Bowie’s Bandstand and Paxton’s Palace

Bowie’s Bandstand and Paxton’s Palace

Bowie’s iron Bandstand was built in Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham  at the end of of the 19th Century. For 120 years it has been the centre of attraction of the park, the venue for all major public events.

In 1854 Paxton rebuilt the Crystal Palace on top of the hill covered by the Great North Wood in South London on what is now Bromley Council’s Crystal Palace Park. At that time the area covered by the park was 2/3rds in Penge and 1/3rd in Beckenham. The new and greatly redesigned and extended palace and grounds cost almost twice that of the 1851 original in Hyde Park (£1,300k v. £150k)

To oversee the construction of his new iron and glass palace, Paxton had moved into Rockhills (1852 to 1865) an elegant Georgian building with views across the park extending to Vale of Beckenham. After just 84 years Paxton’s iron Palace was destroyed by a mysterious fire in 1936.

By that time iron which had been used in most major buildings and products of the British Empire, had been replaced by steel products by the visionary inventor Sir Henry Bessemer. Henry’s grandson Henry William lived for many years in a 17 room mansion called ‘Park Hurst’ at 12 Westgate Road, on the corner of Foxgrove Road.

In 1969, David Bowie moved into the home of Mary Finnigan in Foxgrove Road. With friends, the couple organised the Free Festival in Croydon Road where David and fellow musicians performed on the bandstand.

44 years later (in 2013) Natasha a young lady from Russia moved into Beckenham, close to the Rec in which she discovered the bandstand. It looked familiar. On her bedroom wall in her flat in Moscow, she had displayed David Bebbington’s iconic photo of Bowie on the bandstand in 1969. Nat asked her neighbours who confirmed it was Bowie’s Bandstand. He had performed virtually on her doorstep. Aghast at its condition she persuaded the Friends of the park and Bromley Council to allow her to organise a concert on the bandstand to raise funds for its restoration.

Natasha contacted Mary who gave her the names of those who had performed in 1969 and others who had come to Beckenham in 2001 to celebrate the unveiling of the Bowie Plaque on the Three Tuns’ pub and/or perform in an evening concert during the Pub during the evening. Movie coverage of this event filmed by Brett Allen is on the BHG site.

I spent 6 months of 2001 inviting support from Local residents (CCARA), designing and obtaining quotes for the Plaque, contacting the media and radio broadcasts, using the Bowie Wonderworld site to invite Bowie himself and fans from all over the world. Some years later I was interviewed for the BBC TV Breakfast Show outside the pub.

In 2013, Nat consulted many Bowie fans, including Mary Finnegan and myself. Nat’s plan caught the imagination of the media and she was interviewed on BBC London news which publicised the forthcoming concert. On the day, it rained but this did not deter the many Bowie fans and former colleagues who had been Bowie’s 1969 Free festival from enjoying a typically wet Glastonbury afternoon.

I attended the Friends of Croydon Road Rec AGM later in 2013. Nat had raised some £8k which she thought would be enough for the Bandstand’s restoration.

But the Friends had got a quote for a complete restoration costing nearer £100k and the AGM attendees were told that a bid would be made for HLF funding.

In 2014 Nat organised a second concert in the park when this time she was assisted by Wendy Faulkner who both contacted Bowie fans worldwide and obtained signed Bowie records and posters. This concert raised £9,000k.

Surely this was good platform to demonstrate to HLF that Beckenham people supported Bowie and the aim to restore their local park’s bandstand?

No, fresh from their failure to secure HLF money for the Priory Museum, Bromley Council’s bid was for a project costing £300k or more, to which Bromley Council, as far as we knew, was prepared to contribute nothing.

