Spotlight on Bromley

PUBLISHED: 07:43 23 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:12 20 February 2013

Spotlight on Bromley

Spotlight on Bromley

Not only has it got a fantastic shopping centre and excellent transport links, but Bromley also boasts acres of parks and open spaces and has connections with everyone from Charles Darwin to David Bowie and Aleister Crowley to Winston Churchill

Spotlight on Bromley

Not only has it got a fantastic shopping centre and excellent transport links, but Bromley also boasts acres of parks and open spaces and has connections with everyone from Charles Darwin to David Bowie and Aleister Crowley to Winston Churchill

Bromley is an extremely convenient, practical town, nationally recognised as a shoppers Shangri-La. Its only 16 minutes by train from central London, yet surrounded by countryside and rural villages and packed with parks and open spaces.

Just across the road from the cutting-edge retailers of the High Street shopping centres are the historic grounds of Bromley Palace, seat of the Bishops of Rochester since the eighth century. It was the home of outrageous punk rockers Siouxsie Sioux and Tipper Headon, not to mention rockers David Bowie and Peter Frampton; and it was where Aleister Crowley worshipped the devil, Charles Darwin formulated his controversial work the Origin of the species, William Wilberforce resolved to abolish slavery, and the birthplace of H G Wells.

Bromley has always nurtured free-thinking people who werent afraid to court controversy, and perhaps this is why its somewhere where you can never be bored.

Around town

There are plenty of car parks, but hardly any street parking. Start your tour at the south of the pedestrianised part of the High Street and go down Ethelbert Road, where youll find Bromley town church.

Return to the junction with the High Street and turn left into the beginning of the pedestrianised part. This shop-packed area hosts an arts and crafts and Farmers Market on Fridays and Saturdays and individual market stalls on other days. Not long ago it was Bromleys main highway, consequently the road is remarkably wide, and it has an attractive paved surface.

At intervals youll see entrances to The Glades on the right the enclosed shopping centre covers a vast rectangular area running parallel with the High Street, and is somewhere where you can easily spend a day exploring.

Continue along the High Street until you come to the Churchill Theatre and Library on the left. Turn left here, go along the small road and you pass the Churchills entrance on the right. Continue and go down the steps and you're in Church House gardens, where there are several levels of Japanese-style gardens and a wonderful lake with ducks and an ornamental bridge. Retrace your steps back to the High Street corner and turn left, bringing you into the older part of town, Bromley North Village. Here, new buildings are juxtaposed with 1930s constructions, some with remarkably beautiful brickwork noticeable at first floor levels.

To your right is Market Square, a large open arena with a colourful childrens roundabout. Go across the square directly, and to the left is a house with a dramatic wall mural, depicting portraits of H G Wells, Charles Darwin and the evolution sequence of Homo Sapiens from his Origin of the species, in front of which is the old black town pump.

Return to the High Street, turn right and on your left is Church Road; along here is the old parish church of St Peter and St Paul. If you continue along the High Street for a long way (a substantial walk), eventually this turns into the London Road, and behind a red brick wall on your right you may get a glimpse of the historic almshouses of Bromley College.

If youre feeling really energetic, you may want to go into the Glades and pass right through to the other side to emerge in Queens Gardens. Youve thus come behind the main shopping centre, and if you cross the major highway (Kentish Way), youll eventually come to Bromley Civic Centre, which is based in what is left of the old Bromley Palace buildings and surrounded by attractive parkland.

Major attractions

Gardens and leisure areas

  • Church House Gardens: landscaped gardens in the town centre with lake, ducks, rose gardens, tennis courts and gazebo

  • Queens Gardens: ornamental floral bedding and shrubbery. It hosts summer concerts and an annual garden show

  • Queensmead: recreation ground popular for sports, with a football pitch and bowling green

  • Pavilion Leisure Centre, 020 8313 9911 Swimming pools, health suite, gym, sports hall squash courts and crche

  • Bromley College, a collection of ancient almshouses, now privately occupied, but has an annual open day in September

  • 18 public parks and woodland within the Bromley area

Shopping and entertainment

There is a Shopmobility scheme offering manual and motorised wheelchairs for shoppers in the Glades and the High Street.

  • The Glades, one of the south easts foremost retail centres, has 120 shops on two levels, a combination of independents and chain stores

  • Bromley High Street market has street stalls and hosts a market on Friday sand Saturdays, largely selling local produce, plus a range of arts and crafts, including wrought ironwork hand-made jewellery, handcrafted toys and original artwork. Occasional continental markets, offering cheeses, breads, wines, etc

  • Mall Shopping Centre in the High Street huge variety of outlets

  • Bromley Charter Market on Thursday mornings (9am-2pm) in Station Road car park. Fruit and veg to clothing and household goods

  • Churchill Theatre, 020 84647131 one of the most important theatres in south of England outside Londons West End

  • Bromley Little Theatre,: 020 8464 8924 Housed on a site that was once a Victorian bakery.


  • Down House, 01689 859119 in nearby Downe village, once the home of Charles Darwin.

  • Bromley museum, 01689 873826 in the medieval priory building in Orpington. Over 20,000 objects relating to architecture and history of Bromley, situated within beautiful public gardens.

