A recently regenerated estate situated on the far eastern edge of Orpington
Nothing is known of the origin of Ramsden’s name, which does not seem to have been recorded in print before the mid-19th century, but it may have meant ‘woodland pasture for rams’.
Well into the 20th century the hamlet of Ramsden consisted of little more than a handful of cottages on the south side of the road now called Petten Grove and a nearby farm on Chelsfield Lane called Petten (or Patten or Petting) Grove. These were surrounded by orchards, open fields and, later, a clutch of nurseries. Tripes (or Tripe) Farm, lay to the south-east, as it still does.
The original Ramsden estate was constructed in the late 1950s and 1960s, in a mix of terraced housing, bungalows and high- and low-rise blocks. A minor final phase added 42 houses in the mid-1990s, bringing the estate’s total number of dwellings to 1,344.
Ramsden primary school (later Hillside, now Harris Primary Academy Orpington) and secondary schools for girls and boys opened in 1957, 58 and 59 respectively.
Blenheim infant and junior schools (now Blenheim primary) opened in 1967 and two years later Ramsden Church of Unity (now the Unity Church) was jointly established by the Church of England and the Methodist Church.
The Ramsden estate came to be regarded as grotty and crime-ridden by many Orpingtonians, although this was by comparison with most other parts of this salubrious district rather than with deprived communities elsewhere. The estate was even nicknamed ‘Little Belfast’ in the early 1980s – not because of the origin of its residents but in an allusion to the strife-torn condition of Northern Ireland at that time.
Ramsden’s two secondary schools were merged in 1989 as the Priory School (eschewing the tainted ‘Ramsden’ name). The school, which occupies the former site of the girls’ school, has since been entirely rebuilt and is now the Harris Academy Orpington. The former boys’ school was replaced by housing and – despite surprisingly vociferous objections – Bromley indoor bowls centre.
Begun in 2003, a recently completed scheme has transformed Ramsden almost beyond recognition. The project was halted midway owing to the effects of the recession but resumed after a two-year hiatus. It ultimately involved demolishing most of the terraced flats and tower blocks and creating a more traditional street pattern, with new buildings rising to no more than four storeys.
The Ramsden Revival project cost around £12 million and has provided a roughly even split of homes for sale and for rent, with improved play areas, more parking spaces and several homes specifically tailored for disabled people.
Postcode area: Orpington BR5
Further reading: John Pateman, The Ramsden Estate and Petten Grove, Pateran Press, 2011 (exceptionally good)
Orpington History PDF: Sally Pennington, A short history of Ramsden estate, Orpington