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Title: Penge  
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Subject: Crystal Palace, London, London Buses route 176, Bromley, Sydenham, London Buses route 356
Collection: Areas of London, Districts of Bromley
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Penge is located in Greater London
 Penge shown within Greater London
OS grid reference
London borough Bromley
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district SE20
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Lewisham West and Penge
London Assembly Bexley and Bromley
List of places
The Watermen's Almshouses

Penge is a suburb of south east London in the London Borough of Bromley. It has entered popular culture as the archetypal commuter suburb, but was a fashionable entertainment district in the 19th century and saw notorious murders in the 1870s. Notable residents have included Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones, Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law and painter Camille Pissarro. Penge is made up of the Penge and Cator Ward which had a Population of 17,326 in 2011.


  • History 1
    • Pensgreene and the Crooked Billet 1.1
    • Expansion 1.2
  • Government 2
  • Geography 3
  • Postal 4
  • Economy 5
  • Culture and community 6
    • Community facilities 6.1
  • Landmarks 7
  • Transport 8
    • Rail 8.1
    • Buses 8.2
    • Road 8.3
  • Education 9
  • Religious sites 10
  • Sport 11
  • Cultural references 12
  • Notable residents 13
  • References 14
  • External links 15


Penge was once a small town, which was recorded under the name Penceat in an Anglo-Saxon deed dating from 957. Most historians believe the name of the town is derived from the Celtic word Penceat which means "edge of wood" and refers to the fact that the surrounding area was once covered in a dense forest. The original Celtic words of which the name was composed referred to "pen" ("head"), as in the Welsh "pen", and "ceat" ("wood"), similar to the Welsh "coed", as in the name of the town of Pencoed in Wales.

Pensgreene and the Crooked Billet

Penge was an inconspicuous area with few residents before the arrival of the railways. A traveller passing through Penge would have noticed the large green with a small inn on its boundary. Penge Green appears as Pensgreene on Kip's 1607 map.[1] The green was bounded to the north by Penge Lane, the west by Beckenham Road and the southeast by the Crooked Billet. On a modern map that area is very small but the modern day Penge Lane and Crooked Billet are not in their original locations and Beckenham Road would have been little more than a cart track following the property line on the west side of Penge High Street. Penge Lane was the road from Penge to Sydenham which is now named St John's Road and Newlands Park Road. There was also an old footpath crossing the Green leading to Sydenham that was known as Old Penge Lane. After the London, Chatham and Dover Railway was built, Penge Lane crossed the line by level crossing. When this crossing was closed Penge Lane was renamed and Old Penge Lane became the present day Penge Lane.

The 1868 Ordnance Survey map shows the Old Crooked Billet located to the southeast of the current location. This earlier location was on the eastward side of Penge Green, which disappeared as a result of The Penge Enclosure Act, 1827 which enclosed the whole Green. This left the Crooked Billet with no frontage to Beckenham Road, so new premises were constructed on the present site in 1827 and subsequently replaced in 1840 with a three-storey building. This was severely damaged by enemy action in World War II and subsequently rebuilt.[2]

The Crooked Billet is by far the oldest public house in Penge. Peter Abbott[3] states that it was there in 1601 and speculates that it might be much more ancient. In modern times it is particularly well known for lending its name as a bus route terminus. From 1914 General Omnibus routes 109 and 609 both operated between Bromley Market and the Crooked Billet following different routes. The 109 was renumbered 227 by London Transport and continued to terminate at the Crooked Billet. (Route 609 was shortened terminating in Beckenham ). Around 1950 some services were extended past the Crooked Billet to the Crystal Palace. Eventually nearly all buses traveled the extended route. The 354 buses now use the terminus, as do so short running buses on route 194 which carry the destination 'Penge High Street'.

William Hone wrote about a visit to the Crooked Billet in 1827[4] and included a detailed sketch of the last building on the original site.


