Penge was once a small town, which was recorded under the name Penceat in an Anglo-Saxon deed dating from 957. Most historians believe the name of the town is derived from the Celtic word Penceat which means "edge of wood" and refers to the fact that the surrounding area was once covered in a dense forest. The original Celtic words of which the name was composed referred to "pen" ("head"), as in the Welsh "pen", and "ceat" ("wood"), similar to the Welsh "coed", as in the name of the town of Pencoed in Wales.
Penge formed a part of the parish of Battersea, with the historic county boundary between Kent and Surrey forming its eastern boundary. In 1855 both parts of the parish were included in the area of the Metropolitan Board of Works, with Penge Hamlet Vestry electing six members to the Lewisham District Board of Works. The Local Government Act 1888 abolished the Metropolitan Board, with its area becoming the County of London. However the London Government Act 1899 subsequently made provision for Penge to be removed from the County of London and annexed to either Surrey or Kent. Accordingly, an Order in Council transferred the hamlet to Kent in 1900, constituting it as Penge Urban District. The urban district was abolished in 1965 by the London Government Act 1963, and its former area merged with that of other districts to form the London Borough of Bromley. With the creation of the Penge Urban District, Penge New Road (formerly the part of Beckenham Road north of Kent House Road) was renamed Penge High Street.
From 1885 the Hamlet of Penge was part of the Dulwich parliamentary constituency, which was then in Surrey, and remained in that seat until 1918 when it was transferred to the new Bromley constituency. From 1950 it was part of the Beckenham constituency. Since the 2010 general election Penge has formed part of the Lewisham West and Penge constituency.
In the Victorian era - Penge developed into a fashionable suburb because of its proximity to the relocated Crystal Palace. It became a fashionable day out to visit the Crystal Palace during the day and to take the tram down the hill to one of the 'twenty-five pubs to the square mile' or two Music Halls - The King's Hall and the Empire Theatre (later the Essoldo cinema).
By 1862 Stanford's map of London shows large homes had been constructed along Penge New Road (now Crystal Palace Park Road, Sydenham and Penge High Street), Thick Wood (now Thicket) Road and Anerley Road. This all came to an end with the notorious Penge Murders of 1877.
Historical buildings and structures
- There are many Victorian almshouses in Penge, the oldest being the Royal Watermen's Almshouses, built around 1840 by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the City of London for retired company Freemen and their widows. It is also known as the Free Watermen and Lightermen’s Almshouses on Beckenham Road, built 1840-1841 to designs by George Porter (architect). It is the most prominent building in Penge, Kent. In 1973, the almspeople were moved to a new site in Hastings, and the original buildings were converted into private homes.
- The Queen Adelaide Almshouses, also known as the King William Naval Asylum, St. John’s Road, founded 1847 and built in 1848 to designs by Philip Hardwick at the request and expense of Queen Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, the widow of King William IV, to provide shelter for twelve widows or orphan daughters of naval officers. Again, the almshouses are now in private residences.
- St. John the Evangelist's Church, Penge, Beckenham Road, built 1850 to designs by Edwin Nash & J. N. Round
- Penge Congregational Church, built 1912 to designs by P. Morley Horder with passage aisles and clerestory. Shafts on large, excellently carved corbels. and has a stained glass window by William Morris.
- St Johns C.E. Primary School, was originally part of the Old Penge Chapel which opened in 1837. Early in the 1850s following the completion of St John the Evangelist, the chapel building became used entirely as a school. In 1977 the school’s site was extended and a new school building was opened in September 1978.
- St. John's Cottages on Maple Road were built as almshouses in 1863, designed by the architect Edwin Nash. As with their predecessors, the cottages are now privately owned homes. On New Years Day 1959 No.8 was destroyed by a gas explosion killing one person. The cottage was rebuilt to closely resemble the original.
- The Police Station at the corner of the High Street and Green Lane is believed to be London's oldest working police station but has been scheduled for closure since 21 January 2010. Now closed and sold for use by a private company. (June 2010).
