Beckenham War Memorial
Beckenham shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|London Assembly||Bexley and Bromley|
Beckenham is a town in south east London within the London Borough of Bromley, England. It borders the London Borough of Lewisham. It lies north west of Bromley and is located 8.4 miles (13.5 km) south east of Charing Cross. Until the coming of the railway in 1857, Beckenham was a small village in the county of Kent with almost completely rural surroundings: once a family of entrepreneurs began the building of villas here, its population soared from 2000 to 26,000 during 1850–1900 and throughout the rest of the twentieth century. The current population is nearly 82,000. Today it is very much in London suburbia, although some of the grand houses of the early days remain.
The settlement is referred to as Bacheham in the Domesday Book of 1086, and in the Textus Roffensis as Becceham. The name is thought to derive from Beohha's homestead (Beohhan + ham in Old English). The name of the small stream here - the River Beck - is most likely to have been named after the village.
Although early written history tells little of the area, archaeological evidence at Holwood Park, where Stone Age and Bronze Age artifacts have been found, reveals some evidence of early settlers. A Roman camp was sited here, and a Roman road, the London to Lewes Way passed through the district.
With the arrival of the Normans, the Manor of Beckenham took on added importance, and controlled much of what is modern Beckenham. St George's Church was built in the 12th century. In the Middle Ages, the manor lands were divided: at this time the estates of Kelsey and Langley came into being. Beckenham still remained a small village until well into the 19th century. The beginning of its growth began when, in 1773, John Cator built Beckenham Place and became Lord of the Manor. After he died in 1807, his sons soon became aware that the area in such close proximity to London was ripe for development, especially once the railway had arrived in 1857; and large villas began to be built around the new station. Wide roads and large gardens epitomised these properties.
Between then and the early 20th century, further growth of Beckenham took place: The Shortlands area in 1863; Clock House in the 1890s; Elmers End in 1911 (where smaller suburban houses were built); Park Langley in 1908; and Eden Park in 1926. The Manor of Foxgrove was also broken up at some point: its name is commemorated in a local road.
The Municipal Borough of Beckenham came into being in 1935. It took over from what had been, since 1894, Beckenham Urban District Council, and included parts of Hayes and West Wickham, previously part of Bromley Rural District Council. The new Borough status reflected the growth of Beckenham in little less than fifty years.
In 1965, as part of the creation of the Greater London Council, the Borough council was disbanded, and Beckenham came under control of the newly constituted London Borough of Bromley. Councillors represent various parts of the erstwhile Borough of Beckenham. There is also a Beckenham Town Centre Management, with the aim of coordinating business interests in the town.
The original village of Beckenham was situated at what is now the northern part of the town area. Around it were the great estates: Beckenham Park, Kelsey and Langley Park. The River Ravensbourne flows northwards at the eastern side of the town, towards its confluence with the River Thames. The small stream, the River Beck, passes through the town before joining the Ravensbourne further north. The area is part of an outcrop of London Clay which results in it consisting of many small hills.
Despite its leafy image, due to its close proximity to Central London and the fact that it is served by nine railway stations (Beckenham Junction, Clock House, Birkbeck, New Beckenham, Ravensbourne, Kent House, Elmers End, Eden Park and Beckenham Hill), Beckenham makes an ideal business location. The area boasts a busy high street containing many restaurants, upmarket chains as well as family run independents, and has a good selection of well performing schools. Beckenham is the headquarters to Capita Registrars Limited who provide share registration services for more than half of the UK’s quoted companies, Proper Records the UK's biggest independent music distributor and Vizual, a leading HR software developer.
One of the interesting landmarks in Beckenham is the Chinese Garage, now a listed building. It is built in an unusual Japanese pagoda style and deals Peugeot and Kia cars. There is also St George's Church, dating back to 1100 but mostly rebuilt at the end of the 19th century. The lych gate dates from the 13th century, and is one of the oldest in England; the almshouses date back to 1694. There are two old pubs, Ye Olde George Inn (1662), and the Three Tuns (now a branch of Zizzi restaurants). Kelsey Park is another landmark. It was part of the Kelsey Estate, but the mansion no longer remains. The only surviving buildings are the two Grade II listed lodge cottages at the entrance, which are over 200 years old. 
