Friday, 1 January 2016

Saint Mark Aperfield Baptisms-the early years of Biggin Hill church history

I have thoroughly enjoyed transcribing the registers of the metal Church of Saint Mark's Aperfield a mission church to serve the spiritual needs of the "plotlands" development. I have previously blogged about the history of the church here.
Kent Online Parish Clerks has a Biggin Hill page and I have just completed transcription of the first register of baptisms. Since Kent OPC has a 100 year privacy limit to respect international privacy laws I have prepared the Baptisms for 1907-1916 for publication later this year on the Biggin Hill page Kent Online Parish Clerks Biggin Hill page.
As in other Mission Church records I have transcribed in the past the record in the first volume is included in a simple lined book which includes other information; indeed it feels as though the record began as something of an afterthought.
The volume is held at Bromley Archives reference P107B/1/1 and contains some early parish accounts and a section entitled Register of Church people of Saint Mark's District (Biggin Hill). The Mission District within the parish of Cudham initially was served by the curate of Cudham.
The alphabetic "Church people" was intended to list all those in the district but sadly like many new Year resolutions ended at the letter B!
Of greater use is the page which records "Person who take Communion in Saint Marks Easter day 1909"
In case of death within the district Saint Marks could be used to begin the funeral service and two deaths and such services are to be found. In November 1908 Amy Elizabeth Bushell who died at 7 a.m. on Monday 16 November 1908 was brought into the church for the first part of the burial service and the body taken to Cudham Churchyard for burial. Similarly Mary Ann Wicking who died 17 September 1910 at 3 30 pm was brought to Saint Marks on 22 September 1910 where the funeral commenced before interment at Cudham Churchyard.
There are also pages recording both the Ladies Work Party and Mothers Union (14 names) undated but likely to be 1909-1912 and the undated Gentlemans Theological Class with 6 members.
The recording of Baptisms is in the latter half of the book along with various financial accounts of expenditure. Saint Mark's in winter was heated by a single oil heater which needed only half a gallon of oil purchased each year! Two bottles of Communion wine were sufficient and sums for organist and choirboys are also recorded as well as a Vestry meeting to choose a churchwarden from the two sidesmen.
The volume is an interesting record of the life of the District prior to and during the First World War.
The raison d'etre for the Mission Church was to serve the needs of the development by Dougal of the Aperfield Court Estate in plotlands. Since the baptismal record describes the address of each parent it is possible to see that there are distinct groups of people who bring their children to be baptised.
The local farmers and farm workers, the local Gypsy seasonal fruit picking families and some "Plotland" occupants are the major groupings. The Gypsy families often occupy permanent housing in the district for winter use and my colleague Bob Cooper who researches Romany and Gypsy families at Bromley Archives has found the entries valuable in linking to other local families in Kent and Surrey.
Until I moved on to complete the volume transcription to 1924 for publication at a later date I had not realised the impact on the local community of the formation of the Royal Air Force. The volume includes RAF Flying Officer's families in settled residence not associated with the Aperfield Court Estate roads and researching these families will be a worthwhile research.
In 1909 Reverend Harold Augustus Curtis was vicar of Cudham and had as Curate Reverend W J Hamilton. It is Reverend Hamilton who begins the baptismal register; in 1913 H H Skinner is Curate in charge and maintains the register until his departure in 1915. The subsequent entries from January 1916 until 1918 are the work of two clergymen who are not of the Rochester Diocese;both travel some distance to carry out their duties according to Crockford's which does not mention any connection with Aperfield.
The Reverend J Mickley Randell resided in North West Lodon at Crowndale Road in the Diocese of London. Although a bus service from Westerham Hill ( whose driver and mechanic have children baptised) connected to Bromley by 1916 the impact of war appears to have depleted the clergy to the extent that he and in 1917 the Reverend T H Higgins from the Diocese of Lincoln are the clergy signing the register. I must admit that I had not realised the impact of war on the Church of England Clergy by 1916.
In 1918 Reverend Bryan O'Loughlin B.A. is recorded as vicar of Saint Mark's Aperfield and the Reverend H M Woodward is Curate in Charge Saint Marks Aperfield.Both sign the register until 1924.
As a footnote to Biggin Hill life is the arrangement for registering a birth or death. A Registrar from Bromley was available for one hour on two Thursday's a month between one and two pm at a cottage in Westerham Hill to register births and deaths. The alternative would be to travel to Bromley to visit the Town Hall.
The transcription of this volume has been a fascinating glimpse into Aperfield (Biggin Hill)'s early twentieth century history