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Archaeologia Cantiana - Vol. 127   2007 page 455

Book Reviews

be read with great pleasure and profit by those who live in Farningham or know it well. They are fortunate to have such a splendidly produced and sturdy village history. However, it is less likely to appeal to those to whom the village is unknown. Although the poor are recorded and there is much (other) incidental material on village life a substantial part of this history is about the lives of elite families. The author does not deal well with religious faith, politics, and rural discontent, while historical debate is barely considered. For example, Mary Ann Hearn (Marianne Farningham) is partly misrepresented, and there is a reliance on old ideas and texts. The local publisher has produced a book that is attractive to handle and look at but sadly it is marred by poor proof-reading and inadequate footnotes (some have gone awry in chs 12 and 13).

The next parish, a short distance north down the Darent, is Horton Kirby which was also the site of an old corn mill. By the 1820s John Hall of Dartford had built a mill for making paper by machine but relying on steam power. The result was the creation of an industrial village dominated by a mill which at its peak in the late nineteenth century employed 600 people. Paper production at Horton Kirby, as with neighbouring mills at Eynsford, Shoreham, and Sundridge, was based initially on rag brought from the metropolis, but this changed to imported esparto grass. By keeping abreast of technical change, and despite several bankruptcies and changes of owner, paper production continued at Horton Kirby until 2003. Houses are now being built on the old mill site.
   The Horton Kirby and South Darenth Local History Society, seemingly with help from the local council (it is not clear), have produced a well-illustrated book on the history of the paper mill. This contains a large font sized text generously spaced with a large number of photographs recording the fortunes of the mill and the development of South Darenth as terraced housing for mill-workers in the 1860s-80s. The mill was rebuilt in the 1870s and thereafter the valley was dominated by two large chimneys, one Italianate. This brief book describes the business of paper making (not forgetting the problems of polluting the river), the development of South Darenth, mill workers, the fire brigade, accidents, and sports and social activities. The text concludes with a useful and informative section ‘An apprentice’s memoirs’ which focuses on the second half of the twentieth century. Altogether this book offers a mix of the very local and personal (‘Bert Taylor helping on the scoreboard and my wife ... with the teas’) with brief views of life in an industrial village community in north Kent. There are questions that might have been pursued. Where and how did the fuel come from? What might an analysis of the census enumerators’ returns tell us about the labour force? How were trade unions (SOGAT is briefly mentioned) formed? And was this a radically or religiously inclined mill labour force?

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