- When completed in 1956 the Crystal Palace Transmitter was the tallest structure in the UK, a record it lost to the Anglia Television transmitter in 1959. It remained the tallest structure in the London area until 1991.
- The London and Croydon Canal was built across Penge Common along what is now the line of the railway through Penge West railway station, deviating to the south before Anerley railway station. There is a remnant at the northern corner of Betts Park, Anerley.
- Following the closure of the London and Croydon Canal, the London and Croydon Railway was built largely along the same course, opening in 1839. Isambard Kingdom Brunel built an atmospheric railway along this course.
Road Name Changes
Several road names have changed over the years. They are listed here with their current name, and original name:
|Old Road Name||Current Road Name|
|Forbes Road (changed after the Penge Murders)||Mosslea Road|
|Thick Wood Road||Thicket Road|
|Beckenham Road, Penge New Road||Crystal Palace Park Road|
|Beckenham Road, Penge New Road||Penge High Street|
|Old Penge Lane||Penge Lane|
|Penge Lane, Queen Adelaide Street||St John's Road|
|Penge Lane||Lawrie Park Road|
Pensgreene (Penge Green) and the Crooked Billet
Penge was an inconspicuous area with few residents before the arrival of the railways. A traveller passing through Penge would have noticed the large green with a small inn on its boundary. Penge appears as Pensgreene on Kip's 1607 map. The green was bounded to the north by Penge Lane, the west by Beckenham Road and the southeast by the Crooked Billet. On a modern map that area is very small but the modern day Penge Lane and Crooked Billet are not in their original locations and Beckenham Road would have been little more than a cart track following the property line on the west side of Penge High Street. Penge Lane was the road from Penge to Sydenham which is now named St John's Road and Newlands Park Road. There was also an old footpath crossing the Green leading to Sydenham that was known as Old Penge Lane. After the London, Chatham and Dover Railway was built, Penge Lane crossed the line by level crossing. When this crossing was closed Penge Lane was renamed and Old Penge Lane became the present day Penge Lane.
The 1868 Ordnance Survey map shows the Old Crooked Billet located to the southeast of the current location. This earlier location was on the eastward side of Penge Green, which disappeared as a result of The Penge Enclosure Act, 1827 which enclosed the whole Green. This left the Crooked Billet with no frontage to Beckenham Road, so new premises were constructed on the present site in 1827 and subsequently replaced in 1840 with a three-storey building. This was severely damaged by enemy action in World War II and subsequently rebuilt.
The Crooked Billet is by far the oldest and arguably the most famous public house in Penge. Peter Abbott states that it was there in 1601 and speculates that it might be much more ancient. In modern times it is particularly well known for lending its name as a bus route terminus. From 1914 General Omnibus routes 109 and 609 both operated between Bromley Market and the Crooked Billet following different routes. The 109 was renumbered 227 by London Transport and continued to terminate at the Crooked Billet. (Route 609 was shortened terminating in Beckenham ). Around 1950 some services were extended past the Crooked Billet to the Crystal Palace. Eventually nearly all buses traveled the extended route. The 354 buses now use the terminus, as do so short running buses on route 194 which carry the destination 'Penge High Street'.
Penge is served by London buses routes N3, 75, 157, 176 the 176 is a 24 hour service, 194, 197, 227, 249, 354, 356. and 358. The bus station at Crystal Palace lies within the area historically occupied by Penge. This adds a large number of routes that technically serve Penge but are of little practical use to the residents of Penge. Penge is also only ten minutes away from Crystal Palace bus station which has many services to central parts of London.
Southern trains to London Bridge and East Croydon or West Croydon run from Penge West railway station (originally named Penge). The London Overground East London Railway brought services from West Croydon to the Docklands and Shoreditch through Penge West to connect with the North London Line in summer 2010. The typical off-peak services are two trains per hour operated by Southern and four trains an hour operated by London Overground in each direction.
