History of North Cray

This small village on the River Cray near the Old Maidstone Road was given to Bishop Odo (c.1030 – 1097), the half brother of William the Conqueror, along with nearby Ruxley as part of the Domesday Survey in 1086.

During the reign of Richard I (1157 – 1199) the manor of Ruxley (including North Cray) came into the possession of the Rokesle family.

The two parishes of North Cray and Ruxley were united in 1557 when the hamlet of Ruxley with its church was abandoned.

From such inauspicious beginnings North Cray became almost a private estate for the wealthy. By the beginning of the 18th century large houses with magnificent ornate gardens lined the banks of the River Cray. Houses such as North Cray Place, Loring Hall and Vale Mascal were owned by people like Lord Castlereagh (Chief Secretary for Ireland 1798 – 1801 and Foreign Secretary 1812 – 22) and Lord Vansittart (Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1930 – 38).

Perhaps the most important house in the area was North Cray Place (formerly Pike Place). The earliest reference to it is in 1738, when the house was sold to Jeffry Hetherington whose descendants were clergymen at St James’s Church. The house was demolished in 1962 and the site used by Sidcup and Chislehurst Urban District Council for the North Cray Housing Estate.

But many of the other historic buildings in North Cray remain, despite the building of a dual carriageway through the heart of the village in 1968. It was during the construction of this road that a medieval hall house was discovered. The house was taken down and re-erected at the Weald and Downland Museum in the Sussex countryside near Chichester.

The Church of St James is essentially 19th-century, although it is thought that a small church stood on the site as far back as Saxon times. The nave of the current church was built in 1850 – 52, the chancel in 1871 and the tower in 1857.

The area had its own school from 1777. The surviving school and schoolhouse, formerly North Cray National School but now owned privately, were built in 1860.

Foots Cray Meadows were formed from the part of the combined estates of Foots Cray and North Cray Places and these were linked by Five Arches Bridge, built in 1782 as part of a major redesigning of the gardens thought to have been carried out by Capability Brown (1715 – 83).

The village retains much of its character, especially in the area around The White Cross pub and Loring Hall.

See historic maps of North Cray