Aperfield, Bromley

Much of what is now Biggin Hill was once known as Aperfield – and some maps still refer to the eastern side of the district by this name

Hidden London: The Aperfield Cedar, Aperfield Road
The Aper­field Cedar

Orig­i­nal­ly Appul­dre (‘apple tree’), this place’s name grew to Apul­drefeld (‘apple tree field’) and then con­tract­ed to its present form.

Like much of what is now out­er-south-east Lon­don, the estate was giv­en by William the Con­queror to his broth­er, Bish­op Odo of Bayeux. Two cen­turies lat­er lord of the manor Hen­ry de Apul­drefeld obtained the right to hold a fair and mar­ket here.

In the 17th cen­tu­ry Aper­field was in the pos­ses­sion of the Earl of Sus­sex, who leased it to a wid­ow named Ann Brasi­er. The manor’s last own­er was Fred­er­ick Hen­ry Dou­gal of Wandsworth, who bought it at auc­tion in 1895. He divid­ed his new prop­er­ty into small plots, which he sold cheap­ly in 1901, set­ting in train the dis­joint­ed cre­ation of Big­gin Hill. Dou­gal died in 1905.

At the cen­tre of the manor stood Aper­field Court, a sec­ond-rate man­sion with a first-rate tree of bib­li­cal pro­por­tions in its gar­den. The prop­er­ty was req­ui­si­tioned by the War Office in 1917 and a pow­er­ful wire­less trans­mit­ter was installed in the grounds for com­mu­ni­ca­tions with fight­er planes fly­ing out of Big­gin Hill aero­drome.

The wider dis­trict had no col­lec­tive iden­ti­ty at first. The ham­let of Big­gin Hill was focused on the Black Horse Inn and the junc­tion of Main Road with Jail Lane while neigh­bour­ing Aper­field lay a short dis­tance to the south, extend­ing south-east­wards from the junc­tion of Main Road with what became Church Road after the first incar­na­tion of St Mark’s was erect­ed. As the sub­urb expand­ed in all direc­tions between the wars, maps began to show Big­gin Hill as the name of the whole place, with Aper­field as a sub­sidiary local­i­ty.

Aper­field Court was demol­ished in 1920. “The house of Aper­field is not long van­ished: among the des­o­late rem­nants of its demesne there sur­vives one majes­tic conifer which should be allowed immu­ni­ty against the assaults of bun­ga­low-plot­ters,” wrote Osbert and Eleanor Howarth in their His­to­ry of Dar­win’s Parish in 1933. And lo, it came to pass that this cedar of Lebanon was saved. It now finds itself locat­ed on Aper­field Road, as shown in the pho­to­graph above and marked by a big pink pin on the map below. In 1998 the Aper­field Cedar became one of the inau­gur­al ‘great trees of Lon­don’, which were cho­sen to receive com­mem­o­ra­tive green plaques in a scheme intend­ed to recog­nise and pro­tect the capital’s arbo­re­al her­itage.

The Aper­field Inn (which only recent­ly adopt­ed this name) stands a mile to the south-east of what was once the vil­lage of Aper­field, in the local­i­ty var­i­ous­ly known as South Street or West­er­ham Hill – or as an exten­sion of Big­gin Hill or West­er­ham. The pub­’s sign fea­tures the Aper­field Cedar.

Postcode area: Westerham TN16
Bing bird’s eye view: the Aperfield Cedar
Further reading: The Great Trees of London, Time Out Guides, 2010
* The picture of the Aperfield Cedar on this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Rose Atkinson, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.