Hayes (Kent) History

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Hayes (Kent) History

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The Walnut Tree
45 Hayes Street
Grade II Listed Building
Late 18th Century

For over two centuries the Walnut Tree served the village of Hayes, initially as a baker’s and then as a confectioner’s and newsagent’s until 2003 when it closed. It became residential accommodation. 

The National Grade II listing in 1973  refers to the building as late 18th to early 19th century.
2 storeys weatherboarded. Hipped tiled roof. 2 casements on first floor. Ground floor has 2 curved bow windows and a central doorcase with flat wooden weatherhood on brackets. 1 storey addition to rear.

Early history 
As early as 1763 William Dalton, a baker, used this property and when it came up for sale in 1789 it was described as all that messuage and bakehouse, yard, garden and stable in the tenure of William Dalton in Hayes Street’. It was bought by the Roberts family and remained in the ownership of that family until 1841 when it was sold to George Norman of Bromley Common. By this time the baker was James Whitby and the property was known as Whitby’s.

James Whitby was still there in 1871 at the age of 66 but by 1879 had been replaced by Alfred Nicholls. He expanded the business  and described himself as a a corn dealer and baker. He also sold coal. In 1892 he made a 21 years lease with A C Norman for the house and shop at a yearly rent of £71.

20th century
The total value of the property was estimated at £1150 in 1910.

The house was described as a ‘very old timber brick and slated shop and premises.  Small, inconvenient, containing on 1st floor 3 bedrooms no bath or WC. Ground floor small shop, kitchen, parlour, scullery and store. Buildings at rear (a) 2 stall stabling and coach house (b) timber and corrugated iron hay store (c) brick built and slated etc. with loft’.

In 1912 Ernest Sidney Poynter, son of the blacksmith Frederick Poynter, returned to Hayes and opened a tobacconist’s in the centre of the village. Four years later he transferred this business to the Walnut Tree where he remained for over 14 years. He was elected to the Bromley Rural District Council in 1924. He left Hayes in 1930 and was replaced by Leslie Sturgess and Harry Smalley. 

Peter and Eileen Sheath ran the business from 1937 and remained until the late 1960s. Bomb damage to the roof of the property in the Second World War was repaired with a very visible V for victory sign. Sadly, later improvements have removed this iconic sign.  

The Sheaths bought the freehold of the property from the Rookery Estate in 1953 for £3750. None of their family wished to take over the business and therefore Stuart Lettis who had worked with them since he was a young boy became the next shopkeeper. The final owners from 1984 – 2003 were Mr and Mrs Dunsmore.

Closure of shop and conversion to a dwelling house

The house and the various outbuildings were sold for residential development. The shop fittings in the Walnut Tree were removed, the rooms modernised and a conservatory added. It  was bought by Simon and Sarah Butler who lived there from 2006 until 2021.