Picturehouse is new home for rescued Art Deco Screens

BCS Chairman, Tony Banfield, says:

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

This was a fine building from the same date as the Picturehouse which the Council acquired and demolished in 1987 to relocate the UR Church to build the Glades. Myself and friends spent some a hair raising days in the demolition site rescuing the screens from around the stairwell.

They’ve been in my garage for the past 30 years like sleeping beauty waiting for the kiss of life. That kiss finally came from Clare Binns, CEO of the Picturehouse, and they are now being incorporated into the design of the new cafe area, beautifully restored. This double conservation project is almost unbelievable in Bromley where demolition of heritage has been the order of the day for years.

Ironically, in the recently approved Council Local Plan, the Cinema like the old Co-op was included in Council redevelopment proposals . In its faith in restoration of this fine Art Deco Cinema the Picturehouse Company has demonstrated what Bromley Civic Society has been saying for years, that Bromley’s heritage should be recognised as one of its greatest trading assets.

Congratulations PictureHouse and here’s to future success.”

sunburst art deco screen
Restored Art Deco screen, from Widmore Road co-op, at The PIcturehouse Cinema
coloured ray screen
Restored Art Deco screen, from Widmore Road co-op, at The PIcturehouse Cinema
arch and ray coloured art deco screen
Restored Art Deco screen, from Widmore Road co-op, at The PIcturehouse Cinema
looped sunburst art deco screen
Restored Art Deco screen, from Widmore Road co-op, at The PIcturehouse Cinema
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Proposals for Old Town Hall, from the new owners

Old Town Hall

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.   We would wish to see the roof heights of the new build kept lower than the roof ridge of the former Courthouse.   We would also like to see certain spaces within the building kept intact and made available for public events; in particular the 1907 Council Chamber and the old Courthouse (the latter is to be made into a bar/café). Other important rooms and features within the building, such as the art deco details inside the Widmore Road entrance, should be retained.

A scheme of 53 residential flats is proposed for the South Street car park.  This is likely to be in a 5 storey building – BCS would wish this to reflect the scale and detailing of surrounding buildings in Tweedy Road and to not impact on the listed Town Hall. Bromley Civic Society will be making a formal response to Castleforge when more information is available.  In the meantime send your comments toBromleyOldTownHall@kandaconsulting.co.uk 

You can see our profile of the building at The Old Town Hall page http://www.bromleycivicsociety.org.uk/2019/01/former-town-hall-extension-heritage-building-profile/

The drawings accompanying the document, from the side roads.

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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.

Gentleman in tricorn hat and green coat, in spacious, cream panelled room
Peter in Period Costume, in a reception room showing cream panels picked out in white

What a privilege to wander inside the beautiful 18th Century building known as Bromley Palace, and you can even think about having your wedding reception there. With its grand staircase, wooden panels, high ceilings and even an Adams fireplace it was once home to the Bishops of Rochester and it has retained its grand air.


Back outside we learnt that the surrounding area is actually a peaceful park with a lake and fountains for all to enjoy but sadly parts of this beautiful environment have been shamefully neglected; a rude awakening indeed on our tour. How can we expect everyone to respect our precious open spaces when officialdom seems disinclined to support the protection of local heritage?

little fountain in circular Victorian brick 3-tier pool
St Blaise’s well in the Palace Park


After half an hour break many of us hardy souls returned for another tour, this time on ‘Victorian Bromley’ in the area around Bromley North. We were joined by a delightful lady dressed in Victorian garb who was as knowledgeable as our two top hatted gentlemen. We walked and talked and listened, we saw how the growth of the railways led to the building of 19th century commuter housing and we discovered a quaint 200 year old cottage. There was more of course – if you look up above the modern shopfronts, you can see dates carefully crafted into the brickwork, 1876, 1884, 1903, further evidence of Bromley’s hidden history. Look down and you will see the plaque commemorating the Bromley youngster, H G Wells.

attentive boy of about 8 sat at a table with a book open
HG Wells at school age

This enjoyable but thought provoking day was finished off in grand style with a visit to the newly opened Bromley Picturehouse. Tea and Coffee was kindly offered, allowing us the chance to see the truly beautiful renovation of this building, complete with vintage art deco screens panels.


A picture perfect end to a lovely day indeed, but for the worrying seeds of doubt – are the guardians of our heritage doing everything they can?

