#135: Bromley North 02/03/2022

Bromley North Station

The station was opened in 1878 by the Bromley Direct Railway Company to compete with Bromley South station operated by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. The station was rebuilt by Southern Rail in the mid-1920s, and it became a Grade II listed building in 1990.

Initially, there were regular services through to London until they were reduced to peak hours only from 1976 and then entirely withdrawn in 1990. SouthEastern operates the half-hourly shuttle service that now terminates at Grove Park, where passengers can connect with mainline services.

The branch line is only two miles long, with one other stop at Sundridge Park. Network Rail defines the service as Route SO350. But it’s known locally as ‘the popper’

I arrived at the station in the afternoon and wondered if I was trapped as the station gates were firmly closed. Thankfully though, the side entrance remained open, and I suspect these gates only open at peak morning times?

Bromley North

Bromley North Village is the home of many small and independent businesses, and it’s an area that has recently benefited from regeneration improvement works. Nevertheless, according to a recent crowdfunding project, it still suffers from isolation from the town’s main centre of shopping activity, and it has yet to achieve a clearly defined sense of character or brand.

It seems fashionable to have a large welcoming sign these days to remind people where they are. So once you step out of the station and cross the main road, you know instantly that you’re in Bromley North. This sign is no doubt part of its regeneration scheme. 

The village is defined as the area encircled by the main A21 ring road, Widmore Road, Market Square, High Street and London Road. But as I stand by the welcoming sign, I’m immediately drawn down East Street, where I capture today’s Picture of the Day – see below.

Heritage Trail

At the entrance to East Street, there’s an imposing pub, predictably called the Railway  Tavern. What catches my eye is the plaque on the pavement in front of the pub promoting the Bromley North Village Heritage Trail. The plaque reads ‘Late Victorian Public house built by Croydon Brewers Nalder and Collyer’. Have a look above the door for the brewery’s motif.

The Heritage Trail struck me as an ingenious way to capture the casual explorer’s eye as a way to guide them through the area’s history. However, I chose not to follow the trail as it’s my mission to explore somewhere without prior knowledge so that I discover for myself. But interestingly, many of my stopping points are on the Heritage Trail, so I have used the trail’s guide here to compose the following chapters.

Grand Shopping – Medhurst’s drapery opened here in 1879. Its popularity had grown so much by 1930 that Fred Medhurst built this classic art-deco styled building along High Street. The department store changed hands and became Alders in 1969, and Primark now occupies it.

But here’s the exciting bit. Before the building became Medhursts’, it was a china, glass and pottery emporium owned by Joseph Wells. And it’s here, Herbert George Wells, his son was born on the 21st September 1866 – HG Wells.

Potted Helmet – What else would you use an old fashioned fire fighter’s helmet for other than a floral display? This is one of several hanging outside the Fire Station on South Street. It’s an impressive red and white brick building with three sets of large doors, and the building is still in its original state as when it opened in 1905.

Parish Church of St Peter and St Paultake a gander down Church Road towards the war memorial overlooking Martins Hill Open Space and look back. You’ll then see the flint covered 15th-century tower, which was the only part of the church to survive the bombings during WWII.

Star & Garter – High Street – here’s another public house built in 1898 for local Croydon brewer Nalder and Collyer. But despite its prominence on the High Street, there’s very little information about this pub. However, one commentator, Londonist, describes the pub as a ‘mock-Tudor pebbledash facade of Star & Garter — like a lopsided, over iced wedding cake’. The pub’s Facebook page describes itself as ‘the only gay venue in a 10-mile radius’.

College Green, where you’ll find a bug’s life – although not explicitly mentioned on the trail, you do walk right past it if you walk through the College Slip. So I think it’s an appropriate reference here. In addition, the area is now the pride of Bromley Green Gym®. This initiative aims to improve volunteers’ mental and physical health through practical conservation activities to maximise the positive benefits of working outdoors.

