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Town sign
Orpington is located in Greater London
 Orpington shown within Greater London
Population 15,311 (Orpington ward 2011)[1]
OS grid reference TQ460660
   – Charing Cross 13.4 mi (21.6 km)  NW
London borough Bromley
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BR5, BR6
Dialling code 01689
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Orpington
London Assembly Bexley and Bromley
List of places

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Orpington is a suburban town and electoral ward in the London Borough of Bromley in Greater London and lies at the south-eastern edge of London's urban sprawl. It is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.[2] It was, until shortly before the 1974 General Election, in the county of Kent.[3]


Stone Age tools have been found in several areas of Orpington, including Goddington Park, Priory Gardens, the Ramsden estate, and Poverest. Early Bronze Age pottery fragments have been found in the Park Avenue area. During the building of Ramsden Boys School in 1956, the remains of an Iron Age farmstead were excavated. The area was occupied in Roman times, as shown by Crofton Roman Villa and the Roman bath-house at Fordcroft.[4] During the Anglo-Saxon period, Fordcroft Anglo-Saxon cemetery was used in the area. The first record of the name Orpington occurs in 1038, when King Cnut's treasurer Eadsy gave land at "Orpedingetune" to the Monastery of Christ Church at Canterbury. The parish church also pre-dates the Domesday Book. On 22 July 1573CE, Queen Elizabeth I was entertained at Bark Hart (Orpington Priory) and her horses stabled at the Anchor and Hope Inn (Orpington High Street). On the southern edge of Orpington, Green St Green is recorded as 'Grenstretre' which means a road covered with grass. It is known in the 1800s as Greenstead Green.[citation needed]

Until the railway came, the local commercial centre was nearby St Mary Cray, rather than Orpington. St Mary Cray had a regular market, and industry (paper mills and bell foundry), whereas Orpington was just a small country village surrounded by soft fruit farms, hop fields and orchards.

These crops attracted Romani people, working as itinerant pickers, to annual camps in local meadows and worked-out chalk pits. This work has largely ended, but the Borough still provides a permanent site at Star Lane, and the gatherings are commemorated in local street names, such as Romany Rise. In 1967, Eric Lubbock, then Liberal MP for Orpington, promoted a Private Member's Bill to provide permanent Gypsy sites; this resulted in the Caravan Sites Act 1968 that placed an obligation upon local authorities to provide sites for locally residing travellers.[5] In 1971, an international meeting of Romany people was held at Orpington; this Orpington Congress marked the founding of the International Romani Union, a group seeking political representation for Romanis throughout Europe.[6]

By-election of 1962

The ward of Orpington (red) shown within the borough of Bromley (orange)

After the Conservative member for the Orpington constituency, Donald Sumner, had resigned to become a county court judge, a by-election was held on 15 March 1962. Orpington was considered a safe Conservative seat, but Eric Lubbock, the Liberal candidate, won with a 22% swing away from the Conservatives. The result caused a sensation and was headline news across the nation.[7] It is from this win that the revival of the Liberal Party is usually dated.

Retail and commerce

Orpington High Street, looking south
A former bank branch on a corner site in the High Street

The High Street and adjacent Walnuts Shopping Centre contain a wide variety of high-street shops. There is a general market three days a week in front of Orpington College. A large Tesco supermarket opened in 2009 on the site of a former multi-storey car park. There are several restaurants in the town centre. A restricted parking zone was introduced into Orpington high street, which enabled the council to wipe away road markings indicating parking restrictions.[8] By combining the lack of markings, with CCTV monitoring, the council has been able to reduce the amount of street clutter and improve the quality of the High Street environment. [9]

Orpington has excellent public transport access, including a busy train station and high frequency bus routes run between the Town Centre and the residential suburbs. There are 'big box' retail outlets in St. Mary Cray, including the new Nugent Shopping Park. Following the relocation of Marks & Spencer from their previous town-centre store to the Nugent Shopping Park, their previous site was taken over by Sainsbury's, who moved from their previous site nearby in the Walnuts.

Sport and leisure

The Walnuts Leisure Centre,[10] just east of the High Street, has a six-lane, 33.3 metre indoor swimming pool, squash courts and a gym with sauna and steam room, as well as a sports hall used for activities such as badminton, basketball, trampolining and fitness classes. The sports hall is also used for Women's Artistic Gymnastics, and is the training venue for Orpington Gymnastic Club.[11]

The Walnuts has been home to the Orpington Ojays swimming club for nearly 40 years. The club caters for those learning to swim right through to elite swimmers who wish to swim competitively at county and national level.

The pond at Priory Gardens is the source of the River Cray.

