Things You Never Knew About The Borough Of Bexley

Eleana Overett
By Eleana Overett Last edited 20 months ago
Things You Never Knew About The Borough Of Bexley

On the south east edge of London, lies the borough of Bexley. It's not famed for it's history, so we decided to change that. Here are some things you probably didn't know about the borough of Bexley:

Alight at Bexley Station

1. Bare beginnings

Despite its age — when you next flick through a copy of the Domesday Book, you'll find the town mentioned as Bix — the area we now know as the Borough of Bexley was practically unoccupied until the 19th century. It was home to three mills, 41 residents, and 10 smallholders.

2. What's in a name?

As with many places in Britain, the town names in Bexley have a lot to do with the lay of the land. Sidcup first appeared in 1254 as Cetecopp, the name coming from Old English words meaning either a fold in a hill or seat-shaped or flat-topped hill. Hark back to Saxon times and you'll find the beginnings of Erith, which means muddy harbour or gravelly landing place.

The reason why Welling is called, well, Welling, is something of debated topic with four possible theories. The first argument is that in the era of horse-drawn vehicles, when Bexley was part of Kent, by the time you reached Welling you were said to be "well in" to Kent. The second origin — favoured by local historians — is that the name probably derived from 'Welwyn' meaning 'place of the spring', as there was an underground spring to be found at Welling Corner. The third theory supposes that the name may have something to do with the Willing Family who lived in the area in 1301. The fourth argument suggests that Welling was 'more properly Wellend', as the way to Welling was rife with highwaymen and if you reached the town in one piece with all your positions, it was indeed a well end.

Photo: Matt

3. A chapter of London's sewerage story

If you're a fan of London's Victorian sewerage system (and let's be honest, who isn't?) then, like us, you'll find the Crossness Pumping Station a piece of architectural mastery. Built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the building is an ornamental ironworks wonderland and home to Queen Victoria, Albert Edward (King Edward VII), Prince Consort, and Alexandra (wife of Edward VII), the station's heavy duty engines. Read about the Crossness Pumping Station's reopening here.

4. A house of two halves

A quick look at Hall Place in Dartford and you might believe these are two separate houses rammed together, but this is in fact one entire house. A building known as Hall Place on this site was first the stately home of the At-Hall family, who took their name from Hall Place in the 14th century. The house was passed down and sold on a number of times until it passed into the hands of Sir John Champneys, a former Lord Mayor of London, in 1537.

Champneys then built the grey castle-like half which we see today, with stone from the nearby ruins of Lesnes Abbey. The outside boasts an impressive checkerboard effect made of flint and rubble, which was a popular type of masonry at the time. The red brick half of the house was the bright idea of Sir Robert Austen who acquired the houses in 1649 and made little to no effort to match the two sides.

It's also home to London's tamest monsters. Aren't they just adorable?

Hall Place

5. The struggles of Lesnes

Lesnes (or Lessness) was recorded in the Domesday Book as Loisnes. The ruins of Lesnes Abbey, founded in 1178, are still visible today not far from Erith. From almost the very beginning, the abbey struggled with financial hardship. Many of its buildings were completely neglected, and efforts to rebuild in the early sixteenth century could not do much to improve the crumbling structure.

The final blow of execution came from Henry VIII — surprise, surprise — who wanted to raise funds for the Cardinal Wolsey's College at Oxford and received permission from the Pope to close every monastery in England and Wales with less than eight inhabitants. As Lesnes only housed an abbot and five canons, it was one of the first to be abandoned.

6. Never to darken the doorstep again

Red House in Bexleyheath was artist and textile designer William Morris' Palace of Art. It was designed by Morris and his architect friend Philip Webb for Morris' family with its variety of windows, roofs and chimneys, and saw many a talented artist through its doors while he was in residence. After only five years, Morris was forced to sell the house in 1865 due to the financial burden of its upkeep. He apparently vehemently vowed never to return to it, for to see the house again would "be more than he could bear".

Red House

7. American sister

Bexley, Ohio is a suburb of the city of Columbus and like many American towns was named after its British predecessor. The name was a suggestion by early resident, Mr Kilbourne, who had family routes in Bexley, England.

Have we missed anything? Let us know your favourite Bexley trivia in the comments below.

Last Updated 20 July 2017