What’s it all about?
The leafy area of Beckenham captures the essence of the English countryside with its beautiful green spaces and community atmosphere while retaining a happening vibe. It was in Beckenham that David Bowie ran his experimental Arts Lab club at The Three Tuns pub (now a branch of Zizzi where the tables and walls are emblazoned with the names of Bowie hits and a blue plaque has been installed in his honour). Add good schools and charming, affordable housing into the mix, and it’s easy to see why young professionals and families are migrating to the area. With six train stations, it is well served by public transport, and the 20 minute journey into central London seals the deal for many people. By day the streets are abuzz with parents fresh from the school run, catching up with friends in one of the area’s many cafes. In the evening the high street comes alive with younger residents heading to the pubs and restaurants. Once convinced of the area’s benefits, Beckenham residents often stay in the same property for decades or upgrade to one of the area’s larger homes as their families grow. This adds to the area’s real community feel, enhanced by local events such as the regular farmers’ markets, concerts and festivals on Beckenham Green.
- Legendary cricketer W. G. Grace, car manufacturer F. Y. Wolseley and Thomas Crapper, inventor of the ballcock (although not, as popularly believed, the flush toilet) are all buried in Beckenham Crematorium.
- David Bowie, Bob Monkhouse and Enid Blyton all lived in Beckenham.
- The lychgate or ‘corpse gate’ at St George’s Church in Beckenham dates back to the 13th century, making it one of the oldest in England.
Architecture and property
Beckenham has a long and fascinating history. Remains of a Roman road used to transport supplies from London to Lewes can be seen in various parts of the area, and some buildings such as The George Inn date as far back as the 17th century. It has its own war memorial, unveiled in 1921, and there are rumours that Henry VIII would stop off here on his way to visit Anne Boleyn. Today, Beckenham’s residential properties range from spacious late Victorian and Edwardian houses lining the wide, leafy avenues, to 1920s flats located closer to Beckenham’s many stations. The side roads off Beckenham High Street offer a rich choice of 1930s semi detached and terraced homes. Excellent access to the city centre allows people to get make the most of their budget without leaving the M25. Its mix of attractive surroundings and strong infrastructure makes it a hit with many house hunters.
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Eating: Beckenham residents are spoilt for culinary options: La Rascasse offers excellent French food and an extensive wine and champagne list, while the Italian fare at both Zi’ Teresa and Pierluigi’s is definitely worth sampling.
Drinking: Pub culture is flourishing in Beckenham, with a number of traditional pubs and gastropubs opening up around the area. Two local favourites are the 350 year old The George Inn, which used to be the last coaching inn on the road to London, and The Jolly Woodman, a traditional family run pub.
Theatre: Beckenham Theatre Centre is an intimate studio space that puts on around ten fringe performances a year, and has a youth group. Nearby Bromley also boasts The Churchill Theatre, which is on the itinerary for many national touring productions.
- Beckenham High Street has a number of excellent independent shops selling everything from antiques to wedding dresses. Bookworms love the friendly staff at Beckenham Books and its regular reading clubs. Villagers Fine Sausages meanwhile specialises in traditional and innovatively flavoured sausages made with the finest ingredients.
- Everything from children’s reading classes to book clubs and computer sessions can be found at Beckenham Library. Parking is available at the leisure centre.
- Beckenham has several supermarkets, including a Waitrose directly opposite Beckenham Junction station and a large Sainsbury’s with ample parking on the High Street.
- Incorporating a swimming pool that was once named the best public pool in the UK, The Spa at Beckenham is everything a leisure centre should be. There are regular classes at the gym, a creche and a multipurpose sports hall. Beckenham Place Park is home to a popular and picturesque 18 hole golf course. The clubhouse is located in the impressive mansion house in the park, with a restaurant called Nineteen Bar & Kitchen.
Beckenham Place Park is the largest green space in Lewisham, and contains one of the few remaining areas of ancient woodland in greater London. The expansive lake at Kelsey Park is one of the most beautiful spots in the borough, and locals will often bring their children here to feed the ducks. It also has an enclosed children’s playground, tennis courts and a crazy golf course. Beckenham Green at the top end of the High Street is a small park where local residents put on events, including the St George’s Arts Festival. The South East London Green Chain is a walking route that connects green spaces from Erith Riverside in Kent to the more urban ones of Peckham and Nunhead, totalling 50 miles and running through Beckenham.
The Worsley Bridge Road cricket ground at Beckenham is being redeveloped, and will include an indoor cricket school and seats for 2,000 spectators. The plans also include a football pitch, two tennis courts, a gym and a banqueting and conference area.
Rail: Beckenham benefits from six local train stations serving London and South Kent: Beckenham Junction, Beckenham Hill, New Beckenham, Kent House, Clock House and Ravensbourne. Trains from Beckenham Junction to Victoria take 20 minutes and to London Bridge just over half an hour; New Beckenham to Charing Cross takes 25 minutes.
Tram: Tramlink services run from Beckenham Junction station to East and West Croydon and Wimbledon, as well as Mitcham Junction and Elmers End interchange railway stations.
Road: Beckenham is on the A222, A2015, and A234.
Bus: Local bus routes include 54 (to Woolwich), 194 (to West Croydon), 227 (to Bromley) and 358 (to Crystal Palace). The N3 night bus runs to and from Oxford Circus.
Getting away: Gatwick airport is under an hour away by car, and is easily accessible by train from East Croydon.
The Cator Park Montessori pre school remains a popular local choice, and the pinnacles of Beckenham secondary education are the single sex Langley Park Schools. About 60 per cent of people buying a new property cite these two schools as their reason to move here. For private education, options include St Christopher’s The Hall School at prep level, and Bishop Challoner for secondary.
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