Chislehurst - Kentish calm
Chislehurst - Kentish calm

Reassuringly suburban yet blessed with woods and parks, this Bromley borough is now getting Belgravia-style homes

Chislehurst — the name means stony wood — lives a double life, despite its reputation for suburban calm. It has a Kent postcode, but London telephone numbers and is in the London borough of Bromley. Now a developer is trying to bring London SW1 to the location with haute-luxe five-bedroom houses, grand outside and high-tech inside.

A lot of history, then?

Scadbury Manor was the birthplace and family seat of Elizabeth I’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. Camden Place in Chislehurst also became the centre of the French court in exile when Napoleon III moved in with Empress Eugenie after his defeat by the Prussians in 1870. Chislehurst Caves housed 15,000 people during the Blitz.

Any green spaces?

Well, let’s see. There’s the golf course, I suppose, and, er, Chislehurst Commons. And Petts Wood, which was rescued from urban sprawl in the 1920s. Plus the Scadbury Nature Reserve. And the Hawkwood Estate. And Marvels Wood, Hoblingwell Wood, Thornet Wood . . . So, actually, yes — it’s leafy.

What about transport links?

The Chislehurst train from Sevenoaks to London Bridge, Charing Cross, Cannon Street or Waterloo takes less than 30 minutes. Ancient bylaws protecting narrow streets make road traffic a bit of a blight, but the A20 is on the Chislehurst boundary so escape to the M25 and airports, or France via the Eurotunnel, is very quick.

The smartest streets?

There are plenty of detached houses throughout Chislehurst. Church Row has handsome Georgian homes, but the more modern, large, detached villas, built from 1900 onwards, are found in Wilderness Road and Camden Park Road.

Any good restaurants?

A friendly welcome awaits at the Italian restaurant Due Amici, which is a local favourite. The Bickley is a recently refurbished gastro pub and the Tiger’s Head is also popular. The Rambler’s Rest has been serving good beer since 1684.

What about the schools?

There are plenty of primary and prep schools. Selective Bromley state secondary schools, St Olave’s for boys and Newstead Wood School for girls, are very popular. Good, relatively local private schools include Sevenoaks, Eltham College and Bromley High School. In Chislehurst itself, Babington House is an independent day school, taking boys up to 7 and girls to 16, and Farringtons School is a day or boarding school that has just gone fully co-educational from 3 to 18.

And the politics?

Bob Neill is the Conservative MP for Bromley and Chislehurst with a majority of 633. The Liberal Democrats made big gains in the 2006 by-election.

What’s new?

One development in grand style is Dene Terrace, 14 high-spec and spacious Thomas Cubitt-inspired family homes built by Urban Evolution ( This is supposed to bring Belgravia to Chislehurst — Cubitt was the architect of Belgravia’s squares. Dene Terrace prices start at £1.6m. Taylor Wimpey is set to launch a development of 251 traditionally designed homes on the former Ravensbourne College site in 2011.

A local view

“I love the fact that it’s 20 minutes to Central London but you’re in the country,” says Trish Walker, who moved to Chislehurst from Cork ten years ago. The captain of the golf club, Lloyd Sampson, who bought his first house for £6,000 in 1973 and has moved locally twice, says: “I love the greenery.”

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