study, but it does occasionally fall between
two stools. Economic histories tend to provide macro conclusions
from micro details and the local historian of a particular
location may find the choice or omission of detail distorts
their familiar perceptions. Nevertheless, this book will provide
much for both those who are interested in the broader economic
and social analysis and those who prefer to search through the
index for more local evidence.
Farningham and its Mill. A History of a
Village in Kent. By Hilary Harding. 352 pp. Numerous b/w
illustrations and photographs. Wadard Books, Farningham, 2005.
£25. ISBN 0 9550858 0 2.
Images of Horton Kirby Paper Mill. 64
illustrations, line drawings and two maps. 62 pp., Horton Kirby
and South Darenth Local History Society, Horton Kirby, 2006.
The River Darent in its 30 mile (50km) course
from near Westerham to the tidal Dartford Creek steadily falls
from 350ft (100m) to sea level as it enters the Thames. For many
centuries the river, with its small tributaries, was a source of
power for numerous water mills employed in grinding corn and
cattle feed, fulling and metal working, sawing timber, the
production of paper, silk, and gunpowder. Even in the late
decades of the nineteenth century water power continued to be
extensively used as an industrial source although often
supplemented by steam engines when water levels were unsuitable.
By 1900 many water mills had ceased production or drastically
adjusted their product and market, and the process of decline
accelerated as increasing imports of raw materials from overseas
were processed at new industrial locations for mass markets.
Hilary Harding’s account of Farningham and its
mill has been a labour of devotion to the village in which she
has lived for nearly half a century. The book is well-written
and attractively illustrated. Farningham may have been the site
of a Roman water mill so when the present mill building, rebuilt
in 1790, ceased grinding corn in 1900 it brought to an end a
local industrial process that had probably continued with few
interruptions for nearly two millennia. The mill is the central
focus of this village history which in 16 chapters covers
earliest times to the present day, although the last 60 years,
perhaps the time of greatest social and economic change, are
hurriedly rushed over in a mere three pages. There is an attempt
to place the village in the context of national history but this
is not always successfully done, especially in the second part
of the book, where much of the emphasis is on the actions of
local people and particularly the Colyer family who have owned
the mill since 1722. The book undoubtedly will