Southeastern services between London Victoria and Orpington operate from Penge East railway station (originally named Penge Lane but renamed after the portion of Penge Lane in proximity to the station was itself renamed.).The typical off-peak service is four trains an hour northbound to London Victoria (via Herne Hill and Brixton) and four trains an hour southbound to Orpington (via Bromley South). First Capital Connect operates a very infrequent service via St Pancras International to St Albans, Luton or Bedford. Trains via St Pancras International generally start or terminate at Beckenham Junction.. The final down service is a semi-express terminating at Swanley. The station offers an Oyster touch & go service, and has a car park on site that charges at an hourly rate.
In the 1860s, Penge was also a terminus for the short-lived Crystal Palace pneumatic railway.
The other nearest stations are:
- Anerley railway station
- Crystal Palace railway station
- Birkbeck station
- Clock House railway station
- Kent House railway station
- Beckenham railway station
After the Crystal Palace was moved to Penge Place, a fashionable day out was to visit the Crystal Palace during the day and to take the tram down the hill to one of the 'twenty-five pubs to the square mile' or two Music Halls:The King's Hall and the Empire Theatre.   Music Hall comedians were in the habit of making fun of the locale in which they appeared and consequently Penge became the butt of many jokes.
- Spike Milligan in much of his work including the Goon Show. In Scradje (series 6, episode 26) Professor Hercules Grytpype-Thynne was described as 'the strolling anchorman for the Penge and district tug-of-war team. In Round the world in 80 days (series 7, ep. 20) it was revealed that Count Villion de Jim "Thighs" Moriarty was the gold medallist road sweeper to the Penge district. A dialogue in Insurance - the White Man's Burden (series 7, ep. 21) went:
Seagoon: I didn't know you had a deaf ear.
Bloodnok: Yes, I found it on the floor of a barber's shop in Penge
A small Post Office in east Penge was the location for Part 2 of The Stolen Policeman (series 8, ep.11) and Series 8 episode 13 opens:
Greenslade: This is the BBC light program. We present the all leather Goon Show. For the benefit of listeners who are listening we present 'The Plasticine Man'. The curtain rises on a window revealing the waiting room of the East Penge labour exchange. On a crude wooden bench sit two crude wooden men.
- Horace Rumpole, a barrister known as "Rumpole of the Bailey", frequently tells others of his greatest triumph, winning an acquittal in the Penge Bungalow Murders "alone and without a leader." Author John Mortimer's original chronology was incorrect, as the Penge bungalows were prefabricated houses which replaced homes destroyed during World War II, long after the date of Rumpole's claimed triumph. When the details of the trial were later documented by Mortimer in the novel Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders in 2002, he moved the events to the early 1950s.
- Terry Wogan as Penge-sur-mer or Penge-les-trois-auberges, pronouncing Penge as the French might
- Brian Wright in his (1986) book Penge Papers: confessions of an unwaged metropolitan househusband
- The Meaning of Liff defines a Penge as 'the slotted wooden arm on which a cuckoo emerges from a cuckoo clock'.
- In the 'far-fetched fiction' of Robert Rankin, characters from Brentford refer to Penge as a far-flung outpost of civilisation and often say that they 'hear it's very nice, but I've never been there myself'. On one occasion the anti-heroes Pooley and Omally took so long to walk home from Penge that they grew beards on the way. Their friend Professor Slocombe claims that Penge was the true birthplace of the Virgin Mary (he also claims that Chiswick is the original Babylon).
- Former Beckenham resident David Bowie makes reference to Penge in the song "Did You Ever Have A Dream", itself the B-side of Bowie's early 1967 single Love You Till Tuesday (song). Bowie juxtaposes the ordinariness of Penge with America by singing "You can walk around in New York while you sleep in Penge".
- The original version of The Italian Job had scenes shot including some on the old Crystal Palace race track.The television transmitter is visible in the scene where an armoured truck is destroyed by explosives.
- Radio 4 series Old Harry's Game references Penge several times throughout the first five series, including the replacement of the Archbishop of Canterbury with the Bishop of Penge as the 'supply' Archbishop.