  • Bromley Environmental Education Centre at High Elms, 01689 862815 at Farnborough. Community facility providing visitors with information on how to live a sustainable lifestyle.

  • Bethlem Hospital, 020 8228 4227 Museum and archives houses historical and outstanding art collections

Famous folk

  • Winston Churchill passed through frequently hence the theatres name

  • William Pitt, one-time prime minister, lived in nearby Keston

  • William Wilberforce was a regular visitor and during one conversation in Bromley in 1788 he vowed to introduce an anti-slavery bill to parliament

  • H G Wells was born in a house in Market Square

  • Authors Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton both lived in Bromley, and the latter has a pub named after her

  • Inventor of the WC ballcock, Thomas Crapper, lived there and is buried in nearby Beckenham

  • Anarchist Peter Kropotkin was a resident

  • Aleister Crowley, Satan worshipper, lived there

Did you know?

  • The Bromley Contingent was a band of punk rockers, loyal fans of The Damned, The Clash and the Sex Pistols, who achieved musical success themselves and included Siouxsie Sioux, Debbie Juvenile, Billy Idol, and Adam Ant

  • Musicians David Bowie and Peter Frampton and Pixie Lott have been residents

  • The Mall in Bromley appeared on the cover of Billy Jenkinss 1982 album Sounds Like Bromley

  • In the Monty Python Spam sketch, Bromley was the location of the fictional Midget Caf, where everything offered was a variation on spam dishes

  • Bromley was named as the UKs curry house capital, with one curry restaurant for every 853 residents

  • Royal Bell Hotel (now closed) was referred to in Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice

  • In October 2010 the 1906-built Bromley Town Hall was put up for sale

Past and present

Once known as Bromleag (meaning broom hill) Bromley began as the settlement that surrounded Bromley Palace, residence of the Bishops of Rochester from the 12th century to 1845, when the palace, rebuilt in 1774, was sold to a wealthy local businessman. In 1982 this became part of Bromley Civic Centre.

The origin of the town was a few habitations erected around Market Square, near to the parish church of St Peter and St Paul, and in 1205 a weekly market was established. Bromley was an important coaching stop for the journey between London and Hastings, then Shortlands station opened in 1858.

The railways arrival began the demand for homes for commuters, and these proliferated from that time onwards. In the 10th century, Bromley was described as Poor. . . neither pasture not arable land being worth much, contrasting with Sir John Betjemans 20th-century assessment of the town as a lonely, high-class suburb.

The noughties find Bromley as one of the largest shopping centres in the south east and in 2005 a Bromley town centre Area Action Plan (AAP) was begun, its aims including providing more retail space and residential units in the heart of town, and opening up the various green spaces. The area has been divided into six distinct character areas for separate consideration and in November 2009 the council submitted this AAP to the Secretary of State for Community and Local Government for an independent examination. The inspectors final report this August concluded that with changes the AAP has satisfied the legal requirements and been found sound.

Considering a move?

Property prices are on a par with most South London suburbs, with one-bedroom and two-bedroom flats in the region of 160,000, and 200,000 respectively. A two-bedroom house might cost you 235,000 and a three bedroom semi 300,000, while a four-bedroom detached house price would be around 475,000 upwards.

How to get there

Bromley is south east of London and linked to the nearby M25 by the A21 and A20. It has two railway stations: Bromley North and Bromley South, the latter with a 16-minute service to London Victoria. There are also ample buses and tramlink services to nearby towns. Traveline 0871 200 2233.

Satnav postcode: BR1 1DN.


Margaret Engler, semi-retired priest

What do you do?

I have been a priest since 1983 and much of my career was spent as a prison chaplain; prior to ordination I was a special needs teacher. The church where I now work part-time is in Harlesden, North London.

Where do you live?

I live in Bromley and Sheppards Colleges, the ancient almshouses in London Road. Bromley College was founded in 1666 by the will of John Warner, Bishop of Rochester, to provide housing for Twenty poore widowes of othrodoxe and loyall clergiemen, and Sheppards College, on the same site, was founded in 1840 for Unmarried daughters who had resided with their mothers in Bromley College and who became homeless when their mothers died. Nowadays the college provides accommodation for widows and daughters of clergy who have served in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, together with clergy and their spouses.

What do you like about it?

There are always interesting things going on, such as coffee mornings, music nights, book clubs, and youre free to join in as and when you feel like it. Its a community in the true sense of the word. Theres a wonderful friendly atmosphere, good maintenance and spectacularly beautiful historic buildings, and I always feel that its such a privilege to live here.

What do you like about Bromley?

I appreciate it particularly because before this Ive always lived and worked in deprived areas, which were in marked contrast with the peace and tranquility here. I love the greenness of Bromley, all the open areas and commons, and the Little Theatre is terrific. And shopping here is great all the major retailers are represented and there are plenty of small individual shops. And I like the pedestrianisation too.

How would you improve Bromley?

Get rid of the bus lane! The shops near here are closing one after the other, just because traffic cannot go past them. The fines and legal threats associated with bus lanes are draconian, and simply serve to alienate drivers from coming to the town.

Sum up Bromleys appeal

Its quiet and peaceful, especially when compared to some parts of London. Its convenient for travel, with courteous people, endless open spaces and there are marvellous shopping facilities.

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