In 1897 the lord of the manor, Charles Cole-Childs, gave the field known as White Hart Field, to the people. This became Queens Gardens. Before the Glades was built it stretched between Market Square and the Bishops Palace (the Bishops of Rochester were the Lord of the Manor) – the palace is now the Civic Centre.
On the Widmore road side of the park was Phillips Homeopathy hospital, and old photos of the gardens have these buildings in the background. The park was used by patients convalescing.
The London Gardens Trust informs us “The original main entrance to the gardens in the north west corner was at the apex of a triangle adjacent to Market Square where there were fine ornamental iron gates, donated by Lord Kinnaird (George William Fox Kinnaird 9th Lord Kinnaird 1807 – 1878), a close friend of Coles Child. The gates, which Kinnaird had purchased at auction, date from the 1850s and had stood in front of his residence, Plaistow Lodge, on London Lane. In 1990, when The Glades Shopping Centre was constructed, the gates were moved to their present position in the southern part of the gardens.”* These gates had decorated the end of a long and winding driveway to Plaistow Lodge. Plaistow Lodge became Quernmore School, then in the 1990s, it housed Parish Primary school, when it’s listed buildings were demolished, to re-house the Methodist church, whose site was used for the Glades.
The current Queens Gardens is between the Glades and the Kentish Way bypass.
from the Friend’s page about this park: “Queen’s Garden represents the last remnant of the countryside hugging the old Market Square on the east side of town. It was part of the farmland belonging to Bromley Palace (now the Civic Centre) stretching from the White Hart Inn in the High Street all the way to Widmore Green. By the l8th century it was known as White Hart Field and it was here that the coaching horses could graze and where the town held their cricket matches. Despite its accustomed use by the townsfolk the field remained in the possession of the Lord of the Manor until donated to the town in 1897 on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and on condition it was laid out as a public garden.”
A large section of it was sold to the developer’s of the Glades. They gave some exchange land, but as this lacked the protection of public park land, this was then claimed back in 2015 and the restaurant terrace built on it.
The agent of good fortune was “young Sutton,” the grown-up son of the landlord of the Bell. I was playing outside the scoring tent in the cricket field and in all friendliness he picked me up and tossed me in the air. “Whose little kid are you?” he said, and I wriggled, he missed his hold on me and I snapped my tibia across a tent peg. A great fuss of being carried home; a painful setting — for they just set and strapped a broken leg tightly between splints in those days, and the knee and ankle swelled dreadfully — and then for some weeks I found myself enthroned on the sofa in the parlour as the most important thing in the house, consuming unheard-of jellies, fruits, brawn and chicken sent with endless apologies on behalf of her son by Mrs. Sutton, and I could demand and have a fair chance of getting anything that came into my head, books, paper, pencils, and toys — and particularly books.
I had just taken to reading. I had just discovered the art of leaving my body to sit impassive in a crumpled up attitude in a chair or sofa, while I wandered over the hills and far away in novel company and new scenes. And now my father went round nearly every day to the Literary Institute in Market Square and got one or two books for me, and Mrs. Sutton sent some books, and there was always a fresh book to read… I cannot recall now many of the titles of the books I read, I devoured them so fast…
Some pictures of Queens Gardens, past and present:
(1) From An Experiment in Autobiography by H. G. Wells, 1934, Chapter 2.
* From London Gardens Trust: at https://londongardenstrust.org/conservation/inventory/site-record/?ID=BRO061