The London and Croydon Canal was built across Penge Common along what is now the line of the railway through Penge West railway station, deviating to the south before Anerley railway station. There is a remnant at the northern corner of Betts Park, Anerley.[5] Following the closure of the canal, the London and Croydon Railway was built largely along the same course, opening in 1839. Isambard Kingdom Brunel built an Atmospheric Railway along this alignment as far as Croydon. The Crystal Palace pneumatic railway underground between the Sydenham and Penge entrances to Crystal Palace park operated for a short while but proved not to be economically viable..

In the Victorian era, Penge developed into a fashionable suburb because of the railway line and its proximity to the relocated Crystal Palace. It became a fashionable day out to visit the Crystal Palace during the day and to take the tram down the hill to one of the 'twenty-five pubs to the square mile'[6] or two Music Halls—The King's Hall (later the Gaumont cinema) and. in 1915. the Empire Theatre (later the Essoldo cinema).[7][8]

By 1862 Stanford's map of London[9] shows large homes had been constructed along Penge New Road (now Crystal Palace Park Road, Sydenham and Penge High Street), Thick Wood (now Thicket) Road and Anerley Road.[10] This all came to an end in 1875 and 1877 with the notorious Penge murders. In 1875 Frederick Hunt murdered his wife and children[11] then in 1877 a wealthy heiress, Harriet Staunton, together with her infant son, was starved to death by her husband and his associates.[12] In 1934, Elizabeth Jenkins published the novel Harriet, based on the case,[13] whilst Forbes Road was renamed to Mosslea Road because of its connection with the murders.


Penge formed a part of the parish of Battersea, with the historic county boundary between Kent and Surrey forming its eastern boundary.[14] In 1855 both parts of the parish were included in the area of the Metropolitan Board of Works, with Penge Hamlet Vestry electing six members to the Lewisham District Board of Works.[15] The Local Government Act 1888 abolished the Metropolitan Board, with its area becoming the County of London. However the London Government Act 1899 subsequently made provision for Penge to be removed from the County of London and annexed to either Surrey or Kent. Accordingly, an Order in Council transferred the hamlet to Kent in 1900, constituting it as Penge Urban District.[16] The urban district was abolished in 1965 by the London Government Act 1963, and its former area merged with that of other districts to form the London Borough of Bromley. With the creation of the Penge Urban District, Penge New Road (formerly the part of Beckenham Road north of Kent House Road) was renamed Penge High Street.

Inside the Crystal Palace concert hall 1857

From 1885 the Hamlet of Penge was part of the Dulwich parliamentary constituency, which was then in Surrey, and remained in that seat until 1918 when it was transferred to the new Bromley constituency. From 1950 it was part of the Beckenham constituency. Since the 2010 general election Penge has formed part of the Lewisham West and Penge constituency.


It borders the London Borough of Lewisham. It lies west of Bromley and north east of Croydon, and is located 7.1 miles (11.4 km) southeast of Charing Cross. The largest amosite mine in the world, in South Africa, was named Penge because apparently one of the British directors thought the two areas were similar in appearance.[17]


Some residents in the west of Penge use Anerley as part of their address because the two towns border each other and share the same postcode. Also Anerley was formerly a part of Penge Common so people are not sure where exactly the boundary lies. Although they are two separate places they are sometimes referred to as one combined place, Penge & Anerley, because of this. Anerley doesn't exist entirely on its own; it's either a part of Penge or a part of Crystal Palace.


Many residents commute into central London or to Canary Wharf/Docklands. It is the only place in the London Borough of Bromley to have a London SE postcode covered completely by the London Borough of Bromley (this includes Anerley).