There are two other local leisure centres: one at the Priory School,[12] which has a floodlit, synthetic pitch for hockey and football, three outdoor tennis courts, two netball courts, four outdoor cricket nets and a sports hall with gymnasium/fitness suite and dance studio. The other is LA Fitness members-only health club on Sandy Lane. Also there is a bodybuilding gym located near the war memorial called Ripped Muscle And Fitness

[13] There is also Keddles Gym[14] and Jack Watson's martial arts club.[15]

There are rugby, football and cricket pitches in Goddington Park. Westcombe Park RFC,[16] Orpington Cricket Club[17] and Orpington Football Club[18] are based here. Westcombe Park RFC competes in National Division Two (two leagues below premiership rugby). 'Combe' moved from the Blackheath area to Orpington in 1936. Cray Wanderers F.C., established in 1860 no longer plays in Orpington, but now shares a ground with Bromley F.C. On 3 October 2014 Cray Wanderers signed a conditional contract to purchase Flamingo Park Sports Centre on the A20 Sidcup bypass. The club has an 18-month period to obtain planning consent from Bromley Council for a new sporting community hub, featuring a new multi-sport stadium with a spectator capacity of 2,200.

Since 1985, members of Orpington Road Runners[19] have met every Tuesday near The Buff Pub and on Sundays at High Elms Country Park. For over 10 years, the Club has organised a 10k race and series of 2k fun runs[20] during the summer in conjunction with Darrick Wood School. Bromley Indoor Bowls Club is situated off Gillmans Road. Lawn bowls is played at the Excelsior Club[21] in Poverest Recreation Ground. Knoll Lawn Tennis Club[22] has (despite its name) five tarmac courts tucked away among the houses of Mayfield Avenue. Bromley Tennis Centre (six indoor courts and four floodlit outdoor courts) is in the grounds of Newstead Wood School.

The Priory at Priory Gardens contains Bromley Museum.[23]

Construction work on a new cinema complex at The Walnuts Centre commenced in 2014 [24] Orpington has been without a cinema since 1982, when the old Commodore cinema closed.[25]


Education in Orpington is managed by the London Borough of Bromley which is the Local Education Authority. The town contains a full range of primary and secondary schools. The state secondary schools include St. Olave's Grammar School and Newstead Wood School, which both select students on the basis of their performance in a highly competitive entrance examination.

The Orpington campus of Bromley College, Bromley is a further education college. It is affiliated with the University of Greenwich and Canterbury Christ Church University. The Orpington campus of Bromley College is the tallest building in Orpington, and was built in 1972.


Orpington railway station is a transport hub served by Southeastern with trains to Central London stations Charing Cross and Cannon Street via Grove Park, as well as Victoria via Bromley South and Herne Hill. Outside Greater London, services call at Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Hastings.

Orpington is served by many Transport for London bus services and an Arriva Kent route, these connect it with areas including Beckenham, Bexleyheath, Bromley, Catford, Chislehurst, Crystal Palace, Dartford, Hayes, Lewisham, Penge, Sidcup, St Mary Cray, Swanley, Welling and Woolwich.

The M25 ring-road around London passes Orpington to the south of the town and three A roads, the A208, A224 and A232 pass through the area. Additionally the A21 passes along the town's southern border.

Places of interest

The Parish Church

All Saints Church

The Parish Church, "All Saints", stands upon pre-Norman foundations. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, it is Early English in style, but some Saxon work is visible. It was endowed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1173. The tower and steeple were damaged by a storm in 1771. The rebuilt steeple was struck by lightning in 1809, and it was not replaced. The church was greatly enlarged in 1957. The present Vicar is the Reverend Brian McHenry.

The Priory

Orpington Priory

The Priory is a medieval hall house. In 1032, Eadsy, chaplain to King Cnut, gave his estate at Orpedingetune to Christ Church Priory, Canterbury. The first Rector of Orpington, Hugh de Mortimer, held court here in 1270. The house was rebuilt in 1290, this time in stone, and extended in 1393 and 1471. In the 17th century the house ceased to be a rectory and passed into private ownership; a timber-framed extension was added, which no longer exists. The house was acquired by Orpington Urban District Council in 1947, and used to house a museum, closed in September 2015 after more than 50 years for cost reasons. The garden forms an attractive public park, and contains a natural pond which is the source of the River Cray. Each year the Orpington May Queen is crowned in the gardens.

Orpington Hospital

During the First World War a large military hospital, the "16th Canadian General", was built south-east of the station, funded by the government of Ontario, Canada. It originally accommodated 1,050 patients; an extra wing was added in 1917. By January 1919, more than 15,000 wounded soldiers had been treated here. Many of the 182 who died are buried in "Canadian Corner" of All Saints' churchyard. Most of the original pre-fabricated buildings remained in use for more than 80 years before a major renovation around the turn of the century. Today Orpington Hospital provides rehabilitation and therapy services, outpatient and diagnostic services (including dermatology and diabetes), but it no longer has an Accident and Emergency Unit. The nearest A&E is Queen Mary's, Sidcup, or Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough.

Orpington chicken and duck

Orpington is known for the "Buff", "Black" and "Speckled" chickens bred locally by William Cook in the 1890s. One could see the Buff Orpington at Tripes Farm, Chelsfield Lane until the late 1990s, when the chicken coop was removed from the farm. Buff Orpington Ducks were also developed by Cook.

