St Mary Cray
|St Mary Cray|
St Mary the Virgin Church, St. Mary Cray.
St Mary Cray shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|London Assembly||Bexley and Bromley|
St Mary Cray is an area of South East London, England and is part of the London Borough of Bromley. It lies near the border of Greater London with Kent, bordering the Sevenoaks District and is north of Orpington.
Like nearby St Paul's Cray, it has been somewhat overshadowed by the growth of Orpington, which now provides local communities with their main shopping and business facilities. Today it is mostly suburban housing, to a large amount of working class and ex traveller people. Originally the main feature of the town was its small parade of shops which was once longer than Orpington High Street. Today, it is the Nugents Retail Park on Cray Avenue which include several large stores including Marks and Spencers and Next. The industrial estates of both St Mary Cray and St Paul's Cray were a dominant feature on Cray Avenue and Sevenoaks Way before Nugents opened however. A lot of these grew as part of the new 'light electrical industries' which were springing up. Throughout the 1950s the area now known as The Nugent housed two large Morphy Richards factories. Their business began in the small factory which used to be by the railway embankment, on the opposite side of the road. They eventually moved out of the area in the 1960s. Other areas are now home to retail outlets such as PC World, Comet, Land of Leather, Homebase, JJB Sports, MFI, Currys, Carpet Right and Arco. These retailers list their stores as Orpington branches. The art deco tower of the Allied Bakery, formerly Tip Top Bakeries, is a local landmark. Just along from the bakery is Lagoon Road so named because in the early part of the 1900s there was an outdoor lido called the Blue Lagoon.
Transport and Locale
- St Paul's Cray
- Petts Wood
- Foots Cray
- Green Street Green
Several Transport For London Buses and an Arriva Kent bus serve St Mary Cray.
- 51 – Woolwich and Orpington Station
- 477 – Bluewater and Orpington Station
- B14 – Bexleyheath Shopping Centre and Orpington Station
- R1 – St Paul's Cray and Green Street Green
- R2 – Petts Wood and Biggin Hill Valley
- R3 – Locksbottom and Chelsfield Village
- R4 – Paul's Cray Hill and Locksbottom
- R6 – St Mary Cray Station and Orpington Station
- R11 – Sidcup Queen Mary's Hospital and Green Street Green
- N47 – Trafalgar Square and St Mary Cray Station (Night Bus)
St Mary Cray station serves the area with services to London Victoria via Bromley South, Kentish Town via Catford, as well as services to Sevenoaks, Gillingham and Ashford International via Maidstone East.
Nearest Railway Stations
- St Mary Cray – Chatham Mainline
- Petts Wood – Southeastern Mainline
- Orpington – Southeastern Mainline
- Chislehurst – Southeastern Mainline
- Sidcup – Dartford Loop Line
- Swanley – Chatham Mainline
The Romany history of Orpington
For Romany history in general, see Romani people. St Mary Cray has the largest settled Roma and Irish Traveller community in the UK. In the past, hop and soft fruit farms in the area employed large numbers of itinerant workers.
Orpington and the surrounding area was rural, with many farms. Kent had many hop and fruit farms, so Orpington became, along with other areas such as Erith, a stopping area or atchin tan. One of the stopping areas was Corkes meadow or 'Corkes Pit', and Ruxley Pit another. Corkes Pit no longer exists, having been built on, but was near to the gas works in Sevenoaks Way. The other area, Ruxley Pit, was located at the top of Chalk Pit
Many Romany families from all over the UK, not just the Kent Travellers, stopped at Corkes Pit in the 1960s. The hop farms started to use machinery to pick the hops and didn't require the labour from the travellers, and they started to use labour from abroad. It was now becoming hard to find stopping places, and the council made it hard for travellers to stop. The council had to provide permanent stopping areas for these travellers. One such area is the Star Lane site, which is one of the largest in the UK, and St Mary Cray has the largest group of Romany travellers. The lucky families got plots on these sites and others took houses (kenners), resulting in a great upset around the Corkes Pit area (Leesons Hill). Others moved from Kent, and continued to struggle to get work and find kushti atchin tans. After the farm work dried up and the travellers could not follow the seasons for picking fruit such as apples (pobble), cherries (gulos), potatoes and hops, and when it became demeaning for the women and men to 'hawk', the men started to look for local labouring work and many families settled. Many of the young travellers are very far detached from the old nomadic life of the Romany people who left India over 1000 years ago, and some are worried that the Romany jib or language will be lost as time goes by. Even travellers in their forties cannot speak (roker) full Romany.
The travelling life is now really over for the travellers, but they still stay in touch with some of their past. Along with fruit picking, the women would make and sell pegs and flowers door to door, which is called 'hawking', and would take things to sell in baskets called kels. This way of selling is now illegal, and has been lost. The Brazil family in Marden, along with others throughout Kent, are trying to show young travellers the past.
Some of the families from Kent who would have stopped at Corkes Pit are: Clarke,Rutherford, Baker, Buckley, Saunders, Scamp, Lee, Love, Jackson, Chapman, Arnold, French, Ripley, Stanley, Crittenden, Price, Webb, Marley, Smith, Roberts, Jones, Philips, Renolds, Brazil, Ball, Elliot, Taylor, Tracey, Driscol, Mead, Pateman, Bignell and many more. Most of the families still live in Orpington, and others live in Kent or London.
Famous Romanies from Orpington include: Rose Lee, Gilderoy Scamp, Mark Ripley, Johnny Love, Private Pateman.
Battle of St Mary Cray
On Saturday 24 April 1954 a clash between Teddy Boys or Edwardians, as they were then known, attracted attention. The Orpington & Kentish Times had the headline: "Gang Battle" at Railway Station: Edwardian Youths in Half-Hour Fight: Wooden Stakes, Sand-Filled Socks as Weapons". The two gangs were from Downham and St Paul's Cray, and the gangs sported stovepipe trousers, crepe shoes and drape jackets. Trouble had started earlier in the evening when "a rowdy party of youths and a few girls from Downham Estate, Bromley, arrived at St Paul's Cray Community Centre, where a dance was being held. The paper reported "a knife was drawn when a member of the band objected to being jostled" and "a man had a glass of orange juice thrown in his face during an exchange of words." The MC, George Couchman said: "I warned the crowd police were standing by and also took the precaution of the band playing calming music – no quicksteps." The crowd dispersed at 11 o'clock, but a fight broke out at the local station, and 40 youths were held over night.
- "Working for Bromley ... making a difference", Recruitment Information Pack for Management Grade Posts, London Borough of Bromley Accessed 29 September 2007
- Family Britain 1951–1957 by David Kynaston, Bloomsbury 2009 p381 ISBN 978-1-4088-0083-6