A Bromley Walk

Route & what to see

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A 2 mile circular walk around Bromley town centre looking at buildings of interest and green spaces. The route is based on a leaflet produced by Bromley Town Planning in 1995 with updated historical information. Instructions are given from the Theatre/Library. Bromley is served by numerous buses and has two stations. From Bromley South go north along the High Street to the start. From Bromley North go along East Street, opposite the station, to join the route.

The railway came to Bromley in 1858 and Bromley North Station was rebuilt in 1925 just prior to electrification. The Theatre and Library were built on land left to the borough by Emily Dowling and opened in 1977 (see plaque).

There is a choice of routes through Church House Gardens.

Route 1 - views the millpond but involves a climb back!
Go through the paved gardens away from the High Street and follow path down passing the lake and paddling pool.
The ragstone chimney belongs to the Kent Waterworks Company's late 19th century Valley Road Pumping Station now converted to apartments.

At the bottom of the hill take the path to the right.
This passes the millpond and a weatherboarded cottage. The River Ravensbourne rises at Caesar's Well in Keston and flows into the Thames at Deptford.

Right at Glassmill Lane
Opposite is Martins Hill which was purchased by the local board in 1878. Prior to this the area had been used to grow hops. Mill Vale to the right marks the site of a mill lost in the 1930s. The Domesday Book of 1086 records 11 mills on the Ravensbourne. Initially it would have ground corn but in 1449 it was purchased to produce paper and in 1811 belonged to Messrs Fentham who used it to polish mirrors and lenses.

Go through the gate on the right and continue up through the gardens
These belong to Church House (rebuilt 1832) which was purchased by the council in the 1920s when it served as a restaurant. From 1939 it was occupied by the Observer Corps, relaying details of enemy aircraft movements to the RAF. It was bombed in 1941 and only the terrace to the south remains.

Route 2 - less strenuous
Take the steps down alongside the theatre (signposted Stage Door). Enter the gate on the left and follow the path to the elevated walk at the end of the lake.
From here you can see how the necessary height of the theatre was reduced by its siting on the hillside. Opposite is a view to the Ravensboune valley. The River Ravensbourne rises at Caesar's Well in Keston and flows into the Thames at Deptford.

Take the path signposted to the estate office
The gardens belong to Church House (rebuilt 1832) which was purchased by the council in the 1920s when it served as a restaurant. From 1939 it was occupied by the Observer Corps, relaying details of enemy aircraft movements to the RAF. It was bombed in 1941 and only the terrace to the south remains.

Both routes. From the terrace head towards the Church Road exit.
A 16th century brick structure from Grete House has been rebuilt here. It was one of several, probably used to house bee skeps (see plaque).

Go right at Church Road
The parish church of St Peter & St Paul was almost totally destroyed by bombing in April 1941. It was rebuilt to include the 15th century tower and other remains in 1949-57 but re-sited further from the road [
pix]. The lych gate dates to 1855 and nearby is an obelisk to Coles Child (see Bishops Palace). Tetty Way commemorates Dr Johnson's wife Elizabeth who was buried at the church in 1752.

Walk to the end of Church Road
The Partridge was built as the National Provincal Bank in 1927 [
pix]. Next door was a dwelling house which became used as a wine merchants. George Pamphilion rebuilt the premises in 1876 (see inscription over doorway). The Royal Bell Hotel replaced a posting house called the Bell Inn which existed in 1646. Lady Catherine de Burgh recommends it in Jane Austen's 'Pride & Prejudice'. The present building along with the two adjoining premises was designed by Ernest Newton in 1898. The bookmakers was built for Martins Bank (see 'M' on bays) [pix] and Hunters the jewellers retains its original shop front [pix].

