An extensive dormitory town situated four miles south-east of Bromley
This place was first recorded in 1032 as Orpedingtun – the farmstead of a man called Orped, a name that meant ‘active’ or ‘bold’.
All Saints’ church is of Saxon origin and has a sundial inscribed in runes. The church was remodelled around 1200 and a priory was built nearby before 1270. The priory was enlarged and improved in the following two centuries and served both as a residence for the rector and chaplains and as an overnight stop for the priors of Canterbury Cathedral.
Orpington and St Mary Cray rivalled each other for local ascendancy from the late Middle Ages but neither developed significantly until the 19th century.
Until the end of the 19th century an annual fair was held on White Hart Meadow. At this fair William Cook, a poultry breeder who lived at Waldon Manor, developed and first presented ‘Orpington Buff’ chickens in 1894. They rapidly gained popularity as an excellent meat bird but lost out as the commercial roaster market developed, partly because of their excessively pale skin.
With the provision of a larger station and improved rail services in 1904, developers began to buy up land east of the railway and true suburbanisation was under way by the outbreak of the First World War. During the war the Canadian province of Ontario funded the construction of a military hospital that later became Orpington hospital.
Housebuilding reached a crescendo in the late 1920s and 1930s, with winding tree-lined streets laid out in all directions. After the Second World War the suburb expanded to meet neighbouring villages and a large council estate was built (and recently rebuilt) on the edge of the green belt at Ramsden.
A much larger All Saints’ church was consecrated in the late 1950s, with the medieval church becoming its ante-chapel, while the priory was attached to a new library. Many of the Victorian shops on the High Street were lost in the early 1970s during the building of the Walnuts shopping centre, together with offices, a further education college (now a campus of Bromley College) and a police station. Behind the mall, the Walnuts leisure centre has swimming pools, sports courts and other facilities.
Except on its far eastern side, Orpington is the epitome of comfortable suburbia, and its prime attraction is the priory and its gardens.
In the days before tactical voting became commonplace, Orpington was the scene of a sensational by-election victory for the Liberals in 1962 when Eric Lubbock took the seat with a 27 per cent swing.
Postcode areas: Orpington BR6 and BR5
Population: 15,311 (Orpington ward, 2011 census)
Station: Southeastern Trains (zone 6)
Further reading: Dorothy Cox, The Book of Orpington, Barracuda, 1983
Facebook: Orpington Gossip
* The photo of Lancing Road on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Ian Capper, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence and the picture of Orpington Priory is adapted from an original photograph, copyright [Duncan] , at Flickr, also made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse of either image is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.
William Hogarth’s ‘little country box by the Thames’ in Chiswick is now a museum and gallery.
Camley Street Natural Park is a miniature ecological wilderness just north of St Pancras station.
Junction Road has a gastropub that was restored in 2010 with help from English Heritage.
You can’t go inside Debenham House but even from the street it’s a remarkable sight.