Kevington, Bromley

Although situated just a mile to the south-east of urban St Mary Cray, Kevington (also spelt Kevingtown) is a rural hamlet, with farms, nurseries and old cottages

Kevington Hall and Kevington hamlet sign

The name may come from Old Eng­lish words mean­ing ‘place on a small hill’ or it may have relat­ed to a landown­er named Cyfa. The Ord­nance Sur­vey map of 1876 shows Kev­ing­town and Kev­ing­ton as two sep­a­rate places – the for­mer at the top of the hill, the lat­ter on its west­ern slope – but this could have been the con­se­quence of some car­to­graph­ic con­fu­sion.

The manor of Kev­ing­ton was in the hands of the relat­ed Man­ning and Onslow fam­i­lies from the late Mid­dle Ages to the mid-18th cen­tu­ry, when Mid­dle­ton Onslow sold it to Her­man Behrens (or Berens), a City mer­chant from Ams­ter­dam who com­mis­sioned the con­struc­tion of Kev­ing­ton Hall (c.1767–9), which is shown in the pho­to­graph above.*

Com­plet­ed in 1769, the house is – at least in part – the work of Sir Robert Tay­lor, who was also respon­si­ble for Dan­son House and for the enlarge­ment of the Bank of Eng­land. Behrens import­ed the build­ing mate­ri­als from around Europe: the red clink­er bricks came from Ams­ter­dam, tiles from Hei­del­berg and mar­ble from Livorno.

Behrens’s descen­dants held the prop­er­ty until the Sec­ond World War, when the gov­ern­ment req­ui­si­tioned it to accom­mo­date Cana­di­an troops. After­wards, Kent coun­ty coun­cil used the hall as a pri­ma­ry school until the ear­ly 1980s.

Now pri­vate­ly owned, Kev­ing­ton Hall has been dili­gent­ly restored and is some­times for pri­vate func­tions avail­able for con­duct­ed group tours by arrange­ment. It’s some­times opened to the pub­lic as one of the delights of the Open House Lon­don week­end.

Next door to Kev­ing­ton Hall, Shaw­croft spe­cial school was designed by Sir Roger Wal­ters of the GLC archi­tects’ depart­ment and built in 1974 in a wood­land set­ting. Shaw­croft is now Kent House – a commer­cially run hos­pi­tal and school that cares for and edu­cates young peo­ple (aged 12–18) who have behav­iour­al or psy­cho­log­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties.

The ham­let lacks any ameni­ties for res­i­dents or vis­i­tors and the for­mer Kev­ing­ton Arms (as it was in the 17th cen­tu­ry) is now a pri­cy house called Blue­ber­ry Farm.

Postcode area: Orpington, BR5


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* The picture of Kevington Hall on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Ian Capper, 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. The picture of the Kevington hamlet sign is by Hidden London.