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darling buds of may

We were contacted by Mr Timpson, from Canterbury, who was on a quest to discover the location of the village shop where H.E. Bates observed the family that originally inspired the characters in the television series ‘The Darling Buds of May’.  Research shows most likely that the family giving the inspiration were the ‘Dells’, from Buckinghamshire, who were en-route to Margate for their holiday.  H.E. Bates and his wife crossed paths with them en-route from their home in Little Chart, near Ashford, to Sittingbourne.

The Kentish Express newspaper kindly helped Mr Timpson with articles in their paper but unfortunately the feedbacks were inconclusive. The Kent Film Office made contact with Richard Bates, the son of author H.E. Bates, who says in an email: “My father did not meet the family referred to when my mother went into the village shop on the road to Sittingbourne, he simply observed them driving off in the blue truck. The route from Little Chart to Sittingbourne in those days would very likely have taken them through Charing and Sheldwich to Faversham or cross country via Stalisfield Green and Newnham.  Nobody now will be able to identify the village shop.”

The Kent Film Office website says how his father got his inspiration for the stories: “At a pit stop near Faversham! While H.E. waited in the car as his wife picked up some sweets for the children of friends, a large, lively family walked out of the shop with crisps, sweets and ice cream and climbed into a blue truck: the Larkins were born!”

It was thought at first that the meeting took place near the Bates' home in Little Chart but it would now seem that it was nearer Faversham. If the Dell family were travelling from Buckinghamshire to Margate it would be unlikely if they would have travelled near Stalisfield Green or Newnham, both of them being on back roads. 
From the above the supposition is that the village may in fact be Teynham and the sweetshop on the A2 (Greenstreet).

Following the above we had a letter to the editor of Teynham News

Regarding the article in the last Teynham News about H.E. Bates, the Dells and “The Darling Buds of May”, it was interesting reading, but I have to admit all new to me. However I have given some thought to the details mentioned and append below some suggestions. The mention of “Pit-Stop” tells me that it was a visit for petrol. My assumptions are based on this.

For the parties to have met, the Bates must have been travelling on the A2 from The Mall, Faversham westerly to Sittingbourne; the Dells in an easterly direction along the A2 to the Thanet Way. This route would have taken them past the following garages:

ryes garageAs far as I am aware, with the exception of Teynham and Bapchild, there were no sweet shops in the near vicinity. At Bapchild there was the shop of Mrs Winter, who did not sell ice creams but all other provisions. In Teynham there was Pilcher’s sweet shop, Nethercoat’s next to the café and Paris’s near the top of Teynham Lane (Station Road). Of these only Paris’s sold ice cream. There was also Teynham (Greenstreet) Co-operative store further along the A2, towards Sittingbourne.

sweetshopI would not like to hazard a guess as to which, if any, of these venues was the site of a ‘meeting’ of the Bates and Dells.

Bernard Cork

{Note: Subsequently Mr Cork informed us that a possibility could have been for petrol to have be obtained from Brett’s (formerly Rye’s) Garage, which was on the junction of Teynham Lane (Station Road) and the A2, lately known as A. Sales & Sons, where a petrol pump once stood and the ice creams from Popes, a shop opposite, latterly known as Kay’s and then Cheeseman’s Newsagents, both of which are shown in the photographs at around the 1950’s, the period the drama was set.}