Shortlands in old picture postcards

Shortlands in old picture postcards

:   Muriel V. Searle
:   Greater London
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-5325-6
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

Levertijd: 2 - 3 werkdagen (onder voorbehoud). Het getoonde omslag kan afwijken.


Fragmenten uit het boek 'Shortlands in old picture postcards'

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Contradictorily, Shortlands is one of the most heavily populated and yet, by outsiders, one of the most ignored parts of Bromley Borough. Seeing only the main raad area which residents still call The Village, motorists regard it simply as a wedge between Beckenharn and Bromley. Cornmuters to the latter station see it chiefly as a railway land mark point for picking up briefcases, stowing away newspapers, and preparing for Bromley South just a couple of minutes further down the line. People like these, when they join the occasional historical walks around Shortlands led by the author, are invariably amazed by its wealth of interest and attractiveness. Few are aware that a huge tract of open country lies only yards behind the main road, Shortlands golf course; or that it has a waterworks th at is not only functional but of historic worth; or two of the oldest cottages anywhere in the borough; or th at some of its Victorian streets have above average charm, like little Recreation Road; or that there is still an ancient millpond; or that its public open spaces join with Martins Hili all the way up to central Bromley. Shortlands can actually be an eye-opener.

Even Ie ss is it realised that this blend of age-old open space with Victorian and 20th century suburbia has a full human and historie past, despite the fact that, residentially, it scarceIy existed two centuries ago. Most of th is history is recent enough to be recorded fact, yet legend is not entirely absent. Legend, indeed, accounts for one popular version of the village's very name, which is said only to have emerged with the growth of agriculture, the area previously being simply land attached 10 the old Manor of Foxgrove at Beckenham. When land came to be divided up into smaller enc!osures and Iields, this division is said to have been made by starting at the top of two hills flanking the valley now called Shortlands, working downwards from Martins Hili on one side and the areas

where are now St. Mary's and Shortlands House on the other. These calculations were not very expertly made, as was found on reaching the valley bottom by the Ravensbourne. Here there proved not to be enough left over to form the final lowest-lying fields, only narrow fragments, in short measure - the short-lands. Fact or fiction, it is as good an explanation asany.

Early in the 18th century came the first stirrings of Shortlands as a community, with the building in 1702 of Shortlands House (now Bishop Challenor School). Below it on the valley floor still stands the beautiful farmhouse now called simply The Old Cottage, marooned opposite the station among eternal traffic and with Edwardian and later houses flanking it. Then, it was a true country cottage, whose grounds ran across to where is now Shortlands Station, and linked by a rural footpath up hili to the main house. George Grote, the historian, was bom at the big house and remained there for another two decades, proving not only that Shortlands does have a history , but th at it beg ins right opposite a busy commuter station.

The opening of the West London & Crystal Palace Railway in the 1850s sealed the fate of this almost remote countryside, as surely as other lines did for most ham lets within ten mil es of London. Building outwards from the city, the developers naturally reached this place first, and named their station '(Shortlands) Bromley'. Arriving at what they thought was Bromley, tra veilers actually found themselves twenty minutes' up hili c!imb from that market town; but at least the daily eight trains to and from Pimlico (Victoria) we re an improvement in frequency on the stagecoach. Even on Sundays there were four London trains; though the first did not depart until1.50 p.m. in the 1859 timetabie. Fares were high enough to deter pleasure travel. let alone what is now called com-

muting; half-a-crown return first class was equal to a working man's pay for an entire day sweating to build the same railway.

It was th us the minor gentry who adopted this suddenly convenient and attractively undeveloped and unspoiled area; one could not yet call it even a hamiet, certainly not a village. Rather , it was a growing enclave of big detached brick semimansions which are still the essence of Shortlands' upland section around St.Mary's, a church built mainly to cater for them, which explains why it is so far from the ordinary folks' roads that grew up in a quite different spot, nearer the station. 'In this fashionable locality large houses are constantly springing up, and as a consequence the roads get worn and out of repair,' grumbled a local paper as early as 1869; the said roads, of course, being more accurately tracks, churned into mud by heavy carriage wheels.

