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