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St George's Churchyard, Bickley Bromley
   
Summary: St George's Church was built in 1863-5 to serve the new Bickley Park Estate being developed by George Wythes. The land was formerly part of the estate of William Dent, Chairman of the Mid-Kent Railway Company. Wythes' estate is a good example of suburban development built for the upper classes after the railway brought greater access to the capital. The churchyard is largely grass, with wooden crosses and a WWI war memorial, and contains a number of mature trees including a large Holm oak, yew and other trees. Despite adjoining a busy road to the south, the churchyard's trees and boundary hedge give a quiet shaded aspect.
Previous / Other name: Bickley Parish Church
Site location: Bickley Park Road, Bickley
Postcode: BR1 2BE > Google Map
Type of site: Churchyard
Date(s): 1863-65
Designer(s):
Listed structures:
Borough: Bromley
Site ownership: Diocese of Rochester
Site management: church
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: unrestricted
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Events:
Public transport: Rail: Bickley. Bus: 269
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/07/2007
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.achurchnearyou.com/bickley-st-george

Fuller information:

St George's Church was built in 1863-5 by architect George Barnes in order to serve the new Bickley Park Estate being developed by George Wythes. The land was formerly part of the estate of William Dent, who had substantial land holdings in Bickley although he was a relative newcomer to the area. A former director of the East India Company, Dent became Chairman of the Mid-Kent Railway Company and gave evidence to the Select Committee on Private Bills in 1850. Unlike many of the other major landowners who opposed the railway, Dent staunchly believed that the development of the rail network out of London was inevitable and that landowners should seek to mould it to their interests. Dent was successful in this regard and in 1858 stations opened at Bromley and Southborough Road (renamed Bickley), providing fast access to London's West End. Although Dent maintained his interest in the railway he sold a substantial part of his estate to wealthy developer George Wythes, who saw the opportunity to create an upper class residential estate here. To this end the land was divided into substantial plots and Bickley Park Road was constructed linking Bromley and Chislehurst on a more direct route. Wythes donated land on the new road for St George's Church, an impressive building in Kentish ragstone; alongside the church to the east Wythes also built a substantial vicarage, later destroyed by WWII bombing but rebuilt further back from the road. A cricket ground was also provided for the new population, laid out to the west of the church on Bickley Park Road, and Bickley Park Cricket Club was founded in 1868.

The Bickley Park Estate was successful in attracting a wealthy clientele, many of whom worked in London or wished to move out to lower density housing. Today the estate retains its main features, Victorian tree planting and still has several unmade roads. Redevelopment has generally consisted of new large houses being built on the Victorian sites, but there has been some infilling in the large gardens.

Wythes remained a patron of the church, which contains the large canopied tomb-chest to the Wythes family, designed by Butterfield in 1871. Wythes was buried here on his death in 1883. The church spire was rebuilt in 1904 as it was deemed unsafe, designed by architect Ernest Newton who lived in Bickley and was active in the area, beginning his career in the office of Norman Shaw. The church suffered a bad fire in 1989 but was rebuilt in its original style. The churchyard is largely grassed and contains a number of mature trees including Cedar, yew, a large holm oak and thuja; among recent trees is a yew planted in 2000 for the millennium and a false acacia planted in 2006. Shrubbery beds are found along the Bickley Park Road boundary and the site has the remains of crenellated walls in Kentish ragstone contemporary with the church; at the entrance are remains of the original stone gate piers now with modern wrought-iron gates. There are no stone gravestones in the churchyard, but clusters of wooden crosses in a number of areas, to the west by St George's Road and either side of the porch, and a plain stone WWI War Memorial set into lawn. There are a number of paths around the church and from St George's Road and Bickley Park Road, with a few commemorative seats, and small flower beds.

Sources consulted:

B Cherry & N Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 2: South' (1983, reprint 1999) p162; E L S Horsburgh, 'Bromley, Kent' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1929), p.155; J M Rawcliffe, 'Bromley: Kentish Market Town to London Suburb, 1841-1881' in The Nature of Suburbia, ed. F M L Thompson (Leicester UP, 1982), pp41-4 (also 'The social and economic development of Bromley 1841-8', unpublished MA thesis by J M Rawcliffe, University of Kent, 1976).

LPGT Volunteer Research by J M Rawcliffe, 2007
Grid ref: TQ426689
Size in hectares:
   
On EH National Register : No
EH grade:
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
No
 
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: Yes
Conservation Area name: Bickley Park
Tree Preservation Order: No (but TPOs on boundary)
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: No
Other LA designation:
   

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