Friday, 8 November 2013

The Royal Bell Bromley

The Royal Bell is an ancient Inn site in Bromley close to the Parish Church and Market Square. The present building on the site is a grade two listed building and thanks to Amanda Hone and  other members of the Bromley Arts and Community Initiative (BACI) funding from Bromley Council has been given to enable them to engage in a wider consultation than their initial public meetings. Bromley Times contains news Bromley Times report.
I recently compared a water colour drawing of the rear of the Inn with a photographic image from the 1890's showing an attractive garden. The watercolour replicated in great detail the photograph which lead staff at the Archive and I to conclude it was painted from the image now in the Local studies image collection. 
Sadly the building's owners have not maintained the property.
Amanda created a Facebook page for BACI Campaign to Establish a Permanent Arts & Community Space in Bromley and I hope that this campaign brings back from endangered status one of Bromleys listed buildings.
The listed building entry British Listed Buildings refers to the 1666 original Royal Bell hostelry on the site and my transcription of the Bromley parish register contains references to the various family members for over 300 years before the present building was completed in 1898. The plague had been present in Bromley previously but the Great Plague year affected Bromley and the plague Field was on one side of the London Road to the north and opposite the gates of Bromley College.This was also founded in 1666 as a result of the will of John Warner Bishop of Rochester at a time when the Bishop of Rocester's Palace was in Bromley. The site of the Bishop's Palace was where the recent Bromley Civic Centre was constructed although it appears that part of this is intended to be sold for redevelopment in future.
The College was founded to provide housing for "twenty poore widowes of orthodoxe and loyal clergiemen";see Bromley and Sheppards Colleges 
I happen to know as a former colleague one of the trustees of Bromley and Sheppards Colleges, of the need to appeal for funds to maintain and conserve another part of Bromley's Heritage. The buildings which historically came from John Warners dispossesion of the Bishop's Palace during the Commonwealth period provided the foundation for housing generations of widows of Church of England clergy. As can be seen from the link this is another set of buildings seeking funding to maintain and conserve Bromley's heritage.
The Commonwealth period in the parish register merits a future blog in it's own right as it diminishes the parish record keeping for the period. It is possible to compare recorded burials pre and post Commonwealth gap to see how the town grew up in the period.
I look forward to seeing the building brought back to community use if the campaign is successful in negotiating purchase from the current owners before further damage takes place. There is a need for a central space for community use in Bromley and an Arts space; the ground floor could become a community public house.
As we at Kent Online Parish Clerks continue to publish parish material online in the year ahead we hope to support all those with an historical interest in the site's history and that of the current Royal Bell building.