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Kenley is a district in the south of the London Borough of Croydon (Historically in Surrey). It borders Purley, Coulsdon, Riddlesdown, Caterham and Whyteleafe. Kenley is situated 13 miles south of Charing Cross. The 2011 census showed Kenley having a population of 14,966.
Significant portions of Kenley lie within the Metropolitan Green Belt. In particular, the south of Kenley is dominated by the open green spaces of Kenley Common and Kenley Aerodrome.
A comprehensive history of Kenley is found in the Bourne Society's 'Kenley Village History'.
For centuries, Kenley was part of Coulsdon Manor which covered the whole area now known as Coulsdon, Old Coulsdon, Purley and Kenley. As with most of this area, Kenley was primarily farm land, with a few big houses and their estates.
The official opening of the railway on 4 August 1856 transformed Kenley. The new railway prompted urban development. By the end of the Victorian era, Kenley had assumed its own identity. Magnificent gentlemen's houses in substantial grounds were constructed during the 1860s. These houses gave Kenley its distinctive appearance on its western hillside. More modest housing and shops were built along the Godstone Road in the 1880s. Finally, the compact housing of the lower lying Roke area was constructed toward the end of the 19th century.
One of Kenley's landmark buildings is the Memorial Hall. It was opened in 1922 to commemorate those who gave their lives in World War I. It was subsequently extended and re-opened by Group Captain Douglas Bader in 1975.
World War II
RAF Kenley was a strategic airfield in the Battle of Britain. Given RAF Kenley's importance, the Luftwaffe attempted to destroy it by means of a massive bombing raid on 18 August 1940. The attacking Luftwaffe aircraft suffered heavy casualties during the raid. Despite some damage to the airfield and the surrounding buildings and homes, this bombing raid proved unsuccessful. By the following day, RAF Kenley was operational again.
Hammond Innes' book Attack Alarm was based on his experiences as a Royal Artillery anti-aircraft gunner at RAF Kenley during the Battle of Britain. It contains graphic descriptions of the station and attacks on it in 1940.
In the postwar period, many of the substantial Victorian properties with their extensive grounds were developed for executive housing. In 1959, Kenley was closed as an operational base of the RAF. Today, the aerodrome is used exclusively by the gliders of the Air Training Corps (615 Volunteer Gliding Squadron) and the Surrey Hills Gliding Club.
Kenley Common comprises fifty-six hectares of green open space surrounding the former Battle of Britain airfield. It is a mixture of chalk grassland and ancient woodland set among gently rolling hills. Blessed with fine views across the Caterham valley and the North Downs beyond, visitors find it hard to believe that the centre of London is only 14 miles to the north.
The original Common was bought by the Corporation of London in 1883. At that time, it encompassed some of the area that is now Kenley Airfield. Over the years, compulsory purchases by the Government and subsequent land acquisitions and re-acquisitions have meant that the Common has changed its shape and position, and almost doubled in size.
The Common’s history as an airfield goes back to the First World War when planes were assembled and tested for squadrons in France. It proved an important link in the chain of supply and became established as a permanent Royal Air Force station. World War II saw concrete runways being laid and, as headquarters of ‘B’ Sector in the No 11 Group of fighter stations, it was soon playing a key role in the Battle of Britain. Kenley is now the last remaining Battle of Britain fighter station in the southeast to remain in its World War II form. Evidence of its wartime role has survived and the old blast bays, air raid shelters, officer’s mess and the original runways can still be seen. English Heritage identified Kenley as the "most complete fighter airfield associated with the Battle of Britain to have survived".
Foxley Wood is an urban woodland of eleven hectares which is situated on a north east facing slope of the North Downs. The site is on a steep chalk escarpment with the wood, on the higher elevations, being accepted as ancient woodland, the remainder on the lower elevations being secondary woodland. Foxley Wood is now owned and managed by the London Borough of Croydon who, with the local volunteer group Friends of Foxley, maintains this ancient woodland for the public benefit.
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|Climate data for Kenley, United Kingdom (1981-2010)|
|Average high °C (°F)||6.7
|Average low °C (°F)||1.8
|Precipitation mm (inches)||80.3
|Source: Met Office|
- Kenley railway station
- Purley railway station
- Reedham (Surrey) railway station
- Whyteleafe railway station
Notable current or former residents
- David Baboulene
- Douglas Bader
- Peter Cushing
- Karl Popper
- Tommy Eytle
- Ray Mears
- Des O'Connor
- Raza Jaffrey
- Harry Worth
- Kenley Residents' Association
- Welcomes & Uplands Roads Association
- History of the village of Kenley
- City Of London - Kenley Common information & map
- Photos of Kenley and surrounding area on geograph.org.uk
- Kenley Airfield Friends Group
- Surrey Hills Gliding Club
- 615 Volunteer Gliding Squadron (Royal Air Force)
- Friends of Foxley