Petts Wood and Hawkwood - forever green
The name Petts Wood first appeared in 1577 in the last will and testament of William Pett. But why was the site significant?
William Pett, part of the so-called Pett Dynasty, was a master shipbuilder whose family were leading shipwrights for 200 years. He supplied oaks from Petts Wood to his shipyards on the River Thames at Deptford and Woolwich. (Both Deptford and Woolwich were naval dockyards – Deptford was the first Royal Naval Dockyard, and Woolwich was known as the King’s Yard).
A growing London
Between the wars, developer Basil Scruby wanted to create a garden suburb, which would give a semi-rural environment to London commuters. Having purchased 400 acres of land the other side of the railway line for development, the locals became increasingly concerned about the threat of further development.
When Petts Wood came on to the market there was strong local feeling that it should not be developed. With donations from local people, the 88 acres of woodland were purchased to save them from development, donated to the Trust to protect and dedicated to the memory of William Willett, the local advocate of daylight saving. This area of woodland is known today as the Willett Memorial Wood.
There was another 47 acres of woodland on the western edge, which they couldn’t afford to buy. Colonel Francis Edlmann bought this and added it to his neighbouring estate, Hawkwood. The whole of the woodland was temporarily safe from development.
Another helping hand
When Colonel Edlmann died in 1950, the Hawkwood estate was put on the market. The 230 acres of Hawkwood were offered to the Trust to purchase, but funds couldn't be raised. However, we did offer to administer it if money could be raised from the public to buy it. Under the Town and Country Planning Act, Chislehurst and Sidcup Urban District Council were able to use their powers to keep the land development free. Developers tried to get this overturned, but a public enquiry upheld the decision in 1955.