Farnborough, Bromley

A suburban village situated on the edge of larch woods and open country, at the south-western extremity of Orpington’s sprawl

Hidden London: former bank building, Farnborough, by Julian Osley

In 862 an Anglo-Sax­on char­ter describ­ing the bounds of Brom­ley iden­ti­fied Fearn­biorgin­ga mearc – ‘the bound­ary of the peo­ple of Farn­bor­ough’. The place’s name derived from the Old Eng­lish words fearn and beorg, refer­ring to a small hill over­grown with ferns. It was writ­ten as Fer­en­ber­ga in 1180 and Farn­berg in 1226. In Fearn­biorgin­ga the -inga part meant ‘dwellers at’.

The manor of Farn­bor­ough belonged to the Duchy of Lan­cast­er “from the first erec­tion of it,” as Edward Hast­ed put it in his His­to­ry of Kent (1797). The pow­er­ful Simon de Mont­fort leased Farn­bor­ough Hall to Simon de Chels­field in the mid-13th cen­tu­ry.

In 1639 a great storm destroyed the church of St Giles the Abbot, which had to be rebuilt from scratch. Vestry records depict an active com­mu­ni­ty in the 18th cen­tu­ry, with plen­ty of tak­ers for rewards that were offered for bad­gers’ heads and the car­cass­es of fox­es, pole­cats and hedge­hogs.

In 1845 Brom­ley board of guardians built a union work­house at Locks­bot­tom. It sub­se­quent­ly evolved into Farn­bor­ough hos­pi­tal, now Princess Roy­al uni­ver­si­ty hos­pi­tal, which is part of King’s Col­lege hos­pi­tal foun­da­tion trust.

Like Downe and Green Street Green, Farn­bor­ough was pop­u­lar with walk­ers and cyclists in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry and refresh­ment rooms abound­ed.

Farn­bor­ough vil­lage sign

The pret­ty vil­lage began to suc­cumb to sub­ur­ban devel­op­ment after the First World War, bring­ing about the frag­men­ta­tion of the area’s long-estab­lished Gyp­sy com­mu­ni­ty. When Ura­nia Boswell, the queen of Kent’s Gyp­sies, died in 1933 a crowd of 15,000 turned out to watch her funer­al pro­ces­sion. Also known as Gyp­sy Lee, she was buried in St Giles’ church­yard.

After the Sec­ond World War the area north of the High Street filled with hous­ing, but green-belt leg­is­la­tion pre­vent­ed build­ing fur­ther south. The devel­op­ments includ­ed Dar­rick Wood, which is now Kenis­ton Hous­ing Association’s largest estate, with around 360 hous­es and flats, and shel­tered accom­mo­da­tion for the elder­ly.

The Farn­bor­ough and Crofton ward has an above-aver­age pro­por­tion of old­er peo­ple and the vast major­i­ty of res­i­dents are white. At Farn­bor­ough pri­ma­ry school very few pupils are from minor­i­ty eth­nic groups and a very small num­ber are at the ear­ly stages of learn­ing Eng­lish. The school has been an acad­e­my with­in the Nexus Edu­ca­tion Schools Trust since 2015.

Postal districts: Orpington BR6
Population: 14,632 (Farnborough and Crofton ward, 2011 census)
Further reading: Muriel V Searle, Farnborough and Downe in Old Picture Postcards, European Library, 1990
* The picture of the former bank building at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Julian Osley, and the picture of Farnborough Village Sign is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright David Anstiss, 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.