Bromley Common and its Schools
Mrs Norman Robbed
One night, about 200 years ago, a coachman called Thackeray was driving a carriage slowly and carefully down Chislehurst Hill. A footman was sitting beside him to open gates and leave him free to give all his attention to the horses. Inside the carriage sat Mrs George Norman, who had been to dinner with some friends in Chislehurst.
They were on their way home to Bromley Common. Sleepily, Mrs Norman took out her watch (wrist watches had not yet been invented) and laid it on the seat beside her.
Suddenly, at the bottom of the hill, they were brought to a stop. A band of men came out of the woods and surrounded them. They were being held up by footpads.
There was nothing they could do. Thackeray and the footman had to empty their pockets and Mrs Norman had to hand over her purse. The robbers did not notice her watch on the carriage seat.
Before they left, the footpads shook hands with their victims. They thought it would make the victims unwilling to speak out against them if ever they were caught.
When they took Mrs Norman's hand, their rough grips crushed her fine diamond ring into her fingers. She nearly cried out in pain but she realised that if they guessed the ring was there, she would have to give it up. She bore with the pain, and luckily they did not feel her ring through her glove.
At last they let the coach drive on. Thackeray felt sure that he had recognised the voice of one of the footpads as that of man living in Bromley. As soon as he got Mrs Norman safely home, he rode off and banged on this person's door. The poor man was in bed asleep and no doubt very angry at being woken up and called a footpad. Thackeray realised that he could never have walked all the way from Chislehurst Hill to Bromley in such a short time. They never did find the robbers.
Of course Mrs Norman's children used to love hearing about the footpads and one day, when he was an old man, her son wrote the story down so that it should not be forgotten.
He was the Mr George Warde Norman who was so important in the early history of our school. This version is based on an article in Holy Trinity’s parish magazine by Judith Packe, his great, great granddaughter.