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History of West Wickham

History of West Wickham
  • council: Bromley
  • population: 14,276
  • phone code: 020
  • postcode area: BR4
  • county: Greater London

West Wickham lies in the northwest corner of Kent. It is bounded to the north by Beckenham, to the east by the residential area of Hayes, and Hayes Common, to the west by the boundary with the London Borough of Croydon. To the south the boundary passes through open countryside within the Metropolitan Green Belt.

The history of West Wickham is the story of its evolving from a hamlet to a village, and then into a town. Beginning in 1086 when the Domesday Survey was completed, West Wickham had an estimated population of 110. Population figures ebb and flow in response to history and West Wickham’s figures, from a relatively ‘high’ in 1410 of 280 inhabitants, ebbed away during the Black Death Plague so that by 1377 the estimated population had shrank to 101.

In 1469 the Manor of West Wickham was purchased by Henry Heydon, a young lawyer from Norfolk, who rebuilt the manor house and the parish church. The last of the Heydon’s sold West Wickham in 1580 to John Lennard whose family and its connections were to live at the manor house for nearly 350 years. The last holder of the title, Sir Stephen Lennard, died in Canada in 1980 without heirs.

In 1801 when the official census was taken, the population was recorded as 436 with 2,000 acres of land in cultivation. By this time West Wickham had become a favoured place for the nobility and gentry. The state of affairs continued for several generations and it seemed that the village of West Wickham would stay undisturbed. But change was on the way for in the 1920s and 1930s several large houses came on the market for sale and/or redevelopment. Up in their places went neat rows of houses. The High Street was widened to accommodate more shops to serve this growing population. In the process the War Memorial, commemorating the loss of 73 men in the First World War, was stranded on the pavement. It was moved to Corkscrew Hill in November 1939.

The population figures for the early years of the 20th century speak for themselves – 1921 – 1,301, 1931 – 6,229, 1934 – 10,080, 1939 – 20,000 approx. West Wickham survived those frenetic years with wide, tree-lined roads and residents who cared about their environment. They still do.

Post Second World War saw many changes in West Wickham. It became a major shopping centre and provided office space for the first time. Some local services expanded, while others disappeared. Smaller grocers disappeared with the advent of supermarkets. In came estate agents and restaurants. The local Gaumont cinema closed in 1957, as did West Wickham Fire Station in 1968. West Wickham Swimming Baths were opened in 1967. The West Wickham Police Office opened in the High Street in 1974.

Nowdays, West Wickham boasts a wealth of local retail outlets, pubs and restaurants. The restaurants offer a diverse range of cultural cuisines: Topolinos/Prima Donnas (Italian), The Blue Bengal (Indian Food) to name but a few. There are some very famous pubs, including the recently refurbished 'The Railway' opposite West Wickham railway station, and 'The Swan' located on the High Street.

West Wickham Swimming Pools, offers excellent gym and swimming facilities and is run as a charitable trust. It also hosts a plaque containing the original bark of Stock Tree (a tree so called as it was behind the village stocks) that once stood opposite 'The Swan' which was cut down owing to the requirement to build a new road.

West Wickham is also home to Beccehamians RFC a Rugby Union Club founded in 1933, formerly Old Beccehamians RFC, which plays competitive rugby in the Men's Premier League in Kent (Kent 1). Other local clubs also include Croydon RFC (formerly Shirley Wanderers) and Beckenham RFC.

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