The largest of the London borough’s by area, Bromley covers over 150 square kilometres and has a population of 295,352 residents. This leafy borough has the largest amount of green space in London and half of Bromley consists of green belt countryside.
Known historically as a market town, Bromley today is a large suburban town situated in the South-East of London and one that has developed into a significant commercial and retail district outside Central London. Up until 1963, Bromley was considered to reside in the county of Kent, popularly known as the Garden of England. However, today, Bromley is the governmental centre of one of London’s largest boroughs, the London Borough of Bromley.
Bromley’s swift acceleration in power was partly due to the brilliant business astuteness of the Bishops of Rochester who considered Bromley to be their place of residence. From the 12th century they occupied Bromley Palace, a manor house that is now part of the Bromley Civic Centre. It was sold in 1845 to a wealthy local businessman Coles Child who, over the years, went on to renovate and redesign the property. It became a girls’ finishing school in the 1920’s and eventually evolved into what was known as the Stockwell Teacher Training College in 1933. Bromley Palace had become a Grade II listed building by the early 1970’s and by 1982, the college having eventually closed, became part of what we now know today as the Bromley Civic Centre. Just a small area of the original parkland continues to exist. Adjacent to the palace itself, the area consists of a boat house and lake, a folly, an ice house, pulhamite rockeries along with extensive lawn areas and avenues of mature trees.
The advent of the railway in the 1900’s most definitely cultivated and improved the prosperity of towns and villages around the country but it was the arrival of the stage coaches in the 17th century along with better road surfaces which aided a further rise in Bromley’s fortunes. By dividing their journeys into stages of approximately ten to fifteen miles in length, hence the naming of these vehicles, Bromley provided the perfect resting point. Therefore to make the most of this fruitful and lucrative market, coaching inns and hotels were swiftly constructed. The original Swan & Mitre, built in the early 19th century was an example of one such coaching inn along with its ubiquitous stabling facilities. However, with the arrival of the railway, travel would have been seen as relative luxury and comfort compared to the former stage coach journeys. Between 1858 and 1878 both railways stations, Bromley North and Bromley South had been built and with speed of travel continuing to increase, Bromley was further established as a paramount commutable location for the wealthier members of this exclusive town whereby it provided them with a rural retreat and one that was within easy reach of the capital. Over the course of time the population quickly expanded when working class people arrived in their hundreds from various parts of the country and the town of Bromley subsequently became home to all classes of society.
Bromley Town Centre is said to be one of the principal retail centres in the South-East and boasts around 400 retail businesses and a staggering 80 odd restaurants, bars and cafes. The Glades Shopping Centre has over 130 shops and stores and is adjacent to the pedestrianised part of the High Street. Leisure facilities include the Churchill Theatre, the Pavilion Leisure Centre and Central Library as well as the Odeon Cinema. Bromley Town centre is deemed to be an exceptionally friendly and safe area, so much so that it has recently been awarded the impressive Safer Shopping Award. The whole of the town centre benefits from one of the most extensive and effective CCTV and shop radio schemes in the country.
There are a number of affluent areas in the borough of Bromley, most notably the gated communities such as Keston Park, Farnborough Park and Bickley Park. In fact Bromley is beheld as being one of the wealthiest of London Boroughs. It is difficult to believe that what was once a woodland clearing where an abundance of the shrub known as Broom grew, thus its Old English name Bromleag, the Borough of Bromley today is now acknowledged as one of the major metropolitan centres of London.