Bromley: Short Guide
Bromley is located in South East London, encompassing areas such as Hayes, Beckenham, Chislehurts, Bromley, West Wickham and Orpington. The population is estimated to be 332,336, and at 150km², the borough is the largest in the city.
Formerly a market town belonging to Kent, Bromley became an important residential area after the construction of new rail networks in the Victorian era. Today, the borough is a major centre for retail, commerce and entertainment.
The History of Bromley
The name ‘Bromleagh’ dates back to the year 862, meaning ‘the heath where broom grows’. This long-forgotten yellow shrub, whose twigs were used to make the first broomstick, is also behind the names of London’s Brompton and Broom Hill.
After becoming an Anglo-Saxon settlement in the 11th century, the town grew to be a home for religious institutions such as St. Blaise’s Well and Bromley Palace, where bishops would periodically reside — despite having a relatively small populace. By the 17th century, the first buildings of what became Bromley College started to emerge, along with the neighbouring hamlet of Bromley Common.
At the outbreak of the First World War, central Bromley had become largely built up, with Bromley Palace converted into a teacher training institution by the 1930s. Other developments throughout the 19th and 20th centuries included more residential buildings and estates that spread out into ‘New Bromley’. New public institutions were also built, along with large shopping centres, such as the Glades.
A busy and diverse borough
In mediaeval times, Bromley was the site of a growing wool trade, with the town’s market receiving a charter from King John in 1205. Today, the borough rivals Croydon and Kensington as London’s top shopping destination. A busy high street emerged in the 1970s, and while Bromley has a strong retail and business centre, it is also known for its entertainment, with the Churchill Theatre built into the Central Library in 1977.
In the north-west of the borough are the grounds of Crystal Palace, which was destroyed in 1936, but became the setting for a sports and recreation park in the 1960s. Light industry has also emerged prominently in the Cray Valley in Orpington since the 1960s.
Culture and notable landmarks
In Chislehurst, you can find the notable chalk-mine “caves” which were used heavily in the 1800s and served as air raid shelters in the Second World War, and are thought to have originated in the Roman era.
Bromley boasts public open green spaces such as the commons at Hayes and Chislehurst, Petts Wood Parkland, High Elms Country Park, Priory Gardens and Goddington Park. History buffs will also appreciate the preserved Roman villa in Crofton, Orpington, as well as Down House — the former home of Charles Darwin — in the village of Downe.
The borough also hosts the Aesop’s Touring Theatre Company, specialising in educational performance, and the Barbershop Harmony Club. This is an acapella chorus that runs weekly and performs at many institutions within a 20-mile radius across Bromley.
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