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The History of Orpington

Located within Greater London, Orpington has a rich history that traces back to the Roman era. Too Good To Throw takes pride in its deep family roots of this small town, which, from its humble beginnings, has evolved into a thriving and bustling suburban landscape.


The earliest records of Orpington date back to 1036, when it was mentioned in the Domesday book as “Orpedingtune,” a small settlement with just 44.5 households. However, the history of Orpington predates even this early mention. Below, we’ll guide you through a historical timeline of Orpington and its remarkable growth over the last few centuries.


Roman Beginnings

In 1926, a Roman villa, known as Crofton Villa, was discovered by two workmen. It is located just above where Orpington Station resides today and was initially abandoned until 1988 when it finally underwent a full excavation by the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit.




Crofton Villa is believed to have been built as early as the 2nd century and served as a hub for the Romans. Its close links to Londonium (now known as London) would have made its location practical for trading and procuring goods. The rest of the Crofton area during this time would likely have been a natural landscape of fields and woods, quite different from the busy roads and neighbourhoods that make up the area today. You can see remnants of Roman history throughout the Orpington area. For example, Green St Green was initially recorded as “Greenstretre”, Roman for “a road covered with grass”.


During the excavation, several Roman coins, thousands of pottery shards, and an under-floor heating system were found on the site. Crofton Villa is believed to have been extended over the next few centuries. It was eventually abandoned around the 4th century and became buried ruins, not to be discovered again for hundreds of years.


Religious Roots

One of the oldest buildings in the Orpington area is the All Saints Church, built in 1173 on land owned by monks. The church was thought to be a resting point for pilgrims travelling to Canterbury during the Middle Ages. The remains of a Saxon sundial was also discovered buried in the ground here and is just one of six to have been found.


The church was later extended in 1957 and would become the final resting place for many of our Orpington war heroes. Furthermore, four graves of the Spencer family, ancestors of Princess Diana, also reside here, dating from 1671 to 1676. Just beside the church, the Orpington Priory Gardens is a popular park for the town's families and was initially thought to have been built in the 13th century. The first Rector of Orpington, Hugh De Mortimer, is known to have held court here in 1270.





Farming Heritage

Much of Orpington’s history lies in its agricultural roots, with its woodland landscape eventually transforming into fertile farmland. Many of these farms still exist today, including Tripes Farm, originally a pig farm renowned for its sausages. Hewitt's farm was best known for its apples and hops, and today, the farm shop still offers fresh produce and the option to pick your own fruits and vegetables.


But most notable was Cook's farm, where William Cook first bred the Orpington Buff chicken in 1886. These chickens are best known for their stocky appearance, U-shaped underline and short back and legs. The Orpington chicken became a famous breed and is still a favourite among many American farmers.


Industrial Growth

As industry progressed in the area, the arrival of the railway in 1868 marked a new era of economic development for Orpington. The Orpington railway station allowed for better transport links into London, which helped to transport local produce and made travelling to and from the city much more accessible. As Orpington’s economy grew, so did the need for new housing. St Mary’s Cray was the area's primary town, often called “New Town” at this time. It is still home to some of the oldest houses built during this Victorian era. Large manor homes sprang up in Mayfield, Goddington and Broomhill to accommodate more residents in the fast-growing town. In 1904, Orpington Station was rebuilt to create even better connections to the city and other towns and new housing estates were built nearby. During this time, the high street also began expanding.


The Industrial Revolution brought about further development, and Tip Top Bakery, later known as Allied Bakeries, was established in the 1930s to produce commercial bread brands. Further nearby plots were purchased along Sevenoaks Way, eventually becoming Orpington’s thriving industrial estate.


Wartime Hospital

In 1916, the Ontario Military Hospital, later known as Orpington Hospital, was built. This became a central place during World War 1, with the hospital treating over 1500 wounded soldiers. Its proximity to the railway meant that injured soldiers could be transported easily, and it became one of the largest military hospitals in the world. The hospital was extended further in World War Two to accommodate even more soldiers.


Many of the soldiers who died at the hospital were laid to rest in All Saints Church, and the graveyard can still be visited by those who wish to pay their respects to these Orpington war heroes. The local war memorial stands at the top of Orpington High Street. During World War One, 117 names were added to the memorial to commemorate the lives of the soldiers who were lost, and after World War Two, 424 more names were added.




Educational Advances

After the war, there was a further need for more housing, which led to the development of Ramsden Estate. Development began on Ramsden Road, reaching into Brow Crescent and eventually, homes were constructed as far along as Quilter Road. Alongside developing more housing estates, the 1950s saw the construction of many educational facilities.


Ramsden Primary, Ramsden Secondary School for Girls and Ramsden School for Boys were built to accommodate the growing number of families moving into the local estate. Ramsden Boys was a catchment school for many families in the area, and in 1962, it was extended with a technology and art block. A field study centre in South Wales was purchased and named “Ramfield”, offering students the opportunity to take yearly field trips, which continues today. In 1988, Ramsden Boys and Girls Schools merged to become The Priory School and Ramsden Boys School was demolished in 1991. The school is currently known as Harris Academy and now specialises in health science.




Orpington Today

Today, Orpington is a thriving suburban town that continues to rapidly develop. Its population exceeds 90,000, which shows how much it has grown from its humble settlement of just 44 households. The popular commuter town still has excellent transport links into London and has been home to notable people, including Nigel Farage, Kevin Bishop, and Gary Rhodes.


At Too Good To Throw, we are proud to be part of this rich Orpington history, with a family that has resided here for multiple generations. We are committed to positively contributing to Orpington’s future with our ethos of reusing, recycling and donating to local charities within the area. Our family-run business is dedicated to ensuring Orpington continues to grow and thrive and remains a cherished place to live, work and visit.


Find out more about our Orpington house removals on our About Us page.


FAQs

Where is Orpington?

Orpington is a town in the South East of England, within Greater London and the London Borough of Bromley.

Is Orpington in Kent?

Orpington was part of Kent until around 1965 when it became part of the London Borough of Bromley in Greater London. However, residents still often refer to Orpington as being in Kent.

Is Orpington a nice place to live?

Orpington is a bustling suburban landscape with a rich history that can still be viewed in today's local landmarks and businesses. It has a good balance of green spaces and built-up areas, including the Odeon Cinema, Orpington College and Walnuts Shopping Centre. It’s an attractive area for those looking for a combination of excellent transport links and quiet countryside.

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