A History of the Langley Park area

(The following text has been updated from the original "Brief History of Langley Park" included in a book published in 2000 titled
'From Thatcher to the Dome' to celebrate the Langley Park Rotary Club's achievement of 25 years' Service to the local Community)


Langley Park lies between Beckenham, West Wickham, Eden Park and Shortlands in the London Borough of Bromley, Kent.  The area was formerly and is still known as the Langley Park Estate but is now often referred to equally by locals as Park Langley, a good quality housing area of Beckenham, in the postcode area of BR3.  It is now a Local Authority Conservation area, described as an "Edwardian 'garden suburb' development and later low density housing in a mature landscape (designated 1989)".

The history of the area is however much earlier recorded, and a Roman road passed through Langley at the time of the Roman invasion in 50 A.D and there is reference in ancient texts to a property in the area as early as 862 AD. But even earlier and relatively adjacent to the Park Langley Conservation Area, there appears to have been an Iron Age settlement that has been identified in the area of the Woodland known now as Kingswood Glen, between Kingswood Avenue and Southhill Road.

The Domesday Survey in 1086 mentions properties in the Langley Park area, which was at that time part of the estate of Ado, a Frenchman who was Bishop of Bayeaux, Earl of Kent, and half-brother of William the Conqueror.  The estate then extended from Beckenham in the north to Keston in the south and was bounded by Bromley in the east and the Kent county boundary in the west.

In 1350 in the area came into the hands of the Langley family, since when the name has been attached to the area. The original Langley Mansion, the main house of the estate from Tudor times, was destroyed by fire in 1913, and the Club House of the Langley Park Golf Club was subsequently built on the site.

The properties and land passed through several families over the centuries and these have given their names to roads and features of the area. One example is John de Malmaines, who had a King's Charter to hunt game on his lands at "Begenham" in the 14th Century.

The Langley Park estate as it existed at the end of the eighteenth century, can be defined as being bounded approximately by what until recently were three of the best known Public Houses in the area:

  1. the Pickhurst Tavern (built in 1936 is now the Miller and Carter Steakhouse);
  2. the Eden Park Hotel (built circa 1938 and now the Toby Carvery and Innkeepers Lodger opposite Eden Park Station); and
  3. the Elmer Lodge, in Dunbar Avenue on the edge of Beckenham - now closed, has become a Greek Orthodox Church. 

Although many well-known local families (Malmaines, Styles, Elwill, and Burrell) owned parts of the estate in the years that followed, the precise origin of the "Langley" title is unclear.

In 1820 the last of the Burrell family died and the land, by now approximately the same area as the Langley Park Rotary Club territory, was sold by public auction, when Langley Farm was auctioned and was bought along with 250 acres of land by one Emmanuel Goodhart.  There were a number of buildings included in the Farm properties, although only one - the Langley Court Chapel in South Eden Park Road, with its thatched roof and now a Listed Building- still remains.

In 1884, Goodhart's son sold Langley Farmhouse and 105 acres of the land for £25,000 to J L Bucknall. Soon after the purchase, Bucknall decided to demolish Langley Farmhouse and to erect in 1886 a new property of suitably grand proportion, it remains to this day, the present Mansion House.

The Goodhart family continued to live on the Langley Estate until around 1914 when they ran into financial difficulties. It is part of the folklore of the site that these owners were shipping magnates and that they underwrote the Titanic. Subsequently when it sank they financially sank too hence the sale. Moreover, their involvement in shipping and cruising the world, took them regularly to the Far East and Japan. Many plants were collected and planted around the Estate.

Between 1820 and 1920 no less than three mansion houses were constructed, the first two being destroyed by fire and the third, Langley Court being eventually sold in 1921 to Henry Wellcome for £32,000.

In 1910 Langley Park Golf Club (pictured here circa 1940) was opened and shortly  afterwards the remaining land not owned by Wellcome or the Golf Club was sold to a H & G Taylor Builders who began developing the land as the Park Langley Estate in 1910.  The Mansion was  then unoccupied for a time and was used duri ng the first World War as a camp for Officer prisoners of war.

The Wellcome Foundation (the International Pharmaceutical company) used the land for 75 years, until after a merger with Glaxo to become Glaxo-Wellcome in 1995 and then in 1997 a large proportion of the Estate was sold to Laing Homes for a gated luxury housing development.

The remainder became:

  • a Business Park (upon which Glaxo-Wellcome retained a small presence); and
  • a site where the then new 'Unicorn' Primary School was built.

These new developments necessitated a re­alignment of South Eden Park Road and which introduced two new roundabouts; one adjacent to the entrances to the Gated Development known locally as the 'Langley Estate' and Business Park (now in 2018 awaiting further redevelopment as more housing), and another roundabout at the entrance to apartments and the Primary School.

Towards the end of 2000, Glaxo Wellcome merged with Smith Kline Beecham to create Glaxo Smith Kline (in 2015, the 6th largest Pharmaceutical Company in the World) and with this merger the Association between Beckenham, Langley Park and Wellcome of nearly 80 years finally came to an end.

At the end of the first World War, Wellcome bought Langley Court (together with a further 105 acres) for £32,000 as the answer to his need to relocate his Physiological Research Laboratories from Brockwell Park at Herne Hill. Whilst the remainder of the Goodhart estate was sold for residential development, known now as the Park Langley estate. After purchase Wellcome developed the site extensively for his manufacturing (penicillin) and research activities (chemotherapy, poliomyelitis,  veterinary vaccines and other such biological products.

Plans of the then intended housing development originally showed a circular shopping and community precinct near the Langley Park golf course.  But, these plans never succeeded, possibly due to the deep recession that hit England in the early 1930' s, resulting in the land being sold in smaller lots for the development of housing.  Yet the history of the area still lives on in the naming of Roads, which to this day bear the names of the historic owners of the land that was Langley Park - Malmains Way, Malmains Close, Elwill Way, Goodhart Way and Styles  Way. 

 

Yet despite being split into smaller building lots, completion of the housing now known as "Park Langley" delivered an interesting arrangement of desirable houses (large and small) creating a mixture of house styles with garages, shops, public transport, sporting facilities, and a Garage/Filling Station.

The Garage (pictured here in 1the late 1920's) was Designed in 1926 by Architect, Edmund B Clarke.  He apparently took inspiration from the Goodhart family's shipping interests and trade with the Far East and the design is in a Pagoda style, which is a distinctly Japanese architecture. 

Completed in 1929, its Oriental appearance caused by Local residents and motorists to name it as The Chinese Garage (albeit its official name until 1989 was the "Langley Park Garage"). 

The Garage is now a Grade II listed building and in 2001 it was voted the most unusual garage in England.

It is somewhat strange now to consider that when completed the Langley Park estate, itself now a Conservation Area, was completed without a public house, had no church, no buses, no trains, and a population of some 10,000 people.

 


 

Perhaps, then it is little wonder that the Rotary Club of Langley Park (Chartered as a Rotary Club in 1975) continues to thrive well into the 21st Century!

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