A Portrait of Beckham from the Directory of 1902

When the Thomson Local arrives on your doorstep I don’t suppose you think of it as a historic document but its forerunner the Beckenham Directory now gives a wonderful portrait of everyday life in Beckenham some 100 years ago, so perhaps it is only a matter of time.

The Directory was printed and published by T W Thornton who were also responsible for the Beckenham Journal, available every Friday evening for one penny and for the provision of a circulating library. On their premises was a ‘Telephone Call Room’ a feature also to be found on the corner of High Street and Albemarle Road. You could reach Podger & Sons, Launderers, Dyers & Cleaners by calling 9 & 16 Bromley. Telephones could be fitted and repaired by G Clarke Cycles on Church Hill.

Some shops could be wonderfully diverse – my favourite is J Shaw who advertised as Tobacconist, Hairdresser and Cricket & Football Outfitter! Filby Hairdressers offered to ‘wait on customers at their own residences’ and stocked a Paraffin Hair Tonic. Lighting was supplied by the Crystal Palace District Gas Company although a station at Arthur Road provided electricity for lighting. Oscar Jones, Ironmongers had a new department offering electric lighting installation and repairs. Horses would still have dominated the roads. Thomas Tilling had Livery Stables at the Railway Hotel (on the Beckenham Green site). There were shoeing forges adjacent to the Bricklayer’s Arms and in Chancery Lane and the High Street had a Saddler, Harness Maker and Wheelwright. Henry Dean, Carriage Builder was at 8 Bromley Road.

The Public Hall had been built in 1884 and was used by the Freemasons, BADS (Amateur Dramatics) and Orchestral & Choral Societies. The Beckenham Brass Band however practised at the George Inn. Between this pub and Kelsey Square was Howard’s Stores & Assembly Rooms, providing two Ballrooms and a Supper Room with ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoon’ meetings. If you wanted to host an event G J Ribbens, Baker Cook & Confectioner catered for functions and provided marquees and waiters.

Cricket was obviously popular. The Beckenham C C, with Albemarle Cator as President, had 500 playing and honorary members with 100 ladies for tennis & croquet. Swimming Clubs were based at Beckenham Baths which had opened the previous year, providing outdoor & covered swimming baths plus first & second class Slipper Baths. Next door was the Beckenham Technical Institute & School of Art with laboratories and workshops which also offered evening & domestic classes. Meanwhile at the ‘Home of Compassion’ at 4 Oakhill Villas 12 girls were trained for service by volunteers. The Volunteer Rifle Corps had been founded in 1899 and had their HQ at Elm Cottage near the Three Tuns. Enrolment was on Friday evenings and the five shilling fee covered kit and the use of the Reading & Billiard Rooms.

The Cottage Hospital had grown from its original provision of four beds to include an operating room and children’s wing. Its annual expenditure of 600 was raised by contributions and patients, who required a subscriber’s letter, paid 3/6 per week. Friends could visit Thursdays and Sundays 3-4 pm. A Dispensary had been established in 1897 to provide medical aid for the working classes making nominal weekly payments. A visit to the doctor cost one shilling but it was 2/6 if he called. B Edwards, Watch & Clockmaker of Rectory Road offered sight testing and the making up of spectacles & eyeglasses. Maids caps & aprons could be purchased at Rouch & Sons or E B Goody and alpine underclothing was stocked at Adam Bros. There was a Home & Colonial Store or John George, Provision Merchant undertook to deliver by 11am orders received by first post.

Things were changing in the town. The River Beck was now culverted alongside the High Street and trees on the approach roads had been felled. The two railways had united to become the South East & Chatham Railway. The population of 26,330 paid a poor rate of 2/7 in the pound and could purchase the Beckenham Directory with map for 1/6. They probably threw it away at the end of the year so we are fortunate that this piece of history is still available at Bromley Local Studies Library.

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