Picturehouse is new home for rescued Art Deco Screens

coloured ray screen
Restored Art Deco screen, from Widmore Road co-op, at The PIcturehouse Cinema

“Look out in the new Picturehouse Cafe for the Art Deco screens from the former Co-op in Widmore Road.

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Proposals for Old Town Hall, from the new owners

Old Town Hall

Adding double-height mansard roof on two sides

Our initial thoughts are that although the leaflet contains precious little detail the proposals look promising.  74,000 sq ft of serviced offices is proposed for the both the 1907 town hall and the 1939 ‘extension’.  The hotel of 26 bedrooms replaces the 1970’s extensions that overlook Court Street (see artists impressions).  This seems far less obtrusive than the previous hotel proposals that were granted planning permission.   

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Picture Perfect Day, our heritage walks, in the words of a lady on the street…

A Picture Perfect Day

On Saturday 22nd June I lined up outside Boots in The Glades more out of curiosity than anything else, as a lifelong resident of the borough of Bromley I figured there wasn’t much I didn’t already know. How wrong I was, and what an absolutely fantastic day I experienced, along with at least 25 or 30 other folk. Our two hosts for the morning tour entitled ‘Bromley Palace and Park’ were clad in Victorian suits and hats and provided entertaining and illuminating information about aspects of Bromley previously unknown to me, and I’m sure others were equally surprised and delighted.

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Write To Stop Sell-Off of more Public Heritage Open Space

The site is part of the Bishop of Rochester’s Palace Park which is the setting of 6 listed buildings

stone and flint mini tower with arched window
To Be LOST: the stone-and-flint folly from the Bishops Palace – made with fragments found in the Moat during restoration work in the 19th Century

Please write and object to this sale to :David Mark Bowen, Director of Corporate Services, LB Bromley, Stockwell Close, Bromley, BR1 3UH  or email it to : mark.bowen@bromley.gov.uk    Mark it Proposed sale of land at Bromley Civic Centre  and include your name address and postcode otherwise it will not be accepted.  Don’t be put off by this mad deadline !:  Copies to the Ward Councillors and BCS would be welcome.
CllrNicky.Dykes@bromley.gov.uk   William.Harmer@bromley.gov.uk   Michael.Rutherford@bromley.gov.uk

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Press Release: Bromley High Street could qualify for a share of £44 million

In recognition that HERITAGE IS A TRADING ASSET the government has put forward £44 million for High Streets, like Bromley, that are in Conservation Areas.  

Green tile frontage of Civic Pride era, mid-3-storey-terrace, shop front
Diners Inn at 206 High Street, built for Weeks & Sons, by Paul Ylaes.

Bromley is expected to apply with an ‘Expression of Interest’ by 12 noon 12th July.  A previous grant from the Mayor of London was used to restored historic shop fronts, the best example being the Diners Inn.

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Broom time – Heritage Event

The annual flowering of the shrub, from which Bromley takes its name, takes place on Martin’s Hill mid April to the end of May and we recommend all visitors and locals to witness this event of living history so fundamental to the heritage of Bromley Town.

Tony Banfield, Chair of Bromley Civic Society Heritage officer – The Friends of Bromley Town Parks
Yellow flowered bush on hillside, with war memorial obelisk behind.

Just two minutes walk from Market Square along Church Road behind Primark, Bromley’s name- sake shrub burst into spectacular bloom on Martin’s Hill. The name ‘Bromley’ is from the Anglo Saxon ‘Bromleag’ or ‘Broomleigh’ literally meaning Broom meadow.

Just two minutes walk from Market Square along Church Road behind Primark, Bromley’s name- sake shrub burst into spectacular bloom on Martin’s Hill. The name ‘Bromley’ is from the Anglo Saxon ‘Bromleag’ or ‘Broomleigh’ literally meaning Broom meadow.

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Building works at Churchill Theatre – grey painted concrete instead of Lakeland tiles?

The High Street fontage a few years ago before the nails holding the slate tiles started to fail

Just to let everybody know about the plans with the lakeland slate tiles that are falling off the cladding on Churchill Theatre:

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BCS Newletter and February talk

The latest BCS newsletter was published before Christmas containing all the latest information about town centre planning and other important issues.

One important story concerns the approval given for the revised planning application for the Royal Bell hotel on 13 December. Benedict O’Looney, one of the architects, will be giving an update on progress with the Royal Bell at a talk  in February (see below).

