Holwood, Bromley

A private estate in south Keston, centred on the historic Holwood House

Hidden London: Holwood Mansion by David Anstiss

Hol­wood’s name was first record­ed in 1484 and means ‘wood in a hol­low’.

Hol­wood House was built on a mod­est scale in the ear­ly 17th cen­tu­ry and pro­gres­sive­ly extend­ed. William Pitt the Younger acquired the house in 1784 and he employed the ser­vices of Sir John Soane to remod­el and enlarge it fur­ther, while Humphry Rep­ton improved the grounds.

The house became an impor­tant meet­ing place for polit­i­cal fig­ures of the time and has been called ‘the orig­i­nal Che­quers’, in a ref­er­ence to the prime minister’s offi­cial coun­try retreat.

William Wilber­force was a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor and wrote in his diary for 1788: “At length, I well remem­ber after a con­ver­sa­tion with Mr Pitt in the open air at the root of an old tree at Hol­wood, just above the steep descent into the vale of Keston, I resolved to give notice on a fit occa­sion in the House of Com­mons of my inten­tion to bring for­ward the abo­li­tion of the slave trade.” Near where that tree once stood, a com­mem­o­ra­tive stone bench is inscribed with those words, which pre­saged the Act for the Abo­li­tion of the Slave Trade.

Hol­wood House was rebuilt in 1826 by Dec­imus Bur­ton after its pre­de­ces­sor had burned down. The house has recent­ly been con­vert­ed from use as a com­pa­ny head­quar­ters into an osten­ta­tious­ly lux­u­ri­ous fam­i­ly home.

To the north, Hol­wood had a dow­er house with its own estate, which was sold in 1923 for the cre­ation of the Keston Park ‘gat­ed com­mu­ni­ty’.

More recent­ly, 78 homes have been built on the site of a demol­ished 1970s out­build­ing, in three con­cen­tric cres­cents called Wilber­force Court. Hol­wood House­’s sta­ble blocks have been extend­ed to cre­ate a sec­ond devel­op­ment called the Court­yard. The rest of the park­land is pro­tect­ed from devel­op­ment.

To the north of Holwood House, Holwood Hill Fort is an Iron Age earthwork that may have been surrounded by a substantial ditched and walled enclosure. The fort was named ‘Caesar’s Camp’ by Victorian historians who were “unable to grasp the astonishing fact that things could actually be older than Roman,” as one website puts it. The earthwork was partly destroyed by landscaping for Holwood House and what remains of it is on the estate’s private land.

Postcode area: Keston BR2
Website: Holwood Estate


* The view of Holwood Mansion on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright David Anstiss, 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.