Bromley Common and its Schools

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Holy Tinity
1851 Census

A Short History of
Holy Trinity Church
Bromley Common

Before 1821, Bromley Common was mostly wasteland. There were a few houses nearby but none on the Common itself because the law did not allow anyone to build on common land. In 1821, the area was enclosed (and so was no longer common land) and the land shared out between the lord of the manor and the people who had grazing and other rights on it. Over the next few years, many of the new owners built houses and the population of the area rose considerably.

The Common was in the parish of Bromley, so, if the new inhabitants wanted to go to church, they had to walk the two miles or more to the Church of St Peter and St Paul near Bromley Market Square.

In 1838, Mr George Warde Norman, the local squire, persuaded the Bishop of Rochester to call a meeting of local gentry and clergy. At the meeting, it was decided that it was ‘highly desirable that a chapel should be erected on Bromley Common, where there is a population of nearly one thousand persons destitute of the means of attending Public Worship and that three quarters of the said chapel shall contain free seating.

Soon the fund raising committee had promises of almost £2,300. These were written down on a subscription list, as was the custom at the time. Thus we know that the Bishop and Mr Norman each promised £100. 

The committee decided to ‘obtain the largest amount of accommodation combined with an exterior somewhat different from a mere chapel.’ In due course, the exterior was faced with knapped flint, an expensive option but in keeping with the financial status of some of the local gentry.

The land for the church was owned by the Norman family who sold it for £50. Another piece of land between the church and Church Lane (then called First Common Road) was owned by a Mr John Walter. He drove a hard bargain and got £100 for it.

By the end of 1841, the building was complete. The committee decided that the consecration should take place on Thursday, 31st March, 1842, and that ‘the church be immediately insured in the Sun Fire Offices for £1 000.

Initially, it was a chapel in the parish of Bromley but it soon became a parish church in its own right.

It was the parishioners of Holy Trinity who provided most of the funds for the new school built next to the church in 1846.

The new church had seating for 480. 180 of those seats were reserved for those who paid for them. It was quite common then for richer people to pay for a row of seats for their family’s exclusive use. They were box pews; long seats with a low, wooden wall round them. 

Picture of the box pews at Holy Trinity Church, Bromley Common
Box pews in Holy Trinity Church.
There was a door at the entrance to each pew.  The best pews were reserved for those who paid for them. They were removed in the mid-1880s.

It was decided "that the pew next to the reading desk be reserved for the incumbent (vicar) and that the remaining 23 pews be let at the rate of 10/- each letting. In the event of several persons wishing for the same pew, preference will be given to subscribers to building the church." 

The income from pew rents was over £40 a year after 1850. (Adverts for the nearby Middle Class School in the 1880s, stated that the fees included the pew rent for the pupils.) The box pews were removed in the mid 1880s.

Line drawing of Holy Trinity in 1844
Holy Trinity before the tower was added in 1844.

The final cost of the building and equipment was £2,643. This left less than £5 in the bank but then the trustees were sent £150, the proceeds of a poem written especially for the building fund. The trustees decided to continue fund raising and add a tower. Work on it started in 1844 and it cost about £560.

The clock was added in 1910. Other additions to the church included an apse in 1884, a choir vestry in 1906 and a Lady Chapel in 1956.

The church has many memorials to members of the Norman family including most of the windows and the pulpit. The apse was added in 1884 in memory of George Warde Norman. The only window not dedicated to a member of the Norman family is in the north wall: it commemorates the life of Mr Jones, owner of the brewery in Brewery Road.

Thumbnail link to a larger picture of the church.  A link to a recent picture of the church.