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12 February 2018

LOCAL CONSERVATION AREAS - Part 3 Foots Cray

The Foots Cray Conservation Area was designated in 1998 and formally approved in 2008.

People travelling through Foots Cray on their way to or from Sidcup might, at first, see little to justify its status as a Conservation Area apart from noticing the Seven Stars inn beside the River Cray, a group of Tudor cottages and a distinctive terrace of red-brick houses at the corner of Rectory Lane. But there is more to Foots Cray than this.

The Conservation Area lies at the busy junction of Sidcup Hill/Foots Cray High Street and Rectory Lane/Cray Road, and its boundary encompasses the historic core of the village, including those areas which retain the village character or the original development form. This, and its commercial/retail mix, is key to the area's varied character, where the historic street pattern and the River Cray remains and defines its layout. An important feature is its visual character, with its trees along the River Cray and Rectory Lane together with the sound of flowing water and the many historic buildings.

Foots Cray originated as a Saxon settlement, and its name is derived from Godwin Fot, an Anglo-Saxon landowner with a farmstead in the vicinity. At the time of the Domesday Book this estate was referred to as having a farm, eight villagers and four cottagers and a water mill. The village evolved due to its location on the main London to Maidstone road and, in later years, the adjacent country estate of Pike Place, later Foots Cray Place. Another important factor was its location on crossroads. One road led to Orpington along the Cray Valley, and roads to St Mary Cray, Blendon and Bromley were established by the 15th century; but the village tended to develop on the main road, with cottages spreading along Church Avenue (now Rectory Lane). As suburbia expanded and the use of motor cars increased, a bypass was built to take through traffic out of Sidcup and Foots Cray; and industries developed and encroached on the historic centre of Foots Cray; but, within its suburban setting, Foots Cray has retained much of its village character.

The last water mill at Foots Cray was an important building. Built in 1767 it was used for paper making and provided much local employment (by 1851 employing 110 adults and 60 children), It was demolished in 1929, but its site, to the north of the Seven Stars, retains part of the original old mill pond.

Important landmarks are indeed the Seven Stars (part 16th century), where stage coaches called in on their way to and from London and Maidstone; the Tudor Cottages (late 15th or early 16th century) and Belgrave Place (Nos. 180 to 188 Rectory Lane) built in 1737. Others include Harenc School in Rectory Lane (rebuilt in 1883), with its bell tower; Foots Cray's War Memorial close by; and The Old House (No. 170 Rectory Lane), built in the 1820s and believed to incorporate an earlier Tudor structure.

That part of the Conservation Area to the west of the bridge over the River Cray will cease to be part of our ward in May 2018 when it will be reduced in size to become the new St Marys and St James ward, combining North Cray with Old Bexley and Coldblow.

The complete Area Appraisal and Management Plan for the Foots Cray Conservation Area can be seen by following this Link