|South Darenth shown within Kent|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||South East Coast|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
South Darenth is a village in the civil parish of Horton Kirby and South Darenth in the Sevenoaks District of Kent, England. The village is located on the right bank of the Darent, south of Dartford and east of Swanley. According to the 2011 Census the population is included in the civil parish named above.
South Darenth is served by Arriva Kent bus service 414 that connects the village with Dartford and Horton Kirby. The closest rail link is Farningham Road station. The A225 road passes to the west of the village, connecting it to nearby Dartford.
South Darenth boasts a supermarket, a bakery, a newsagent, a hairdresser and a post office/pharmacy, as well as three public houses: the Jolly Millers on East Hill, The Queen on New Road and The Bridges on the corner of Horton Road and Station Road, which is run by former wrestler Wayne Bridges. The small retained fire station has now closed. The village hosts a small brewery on St Margaret's Farm, called Millis, which supplies some of the pubs in the surrounding area. The South Darenth Village Society organises a number of events, often in conjunction with neighboring Horton Kirby. An Independent Travel Agency operates from Willow Cottage in the center of the village. The paper mill, which defines the village, was closed in February 2003 and is now a redevelopment of 210 homes and four new businesses: Chris Parry Handmade Jewellery, The Mill Osteopath Clinic, Bow Beauty Salon, and The Co-operative Food.
The village history is quite recent due to the fact of the Horton Kirby paper mill originally built in 1820 by Henry Hall. Before the mills there were only a few farms and some small cottages for workers including a forge. The mill was first a flour mill less than half of the size of the mill today and employed a handful of local people. Some years later the mill was converted into a paper making mill which took up a much larger area, and also gave way to a small tunnel which gave a diverted route for the river darent which runs through the site. The paper produced was said to be a good quality, used for magazines an copying plans. Towards the end of the 19th century the mill was expanding with a boiler house and the iconic chimney built in 1881. The chimney is Grade 2 listed, as well as 2 other listed buildings (workhouses) in the site, one now the local co-operative Food. In 1918 an extra 70 ft of circular Stock was added to the chimney made of mostly red brick to ensure that emissions escaped from the valley. Houses were needed for the workers, so small terraced houses were built (mill cottages and the bottom half of new road.) The mill later closed fully in February 2003.
The viaduct and railway, which runs to the south of the village is a main connection to Kent and the Capital. Built in 1859-60, it has 10 arches each approximately 10meters wide and 20meters in height (above water level.) Arch 2 goes over a foot path where arch 3 spans across the Horton road, the 6th across the river Darent and the 8th over a small road leading to the industrial estate. The viaduct was designed by Victorian architect Joseph Cubitt, known for designing Blackfriars railway bridge further up the line (over the Thames.) It was built by teams of the Irish 'navvies' for the London, Chatham and Dover railway. Nowadays the viaduct carries around 100 trains and some freight trains to and from London. Farningham road station to the west of the village was built and opened in December 1860. In the early/mid 20th century the station had some sidings in the chalk cutouts as well as a water tank removed in 1939 and finally a signal box put in place 1886.
The Farningham home for little boys opened a year later in 1967 with 11 buildings and one main building housing many boys aged around 6-16yrs old. The chapel (standing on high ground) once had a spire but was destroyed in the great storm of 1987. It was built for the homes and its foundation stone was laid by the princess of Wales on 7 July 1866. The homes were in closed in 1976 but reopened as Southdowns retirement homes in 1978 with around 160-70 residents and a couple of nurses on duty.
Farms partially surround the village in the fields and hop fields produce hops to the local brewery's. Much of the area is part of the green belt land making planning permission tricky for people.
At the end of the 20th century there were big protests about the proposed HS1 passing across the north downs, ruining the Kentish countryside. The newly formed South Darenth and Horton Kirby rail action group had lots of support from the local communities after a new line running through the village was proposed. The plan was for the new viaduct to pass parallel to the existing line destroying hundreds of houses along new road and Horton road. After many protests both local and in London finally stopped the line in the nick of time and was diverted into Thurrock into St Pancras station, London. The village had to put up with HS1 and Eurostar trains running over the original line into London Waterloo station for a few years until section 2 was built.
The fire station
The village has had a fire station for over 100yrs. It first served the paper mill with a small truck for the area and in case of a fire in the mill. After a few years a small fire station was built in the center of the village which served the local communities with a horse and cart. When the villages grew the crews also grew bigger and new fire engines to suit the problems it faced. The fire crew has a well known presence in the schools and local youth groups as well as attending village fetes. They had an 1/2 annually car wash have done many other charity events.
The station has been threatened by closure 2 times before within the last 40yrs. The first time caused protests and much community support and lead to the station being safe for the next 30yrs. More recently KFRS (Kent.Fire&Rescue.Service) proposed to close the station again in 2012 bringing back the slogan 'Save Our Station' or SOS. After meetings with the local communities and KFRS as well as thousands signing a petition, intervention with the local press and some other events the community and parish really came together. Unfortunately after more than a century of firefighting in the area the station was closed to budget cuts at the end of 2013. The event was marked by a ceremony with local residents and councilors attending the get-together at the station.
Media related to South Darenth at Wikimedia Commons