Albany Park

Albany Park, Bexley

A lacklustre pair of housing estates situated on high ground overlooking the valleys of the Cray and Shuttle rivers, midway between Sidcup and Bexley

geograph-4492985-by-Des-Blenkinsopp - Longmead Drive - Albany Park

This was for­mer­ly the site of Tan­yard and Hurst Farms, part of the estate of the Van­sit­tart fam­i­ly of Foots Cray.

Sid­cup ceme­tery opened on Foots Cray Lane in 1912, when its sur­round­ings con­sist­ed entire­ly of fields and scat­tered spin­neys with rus­tic names like Poulter’s Spring, Grub Wood and Rut­land Shaw. Only the last of these has sur­vived, as a 5‑acre open space.

New Ide­al Home­steads (NIH) laid out the first hous­ing estate here in the mid-1930s – and made up the Albany Park name for it – pub­lish­ing a sales brochure with the implau­si­ble pledge that “the charm­ing coun­try­side shall per­ma­nent­ly retain the rur­al char­ac­ter of its vis­tas and shall not suf­fer dis­fig­ure­ment in any way.”

NIH built at almost twice the hous­ing den­si­ty rec­om­mend­ed by Bex­ley coun­cil and priced their prop­er­ties as low as £395, mak­ing them afford­able to work­ing-class fam­i­lies want­i­ng to escape inner Lon­don. Although the Dart­ford Loop rail­way line had been built in 1866, it was the devel­op­ers who opened a sta­tion here, in July 1935.

Despite its out-of-the-way loca­tion on a sharp bend on Steyn­ton Avenue, the sta­tion was accom­pa­nied by a pletho­ra of shops (many of which are now take­aways) and the mock-Tudor Albany Hotel. South of the tracks, a foot­bridge pro­vides access to the sta­tion from Long­mead Dri­ve, shown in the pho­to­graph above.*

Hurst coun­cil infant school opened on Dorch­ester Avenue in 1935 and a junior school was added a year lat­er. The schools were lat­er com­bined as Hurst pri­ma­ry school, which nowa­days has acad­e­my sta­tus.

The set­tle­ment was extend­ed south-east­wards with the con­struc­tion of the Roy­al Park estate, which was begun just before the Sec­ond World War by NIH and com­plet­ed after­wards by Bex­ley bor­ough coun­cil. Kent coun­ty coun­cil opened Footscray Place coun­ty pri­ma­ry school on River­side Road in 1951. The school was enlarged and renamed Roy­al Park in 1954.

Locat­ed at the cor­ner of Hurst Road and the Pen­fold Lane foot­path, Hurst (or Hurst Place) is a much-altered 18th-cen­tu­ry man­sion stand­ing in 2.7 acres of grounds. It has been a com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre since 1954 and is present­ly man­aged by the Youth Action Diver­si­ty Trust.

Albany Park Bap­tists built a church hall on Stanst­ed Cres­cent in 1955. They planned to erect a prop­er church too but this nev­er even­tu­at­ed so the hall serves that pur­pose.

St Andrew’s church

St Andrew’s church was built on a slop­ing site on May­lands Dri­ve in 1964–5. Niko­laus Pevs­ner called its origa­mi-style archi­tec­ture “inge­nious, fash­ion­able and slight­ly absurd.” The grant­i­ng of parochial sta­tus in 1969 was a spe­cial con­ces­sion as Albany Park fell well short of the 10,000 pop­u­la­tion nor­mal­ly required.

Trees were plant­ed in 2001 on the site of dis­used allot­ments between the rail­way line and the prop­er­ties on the south side of Can­ter­bury Avenue. Named Mil­len­ni­um Wood­land, the area forms an east­ern exten­sion of Abbey Hill Park.

Albany Park’s most sig­nif­i­cant con­struc­tion project in recent years has been Bel­gravia Homes’ Cedar­wood Place, an apart­ment block (plus a con­ve­nience store) that has replaced the for­mer shops of Nor­man Parade, oppo­site St Andrew’s church.

Postcode areas: Bexley DA5 and Sidcup DA14
Station: Southeastern Trains (zone 5)
* The pictures of Longmead Drive and St Andrew’s church on this page are both adapted from original photographs, copyright Des Blenkinsopp, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.