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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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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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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The Fire Station – Heritage Building Profile

The Fire Station was designed by Stanley Hawkings, the Borough Engineer, and was completed in 1905 at a cost of £5,191 12s 6d.

town fire station with striking brick and stone stripes around the bay doors

Bromley Town Fire Station

Before this the fire brigade was located on West street opposite Sainsburys.

1910 firemen with fire engine and horses

 

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