Bromley has seen its fair share of famous residents over the years. And we mean properly famous – even more so than Make Me Local’s very own Instagram celebrity, Red the dog. (Don’t worry Red, we’ll still love you when you lose your good looks and the adoring fans leave you behind.)
Some, you’ve probably heard of – we all know the story of the Bowie bandstand, right? Admittedly, some may be more familiar if you’re a similar age to our social media guru Molly, who has just turned 21… Still, we hope you enjoy learning about the famous residents who have called our beloved Bromley their home, and if you think there are any that deserve to be added onto our list, then you know where we are!
Was Charles Darwin Bromley’s most famous ever resident? It’s probably a toss-up between Darwin and Bowie, but seeing as Darwin came up with an entire scientific theory, we think he deserves his place at the top of our list.
Charles Darwin was born in 1809 and spent most of his life at Down House on the outskirts of Bromley. He is most famous for being a biologist and scientist, developing the theory of natural selection, which he explored in his groundbreaking book ‘On the Origin of Species’.
His home at Down House, in Downe, Kent, is now owned by English Heritage. It’s a beautiful place to visit, with lovely gardens and lots of rooms to explore – you can even stand in the very same study where Darwin wrote ‘On the Origin of Species.’
Keep an eye out for family events, which run regularly throughout the year.
This local Starman was born in Brixton but lived in Plaistow Grove, Bromley for most of his childhood. He went to Bromley Technical High School in 1958, which we all now know as Ravens Wood. Bowie’s musical career was centred around Bromley and Beckenham, and he played gigs at various places including Chislehurst Caves, the Three Tuns pub (now Zizzi) and the Bromley Court Hotel.
If you are interested in trying to save a piece of Bowie history, you can donate to the Bowie Bandstand Appeal. The appeal aims to restore the bandstand where Bowie played at Croydon Road recreation ground – rumour has it he also wrote ‘Life on Mars’ sitting on those very steps.
Author Enid Blyton lived in Shortlands between 1926 and 1929, and there is now a blue plaque located at 83 Shortlands Road in memory of her. Best known for works like The Secret Seven, The Famous Five and The Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton was a world bestselling author and sold more than 600 million copies of her books. You can still read many of them today – in almost 90 different translations, no less.
H.G. Wells was born in Bromley Primark on the 21st September 1866. Of course, it wasn’t Primark in 1866 – quite a relief, as it hardly seems befitting of a science fiction writer who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times.
H.G. Wells is best known as the author of War of the Worlds, and you can see a blue plaque to commemorate his birthplace on the front of the shop.
Actress Julie Andrews lived in Cromwell Road, Beckenham, for several years as a youngster, and was there during the Second World War. She went to Woodbrook School for Girls in Hayne Road, enrolling in September 1945. She became famous for having a four-octave voice, and loved to perform whilst at the school.
Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte was exiled to London, and lived in Camden Place, a country house located in Chislehurst. He was very much accepted as part of British society and one of his regular visitors was Queen Victoria herself. He died in 1873 after two operations for gallstones, and spoke his very last words at Camden Place.
Originally, Napoleon III was busied at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Chislehurst. His body has since been moved to the Imperial Crypt at St Michael’s Abbey in Farnborough.
Moving into modern times, singer Pixie Lott was born in Bromley in 1991 and began her singing career in church school. She has had three albums that reached the top ten, and is best known for her singles Mama Do, Boys and Girls, and All About Tonight. If all this modern music isn’t really your thing, you might also have spotted her on Series 12 of Strictly Come Dancing in 2014, where she was widely regarded as one of the best dancers in the competition and was the tenth to leave. We wonder if she took her inspiration from the Make Me Local team – you should see our fancy footwork on a staff night out…
International cricketer Derek Underwood MBE was born in Bromley in 1945. He went to the Beckenham and Penge Grammar School for Boys, and became the youngest ever player to take his 100th test wicket in a debut season. He has been an excellent bowler since his teenage years, and his nickname in the game was ‘Deadly’!
Dina Asher-Smith is a British sprinter and Olympic gold and silver medallist. She also happened to grow up just down the road from us, attending the Newstead Woods School. As a member of local Blackheath and Bromley Harriers Athletic Club, she went on to compete in many competitions, including the Olympics and European championships.
Know any other local celebrities? Perhaps someone famous lived on the very same street as you? Let us know!