Soon after the First World War, Shortlands on the hili as a gentleman 's seat was declining, and their estates began to be broken up for new, if still high-class, housing. Shortlands in the valley was by then almost completely formed, much as we know it today. There was already an element of a vanishing world according to a scribe who just before the war lamented the passing of 'Bright green fields ... intersected by the little streams we boys used to catch minnows in. The old millpond we bathed in all the long surnrner's day, running about the meadows to dry. Behind the millpond extended fields and woods over to Pickhurst Green Lane ... opposite its pretty church were the Shortlands Woods, covering about 25 acres, a famous place for nuts and blackberries.'

Today the valley section of this place-in-two-pieces retains wh at we residents call a villagey atmosphere and appearance, meaning a Victorian rather than an ancient village whose comparatively short span of main growth, between

about 1860 and 1900, gave it a uniquely harmonious uniformity of style and character. The big houses of the high-Iying other part in many cases remain, identifiable between the Thirties and later ones built into their former grounds; others account for many local road names: Hillside, Kingswood, Romanhurst and others. There is still a parish church perched atop the principal hill; not the one these landowners knew, but an interesting replacement erected after its wartime destruction.

Altogether, there is an air of timelessness that is certainly not feit in busy Bromley just up Swan Hili. For us Shortlanders, that is the place's number onc charm.

November 1991

Muriel V. Searle


The au thor wishes most sincerely to thank those who have loaned pictures additional to her own collection, or otherwise given help. In particular: Mrs. Jill Baldwin; Miss M. Crosdale; Mr. Glyn Jones and Shortlands Golf Club: Litholetter Press, The Stationery Shop; Mrs. M. Prothero; Miss I. Searle; Valley School; and also The Bromley Record.

After up to ninety years, the publishers of most of these old postcards have proved untraceable despite determined enquiries. Some are copies of older copies and therefore untraceable, but thanks are extended bath to these and to the few which are identifiable by name including: F.J. Barnett; W. Baxter; Daniell Bros. Ltd.; Earle Series; F.J .B. (EJB?) Series; C. W. Faulkner & Co.; Jerome; Kingsway Series; L.L. Series; London Studio; M. Series; T. Martin & Sans; F. Medhurst Ltd.; Misch & Co.; Misch & Stocks; P. Ltd; S. Phillips, Catford; Photochrom Ltd.; W.J. Steed; Raphael Tuck Ltd.; Wildt & Kray.

1. Shortlands great charm, so far, is its changelcssness, as this picture from about 1915 shows. Though ownership has altered, almost every shop and house shown here is rccognisable today.

2. The general aspect of th is Great War period postcard is easily recognisable today and most of the shopfronts are relatively unaltercd. The rnain difference pictorially is the complete absence of traffic. compared with today's heavy use of the route through from Bromley to Beckenham.

3. Beyond the imposing street lamp can be seen a set of tall old-fashioned sernaphore signals at Shortlands Station. Other than the loss of those two features, the rest of the scene looks remarkably close to its appearance now.

4. Though captioned simply 'Near Bromley, Kent' this picture seems most likely to show the Raverisbourne somewhere in Shortlands. Above Bromley itself, it would have been rather narrower.

5. The vital part of the caption has been completely scraped away, leaving only' ... by Road, Shortlands' . It is believed to show part of Farnaby Road when it was still fairly new and the wad unrnade-up, with very young ornamental trees in position. The woman's costume suggests a date of around 1905-1910.

6. The Valley School cook, assistant cook, and canteen staff, shown on a postcard dated 1949. Probably it was simp!y a private deve!oping and printing job, which for a short period were returned to customers in postcard form if required, for posting in the normal way.

7. Children at Valley School, a typical class group th at was of ten sold to parents either as an enlargement or else as a cheaper postcard, for mailing to proud relations.

8. Individual portraits taken in class have long been popular with parents. This example is one of a special set taken for the 1937 coronation of George VI, and was therefore returned to the buyer as a postcard inside a commemorative folder showing, appropriateIy, the two little princesses, Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret Rose.

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