- It is the setting for the BBC (2006) comedy series Pulling.
- English dramatist Christopher Fry, in his play "Venus Observed", includes the phrase, "...every pool's as populous as Penge..." in a long speech.
- In South Africa the largest amosite mine in the world was named Penge (apparently one of the U.K. directors considered that the two areas were similar in appearance.)
- A scene from The Buddha of Suburbia was filmed around Penge East station, and showed the offices of Tomei & Sons.
- In How Not To Live Your Life Don refers to Penge as "Where the sun doesn't shine"
- Penge is home to a number of taverns and public houses, indeed it was noted in Victorian times for its '25 pubs to the square mile'. The Crooked Billet is by far the oldest and arguably the most famous.
- The Pawleyne Arms is currently the terminus for the 176 bus service. It was previously an intermediate turning point for short running buses on the 12, 75 and 194 bus services, becoming the southern terminus for route 12 between 1986 and 1988 when the route was again shortened.
- The public houses in Maple Road have nearly all changed their names. The Dew Drop Inn was known as The Market Tavern (and featured in the television series The Bill as the Market Tavern in Canley Market)before its closure. The London Tavern became The Hop Exchange and then The Hop House. As of 2006, it was closed, and as of 2009 the pub's facade has been removed and the building is undergoing conversion into residential accommodations. The Lord Palmerston has been delicensed and is now a pizza outlet. The King William IV became The Crown and is now The Maple Tree. Only The Golden Lion has retained its name, although it has extended its premises substantially; it was listed in every edition of the Good Beer Guide from 1976 to 1987.
- Other public houses in the area include: The Goldsmith Arms, Bridge House Tavern, Queen Adelaide Arms (closed 2010), The Alexandra (closed), Graces (formerly Dr W G Grace), Kent House Tavern, Robin Hood (closed, subsequently destroyed by fire in 2006 and demolished), Royal Oak (closed 2011), The Mitre, The Goat House (destroyed by fire and now demolished), The Waterman's Arms (now Superdrug), The Anchor (closed circa 1910), The General Simpson (closed), The General Jackson (closed), The Retreat (closed), The Cornish Arms (closed), The Railway Bell (closed), The Thicket Tavern and Hollywood East (formerly The Park Tavern). The last named was the venue for the inquest into the Penge Murders.
- Penge also has several clubs including a Conservative Club. The Penge & District Trade Union & Labour Social Club (CIU) built by local tradesmen in 1922, the former Liberal Club closed in 2005.
- Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Bourne OBE DCM, Colour Sargeant at the Battle of Rorke's Drift, lived at 16 Kingshall Road after his retirement.
- Penge was the childhood home of Bill Wyman (b. 1936 William George Perks) bassist from The Rolling Stones
- Thomas Crapper, the famous Victorian manufacturing plumber retired to live at 12 Thornsett Road (c1897-1910). He is commonly, but erroneously, credited with inventing the flush toilet.
- Walter de la Mare, famous poet and author of ghost stories, resided at 195 Mackenzie Road (1899–1908), 5 Worbeck Road (1908–1912) and 14 Thornsett Road (1912–1925).
- John Freeman, Georgian poet and essayist. A friend of Walter de la Mare.
- Camille Pissarro, French impressionist painter, lived in Penge in the 1870s.
- H. T. Muggeridge, British politician, father of Malcolm Muggeridge
- Malcolm Muggeridge, British journalist, author, satirist, media personality, soldier-spy and latterly a Christian apologist.
- Andrew Bonar Law, Prime Minister, who was the Member of Parliament for Dulwich and lived in Oakfield Road in Penge.
- John Clunies-Ross, first King of the Cocos Islands.
- Tom Hood 1835-1874, author, playwright and editor of "Fun" lived at 12 Queen Adelaide Road.
- Helena Normanton 1882-1957, the first woman to practise as a barrister in the UK.
- Herbert Strudwick Surrey and England wicket-keeper lived at 4 Worbeck Road.
