birth shows that many of the ‘immigrants’ were related. Overcrowding in the houses was a fact of life – divide the total population by the number of houses in the table above and the result averages from five to seven people per house, a very high overall rate. Even small houses might have their share of lodgers living with work-mates or relatives.
The censuses enable us to trace not only the families who lived here, but also the development of the village itself as new houses and new roads were built. The opening of the Strood-Malling Turnpike road around 1826 created the present Malling Road, while the sale of land to finance the National School resulted in May Street and East Street. The first occupants of May Street seem to have been moved there from the very bottom of the High Street, where it turned right along ‘Mill Street’ and ‘The Wharf’ and where there were many houses leading up to the mill. As the mill grew these were progressively demolished; none now remain. Charles Townsend Hook and William Lee, owners of the Paper Mill and Cement Works respectively, recognised that new houses were needed for their growing numbers of workers and many of the rows of terraced houses in Birling Road and Holborough Road were built for this purpose. On the other hand, some land and property was lost to the South Eastern Railway in the early 1850s.
One of the most valuable documents is the map drawn up in 1844 to show the ownership of the houses and land in Snodland. By the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 the former tithes (theoretically a tenth part of one’s income which went towards the maintenance of the Rector) were turned into rent-charges. The map, on which every plot is numbered, together with its schedule of owners and occupiers, was drawn up for the Commissioners appointed to negotiate the values. The detailed Ordnance Survey maps from 1868 onwards show how the village grew.
The South Eastern Railway branch line from Maidstone to Strood was opened in 1856 and undoubtedly contributed enormously to the prosperity of the village, allowing easy movement of people and goods – and especially the products of the factories. Timetables were published each month in the local newspapers. In December 1873, for instance, there were eight trains daily each way between London and Maidstone which called at Snodland (five on Sundays):
To London: 7-30; 8-42; 10-38; 10-53; 3-53; 5-53; 8-03; 10-03.
To Maidstone: 8-17; 10-59; 2-17; 4-26; 5-32; 7-38; 9-19; 11-10.
There were no stations yet at New Hythe or Halling. To reach London took an hour and a half, including the shunt from London Bridge to Cannon Street and on to Charing Cross, which all trains were then obliged to do. A journey to Maidstone took eighteen minutes. Newspaper reports also show that the railway frequently laid on special trains, for instance for the factory outings which were such a keenly-anticipated event in the village each year. On a sadder note, it also provided the train for the funeral party of Mrs Hook in November 1881.
The river, of course, retained its value as a transporter of bulk items, but lack of a bridge was a handicap, particularly to those from Burham and Wouldham who worked here and also to the factories on that side which needed to load their goods on to the railway. Much of the cement from Peters’ works, for instance, was brought across the river on barges and then transferred to railway trucks using a small intermediate railway track running between the river and the station alongside the churchyard. During the 1870s plans were formulated for a bridge or subway from Snodland to Burham, to be subsidised by the Rochester Bridge Trust, but after nearly thirty years of wrangling these came to nothing.
Much of the routine life of the village (and its more eventful happenings) can be traced in local newspapers such as the Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiserand later the Kent Messenger and Maidstone Telegraph. We have a splendid scrap-book of the years 1865-1882 compiled by two Snodland rectors; directories, church magazines and pamphlets also contribute to the story. They tell of improvements to the houses, water and drainage, to the roads and footpaths, and to the lighting – by gas. There were plenty of societies, sports and entertainments of all kinds, and a good round of fetes and festivities. In 1867 Snodland boasted its first resident doctor, so it was no longer necessary to dash to West Malling for help; others soon followed. A fire in the barn opposite All Saints church on 11 July 1881 was just prevented from spreading to the church itself. The Non-conformists were busy building new churches: the Primitive Methodists in Malling Road in 1872 and the new Congregational Church in the High Street in 1888 (replacing their earlier building in Holborough Road). On 10 October 1893 Christ Church was consecrated as a Chapel-of Ease in Birling parish to serve that end of the village and also Ham Hill. A cemetery was consecrated in 1894 and in that same year the Parish Council began its work.