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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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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H.G. Wells in Bromley

H G Wells is a famous author, writing books such as author of The War Of The Worlds and The Time Machine with prescience.

His father had a shop on the high street, and it was here, on 21 September 1866, that  Herbert George Wells was born. He spent much of his early childhood in the town until he was apprenticed to a draper and left the area.

The shop was later demolised, and is occupied by the Victoria Chambers building, now part of primark.

Unfortunately, HG Wells had a certain amount of contempt for the place he spent his childhood.

H GWells wrote, in a barely legible letter to Mr Heyward, a wealthy local dignitary, in 1934: “Bromley has not been particularly gracious to me nor I to Bromley and I don’t think I want to add the Freedom of Bromley to the Freedom of the City of London and the Freedom of the City of Brissago — both of which I have.”

 

The letter was found by Brian Philp, director of Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit, tucked into an autobiography of H G Wells given to him by the daughter of Mr Heyward in 1986 (to whom it had been sent).

In one of his books, Wells describes the place as a ‘morbid sprawl of population’.

H G Wells  wrote; “I am sorry I do not remember being born…” in his spidery scrawl, on a postcard to contemporary local historian William Baxter, who had apparently been badgering the author for information about growing up in Bromley.

 

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Arts And Crafts Movement in Bromley – Ernest Newton

 

Ernest Newton was a protege of Norman Shaw, who had exemplified the best late Nineteenth Century architectural practises developing the suburbs of Bedford Park.  Norman Shaw is thought to have introduced him to the Lord of Manor of Lee, Earl Northbrook (of the Baring banking family). The manor of Lee, especially Grove Park, was the subject of “progressive” development in the Victorian era, a chance to create a “artistic suburb” in the same manner as Bedford Park.   This included the villa of “Three Gables” (that was occupied by the children’s author E Nesbit:

“The house was in the best fashion of “Queen Anne” free styling, beneath the hipped roof, tall brick chimneys and titular gables (two half timbered, the central one pargeted), the fenestration was irregular and deep bay windows were thrown out from the principal rooms into the generous gardens. It was a suitably free and liberating backdrop for Nesbit and her circle, that included HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw. Whether just following architectural fashion or a real attempt to style a South London rival to Bedford Park, the efforts of Lord Northbrook did attract its share of liberals and free-thinkers.” from http://www.theroyalbell.co.uk/

 

Three Gables – Grove Park

Bullers Wood

Grove Park House

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Victoria Chambers, now Primark’s Annex, 160 High Street – Heritage Building Profile

Primark annex next to Mothercare occupies Victoria Chambers, a fine building from the 1890s in the Arts & Crafts style with its characteristic Dutch influence.

With the building of a new section of road called the ‘New Cut’ in 1832, a sharp bend in the High Street was removed. The buildings constructed following this work included No. 47 which became the china, glass and pottery emporium of Joseph Wells.

Here on 21 September 1866 Herbert George Wells was born. He spent much of his early childhood in the town until he was apprenticed to a draper and left the area.  Please see more about HG Wells on our page here.

No. 47 became part of Medhursts in 1879 when Fred Medhurst bought several adjacent properties. The Primark store still has the name Medhurst on the building which stands today, and a plaque to commemorate the birthplace of H G Wells is displayed on the front of the shop.

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Press Release – 20-storey Tower over former Maplins at 66-70 High Street

BROMLEY CIVIC SOCIETY

Press Release

20 storey tower proposed on the site of the former Maplins store

Like circling vultures waiting to pick the bones of our historic old town developers are being lured by the Council’s ill-conceived Masterplan and the Site ‘G’ designation for the redevelopment of the west side of Bromley High Street from the Library down to the railway and beyond.

Bookending what would be an army of tower blocks is the Council’s existing St Mark’s Square development, aka the ‘Titanic’, at one end and their proposed 15 storey ‘Churchill Quarter’ at the other now said to be Phase One of the Masterplan. This is still awaiting a decision and if approved will overwhelm Library and Church House Gardens and used to set the general height standard of the Plan.

Spurred on by this, S2 Estates, are now proposing a 20 storey High block rising straight up from the pavement where Maplin’s used to be. Ironically, the Masterplan sets aside this particular site as being ‘Buildings of townscape merit’ and is one of the few areas not earmarked for development. The building proposed is also much higher than anything envisaged in the Masterplan. Tony Banfield, chair of the Bromley Civic Society said:

“Whilst the Masterplan has been condemned by the Ward Councillors as being destructive to the essential character of Bromley, this proposal, at 20 storeys on a clearly unsuitable site, goes above and beyond even that envisaged in the Masterplan. Councillor Peter Morgan, Portfolio holder for Renewal responsible for the Plan, has clearly unleashed a raging beast on our Town Centre environment. We hope and expect the Development Control Committee of the Council will refuse permission.”

This opportunistic proposal by S2 estates highlights the need for protection of the buildings deemed to be of architectural and townscape merit in the southern part of the High Street. These properties will be particularly vulnerable given all the development likely to take place around them. BCS have suggested in their response to the Masterplan that 66-70 High Street (formerly Maplins and adjacent properties) and 54-62 High Street (Laura Ashley and adjacent properties) should be included within ‘island’ extensions to the Conservation Area to give them long lasting and effective prevention. We hope that the Council will now see the merit in this and will go along with this suggestion.

It is not too late to have your say, there’s a feedback form at: https://highstreetbromley.co.uk/

The Masterplan can be viewed at www.bromley.gov.uk/downloads/file/3514/bromley_town_centre_site_10_masterplan

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Former Town Hall extension – Heritage Building Profile

The neo-Georgian style former Town Hall extension (now Exchequer House) in Widmore Road, was built in 1938-39 and designed by Charles Cowles-Voysey (see wiki), well known for his work on town hall and public buildings in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He was the son of Charles Voysey, one of Britain’s most influential architects.

blue-slate roofed 2-storey neo-georgian building

Neo-Georgian Town Hall Extension

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Former School of Art & Science (now the Clockhouse) – Heritage Building Profile

The School of Science and Art stands opposite the Edwardian Town Hall. The external relief terracotta panels include representations of science and art. The original building was designed by John Sulman and was built in 1878 by J C Arnauld at a cost of £3,000. The public opening included a display of the first working telephones ever made. The building was extended in 1894 to provide the town’s first library.

It was sold and converted into flats.

stylish copper green cupula on hexagonal tower

Cupola of the old Arts and Science college in 2006

In the 1960s

 

 

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Former Town Hall – Heritage Building Profile

The former Town Hall in Tweedy Road was built in 1906 by R Frank Atkinson in a neo-Wren style. The hipped slate roof has a central cupola constructed in timber, set above a fine entrance porch.

slate roofed, brick with stone pointing, 2-storey with round columned porch

Neo-gothic style to recall Wren’s buildings.

Officially opened by Mayor Alderman R W Jones JP on 25 September 1907, the building cost £35,000 including furnishings.

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Community House (former Magistrates Court) – Heritage Building Profile

The former Magistrates Court was designed in 1939 by C Cowles Voysey and forms part of an identifiable group of public buildings with the Fire Station and the Town Hall complex.

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