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Heritage Open Days: 14 Sept

For the 2019 Heritage Open Day, Bromley Civic Society will be leading three walks that explore historic Bromley:

1.Saturday 14th September: 10.00am Bromley Palace and Park

Meeting time and place:

10am, at Stockwell Close (off Kentish Way), close to Bromley Civic Centre

Site of the birthplace of HG Wells

2. Saturday 14th September: 12.30pm

Victorian Bromley

Meet: Outside entrance to Primark, off Market Square

3. Saturday 14th September: 3.00pm

Bromley & Sheppards College

Meet: outside The Railway Tavern (opposite Bromley North station)

For more information please see our flyer.

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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
chair@bromleycivicsociety.org.uk

The Park has been seriously damaged in the past firstly by the later Stockwell College buildings and then by Bromley Council developing the entire western lands to construct Kentish Way, the Civic Centre Multi Storey Car Park and new Civic Offices.

How the Palace Gardens were lost: originally a green vista from Market Square, they were first sold for housing in the 1930s (but Queens Gardens retained for the people) then the ‘Western Lawns’ were sold off for the bypass and car park. Now the last fragment is up for sale…

Because of this degree of redevelopment the Council, in 1987, designated the rest of the Park including that now offered for sale as ‘permanent open space’ with the proviso that there should be no more development.  

Before and After pics of the Western Lawns when the Bypass was built in the 1990s

Heritage and, in particular, open space heritage is a vulnerable and finite resource. Once lost it is lost forever unless in the gift of an owner responsible enough to value it’s historic and environmental value to the community and future generations. That is what we expect of our elected Council, this case, as owner and guardian of our open space heritage in accordance with adopted policy. To grab this historic land for development is just inexcusable and it should be returned to Parkland.

permanent open space designation for the remaining palace grounds
The area that the council previously designated Permanent Open space. The chunk being sold is the bottom right quarter.
delineated area to be sold, the bottom right quarter of the previous map.
The chunk of the grounds to be sold, nearly a quarter of the whole (see above).
St Blaise’s well… not in the chunk to be sold, but this you walk through the contended chunk to reach this well.
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Civic Day: Two heritage walks & family trail

On Saturday 22nd June 2019 (National Civic Day) Bromley Civic Society are organising two heritage walks around Bromley Town Centre and also a family heritage ‘Treasure’ trail. See our flyer.

The walks start and finish in The Glades (north end upper level, near Boots) each walk is 90 mins and is Free. 

The first walk at 10:30am will be through the Bromley Palace and into the Park beyond.  The Palace was the 18th century Georgian home of the Bishops of Rochester and is now the nerve centre of Bromley Council.  It was transformed in 1845 by Victorian entrepreneur Coles-Child.  We will see the grand staircase, wood carved panels, an Adams fireplace and more; also historic landscape features in the adjoining park.

The second walk at 12:30pm will be around the old town of Bromley to get a flavour of its Victorian heyday, when many buildings in the Arts and Crafts style were built and the young Herbert George Wells was experiencing life that would later shape his novels.

Black-and-white house with jetties, turret and balconies
The Star and Garter, an Arts and Crafts fantasy

We will see a variety of Victorian style pubs, 150yr old commuter housing, a 200yr old Kentish Cottage and will take a look at the new Picturehouse

Heritage Treasure trail
There will also be something for 5-12 yrs olds and all the family – a family Heritage Treasure Trail. Pick up your clues at the Bromley Civic Society desk in The Glades (nr Boots on the upper floor) between 10am and 12pm and follow a trail of treasure in 21 spots around the town.  It’s free and will take about an hour.  There will be prizes!  

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

Thanks to Bromley Gloss at :https://www.facebook.com/BromleyGloss/photos/a.1400163736933691/2338726886410700/?type=3&theater — at High Street, Bromley.

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

Tony Banfield, our chairman writes:

“A planning application has now been lodged by the Council for removal of the tiles on the Churchill Theatre/ Library building to survey the underlying concrete and paint over with grey paint.

Bromley Civic Society and the Town Ward Councillors are hoping this is a temporary measure and that it will not become permanent. Given the Council is proposing to strip away all the greenery in Library Gardens opposite the building, if the Churchill Quarter development goes ahead, and even if it doesn’t, BCS are calling for any new treatment to be in the form of a living ‘green wall’ such as is now being used in so many buildings these days.”

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

Green wall in the City of London (new street square)
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Half Term fun! Do our new Family Heritage Trail !

Have the most amazing time this half term! Do our new family Heritage Treasure Trail around our historic buildings in central Bromley.

No booking required, find us in the Local Studies Centre on the 2nd floor of Bromley Central Library (on the High Street) from 1-4pm.

drawings of the arts-and-science school cupula, shells, and HG Well's time machine.

Half Term fun! Our new family heritage trail!

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Historic Architecture Talk on February 28th: Venue Change

Please note that the venue for Benedict O’Looney’s talk on historic architecture in south London has been changed to the Small Hall, Bromley Central Library (see below). Benedict will also speak about progress with the current plan to restore the Royal Bell hotel.

