Bickley, Bromley

A highly desirable and architecturally lush part of Bromley, bordering Chislehurst

Asprey Place

Bickley’s name was first record­ed in 1279 and may have referred to a wood­land clear­ing belong­ing to a man called Bic­ca or to a clear­ing on or near a point­ed ridge.

The area was vir­tu­al­ly unin­hab­it­ed until the 18th cen­tu­ry, apart from a ham­let called Cross in Hand, which lay near the present Chisle­hurst Road. A hunt­ing lodge sur­round­ed by fox-fre­quent­ed heath­land was in the hands of the Wells fam­i­ly from 1759 and the lodge was pro­gres­sive­ly enlarged to become Bick­ley Hall.

Dept­ford ship­builder John Wells bought the 1,200-acre estate from his broth­er in 1812 but began to sell it off when he lost mon­ey in a Maid­stone bank crash in 1841. The first roads had been laid out with vil­las for the upper mid­dle class­es by the time that South­bor­ough (lat­er Bick­ley) sta­tion opened in 1858.

Amidst alleged chi­canery the Bick­ley Park estate was acquired by George Wythes, who employed some of the finest archi­tects of the era to build even more supe­ri­or homes for mer­chants and bankers, with gar­dens of two to five acres. When Chisle­hurst sta­tion opened in 1865 it was briefly called Chisle­hurst and Bick­ley Park.

Wythes built St George’s church on Bick­ley Park Road in 1865 and gave the site for Bick­ley Park crick­et club, which was found­ed in 1868. The church has a mon­u­ment to the Wythes fam­i­ly.

Amap­o­la, Bick­ley*

A water tow­er was erect­ed at the top of Sum­mer Hill as a land­mark for the estate. Wythes’ first archi­tect was R Nor­man Shaw but Bickley’s prin­ci­pal cre­ator was Shaw’s pro­tégé Ernest New­ton, who built 8 Page Heath Lane for him­self in 1884.

Over the fol­low­ing two decades New­ton designed a series of dis­tinc­tive prop­er­ties in a style that became increas­ing­ly neo-Geor­gian. From 1905, Newton’s suc­ces­sor C H B Quen­nell laid out a more homo­ge­neous lit­tle sub­urb around the church.

The Wythes left Bick­ley around 1908 and Bick­ley Hall was leased to a pri­vate school.

The hall was demol­ished in 1963 (as was the water tow­er around the same time) and its remain­ing park­land was devel­oped with expen­sive hous­es, although these occu­pied small­er plots than the Vic­to­ri­an and Edwar­dian homes.

Over the course of the 20th cen­tu­ry the imprac­ti­ca­ble grandeur of many of the ear­ly vil­las result­ed in their demo­li­tion or con­ver­sion into flats, but there are also numer­ous sur­vivors and even the replace­ments are exclu­sive. Bick­ley is so pop­u­lar that estate agents lend its name to neigh­bour­ing local­i­ties like Wid­more and South­bor­ough, which pro­vide the area’s lim­it­ed shop­ping ameni­ties.

The children’s writer Enid Blyton taught at Bickley Park School immediately after the First World War. This independent day school for boys now operates a preparatory and pre-preparatory school at two sites on Page Heath Lane.

Postal district: Bromley BR1
Population: 15,458 (mid-2014 estimate)
Station: Southeastern (zone 5)
Further reading: Muriel V Searle, Bickley, Widmore and Plaistow, European Library, 1990
* The picture of Asprey Place, at the junction of Pines Road with Chislehurst Road, at the top of this article is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Peter Trimming, and the picture of Amapola is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Stephen Richards, both 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.