Heritage Stories

Penge has many fascinating heritage stories: some related to heritage sites, others which stand alone but are part of the ongoing Penge narrative and the evolution of community. This section tells those stories.

Art in Penge traces how art was always functional in Penge in one form or another, dating back to the mid-nineteenth century before the coming of the Crystal Palace, with contributions from architects such as George Porter and Philip Hardwick; artist and sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins; the painter Camille Pissarro; and the current wealth of artists living in Penge.

Second, we find out about past and present customs in Christmas in Penge. It may come as a surprise that Christmas was anticipated in mid-November by the great department stores like Rogers and Bryce Grant in the years after the First World War, no doubt spurred on by commercial interests.  A visit to Father Christmas at one of these outlets or to the pantomime at the Empire Theatre was deemed essential. The churches were kept very busy at this time of year in their outreach to the poor.

Third, Chapel Allerton Guided Heritage Walks have taken place in and around Penge for many years. There are two basic walks: Heritage Walk 1 and Heritage Walk 2. Walk 1 is circular, Walk 2 is more linear. Try one and then do the other. The walks overlap to some extent but each has its own unique charcter. A Heritage Walk 3 is in preparation. There are more than 30 heritage sites in Penge. All walks are free but donations are gratefully accepted towards Heritage projects.

Fourth, Iconography of Penge traces some quirky and not-so-quirky images situated in and around Penge. Familiar sights which help to characterise the place we live in: every town has their own.

Fifth, Lily, Penge East Station Cat, tells the poignant story of Lily, a tortoise-shell cat, who took up residence each day at Penge East railway station for many years. She would trek from her home each morning to spend the time in the company of total strangers waiting on the up platform for the next train to London. Each evening Lily went back home. Her presence exuded a kind of friendly animal warmth in those years and she will not easily be forgotten.

Sixth, the section on Listed Buildings shows, maybe surprisingly, the number of nationally-listed buildings there are in Penge, ranging from the War Memorial to the Royal Watermen’s Almshouses on the high street.

Seventh, the story of Maple Road Market is one of a community coming together not just to buy and barter  produce but to meet, talk and share personal stories. Many remember the market especially at Christmas with its roasting chestnuts and Tilly Lamp-lit stalls.

Eighth, we learn how the popular Penge Festival evolved from an idea in 1972, with its first incarnation in 1973, to the many-faceted festival we have now.  Interesting how Melvin Hall played a significant part in its development. It’s where plans were made originally and where in 2018, several festival events will now take place.

Ninth, Pubs in Penge tells how the post Crystal-Palace boom in building was also responsible for the growth in the many pubs in Penge. All colourful, some short-lived but all an essential part of the social fabric where people meet to drink, eat, chat, laugh, celebrate or have that quiet moment, as they still do.

Tenth, Theatre demonstrates how performance has always been a feature of Penge life: on the stages of Anerley Town Hall, Beckenham and Penge Grammar School, the now defunct Alexandra Hall, the magnificent Empire Theatre, Melvin Hall and, until Covid 19 necessitated its closure,  the splendid, bijou, award-winning Bridge House Theatre.

Eleventh, Tour de Penge tells how this popular bicycle run started with a conversation with Mark Soole in 2008 then developed into the hugely successful annual social event which it is now.

Coming soon: Great Department Stores, Lucas Road Cooperative and Penge Poets.