The history of Beckenham has long been closely linked with that of the CATOR family who came to the district in the middle of the 18th. century from Ross on Wye, Herefordshire and soon became the leading land owners in Beckenham.
For some time before, the St. Johns owned the Manor of Beckenham and such lands as went with the Manor, including the grounds of Beckenham Place, prior to the sale of the Manor to John Cator in 1773. John Cator acquired Beckenham Place from Viscount Bolinbroke in 1773.
In talking about the Manor of Beckenham it must be remembered that the word 'manor' means the district over which the court of the Lord of the Manor had authority, and that 'manor-house’ is the house or seat belonging to a Manor.
John Cator had the Mansion, Beckenham Place, built in 1773. The portico was added in 1787 from Sir Gregory Page Turner’s mansion at Wricklemarsh Park, Blackheath. Cator had bought Wricklemarsh in 1783/84 for £22,500 when Turner was in financial difficulties.
John Cator represented Wallingford, Berkshire in 1774 and was a Sheriff of Kent in 1781. He was elected MP for Ipswich in 1784 but was unseated for bribery.
Among eminent persons who visited Beckenham Place as friends of John Cator were the celebrated Dr. Samuel Johnson, Linnaeus, the great botanist, the actor David Garrick and Hester and Henry Thrale, socialites from Streatham
The Mansion was leased out by the Cator family from about 1835 to a succession of tenants and in turn has been used as a Boys’ School from 1902 to 1905, a Sanatorium from 1905 to 1934 and then as the L.C.C. Golf House. The L.C.C. purchased the land in 1928 and in 1934 the Golf Course, which previously had been private, was made open to the public.
It is now the responsibility of the London Borough of Lewisham.