Left along the High Street
Between the Bell Inn and Bromley College on the east side would have been the site of Grete House. A temporary building here was used to house French POWs during the Napoleonic Wars. Other old buildings remain on this side but the west side of the High Street was widened at the turn of the last century. The 1902 premises (closed shoe shop) were previously used by Boots the chemist and included a penny library. Look back to see a sign for Weeks Ironmongers on the side of the cafe. Walters Yard was an old path named after John Walter who ran a smithy. The colouful Caliguette was once a toy shop.

Cross at the crossing just before the cinema (former Odeon)
The Star & Garter was built in 1898 and has etched glass, wood panelling and tiled entrance. The Swan & Mitre is an early 19th century former coaching inn with older stables. There are mirrors and seating from the old Gaiety Theatre inside. Bromley College was founded by John Warner, Bishop of Rochester, in 1666 as almshouses for 20 widows of clergy. The intention was for it to be in Rochester but land was not available. It was built 1670-72 around a quadrangle with an additional courtyard, designed by Thomas Hardwick, added at the end of the 18th century for 20 more widows. The 2 bedroomed accommodation provided room for a live in servant and/or spinster daughter. The chapel was rebuilt in 1863 in a gothic style with patterned brickwork. Sheppard College to the NE was built in 1840 for 5 spinsters. The Grade I listed colleges are private property with no public access. Opposite are the new magistrates' courts.

Return and go left along College Slip
The early 19th century nurseryman's cottage remains. The nursery was purchased by the College in 1830 to prevent development on the site. It operated until 1984 when the land was bought by the council and named College Green. An old mulberry tree is surrounded by a 17th century planting scheme. A listed K2 telephone box is sited nearby.

Go right at West Street
The walls of Sainsburys have tiled panels depicting buildings of Bromley. Opposite a cafe occupies the original fire station used 1897 to 1910 [
pix]. The building on the corner at 19 East Street was the offices of the Local Board built in 1867. Opposite the post office was opened in 1897 and enlarged in 1913 (now a restaurant). The adjacent building of 1904 housed the offices and showrooms of the West Kent Electricity Board. It was repaired after a fire in the 1980s. Alongside was a coal fired power station which operated 1898 -1931.

Left into East Street
O'Neills occupies the former Drill Hall of 1872 used by the Bromley Volunteer Rifle Corps. The Railway was built for the brewers Nalder & Collyer of Croydon. Around the corner in Tweedy Road is Bromley Little Theatre which occupies a former stable block and bakehouse.

Return along East Street and go left into South Street
Number 8 has a plaque to record the fact that HG Wells attended Mrs Knott's dame school there 1871-4. The former Magistrates Court of 1939 by C Cowles Voysey is now Community House. The Fire Station opposite was built in 1905 for five appliances [
pix].

Right at Tweedy Road
The Town Hall was designed by R Frank Atkinson in a neo-Wren style in 1906 (see plaque). Opposite was the School of Science & Art built in 1878. Originally privately run it passed to the Local Board in 1892 and was extended in 1894 for the public library. It has now been converted to flats.

Cross Widmore Road to the right
Look back to see the Town Hall extension of 1939 (by Voysey) now used as a college. The foundation stone of the Baptist Church was laid by Charles Spurgeon in 1864.

Cross Kentish Way at the lights into Widmore Road
The former Police Station designed by S Dixon Butler was built in 1914 and has been redeveloped as housing. The Christian Scientist Church of 1928 has a chamfered square central hall and Art Deco features.

Right along St Blaise Avenue. Enter the grounds of the Civic Centre at the end and follow signs to Old Palace.
There was a manor house at Bromley for the Bishops of Rochester from the 10th century. This was rebuilt in 1184 and 1775 (the present building). The property was sold in 1845 to Coles Child, a wealthy coal merchant, who had it remodelled in 1863 (by Richard Norman Shaw) and 1903 (by Ernest Newton). In the 1920s it became a girls' finishing school and in 1933 Stockwell teacher training college. Extensions were added for this and again in 1960 when Kent County Council took control. The college closed in 1980 and the complex became the Civic Centre in 1982. The grounds are currently managed by Thyme Out, a horticultural project working for people with learning difficulties.

