Beckenham History



Beckenham’s farms were fast disappearing as their land was turned into housing estates. William Chilver had previously worked on Ham farm where he lived in one of the farm cottages now in Elstian Way. By 1927, he was the last tenant farmer of Eden Park Farm, which was owned by his uncle, Harry Joseph Chilver who lived at the house opposite. This was number 204 Upper Elmers End Rd called Holly Lodge (recently Eden Park School) now Asprey Mews.

By 1931, Stanhope Grove had been driven through Eden Park farm and its cottages where Olive Chilver was born in 1927. Olive’s memories include the Kempton Pie factory and the tiny confectioner’s shop by the Rising Sun. She also can see the muffin man with his tray of muffins on his flat hat, ringing his bell to come to collect all the naughty children.

Then the Chilvers moved to Kelsey Manor Farm off South Eden Park Rd. It was the property of the Barnard family at least from 1885 and it spread across into Kelsey Park to include the ice well. Olive Lucy Ellen Varney, nee Chilver, was the sixth child of the family of nine of William and his wife, Ellen Eliza Hales. She has memories of playing in the brick-built ice well with her brothers and only sister, Freda Margery. There was no problem getting in as the door had disappeared! They also had a horse called Dolly that pulled the cart for a Sunday outing to the Green Man at Peter Pans Pool where they ate large “Brighton biscuits. ”

The farm was next door to Eden Cottage, which dated from before 1838. From about 1924, it had been the Sir Frederick Milner ex servicemen’s home known as Eden Manor, which formally closed at the beginning of WWII. The building lasted until 1953 when the Beckenham Council bought it and pulled it down. All that remains of the Eden Cottage/ Manor today is the coach house of Charles Hoare on the ranger site. Kelsey Manor Farm was demolished by 1936 to make room for Stonepark Avenue. This was preceded by the creation of the Park Langley garage in 1929 and removal of the Stone farmhouse for the Park Langley shopping parade. The grocers Messrs W. H. Cullen occupied the actual site of the Stone farmhouse. The manager at the garage was Mr Molyneux who had three sons all older than Olive. They lived in a house beside the garage and one day, when Olive was about six, Mr Molyneux came to her aid. When sent to bring her brothers in to dinner, Olive swung on the farm’s five-bar-gate that unfortunately collapsed on her and broke her leg. Mr Molyneux brought his car in through the farm’s entrance in South Eden Park Rd and took her to Beckenham hospital where her leg was put into splints. There were no plaster casts for her then!

The Chilvers moved to number 10 Fairfield Rd where two of Olive’s unmarried brothers live to this day. William Chilver went as the cowman at Wellcomes on the recommendation of Dorothy Petley of Harvington. Olive will never forget when she came on leave in the Wrens when only seventeen to find a policeman barring the way to the houses in Fairfield Rd. A V1 had fallen on the air raid shelter at the top of the road where it divides the car park in two today.

Most of the bombed out people had gone to Marian Vian School but Olive could not find her family there because they had gone to her brother in Durban Rd. It was there that she found them playing cards! Their black and white dog, Joe, had been rescued but Olive’s father had a blood-chilling tale to tell. He had seen the doodlebug coming straight for their house but it had tipped the church spire and been diverted on to the shelter. The blast blew him through to the back garden together with the front door! It was not until 1949 that the war damage was made good. Meanwhile the Chilvers were temporarily re-housed in Merlin Grove. The war split up the family because altthough all survived, the older ones did not come to live at home afterwards and even the younger boys were unsettled by their obligatory two years conscription.

Woolsey’s Farm at Clay Hill

The farm house was on the site of what is now Bishop Challoner’s School and had become Shortlands House during the 19th Century. There were some fields both north and south of the Bromley Road bordering Scotts Lane which was originally called Shortlands Green Lane. But in 1723 it was owned by the first Peter Burrell as part of his Kelseys estate but occupied by a tenant who’s name looks like Buxted on the estate map (almost unreadable). This farm was exchanged in 1757 between Peter Burrell (the third of Langley) and Frederick St. John/Lord Bolingbroke for the old Manor House opposite St. George’s.

The John Cator acquired it in his purchase of Beckenham Manor land from Bolingbroke. It was occupied under lease by George Grote at the time of John Barwell Cator’s 1825 Private Act of Parliament which altered the terms of John Cator’s will of 1806 allowing the Cator family to lease or sell Beckenham property for development. Prior to becom

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