Bromley (St. Peter And St. Paul)

BROMLEY (St. Peter And St. Paul), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Bromley and Beckenham, lathe of Suttonat-Hone, W. division of Kent, 10 miles (S. E.) from London, on the road to Tonbridge; containing 4325 inhabitants. This place, which is supposed to have derived its name from the quantity of broom with which the neighbourhood abounds, was in the eighth century given by Ethelbert, King of Kent, to the bishops of Rochester, in whose possession it remained, with very little interruption, till the recent purchase of an estate in Essex for the see. The episcopal residence had become so ruinous in 1184, that Gilbert de Glanvill was obliged to expend a considerable sum in repairing it. In this palace was found the plot of a conspiracy, of which Sprat, Bishop of Rochester, published an account in 1692. Dr. Thomas, on being appointed to the see, finding the building much decayed, pulled it down, and erected a new palace, which was completed in 1777, and was till recently occupied by the bishops. In the gardens was anciently an oratory, much resorted to on account of certain indulgences granted by Lucas, legate of Pope Sixtus IV., to all who should offer up their devotions there during Pentecost; and near it was a well of mineral water, similar in its properties to the waters at Tonbridge, but more strongly impregnated. This well, in honour of the saint to whom the oratory was dedicated, was called St. Blaze's well, and was for a considerable time in great repute; but the oratory becoming dilapidated after the Reformation, the well was choked up and the efficacy of its waters forgotten, till, being re-opened in 1756, it regained its former celebrity, and became much esteemed for its medicinal quality.

The town is pleasantly situated on the north-east side of the river Ravensbourne, and consists principally of one street, extending for a considerable distance along the turnpike-road. The houses are in general neat and well built, especially those in the market-place, in the centre of which is an ancient market-house, supported on wooden pillars; the streets are partially paved and lighted, and the inhabitants are supplied with water from springs. The market, granted to the Bishop of Rochester in 1447, and held on Thursday, has nearly fallen into disuse: fairs are held on Feb. 14th and Aug. 5th, for live-stock. The county magistrates hold a meeting for the division alternately here and at Farnborough, every second fortnight: the powers of the county debt-court of Bromley, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Bromley. The parish comprises 4646 acres, and is beautifully situated in a district abounding with varied scenery and objects of deep interest: the soil is fertile; that portion of the land which is arable produces abundant crops, and there are rich pastures, and 334 acres of wood.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Dean and Chapter of Rochester, with a net income of £163; the bishop receives tithes to the amount of £1200 per annum, and has glebe land to the extent of 275 acres. The church is a spacious structure, with a square embattled tower having a turret at one of the angles; it was partly rebuilt in 1792, and enlarged about the year 1830, when 437 additional sittings were provided. It contains an ancient Norman font, and various interesting monuments, among which are those of several of the bishops of Rochester; of Dr. Hawkesworth, author of the Adventurer, who was a native of the place; and of Elizabeth, wife of Dr. Johnson, who was buried here. A district church, dedicated to the Trinity, has been erected on the common, in the later English style: the living is a perpetual curacy; patron, the Bishop; net income of the incumbent, £120. There are places of worship for Independents and Methodists. A national school is partly supported by subscription: fifteen boys and as many girls are clothed by means of the dividends on £1400 stock, purchased with donations, the chief of which were by the Rev. George Wilson in 1718, and Launcelot Tolson in 1726. Bromley College, at the north-eastern extremity of the town, was founded in 1666, by John Warner, Bishop of Rochester, who endowed it with £450 per annum, for the residence and support of 20 widows of loyal and orthodox clergymen, to each of whom he assigned £20 per annum, and to a chaplain £50. This endowment has been augmented by many subsequent benefactions. In 1767, the Rev. William Hetherington bequeathed £2000 Old South Sea annuities; in 1774, Dr. Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Rochester, gave £5000 in the same stock; in 1782, William Pearce, the bishop's brother, bequeathed £12,000; in 1823, Walter King, Bishop of Rochester, gave £3000 three per cents.; and in 1824, Mrs. Rose bequeathed £8000. There are at present 40 widows resident in the college, who have £38 per annum each, with occasional diocesan grants; two additional widows, who occupy the treasurer's wing, and receive £20 a year each; and three out-pensioners, each of whom has £30 a year from the gift of Bishop King. The chaplain's salary has been advanced to £150. The college is a handsome appropriate pile of building of red brick, faced with stone, surrounding two quadrangular areas; it is encircled by about four acres of land, tastefully laid out. The poor law union of Bromley comprises 16 parishes or places, and contains a population of 16,079.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.