The law said that nobody could buy, sell
or build on common land, nor
could people farm it, unless everyone who had any right to use it . This was one reason why the area was largely unused. The only way
to change this was to get Parliament to pass an Act of Enclosure so that everyone who
had a right to use it was compensated. There had been a
in 1764 but when, fifty years later, there was a proposal to enclose the rest there
was some resistance.
Beans on the Common
In 1819, the Napoleonic war with France was over, a good thing. The down side was a rise in
unemployment, a lot of people in Bromley had no
job. In those days, if you were unemployed and had no money, there was no Social Security:
you went to the parish for help. They came up with a form of job creation, some of
these poor people were employed to plant a crop of beans on the common. Unfortunately, the project was judged illegal and stopped. The
unfairness of this persuaded many people to support the enclosure.
finally passed the necessary act and, in 1821, Bromley Common was enclosed. As part of the enclosure, some of
the common was set aside for new roads, including Brewery Road, Church Lane and
Oakley Road, then known as the Westerham Turnpike Road, was re-routed
away from Oakley House.
Ten acres of land were set aside for a
and two acres for gravel
(The gravel was needed for
all the new roads.)
Ditches were dug to
provide better drainage.
The rest of the common was divided between the people who had to be compensated or
was sold to pay for the enclosure.
The Bishop of Rochester got by far the largest share and
others got smaller awards of either land or money.5
The Parish of Bromley was awarded a mere tenth of an acre.
That small plot of land was used
for six Parish Cottages.
This was probably to compensate
the Parish for the loss of the right to collect
firewood to heat the church.
As the owner of an estate on the edge
of the common, Mr George Norman got a share but
he also bought much of the land that came on to
the market, thereby strengthening his position as the biggest land owner
in the area.
The new owners of the common could now use their land for houses or farming.
Within 20 years, the area had a population of
about 1000, mostly in the south of the area, and they had their own church and a
school. The northern portion of the common was mostly developed in the 1870s
This map shows how the southern part of the common was developed in the first twenty years after the
enclosure. Only the Plough Inn and Skym Corner were built before 1821; they were
just outside the boundary of the common.