Bromley is full of contrasts from tranquil rural villages to high streets that are as busy as any in the city centre. The largest borough in London Bromley covers 59 square miles and within this vast area is what some would describe as the perfect village! After all how many other villages are within walking distance of a town centre with access to all of the recreation facilities and transport networks that we have come to expect from city living?
Lovely green leafy streets and good schools make it an ideal place for young and old alike. It is beautiful with unspoilt Victorian terraced cottages alongside grand Victorian mansions some of which have been developed into apartments, others are still lived in as the builders intended! The little cottages that give character to the area are now very desirable places to live much more so than the many post war mock Tudor semi’s that can be found all over the outskirts of London.. As you would expect from such an exclusive address there are antique and specialist interior design shops providing essential services for the inhabitants
The further up the hill towards Bromley that you walk the larger the houses become; probably built to make the most of the views. These homes are set amongst wide leafy streets that help to create a charming environment.
Bromley town centre is only five minutes walk away and yet you could quite easily be in another world. Better still Shortlands Village is only eleven miles from the centre of London with its own station to ferry the many commuters who call this place home to and from work. It is the Victorians that we need to thank for the rail network and it is because of this network that the whole of Bromley flourished! Three stations including Shortlands were opened from 1858 onwards in fact one of them was private for the sole use of Sir Charles Scott of Sundridge!
Originally the area that we now know as Shortlands was called Clay Hill and became known as Shortlands in the 1800’s. The name Shortlands is a medieval term for the division of fields and the fields that lined the valley through which the river Ravensbourne flowed were not very wide hence the name. The river Ravensbourne, who’s source is known as Caesars Well after the Romans established a camp near it now runs beneath the centre of Shortlands and can still be seen flowing through a recreation ground nearby. There was also a large house of the same name which is now better known as The Bishop Challoner School! The development of Shortlands began with the sale of the Shortland House Estate in 1863. With the sale of the estate alongside the railway that arrived in 1858, it was to become an ideal location for Victorian London.
The Victorian era is described as the greatest in British history; the empire was at its peak and the industrial revolution was in full swing. It is both of these factors that provided the money and the labour to develop the area; creating a housing boom for London’s burgeoning middle classes. Evidence of this can be seen with the large imposing mansions that were built for the wealthy Londoners who wanted a clean healthy environment for their families and yet still be able to work in the city. As I have previously mentioned the cottages that make Shortlands village so appealing were primarily built to house people from the opposite end of the social spectrum. The inhabitants of the grand houses needed staff to clean them and London required labour in all forms – men, women and children all did their bit for the empire.
Although Charles Dickens paints a bleak picture of Victorian England health reforms and changes to employment law helped the population to rise at an unprecedented rate. People were flocking to London in search of employment and better standard of living. They all needed homes so small terraced cottages were quickly built to house them. Unlike today’s build standards the terraced houses were very well built, they might not have the luxurious finishes of their grander counterparts but they were adequate for a small family. Unfortunately families tended to be quite large in comparison to modern day so the reality of cottage living was somewhat cramped. These little cottages within the village stand as a memorial to the people who helped make Shortlands the place that it is today.
Shortlands since its conception has always attracted people who want to live in such a delightful place but it is not only the environment that is held in high esteem some of the people who have chosen to live in Shortlands are equally as renowned! Enid Blyton lived in Shortlands during the later stages of her career, the novelist Mrs Craik had a home especially built in Shortlands Road. George Grote who was an eminent historian of ancient Greece was born in Shortlands when it was actually known as Clay Hill. One of the more unfortunate residents was Lord Stamp who became the first Charter Mayor of Beckenham and the Chairman of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. He was tragically killed along with his family when his home in Shortlands was bombed in 1940.
Shortlands Village might not be set deep in the countryside or have a long history spanning several centuries but it does have every thing that comes top of the list of requirements for people looking for an idyllic place to live.
copyright© Wendy Stevenson 2011
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