Article 1 - A brief summary of Orpington
Orpington may look like a boring old suburban town full of commuters, with an old Priory and a War Memorial. That is true to some
degree but there is so much more to it and Orpington has a rich history of development and involvement in wider more well known
history. I am going to give some detail on a small number of historic facts about Orpington just to whet your appetite.
Did you know that Orpington (Orpedingetune) is recorded in the Doomsday book (11th Century) and Bishop Odo, William the
Conquerors half brother, owned the Manor of Mayfield of which most of the current ‘Central Orpington’ is now built on. All Saints
Church was built in Saxon Times (1173) and is the oldest building in the area.
In the 18th and 19th centuries St Mary Cray was the primary town. St Mary Cray High Street has some of the oldest buildings in the
area. Agriculture (big farms), light commerce and light manufacturing were the economic bedrock. Then came the railway! The mid
19th century saw the face of the UK change forever and Orpington was not going to be an exception. The industrial revolution had
touched the area in St Mary Cray in the form of Mills, an Iron (Bell) Foundry and housing for Kent Miners but the big change was
when the London Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) built its line out from London (Victoria) through to Kent (the line that has the
current St Mary Cray railway station on it). St Mary Cray immediately benefited. The red brick arched viaduct and many buildings in
St Mary Cray High St were created and many ‘Victorian’ houses were built around the area (it was even called New Town). Some of
you may be aware that railway companies in that period were almost at war with each other, the competition was so intense. Not to
be out done, the other big railway company in the south was the South Eastern Railway (SER). Its line from London had reached
Chislehurst in 1865 and in 1868 it reached Orpington on its way to Sevenoaks and Tonbridge. The line was important because it
made the Valley of Orpington accessible to London (quicker than the line of the LCDR), the ports of Dover and Ramsgate and the
summer resorts of Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea became ‘near’. So much is owed to the engineering of the railway it simply
made travel and the moving of goods efficient in a time when horses, carts and carriages where the standard. The metaphoric blood
of Orpington and indeed St Mary Cray started to thrive on the new main lines laid out by the big railway companies in the mid 1800’s.
With the best transportation links Orpington of the 1870s grew out of the big farms that had already established themselves. The
combination of revolutionised agricultural techniques and the ease of transporting goods around the south east allowed these to
thrive. The big farms of the 1880s were; Tripes Farm (still there today) in pig farming, Cooks Farm (where Ridgeway Crescent is) in
Chicken and Eggs, Hewitt’s Farm (still there) in fruit and produce, Viner's Farm (recently closed) again for fruit and produce. These
big four created jobs and house hold names. You must have heard of the ‘Buff Orpington’? Well this was a chicken bred at Cooks
Farm in Orpington and is still world famous today. Tripes farm was famous across the UK and Northern Europe for its ‘own recipe’
sausages. Hewitt’s was famous for fresh Kent Apples and Hops, it formed part of a, once major, European farming enterprise. Viner’s
farm in Farnborough basically was the reason Farnborough was populated, its history goes back to the 1600’s!
With the affluence of the local economy, large ‘Manor’ houses started to appear around the town. Mayfield, Goddington, Broom Hill
and others started to shape the land. The majority of buildings in Orpington are from the early 1900s. The old part of town is between
the Priory pond and the buildings where the ‘Ask’ restaurant is. You will see very old buildings there. The rest of the town and the
high street developed when the second wave of railway technology arrived – they double the track from London to Orpington and in
1905 a new Orpington railway station opened and the suburban seed was planted. Housing estates started growing close to the
station (and indeed Petts Wood) and the houses in Hillcrest Road and that area were some of the first. The buildings at the southern
end of the High St formed the commercial centre and the ‘mock Tudor’ buildings of the 1930’s linked the high street up with the older
ones already mentioned. From the 1930’s through to the current day land in the area was redeveloped and residential buildings and
estates turned Orpington into a commuter town. With one of the quickest journey times into London further developments in
Ramsden, Glentramon, Windsor Drive, Poverest, Borkwood, Crofton and Place Farm in the late 50’s and 60’s really increased the
population and set the blue print of what we have here today. I hope you like the photos!
Figure 1 - 1920 The original waterworks at the bottom of Tower
Road. You can see the railway arch that allows Sevenoaks road
to pass under the railway embankment to Green St Green. The
pumping station pumped water to holding reservoirs at
Farnborough, Castlewood, Southfleet and Bickley. It was in
operation from 1880.
Figure 2 - 1916 A view from what is now Homefield Rise former
‘Council Estate’. Looking down you can see the High St running
from left to right with ‘The Knoll’ in the back ground. Some of
the houses in Homefield Rise (in this picture) are still there
Figure 3 - 1890 Aynscombe House is located adjacent to where
the current Anchor and Hope pub is. As you can see 1890 and
the High St looked very rural.
Figure 4 - 1982 The Commodore Cinema was built in 1933. It
was intended to be a more modern alternative to the Picture
Palace at the other end of the High Street. My parents took me
and my sister there a number of times and I remember seeing
such films as ‘Clash of the Titans, Empire Strikes Back and a
number of Disney films!
Figure 5 - 1926 Looking from the War Memorial up Spur Road
before the houses were built! To the right of the picture is part of
the land that is part of where Chevening Court is. Spur road was
part of a massive civil engineering project to build a road that
would bypass Orpington. and Green St Green. The original road
from Sevenoaks came up Badgers Mount, down through Pratt’s
Bottom and into Green St Green High St.. The bypass took the
road from Hewitts Farm and down behind Orpington and then
connecting it back up to the main road where Carlton Parade is.
Spur Road was the ‘spur’ to that road. As with the railways once
these roads had been built Orpington just couldn’t help but grow!