10 good reasons to visit Beckenham

The 'village' of Beckenham can be traced back to Bronze and Stone Age times, but its proximity to London has seen it develop into a cosmopolitan town offering a wide range of specialist shops and restaurants – and a few surprises

Life storyPeople who have been enchanted by Enid Blyton books will find themselves surrounded by memories of the famous children’s author, who lived in five different homes in Chaffinch Road, Clock House Road, Elm Road and Westfield Road. All the buildings have remained virtually unchanged from 1897 when Enid arrived as a baby. At the end of Elm Road is the Baptist Church where she was baptised and the church hall where she attended Sunday school. Not far from here is her infant school and the Chaffinch Brook where Enid went on nature walks with her father. Visitors can hear the story of Enid Blyton’s life in Beckenham during tours given by local historian Cliff Watkins, contact: cliff@cliffwatkins.entadsl.com


Musical memoriesFans of the iconic musician, actor and former Beckenham resident David Bowie can walk in the footsteps of their hero in Croydon Road Rec. August last year was the 40th anniversary of a Free Festival he organised when he performed on the bandstand. Two years later in 1971, he sat on the same bandstand and wrote the lyrics for Life on Mars. He lived in Foxgrove Road in the late 1960s before moving to the Victorian Gothic mansion Haddon Hall, in Southend Road. On the High Street is the Three Tuns pub (now a restaurant) where Bowie was joined by other musicians in Arts Lab events. The hairstyle of his alter ego Ziggy Stardust was created by a stylist who worked in the Evelyn Paget hair salon in Beckenham.

Curtain raiserTheatregoers will be transported back to the 1930s when the Beckenham Theatre Centre stages Noel Coward’s Private Lives (22-27 March). A registered charity, the society runs its own theatre and the striking Victorian building in Bromley Road has one of the smallest auditoria in the country, with just 47 seats.

Open spacesAlthough close to central London, Beckenham has several areas of parkland. In Kelsey Park, the landscaped gardens and lake attract many forms of wildlife and there are tennis courts, a crazy golf course, plus a caf� and children’s playground. Beckenham Place Park includes an 18-hole golf course and forms part of London’s Green Chain. Beckenham Green, created from the ruins of the original heart of the town destroyed by doodlebugs in 1944, hosts events during Beckenham’s annual  festival.

Church viewsAdjacent to Beckenham Green is St George’s Church, built by local architect Gibbs Bartleet in the 1880s. It replaced an earlier place of worship on the same site and artefacts saved from this original medieval building can still be found throughout the church. Look out for the striking stained glass windows designed by local art teacher Thomas Freeth. The church is a venue for a jazz festival and other events throughout the year.

Sports galoreBeckenham Cricket Club claims to be one of north-west Kent’s best multi-sports and social clubs. As its enviable cricketing history the ground, which is set in beautiful surroundings off Foxgrove Road, also has club facilities for tennis, hockey, squash, and running, all supported by an active social section. Elsewhere, Beckenham has a football club playing in the Kent League and men and women rugby teams, plus several Bowls Clubs.

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From the archivesTwenty one works by Richard Dadd (1817-1886) were recently loaned to, and are now on display, at The Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives and Museum in Monks Orchard Road. The museum records the lives and celebrates the achievements of people with mental health problems. The new display represents Dadd’s time in Broadmoor State Criminal Lunatic Asylum from 1864-1886 and are in addition to his other 30 paintings and letters already on show at Bethlem.

So near so SpaFitness fanatics and sports fans can find everything they need under one roof at The Spa at Beckenham, which caters for people from all different walks of life, abilities and shapes and sizes. The centre recently benefited from a �1.3m investment and now has two swimming pools, gym, multi-purpose sports hall, dance/group exercise studios, a new soft play area for children, cr�che, ‘mycafe’ and a meeting room. In 2004 the centre won The Independent title of ‘Best Public Swimming Pool in the UK’. The pool is fed from water from a natural well under the building.

On the right trackMemories of trains from days gone by will be among the attractions being displayed at a vintage toy train show at St John’s Church, in Eden Park Avenue on 29 May, 10am to 5pm. The event has been organised by the Beckenham and West Wickham Model Railway Club and will include working rail layouts. Contact gregmarshall121@hotmail.com.

Up on the silver screenFilm lovers are well catered for by the modernised Odeon cinema in the High Street. And every September during the London Open House weekend, the ‘Regal, as it is still known by many locals, allows access to several areas to reveal its unaltered Art Deco interior decorations from days gone by.

Getting thereAlthough originally a ‘Kentish town’ Beckenham, which is only a 20-minute drive from the centre of to the capital, is now part of the London Borough of Bromley. It is easily reached by car from the main A21 by taking the A222 or the A2015. The town is served by two rail stations. Beckenham Junction and Clock House.There are also regular bus and tram services to and from the town. Sat nav: BR3 1ED

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