High Street No. 135 Fox House and the Olde Sweet Shoppe – Heritage Building

Arts and Crafts shop with bay window and 3rd storey dormer
Fox House at 135 High Street, with the Olde Sweet Shoppe.

Fox House is a lovely 1890s building in the terrace just below Market Square.

This building is fancifully decorated, with a gable end and a dome on the roof, though it is not visible when standing in front of the shop on the High Street.

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Tour of the Old Town Halls, post-restoration by CastleForge

The first tour of the Former Town Halls, after their conversion and restoration, took place on Saturday 11th February (these tours are a membership benefit! join here). In 2018 the Old Town Hall on Tweedy Road, and the Town Hall Extension on Widmore Road, together with the courthouse, were sold to CastleForge, to convert to co-working offices. Now the buildings have been repaired and converted, Clockwise (who operate the shared office-space) has allowed some tours of the buildings to take place.

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Summary/Notes on the SPD – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Some of the content of the Supplementary Planning Document is to be praised, and some notice has been taken of the feedback in the 2020 consultation, except for the rejection of high-rise tower blocks (see our post, where 86% of responses about building heights rejected High Rise – more than 6 storeys – new buildings)

The document is divided into 15 ‘Guidance Notes’, most of which have good proposals. Then it outlines more detail proposals for it’s Areas and Sub-Areas. Please see our (slightly annotated) copy of the whole document:

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Filling in the Survey Monkey on the SPD consultation

The Supplementary Planning Document consultation has an option to fill in your opinion on each section via Survey Monkey. It’s not an especially good survey, as you can’t see what you are commenting on – you have to have the document open in another tab, and have taken notes.

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Architectural Elements of Heritage Bromley

The 2023 Supplementary Planning Document for Bromley Town states the NPG aim:

“well-designed places are based on a sound understanding of the surrounding context, influence their context positively and are responsive to local history, culture and heritage. Creating a positive sense of place helps to foster a sense of belonging and contributes to well-being, inclusion and community cohesion. Well-designed places respond to existing local character and identity and contribute to local distinctiveness.”

Section 4.4 of the SPD 2023.

In order to help architects who may not be able to visit the town in person, we have compiled some of the architectural elements found on Bromley’s town centre heritage buildings and conservation area.

A Goup of buildings designed by Ernest Newton, including the Star and Garter

The David Greg building in Market Square, that uses ceramic tiles to add decorative arches, a porthole window, and other embellishments
Bromley North Station.  This Edwardian building is one of several with cupolas, as well as an arched entrance, pediment, and delicate iron grill work.
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1 Palace Park – 7 Eastern Lawn and the Old Bishops Palace

view of neo-classical brick building with stone pointing and large chimneys

View of Bromley Bishop’s Palace from the lawns.

Bromley’s Civic Centre consists of a number of buildings grouped around the Bishop’s Palace, once one of the official residences of the Bishops of Rochester. The present building is part 18th century.

This article is only a small part of the extensive information on this lovely historic building.  It is to be hoped that the beautiful reception rooms will remain in public access given the uncertain future.

The manor of Bromley is first recorded around the year 610, as a gift to the Bishops of Rochester from King Ethelbert of Kent.  The present building dates from 1775 but there has been a manor house in Bromley, from at least the 10th century. Bishop Gilbert de Glanville rebuilt on this site in 1184, and the original structure was altered and added to at various dates. The old building was demolished by Bishop Thomas and was entirely rebuilt between 1774 and 1776.

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Pulhamite – Pulham ‘stone’

The Pulhamite listed structures were installed by the new Lord of the Manor, Coles-Child, as part of his restoration and modernisation of the old Bishop’s Palace. The English Heritage listing is “It is a good and little-altered example of the artificial rock work (Pulhamite) produced in the mid-C19 by James Pulham’s firm, and it sits within a little-altered mid-C19 landscape setting, at the end of a lake and amidst trees.“.