Clock House District

Famous Beckenham people and the Clock House District

No.ForenameSurnameProfession etc.SexLocations within Clock House District *
1Dame JulieAndrewsSingerFCromwell Road, Hayne Road, Woodbrook School
2Dr F ABartonScientist/BalloonistMBeckenham Road, Croydon Road Rec
3HughBean CBEMusicianMCroydon Road, BCSB
4Dame FloellaBenjaminTV Presenter and Life PeerFMackenzie Road
5EnidBlytonAuthorFFive Roads, Four Schools, One Church
6CareyBlytonComposerMElm Road, Sidney Road, Library, BCSB
7RobBonnetTV & Radio Sports ReporterMHayne Road, Woodbrook School
8RobertBorrowmanHistorian 1910MAll over Beckenham
9Col Sgt FrankBourneSoldierMKings Hall Road
10SydneyBoxDramatist/Film MakerMBalgowan Road and Technical School
11BettyBoxFilm MakerFRavenscroft Road
12Sir PeircyBrettAdmiralMThe Clock House
13HaroldBrideTitanic Radio OperatorMTechnical School
15Lady AnnabellaByronPhilanthropistFThe Clock House
16GordonCarrComposerMBeckenham Road
17WesleyCarrDean of Westminster AbbeyMBeckenham Road
18ArthurCarrSalvation Army Chief of StaffMBeckenham Road
19HenryCarrArtist and tutorMBeckenham Schol of Art
20PatriciaCarrollMusician - PianistFBCSG
21DavidCaseAir CommodoreMBCSB
22AlbemarleCatorLandownerMThe Clock House
23PhyllisChaseArtistFQueens Road, St Christophers School
24GrahamClarkeArtist and authorMBCSB, BSA
25PaulCreswickAuthorMKings Hall Road
26CharlesDarwinScientistMBeckenham Road
27WalterDe La MarePoetMMackenzie Road
28Syme &DuncanBuildersMBeckenham Road
29WilliamEdenLand ownerMWest Beckenham area
30Edith MargeryFoxHeadmistressFBCSG
31PeterFramptonRock StarMBCSB
33JohnFrostSingerMCromwell Road, Sidney Road
34MonicaFurlongWomen's RightsFLennard Road, Holy Trinity Church
36DuncanGoodhewOlympic Swimmer - BronzeMBSC
37EdwinGreenfieldArtistMTech and BSA
38L/Cpl JohnHarman VCSoldierMShrewsbury Road
39C. WalterHodgesArtistMCromwell Road
40SheilaHodgsonAuthorFCroydon Road,
41EricInmanHistorianMCroydon Road Rec
42Captain O PJonesAirline PilotMTechnical School
44JohnMannActor -Dick Barton's #2MCromwell Road
45JohnMantleFilm MakerMCroydon Road, Broomfield Road
46CatherineMarshPhilanthropistFAll of Beckenham
47JefferyMatthewsStamp DesignerMKings Hall Road
48JohnMilesGraphic DesignerMBSA
49BobMonkhouseActorMb. Bromley Road, performed many places
50DavidMunroImpresarioMBCSB, Village Way,
51MaryPotterArtistFBeckenham Road, St Christopher's School
53MrsRichardsRestaurateurFBeckenham Road
54MollieRussell-SmithArtist and poetFCromwell Road, BSA
55GeoffryRussell-SmithComposerMClock House Road
56LionelSawkinsMusic EditorMAldersmead Road
57Frank & PeggySpencerBallroom DancerMRoyston Road
58VictorThorntonTheatrical Director and BJ ownerMTechnical School
59NancyTonkinAuthor & AnglerFBlandford Road
60SusanTonkinRAF Group CaptainFBlandford Road, BCSG
65L.W. 'Jumbo'WhiteHeadmasterMBCSB
66T. W. 'Tom'WilliamsCreator of Top of the FormMTech and BCSB
68GarnetFrostArtist + Save the Studio/LibraryMCromwell Road and Clock House Parade


Abbreviations BCSB Beckenham County School for Boys
  BCSG Beckenham County School for Girls
  BSA Beckenham School of Art
  BSC Beckenham Swimming Club

Elmers End Cemetery

Beckenham Crematorium and Cemetery  is  the full name for the facility which opened in 1876 as the Crystal Palace District Cemetery  – see poster below. 

