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Publication Review
MISCELLANY OF LOCAL HISTORY PAPERS - NO. 4
Hilary Harding and Wilf Duncombe
£2.50   A4, 27 pages, 13 illustrations, 5 photos, published 1999

This collection illustrates the usual painstaking research undertaken by Hilary Harding (together with W. Duncombe in the third paper). The results of their efforts, enable us to have a number of glimpses into the Farningham of times past - snapshots of the 13th, 18th and 19th centuries. The 'Chimneypiece Soldiers' takes its title from two carved marble tablets which are insets within fireplace surrounds at the Mill House in Farningham. Mrs Harding makes a convincing case for the depicted soldier figures to represent members of the important Colyer family (the local millers) who would have almost certainly responded to the call to arms in response to the Napoleonic threat two centuries ago. In 'Odo de Ceriton of Charton Manor, Farningham' Hilary Harding delves into the life of the 13th century cleric, who was a prolific writer and described as a teacher of preachers. We learn that life in Farningham was indeed primitive and dangerous in the Middle Ages, and although Odo's station in life as a son of a rich and powerful father (with the ear of the King), placed him above the travails of the peasant population, his writings (in particular his animal fables) demonstrated his concerns for his fellow man irrespective of rank. In 'William Dray of Farningham; Ironfounder & Farmer' W.G. Duncombe and Hilary Harding combine their talents for research to bring the reader back to Victorian-times. We learn of the rise and fall of a self-made man whose business drive enabled him to come to control a substantial profitable enterprise in the City based around the North side of London Bridge. In the first half of the 19th century, the City had a much wider role than that of mere finance, and thus we read that Dray's business was described as 'ironfounders, engineers and millwrights, manufacturers of agricultural machinery and steam engines'. Much of the prosperity generated there, rubbed off on Farningham where Dray, a pillar of the community resident at Mount Pleasant in Sparepenny Lane. It didn't last! I found the Miscellany a fascinating read which I commend to all. I can only marvel at the industry of these two local historians who have produced these very interesting papers.

Peter Doye
Review reprinted from The Trident magazine