Derry Downs

Derry Downs, Bromley

One of the few Victorian developments in the Cray valley, located on the edge of the green belt south-east of St Mary Cray

Hidden London: Derry Downs by Marathon

There seems to be no record of Der­ry Downs’ name before the sec­ond half of the 19th cen­tu­ry, nor an expla­na­tion of its deriva­tion. Per­haps Der­ry was the name of a local res­i­dent, but there may alter­na­tive­ly (or also) be a link with the use of the words ‘der­ry down’ as a mean­ing­less refrain in old bal­lads and folk songs.

Nowa­days, the fields north of Cock­man­nings Road (shown in the pho­to above) are some­times called Der­ry Downs, but Hid­den Lon­don believes this is essen­tial­ly a mis­take – a mis­read­ing of the map, which is (or should be) iden­ti­fy­ing the adja­cent built-up local­i­ty as Der­ry Downs, not the farm­land. This 1930s Ord­nance Sur­vey map shows how the ‘Der­ry Downs’ label used to be applied:

Derry Downs on a 1930s OS map

How­ev­er, so many mod­ern maps are ‘mis­tak­en­ly’ plonk­ing Der­ry Downs’ name in the mid­dle of the neigh­bour­ing fields that was once wrong may rapid­ly be becom­ing the way it has to be. On the satel­lite view below, the Der­ry Downs label is so far east of the local­i­ty that you’ll need to drag the map across to see it.

The quad­ran­gu­lar road called Der­ry Downs was laid out in 1866 and it was grad­u­al­ly lined with hous­es (or pairs of hous­es) over a peri­od of sev­er­al decades, includ­ing some sub­stan­tial vil­las.

This was a piece­meal project, with plots sold sep­a­rate­ly and each house designed indi­vid­u­al­ly. Lon­don stock brick was the favoured build­ing mate­r­i­al, some­times embell­ished with stuc­co.

Hidden London: Derry Downs c.1920 (source Ideal Homes)
Der­ry Downs c.1920

Rut­land Way was laid out before the Sec­ond World War and Rose­croft Close was lined with rel­a­tive­ly spa­cious semi-detached hous­es and a few bun­ga­lows in the 1950s. Both these roads replaced nurs­eries.

Rose­croft Close is named after the house that stands at the cor­ner of Chels­field Road and High Street, St Mary Cray.

Der­ry Downs’ char­ac­ter was marred by per­va­sive rebuild­ing, infill­ing and extend­ing dur­ing the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tu­ry but sev­er­al Vic­to­ri­an prop­er­ties have sur­vived, one of which is now Der­ry Downs surgery.

South of Chels­field Road at its (Grig­g’s Cross) junc­tion with Cock­man­nings Road, the Grass­meade estate was built in the mid-1960s and its streets were named after air­men who died in the Bat­tle of Britain. Neigh­bour­ing Kille­war­ren Way and its off­shoots were laid out on what had been the home ground of Cray Wan­der­ers foot­ball club until 1972.

The Cock­man­nings estate, jut­ting into pig-rear­ing coun­try fur­ther to the south-east, takes its name from a house once owned by the Man­ning fam­i­ly, lords of the manor of Kev­ing­ton, and from the cock­pit in its grounds.

The typ­i­cal Der­ry Downs res­i­dent is a 46-year-old, mar­ried, mid­dle-class, white British home­own­er, with at least one car.

In 1897 William Cook, the breeder of Orpington black and buff chickens, lent his eldest son the money to buy Elm Cottage (now Elmdene, 51 Derry Downs). Cook’s son appears to have started up a competitive poultry farm here, and the two fell out.

Postcode area: Orpington BR5
Further viewing: Geograph: 21st-century photos of the diverse dwellings in Derry Downs


* The picture entitled On Derry Downs at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Marathon, 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.