Preserving & Promoting Southborough & High Brooms' Heritage

Who Once Lived in My House?

by A.M.Macfarlane   

One of the questions most frequently posed to any local historian is "How can I find out who lived in my house before me?". This is quite understandable. After all, it might have been someone famous or, better still, notorious. The answer is fairly straightforward, and may be summed-up in three phases:

Phase I.  Start with yourself, and work backwards to 1974. You should know the name of the person from whom you bought the house or flat, and perhaps how long they lived in it. If they moved in before 1974, go to Phase II.

If, however, they were occupants only more recently, ask all your neighbours who may have been there for some time and gather what information you can as to names and years of previous occupants back to 1974 - and then go to Phase II.


 Phase II.  Visit the Reference section of Tunbridge Wells Public Library and ask to look at Cabinets 3 an4, which are normally kept locked. There you will find a fine, almost complete, series of Street Directories, mostly published by Kelly but with others by Pelton between 1886 and 1974 (except 1941-47). These books are arranged by local towns and villages (Southborough and High Brooms have their own section), broken down by streets in alphabetical order, and list the occupants of residences and shops in each street. You must be methodical in this research, working backwards year by year. Remember that the information in a Directory dated, say, 1936, actually refers to 1935. Prior to 1939, many houses had names, not always numbers, and may not have been numbered even after 1947. You can sometimes confirm that you are still dealing with the correct house by comparing the surnames of neighbours before and after the change.

 Phase III.  If you are lucky enough to work back to 1911, you then start to connect with the Census archives, which may now be consulted on line, but they are only held every ten years and earlier ones did not always identify a house by name or number.

 Another source which may be helpful, though not so conveniently placed to get at, is the archive of the old Kentish electoral rolls, back to 1832, at the Kentish History and Library Centre, Maidstone. Tel: 0845-824-7247. A library ticket is required.

Good luck!