The History of Stansted, Fairseat, and Vigo
The timeline presentation below highlights significant events, news, and milestones for the area encompassing the villages of Stansted, Fairseat, and Vigo. For detailed histories of the individual villages please select from the links below. A timeline history of World War I and those commemorated on the Stansted War Memorial is also available, together with a local history video produced featuring children from Stansted School. The ‘Parish Notes’ link will open a page where previous issues of the local Parish Magazine are available.
In the Domesday Book of 1086 Stansted was part of the ‘Hundred of Wrotham’ which is recorded as having 90 villagers, 19 smallholders, 20 slaves and 12 cottagers.
A ‘chapel at Stanstede’ is first explicitly mentioned in the Textus Roffensis which was compiled between 1122 and 1124 from earlier Anglo-Saxon documents. A manor existed in Fairseat on a site near the present-day Telecommunications Centre, Crabtree Close, together with a windmill and iron smelting bloomery.
The Manor of Stansted was a borough of Wrotham in the reign of King Henry III and was in the possession of the Grapinell family. Soranks Manor, not the present building in Fairseat, existed in the 13th century.
Stansted church is not included in the list of churches contributing to the “Taxation” of Pope Nicholas IV made between 1288 and 1291 so it was probably still a chapel at that time.
The church was completely rebuilt in the 14th century and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Stansted next appears in the documentary record in 1312, when John de Hynton took refuge there. In 1316 the right to hold a fair on Assumption Day was granted suggesting that this was a prosperous period.
John Walgrave cast two bells for St Mary’s Church sometime between 1418 and 1440. One of which is thought to be the oldest bell within the district, it bears a Latin inscription which translated means 'His name is John'.
The ‘Upper Drovers Inn’ was established in the early 1470s on the crossroads to Trottiscliffe, this inn was later to become the Vigo Inn.
In 1560 John Hudsull (cf. Hodsoll), of Stansted, a yeoman, was indicted for robbery; there were cases of highway robbery in 1581, 1584, and in 1588. Thomas Potter, a butcher, was hanged for stealing sheep from Stansted farmers. In 1593 Joan Foster was acquitted of murdering three people by witchcraft, two of them were members of the Wolden family. This may well be the Woddin family, whose memorials can be found at St Mary’s Church.
In the turbulent times of the Civil War, the division of loyalties was particularly intense in Kent and divided the gentry in the area. Sir John Sedley of St Clere, a Roundhead, was at loggerheads with many of his neighbours, such as the Rayneys of Wrotham. In 1643, the moderate anti-parliamentarian forces set up their headquarters at Wrotham and made efforts to appease the extremists. In 1647 an Act of Parliament created Stansted as an ecclesiastical parish and the church became a separate parish church. At the restoration of King Charles II, in 1660, the Church of England was restored and St. Mary’s reverted to a Chapel of ease to the church of Wrotham where it remained until the middle of the 19th century.
The ‘Upper Drovers’ was renamed the ‘Vigo Inn’. It is thought that it was given its present name by a sailor returning from the 1702 Battle of Vigo Bay. In the early 1700s, Mr. John Cox purchased an estate on the summit of the hill from Sir Roger Twisden, added a “characteristically early Georgian” façade to a much earlier farmhouse, and called his new residence, the present manor house, ‘Fairseat’. The area was historically called ‘Farsee’ from the pleasantness and extensiveness of its situation. At this time, the principal inhabited area in the parish seems to shift to Fairseat from being near to the church in Stansted, presumably because of its proximity to the Gravesend - Wrotham Road.
In the first official census of 1841, the population of Stansted Parish is recorded as being 427. There were four publicans: James Bodiam (Horse and Groom), Harriet Goodwin (Anchor and Hope), Jeremiah Jeal (Vigo Inn) and Thomas Skudder (Black Horse). In 1825 a law was passed allowing the building of toll roads and shortly after the Gravesend to Wrotham toll road was established. Opposite the Vigo Inn, on the site now occupied by Wychendene, stood a tollhouse and tollgate. In the 1870s Sir Sidney Waterlow purchased large areas of land including the village of Fairseat, a good proportion of Stansted, together with land from Wrotham to Meopham. In 1887 he built Trosley Towers on the crest of the escarpment to the east of Trottiscliffe Road. 1874 saw the opening of a primary school in what is now Malthouse Road and in 1883 St Mary’s church was restored.
