Inventory Site Record

Priory Gardens * (Bromley)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

The Priory has a long history dating back to the C13th. In 1865 the gardens and park were probably laid out by the then owner Dr Herbert Broom, and in 1919 the property was bought by painter Cecil Hughes. His wife, a keen horticulturalist, was a friend of garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and the Hughes also knew architect Geoffrey Jellicoe; the house and gardens show the influence of Arts and Crafts ideas. Hughes died in 1941 and in 1947 Orpington District Council bought the building, which was used as offices, then a museum. The grounds were purchased in 1959 and were opened as a public park in 1962.

Practical Information
Site location:
Ramsden Road/Church Hill, Orpington
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am weekdays/9am Sat/Sun/BHs - half hour after dusk
Special conditions:
No dogs in formal gardens
Children’s play area, toilets
Public transport:
Rail: Orpington. Bus: 17, 18, 51, 61, 208, 358, R1, R3, R4, R7, R11.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see

Public park on a much older site, The Priory, which dates from pre-1270 and was improved in 1471. The public park and garden was largely developed to the present (2002) layout from the late C19th in 1865 by the then owner, Dr Herbert Broom, who was very enthusiastic about the history of the mansion, by this time known as the Priory. It is thought that he was responsible for laying out the garden in the antique style. (Walford 1883). In 1919 The Priory became the home of Cecil Hughes, a successful landscape painter and member of the Landscape Institute where he met and became friendly with Geoffrey Jellicoe and Jock Shepherd. Gertrude Jekyll was a personal friend of Mrs Hughes who was a keen horticulturist. After Cecil Hughes died his family left The Priory in 1941.

An extract from the LB Bromley website gives the following details: 'In 1946 the Orpington Urban District Council, the British Legion, the local Churches and other notables set up a working party to ascertain the views of the community as how to commemorate the fallen of the Second World War. The Working Party suggested a number of alternatives but the ones finding popular support were: a) Purchase of the Priory Gardens and turn them into a Garden of Remembrance where people could reflect upon lost ones. There was to be a bandstand, rose gardens, etc. b) Build the Petts Wood War Memorial Hall; c) Build the Cudham Village War Memorial Hall. The Orpington Urban Council did all three. While the Petts Wood and Cudham War Memorial halls all indicated their purpose there was no indication as to why the Priory Gardens had been purchased in 1947. The Mayor, Councillor Sue Polydorou, unveiled a Blue Plaque on 11th November 1999, in the presence of a large number of guests from the Royal British Legion, Councillors and members of the public. As the Mayor unveiled the Blue Plaque she said, "this last Armistice Day of this century was a fitting time to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms enjoyed by the current generations and those to follow in the 21st century. We shall be eternally grateful to those who took up arms to defend this country and this should never be forgotten". The mayor dedicated the Blue Plaque to the many citizens from the Orpington area who died or who were wounded together with their families whose pains of loss still lasts to this day.'

Orpington District Council bought the building in 1947 and the grounds in 1959. The building was used as offices and currently houses a museum (opened 1965) and attached public library built 1957-58 (opened c.1961). The grounds were opened as a public park in 1962. The gardens near to the mansion continue to reflect the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the last private owners' interest in Italian Gardens. Sir Geoffrey Jellico designed the Theatre Garden. There are three lakes, two largest connected by cascade and crossed by bridge and this forms the main feature of the park. Situated to the north of the park it is screened in places by ornamental trees and decorated by two islands. The lake is divided into two unequal parts by an ornamental cascade. Much of planting is C19th: fine beech at the north end, large sycamores around the play area in the north-west; the north / south tree-lined walk has a mix of lime, oak, beech, horse chestnut etc. Formal Arts and Crafts gardens north of Priory, designed by Mr and Mrs Hughes during their ownership including sunken garden, pergola garden, yew enclosures, box-edged beds. Public park planting includes lawns dotted with cypresses, willows, and a modest rockery. There are notable post-war wrought iron gates at the north end; north lake open through modern railings to High Street. The main gates near Court Road came from High Elms Country Park (q.v.) in 1960.

The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

Sources consulted:

B Cherry & N Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 2: South' (1983, reprint 1999) p189; E Walford, Village London, 1883; Col. B Lake, The Priory Orpington, 1887, Orpington Urban District Council; The Priory, Priory Gardens and Central Library, 1962; NHLE Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ466666 (546686,166721)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Bromley
Site management:
Leisure Services
Dr H Brown (1865); Cecil Hughes (1919); Geoffry Jellico; Mr & Mrs Cecil Eldridge Hughes (C20th)
Listed structures:
LBII*: The Priory. LBII: Outbuildings, north and east garden walls and range to South
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II
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:
Conservation Area name:
Orpington Priory (south part)
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance (Lake)
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Archaeological Significance (pre-historic, medieval, post-medieval)
Other LA designation:
Urban open space

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