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

Thanks to Bromley Gloss at : — 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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BCS talk: From the Vestry to the Palace – Thurs 21 March

This talk will cover the story of local government in Bromley; the buildings, the architecture and what the future might hold.

from the vestry to the palace (and where next?) - Peter's talk on Thursday

from the vestry to the palace (and where next?) – Peter’s talk on Thursday

The talk will take place at the Parish rooms, Church Road, Bromley BR2 0EG

Thursday 21 March 2019 at 7.30pm

For more information, please see our flyer.


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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


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

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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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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:

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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208-214 High Street former Tunnel Shoes – Heritage Buildings

Tunnel Shoes occupy the original 1902 premises of Boots the Chemists. The Art Nouveau wrought iron work in front of the first floor windows is typical of boots in this period and similar work can also be seen in Boots old shop in the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells. Behind the modern false ceiling the gallery of Boots famous ‘Penny Library’ still survives. The building replaced that of Rawes School, one of Bromley’s most important educational establishments in the 19th century.

From Bromley Gloss on FB:

Bromley Mystery 🛑 Have you got a theory, or are you in the know about the Tunnel Shop on Bromley High Street North. Remember Tunnel Discount Shoe Shop… A decade ago or there abouts it shut down, and has continued to stand empty to this day.

❤Set in a beautiful ornate vintage building in a location with lots of footfall throughout the year, why has there not been the slightest hint anyone is interested in taking it over. What’s your theory? #tunnel #tunnelshoeshop #bromleyhighstreet #bromleyshops #bromleyarchitecture #bromleymyster

Jason : I looked into leasing this property, however was told it was already sold to developers to build a block of flats. That was however 3 years ago so not sure if that has changed.

The problem is the rent for the shop is so high nobody would ever be able to cope with it, so it’s been dead.



The property occupies a prominent position close to the junction with Market Square. Nearby multiple retailers include Primark, McDonald’s, and William Hill together with many banks, restaurants and bars. (See attached Street Traders Plan extract).

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Market Square The Old New Townhall – Heritage Buildings

Built, at his own cost, by the new Lord of the Manor, Coles-Child.  The bricks were from his own brickpit, from where Havelock Rec is now:…/.

It seems that it was at least 3 different buildings kludged together… most of its life rented by an estate agents, included the police station with a cell, and housed the fire engine for a while. But the large upper room was never used for council meetings (making the ‘town hall’ name a misnomer).
“This was demolished in 1933 and replaced with the current neo-tudor buildings.” from london-footsteps.

It replaced a much smaller, more traditional market building in the centre of the square.

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Bromley Town AAP Update 2019

Bromley Town Area Action Plan – update as at March 2019.

The AAP was drawn up and adopted by Bromley Council in 2010. The plan identifies the following sites in the Town Centre for development. It has been somewhat modified by the Local Plan adopted in 2018.

Site A (Site 2 in the Local Plan): Bromley North station. The site is in several ownerships but mainly Network Rail. The AAP plan is to redevelop the Station and area behind for a mixed use development comprising 525 housing units, 2000sqm offices, 230sqm cafe/retail and unspecified community space. Part of the site is identified as possibly suitable for a tall or taller building. An application for a 23 storey block on one small site was opposed by BCS and refused by Council in 2018. The Council are considering drawing up a Masterplan for the whole area to prevent piecemeal development. The Station building is Grade II listed and would be retained.


Site B: Tweedy Road adjacent to Bromley & Sheppard’s College. A scheme for 72 housing units which complied with the (then emerging AAP) was opposed by BCS and refused by Council on grounds of harm to the setting of the conservation area and listed buildings. The developers of this Council owned land went to appeal and lost. A new scheme, also opposed by BCS because of harm to heritage assets was nevertheless approved by Council and is expected to be built in 2019.

Site C: Old Town Hall, Tweedy Road & Widmore Road and adjacent Car Park – Council owned Proposals for hotel conversion of both Town Hall buildings and flats on the car park was approved by Council but not implemented. Currently the Council are negotiating a sale with a developer for office use.

Site E: The Pavilion. AAP proposals to move these leisure facilities onto the Civic Centre site and extend the Glades shopping centre have been abandoned. Bromley Mytime, a charitable trust, has completed a £5M refurbishment of this leisure centre in March 2012.

Site F: Civic Centre (Local Plan Site 1). AAP proposals were relocation of the Pavilion Leisure facilities, housing and retained Council use. Current Local Plan proposals are retained offices, retained car park , 70 housing units including conversion of the Palace building, retention of south east open space as a public park as now. BCS sought restoration of the Palace grounds in consideration of what has been lost to build Kentish Way, the multi-storey car park & the newer Council offices and continued public use of the Grade II listed Palace. This has been rejected by the Council.

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.

Site J: Bromley South Station ( now included in Site G/10 in the Local Plan. Upgrade of the station facilities, funded through the government’s Access to All programme. Completed Spring 2012. Now part of Site G/10 earmarked for housing development

Site K: Westmoreland Road. In March 2012 Cathedral Group received planning permission to replace the

existing multi-storey car park with a nine-screen multiplex cinema, hotel and 200 homes in a very high tower.

(Planning ref: 11/03865/FULL1). The outline plans predate the drafting of the AAP and the development is now complete nicknamed variously as the ‘ski slope’ or ‘titanic’ because of its shape by locals.

Site L: DHSS Building and Christian Centre, Westmoreland Road & Mason’s Hill. A hotel development was approved in 2013 by the Council but the site was acquired by the Department of Education and subsequently subject of an application for a 10 storey School building (the SHAW). This was recommended for approval by Council officers but refused by Councillors. The subsequent planning Appeal was dismissed February 2019 mainly on grounds of the loss of the protected view of Keston Ridge which is something of a breakthrough decision for environmental matters in the Town Centre

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No 123 High Street, Marks and Spencers – Heritage Building Profile

“Wright Brothers’ attractive bow-windowed shop was taken over by a High Street chain store, who a few years ago took great trouble to reproduce in every detail this lovely frontage, when they needed twice the space.  Few shoppers can tell where the original part and the new section join.” Murial Mundie nee Searle, 1988.

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No 130 High Street, Paperchase

One of the older buildings in the High Street:

One of the older buildings in the High street; it has fantastic décor – the shop floor ceiling is removed and the first floor has period furniture suspended from the ceiling:

Period furniture and decor of the first floor, suspended.

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Nos 72-80 High Street, Bromley House Parade – Heritage Building Profile

This parade of shops was built about 1930 when this part of the High Street was developed, replacing a line of fine villas that overlooked the Ravensbourne valley. The parade is fronted in brick with stone ornamentation, the broken pediments and sash windows of Neo-Gothic style.

brick parade of shops with two stories of pedimented sash windows.

Bromley Manor Parade, in brick Neo-Gothic style.

The first mentions in the business listing of Kelly’s Directory is the 1932 edition.

It is named after Bromley Manor, the site of which is in Church House gardens.  It burnt down in the Blitz, on the 16th April, 1941.  The fire brigade was unable to reach the house as the parish church had also been hit and the broken masonry blocked the road.  The portico survived and is on the front of 3 Ethelbert Road (Bromley Town Church):

fine classic portico with curled column tops

Classical Portico from Bromley Manor (on the front of 3 Ethelbert Road)

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