Pulhams had invented an early form of concrete, which looks quite convincingly like rocks – but was much easier to install the shapes and forms that customer’s wanted. It became very fashionable – Sundridge Park paid the for more expensive installation, a gorge, that was top of the range as it included real fossils. Buckinham Palace has several, and Ramsgate installed a convincing cliff at Madeira Walk.

The basic structure was constructed from brickwork, and then the artisan would put a rendering of ‘pulhamite’ over the top, putting in rock-like layers and shapes as he plastered the render on – this was skilled job to make it look like genuine rock outcrops.

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1 Palace Park – 2 The Fernery (Pulhamite stone feature)

The Fernery is one of the four Grade 2 listed features in the park. When Coles-Child bought the title of ‘Lord Of The Manor’ of Bromley from the Diocese of Rochester, he set about creating a garden worthy of his new position.

a rockery with school buildings behind
The fernery in the 1990s with Stockwell College buildings behind where there is a car park nowadays. This is before the bamboo and self-seeded yew trees overshadowed the rocks.

Pteridomania!

When this fernery was built, there was a fashion for collecting ferns – ‘pteridomania’ (the fern craze). This term was coined by Charles Kingsley, clergyman, naturalist (and later author of The Water Babies). It involved both British and exotic varieties being collected and displayed; many associated structures were constructed and paraphernalia was used to maintain the collections.[1]

Relicts of an ancient era

Similar to flowering plants, ferns have roots, stems and leaves. However, unlike flowering plants, ferns do not have flowers or seeds; instead, they usually have tiny spores.

There are about 12,000 different species, or types, of fern throughout the world. Some types first appeared on Earth more than 360 million years ago, the Carboniferous era.

Ferns in the Carboniferous did not resemble the ones alive today, these seed ferns (Gymnosperms) grew to be tree ferns of 30 or 40 meters. However, there are ferns alive today that have been unchanged for 180 million years – exceptional fossils including molecular details were found of Cinnamon Ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum).

‘Waterfalls and ferneries’

He bought two fashionable ‘Pulhamite’ features, later described in their catalogue as ‘Waterfalls and ferneries’. This historic structure is their fernery, complete with little scoops in, for planting the ferns. The structure was built from bricks, and a skilled plasterer would apply the ‘Pulhamite’ over it, making it closely resemble real rocks. Pulhamite was an early form of concrete, made to their own recipe, by James Pulham & sons (which was lost on the death of the proprietors). They sent the craftsmen to Derbyshire to look at Millstone Grit outcrops so they could imitate the rocks realistically. Even Buckingham Palace had a couple of pulhamite installations!

honey-suckle-like crimson flower
Carolina Sweet Bush, a rare flowering bush that has survived from the original historic planting.

English Heritage officially listed the features were Grade II listed in 2007. The reasons for listing were: It is a good and little-altered example of the artificial rockwork (Pulhamite) produced in the c19th by James Pulham and Son
It sits within a little-altered mid-c19th landscape setting, at the end of a lake and amidst trees.

Look behind the brick circle marking St Blaise’s well, where the path goes around the north of the lake.

Raising the crown of the Yew trees allowed more light into the Fernery in 2023.

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We need a Masterplan, not a free-for-all of speculative Tower Blocks

Make your views known about…
Bromley South and the need for a Masterplan
SPD bulletin number 3
The Council is currently consulting on the Bromley Town Centre Supplementary Document (SPD) which provides detailed guidance for new development in Bromley Town Centre.
Section 9 of the SPD refers to Bromley South where some tall buildings are most likely to occur. The area includes Site 10 (the whole of the west side of the High Street from the Churchill Theatre down to and including Bromley South Station) Site 30 (the former DHSS building) and the area south of the railway including the Waitrose store and associated parking.
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SPD – What’s happening in my part of the Town?

There are 6 “Character Areas” in the plan. These are listed below:

map of Bromley Town with the development details in circles
What’s being built in your part of Bromley Town?
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