Culture and community

  • Penge is home to a number of taverns and public houses, indeed it was noted in Victorian times for its '25 pubs to the square mile'.[18] The Crooked Billet is by far the oldest.
  • The Pawleyne Arms is currently the terminus for the 176 bus service. It was previously an intermediate turning point for short running buses on the 12, 75 and 194 bus services, becoming the southern terminus for route 12 between 1986 and 1988 when the route was again shortened.
  • The public houses in Maple Road have nearly all changed their names. The Dew Drop Inn was known as The Market Tavern (and featured in the television series The Bill as the Market Tavern in Canley Market) before its closure. The London Tavern became The Hop Exchange and then The Hop House. As of 2006, it was closed, and as of 2009 the pub's facade has been removed and the building is undergoing conversion into residential accommodations. The Lord Palmerston has been delicensed and is now a pizza outlet. The King William IV became The Crown and is now The Maple Tree. Only The Golden Lion has retained its name, although it has extended its premises substantially; it was listed in every edition of the Good Beer Guide from 1976 to 1987.[19]
  • Other public houses in the area include: The Goldsmith Arms, Bridge House Tavern, Queen Adelaide Arms (closed 2010), The Alexandra (due to reopen in late 2015 or early 2016), Graces (formerly Dr W G Grace), Kent House Tavern, Robin Hood (closed, subsequently destroyed by fire in 2006 and demolished), Royal Oak (closed 2011), The Mitre, The Goat House (destroyed by fire and now demolished), The Waterman's Arms (now Superdrug), The Anchor (closed circa 1910), The General Simpson (closed), The General Jackson (closed), The Retreat (closed), The Cornish Arms (closed), The Railway Bell (closed), The Thicket Tavern and Hollywood East (formerly The Park Tavern). The last named was the venue for the inquest into the Murder of Harriet Staunton in 1877.
  • Penge also has several clubs including a Conservative Club. The Penge & District Trade Union & Labour Social Club (CIU) built by local tradesmen in 1922, the former Liberal Club closed in 2005.

Community facilities

Fragments of the original Penge Common still survive as Betts Park and Cator Park. Winsford Gardens[20] formed part of the grounds of Chesham Park and later Winsford House.


Waterman`s Almhouses in 1890
  • There are several Victorian In 1973, the residents were moved to a new site in Hastings, and the original buildings were converted into private homes. [22]
  • The Queen Adelaide Almshouses, also known as the King William Naval Asylum, St. John’s Road, founded 1847 and built in 1848 to designs by Philip Hardwick at the request and expense of Queen Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, the widow of King William IV, to provide shelter for twelve widows or orphan daughters of naval officers. Again, the almshouses are now in private residences.[22]
  • St. John's Cottages on Maple Road were built as almshouses in 1863, designed by the architect Edwin Nash. As with their predecessors, the cottages are now privately owned homes. On New Years Day 1959 No.8 was destroyed by a gas explosion killing one person.[23] The cottage was rebuilt to closely resemble the original.
  • The Police Station at the corner of the High Street and Green Lane is believed to have been London's oldest working police station[24] when it was closed in 2010.
  • When completed in 1956 the Crystal Palace Transmitter was the tallest structure in the UK, a record it lost to the Anglia Television transmitter at Belmont, Lincolnshire in 1959. It remained the tallest structure in the London area until 1991.



Penge is served by three rail stations. Penge East and Kent House have frequent services to London Victoria and Orpington and First Capital Connect operates a limited peak hour service via St Pancras International to St Albans, Luton or Bedford (Trains via St Pancras International generally start or terminate at Beckenham Junction). Also Penge West with services to London Bridge and Caterham, as well as London Overground services to Dalston Junction and West Croydon.


Penge is served by many Transport for London bus routes, connecting it with areas including Beckenham, Bromley, Catford, Central London, Croydon, Crystal Palace, Dulwich, Lewisham, Orpington, Peckham, Shirley, West Wickham and Sydenham.


Three A roads, the A213, A214 and A234 pass through the area. The A213 intersects with the A234 at the Pawleyne Arms and the A214 at the Robin Hood.