Royal BellBenedict O’Looney
Talk on 28th February 2019, 7:30pm: Small Hall, Bromley Central Library
‘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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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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Halloween Ghost Walk!!

Bromley Civic Society will be leading a ghost walk this Halloween, Wednesday 31 October. Find out about Bromley’s murky past with tales of ghosts, murder, political intrigue and execution !!!!!

Meet at Belgo in Queen’s Garden beside the north entrance to the Glades from 6:15pm for a 6:30pm start.

Booking Essential

Mail: chair@bromleycivicsociety.org.uk

Tour 1 hour 30mins, ending in the spooky Victorian labyrinth of the Bromley Little Theatre (in Compass Lane off North Street) where we will hear the strange story of the white lady of the theatre!

 

 

 

See our flyer for further details.

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Three Heritage open day walks: September 2018

Bromley Civic Society will be leading three of its popular heritage walks during September to celebrate open day

17th century Bromley and Sheppard’s Colleges

The 17th century Grade 1 listed, Wren inspired buildings form a quiet oasis in Bromley North. The walk will take us through the two quadrangles of the main College, into the Chapel (1862), around the grounds to see Sheppard’s College (1840) and some 200 year old graffiti.

Saturday 8 September

Meet 10:30am

Outside the Railway Tavern opposite Bromley North station

 

Bromley Palace and Park

The 18th century Georgian home of the Bishops of Rochester was transformed in 1845 by Victorian entrepreneur Coles-Child. We will see the grand staircase, wood carved panels, an Adams fireplace and more; also historic landscape features in the adjoining park.

Sunday 9th September

Meet 10:30am, Stockwell Close

 

 

Victorian Bromley (HG Wells)

A walk around the old town of Bromley to get a flavour of its Victorian heyday, when many buildings in the Arts and Crafts style were built and the young Herbert George Wells was experiencing life that would later shape his novels.

Sunday 16 September

Meet 10:30am, main entrance of Primark, Market Square

 

For more information, please see our flyer.

 

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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.

 

Objections to this development should be submitted as soon as possible.

Please see our flyer for further details.

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Four Heritage Walks for Civic Day: Saturday 16 June

Civic Day, with the slogan “I care about where I live”, is a nationwide event organised by Civic Voice (formerly the Civic Trust). Bromley Civic Society is contributing to Civic Day by staging four heritage walks around Bromley Town Centre on Saturday 16th June.

All four walks are free and each will take about 90 mins.  They will start and finish in The Glades at the north end upper level near Boots.  We will have a display there about the heritage of Bromley and more details about the work of the Bromley Civic Society.

The idea is to engage and inform visitors about the town’s rich heritage of architecture and green spaces and the stories that can be told about the characters that lived there in the past. People coming on the walks will be encouraged to look up and see details of buildings they may not have noticed before although they may have walked past them many times.

If residents and visitors know more about their local environment and the history that shaped it, they are more likely to end the day by saying “I care about where I live”!

The four walks are:

9:30am   Bromley Palace and Park

12:00pm   Bromley’s Green Spaces, Parks and Gardens 

2:00pm   Victorian Bromley (Arts and Crafts, HG Wells) 

4:00pm   Pathways of the Past 

For more details about the walks, please see our flyer for the day.

 

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Royal Bell Hotel Development: Members only meeting

Royal BellBromley Civic Society has been fortunate enough to secure a meeting with the new owners of the Royal Bell Hotel, High Street, Bromley.

They will be hosting a special members only meeting at the Bell on Saturday 28th April at 10.30am where there will be a chance to see proposed plans for the development of the hotel.

Places are limited and booking for this event is essential by emailing chair@bromleycivicsociety.org.uk

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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.

The Bromley Arts and Community Initiative (BACI) was formed to look at ways of re-opening the building as a venue for theatre and music along with arts workshops and community rooms supported by a commercially run café/pub on the ground floor. The Heritage Lottery Fund’s Heritage Enterprise scheme, it was hoped, could provide significant funding. Bromley Council and the Social Investment Business helped towards feasibility studies.

The Royal Bell dates from 1898 and is Grade II listed and was designed by Ernest Newton, an important Arts and Crafts architect and Bickley resident. It replaced an earlier hotel on the site that was one of three important coaching inns that were the mainstay of the local economy throughout the Victorian era. Bromley was a convenient stop on the road to the coast where travellers rested or changed horses for the onward journey. Jane Austen may have stayed in the Bell as she famously refers to it in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. It was granted the prefix ‘Royal’ when it was appointed as a posting house to Queen Victoria, after which royal coaches would change horses there. On these occasions stablehands were required to put on scarlet uniforms.