Benedict O’Looney
Talk on 28th February 2019, 7:30pm, in the Parish Rooms, Church Road, Bromley BR2 0EG:
‘Conserving and celebrating the historic architecture of South London’
Benedict will be able to give us an update on progress with the Royal Bell – also his experience in restoring and building new work around Peckham’s historic townscape and what was involved with the initiation of central Peckham’s conservation area
(£3 voluntary donation).


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London Forum

Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash

Bromley Civic Society is a member of The London Forum which works to protect and improve the quality of life in London. It is a most influential body with input into Government and London Plan policy.

Take a look at their regular NewsForum bulletins and see what is going on elsewhere and what other Societies like ours are dealing with.

We are not alone!

The 2018 summer edition is now available here for viewing and downloading. Do please pass this on to others who may find it of interest. You can find all previous editions of newsforum on the London Forum website.

Next London Forum Open Meeting 26th September; London Forum AGM on 30th October

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Churchill Quarter Planning Application

The planning application for the “Churchill Quarter” development in Bromley town centre has now been submitted (planning reference: 18/02181).

The development, adjacent to library gardens, is a co-development with the Council providing the land and Countryside Properties responsible for building and operations.

Before and after images showing the effect of the development can be seen on the right.

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A look inside the Royal Bell Hotel, Bromley

Peter Martin, Vice Chair Bromley Civic Society, writes about the Royal Bell Hotel. This story appeared in our September newsletter. With thanks to Jo Hone for the photographs.

Royal BellThe Royal Bell has stood empty and forlorn now for some 5 years. Once the grandest hotel in Bromley, its most recent history has been somewhat chequered – as a troublesome nightclub (the horrible red plastic ‘Bromleys’ sign is still over the door), before that the ‘Sky Bar’ and before that a rather down at heel pub. Many will remember it as a Bernie Inn where you could get an excellent roast dinner in the large hall on the first floor at the back.

A group of people came together in 2012 to see if anything could be done about the state of the building. We discovered a stalemate between British Land (owners) and Spirit Group (leaseholders) that seemed destined to keep the building empty for the next 20yrs. Continue reading

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Lord of the Manor’s Folly

This fine Victorian folly stands in slightly overgrown landscaped grounds, at the entrance from Rafford Way.

 The folly was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 1955 because:

  • It is an intrinsically interesting mid-c19th folly, unusually employing Norman-style decoration to evoke the spirit of the former bishop’s palace
  • It is probably by Pulhams, one of the most innovative and interesting c19th firms of garden contractors.
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The Palace Park

The grounds of the former Bishops Palace. There is a current proposal to strip the ‘Urban Open Space’ status from nearly a quarter of the grounds (including 2 buildings that Bromley Council have allowed to become in bad repair) so it can be sold for housing.

The Park and palace grounds incorporate

  • The Listed 18th Century Folly
  • Ice house adapted to be a summer house and boat house
  • Pullham rockery
  • Pullham fernery
  • St Blaise’s Well
  • Remains of the moat
  • Lord of the Manor’s Folly

    This fine Victorian folly stands in slightly overgrown landscaped grounds, at the entrance from Rafford Way.  The folly was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 1955 because: It is an intrinsically interesting mid-c19th folly, unusually employing Norman-style decoration to evoke the spirit of the former bishop’s palaceIt is probably by Pulhams, one of the…
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Architect – Evelyn Hellicar

Bromley’s forgotten architect by Doug Black in 2005

In 2005, Doug Black, Bromley Council’s principal conservation officer, was intrigued by the work of Edwardian architect Evelyn Hellicar, who lived nearly all his life in the borough and was responsible for the design of many fine buildings both in Bromley and in the West Country.

Despite his bricks and mortar legacy Evelyn Hellicar was forgotten. But Doug discovered that when Evelyn died in 1929 he had merited a long and very flattering obituary in The Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and this inspired Doug to find out more about the man and his work. Partly to establish, for his work as a conservation officer, the merits of Evelyn’s work, as he has to in consider what buildings in the borough should be listed. And partly because he was intrigued that a man whose work he admired should have been forgotten.

Evelyn was the son of the vicar of Bromley the Rev Arthur Gresley Hellicar. He was a pillar not just of the ecclesiastical community but was also involved in committees, fund raising, charity and all aspects of Bromley’s life.

At 21 Evelyn was apprenticed to leading architect Sir Thomas Jackson who was, at the time, employed by the Rev Arthur Hellicar in the design of a new chancel at Bromley Church. Many of Evelyn’s commissions would appear to have come through local and family connections and was always of the highest quality.

Restoration work carried out by Evelyn on older buildings, where he had stripped them of earlier Victorian additions to return them to their previous glory.  Doug Black said “Often, the restoration work was so subtle that you did not realise that it had had to be carried out, a sign of a sensitive architect”.

