Inventory Site Record

Keston Parish Churchyard

Keston Parish Churchyard (Bromley)

Brief Description

There has probably been a religious site here since at least the Roman period and a wooden Saxon church and burial ground serving two nearby manors. The floor plan of Keston Church remained almost unchanged from Norman times until the adjoining Church Halls were built in 1992, which necessitated 66 graves being re-located elsewhere in the churchyard. The churchyard was significantly extended to the east in 1885-6, with smaller extensions to the south by 1896, 1909 and 1933, where the boundary remains. It is largely grass, with numerous tombs and gravestones and has a very large yew tree, under which is the family vault of Maria, Countess of Dysart (d. 1869).

Practical Information
Site location:
Church Road, Keston
Type of site:
Open to public?
Opening times:
Church and car park open during services and on Thursday afternoons 1.30-3.45pm during term-time
Special conditions:
Toilets in Church Hall
Public transport:
Bus: 146, 246, 320

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/07/2009
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

There has probably been a religious site here since at least the Roman period as there is evidence of Roman villa and tombs at 'Warbank' nearby; 4 shallow Romano-British graves were found in the present churchyard during excavations in 1950 by Keston Field Club. A wooden Saxon church and burial ground serving two historic manors may have been set up by the monks of Christchurch Priory in Canterbury, under the supervision of a priory in Orpington; up until the early C20th the Archbishop of Canterbury had the sole and unbroken right to appoint rectors of Keston Church. The first documentary evidence dates from the reign of Edward the Confessor although it is not recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and no dedication has ever been found. The earliest known rector was Henry de Baix who resigned or died in 1207, and it is probable that the Norman church was partially rebuilt between 1216-1272. The floor plan of the church remained almost unchanged until the Church Halls were built adjoining the church, dedicated and opened in 1992. The present tower was built in the early C18th replacing an earlier one that was destroyed, describe as a 'funny little bell gable' (Pevsner). Repairs were carried out between 1877-81 when the vestry and porch were added and Keston Church was extended by H Blackwell. In 1905 Keston Church became part of the Diocese of Rochester.

The Rectory was formerly a large house adjacent to the church. It was sold off with associated lands for a private house in the early C20th but was later destroyed by WWII bombing. The bombing also caused damage to the east wall of the church with the loss of several stained glass windows; only 'Love' by Burne-Jones remains, restored in 1952 by James Blackford.

When Keston Church Halls were built, 66 graves were taken out and their gravestones were re-located elsewhere in the churchyard; in the entrance to the Hall is a plaque listing these graves. The churchyard was significantly extended to the east in 1885-6, with smaller extensions to the south by 1896, 1909 and 1933, where the boundary remains. Kent Archaeology Society has a transcription of memorial inscriptions in the churchyard taken on 2 May 1891 by Leland L Duncan: 'In the late 1890s the Lewisham author and antiquarian Mr Leland L. Duncan embarked on a project of recording the early memorial inscriptions in a large number of Kent churchyards. In visiting the sites he carried with him a small pocket field notebook in which he recorded the inscriptions in his own shorthand, in pencil' (Frank Bamping 13 October, 2000). The churchyard is largely grass, with numerous tombs and gravestones and a very large yew tree; a mixed hedge of hawthorn and sycamore forms much of the boundary, with some chestnut paling.

Among the gravestones and memorials are those of famous people, who include Maria, Countess of Dysart (d.1869) buried in the family vault under the large yew tree, along with her son, Lord Huntingtower (d.1872); Sir Robert Monsey Rolfe, Baron Cranworth (d.1868) who was a Judge and Lord Chancellor in 1852-8 and 1865-66; Dinah Maria Mulock, later Mrs Craik (d.1887), novelist, poet and writer of children's stories, who lived in Shortlands towards the end of her life. Her novel, 'John Halifax, Gentleman' of 1856 was a best seller in its day. It is thought that many pioneer pilots from Biggin Hill were buried here; three graves from 1918-21 are identifiable. During excavations in the 1950s an uncharted vault belonging to John Pepys, a relative of the diarist Samuel Pepys, was discovered. John Pepys (d.1749) was a watchmaker of St Brides; a plaque from his coffin is on the south wall of the church. The churchyard is now closed for burial although ashes are scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. The church is now detached from the modern centre of the village.

Sources consulted:

B Cherry & N Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 2: South' (1983, reprint 1999), p186/7; Sally Adcock 'Keston Project' (dossier drawn up in 1987); Brian Burch, 'A bibliography of printed materials relating to Bromley, Hayes and Keston in the County of Kent (Strong & Sons, Bromley, 1964); Frank Cribbens, 'Keston Parish Church' (Keston Parochial Church Council, 1986), 'Keston Church Halls' (Keston Parochial Church Council, 1994); J L Filmer, 'Keston Church' (31 page extract, a record up to 1939, n.d.); F S Gammon 'The Story of Keston in Kent' (Thomas Murby and Co., 1934); E C D Jackson and N Piercy Fox 'Excavations at Keston Church' in Archaeologia Cantiana vol 64, 1951 (pub. by Kent Archaeological Society, 1952); John Newman 'West Kent and the Weald' (2nd ed, from The Buildings of England, Pevsner, 1976); Kelly's Directory of Kent 1890 cf 1938; Bob Ogley, 'Ghosts of Biggin Hill' (reprinted by Froglets Pubs, 2006), pp.38-9; Mick Scott 'Bromley, Keston and Hayes' (Pocket edition, Nonsuch, 2007). See church website.

LPGT Volunteer Research by Jeff Royce and Peter Smith, 2009

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ418630 (541860,162974)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Diocese of Rochester
Site management:
LB Bromley
medieval onwards
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Archaeological Significance
Other LA designation:

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