Facing the palace go left through the new building (signed St Blaise Building). Continue past this to the end of the car park.
To the right is St Blaise Well which, with an associated chapel, fell into decay around the Reformation. It was re-established in the 1750s when its chalybeate springs were said to have healing properties. A garden structure built around the well by Coles Child was destroyed in a snowstorm in 1887. Beyond this is a cascade feature made in 1865 from artificial rocks, known as 'Pulhamite' after their creator James Pulham. It was only discovered in recent years when clearing vegetation (Grade II listed). The lake is part of a Medieval moat which surrounded the palace, probably to provide fish.

Follow the gravelled path around the lake
This passes another Pulhamite rock feature and a brick building including an ice well, built in the early 1800s. There is a view of the rear of the palace [
pix]

Continue on the tarmac path and where it divides go left (signed Housing). Exit through the gates ahead.
Just outside on the right is a 'Norman' gateway. This was a folly added by Child in the mid 19th century. It incorporated stonework found when the lake was dredged.

At the end of the drive go right along Rafford Way. Go to the left and cross Stockwell Way then Kentish Way.
The Pavilion Leisure Centre opposite was built in the 1980s. In front of it the large oak tree is one of London's 'Great Trees' (see plaque).

Go up the steps ahead
This gives a view of the maze

Go down into the park (Queens Garden)
This area was formerly the White Hart Cricket Field. It was donated by Coles Child on Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and opened as a park in 1900 (see notices). The ornamental gates and railings came from Plaistow Lodge. Follow the sightline of the man with balloon statue to locate the ones that got away!

At the far corner go into the shopping centre.
This development (originally called The Glades) was designed by Chapman Taylor & Partners and built between 1988 & 1991.

Go past the escalators and exit via White Hart Slip into Market Square.
A timber-framed market house was replaced by a Gothic red brick building financed by Mr Coles Child in 1863. The building included the town hall and police station. This was demolished in 1933 and replaced with the current neo-tudor buildings.

Go anti-clockwise around the Market Square.
Lakeland/Argos etc are on the site of Dunns furniture shop, destroyed by incendaries in 1941. There is a mural depicting the work of Charles Darwin. Downe where Darwin lived and worked hopes to become a World Heritage Site. The previous mural commemorated HG Wells. The pump has been returned to Market Square having been for a time in Church House Gardens (1933-85). Numbers 14 -19 date to the latter part of the 18th century. The yellow brick building of 1883 with sunflower motifs now occupied by Cafe Rouge was Herbert Collins. On the north side numbers 1-5 are Georgian buildings. The red brick and terracotta buildings housing HSBC were built in 1888 to provide shop premises including Covell & Harris Butchers (see initials on corner) [
pix]. Primark has taken over the buildings of Medhursts dating to 1879 and the 1920s, previously occupied by Allders. There is a blue plaque to HG Wells who was born (1866) in his father's shop which stood on the site. The ceramic faced buildings on the corner of Market Square and the High Street were designed for David Greig & Sons in 1912 [pix].

Continue south along the High Street
Top Shop occupies the site of the White Hart Inn (demolished 1964) which dated back to 1509. It was extended in 1803 as a posting house with stabling for 100 horses and assembly rooms. The premises of M&S were built in 1910 but doubled in size in 1960 in the same style. Paperchase and Hotter Shoes occupy old buildings and Tweed Cottage (now Barclays Bank) marks the southern extent of the town in the mid 19th century. The neighbouring Aberdeen Buildings in a French Empire style were built 1887-9. Behind number 102 is Ravensfell House, rebuilt in 1858.

 

Resources
Bromley Local Studies is located in the library [
webpage]
Bromley Borough Local History Society [
website]
Francis Frith old photos collection [
website]
Bromley & Sheppard's College [
website]
Friends of Bromley Town Parks & Gardens [
website]


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