In Bromley, Evelyn’s first major commission was the Valley School in Shortlands. All designs were submitted under pseudonyms and Evelyn’s was ‘Bromley’. Whether the competition was entirely open may be questionable as his father was chairman of the school board but the building is, are “A well considered composition” (Doug Black).

And, of course, the school is still in use today, which can’t be said of many of Evelyn’s civic West Country work.  However, some of his domestic Bromley architecture is still standing and can be visited.

In Bromley Evelyn designed St Mark’s Church, Westmoreland Road, described by Doug as “beautifully built in red brick in the late Gothic (Perpendicular) style.” It was destroyed by enemy action in 1941 but many of its fittings survive (having been put into storage) as does the tower.

[Nb the rearodos had been stored in a garden and required painting to be made presentable again]

An impressive town house in London Road was demolished in 1993 and the Carnegie Library in Bromley High Street made way for the present library/Churchill Theatre complex. But his last Bromley commission, the music room at Ripley, is still standing and enjoyed by many.

In his researches Doug has tracked down Evelyn’s European sketchbooks, held in an American university, and some of his family history. Doug Black: “Today the handful of Hellicar’s Bromley buildings that survive are locally listed but none are statutory listed. However, even in the absence of any academic study into his work, most of his best houses in Somerset and Dorset are grade II listed reflecting his skill as an architect.”

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2019 Local Plan Site 10 High Street West

Includes the area identified as Site G in the 2010 Area Action Plan.

Site G: Lower High Street (Local Plan Site 10 now extends to include BS Station and platforms). AAP proposals for a shopping Mall now scrapped in favour of the Local Plan modification for 1230 residential units plus offices. Vicinity of TK Maxx site is identified in the AAP as possibly suitable for a tall/taller building. This gave rise to a 2018 consultation by the owner for a 20 storey block of flats opposed by BCS. No planning application as yet.

This is the most controversial of all the development sites. The Council intend acquiring by CPO the 40 homes in Ethelbert Close for what is called Phase One – Churchill Quarter. This is a co-development with the Council of 410 flats still awaiting a decision. The AAP Inspector required the Council to produce a Masterplan for the whole site but this was only produced in 2018 well after the Churchill Quarter application was made and proposes a mass of tower blocks. The upper part is in the town centre conservation area and environmental groups including Historic England have objected both to Churchill Quarter and the Masterplan. A decision on both from the Council is still awaited. In 2014 Crest Homes implemented a large flatted development in Ringers Road on part of the site which had already gained permission from the Council before the AAP have been drafted.

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2019 Local Plan Site 1 ABC Civic Centre

  • Site 1A – Civic Centre north section, multi-storey car park, Stockwell building
  • Site 1B – central belt of the Civic Centre and old Palace grounds

This was Site F in the 2010 Area Action Plan.

70 units. Conflicted by being placed on the Urban Open Space area. Future of the listed old Bishops Palace is not clear, looking like being a hotel. Objections to selling the parkland / urban open space for the housing: here

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Local Plans

Local Plans set out a framework for the future development of an area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy and infrastructure – as well as being a basis for safeguarding the environment and securing good design.

Local Plans also help to guide decisions about individual development proposals, as they are the starting-point for considering whether planning applications can be approved. It is important for all local authorities to have an up to date plan in place to positively guide development decisions.

Bromley Council does not as yet have an up to date Local Plan in place. A report to the Council’s Development Control Committee on the 11 July 2016 endorsed a draft Local Plan, and this was confirmed at the Executive meeting on 20 July 2016. Consultation took place at the end of 2016.

The response to this consultation was reported to Development Control Committee on 12 June 2017 and to the council’s Executive on the 20 June, seeking agreement to ask Full Council for approval to submit the Draft Local Plan to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for examination. The Full Council at its meeting on 26 June 2017 approved the Draft Local Plan for submission to the Secretary of State. We now await a date for the examination which will be led by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

If you would like to read more about Local Plans, you may be interested to read the letter from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (who has responsibility for planning matters) to the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate. The letter sets out the government’s current position on examining local plans and links to wider measures that the government says it will be taking to improve plan making.

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Bromley Area Action Plan (AAP)

In October 2010 Bromley Council approved a major plan for central Bromley which will mould development for the next 15 years.  We were actively involved in the consultation process—commenting on the plan’s general aspirations and the site specific policies it contains. You can download the AAP documents from the council website. These documents include a map which identifies the various site designations in central Bromley (Sites B, G, K, L etc).

