Ramsden, Bromley

A recently regenerated estate situated on the far eastern edge of Orpington

Hidden London: William Petty Way, cropped from an image that is copyright Ian Capper. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licence.
New homes on William Pet­ty Way

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


View larger OpenStreetMap

The picture of William Petty Way on this page is cropped 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 hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.