The Ordnance Survey maps of Beckenham sketched in 1799 and later surveyed and published around 1860-70 show a mainly rural area of farms and woods with some houses along the High Street. Before the Victorian era there were no public parks or recreation grounds and apart from the Manor Houses, there were few other private dwelling houses. However, we can build a picture of the situation perhaps as far back as the 17th and 18th centuries based on some surviving maps or estate plans. Archive documents allow us to look further back and find references to the larger farms and estates. For instance, a map surviving from 1723 of Kelsey shows the fields associated with the estate and neighbouring land with owners names. Often the field names imply an owner or previous owner ie Smiths Fields, Giles Fields and Woolseys Farm. These early records fill in some of the many gaps between the past and what are in some cases recent memories.
The estate maps of the early 18th Century illustrate a complex mix of properties which did not consolidate until under the exchange of property between John Cator and Peter Burrell/Lord Gwydir in 1793.
In many if not all cases the earlier landowner was either a merchant, lawyer, banker, politician or tradesman. Their farming was done at arms length via the tenant farmer and often through a land agent or estate manager. Not all the farms can be identified but here are some we can trace.
FOXGROVE FARM based at the moated manor house was situated between the present Foxgrove Road and The Avenue, about opposite Foxgrove Avenue, and it was thought that all lands on that side of Southend Road, extending over the hill to the Ravensboume, belonged to that farm. This was a moated farm where the local Volunteer Fire Brigade carried out much of their practice, and The Avenue, when first formed was known as Moat Road. The original Manor was pulled down about 1830 and the later buildings about 1878. Study of various maps shows other farms or smallholdings which may have been sub-lets of the larger Foxgrove Manor estate. The 1766 map of Foxgrove Manor shows a field pattern with names such as Hop Ground, Thistle Down, Morrisswood, Bread Fields, Carrot Mead, Lime Kiln Field and Pill Crofts. After it was absorbed into the Cator estates it remained in use as a farm but several fields became ‘emparked’ by Cator and would still have had an agricultural use as grazing. Its history implies that was a leased farm for several centuries. While under the Leigh family the Leighs were mainly resident elsewhere either in the home counties or at Sutton at Hone, Bexley and Hawley. A road diversion plan for a new road in 1785 shows a farm between the old Southend to Beckenham road through Beckenham Place Park and the new Southend Road/Beckenham Hill Road. When the land was sold for private housing in the late 19th/early 20th century a house called Tudor Manor was build on the site of this unnamed farmhouse. Perhaps the name Tudor Manor derived from a story that the pre-existing farm was a Tudor building.
Opposite the Parish Church, there were the Rectory grounds, stables and coach houses; then nothing until COPERS COPE FARM occupied by Michael Mathew, with its garden, barn, pond and granary. The farm fields, comprising about 250 acres, extended across the present New Beckenham area with footpaths linking up with Kent House Farm, and the farm house stood - and still stands - on the corner of Copers Cope Road and Southend Road.
This farm occupied much of the Beckenham Manor parkland as it was before John Cator acquired it and until some time after.
There is considerable guess work about this peculiar name but it is generally accepted that it came from 'Cooper's Copse', although referred to in a Minute of the Parish Council as Koker's Koke, also as Cokers Coope in an 1768 document and Cokers Cope in the 1825 Private Act of Parliament at which time John Phillips held the lease on the farm before Mathews.
The references to Coope or Cope might derive from Coop which is a pen or enclosure and this part of Beckenham Manor was emparked or enclosed in its early history. This is speculation.
The Mathews had been farmers in Beckenham for a long time, for in the Churchyard there is a grave with the name Mark Mathew 1700. There is a copy of an Agreement between John Cator and Michael Mathew on page 24 of a Rob Copeland publication. When part of the land towards New Beckenham was bought for railway development Michael Mathew took over Stone Farm, in Wickham Road of which more later.
His son Walter was born at Copers Cope Farm on 10th January 1850, christened at the Parish Church by Rev. Andrew Brandram and married some 20 years later by Rev. Frederick Chalmers. He became a Churchwarden at Christ Church, was a partner in the Coal Merchant firm of Moore and Mathews, and died in 1941 at the age of 91. Walter's son, Walter Andrew Mathew, who had Beckenham's first motor garage near The George Inn, left Beckenham in 1910 and died on 13th January 1968, thus terminating the family connection with Old Beckenham. The 1768 Beckenham Manor map shows an area roughly bounded by the Beck river, The Pool river, the Beckenham to Southend Road and the parish boundary between Beckenham and Lewisham near what is now Worsley Bridge Road, all farmed by Copers Cope Farm unless other evidence comes to light. It has been said that this area could have constituted an old deer park in medieval times and some fields are named Spring Park and Alder Park. Later maps show that the field pattern was changed but some names survive such as Reddons, Aldersmead and Lawn Roads. The woodland of Stumps Hill did once spread into part of this area.
LANGLEY FARMS. On a map of part of Langley from about 1750 shows it is divided into several sections with one part called Langley Farm under the management of the then owner Jones Raymond. Tenants were in place at Red Lodge Farm under Richard Cooper. A group of fields under the title of Fixted, Ivy Lodge and Lady’s Farm under Thomas Hatton, plus 2 smallholdings under William Dacres (Stacys) and ‘at Wickham Green’ James Grimes had a smallholding. A key to the map is indexed L,M,N,O,P with numbered fields. The map showing A-K is missing but would have covered the part of the estate which became Langley Farm once occupied by Lancelot Holland and then the Wellcome Foundation. Jones Raymond was a director of the East India Company having inherited Langley and other estates from his father Hugh Raymond who was a captain with the East India Company, a director of the South Sea Company, involved in the South Sea Bubble crisis, and a colonel of the Tower Hamlets militia.