Downe is 3.4 miles (5.5 km) south west of Orpington and 14.2 miles (22.9 km) south east of Charing Cross. Downe lies on a hill, and much of the centre of the village is unchanged; the former village school now acts as the village hall. The word Downe originates from the Anglosaxon word doon, latterly down, hence the South and North Downs. The village was part of Kent until April 1965 when it (and the remaining part of Orpington Urban District Council) was subsumed into the new London Borough of Bromley.
Charles Darwin lived in Down House for 40 years, from 1842 until he died there in 1882. A favourite place of his was Downe Bank, now a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest, and several members of his family are buried in the graveyard of St Mary's Church.
Buckston Browne Farm
Downe is the location of Buckston Browne Farm, built in 1931 as a surgical research centre by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS). In the 1980s, the farm caused controversy because of its use of vivisection techniques, and in August 1984 it was raided by anti-vivisection activists.
The farm has now been made into four houses.
There are two scout campsites in the Downe area:
- The Downe Scout Activity Centre consisting of 86 acres (350,000 m2) of woodland and open fields is just outside the village.
- The Greenwich (one of the Districts of the Greater London South Scout county) District campsite is also nearby.
Despite being within Greater London, Downe has limited connections to the rest of the city. There are no rail links to the village, but it is served by two hourly bus routes:
The nearest railway stations are:
- Orpington (5.5 mi or 8.9 km; bus R8)
- Bromley South (6 mi or 9.7 km; bus 146)
- Bromley North (6.5 mi or 10.5 km; bus 146)
- Charles Darwin, naturalist
- Nigel Farage, (b 1964), politician, leader of the UK Independence Party
- Charles Hayes (1678–1760) mathematician
- Sir John Lubbock, 3rd Baronet, banker, barrister, mathematician and astronomer
- John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury, banker, biologist, archaeologist and Liberal politician
- Olive Willis (1877–1964), founder of Downe House School
- Herbert Newton Casson, journalist/author (1869–1951), founder of Efficiency magazine
- "Letter 637 — Darwin, C. R. to Darwin, E. C., (24 July 1842)". Darwin Correspondence Project.
- "UK launches Darwin heritage bid". BBC News. 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
- "Darwin’s home and workplace World Heritage nomination deferred by UNESCO Committee". Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2010-08-01. Retrieved 2011-09-09.
- "Transport Direct". Transport Direct Consortium. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
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