The 1901 census records the population as being 341 (a decrease of 31 in the previous 10 years). In 1912 the children of Ada Berry of Fairseat built four homes for the aged in Tumblefield Road. Sixty-four men from the Parish served overseas during World War 1 and an illuminated panel in the Stansted church lists all the names. Fifteen men with strong connections to the villages lost their lives during the conflict and biographies of each of the fallen are available in the ‘People>Memorials’ section of the website.
After the end of World War I, Sir Gerald Hohler of Court Lodge Farm offered to provide the site of a drovers’ pond at the foot of Windmill Hill for a permanent memorial. Sir Gerald’s brother Thomas was familiar with the work of Alajos Strobl (1856–1926), one of Europe’s finest sculptors. Sir Thomas commissioned a statue based on a life-sized palm bearer and this was erected on a large plinth and unveiled in July 1923 by Colonel William Pitt of Fairseat House. The Memorial bears the words of Kipling’s Recessional and the names of the fallen.
The Church of the Holy Innocents at Fairseat, known as Fairseat Chapel, was built in 1930 by Sir Phillip Hickson Waterlow, in memory of his wife, his father, his mother, and other relatives who lived in Fairseat. A year later his own funeral took place at the Chapel. In early May 1936, the Duke of York opened Margaret McMillan House on land between the Gravesend Road and Fairseat Lane. This was the first purpose-built outdoor centre in the UK and was created in memory of Margaret McMillan who had died in 1931. In 1939, the last year before World War II, mains electricity was provided to Fairseat by the Kent Electric Power Company.
In the villages, certain changes were evident from 1939: a Home Guard was formed under the leadership of Hugh Pasteur from Fairseat and air raid shelters were constructed - including a brick-built one at Stansted school with a reinforced concrete roof. It is not known how many people from the Parish served during World War 2 but the names of six men who lost their lives are recorded on the War Memorial. 1942 saw the start of the development of the Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU), or Wrotham Camp, on what was originally the Waterlow family estate and which would later be developed as Vigo Village. The recorded population of Stansted Parish had increased from 341 in 1901 to 537 in 1951, a 57% rise in 50 years.
In 1962 planning consent for the development of Vigo Village was granted with the first residents taking occupancy in 1965. Fairseat Village Hall was erected in 1963 and Stansted Village Hall followed two or three years later. Hugh Pasteur, from Fairseat, was instrumental in the provision of both buildings.
Between 1969 and 1970 Malling RDC provided mains sewerage to Fairseat and this was extended in part to Stansted in 1976 and completed in 1981.
In 1982 a Pastoral Order established the parish of ‘Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo’, served by St Mary the Virgin Church Stansted, Holy Innocents Church Fairseat, and Vigo Church. The Great Storm arrived in October 1987 and many people will remember Sevenoaks losing six of the trees that gave the town its name. Fairseat was completely cut off by fallen trees and was without electricity or telephone for 5 to 7 days and there was significant damage to the trees Trosley Country Park. In 1992 Whitechapel Bell Foundry augmented the bells of St Mary’s Church to six with three new trebles and a bell ringers gallery was added.
On October 15th 2015 a new extension to St Mary’s church, ‘the Cloisters’, was officially opened and consecrated by the Bishop of Rochester. Sadly Stansted school was closed as a mainstream primary school in August 2015, the school having served the community since 1874. In November 2018 an exhibition was held to mark the centenary of the end of World War One, there were over 600 visitors during the week of the Exhibition and the material is to be used to produce a booklet for all households in the three villages. In April 2019 the Stansted and Faiseat Society was resurrected and this website was developed. In September 2019 the old primary school premises were reopened as an annexe to Grange Park School, Wrotham.
At the beginning of 2020, Covid 19 struck and normal village life was suspended for most of the following two years due to the various legal restrictions on public contact. By February 2022 the vaccination programme had become effective and normal events started again.