The real Hook’s Farm on old maps

Following up my blog post about H.G. Wells’ childhood battles in his head in the late 1860s and early 1870s across the wild spaces of Bromley, recaptured in his Little Wars floor games and garden games of the Battle of Hook’s Farm,

“The land was still mainly used for farming, divided up principally between Hook Farm to the west of Bromley Common, situated in the location of what is today the car park of Norman Park, and Turpington Farm to the east, close to the junction of Crown Lane and Turpington Lane.

Hook Farm was owned by the Norman family of The Rookery, and Turpington Farm belonged to the Wells family of Southborough Lodge (both of these residences are now destroyed).”

I have looked through more maps of the real Hook’s Farm in Bromley. Firely Church still eludes me.

Close up shows the Hook’s Farm terrain, ridges and higher ground more clearly – 1857.

This 1857 map is from the Longbourne Collection, Bromley Borough Local History Society

There are other mapping programmes or websites that allow you get an idea of the lie of the land as H.G. Wells saw it as an imaginative child General H.G.W. and as you can see it now.

Although the Bromley Local History site maps are placed online, it is worth pointing out that I do not own the copyright of any of these maps – I am sharing screen shots for research purposes, not commercial gain.

Hook’s Farm is where the Norman Park car park can now be found – mid centre of the map.

Norman Park the site of Hook’s Farm has a Google Street View panorama

and scanning around such Street View images I spot a distant spire – Firely Church? I can’t pinpoint it on a modern map or know if it was there in late Victorian times but here is a church, visible just the same roughly from where Hook’s Farm was located.

Screen shot of a Google Street View panorama showing a spire – Firely Church?

Norman Park also has a Wikipedia entry,_Bromley

and a photograph by Mike Quinn of a modern wooden bridge over the Ravensbourne stream, surely a contested military objective?

see also

I have yet to find a photograph of the old Hook’s Farm. Here is what it really looks like inside H.G. Well’s head and house in Little Wars 1913 wooden block form, Firely Church to the left, Hook’s Farm on the right ridge. The Ravensbourne stream is not marked.

Hooks Farm is now ‘Norman Park‘ and the demolished Farm is now a parking area. The restaging of Hooks Farm or a Little Wars centenary game in 2013 that was fought on the lawns of Sandhurst might have been a very different affair on a commandeered Bromley car park.

You can see in the wider Google satellite map how the Martin’s Hill site of many imaginary battles is still part of a green slice or wedge off to the South of Bromley through to the Norman Park Hook’s Farm site and on to Bromley Common and off the map, Keston Fish Ponds or Pool, mentioned in Wells’ battle narrative.

Nice to know from the Google maps overlay of businesses that not only the old Hook’s Farm site is now a place of leisure and hopefully imaginative play and Wide Games but that on the corner of Hook’s Farm Road is a nursery, hopefully full of imaginative play with wooden blocks and small world figures.

One excellent site is the National Library of Scotland website allows you to look at the same place or grid reference on a range of maps over time – it works for your home, where you grew up and for looking up places like Hook’s Farm.

Thanks to Bromley Common and the other Bromley parks there is still a leafy edge that the young H.G. Wells might recognise, despite 150 years of building and suburban infill. The Ravensbourne Stream can be clearly seen.

The Battle of Hook’s Farm – where geography meets ImagiNations?

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 28 February 2021


13 thoughts on “The real Hook’s Farm on old maps”

  1. I am very glad the Centenary game wasn’t in a car park as I fear knee pads were not in the dress code! Another interesting post and I continue to be intrigued by the church and its enigmatic name. Thanks for the maps heads up, I will revisit my childhood homes and current ones too.


  2. Loving the old maps , it’s sad how much of the U.K. has been lost to urban sprawl , but that church spire could be the inspiration for Firely Church . Cheers Tony


  3. A quick perusal of the online maps suggests that the spire probably belongs to St Lukes, situated on Bromley Common (the road rather than the area), built 1886. Intriguing! I must not get sucked in…


    1. Thanks for this – this puts it into the rough dates of Wells early life to have been a church on the horizon. I know Firely Church and Hooks Farm are places on his mental Games map but, like looking at his landscapes such as Horsell Common in Wars of the Worlds, it give you an idea of the lie of the landscapes that he knew and was using in his writing and Games.


  4. Fireflies were very common still at that time, my late mother would talk of fireflies flowing in the dark.
    She came from Harpenden, and played in The Common, would guess the same type of land surrounded Firefly Church?
    Ps marvellous blog, enjoy it immensely.


      1. Yes so in agreement re. predictive text dsy!
        Another thought on that nsme, could it be local dialect? farelee? Farley? Fareleigh?
        I was born in Harpenden, and some of the older locals called it Ardenun or something similar, a stranger would have had difficulty for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

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