Orpington car

The Orpington Car, designed by Frank Smith and built by Smith & Milroy Ltd at their works in Wellington Road, was shown at the 1920 Motor Show. It was a two-seater convertible, with a dickey seat, and a 10 horsepower (7.5 kW) engine. Although briefly successful, Smith and Milroy could not compete with mass production, and the last car was commonly believed to have been built in 1925. The only known survivor at the time reportedly once appeared in the 1970s television series Crossroads, but this has not been substantiated. There are now no known surviving examples in existence.

Orpington man

Journalists in the 1960s used "Orpington man" to designate a typical member of the lower middle class, for example as the target audience of an electoral or advertising appeal.[26]

Notable births and residents

TV appearances

  • Orpington High Street and the Walnuts Shopping Centre appear in a number of scenes in the Channel 4 documentary Virgin School, first aired in May 2007.[27]
  • It also featured in an episode of "The Bill".
  • Orpington High Street and surrounding areas were shown in a television advert for Honda.
  • The Simpsons live action intro sequence was filmed off Lansdowne Avenue, Orpington. [28]
  • The Save the Children shop in Orpington High Street was the subject of "Mary Queen of Charity Shops", where Mary Portas[29] set out to improve the takings and image of the charity shop. Aired June 2009 on BBC2.[30]

"Who Believes In Orpington". Series about the role of the church in contemporary suburban life. Aired 29/2/88-14/3/88 by Thames Television, ITV (www.ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/series/17589)

  • Areas of Orpington and Crescent Way (locally known as 'The Crescent') were filmed for an ITV daytime cookery show 'Britain's Best Bakery'.



  1. Census Information Scheme (2012). "2011 Census Ward Population Estimates". Greater London Authority. Retrieved 30 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Mayor of London (February 2008). "London Plan (Consolidated with Alterations since 2004)" (PDF). Greater London Authority.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Nigel Yates (2001). Kent in the Twentieth Century. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press. ISBN 9780851155876. p. 166–168.
  4. http://www.bromley.gov.uk/leisure/museums/Poverest+Road+Bath+House+and+Anglo-Saxon+Cemetery.htm bromley.gov.uk
  5. Stopping Places: A Gypsy History Of South London and Kent Simon Evans (Univ of Hertfordshire Press 2004) ISBN 1-902806-30-1
  6. The Roma (Czech Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, October 2002) accessed 3 December 2007
  7. BBC News "On This Day", Entry for 15 March. "1962 Liberals Seize Orpington". BBC: 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. http://www.bromley.gov.uk/press/article/93/new_style_restricted_parking_zone_in_orpington_high_street
  9. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/204775/Surveillance_Camera_Code_of_Practice_WEB.pdf
  10. http://www.bromleymytime.org.uk/walnuts-leisure-centre.html bromleymytime.org.uk
  11. http://www.orpington-gymnastic-club.org.uk orpington-gymnastic-club.org.uk
  12. http://www.bromleymytime.org.uk/priory-sports-centre.html bromleymytime.org.uk
  13. http://www.lafitness.co.uk/membership/find_your_club_info.aspx?club_name=Orpington lafitness.co.uk
  14. http://www.keddlesgym.co.uk/main/index.php?tabSection=keddles+gym&section=the+gym&sub=home+page keddlesgym.co.uk
  15. http://www.self-defence.org/ self-defence.org
  16. http://www.westcombeparkrugby.co.uk westcombeparkrugby.co.uk
  17. http://www.orpingtoncc.co.uk
  18. http://www.orpingtonfc.com
  19. http://www.orprunners.com/
  20. http://www.orprunners.com/orpington10k orprunners.com
  21. http://www.oebc.org.uk/
  22. http://knoll.totaltennis.net/home/aboutUs.asp knoll.totaltennis.net
  23. http://www.bromley.gov.uk/leisure/museums/BromMuseum/ bromley.gov.uk
  24. http://www.millerdevelopments.co.uk/the%20walnuts%20and%20crown%20buildings%20orpington.aspx
  25. http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bromley/assets/galleries/orpington/commodore-cinema
  26. David Childs, Britain since 1945 (3rd ed. 1992) pp 140, 146
  27. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/virgin-school 4oD
  28. "Simpsons Live Action Couch Gag — Simpsons Crazy". www.simpsoncrazy.com. Retrieved 4 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Mary Portas
  30. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00l1tft

"Rediscovering... The Orpington Car" by Trevor Mulligan. A 100+ page A5 definitive guide, published 2012.


  • Trevor Mulligan (2012). Rediscovering... The Orpington Car. Timeline Books. ISBN 978-0-9573129-0-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Dorothy Cox (1983). The Book of Orpington. Barracuda Books. ISBN 0-86023-164-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • John Edwards (1991). A Look Back at Orpington. Bromley Leisure Services. ISBN 0-901002-13-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Orpington Ojays Swimming Club

Media related to Orpington, London at Wikimedia Commons