LITTLE DENNY BOTTOM MEADOW
The earliest legal mention we have of this parcel of land is in some deeds provided by Ruth and David Turvey of Little Meadow Cottage (below) in Apsley Street. These record a contract dated 17 August 1687 between John Jeffery and Robert Baker, who leased the plot for 1,000 years off Jeffery for a payment of £300 plus annual rent of one peppercorn.
The £300 was never paid apparently, so the lease returned to Jeffery, who sold it on. By the 1870s it was in the hands of a Wightwick family who seem to have spotted the building potential and carved it up into useful plots. Four 'messes or dwellinghouses' which had recently been built (the last four houses in Apsley Street) were sold to a hosier called Charles Harwood for £475. No mention is made of peppercorns but he was required to let two Wightwick spinsters live on in one house for life at a rent of one shilling a year. At that time Apsley Street took a sharp left turn to run past the front of the terrace but, as with several other tracks in Denny Bottom, this was discreetly cut off and so the front doors have now become the back.
The rest of the Meadow became a continuation of Upper Street sometime in the 1880s or 90s, and there is still some confusion about which street is which. Deliveries and even the post often end up in the wrong place. But what one really wonders is: are we all supposed to be paying peppercorns to someone? And are they (or their descendants, of course) going to come along anyway and claim the properties back in the year 2,687?
There is something of more immediate interest to local residents however, in the light of continuing claims by the Manor of Rusthall that we owe them for access to our properties. The conveyance for 26 July 1888 appears to show that the ends of Upper and Apsley Streets belong to John Jeffery's original bit of land, and are not part of the Common. If so, and if the same is true for other houses in Apsley Street, then the Conservators have no claim, but we need someone able to unravel the legal jargon to prove this.
However this may not be necessary. When Lionel and Ursula Bennett of 13 Upper Street were threatened with court action by the Manor for not paying the access fee, they did some research and came up with a useful piece of law that seems to show that the claim would not stand up in court. Certainly the Manor didn't try to test it because they dropped the case. The Bennetts are happy to show the paperwork to anyone interested.