What’s it all about?
David Bowie’s family moved to Bromley from Brixton when the future superstar was six years old. Over 60 years later and young families still have the same idea, for leafy Bromley lies just 12 miles and 15 minutes from central London, yet offers a world of calm and charm. Excellent schools, good sized houses and outstanding access to parks and green spaces are all part of the package. Indeed, Kent Downs lies within Bromley, making it the only London borough to include an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The historical heart of Bromley is situated around Market Square, High Street North and East Street, where the majority of the town’s 300 shops and restaurants can be found. High end independent cafes and boutiques are beginning to find space among the usual high street chains, and huge investment in some of the area’s run down historic buildings will give another boost to the area. Bromley boasts several options for evening entertainment, such as the Churchill Theatre, which plays host to regular national tours. Bromley was also ranked in 2014 as one of the happiest places to live in London, according to data collected by The Information Capital. Families are drawn here for the good schools and picturesque detached homes, while others are attracted to the reasonable property prices and the excellent amenities.
Bromley is the largest London borough by area.The name Bromley, first recorded in AD862 as Bromleag, is Anglo Saxon for ‘the place where broom [a shrub] grows’. HG Wells, David Bowie and Charles Darwin all lived in Bromley.
Architecture and property
Bromley has been an important part of south east London since 1205, when the Bishop of Rochester established it as their base for visitors to the city. The latest Bishop’s Palace, a beautiful Georgian building, is still a focal point of the area and now forms part of Bromley Civic Centre. As other neighbouring towns built railway stations before Bromley, its popularity waned, then quickly recovered when its first station opened in 1858. Initially, the homes built were small cottages, followed by larger houses in Bromley Park. Since the mid 20th century, the main developments have been conversions or replacements of larger houses with smaller modern flats. As a result, property types are diverse, with a mixture of traditional Victorian homes and modern apartment blocks. In the heart of Bromley, terraced houses comprise the majority of the property market, while the two and three bedroom houses of Bromley Common are popular with first time buyers. Delightful Victorian cottages can be found in Bromley Old Town; Bromley South is the place to find a modern purpose built flat; and in Shortlands you’ll find Victorian, Edwardian and 1920s semi detached properties, with larger detached 1920s homes in Bickley.
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Theatre: Whether you’re looking for amateur dramatics or big productions that wouldn’t look out of place in the West End, Bromley has something for every theatre lover. Bromley Little Theatre has been showcasing local talent since 1938, while The Churchill Theatre is one of Bromley’s most popular attractions, seating more than 700 people.
Culture: The Empire Cinema screens both the latest blockbusters and more arthouse choices. Located in a beautiful Victorian house, Ripley Arts Centre displays the work of local artists and hosts concerts and recitals in an evocative setting.
Eating and drinking: Cafe culture thrives in Bromley, centred around the bustling high street. Take a break from shopping and head to Brodies Cafe for a reviving coffee, or if you’re in the Sundridge Park village area, relax in the delightful Lavender House, which doubles as a community hub. Treat yourself to a pre theatre curry at Cinnamon Culture or, for a special occasion, sample some gourmet Mediterranean fare at Michelin starred Chapter One.
- Bromley High Street is a hive of activity, with a very popular open air market in its pedestrianised zone on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and includes an indoor shopping centre, Intu, which has extensive car parking.
- The neighbourhood is great for outdoorsy types, with its numerous playing fields and golf courses. Bromley Cricket Club is one of the best in the country and has started the careers of several international players. It also organises tennis, squash and racketball events. Bromley Golf Club meets on Sunday mornings and welcomes players of all abilities to its nine hole course.
- For those who’d rather keep fit indoors, the Pavilion Leisure Centre boasts a bowling alley, gym and cafe. Benefiting from a recent £5 million upgrade, the centre offers a variety of classes in its pool and fitness centre.
- Bromley has a huge Tesco superstore with parking facilities on Homesdale Road.
- There are 14 libraries in the borough. The largest, Central Library, has a number of reading groups for adults and several term time events for children.
The grounds of Bromley Palace, once the residence of the Bishop of Rochester, feature a boat house, lake and rockery. Bromley purchased its first recreation area, Martin’s Hill Park, in 1878 and the children’s play area here is still popular today. The amphitheatre at Church House Gardens has recently been upgraded, and locals can arrange to use it to stage concerts, plays or book readings. Bromley also has lots of smaller open spaces that provide ample opportunities for jogging and dog walking.
A £90 million development is underway in Bromley South Central. When finished, it will boast a hotel, multiplex cinema and 200 new apartments. Crystal Palace Park, a 200 acre English Heritage Grade II listed facility, is undergoing significant regeneration, as part of a five year action plan.
Rail: Bromley has two mainline stations. From Bromley South trains to London Victoria take just over 15 minutes and Bromley North has shuttle trains to Grove Park where there are onward connections to Charing Cross and Cannon Street. There are also stations in Shortlands, Bickley and Sundridge Park, which serve central London and beyond.
Bus: Local bus routes serve Orpington (61), Lewisham (208), Croydon (119) and Crystal Palace (227). At night, the N3 runs to Oxford Circus and the N47 to Trafalgar Square.
Tram: The west of the borough is served by Tramlink, with links to Croydon and Wimbledon.
Cycle: The borough of Bromley has more than 100 miles of cycle route, with some off road such as through Jubilee Park and along Waterlink Way. The council produces detailed maps of local cycle routes that can be picked up from libraries and bike shops across the borough.
The quality of Bromley’s schools is a key reason why many families relocate here. There are many primary schools, with Highfield Infants and Junior schools proving popular. There are also a number of good secondary schools and academies, as well as options for private education including the well established Bromley High for girls, and many more choices in neighbouring Beckenham and Orpington.
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