We have voiced our support for many of the aspirations of the draft AAP but  raised concerns about the detail and what is proposed for some of the sites.  We believe that many of the Council’s proposals are just plain wrong—they are not based on proper evidence and often contradict local and national planning policy aspirations. We know that many people in Bromley share our concern.  Our public meeting to discuss the AAP attracted over 150 local residents. If the Council gets this wrong we will be living with the consequences for many years to come.

We will thoroughly review planning applications for each of the sites and make our comments on them.

For the latest status of all of these sites please see the post: Bromley Town AAP status

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Neighbourhood Planning

Introduced in 2011 through the Localism Act, Neighbourhood Planning allows local residents and businesses to have their own planning policies in a Neighbourhood Plan that reflects their priorities, delivers tangible local benefits and has real weight in planning decisions. Neighbourhood Plans can deal with single issue planning policies such as heritage and conservation, or include multiple policies centering on specific site development.

The Queen’s Speech in May 2015 indicated that the Government will legislate to speed up the neighbourhood planning process and make it easier for communities to develop a plan. The Government’s delivery body, Locality, has useful information about Neighbourhood Planning via the link below:

Locality guide to neighbourhood planning

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242 High Street Picture House Cinema

Opened on the 21st December 1936, it is one of Odeon’s original “Oscar Deutsch Odeon” cinemas, in Art Deco style, by George Coles.

TODO replace with one from camera. By Simon Steele.

It seated 1,492 in the main auditorium; with 1,018 in the stalls and 474 in the circle.

In 2006 the Empire chain bought the property, with Cineworld then aquiring it in 2106. They restored the frontage, restored the Art Deco decor, and opened it as a Picturehouse cinema in 2019. The bar/cafe has period decor recovered from the Co-op building in Widmore Road on demolition in 1998 (and stored in our chairman’s wife’s garage in between times).

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David Bowie in Bromley (or Bickley, or Beckenham)

An account from Bromley Bowie post on the 29th January, 2018:


Until recent years, Primark in Bromley high street was an Allders department store, and before then it was home to Medhursts, a large independent department store, founded in 1879.

A young David Bowie was a frequent visitor to Medhursts, calling in on the way home from school, enjoying the latest releases in a listening booth of the record department, before buying some of them at a discounted price from a sales attendant he befriended.

Here’s David Bowie himself recalling those days and some of the records he bought from Medhursts in an interview he gave for Nokia in 2006, when he listed some of his favourite albums:

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Charlie Mingus – Oh Yeah – 1961 Atlantic

“Medhurst was the biggest departmental store in Bromley, my British hometown in the early sixties. In terms of style, they were to be pulverized by their competitors down the road who stocked up early on the new ‘G-Plan’ Scandinavian style furniture. But they did have, unaccountably, a fantastic record department.

“Run by a wonderful ‘married’ couple, Jimmy and Charles, there wasn’t an American release they didn’t have or couldn’t get. Quite as hip as any London supplier, I would have had a very dry musical run if it were not for this place. Jane Green, their counter assistant, took a liking to me and whenever I would pop in, which was most afternoons after school, she would let me play records in the ‘sound booth’ to my heart’s content till they closed at 5.30 p.m.

“Jane would often join me and we would smooch big-time to the sounds of Ray Charles or Eddie Cochran. This was very exciting as I was around thirteen or fourteen and she would be a womanly seventeen at that time. My first older woman. Charles let me buy at a huge discount enabling me to build up a fab collection over the two or three years that I frequented this store. Happy days.

“Jimmy, the younger partner, recommended this Mingus album one-day around 1961. I lost my original Medhurst copy but have continued to re-buy it throughout the years as it was re-released time and time again. It has on it the rather giveaway track ‘Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am’. It was also my introduction to Roland Kirk.

The Fabulous Little Richard – Little Richard – 1959 Specialty

“Unusually subdued, these performances were recorded by Richard at his first Specialty sessions in 1955. It was sold to me discounted by Jane Greene.

James Brown – Live At the Apollo – KING 1963

“My schoolmate Geoff MacCormack brought this around to my house one afternoon, breathless and overexcited. ‘You have never, in your life, heard anything like this” he said. I made a trip to see Jane Greene that very afternoon. Two of the songs on this album ‘Try Me’ and ‘Lost Someone’, became loose inspirations for Ziggy’s ‘Rock and Roll Suicide’. Brown’s Apollo performance still stands for me as one of the most exciting live albums ever. Soul music now had an undisputed king.

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So, where Bromley Primark now stands was once Medhursts, a department store where a young David Bowie bought his vinyl. Also, 13 years before becoming Medhursts it was the birth place of HG Wells. There’s a plaque to commemorate this on the front of the building.

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