When seen from the High Street it is obvious that the Royal Bell was designed as a group, including No 175 near the Market Square and the former Martins Bank, now William Hill (spot the ‘M’ in the roundels on the black lead-covered bows).

ParegettingA distinctive feature is the white painted pargetted strapwork under the bow windows, with its Arts and Crafts lettering and depictions of bells, gremlins and nymphs. The white paint has probably preserved the pargetting in good condition – originally it would have been bare plaster, dark brown in colour (see photo). Newton clearly hoped that this would be the beginning of a grander High Street but it was not to be; to the north past no.181, the older Kentish cottages still remain.

The 1920s photo shows a glass covered canopy over the front door adorned with signs. It is no longer there of course but during the condition survey, a piece of stained glass with the letters RB was discovered on the floor of the stables at the rear. Could this be the remains of the canopy? The 1920s photo also shows shopfronts inserted in the frontage. This is something that could be considered again as a means of improving the viability of the building as a whole.

BallroomInside, Newton provided a grand ballroom on the first floor with a gallery and characteristic chimneypiece. These are still there but a large hole has been carved in the floor of the ballroom (in the 1980’s?) to allow for a curved staircase to be inserted (since removed). The first floor rooms in the front overlooking the High Street have original chimneypieces and decorative ceiling still intact.

During the condition survey commissioned by BACI some asbestos, dry rot and water ingress in two places were found (the leaseholders have since dealt with these problems). A large range of further repairs and adaptations were costed – including installation of disabled lifts and bridging over the floor of the ballroom to enable its use as a venue for music and theatre. The complexity and total cost proved too much for a voluntary organisation to handle without a commercial partner.

In 2014 we heard that Antic Ltd had taken a lease on the Royal Bell. Antic are a pub company that have rescued several historic buildings in south London and they seem an ideal company to tackle the Royal Bell, albeit not as we originally envisaged. Antic have carried out a sympathetic refurbishment of the Railway Tavern opposite Bromley North Station and the pub now seems to be operating successfully. Anthony Thomas, the Chief Executive of Antic has said his approach to refurbishment is ‘slowly, slowly’ and it may be years before the building is fully operational. He is open to suggestions about arts activities in the Royal Bell and has included the showing of films in a mini arts cinema in the stables building at the rear. In August, he said that they were still awaiting the completion of the lease, they hope to conclude next month… and soon thereafter make a start on works.

Watch that space!

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Picture House Opening Date Is Announced

Just in case our readers haven’t already heard, the cinema on the High Street, that has just been converted to a Picture House, has an opening date, Friday 7th June!

When visiting our new venue, don’t forget to look for the Art Deco screens that our chairman rescued from the Co-Op on Widmore Road! They were saved when it was demolished for the Glades.

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Don’t Clutter Market Square

We like our Market Square with enough open space for our market – If you want to continue to have our market in Market Square, find a moment to object to this planning proposal 19_00241: https://searchapplications.bromley.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=PLEVE4BTJHM00

The Garden Shed style additions to Market Square

From our chair: “A finance driven Council co-development abuse of our Market Square?   We’ve always supported using Market Square for the Charter Market and always opposed any permanent structures of any design.   Permanent Garden Sheds – This is street clutter, out of character and harmful to the character and appearance of the most sensitive part of the Conservation Area and setting of five adjacent Listed and locally listed buildings”

green topped market stalls in market square
Market Square with the Charter market taking place last Thursday
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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.

It is recorded that by 1832 most of the broom had disappeared through development and cultivation and Martin’s Hill was the last place in the Town where it could still be seen. Seen and celebrated it certainly was. Local historian Muriel Searle tells us that Victorian railway gazetteers drew passengers’ attention to the blaze of yellow on the hillside as they passed through the Shortlands Valley and the Town came out in force on Queens Mead below the Hill to celebrate the now long forgotten festival of Broom Day.

Programme for the town’s Broom Day celebration.

The newspaper report of 1933 says “ once again thousands of people will be wearing sprigs of Broom and by purchasing this delightful little emblem of the town of which they are so proud they will be helping the local hospitals and a dozen other good causes. As in previous years the classic Queens Mead (below martin’s Hill) will be the gay scene of a host of attractions”.

Sadly, along with Bromley’s sense of Civic Pride, the broom and its significance in post War years disappeared but the shrub began to make a comeback on Martin’s Hill in the 1980s. Despite being overrun with bramble due to the absence of any Council policy for its conservation it is fighting back in several large colonies in this, its native habitat.

Illustration of the broom plant, flower, leaf, seed pod.
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