Poverest, Bromley

The western side of St Mary Cray, north of Orpington

Cross Road, by Ian Capper

The remains of Romano-British vil­las and a bath­house have been uncov­ered between Pover­est Road and Belle­field Road, and are now pro­tect­ed inside a glo­ri­fied shed (and view­able from out­side it). The bath­house was in use from around ad270 to ad400 and prob­a­bly served a small farm­stead that extend­ed south­wards. An Anglo-Sax­on bur­ial ground to the north and east of the bath­house was in use between the mid-fifth and sixth cen­turies.

Mar­garet de Pouery owned a mano­r­i­al estate here in 1327 and the locality’s name is a cor­rup­tion of hers, via the form ‘Pover­ish’ in the 19th cen­tu­ry, when the vicin­i­ty remained whol­ly agri­cul­tur­al.

Ter­raced cot­tages were built to house work­ers of the paper mills beside the Riv­er Cray and micro-local­i­ties gained colour­ful nick­names like Sloper’s Island and Dipper’s Slip.

The Ford­croft estate was laid out from 1882, with plots for 217 homes and a tav­ern, although most of the homes were nev­er built and the tav­ern opened as a grocer’s instead.

In 1892 Orp­ing­ton Bap­tist church opened the Ford­croft mis­sion hall, which is now in com­mu­ni­ty own­er­ship as Pover­est Coro­na­tion Hall.

The first coun­cil hous­es were built imme­di­ate­ly after the First World War and a flur­ry of res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment fol­lowed the con­struc­tion of the Orp­ing­ton bypass (Cray Avenue) in the mid-1920s.

New roads were giv­en names inspired by the pres­ence of a spin­ney called Robin Hood Shaw and shops were built on Mar­i­on Cres­cent. Com­mer­cial enter­pris­es tend­ed to con­sist of busi­ness­es such as scrap­yards, coal mer­chants, hauliers and demo­li­tion spe­cial­ists.

In the late 1950s Orp­ing­ton coun­cil com­pul­so­ri­ly pur­chased most of the hous­es on the Ford­croft estate and rehoused the res­i­dents in Rams­den. Unusu­al­ly, much of the area that was cleared was left as open space – but this may have been a con­se­quence of iner­tia rather than a con­sid­ered deci­sion not to rede­vel­op the sites.

A for­mer rasp­ber­ry field became Pover­est recre­ation ground (also known as Pover­est Park) and Brom­ley coun­cil acquired the neigh­bour­ing Cov­et Wood in 1991.

Local shops have faced the usu­al dif­fi­cul­ties as a result of com­pe­ti­tion from near­by super­stores and Pover­est Road post office closed in 2004.

At its 2013 inspec­tion, Ofst­ed judged Pover­est pri­ma­ry school to require improve­ment in sev­er­al areas. The school then under­went a com­plete change of senior lead­er­ship and was rat­ed ‘good’ on its next inspec­tions, in 2014 and 2018.

Hidden London: Blackthorn Grove by Ian Capper

In 2016 Whe­lan Homes built eight hous­es in a cor­ner of the grounds of a Thames Water pump­ing sta­tion. Shown in the pho­to­graph above,* the prop­er­ties line one side of the new­ly cre­at­ed Black­thorn Grove. Belle­field Road also has recent­ly built hous­es while Mar­i­on Cres­cent has “a stun­ning col­lec­tion of brand new one and two bed­room con­tem­po­rary apart­ments.”

Postcode area: Orpington BR5
Further reading online (with plenty of photos): Poverest and Cray Valley Road area
* The pictures of Cross Road and Blackthorn Grove are both slightly modified from original photographs, 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 two images are selected from Mr Capper’s excellent series of annotated photos of the whole Poverest locality.