History of London Borough of Bromley

The London Borough of Bromley was formed on 1st of April 1965, as a result of the London Government Act 1963. It was an amalgamation of the Municipal Boroughs of Bromley and Beckenham together with the Urban Districts of Orpington and Penge and the Chislehurst portion of Chislehurst and Sidcup Urban District Councils (UDCs). The following year there was a minor boundary change when, following an appeal, Knockholt was removed from Bromley and London and returned to Kent.

The area, however, has an older history as a unit. In 1836 the Bromley Poor Law Union was set up. This virtually matched the boundaries of the later borough although the Union included Foots Cray but not Penge.

Historically Penge was in Surrey, a detached hamlet of the Parish of Battersea. It was later run by an independent Vestry in conjunction with Lewisham Board of Works and the Croydon Poor Law Union. In 1899 it was transferred to Kent as an Urban District.

Beckenham was run by its own board for much of the nineteenth century and became an Urban District in 1894. Continued expansion in the early years of the twentieth century created a desire for borough status which was gained in 1935 following amalgamation with the rapidly growing West Wickham.

West Wickham had been part of Bromley Rural District, which initially included most of the current borough excepting Bromley itself, Beckenham and Penge. From 1900 Chislehurst became an independent Urban District but in 1935 there were major changes. In addition to the creation of Beckenham Borough, Bromley Rural District was abolished. Mottingham joined with Chislehurst and Sidcup (formerly Foots Cray) UDC to become a single Urban District. Hayes and part of Keston were moved into Bromley M.B, while the rest of the old rural district became Orpington UDC.

Bromley like Beckenham, was run by a local board. Being a market town, it was the natural centre for the whole area, hence the name of the Poor Law Union and the later borough. In 1894 it became an Urban District, successfully applying for borough status in 1903. The abolition of the Rural District in 1935 and the massive developments to the south of the town resulted in enlarged boundaries from that date.

Post 1966 changes have been slight. Small areas around Beckenham and Mottingham have been transferred to Lewisham and there have been minor changes elsewhere, but overall the 1965 boundaries remain unaltered.

The borough’s most notable and famous features are Crystal Palace Park in Penge; the Glades shopping centre in Bromley and Down House, home of Charles Darwin, in Downe village. It was the birthplace of H.G. Wells, home of exiled French Emperor Napoleon III and childhood home of David Bowie, Enid Blyton and Hanif Kureshi. The largest London Borough in area, it contains districts as diverse as Anerley, an inner city suburb and Cudham a scattered rural village. The population is more diverse than might be imagined, the affluent areas of Petts Wood and Chislehurst contrasting with more deprived areas such as Penge and the Cray Valley, the latter having a large static traveller population.