Holmesdale Road, TW9

Place Name

As with Branstone Road and Lichfield Road, this remembers one of the Selwyn family’s former estates. In this case in Chislehurst, Kent, where the Selwyn’s were neighbours of the Amherst family, owners of more than 4,000 acres known as the Vale of Holmesdale which was found between Sevenoaks and Dorking, the North Downs and the Kentish Weald. It was from these estates that the Amhersts took their title Baron Holmesdale, which was first awarded to Field Marshal Jeffery Amherst, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in the British Army. Amherst is credited as the architect of Britain’s successful campaign to conquer the territory of New France (in Canada) during the Seven Years’ War. Under his command, British forces captured the cities of Louisbourg, Quebec City and Montreal, as well as several major fortresses. His legacy is controversial due to his plan to exterminate the race of indigenous people during Pontiac’s War, and his advocacy of biological warfare in the form of gifting blankets infected with smallpox as a weapon, notably at the Siege of Fort Pitt. This has led to a reconsideration of his legacy. In 2019, the city of Montreal removed his name from a street. His nephew William Pitt Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst, was a British diplomat and colonial administrator. He was Governor-General of India between 1823 and 1828. Both his sons inherited the courtesy title of Viscount Holmesdale and were contemporaries of Charles William Selwyn at Eton, in the Guards, and the House of Commons. David Blomfield in Kew Past explains the economics at the time of development: “For centuries, this land had made fair profits from supplying London with cereal crops, though the profits were smaller than those of the market gardens around West Hall. Then, from the 1840s the Selwyns’ tenant farmers’ incomes began to fall sharply. With the spread of the railways, food was being brought into London cheaply from far afield. They seem to have switched to market gardening, and then to orchards in an effort to find a product that was still in short supply, but to no avail. The farmers’ plight was typical of what was now happening everywhere along the banks of the lower Thames – as the tenants’ profits dropped, and they found it harder to pay their rents, the owners were tempted by offers from developers. The Selwyns were typical too of the owners of such sites. They might live on the property – in their case in the family home of Selwyn Court (formerly Pagoda Hosue) – but they were not themselves farmers.”


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