This photo represents only a part of a 7-metre long insect habitat wall and the largest of its kind in the area. The 60 sections took the volunteers over six months to complete, using tightly wound corrugated cardboard, tree bark, pinecones, twigs, reeds and pre-drilled logs. The insect habitat wall provides shelter to many beneficial insects such as ladybirds, lace-wings and solitary bees.

Bromley

Bromley’s name derives from the old Anglo-Saxon name of Bromleag, meaning ‘woodland clearing where broom grows’. The town’s history is closely connected with the Bishop of Rochester, and the town was chartered in 1158. Until the arrival of the railway in the mid-1800s, it was a quiet coaching stop on the Hastings to London route.

Today, the town is pretty typical of a large suburban London conurbation, influenced by the building, social and retail trends of the 20th century. So why not head to the side streets for some casual leisure or dining experiences.

The main shopping area is in High Street, south of East Street. It’s now a large pedestrianised shopping area with the usual mix of local and national chains, banks, health and beauty and low budget shops.

The high-end retail outlets have moved into The Glades Shopping Centre. But, of course, there are always casualties with every trend, and here’s a recognizable former high street brand that failed to keep up with the shoppers’ ever-changing needs.

One consequence of shopping centres and pedestrianisation is what to do with cars. Side street parking becomes a premium for those early enough or quick enough to find a space. Alternatively, it’s the multi-story car parks that meet the demand. Here are a couple of shots that demonstrate how these needs are met.

The first photo here is of a flight of stairs leading down from the car park to the shopping centre. The second made me laugh, and I just had to take the photo to show the futility of today’s parking restrictions. The sign on the side of Bromley Police Station clearly stipulates No Parking, but who cares. The road was full of cars parked against the wall.

Bromley Artworks

Look closely wherever you walk around London, and one artist or another will have shared their work with the world. More commonly, this is by invitation as wall art has become a recognised art form that helps to brighten dull areas. But more importantly, society recognises the artists’ talent and has a desire to allow them to express themselves. Bromley is no different.

Bruce Williams – graduated from Kent Institute of Art & Design at Canterbury in 1990 and spent almost twenty years as a mural artist and set painter working within the film industry and BBC. Bruce is now a Whitstable based artist. 

He was commissioned in 2001 to design and paint a collection of murals to brighten up an otherwise dull part of Bromley that led shoppers from the Hill Car park via Naval Walk to the High Street. Not surprisingly, over 20 years later, some of the artwork has been lost or faded, but look closely, and you can still enjoy those that remain. Here’s a couple for your enjoyment, and if you do take a walk around Bromley, watch out for another by Bruce in Market Square.

Carleen de Sozer – Birmingham born, Carleen expresses her art as a way of ‘re-creating every visual and thought she has received from the creative flow that is LIFE’.  She is widely regarded as one of London’s most skilled and diverse aerosol and airbrush artists, having created her place on the International street art scene with her highly appealing Afrocentric, Afrofuturistic and often golden paintings. 

This one is ‘The Keys Are Within You’ inside the alley leading into Fox House at 135 High Street. I’m showing it here as a view most pedestrians would see as they pass by without giving it a second glimpse. But go into the alley and take a closer look, as it’s well worth marvelling at the detail and intricacy of Carleen’s gold and black artwork.

Picture of the Day – Smoking Stack

As I meander down East Street, my first impression is that of a very well kept, clean and tidy area. My view of Bromley North and Bromley remained unchanged throughout my day…so well done, Bromley!

East Street has been regenerated and partially pedestrianised, and these tall street lights, caught in relief, add an interesting shape. I’ve filtered the sky to create the illusion that clouds appear as smoke coming from them.

I wonder what the view is like at night with the street lights on. Maybe I’ll revisit to catch that image one day.

  • Location: East Street, Bromley North
  • Date/Time: Wednesday 02/03/2022 
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ9; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 106mm; Film Speed – ISO 100

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