Iconography of Penge
Penge has an amazing heritage story and the town is full of little (or not so little) visual reminders of just that: things which could so easily be missed or downplayed.
This page lists and shows a number of those items which include: adverts, architecture, artwork, bas relief, boundary markers, bridges, clocks, church spires, dinosaurs, doors, drinking fountains, emblems, lamps, plaques, rocks, shop fronts, symbols, tiling, turrets, signage and war memorials.
With each category is a brief description of its contribution to Penge’s heritage story. Whether this iconography survives into the future is open to conjecture but for the moment it is there and can be seen. What does not survive can be recorded and remembered.
First, adverts. Adverts for a wool shop, run by Mrs Maud Burgess and her daughter Irene, painted on the wall at the rear of the Pawleyne Arms dates from the late 1930s. The advert is on the side wall of the former wool shop. There are not many of these ghost signs left and they are liable to be over-painted but their simple artistry does remind us of a very different era.
Second, architecture. Beside the celebrated mid-Victorian architecture of the Royal Watermen’s Almshouses and the Queen Adelaide Asylum, are the modest designs of the Alexandra Cottages, St John’s Cottages and Penge Lane cottages.
Queen Adelaide Court won an architectural award in 1951 during the Festival of Britain.
Third, artwork. The new Penge street art proliferates in Maple Road, Southey Street and Penge Lane.
Other, very different, examples are the Victorian stained glass in Penge Congregational Church and St John’s Church.
Fourth, bas relief is a form of artwork, usually high on buildings such as the former Central Exchange, a row of popular retail outlets between the world wars. Bryce Grant, a splendid department store, took up much of the space in this third part of the high street. Does this caryatid-like stone figure carry a nautical theme, like a ship’s figurehead, facing as it does in the direction of the Pawleyne Arms, or is it simply a meaningless decorative aspect of late Victorian aspiration?
Fifth, boundary markers stating Hamlet of Penge 1875. It’s easy to forget Penge was once a village and various boundary markers bear witness to that fact.
Sixth, bridges. Not only the railway bridges at Penge West, Penge Lane and Green Lane but the corrugated locally-listed structure over the line at Penge East Station.
Seventh, clocks used to be many in and around the high street: adorning jewellers, pubs, and banks. Now gone, sadly. But we do have the minimalistic stainless steel Pterodactyl Clock on the Crooked Billet corner. Lit up purple at night, this contrasts well with the more ornate Victorian almshouses behind it. Designed and installed by Philip Cave Associates, it conveys something of the 1980s fad for minimalism in civic design and is meant to evoke a prehistoric vibe.
Eighth, church spires and towers because they add an import flourish to the Penge skyline. Churches are among Penge’s most beautiful architecture.
Ninth, dinosaurs. The celebrated Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’s dinosaurs are iconographic of Penge (as any Penge resident will tell you): they stand within the Penge SE20 boundary of Crystal Place Park.
Tenth, doors. Like much of London, Penge has a variety of iconic doors from all periods from 1840 onwards.
Eleventh, drinking fountains. Markers of the Victorian concern for animals and children. Non-working drinking fountains are to be seen in some local parks.
Twelfth, emblems. The gargoyles of the Royal Watermen’s Almshouses are affecting examples but there is also late Victorian signage, emblematic of grand aspirations, such as that for Market Terrace.
Thirteenth, lamps. A notable lamp is outside the former Police Station on the high street, dating back to 1872.
Fourteenth, plaques. Blue plaques such as that for Walter de la Mare, Thomas Crapper and George Daniels in Thornsett Road and the former Police Station. Ceramic plaques are planned for Holly wood star Lionel Atwill (Lennard Road) and award-winning journalist Monica Furlong (Station Road).
A pavement plaque in Empire Square commemorates the firefighters who risked their lives to save Penge during Second World War Blitz. Another commemorates the splendid Penge Empire Theatre. A plaque commemorating Private Herbert Columbine who won the George Cross during the First World War is installed in front of the main War Memorial.
Fifteenth, rocks. The millennium rock dating from 2000 was a Bromley council initiative. It reminds us, possibly unintentionally, that Penge was not so long ago a forested area of common and woodland.
Sixteenth, shop fronts. Many shop fronts on the high street have had a make-over, giving them a very personal, idiosyncratic charm. Maple Road continues to be a thoroughfare with many independent and value-for-money businesses from the the hand-made excellence of Taylor and Abel and Pengetout to delectable eateries such as the BlueBelle Cafe and Chez Yves to enterprising art galleries such as Tension.
Seventeenth, symbols. The ornate lions heads which adorn the guttering of the Grade 2 listed White House.
Eighteenth, tiling especially the art deco tiling above Mc Donalds, illuminated at night. Not to forget the tiling making up the 1930s Central Exchange signage on the high street buildings near Lidl and the glazed tiling adorning the outside of the Goldsmiths pub.
Nineteenth, turrets seem peculiar to Penge. We have the Goldsmith Arms Rapunzel turret and the more recent Moon and Stars turret. There is also the turret at Penge Family Church, not to mention the tower turret atop the Anerley Town Hall. Or is it a cupola?
Twentieth, signage. The Reader sign graces the outside of the new library in Green Lane. Before that it was outside the smaller Penge Library in Maple Road and was commissioned to be installed there.
Ghosts of the past remain in Victorian signs for the Alexandra Estate, circa 1866, a philanthropic enterprise to provide good housing for the industrial classes. There are the more recent signs for the Goldsmiths Arms and the Southey Brewery.
Twenty-first, war memorials. There are several to be found in different parts of Penge.