The aerial view painting used in the poster shows that the 41 acre site remains largely unchanged today. After one of two chapels was closed in 1956 the other was converted to provide both a chapel of rest and a Crematorium.

On the right of the picture can be seen a steam train running from Crystal Palace to Birkbeck stations. Today this line has become used jointly by British Rail and the East Croydon to Beckenham Junction trams.

For information about each of 130 World War I casualties who are remembered in the Cemetery can be seen elsewhere on the BHG website here.

In addition there are two memorials to:

  1. 21 members of the Beckenham Auxiliary Fire Service who were killed in the course of a single night (19–20 April 1941) during a German raid on the East End of London in World War II.
  2. Members of Beckenham’s Civil Defence forces .

Bandstand Restoration Council Minutes

Meeting: 10/10/2018 – Environment and Community Services Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee (Item 20)


Additional documents:

·                                 Appendix 1 for CRRG Bandstand Project, item 20 PDF 5 MB

·                                 Appendix 2 for CRRG Bandstand Project, item 20 PDF 708 KB


Report ES18072

Members supported funding proposals for the restoration of the Croydon Road Recreation Ground bandstand, Beckenham.

A specialist structural survey in 2013 identified the bandstand’s condition as deteriorating with significant repair works needed to prevent further decline and ultimate removal of the asset. Croydon Road is the last remaining bandstand in Council ownership. With significant local support for the restoration, the Friends Group at Croydon Road Recreation Ground and other partners, including Memory of a Free Festival, have been actively fundraising towards the cost of repair works.

The current bandstand floor space is insufficient to accommodate some performance groups (e.g. an orchestra) and temporary staging will be purchased and a flat base circular pathway incorporated into the design to maximise space. Such improvements will ease utilisation of the bandstand by musical and theatrical groups.

Although a previous application under The Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) ‘Heritage Grant’ programme was unsuccessful in 2015, a revised one-stage application is currently being prepared under the ‘Our Heritage’ programme providing grants from £10k – £100k. With the level of match-funds secured, required funding has reduced to less than £100k. As lead applicant, L B Bromley will receive all grant money with idverde and the Friends of Croydon Road Recreation Ground acting as delivery partners. Amey Ltd will procure and oversee delivery of the capital restoration works and idverde will deliver the remainder of the project.

Report ES18072 also outlined the terms and conditions of grant should an application be successful. A grant application is expected to be submitted during November 2018 with notification of the outcome expected during January 2019.

Amey Ltd carried out a competitive tender for the major repair works in February 2018 using their own preferred supplier list and the cost for the work based on the lowest tender and inclusive of fees, was estimated at £191k. Amey’s preferred supplier agreed to hold their tender price until summer 2019, to allow the HLF bid to be processed. Additionally, a number of minor works are valued at £14k (funded from the HLF grant), including the design, production and installation of an interpretation panel and staging enabling increased use of the bandstand.

A total project budget of £245k over a 12 month period is required, inclusive of a 10% contingency throughout the project, split between capital works, equipment, and associated project management costs, at approximately £205k, and revenue costs estimated at £40k. An application is expected to be made for a grant of £89k with the balance of £156k coming from match-funding.

Should the application be successful, the project is anticipated to commence in March 2019 with three grant instalments: 50% up-front; 40% on expenditure of the first instalment; and 10% on completion of the project. Subject to grant timings, capital works could commence late spring 2019 and complete by summer 2019. Expenditure on events and activities to encourage use of the bandstand is expected to be on-going throughout 2019 into 2020.



Beckenham’s Fire Stations

There are three fire station buildings in Beckenham. In the year 2000, the Copers Cope Area Residents Association marked the Millennium by placing a Plaque above the Water Spout on the building used by Beckenham’s first Fire Brigade from 1872 to 1884. The project was proposed by a CCARA member, the imminent local historian Dr Eric Inman. After the ceremony……

Link to pdf file


The 54 Bus Route

In days of yore, the 54 bus passed through Beckenham from Croydon to Woolwich Arsenal. It had been the main bus route linking Woolwich, Lewisham, Beckenham and Croydon since the 1920s. Since the introduction of the trams in May, 2000, the 54 bus has terminated at Elmers end Station.