- Simon Moores, the mining industry's writer, author and modern day thinker who made his name in Industrial Minerals magazine.
- Henry Howse, a very early film actor with the Lumière brothers, moved to Penge by 1911 by which time he had become a cinematographer. He was a member of The Salvation Army and was instrumental in establishing the Limelight Department. He moved to Melbourne, Australia with the Salvation Army then to southern Africa resuming his career as cinematographer. He returned to live in Penge until his death.
- Crystal Palace Park
- Alexandra Recreation Ground
- Cator Park
- Penge Recreation Ground
- Betts Park
- Royston Playing Fields
- South Norwood Country Park
- See Also Penge Common
- Beckenham Place Park
- British History Online - Battersea with Penge Hamlet
- Kelly's Directory of Surrey, 1891
- Hamlet of Penge, The Times, February 27, 1900
- Abbott, Peter (2002) Book of Penge, Anerley and Crystal Palace: The Community, Past Present and Future, p114 Halsgrove. ISBN 1-84114-210-7
- http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bromley/penge/empire-theatre.htm idealhomes.org.uk
- http://viewfinder.english-heritage.org.uk/search/reference.asp?index=565&main_query=&theme=&period=&county=&district=&place_name=London&imageUID=77020&=&JS=True viewfinder.english.heritage.org.uk
- http://www.mappalondon.com/london/south-east/map-london.htm mappalondon.com
- http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/postcodes/places/SE20/stories/CAT122.html museumoflondon.org.uk
- http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bromley/penge/royal-watermans.htm ideal-homes.org.uk
- 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.433.
- Housewife dies in Maple Road blast, 'Beckenham and Penge Advertiser', 8th January 1959, p1.
- http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bromley/penge/police-station.htm ideal-homes.org.uk
- in Abbott, Peter (2002) Book of Penge, Anerley and Crystal Palace: The Community, Past Present and Future, p18 Halsgrove. ISBN 1-84114-210-7
- Abbott, Peter (2002) Book of Penge, Anerley and Crystal Palace: The Community, Past Present and Future, p48 Halsgrove. ISBN 1-84114-210-7
- Abbott, Peter (2002) Book of Penge, Anerley and Crystal Palace: The Community, Past Present and Future, p10 Halsgrove. ISBN 1-84114-210-7
- "The Crooked Billet, on Penge Common", The Every-day Book and Table Book; or, Everlasting Calendar of Popular Amusements, Sports, Pastimes, Ceremonies, Manners, Customs, and Events, Each of the Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Days, in Past and Present Times; Forming a Complete History of the Year, Months, and Seasons, and a Perpetual Key to the Almanac, Including Accounts of the Weather, Rules for Health and Conduct, Remarkable and Important Anecdotes, Facts, and Notices, in Chronology, Antiquities, Topography, Biography, Natural History, Art, Science, and General Literature; Derived from the Most Authentic Sources, and Valuable Original Communication, with Poetical Elucidations, for Daily Use and Diversion. Vol III., ed. William Hone, (London: 1838) p 669-74.
- Transport for London - Transport Commissioner visits East London Railway - Press release: 15 November 2006
- Camberwell: Divisions of the New Borough (Map) Ordnance Survey, 1885
- Abbott, Peter, p114
- Macmillan ISBN 0-330-29506-3
- Quest for Justice, VOL 9/NO 3, JUL/SEP 2003, p219
- Golden Lion Good Beer Guide listing
- Abbott, Peter (2002), p94.
- Abbott, Peter (2002), p95
- Abbott, Peter (2002), p93.
- Pullen, Doris E. (1990) Penge. self-published. ISBN 0-9504171-3-0, p72
- Pullen, Doris E. (1990), p72
- Moores, S. (June 2007). "Between a rock and a salt lake". Industrial Minerals 477: 58.
- Hammond, Margaret. 2004. Film Pioneer [Henry Howse]. The Salvationist (15 May): 10, www1.salvationarmy.org.uk (accessed 15 January 2009)