Queen Adelaide Court

Queen Adelaide Court was designed by distinguished architect Edward Armstrong who was initially on the team for the Festival of Britain project in 1951. He withdrew half way through because of other commitments but not before he had made this striking architectural contribution to post-war Penge.

The arrangement of three blocks of flats, with central gardens and play areas, won a Certificate of Merit for Architectural Excellence in 1951.

Built in the LCC modernist style favoured by Armstrong and anticipating brutalist designs, Queen Adelaide Court echoed the three-sided building with central garden of The Royal Naval Asylum on the other side of St John’s Road, initiated and paid for by Queen Adelaide for the widows and orphans of naval officers. Hence, the name: Queen Adelaide Court. There is also a gleam of cheeky wit in the title.

Unpopular at first because of a reputation for meddling in politics and a streak of personal meanness, Queen Adelaide of Saxe Meiningen (1792-1849) had a change of heart after a debilitating illness and the death of her husband, King William IV.  She spent the rest of her life (and her large fortune) being extraordinarily generous to the poor and needy. She supported many worthy causes both in Britain and abroad. The town Adelaide in Australia is named after her.

Penge had suffered greatly from enemy bombing and Queen Adelaide Road was devastated during the blitz. The humorist writer Tom Hood’s home at 12 Queen Adelaide Road was destroyed along with scores of other Victorian dwellings. People needed to be rehoused and three blocks of flats seemed the best solution.

Careful thought has gone into these buildings especially with the sense of community evoked within the three-sided blocks facing communal green spaces. The surrounding metal-work railings were made out of second world-war stretchers. The flats were meant to be officially opened in 1951 but they were finished early and some families were able to move in in 1950. There was a keys ceremony with speeches and various dignitaries in the presence of the Mayor of Bromley.

Each flat has a balcony and the rooms are reasonably spacious. The general ambience is preferable to the cramped tower blocks of the sixties. The picture below shows a block in 1964, The brick balconies were replaced by metal balconies in the 1980s.

There were play areas in the basements with snooker, darts and ping-pong tables. Some have memories, like Stephanie Maltman, as young children, of enjoying the novelty of going up and down in the lifts.

A Queen Adelaide Court Residents Association was formed in 1952 organising annual fetes and sports days on the green areas. But this fell into abeyance after a few years. The flats are now sought-after residences.

Blue plaques commemorating the award can be seen on various sides of the buildings.

See links: English history authors Queen Adelaide Last Georgian Queen