On 3 May 2014…Link to pdf file

Bromley Road

The Story of Bromley Road, Beckenham by Cliff Watkins.
We begin at the Beckenham end of Bromley Road where it meets the High Street. On the corner is the
Parish Church.
St George’s Church – the ‘Cathedral of North West Kent’ – is Beckenham’s equivalent to Westminster Abbey…

Link to PDF file

Village Way

Village Way

The photo below is a postcard franked 1935. It shows how the road was laid out curving gently away from Beckenham High Street.


The photo below was taken in 2013:


Village way runs from the High Street for over a mile to Upper Elmers End Road near Eden Park Station.

It is unique in that it is bordered by three parks.  From the High Street end, these are Croydon Road Recreation Ground on the right and a half mile further along on the same side is Crease Park.

Before the third park are the traffic lights at the cross roads (with Stone Park Avenue on the right and Crossways Road).  When the road was first built, these cross roads were at the highest point in central Beckenham at 175ft above sea level. (Within the Beckenham UDC area, the highest point was at Rock Hills (Paxton’s home) which is 280ft.)  Because of accidents Stone Park Avenue was lowered to give better visibility to traffic.

Beyond the crossroads in Village Way, on the left is Harvington Recreation Ground adjoining St John’s Church at EdenPark.

villageway5Village Way did not exist when this map was published circa 1911.

Later it would join the High Street south of ‘The Cedars’ (formerly ‘Village Place’) through the field shown between Elm Cottage on the left and Austin’s pork butchers shop next door to the Three Tuns P.H. on the right.

Since the Boer War, Elm Cottage had been the local headquarters of a battalion of the West Kent Regiment.



villageway3The next map was published in 1930.  Village Way is shown as a cul de sac.

The Cedars has been replaced by a shopping parade and its land used for the 1920’s housing estate which began with The Drive opposite the Pavilion Cinema. The cinema opened in 1914.




villageway4This 2012 map was supplied by Bromley Borough Council.  Both the cinema and Austins have been replaced by shops.

The Three Tuns building, now Zizzi, is hidden on the map by the new private road called Coopers.

On the left, St Edmund’s Catholic church is shown but unnamed on the map. Sainsbury’s is not labelled except for its car park.


Croydon Road Recreation Ground

Croydon Road Recreation Ground.

This park is in the centre of the Town with easy access from the High Street. It opened in 1891 after action by leading members of the community, led by the proprietor and publisher of the town’s newspaper, the Beckenham Journal, T.W. (Tom) Thornton. Beckenham’s population had grown tenfold since the railway arrived in 1857 and they feared there would be no open spaces left.

The park proved to be a popular venue for recreation, civic activity, fairs and exhibitions. In 1905 it saw the launch of the first airmail in a gas filled balloon.  Harold Bride, the radio officer on the Titanic was given a heroes welcome when he was carried around the park shoulder high and asked to speak from the band stand. Charity events raised large sums for Beckenham Hospital and the annual flower show matched Chelsea.

It was part of the Charter celebrations when Beckenham became a Borough in 1935 (see newsreel film here).

The most significant event in the post war years was the use by David Bowie and the Beckenham Arts Lab who held a Free Festival in the park in 1969 – the first of the future King of Rock’s four formative years in the town.

During the last 20 years the park became neglected. The bosses in the NHS decreed that all funding for the Hospital should come from HMG and it was saved from closure by protests chaired by Nurse Eileen Howard. The only regular event was the bonfire night fireworks display. In particular, the bandstand showed signs of neglect until a young lady from Russian arrived in Beckenham in 2012. She galvanized the Friends of the park to support her idea to stage a Bowie themed event in September 2013 which raised £8,000 for a new roof.  This spurred the Borough Council into action and an appeal for support  for a bid for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund has been made.  See below: