Martins Hill and the War Memorial

Saved from development by public subscription.

Some debate as to the origin of the name; it could be because it was where all the house martins flew in the thermals from the slope.

In the early years of the railway, the slopes were noted for the perfusion of broom, and made the hillside appear quite yellow from the train.

H.G Wells describes playing here in his writings, and the former appearance of the Ravensbourne, in the days before the pumping stations at Shortlands and Sparrows Den had not taken much of the flow away:

“Here, too, if my memory serves me aright, the river met – with a
certain air of patronage – a shallow, rippling foot-wide tributary, rich
in cress and water-snails and minnows, that came from a tree bordered pond [below Durham Road], duckweed covered and dear to
dragon-flies and water-wagtails. Over that tributary Frank Blake used
to jump with his little brother in his arms.
“Thereafter the river ran shallow for a time under a fence, and became
a mere stew of frog spawn or black tadpoles according to the time of
year. Then a long line of trees and a footpath to Shortlands touched it.”
[This account fits well with the 1863 Ordnance Survey map. Paul Rainey]
“When I was about nine years old [1875] there was talk of improving
the town. It was about this time that the Ravensbourne began to shrink. I
remember how we youngsters thought it a very fine thing at first.
Gravelly islands covered with dried green algae began to appear in the
river where no islands had been before, and one could wade
anywhere. The fishes crowded into the deeper pools, and were more
easily caught.
“That winter the meadows were not flooded, and there was no skating,
and the next summer the fishes had gone, the tadpoles and the forget-me-nots, and the river bed was only fit for playing Sahara in, with one
thin thread of water trickling down its centre.
“I saw my River Ravensbourne from the train yesterday [1894]. The little trickle of water is still running, but most of the bed of the river is dry.”

These quotes are taken from the Pall Mall Gazette, a note HG Wells had written, called “The Degeneration Of The Ravensbourne, A Memory of Bromley”. Paul Rainey and the BBHLS had taken these quotes from this publication and correlated them to the Ordinance Survey maps of that time.

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