This magnificent structure at the heart of Farningham Village sits opposite the historic Lion Hotel. It is thought to have been built between 1740 and 1770 although an exact date is not known.
The structure is unique and its purpose has been puzzled over. Once thought to be a folly or the remains of the north side of a medieval bridge, the structure is in fact a cattle screen, built to prevent cattle from wandering downstream whilst crossing the ford.
The Farningham Cattle Screen is the only one in the country to have been constructed in such an ornate way and would probably have been built whilst the Hanger family owned Farningham Manor.
Most cattle screens are constructed in a simple manner with a wooden beam and hanging gates which allow for debris or high water levels to pass through easily but prevent cattle from travelling up or downstream.
Whilst the structure in Farningham contains the hanging gates, the flamboyant nature would suggest that the screen was built to show how wealthy William Hanger was to all who travelled through Farningham.
Farningham Cattle Screen from Byng's Diary 1790
The Farningham Cattle Screen was repaired by the Parish Council in 2008/09 with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund and local community support. Work has included repair of the brick and flint structure and restoration of the wooden ‘gates’ which hang below the arches. The footings at the base of the structure have been rebuilt to prevent the structure collapsing and being lost forever
The Cattle Screen sits astride the River Darent which measures approximately 25 miles (40km) long. The Darent originates 250 metres above sea level from a spring in the Lower Greensand Ridge near Westerham Kent. From here it flows eastward to Sevenoaks where it turns northwards through the chalk hills of the North Downs and onwards to the Thames estuary at Dartford.
In 1958 a chestnut tree fell into the Darent, badly damaging the Cattle Screen