Chislehurst, Bromley

A pretty suburb situated south-west of Sidcup with an old village centre and common, and plenty of greenery and 19th-century cottages

Chislehurst - the towering Prince Imperial memorial
The Prince Imperial memorial

First recorded in 974 as a patch of stony woodland, a settle­ment had developed around the Scadbury estate by the mid-13th century. Camden Place, now a golf clubhouse, is named after William Camden, the Eliz­a­bethan antiquary who lived in Chisle­hurst from 1609 until his death in 1623. Lord Chief Justice Charles Pratt lived here and took the title of Camden when he was made a baron in 1765, subse­quently bestowing the name on north London’s Camden Town.

When Napoleon III and his family were expelled from France in 1871 after the country’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the imperial family moved to Camden Place. Napoleon died in 1873 and was buried at the Roman Catholic church in Chisle­hurst until the Empress Eugenie removed his body to Farn­bor­ough, Hampshire. Around this time, the ‘new’ end of Chisle­hurst began to develop near the railway station, which opened in 1865.

The town became subur­banised between the wars and merged with Sidcup in 1934 to form a larger urban district. Part of the old parish of Chisle­hurst was ‘lost’ to Bexley when the London boroughs were reor­ga­nized in 1965.

Chisle­hurst Caves, off Old Hill, are a disused chalk mine with several miles of passage­ways split into three sections, colour­fully named Saxon, Druid and Roman, although evidence of such early usage is flimsy. The caves were last worked in the 1850s. When the railway reached Chisle­hurst the caves became a tourist attrac­tion. They were used for military purposes in wartime, for mushroom farming between the wars and have repre­sented a thaesium mine on the planet Solos for an episode of Dr Who. During the 1960s, Status Quo, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd all performed here. In 1974 Led Zeppelin launched their Swan Song label with a party in the caves. Guided tours operate most days.

Sir Malcolm Campbell, who set land and water speed records, was born in Chislehurst on 11 March 1885, and was buried next to his parents at St Nicholas’ church in 1949.

Postcode area: Chislehurst BR7
Population: 14,831; the Mottingham and Chislehurst North ward adds another 9,987 (2011 census)
Station: Southeastern Trains (zone 5)
Further reading: Joanna Friel and Adam Swaine, Secret Chislehurst, Amberley, 2015
Website: Chislehurst Society