Open House Festival

A tour of Victorian Bromley

housing, online, retail, restaurant/bar, walk/tour

various, 1860

East St, North St, High Street, Bromley, BR1 1NN

Starting at the Exhibition 'Historic Bromley Town' taking place on the Lower Mall of The Glades, the tour tells the story of Bromley's phenomenal growth in the late 19thC showing how the town progressed from a rural market town to suburb in about 20 yrs.

Getting there


Bromley South, Bromley North


358, 352, 336, 320, 314, 261, 246, 208, 146, 138, 61, 269, 162, 119

Additional travel info

Visitors coming on the tour will meet the walk leaders at the Exhibition 'Historic Bromley Town' taking place on the Lower Mall of The Glades shopping centre (near M&S and Costa), 64 High Street Bromley BR1 1DN




Local Board Office - beginnings of democracy

This building marks the beginning of local democracy in Bromley. Built in 1868, it housed the first Local Board of 12 elected members that met in the chamber on the upper floor, now a private office.

With one man one vote it marks the time when the local landed gentry lost their privileged position. The Local Board was later to become the Urban District Council before moving in 1904 to the Grand Town Hall in Tweedy Road.

Located here in 1882 was: the Clerk to the Board, Bromley Burial Board; West Kent Sewage Board; offices of the Board of Guardians; Royal Sanitary association; the Superintendent Registrar’s Office.

Mrs Knotts Dame School - No 8 South Street

No.8 South Street was where HG Wells (Bertie) attended Mrs Knott's Dame School as an infant. No. 8 was a new house when Bertie was here aged 5yrs old in 1871. Bertie wrote about how his older brother brought him here and he learnt to do, among other things, 'summing'.

The Drill Hall East Street

O’Neills now occupies the Drill Hall built in 1872 (referred to by HG Wells). It was as the first all-purpose entertainment hall doubling also as a Drill hall for the 18th Kent Volunteer rifles. It is recorded that the Hall was opened with a concert where Sir Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert & Sullivan fame appeared as accompanist. It was the scene of grand banquets, concerts and important public meetings.
It was used as an Army Recruitment office in 1914.
It was later acquired by the GPO as a sorting office and in its present use as a pub its simple, open interior is well preserved.

Market Parade - Bromley's first department store

Market Parade was built in stages for the Cooperative Society in 1887 and 1894 and not completed until 1903. It became Bromley’s first department store. It was also a bakery and sold not just food but also clothes, footwear and was a drapers.
The Co-Op was not welcome initially in Bromley but it remained as a successful store until 1933 when an even bigger department store was built for the Coop in Widmore Road.
At the back of the shop in East Street was the working side: stables, storage and in particular ovens for the large scale manufacture of bread. This part of the building was made into a theatre in 1938 after the Co-op had vacated the building. Bromley Little Theatre still operates here with 20 shows a year in a 110 seat auditorium, bar and rehearsal rooms.

Railway Tavern

The Railway Tavern, formerly the Railway Hotel built in 1879, is an early example of the Arts & Crafts style. Local materials were used with features like decorative glazed terracotta tilework and shells on the exterior. The building is listed in the directory in 1879 as the 'Railway Hotel – Temperance' reflecting concern amongst the ruling classes about drunkenness and unruly behaviour among the workers. The brewer's name, however, is built in to the brickwork so it was never intended to be a temperance hotel for long! Victorian society was stratified into classes and this reflected in the labyrinth of rooms and separate entrances for people of different classes.

Star and Garter

The Star & Garter replaced an ancient Inn of the same name in 1898.
The architects were Berner & Son and the style is a flourishing of the Arts & Crafts ‘Old English’ style in its most flamboyant. It is Grade II Listed. See the projecting upper storeys and turret, especially the finely carved wooden medallion and mosaic on the threshold – all things that Arts & Crafts architects liked to do to liven up their buildings and make them - in this case - like an old country inn.
Fireplaces and other details inside have been preserved.

The Royal Bell

The Royal Bell Hotel and adjoining buildings that from 1898, is by Arts & Crafts architect Ernest Newton in the Queen Anne Style. It is Grade II listed and replaced the earlier Bell Inn. The frontage of the building has been recently restored by architect Benny O'Looney (pictured in the video); in particular the colouring on the pargetting on the front (panels underneath the windows) has been restored and the distinctive red brick cleaned.

Ernest Newton's intention was to complete a series of buildings like this all way along the widened High Street but that wasn't to be. One old Kentish style cottage is still there.

The Royal Bell was referred to Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

Inside, the video shows the banqueting hall, and 1st floor function rooms which are being restored. The video also shows representations of future proposals for its use as a hotel which entail a nine storey tower behind the listed building.

Aberdeen Buildings

If there's time we'll continue down the High Street to Aberdeen Buildings, built in 1887 in the French empire style with curved rooves that you see in Paris. Built by another local butcher who grew rich, Amos Borer. The style is thought to be a tribute to the Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie living in exile at Camden Place Chislehurst for whom Mr Borer was ‘Purveyor of Meat’.
Another indication of Bromley’s growing importance in this late Victorian period.

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