|Staying in Bromley|
The Borough is represented at Westminster by three MPs, Bob Neill, John Horam and Jackie Lait. News about the M.P.s activities can, sometimes, be found in the local papers, one of which is the News Shopper. Just type in "Bromley" and see what comes up. If you are really interested in what your MP is getting up to (in Bromley or anywhere else), then you need to ask They Work for You to find out! For more general news, and entertainment, try South FM local radio for Bromley (and somewhere or other called Croydon and Lewisham).
For some statistical information about the services provided for residents and how these compare with other metropolitan residents, you can access the Audit Commission who supply information about a wide range of subjects. Just enter "Bromley" in the search field and see what comes up. An eclectic range of information is also available from Raven Sound community radio website.
A number of well known organisations have major offices in Bromley. For example, a shiny new office opposite Bromley South station is Churchill Insurance (Picture), now renamed RBS!
At Keston Ponds, on the way to Biggin Hill, is Caesar's Well, the source of the River Ravensbourne which flows south to north through the Borough, eventually discharging into the Thames via Deptford Creek. Whether Caesar (Julius?) ever saw the spring is doubtful, but there are Roman remains in the area and only a few miles to the east is Lullingstone Villa which was constructed around 200 AD. Possibly even older are the unusual Chislehurst Caves although I still don't understand why they built them so close to the railway station (the old one's are the best!). Also at Keston is Holwood House, once the property of William Pitt the Younger and where he and William Wilberforce agreed to abolish slavery in the British Empire whilst sitting the shade of a large oak tree, seen here in 1982 a few years before it finally disintegrated. The fact that the original photo had members of my family gracefully draped all over it had nothing to do with its collapse!
For more about this and much else beside, you can go to the local history society who are happy to see new members. You could also contact the beckenham bookshop for books on the subject.
Rather more recently, Jane Austen mentions "The Bell in Bromley" in Pride and Prejudice (although it is not the original building and is now, for some reason, called the Royal Bell) and for fans of her books there is the Jane Austen Society. Although a little way out of town, a significant historical figure is Charles Darwin who lived up at Down House, six miles south of the town centre. Nearby are the attractive villages of Downe and Cudham whose churches can be viewed on the Web. Incidentally, you go up to Downe and, if travelling from there to Cudham, the hill gets even steeper!
More seriously, the Borough also contains (just) St. Christopher's Hospice founded by Cicely Saunders. There is also Harris Hospice Care, formerly South Bromley Hospice Care: anyone who has lost a friend or family member to cancer knows how valuable such places are. In a rather different mould was Sir Malcolm Campbell who was born in Chislehurst and set land and water speed records in the '20s and '30s. Not far away is a memorial to William Willett, the "inventor" of daylight saving.
The town centre contains some quite old buildings, often obscured by modern frontages, but traces of former businesses can be found. One such, in Widmore Road is Uridge's Stores. This map shows central Bromley in about 1830. Note the changes in spelling of, for example, Ravensbourn(e) and Sund(e)ridge. Many of the farms are commemorated today in road names. The ridge on which Bromley town centre is built can be clearly seen. For more history, including details of the 1841 census, a visit to the North West Kent family history site is worth a few minutes of your time!
Apart from the luminaries mentioned above, there are other well known people who were born, lived or died in the Borough. Just across the road from The "Royal" Bell, in the Market Square (Picture), is a blue plaque on the Primark building (fomerly Medhursts and Allders) marking the birthplace of H.G.Wells and, nearby, a large mural depicting events from his books (Picture). The story of one pilgrimage to the site can be found here! In front of it is the old parish pump rescued from rusting oblivion in the Library Gardens. Another less known writer who lived in the Borough for 20 years, actually in Shortlands, dying in 1887, was Dinah Craik authoress of John Halifax, Gentleman. Also born in Bromley was Talbot Rothwell who wrote most of the "Carry On" films.
Another author with links to Bromley is Richmal Crompton who wrote Just William. The High School at which she taught was then next to Bromley South station, but has now moved out to Chislehurst and the building replaced by an office block occupied by an American bank. However, she has recently been celebrated with the opening of a nearby pub bearing her name! Even more widely known is Enid Blyton who was born in Beckenham and lived in Bromley after her marriage. A writer of some fame who is still alive is Hanif Kureishi although he appears to have been keen to leave!
A rather different character with links to the Borough is W.G.Grace who died in Mottingham and was buried in Beckenham cemetary near to the pub next to Birkbeck station which is named after him. For a summary of his career, try here! Representing a rather different area of the arts and entertainment is the ballerina Dame Antoinette Sibley who was born in Bromley in 1939. Another famous son is David Bowie, or as I knew him in the first eleven at Burnt Ash primary school, David Jones! At last, a chance to see 11 year old David in glorious monochrome (58kb). Can you spot him (and me)?
Or, for people who like to ski, then a few miles east is what is known as The Bromley Ski Centre. The amount of snow is likely to be small! However, if you are very keen on the cold white stuff, you might like to investigate Bromley Mountain which, if you are prepared to travel, apparently does offer this material in abundance!
The information below relates mainly to central Bromley: If you are looking for more or different information about the whole Borough, you could try Wikipedia which covers a lot of ground and is worth a look!