How Did London End Up With Two Bromleys?

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 18 months ago
How Did London End Up With Two Bromleys?
Bromley South, one of two train stations in one of the Bromleys. Photo: Ewan Munro

"I live in Bromley."

"Oh yeah, Bromley-by-Bow. I know it."

"No, Bromley. Just Bromley. On the London-Kent border."

"Oh."

*Silence*.

If you're from Bromley, you've probably been the victim of the above conversation at some point. Despite the fact that it's got a whole flippin' borough named in its honour (the biggest London borough too, geographically speaking), the town of Bromley in south-east London is often mistaken for its east London counterpart.

Bromley town centre. Photo: Ben Sutherland

So how did London come to have two Bromleys?

Strictly speaking, Bromley was in Kent for a long while, which goes some way to explaining how the two places ended up with the same name (plenty of places in London have the same name as places in other parts of the country). It's been a market town since the 12th century, and became part of Greater London in 1965.

Two years after the south-east Bromley became part of London, the station in the Tower Hamlets Bromley was renamed Bromley-by-Bow to avoid confusion between the two. Prior to this, the station, and that whole area of east London, had simply been known as Bromley.

Photo: Ewan Munro

What's most interesting about this case is that the name 'Bromley' came about in different ways. Kent's Bromley comes from Bromleag, meaning 'a woodland clearing where broom grows'. In east London, Bromley is thought to be derived from Brambeley, meaning a field of brambles.

But which Bromley was first?

It looks like the name, or an early variation of it, was first in use in Kent's Bromley. It was recorded here in 862. A bridge built in east London in 1110 was known as Brambles by Bow, and it's been suggested that the settlement first emerged as the result of a monastery built in the area in the 11th century.

Bow Locks on the Lee Navigation in Bromley-by-Bow. Photo: James Douglas

Bromley isn't the only place in London that exists more than once.

Last Updated 05 June 2017