|Post town:||Tunbridge Wells|
Southborough is a village in Kent, immediately to the north of Tunbridge Wells. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 11,124. The town is within the High Weald "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty".
After the Norman Conquest, the area came within the domain of Tonbridge Castle, one of 4 boroughs to do so, and this was the South Borough, hence its name.
Arrowheads and stone axe heads provide evidence of prehistoric habitation of Southborough while burial sites from both the Bronze and Iron Ages have also been unearthed. The site of the Castle Hill Iron Age Fort, dating back to 315 BC, lies in the Eastern valley. Routes linking other forts are still part of the town's road network. Little is then known about the district until the Norman Conquest as it was the most sparsely populated part of the Weald due to the almost impenetrable forest.
Richard Fitz Gilbert (later de Clare) was rewarded for his part in the conquest with land; one such grant was the Lowey of Tunbridge, an area of land equating with the holdings of a manor, which covered some 20,660 acres on the Weald and across the River Medway valley. He was also granted the right to build a castle at Tonbridge.
The Manor of Southborough was one part of the Lowey. Over the following seven hundred years it had a chequered history. After Richard de Clare, it was held by the Audley and Stafford families until 1521, when Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, was beheaded on Tower Hill and the estates reverted to the Crown. Henry VIII gave the estate (now separated from Tonbridge) to George Boleyn, brother of Anne Boleyn, whose fate he also suffered. It was then passed to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who later exchanged it for other estates. Under Elizabeth I it had again reverted to the Crown: she bestowed it on Sir Richard Sackville who sold it to Thomas Smythe of Westernhanger. He was commonly known as Customer Smythe, a "farmer" of the collection of customs and excise dues. In 1790 when Lady Smythe died the Manor was split up and sold; the Manor House of Great Bounds and the Manorial rights being purchased by the Earl of Darnley who in turn parted with it to James Alexander.
The whole area was part of the Royal forest of Southfrith until about the middle of the 16th century, reserved by royalty for hunting. The settlement consisted of a number of isolated hamlets including Nonsuch Green, Holden Corner, Modest Corner and a few houses near the Common. High Brooms was a desolate tract inhabited by Romany Gypsies.
From 1639, lodging houses appeared in Southborough to accommodate visitors to the newly discovered chalybeate spring at The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells. During the reign of King Charles I, the Cavalier faction tended to stay at Southborough, whilst nearby Rusthall tended to attract visitors from the Roundhead (puritan) faction.
Iron had been worked in the area since prehistoric times, since the underlying rock (the iron-rich sandstone of the Hastings Beds which make up the Weald) provided the raw material. From the mid-16th century onwards there were a number of water-powered furnaces on the two streams running through the town: one at Modest Corner; and three on the Southborough Bourne. The latter included the Vauxhall Furnace, operating from at least 1552, near Mote Farm in what is now Vauxhall Lane: and the Brook (Broakes) Mill opened in 1553. The rock was dug from "bell pits", and iron smelted here was worked at a forge nearby.
The forges probably continued working until the 18th century when the making of iron became uneconomical and in 1771 the sites were taken over for gunpowder manufacturing hence the name Powder Mill Lane. The mill blew up shortly afterwards but was replaced and continued manufacturing gunpowder. By 1845 a cornmill had been erected on the site, which continued in operation until 1942 when it was demolished. There are now no traces of any industrial workings on the site.
Apart from that heavy industrial employment, people in Southborough were mainly occupied in Agriculture, Textiles and Transport: trades such as Blacksmiths, Coachbuilders and Harness makers.
With cricket being played on the common, it is perhaps logical that the town became renowned for the manufacture of cricket balls. The first recorded makers were Philip Wickham and Joseph Smith of Modest Corner and many other cricket ball makers set up business including Thomas Twort and John Martin in 1853.
Southborough began to expand rapidly from 1879 when the Holden Estate was sold and laid out to accommodate 165 new dwellings. The High Brooms Brick and Tile Company started to build houses for its employees and the area expanded: it is now an industrial estate.
The Common of Southborough (now owned by the Town Council) has always been part of the Manorial Holding. It was originally around 30 acres larger but between 1790 and 1810 portions were enclosed so that the total area now is 71 acres.
In 2003, the whole area of the Common — a conservation area — was the subject of an appraisal by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. The appraisal report seeks to retain the historical significance of the Common and its immediate area.
Cricket has been played on the Common for over 200 years.
Southborough has long been associated with sport. Cricket has been played on the common for over 200 years, as well as being a centre for cricket ball manufacture. Southborough has three football clubs, the largest of these is Ridgewaye FC.
Ridgewaye FC formed in 1995. It is the largest youth organisation in Southborough having 320 members in 2011. It has been an FA Charter Standard Development Club for the past eight years [since January 2003] . The membership consists of boys and girls aged from six to eighteen years of age who train of Saturday mornings at the Ridgewaye fields, off Yew Tree Road, Southborough.
- The Southborough Society (The civic, heritage and amenity society for Southborough)