St Johns C.E. Primary School, was originally part of the Old Penge Chapel which opened in 1837. Early in the 1850s following the completion of St John the Evangelist, the chapel building became used entirely as a school. In 1977 the school’s site was extended and a new school building was opened in September 1978.[25]

The Beckenham and Penge County Grammar School for boys, formerly the Beckenham Technical Institute which opened in 1901, moved to a new site on Penge High Street between Kent House Road and Kingsdale Road in 1931. It moved from Penge to its present location in Eden Park, Beckenham, in January 1969.

Religious sites

St. John the Evangelist's Church, Penge, Beckenham Road, built 1850 to designs by Edwin Nash & J. N. Round[22] Penge Congregational Church, built 1912 to designs by P. Morley Horder with passage aisles and clerestory. Shafts on large, excellently carved corbels.[22] and has a stained glass window by William Morris.


Crystal Palace Park contains the National Sports Centre which includes an international-class athletic stadium and a former motorsport circuit used in the 1969 film The Italian Job.[26] The Crystal Palace Park once housed a football ground, which hosted the FA Cup final from 1895[27] to 1914 as well as London County Cricket Club games from 1900 to 1908, when they folded, and Crystal Palace F.C.'s matches from their formation in 1905 until the club was forced to relocate during the First World War. Other facilities include Alexandra Recreation Ground, Penge Recreation Ground and Royston Playing Fields. There is a municipal golf course across the borough boundary in Beckenham Place Park.

Cultural references

After the Crystal Palace was moved to Penge Place, a fashionable day out was to visit the Crystal Palace during the day and to take the tram down the hill to one of the 'twenty-five pubs to the square mile'[18] or two Music Halls: The King's Hall and, after 1915, the Empire Theatre. [3] [4] Music Hall comedians were in the habit of making fun of the locale in which they appeared and consequently Penge became the butt of many jokes.

  • Spike Milligan in much of his work including the Goon Show. In Scradje (series 6, episode 26) Professor Hercules Grytpype-Thynne was described as 'the strolling anchorman for the Penge and district tug-of-war team. In Round the world in 80 days (series 7, ep. 20) it was revealed that Count Villion de Jim "Thighs" Moriarty was the gold medallist road sweeper to the Penge district.

A small Post Office in east Penge was the location for Part 2 of The Stolen Policeman (series 8, ep.11) and Series 8 episode 13 opens:

  • Horace Rumpole, a barrister known as "Rumpole of the Bailey", frequently tells others of his greatest triumph, winning an acquittal in the Penge Bungalow Murders "alone and without a leader." Author John Mortimer's original chronology was incorrect, as the Penge bungalows were prefabricated houses which replaced homes destroyed during World War II, long after the date of Rumpole's claimed triumph. When the details of the trial were later documented by Mortimer in the novel Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders in 2002, he moved the events to the early 1950s.
  • Terry Wogan as Penge-sur-mer or Penge-les-trois-auberges, pronouncing Penge as the French might
  • Brian Wright in his (1986) book Penge Papers: confessions of an unwaged metropolitan househusband[29]
  • Former Beckenham resident David Bowie makes reference to Penge in the song "Did You Ever Have A Dream", itself the B-side of Bowie's early 1967 single Love You Till Tuesday (song). Bowie juxtaposes the ordinariness of Penge with America by singing "You can walk around in New York while you sleep in Penge".
  • Radio 4 series Old Harry's Game references Penge several times throughout the first five series, including the replacement of the Archbishop of Canterbury with the Bishop of Penge as the 'supply' Archbishop.
  • It is the setting for the BBC (2006) comedy series Pulling.
  • In the 'far-fetched fiction' of Robert Rankin, characters from Brentford refer to Penge as a far-flung outpost of civilisation and often say that they 'hear it's very nice, but I've never been there myself'. On one occasion the anti-heroes Pooley and Omally took so long to walk home from Penge that they grew beards on the way. Their friend Professor Slocombe claims that Penge was the true birthplace of the Virgin Mary (he also claims that Chiswick is the original Babylon).
  • English dramatist Christopher Fry, in his play "Venus Observed", includes the phrase, "...every pool's as populous as Penge..." in a long speech.
  • The Meaning of Liff defines a Penge as 'the slotted wooden arm on which a cuckoo emerges from a cuckoo clock'.
  • In How Not To Live Your Life Don refers to Penge as "Where the sun doesn't shine"

