Bromley Common and its Schools

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The Common
Robbery 2
Robbery 3
Parish Cottages
Norman family
Holy Tinity
1851 Census

The Norman Family
see also Norman education

Photo of the Rookery, date unknown
The Rookery, home of the Normans for almost 200 years. It burned down in 1946 and the site is now home to Bromley College of Further and Higher Education.

For nearly two hundred years, the Norman family dominated the history of Bromley Common.  The family association with the area began in 1755 when James Norman, after making a fortune in the timber trade, moved to a house adjacent to Bromley Common.

At that time, the common was mostly wasteland.  Part of it was marshy.  The road across the Common was barely visible and James had to mark it with white posts.

His house was initially leased for £120 per annum but later James bought it for £2,200.

He made many alterations and improvements. Two wings were added with a library and a billiard room.  Stables and a large greenhouse were erected.  A bowling green was laid and a ha ha was dug.  The grounds were set out as gardens, with paths and sun-houses.  One path went round the artificial lake and a bridge crossed to the island in the centre.  On the island was a wheelhouse with a water wheel, twenty feet in diameter, turned by a horse.  It raised water for the house.

When James went to work in London, he rode on horseback. He would be armed and accompanied by an armed servant. The danger was real; his daughter-in-law was robbed by footpads on Chislehurst Hill as she returned to Bromley Common after visiting friends.  James died in 1787.

His son, George, was born at Bromley in 1756.  He attended a school on Masons Hill called ‘Ravenscroft’ before going on to Eton. In addition to running his timber business, George was a magistrate for nearly thirty years and in 1793 he was Sheriff of Kent.

Land was acquired over the years to add to the estate, including purchases and exchanges made after the enclosure of Bromley Common in 1821.  He bought Oakley House from Major Rohde in 1825 for £20,000.  George Norman died in 1830.

George Warde Norman, who played such an important role in the history of our school, was born in 1793.  After leaving Eton in 1810, he joined his father’s Norwegian timber business, spending much of his time in Norway.  He spoke fluent Norwegian, French, and Italian.  Charles Darwin spoke of him as “my clever neighbour, Mr Norman.”  In 1821 he became a Director of the Bank of England, a position he held for fifty years.  He married Sibella Stone who inherited a large share in Martin’s Bank.

Initially, like his father and grandfather before him, George Warde travelled to work in London by horseback, but, after the opening of the Greenwich Railway in 1836, he rode to Greenwich and finished his journey by train.

George Warde was very fond of playing cricket.  When he played at Eton, the best bowling was a fast underhand.  In 1811, he was the treasurer of the Prince’s Plain Cricket Club which he had helped found.  It met at the Plough Inn and played on the Prince’s Plain field.  (After the Enclosure of 1821 the club moved to Chislehurst and became the West Kent Cricket Club.)  He played in the Kent team until he was in his mid-forties. (See the bottom of the page for details of his first class cricket career.)

He took a great interest in local affairs and was a magistrate, the treasurer of the Bromley Common Schools and Bromley College, and, for forty years, Vice Chairman of the Bromley Union for Poor Relief.  During this period, the Bromley Workhouse closed and a new workhouse was opened at Farnborough in 1845 to serve Bromley and fifteen other parishes.  It was known locally as ‘George Norman’s House'.

The census gives the following information about the Norman household in 1851.

Mr Norman (aged 57; born Bromley; Magistrate, Land & Fund owner)
Mrs Norman (aged 42; born Calcutta E Indies),
Mr Norman's mother (widow; aged 85),
six sons and two daughters (the 9 year old son was described as dumb).

Visitors on the night of the census were the Governor of the Bank of England (Henry Prescott; unmarried; aged 48, born London), 
a captain from his son's regiment (unmarried; 27 years old, born Geneva) 
and a governess (unmarried; aged 29; born Stowbridge, Worcs).

Staff living in the house on the night of the census were:-
a butler, 
a footman, 
a groom, 
a house keeper, 
two ladies maids, 
a  nurse, 
a nursery maid, 
two house maids, 
a cook, 
a  kitchen maid 
and a groom to Mr Prescott.  
All were unmarried.

According to the 1871 census, the occupants of the house were Mr Norman, his wife, 26 year old daughter and 23 year old son together with a butler, 2 footmen, a coachman, a groom, 2 ladies maids, a cook, 2 house maids, a kitchen maid, a scullery maid and a dairy maid.

George Warde died in 1882.  He and his wife had seven sons. His oldest son, George Herman Norman, had already died after being wounded during the siege of Sevastopol in the Crimean War.  

A younger son, Frederick Henry Norman, was the Governor of the Bank of England for nearly 25 years at the beginning of the twentieth century. 

Another son, Philip Norman, made his name as an artist and historian.  It was he who started work on the history of Bromley eventually written by E L S Horsburgh.  One of his paintings is reproduced in the 1980 edition.

It was Charles Lloyd Norman, the eldest surviving son and a partner in the banking firm of Baring Brothers, who inherited the estate.  He was only head of the family for a short time as he died in 1889, leaving three sons including Archibald Cameron Norman.  

Archibald served as a Justice of the Peace for fifty years, and was Chairman of the Bromley Bench of Magistrates.  For forty years he was a member of the Kent County Council, and High Sheriff of Kent in 1921.  It was he who sold Norman Park to the Borough of Bromley for a very low price in 1939.  

When the Rookery was requisitioned by the government in 1940, Archibald moved to Elmfield where he died in 1948. (A 110 years earlier, Elmfield had been the home of a school for girls run by Miss Fanny Shepherd.

Click here for a map showing the locations on the various houses.)

Charles Wake Norman, son of Archibald, moved away from Bromley Common when the Rookery burned down in 1946 but he kept an interest in the area.  His initials, CWN, and the date, 1966, can be seen on a group of houses in Brewery Lane.  His name is on the foundation stone of the rebuilt South Church Room.  

The family no longer lives in the Bromley Common area but they retain a financial interest here, including ownership of the Bromley Common Liveries which provides stabling and grazing for about 50 horses near Oakley.  Their Rookery Estate covers 650 acres.

George Warde Norman's first class cricket career

George Warde Norman
Born September 20, 1793, Bromley, Kent
Died September 4, 1882, Bromley, Kent
(aged 88 years 349 days)
He played for Kent from 1832 to 1838

Batting averages

class Matches  innings  runs  average
First-class  9  11   81   10.12

Bowling averages

class  matches  balls  runs  wkts
First-class   9   0   0   0

Norman education