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Farningham and Eynsford
Local History Society
Farningham and Eynsford Local History Society
Publication Review
£3.00   A4, 39 pages, 18 illustrations, published 1997

Readers will surely enjoy Miscellany No. 2 from the History Society. There are two interesting and erudite papers by Wilfrid Duncombe on the "lost" airfields of the two villages; a marvellous account of a Knatts Valley boyhood in the 1940s by Michael Oldfield, and the story of 'Bus driver Artist' Henry Stockley told with insight by John Walker. The lost Farningham airfield near Franks Hall had been built as part of a defensive ring round London during the First World War. A letter from one of the young pilots, stationed at the Lion Hotel, describes his mission "strafing" Zeppelins. The second airfield, at Lullingstone, was a dummy runway built during the Second War to fox German pilots into unloading their bombs. On at least one occasion an enemy raid was successfully diverted from Biggin Hill by the lights of the decoy flare-path. Michael Oldfield left England for Canada at the age of eight but he holds almost total recall of his early childhood in Knatts Valley in the 1940s. Modern readers will be amazed by the enviable freedom that allowed a five year old to tricycle alone every day to visit the Barrage Balloon Site and later, at the age of seven, to make his solitary "Great Escape" on foot back home from Eynsford Primary School. Doodle Bugs, Tommy Handley and Dick Barton are all brought back to life, along with the leisurely tempo of that period. Henry Stockley, the 'Bus driver Artist', was born in 1892 at 10 Willow Terrace, Eynsford and later lived in Oliver Crescent, Farningham. He belongs to that sad fellowship of artists and writers who, born in poverty, lived in what they regarded as drudgery until they ended their lives in mental institutions. His paintings however are full of joy and dazzling colour and, while unappreciated in his lifetime, are now widely acclaimed. Many of Henry's ancestors were painters and sign-writers, so it is interesting to see him in the context of local history, although he now belongs to a wider world.

Hilary Harding
Review reprinted from The Trident magazine.