Beckenham History

Harvington Estate.

Soon after Bertrand’s death, his widow Florence gave the land for St John’s church to be built in Eden Park Avenue. Its foundation stone was laid in 1932. She gave the new church her full support and donated the organ in her husband’s memory. This did not mean that she forgot Christchurch. The annual outing to Harvington was by horse-drawn coal cart for a tea in the house followed by a visit to see the farm animals, geese, chickens, dogs, pigs and cows. Florence played the church organ and had a grand piano in the house that eventually she willed to her son Philip. She was playing the organ at the church when a V2 dropped in the field in February 1945 killing two Jersey cows and a hen but thankfully not even waking the vicar’s baby asleep in the vicarage garden.

The Harvington estate as owned by the Petleys included the houses called Homewood and Chalfont together with their lodges and stables. During the war Florence Petley leased out Homewood and Chalfont to the Metropolitan Electric Light and Power Company for their offices.

When Florence died in 1946 at the age of 73, the Beckenham Council bought the 37 acres of land for £36,000. It included the land used for allotments between Chalfont and the adjoining house, Oakfield. In her will, Florence had hoped that her unmarried daughter, Dorothy, would take over the Harvington house. Dorothy had assisted in the running of the farm. A letter that she wrote in 1935 gave William Chilver of the neighbouring Kelsey Manor farm a reference to apply for work at Wellcomes. His farmland had been taken over for the construction of Stone Park Avenue.

All three houses were leased to the LEB for ten years from 1948. When the leases expired, the lodges continued as rented accommodation for the Park’s staff but the houses were demolished in 1960 by the firm of Sid Bishop. The stone bearing the family crest was sent to Hugh Henry Petley at his house in Old Heathfield Sussex where it remains today. The family motto is Toujours Pret (Always Ready).

As for the family, Dorothy lived at 70, Manor Way and continued as a Sunday school teacher at the church. Both the boys were keen members of the Beckenham Cricket and Tennis Club. Hugh Henry was a stockbroker with offices in Gt Winchester St and Philip Theodore was a Company Director at 56 Warwick Square.
Harvington Estate.

They dedicated the St John the Baptist stained glass window in the church in Eden Park Ave to their parents, Bertrand Theodore and Florence Ada Petley. Both the boys married and had children but only Hugh’s family had children in their turn. There were two girls and one son, Roddy, who took over his father’s house at Heathfield. Sadly, not long before she died, Florence had to submit to the compulsory purchase of 20 acres of her land along Village Way and Eden Park Avenue. To help solve an acute housing shortage at the end of the war, Beckenham had 165 prefabricated houses to place in the borough.

At first it was requested that the land should be available on lease but Mrs Petley contested this because it was agricultural land. She offered to sell the land to the Council on condition that on her death it would be held as open space for the benefit of the people of Beckenham for all time but the Council would not agree to this. They acquired the land by compulsory purchase.

By September 1946, the site drainage was prepared and the bungalows were in place. Florence died shortly afterwards. The prefabs were vacated between October 1967 and July 1968 having doubled their proposed life span of ten years. In their place were built old people’s flats and two and three bedroomed houses.

Roddy Petley, Florence’s grandson, tells me that all the Petleys that he meets own signet rings bearing the family crest. There were Petleys in the Kent village of Downe over 600 years ago and there is still an early eighteenth century flint and red brick house, with white doorway and cornice, called Petleys.

The manor of Downe Court belonged to Richard de Downe and was taken over by the Petles of Trowmer. John Petle in the reign of Henry III bore the arms argent, two bends engrailed, a canton sable and descendants continued into the reign of Henry VIII. Then John Petle left four daughters, the eldest of whom, Agnes, married John Manning.

Petleys, now the red brick and flint house, was the seat of these ancient Petleys probably also the house Trowmers opposite. Today Petleys is owned by Mr & Mrs James Roe who are maintaining its period features. The side wing is early Tudor, the front Queen Anne and the rear early Victorian. The breakfast-room is notable for its Elizabethan window. It has large baker’s ovens that would have been used to bake huge quantities of bread.

The entrance hall has enormous log cupboards to fuel the ancient black fireplace with its hand-painted tiles. From the large cellars there is said to have been a passage connecting to Trowmers. In the garden is a well 172 ft deep constructed in 1878. Its water depth is some 22 ft. 10 in.

At one time Sarah Wedgewood, Mrs Charles Darwin’s aunt and younger daughter of Josiah Wedgewood, lived there. The Darwin children frequently played in Petleys’ gardens

Burials in the Downe churchyard and cemetery are only permitted for people with connections with Downe, but the Beckenham Petleys were still buried there suggesting that they believed that they were related to the early holders of the name.

REFERENCE. The History Of Monks Orchard And Eden Park. Published by Halsgrove ISBN 1 84114338 3. For sales please ring 01823 665294.

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4 Responses

  1. I visited Harvington on most days and never realised so much went on there in past times. I took a short cut to go to the Welcome Research Lab across the playing fields. I do remember the pre-fabs along Eden Park Avenue. There was also a very large old tree held together with iron rods.

  2. visited Harvington today with a gps fixing for Eden Lodge. Found old foundations and brickwork in the woodland undergrowth. The large cedar in the woodland could have been on front garden of the lodge

  3. The 1809 map of Burrell estates shows Harvington area as a series of fields numbered to go along with a key to the map but unfortunately the key is missing. Kelseys is to the north, Eden Farm to the west and Langley Farm to the east. No buildiings are shown along what is now South Eden Park Road. The Burrell estates were sold in 1820 which may have led to the building of Eden Lodge. google search ‘nls kent xv’ would bring up the National Library of Scotland archive ordnance survey sheet kent xv for this area showing Eden Lodge. contact me for more details of the British Library material. We only stumbled on it while researching Beckenham Place and Foxgrove/Beckenham Manors. If anyone knows where the 1723 map mentioned by Robert Borrowman is archived I’d like to know, only seen the copy he made for his book.

  4. Prior to the five houses, and before the construction of South Eden Park Road, a map in the British Library of about 1780 shows much of Harvington owned by John Cator and Peter Burrell. Divided into woods and fields, Weblands Wood and fields name West and East Drege the map shows a penciled in outline of the intended South Eden Park Road which the Burrells constructed after land exchanges with John Cator as both of them were consilidating their relative estates. Cator to the north of Beckenham and Burrell to the south.
    An ordnance survey map of 1871 shows Eden Lodge, now demolished but the gatehouse remains? and current maps show the driveway though it is overgrown in, I guess, what is left of Weblands Wood.
    As Harvington nestled between Langley Park and Eden Park(Farm) presumably the Burrells leased or sold it. Other Burrell estate maps in the British Library of 1809 may reveal more.

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