The key characteristics of Tatsfield can be said to be:
- its semi-rural status as a Defined Village within the Green Belt
- the sense that the village marks the transition between town and country and looks out to open countryside from the North Downs
- the initial impact of the village scene at its centre
- its strong links with the natural environment, as shown by well-used village greens, mature trees and innumerable shaws and hedgerows; and conversely, the spaces between them; as well as the network of footpaths, bridleways and unmade roads which criss-cross the village
- its role as a natural wildlife habitat for a number of species
- its unique community spirit and the diversity of its built environment
- its economic profile and its range of property values and how these can be influenced by the planning process
- the adequacy of infrastructure and utilities to service existing housing as well as new accommodation and the effect of development on Tatsfield's mix of metalled and unmade roads
Tatsfield can trace its origins back a thousand years or more. In the Domesday Book of 1086, the Normans recorded that they had inherited from Saxon England a scattering of farmsteads in what was then known as Tatelefelle with perhaps only two dozen inhabitants. That figure had risen to only 100 by the year 1725. It was only in the late 1800s, as Londoners began to look outside the capital for places to live and wealthier landowners began to break up their estates into hundreds of small building plots that numbers began to rise significantly.
Development was encouraged as plans were announced for new railway lines. Several schemes would have meant running a line through the North Downs under Tatsfield but the only local one to be built was between Woldingham and Oxted. The only one intended to serve Tatsfield itself was the Orpington, Cudham and Tatsfield Light Railway. This was given the go-ahead in 1898 with its terminus where Tatsfield School is now sited, but the promoters were not able to raise the money needed. A further scheme in the late 1920s, the Southern Heights Light Railway, would have extended the 1898 proposal to connect Tatsfield by rail with Sanderstead, but that too failed to get enough backing.
Nevertheless, the prospect of better transport links with London helped Tatsfield expand into a modest village with 600 residents by 1901. Some people decided to buy land on which to build a family home. Others took advantage of the potentially greater accessibility of the village to have a plot or two on which to plant fruit trees or erect simple summer weekend accommodation. From these beginnings came the wide variety of building styles and Tatsfield’s 21st century character.
The village lies within the Green Belt at one of the highest points on the North Downs with extensive views across the south to the Kentish Weald. At its northern tip is a buffer zone with the London Borough of Bromley, where a transition is made between the countryside and the suburban expansion of Biggin Hill valley.
Westmore Green is the focus of activities in Tatsfield. The village centre (comprising Westmore Green, the children’s playground, the pond, the pub, the club, a restaurant, a shop, the village hall, the school and the bus stop) is more than the sum of its parts and is pleasing to the eye and welcoming to visitors. This asset would be devalued if any part were lost or radically altered. During the transformation of the Old Bakery into a restaurant, efforts were made to restore the curiosity of its corner "tower". This is very much part of the village scene, as is the "Railway Hotel" facade of the Old Ship pub, which was registered as an Asset of Community Value in 2013. 6
Tatsfield has a host of mature trees surrounding Westmore and Tatsfield Greens and further afield it is marked by the density of woodland cover, such as Kemsley Wood.
Since the Second World War, the village has found itself transformed from "a curiosity .. a shack colony of tiny houses almost lost in foliage" (Richard Church, 1948) to what estate agents now prefer to describe as this “charming”, “picturesque” or “idyllic” village!
Each decade has seen an increase in the number of homes in Tatsfield. Significant developments intensifying the residential use of a site in the 1940s included Whitewood Cottages. In the 1950s, two dozen homes were created in Paynesfield Road, the Square and in Westmore Road. Development in the 1960s brought dozens more, including Rag Hill Close and Shipfield Close. Valley Mushroom Farm and Crossways Court were among the two dozen homes to appear in the 1970s. The major development of the 1980s was Wedgwoods with twenty homes but others were built in Greenway and Westmore Road. In the 1990s, extensions were the order of the day; Park Farm in Rag Hill Road became four new houses.
The first decade of the new century brought a flurry of new developments, including ten dwellings in Johns Road, nine in Ship Hill and thirteen in Lusted Hall Lane. And, since then, a further ten have been added in Lusted Hall Lane and seven next to the Village Hall.
In the past (as demonstrated in several Village Appraisals) people have come to live in Tatsfield because they enjoy its semi-rural aspect and the easy access to open countryside; they remain because of the strong community spirit in the village. An example over the years has been the Gold awards in South East in Bloom competitions for the high level of participation of so many villagers.
Tatsfield has tended to be at the end of the line as far as public utilities are concerned. In the 1890s, as housing development got underway, there were proposals for a telegraph office, but local landowners said they preferred an improvement in the postal service first! It was in this decade that the need for a mains water supply became an issue. This was still a significant issue in the 1940s, and some properties were still using wells in the 1970s. Local businesses began to sport their own two-digit telephone numbers in the 1920s and the telephone exchange in Ship Hill lasted until the 1980s. The Sevenoaks and District Electricity Company began supplying Tatsfield households in the 1920s, but St Mary’s Church was not connected until 1959. Main drainage became a persistent issue in the first half of the last century, although it wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that it became the norm for houses to be connected to a public sewer. Even today, a number of dwellings rely on cesspools or septic tanks. The last traditional utility to arrive in Tatsfield was gas. It was in 1990 that work started on providing a mains supply to Tatsfield. High-speed fibre broadband did not come to the centre of the village until 2013.