Halstead is believed to have originated as a secondary settlement in late Saxon times. This would have been as a series of woodland clearances on top of the North Downs, outliers from the older Darenth Valley settlements at Otford and Shoreham. Its economic centre in mediaeval times was the manor house, later rebuilt asHalstead Place, and since demolished. The site lies next to that of the demolished old church, in the Halstead Place School grounds. To the south lies Halstead park, formerly part of the Halstead Place estates, and possibly a deer park as far back as the 13th century.
Halstead was a small and poor parish, whose expansion has taken place in two phases. The first is related to fruit growing, from 1850 to 1914. The second is from 1920, and is more closely related to commuter housing than to village economy.
Its pre-1850 housing is scattered, and includes former farmhouses at Widmores in Church Road (about 1700, the rear 50 years older) and Colgates (from about 1600, refronted 1796). The older part of Halstead Hall in Station Road was built in 1801 by a retired farmer. The flint cottages around the village green were built in the 1830s by the owner of Halstead Place, as was the substantial red brick Village House, set back near them.
Fruitgrowing came to dominate Halstead in the second half of the 19th century. This was driven by the growth and accessibility of London, with falling sugar prices stimulating the jam industry. Halstead became well known for strawberries, and for the damson trees (skegs) that lined the roads. Rows and pairs of cottages in Station Road and Otford Lane testify to the agricultural growth, including Hazel Cottages and another flint row beginning with the Rose and Crown in Otford Lane. Further east along Otford Lane there is a scattering of more isolated cottages across the fields. Many of these are successors to smallholders huts, erected in conjunction with the grubbing up of woodland to make way for strawberries and other soft fruit.
Inter-war development following World War I began with community housing at Beldam Haw in the 1920s, but otherwise continued on a private sector basis, largely for incomers. This included bungalows along Knockholt Road, many of which have since been rebuilt. However, development in the 1920s was primarily on the north-western fringes of the parish, at the Stonehouse estate. Like the Badgers Mount estate in Shoreham parish, this was more closely related to accessibility to main roads, than to the village itself.
Housing growth seemed destined to accelerate in the 1930s, especially with mains electricity becoming more generally available in the village in 1935, and mains gas in the principal roads in 1936-37. Building in Church Road began along the fringes of Halstead Park and Walnut Tree Meadow, including houses looking towards an older vernacular, with half-timbering and tile-hanging. Plots were laid out along Watercroft Road on the north-eastern fringes of the parish as part of a large projected estate layout. This, however, was cut short by World War II and subsequent town and country planning restrictions.
Post-war development has been more closely focused on the village, with former council housing at Southdene, Parkside (redeveloped from 1940s prefabs in 1974), Meadway (1970s) and Clarks Lane (1960s). Clarks Lane, transformed from a narrow track, also took private sector housing in the 1960s; and backland estates were carved out at the Meadows (1960s) and Kilnwood (1980s). Fruitgrowing peaked before World War I, and its decline accelerated after World War II. Broke Farm became a golf course in 1992.
With the spread of car ownership, retailing has moved away from the village since the 1960s, when not only were there outlets in Station Road, Knockholt Road, and Otford Lane, but also a row of shops at the flint cottages in Church Road by the village crossroads.