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 bursts 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. The Town came out in force on Queens Mead below the Hill to celebrate the 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. These colonies have been knocked back by the lack of control of the bramble during Lockdown, but the park Friends are intending to reverse this decline.

Noted local Antiquarian, ELS Horsburgh said about the broom in his History of Bromley in 1928:

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

“It may be reasonably inferred that in prehistoric times the whole district in and around the modern town of Bromley was covered by woods and undergrowth. Very conspicuous among its flora was the common broom, and from this feature of the landscape the name Bromleag, or, in Latin form, Bromlega, was ultimately derived, meaning the heath where the broom grows.

Another local historian, Charles Freeman writing as early as 1825 noted that Martin’s Hill was wholly or partially covered in broom but that elsewhere “few vestiges of this broom, however, are now remaining, most of the ground having been taken into cultivation”.

There is more at the page on Friends of Bromley Town Parks website: https://bromleytownparks.wordpress.com/our-parks/martins-hill/

Members of the Society handed out sprigs of broom at the Kings Coronation celebrations in Queens Gardens, when the ceremony was shown on a big screen:

Gentleman and lady in Victorian dress holding sprigs of broom
Handing out sprigs of Broom flowers, for Bromley, at the Kings Coronation celebration in 2023. Thanks to Ann Garrett (Bromley Friends of the Earth) for the photo.
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