Notable residents


  1. ^ in Abbott, Peter (2002) Book of Penge, Anerley and Crystal Palace: The Community, Past Present and Future, p18 Halsgrove. ISBN 1-84114-210-7
  2. ^ Abbott, Peter (2002) Book of Penge, Anerley and Crystal Palace: The Community, Past Present and Future, p48 Halsgrove. ISBN 1-84114-210-7
  3. ^ Abbott, Peter (2002) Book of Penge, Anerley and Crystal Palace: The Community, Past Present and Future, p10 Halsgrove. ISBN 1-84114-210-7
  4. ^ "The Crooked Billet, on Penge Common", The Every-day Book and Table Book; or, Everlasting Calendar of Popular Amusements, Sports, Pastimes, Ceremonies, Manners, Customs, and Events, Each of the Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Days, in Past and Present Times; Forming a Complete History of the Year, Months, and Seasons, and a Perpetual Key to the Almanac, Including Accounts of the Weather, Rules for Health and Conduct, Remarkable and Important Anecdotes, Facts, and Notices, in Chronology, Antiquities, Topography, Biography, Natural History, Art, Science, and General Literature; Derived from the Most Authentic Sources, and Valuable Original Communication, with Poetical Elucidations, for Daily Use and Diversion. Vol III., ed. William Hone, (London: 1838) p 669-74.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Abbott, Peter (2002) Book of Penge, Anerley and Crystal Palace: The Community, Past Present and Future, p114 Halsgrove. ISBN 1-84114-210-7
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ The Penge Murder, H. Sutherland, British Medical Journal v2 (766) 4 September 1875, 316-317
  12. ^ The Great Penge Murder, Victorian Calendar 19 September 1877
  13. ^ Rachel Cooke (15 April 2012). "The Penge Mystery: the terrible story of Harriet Staunton". The Observer. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  14. ^ British History Online - Battersea with Penge Hamlet
  15. ^ Kelly's Directory of Surrey, 1891
  16. ^ Hamlet of Penge, The Times, 27 February 1900
  17. ^ Quest for Justice, VOL 9/NO 3, JUL/SEP 2003, p219
  18. ^ a b Abbott, Peter, p114
  19. ^ Golden Lion Good Beer Guide listing
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b c d John Newman. West Kent and the Weald. The "Buildings of England" Series, First Edition, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner and Judy Nairn, eds. (London: Penguin, 1969), p.433.
  23. ^ Housewife dies in Maple Road blast, 'Beckenham and Penge Advertiser', 8 January 1959, p1.
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ The television transmitter is visible in the scene where they try to blow the doors off an armoured truck.
  27. ^ "Map of Crystal Palace Park". Crystal Palace Park, Penge, South London. Cadillac Owners Club of Great Britain. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  28. ^ The Goon Show Scripts, Wobourne Press, 1972
  29. ^ Macmillan ISBN 0-330-29506-3
  30. ^ a b Abbott, Peter (2002), p93.
  31. ^ Abbott, Peter (2002), p94.
  32. ^ Pullen, Doris E. (1990) Penge. self-published. ISBN 0-9504171-3-0, p72
  33. ^ a b c d e f Pullen, Doris E. (1990), p72
  34. ^ Abbott, Peter (2002), p95
  35. ^ Famous watchmaker remembered with blue plaque, News Shopper (Bromley), 27 August 2014, p5.

External links

  • The history of Penge
  • A Penge walk
  • Virtual Penge
  • Penge forum
  • Penge Historical Images
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