Beckenham is served by many rail stations. Beckenham Junction station has services to London Victoria via Herne Hill, London Bridge via Crystal Palace, and to Orpington. New Beckenham station has services to London Charing Cross via Lewisham and to Hayes. Ravensbourne station has services to Kentish Town (London Victoria on Sundays) via Catford, and to Sevenoaks via Swanley. It is also served by Kent House station, Ravensbourne station and Eden Park station.
Beckenham is served by several Transport for London buses that link the town with other areas including Bromley, Catford, Chislehurst, Croydon, Crystal Palace, Eltham, Lewisham, Sydenham, West Wickham and Woolwich.
The town has a number of places of worship. St. George's Church is the principal parish church, and is in the centre of Beckenham. It was extensively rebuilt, at the end of the 19th. century, but an earlier building dates back to 1100. It has a 13th. century lych gate that is thought to be one of the oldest in England. The almshouses next to the church go back to 1694. There are also three other Anglican churches in the town: All Saints Church; Holy Trinity Church; and St James at Elmers End. In addition, there are Methodist and Baptist churches; and the Roman Catholic church dedicated to St Edmund of Canterbury.
Town churches include: St. George’s Church (W. Gibbs Bartleet, 1885–1887), St. Barnabas on Oakhill Road (A. Stenning & H. Hall, 1878 or 1884), Christ Church, Fairfield Road (Blashill & Hayward, 1876), St. Edmund’s Catholic Church, Village Way (J. P’Hanlon Hughes, 1937), St. James, St. James’ Avenue (A.R. Stenning, 1879–1898), St. Michael and All Angels, Ravenscroft Road (W. H. Hobday & F. H. Maynard, 1955–1956), St. Paul, Brackley Road (Smith & Williams, 1872), Holy Trinity, Lennard Road (E.F. Clarke, 1878), Baptist Church, Elm Road (Appleton & E. W. Mountford, 1889), Congregational Church, Crescent Road (J. W. & R. F. Beaumont, 1887-8), Methodist Church (James Weir, 1887).
The principal secondary schools in Beckenham are Harris Academy Beckenham (formerly Kelsey Park Sports College); Harris Academy Bromley (formerly Cator Park School); and the two Langley Park schools: for boys and girls. There are also a large number of schools catering for primary education, including the independent Roman Catholic school, Bishop Challoner, St Mary's Catholic Primary School, Marian Vian Primary School and Churchfields Primary School.
Beckenham Hospital, now called Beckenham Beacon, following redevelopment, is a minor treatment centre and an outstation to Princess Royal Hospital in Farnborough for outpatient services. It has GP, dental and other services available. The Bethlem Royal Hospital, which specialises in psychiatry is located along Monks Orchard Road, next to the border with Shirley.
Culture and leisure
There is a museum and archives at Bethlem Royal Hospital. The local Odeon cinema has six screens and is a grade II listed building. In common with most towns of its size, Beckenham has a number of leisure organisations and societies; whilst the Beckenham Festival of Music and Dancing takes place every November. Beckenham Theatre exists to put on amateur productions. The Beckenham Concert Band  is a successful community wind band which has, over the last 35 years, raised thousands of pounds for local and national charities. It caters for amateur wind and brass musicians and performs locally during the winter months and across London and the South East during the summer.
The South East London Green Chain, a long-distance footpath is well represented in Beckenham. Both Kelsey Park and Beckenham Place Park form part of the Chain. There are other open spaces in the town, including Croydon Road Recreation Ground and Cator Park. South Norwood Country Park abuts the town to the south-west. There is also a walk starting in Cator Park, going down the High Street, through Kelsey Park, then Croydon Road Recreation Ground and back to Cator Park.
