Hayes Common and what remains of West Wickham Common are closely connected; Hayes Common was the waste of the Manor of Baston. It had for centuries been a place where local people could graze cattle and collect firewood. In the 1860s the Lord of both Baston and West Wickham manors, Sir John Lennard, began to sell off plots of West Wickham Common for villas and it was feared that Hayes Common would go the same way. In c.1868 a large body of commoners organised opposition, which in 1869 led to Hayes Common becoming the first common in England and Wales to be given legal protection against enclosure under the Metropolitan Commons Act of 1866.
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The name Hayes dates from 1177, from Anglo Saxon 'hoese' meaning 'a settlement in open land overgrown with shrubs and rough bushes'. Archaeological excavations between 1957-67 revealed a number of Bronze Age ditches, pits and post-holes as well as some probable C17th and C18th ditches and banks bounding field systems. Hayes Common and what remains of West Wickham Common are closely connected; the latter was wasteland of the Old Manor of West Wickham and Hayes Common the waste of the Manor of Baston. Hayes Common had for centuries been a place where local people could graze cattle and collect firewood. By the early C19th it was the regular site of Hays Fair; Crowe describes a poster for the 1804 fair listing among the attractions: 'A Match at Grimace or Grinning through a Horse Collar. A Match at eating Hot Hasty Pudding, by Boys. A Match at drinking Hot Tea, by Elderley Ladies' and in 1828 a balloon with two men and a horse landed on the common. Cricket was played on the common, Hayes Cricket Club playing its last match in 1882. The popularity of Hayes Common as a day out for Londoners had increased after Hayes Railway station opened on Whit Monday 1882, the line later electrified in 1925. Some enclosure of the Common began in the C18th but in the 1860s the Lord of both manors, Sir John Lennard, began to sell off plots of West Wickham Common for villas and it was feared that Hayes Common would go the same way.
In c.1868 a large body of commoners organised opposition and in 1869 Hayes Common became the first common in England and Wales to be given legal protection against enclosure under the Metropolitan Commons Act of 1866. The Hayes Common Conservators were appointed in 1869 for 'the purposes of health exercise and recreation and . . to maintain the natural features and aspect of the Common'. The Conservators were designated as the Lord of the Manor of Baston and 5 other people annually elected by the vestry of Hayes Parish. In 1894 Hayes Parish Council was formed and in 1897 it gained responsibility for commons. In 1928 the duty of collecting Hayes Common Rate passed to Bromley Rural District Council. In the 1930s works on the common included installing oak seats, gravelling of footpaths, a new rangers hut and a car park by the Fox Inn.
On 29 January 1937 Hayes Common came into the freehold of the Borough of Bromley and the Board of Conservators ceased to exist in 1954, all their powers and responsibilities transferring to Bromley Council, which was incorporated in 1953. Some sand and gravel excavation continued on the common until WWII, two of these pits sealed in 1948 having been infilled with waste. During the war parts of the common were used for anti-aircraft guns and searchlight stations as well as army huts and temporary housing post-war, all of which were restored to public open space by 1957. In 1965 an oak tree was planted in honour of Winston Churchill in an area at the top of Station Hill. The end of grazing post WWII resulted in secondary woodland growing up, largely made up of oak, silver birch, rowan and holly with small patches of beech, yew and Scots pine, and the understorey is dominated by holly and bracken. Bromley Council established a number of bridleways across the common in 1979-82 paid for by Bromley Bridleway Action Group.
In 2000 the Friends of Hayes Common was formed, since when they have cleared many areas of holly understorey and limited areas of gorse, while Bromley Council has cleared some secondary woodland for heathland restoration. Today Hayes Common is an area of open space, crossed by bridleways and footpaths. It is mainly a patchwork of oak, birch and pine dominant woodlands, with its non woody habitats of the greatest biodiversity value. A small 1.4-hectare area in the centre is an SSSI consisting of lowland dry heathland, dry acid grassland and lichen heath. It is divided by a number of minor but well used roads.
Paul Rainey, full survey of Hayes Common for LPGT Research Project, 2008. Bromley Council Minutes 1964-85, 2nd draft SPG for Bromley Hayes and Keston Commons Conservation Area, 2005; G Clinch, 'Antiquarian Jottings relating to Bromley, Hayes, Keston and West Wickham in Kent', 1889; Hayes Commons Conservators Minutes 1869-1954. Byelaws 1870, 1883, 1890, Correspondence & Acting Secretary's file 1 June 1951- 31 March 1954; A H A Hogg, B H St J O'Neil and C E Stevens 'Earthworks on Hayes and West Wickham Commons' in Archaeologia Cantiana LIV 1941 pp28-34; N Hopkins, 'Hayes Common Management Plan 2006-2010 (2007); Kentish Times, 4 Feb 1982; T Langton 'Distribution and status of reptiles and amphibians in the London Area', in The London Naturalist (London Natural History Society, 1991), vol 70 pp.97-123;T Langton et al 'Conservation of the adder or northern viper Vipera berus in the London Area', in The London Naturalist (London Natural History Society, 2005), vol 84 p.79-115; S Macmillan 'Bromley's Woodland Future' (Bromley Council Town Planning, 1994); Metropolitan Commons Act, 1866 and Metropolitan Commons Act, Scheme for the establishment of local management in respect of Hayes Common, 1869; H F Parsons 'On the flora of Hayes Common' Proceedings, Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society, 1903; B Philp 'Enclosures, Hayes Common', in Archaeologia Cantiana 71, 1957, pp233-6; B Philp, 'The Discovery of Archaeological sites at Hayes, Kent 1960-1997', Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit, 2000 p.6-15; Pierry Fox, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' (Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit, LXIV, 1951, xlii; Thompson, 'A History of Hayes' (1935, republished 1978 by Jackdaw Publishing Co); E Walford, 'Greater London. A narrative of its history, its people and its places' vol 2 (1882); T Woodman 'Wartime Hayes' (T C Woodman, 2000).