Beckenham Cricket Club in Foxgrove Road, a former first-class cricket ground, staged the Kent All-Comers' Championships, an international tennis tournament, from 1886 to 1996, featuring many of the world's top players as it opened the grass-court season building up to The Championships at Wimbledon. It was also the breeding ground of players such as England internationals Derek Underwood and Richard Ellison, and most recently Kent captain Robert Key. The club held the world's first open grass-court tournament in June 1968 - one month after the sport became 'open' to amateur and professional players - with Australians Fred Stolle and Margaret Court winning the singles titles. Beckenham Cricket Club is also the home to Bromley and Beckenham Hockey Club, a National League Hockey Club, with 8 Men's teams and 5 Women's team and one of the largest Junior Hockey Sections in the UK.
Beckenham Rugby Football Club, a Rugby Union Club formed originally in 1894. The club fields six senior men's teams a successful Ladies team and also has one of the largest youth sections in the South East.
The swimmers from Beckenham Swimming Club, established in 1893, have gained success swimming at National and International levels.
In Simon Brett's long-running BBC Radio 4 comedy drama, No Commitments (1992–2007), Beckenham is the home of the wildly snobbish, socially aspirational and insecure sister Victoria; the town is frequently mocked by association. Beckenham is also one of the main locations of the novel The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), by Hanif Kureishi.
Among those who can lay claim to fame, and who have either been born or lived in Beckenham or have had some important contribution to make to the town, are George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland (1784–1849) politician and colonial administrator and William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland (1745–1814) politician and diplomat. Show business people such as Bob Monkhouse (1928–2003); Julie Andrews (1935- ); David Bowie (1947- ), who lived at 42 Southend Road, Beckenham from 1969–1973; Peter Frampton (1950- ); the actress and presenter Floella Benjamin (now Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham) who grew up in Mackenzie Road, Beckenham  Wende Snijders (1978- ), the Dutch singer; and the actors Maurice Denham (1909–2002), and Simon Ward (1941–2012). CSgt Frank Bourne of Rorke's Drift, South African Zulu war, lived at 16 King's Hall Road, Beckenham and is buried in Beckenham Cemetery. Fr. Thomas Pelham Dale SSC, Anglo-Catholic clergyman was prosecuted for Ritualist practices in the 1870s. Writers include Enid Blyton (1897–1968) and A.L. Barker (1918–2002). Betty Box (1915–1999) and her brother Sydney (1907–1983) were film producers. There are many sportsmen, especially cricketers; and Tom Pettitt (1859–1956) was real tennis world champion 1885-90. David Haye, WBA champion, moved to Beckenham in 2010.
- Beckenham Town Talk website
- "Beckenham - politics.co.uk", April 2010, web: Pol-51.
- Origins of the town and its name
- Brewer's Britain and Ireland, compiled by John Ayto and Ian Crofton, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005, ISBN 0-304-35385-X.
- Early History
- Ideal Homes: Suburbia in Focus
- In 1861 its population was 2,100; by 1921 this had increased to 33,300; and to 77,300 by 1961 Kent History Illustrated Frank W Jessup, 1966 Kent County Council
- Beckenham Town Centre Management
- British History On Line: the Parish of Beckenham
- The Rural Landscape of Kent S.G.McRae & C.P.Burnham, published by Wye College, 1973
- Proper Records
- Beckenham churches
- George’s Beckenham
- St George’s church
- St Edmund of Canterbury church
- John Newman. West Kent and the Weald. The “Buildings of England” Series, First Edition, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner and Judy Nairn, eds. (London: Penguin, 1969), p.142
- Langley Park Boys School
- Langley Park School for Girls
- Bishop Challoner School
- Beckenham Beacon
- Notes on history of Bethlem Hospital
- Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives sand Museums Service
- British Listed Buildings website entry for Odeon (formerly ABC Cinema)
- Leisure Guide
- Beckenham Festival
- Beckenham Theatre
- Beccehamians RFC
- "Beckenham Swimming Club".
- Beckenham Crematorium
- FAQ on David Bowie
- Simon ward
- Texts on Wikisource: