A Bowie Bust for Beckenham

A Bowie Bust for Beckenham

Italian architect and sculptor, Maria Primolan, is donating her latest sculpture, a life size bust of David Bowie, to Beckenham to help raise awareness and funds for the restoration of the bandstand in Croydon Road Recreation Ground.

At 2 pm on Saturday, August 12th, Maria will be on the bandstand, where she will be introduced to the many hundreds of fans attending the 5th Bowie themed concert, by the Mayor of Bromley, Kathy Bance.

The bust has been hand carved in lime wood and the face is that of the young Bowie who was living in Beckenham when his Hunky Dory album was released in 1971. This album, Maria’s favourite, was rehearsed in the nearby Azelia Hall.  On the album was Life on Mars – another of Maria’s favourite tracks – which Bowie had written on a lovely sunny summer’s day in 1971 seated on the bandstand steps.

In particular, Maria has asked the Mayor “to permanently expose this sculpture in a public area – either inside or outside – on Beckenham territory, in order to make it visible to people and visitors.”

Maria has requested  that “the sculpture must not be sold or given to others in the future: it is a gift I am giving to your community from my heart.“

The title of the sculpture is “GOODBYE MR BOWIE”.

For more information, please contact:

Maria: primolanmaria@gmail.com, site: www.mariaprimolan.it

Cliff Watkins: cliffwatkins61@gmail.com

Wendy Faulkner: bowiesbeckenhamoddity@gmail.com

Professional photo by Antonio Sandro Crisà https://it-it.facebook.com/antonio.s.crisa

W G Grace Centenary Celebrations

W G Grace Centenary Celebrations

The Centenary Celebrations for W G Grace , in Beckenham on Friday 23rd October, 2015,  who died age 67 on 23rd October 1915,

“He  swung his bat and turned his arm on the green and pleasant fields of Beckenham in his last years; his memory remains with us forever.”

On Friday, 23rd October 2015 there will be two W.G. Centenary Events:

1.       At 4.30 pm Derek Carpenter will be conducting a Remembrance Service at W.G.’s grave in Beckenham Cemetery.

2.       At 7.30 pm in St George’s Church, Beckenham, W.G. ‘s life will be commemorated at a Service conducted by the former Bishop of Rochester and Durham, The Rt Revd Dr Michael Turnbull (a MCC member) when the guests will include  notable cricketing names and the BBC Sports personality, Rob Bonnet who will be talking about ‘Cricket and a Beckenham Boyhood’ .

All are invited to the Service when high class music will be provided by St George’s Choir and Peter Warlock’s Cricketers of Hambledon will be sung by the professional singer Malcom Banham who lives in Beckenham.

Background Notes:

The cricketing career of Dr William Gilbert Grace, W.G. as he was known, spanned 48 years from 1861 to 1908.  During his 43 years as a first-class player he scored 54,896 runs, including 126 centuries, and took 2,876 wickets. He made his Test debut at the age of 32 in 1880.

Aged 52 in 1900, when his international career was over, he formed the London County Cricket Club based at Crystal Palace Park, Beckenham. He played first-class county matches with them until 1908.  During these years he often appeared during the annual cricket weeks at Beckenham Cricket Club when he drew huge crowds to Foxgrove Road.

W.G. continued to play minor cricket after his retirement from the first-class version. His final match was for Eltham Cricket Club at Grove Park on 25 July 1914, a week after his 66th birthday.  He died in Eltham on 23rd October, 1915 and is buried in the Beckenham Cemetery in Elmers End.

In October 1998 to mark the 150th anniversary of Grace’s birth, the Revd Canon Derek Carpenter organised a graveside ceremony in Beckenham Ceremony and conducted a service in St George’s Church, Beckenham.

On March 26th  2011, Grace was celebrated in the  Fanfare for Beckenham, Concert  which took place in the Church on March 26th when  the audience were invited to join in the chorus when the Lewisham Concert Band and Paul Allen performed Peter Warlock’s rousing drinking song  The Cricketers of Hambledon.



Arts & Heritage Evening

Arts & Heritage Evening

Venue 28 (formerly the studio)

Friday, 17th July 2015

6.00 pm to 9.30 pm

Come and enjoy paintings by local artists in this wonderful newly renovated Victorian building. Meet the artists. Free drinks and canapés with live music by a jazz ensemble.

Also see the exhibition telling the story of the Clock House District of Beckenham, since c. 1750 and the lives of many notable local people, like Brett, Bride and the Blytons.

For more information contact

Bernard, Belleberry Deli




David Bowie Plaque



Foxgrove Road was David’s first home in Beckenham in 1969 before he moved later that year to Haddon Hall, an Edwardian mansion in Southend Road, where he lived until 1973. 

With friends from Foxgrove Road, David founded a Folk Club in the Three Tuns in 1969. This developed into the Arts Lab which attracted all types of artistic talent from all over London.

The anthem to the 1960’s, Space Oddity, became a hit in 1969 and in 1972 David launched his career with the mega hit  Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

The plaque is not blue.  Blue plaques commemorate the departed.  This plaque is red (Ziggy Stardust’s hair) and gold (which glitters) in celebration of the living legend of Bowie and all those who performed in the Arts Lab and were with him during those Beckenham Years.

The plaque was unveiled by Mary Finnigan and Christina Ostrom at the Three Tuns, then called The Rat & Parrot, on December 6th, 2001.

Thanks are due to the family business of Ridgequest Foundry for the manufacture of the plaque which was funded and erected by the Copers Cope Area Residents Association (CCARA) and the Noble House Pub Company.  The plaque was designed by CCARA member Cliff Watkins who, with Paul Kinder of bowiewonderworld.com, organised the day’s events.

 Design:  Cliff Watkins

Manufacture:  Ridgequest Foundry

Paint:  Bolloms

 The Plaque was funded and erected by Beckenham’s Copers Cope Area Residents Association and Noble House Pub Company.


This is an excerpt from the unveiling of the David Bowie Plaque unveiling video. The original video includes interviews with various figures from The Arts Lab days.

Video ©2001 EditPoint  www.editpoint.co.uk.

Bowie Plaque Day, 6th December 2001. Report on Paul Kinder’s Website 7.12.2001

Yesterday 6th December 2001, Beckenham celebrated their famous former resident DAVID BOWIE with a plaque hung at The Rat & Parrot (formerly The Three Tuns) to celebrate and recognise David’s involvement in their town with The Arts Laboratory he co-founded at the pub.

Some people like to arrive fashionably late, we arrived an unfashionable 4 hours late! And unfortunately missed the unveiling, Steve Harley’s performance and at least 8 pints necking down time. Motorway traffic was horrendous, and chauffeur for the day poor Stephen K drove for a record 7 hours non stop. The journey should of been 4 hours at the most but having arrived in Beckenham via the scenic route we unfortunately didn’t arrive until gone 2 o’clock. Aren’t traffic jams wonderful?

I felt worse for the DJ Craig (aka Tony Day), he’s probably Steve Harley’s biggest fan and sadly missed it all. Craig got his set up, set up in record time and started spinning his discs and doing his thing. He did a grand job. As a special thank you to Craig I had a word with Kevin Cann and explained the situation and he kindly promised he’d sort him out next time Steve performs and get some autographed items. Thanks Kevin 🙂

Pictured here (courtesy of Total Blam Blam and Eddie Harris) are Mary Finnigan and Christina Ostrom who unveiled the plaque, with Mary giving her speech followed by recollections from Christina.

Stephen Roberts says he just watched the the video footage he shot through the day and the evening. There were loads of police there because they were training some new police officers in crowd control, so there were about 10-14 of them. This started a rumour that David was going to turn up which in turn brought more crowds.

Everyone I spoke to said Steve Harley gave a great 30 minutes along with his brilliant guitarist Robbie Gladwell. He performed classics such as ‘Judy Teen’, ‘Sebastian’, ‘Star For A Week’, ‘Mr Soft’ and ‘Make Me Smile’ (Come Up And See Me).

Stephen Roberts performed one song with his acoustic guitar, which went down really well. After speaking with sore-throated Stephen today I get the feeling he’s got some of the old taste back for performing. Go for it son!

Mark Carr Pritchett brought along his Hagstrom 12-string acoustic guitar that formerly belonged to David. Comment from someone in the crowd: “I can’t believe that’s THE actual guitar!”

Paul Henderson and Rob Storm both played great sets and went down really well. How on earth they’ve got the bottle to perform live in front of 150 or so hardcore Bowie fans is beyond me. I think it just goes to show how good they actually are.

Seven piece band Little Wonder performed a great tight set, playing a bag full of Bowie songs. The sound of 7 musicians playing in a very small venue was overwhelmingly wonderful. They sounded absolutely brilliant. For me ‘Scary Monsters’ did it – brilliant! Then to top it all, the encore at the end, Paul and Rob joined in with the band and got the crowd going ape.

A lot of the credit for the excellent sound with all the musicians goes to all the sound engineers. Brilliant job done guys.

Band member Craig from Little Wonder said: “U lot rock! What a great crowd in Beckenham! Thanks to everyone who came – we had a great time. Good to meet everyone. Faces to names and all that.You all know far too much about Bowie, far too much about the songs, and I think you’re all mad as hat stands, but to use the cliche… you certainly know how to party. I know the band loved it, as did all of the other acts. Thanks for a great night.”

The auctions and raffle went down rather well. Big thanks you to everyone who bought tickets and bid on items. All the money raised goes directly to the childrens charity. You’re a generous lot 🙂 All in all, with the collection boxes, raffle, auctions, barstaff charity events, and with the forthcoming DB and Visconti signed photos to be auctioned online – we estimate it will easily reach a thousand pounds raised for the childrens charity 🙂

Apart from this amount there is also the donations to be added from the forthcoming “photo packs” as well as donations from every video sold by Brett. If you saw the photos behind the bar on the large white board, which later raised over £50 each in the auction, these will be part of the special limited edition ‘Three Tuns’ photo pack along with recently written contributions from people who were directly involved in the Arts Lab, will be available to order. Proceeds from the ‘packs’ are to help raise money for the Chernobyl Children Life Line Charity of which Stephen is heavily involved with. Exclusively written contributions from David Bowie, Mary Finnigan, Ken ‘Wild Man’ Simmons, Stephen Roberts, The Diary of Steve Hippy, Mark Carr Pritchett, as well as extracts and information about The Arts Lab taken from various sources. Watch this space for full details in the next few days.

The video shot by Brett Allen to produce a professional record of the daytime events. Brett captured people recalling their own memories of the Arts Lab days. Along with this, Brett is to film various places relating to David Bowie in the Beckenham and Bromley areas. Brett has very kindly offered to donate money to the children’s charity on each video sold. Again, watch this space for full details in the next few days.

Landlord Alan and Tammy did a absolutely marvellous job of pulling all this together. Their generosity in ‘sponsoring’ the children’s charity before and after the event helping raise money is more than we ever wished to hope for. Many thanks from us all.

A big thank you to the barstaff who did an absolutely wonderful job. Dressed in their Bowie T-shirts and Aladdin Sane lightning bolts across the faces, they collected money and sold raffle tickets above and beyond the call of duty.

I emailed David this morning and sent him the above photograph of the plaque. I’m sure he won’t mind me informing everyone that he responded immediately with the comment: “It’s so swishy.” I think you can safely take from that he’s well chuffed about it.

On behalf of everyone involved in this event I would like to personally send a huge thank you to everyone on behalf of the Chernobyl Children Life Line charity who contributed, helped, donated, sung, sang, played, attended, supported, gave money, gave time, gave effort, wrote, reported, filmed, drove friends, travelled, gave encouragement and signed stuff – it was an absolutely marvellous event and fingers crossed it will renamed back to The Three Tuns and turned into an annual event.


A big thank you also goes out to Matthew Fisher who made The Three Tuns a subject of national importance when he nominated its inclusion in the BBC History Magazine Domesday project. *


Last but not least, on behalf of all David Bowie fans everywhere the biggest thank you goes to Mr. Cliff Watkins of the CCARA, who has spent the last six months organising this whole overall event, including a video made by Brett Allen. We Bowie fans salute you… you did the boy proud!


7th December 2001.

BW MB Profile…


*  In the March 2001 of the BBC HISTORY magazine  the winners for their ‘new Domesday Book for the new Millennium’ were featured. In second place was the The Rat and Parrot Pub (aka The Three Tuns), Beckenham, Kent. Nominated by Mr. Matthew Fisher.

This was the venue for Sunday evening meetings of David Bowie’s ‘Beckenham Arts Lab’ in 1969 – an informal gathering of musicians and artists. In the face of local opposition, The Three Tuns was renamed The Rat and Parrot in 1995 and is now part of a chain of similarly branded pubs. The judges were enthused by this nomination and its importance for the history of popular culture, unrecorded at present. It also highlighted the familiar issue of changes to historic pub names. CDW , although the brewery tell us it is not inconceivable that the pub could one day be renamed The Three Tuns. ‘What’s in a name? A lot when you look into it,’



Beckenham Heritage Group

Beckenham Heritage Group – Putting Life into Local History


In 1998 Len Johnson the President of the Beckenham Photographic Society (BPS), proposed that during 1999 members should record life at the end of the 2nd Millennium. This was extended to cover both the years 1999 and 2000. A CD was made of some 800 colour photos of Beckenham, including a selection of vintage images.

These images are now both a record and a part of Beckenham’s Heritage and BPS have authorised the reproduction of the CD images on the BHG website.

This project encouraged BPS member Cliff Watkins to research the history of Beckenham. He discovered the wealth of publications and articles used by local historians Nancy Tonkin and Eric Inman in their definitive book Beckenham, published by Phillimore in 1993. On his retirement from remunerated employment in 1998, Cliff joined many local societies and met many interesting people who instilled his desire to celebrate Beckenham’s Famous – its people and places.

One of these was the Copers Cope Area Residents Association (CCARA) . Eric Inman was a leading figure and, at his instigation, in July 2000 the CCARA 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. Photos of this event were put on the BPS CD and some souvenir postcards were printed.


Following the successful reception given the BPS CD Rom when launched in February, 2001, the following is record of some of the events that followed.

2001 (December 6th) saw the Bowie plaque placed on the historic Three Tuns pub funded by the CCARA and the Noble House Pub Company. A video was made by Editpoint  (who had created the software for the BPS CD ).

2002 (March 14th) saw a Civic Ceremony which honoured the composer Carey Blyton in his 70th birthday year. Again an Editpoint video recorded the scene as guests recalled life in Beckenham in the 1950’s .

2002 (October)  The first BHG Concert took place in St George’s Church entitled Beckenham’s Famous when the Beckenham Junior Choir, the Crystal Palace Band recorded the achievements some 20 alumnae in music, song, poetry and two ‘radio plays’ to a very large audience. A souvenir programme booklet was printed.

2005 (June 18th)  A day long event called Home Front Recall took place, comprising

  1. Publication of the book Beckenham – the Home Front 1939 -1945
  2. Two concerts in St George’s Church: In the afternoon the professional group Forces Sweethearts songs of home and homecoming made famous by  great singers like Anne Shelton, Gracie Fields, Jessie Matthews and Vera Lynn.  In the evening the Crystal Palace Band performed rousing and romantic music of the 1940’s.

2006 (January 14th) Amnesty International’s Gala Concert  in memory of Hugh Bean in St George’s Church took place with programme  notes about  Hugh’s early years when his career as a violinist started in the Beckenham County School.

2007 (June 30th) “Songs for a Summer Night”, the South London Singers’ Silver Jubilee Concert was held at the Methodist Church in Beckenham.  The event was filmed by local film makers Footprint Productions

2008:  Pat Manning and Cliff Watkins published The Story of Beckenham Green following recognition by LBB that the town sign on the Green should be the Coat of Arms of the  Borough of Beckenham from 1935 – 1965. The book was to remind and inform new comers to Beckenham that the Green is there as memory of the commercial heart of the richest borough in Kent and a tribute to the people who suffered and coped with the devastation of WW2.

Also, the second Beckenham’s Famous Concert took place in Christ Church, Beckenham in November 2008 with the same performers as in 2002, plus Beckenham Youth Voices. This time a further 20 alumnae were celebrated. A souvenir programme booklet was printed.

2010:  The chair of CCARA, David Vevers, retrieved the Bowie Plaque from the Orpington Museum (who were not aware that they had it in store). David then arranged with Zizzi for the plaque to be re-fixed on the 3 Tuns building.

In the same year, Cliff Watkins  met another composer who lived in the heart of CCARA territory in The Drive, Gordon Carr.  Cliff was introduced  to Les Lake (who went to Beckenham County School), the Director of the Lewisham Concert Band. Gordon accepted a commission to compose a ‘Fanfare for Beckenham’ for a concert of that name that I was planned  for 2011.

2011 (March 26th):  The concert called Fanfare for Beckenham  and did much to promote the concert of that name in St George’s Church on March 26th.  Les Lakes’s Band and local people and players made the concert a great success with a full house raising £1000 for charity.

2012 (July 7th):   On this day the Beckenham Junior Choir, Youth Voices, the Crystal Palace Band, Royston Primary School’s  and other local performers took part in the third of ‘Beckenham’s Famous’ series of concerts. Called  Fanfare for Penge and West Beckenham’. It took place in Penge Congregational Church, High Street, Penge opposite the historic educational establishment used by Beckenham County School which can trace its roots to Harold Bride’s school now known as The Studio.

2013:  On March 9th the Lewisham Concert Band and the Beckenham Ladies Choir with guests soloists took part in a concert called March of the Women to mark both the 110th anniversary of the formation of the WSPU (The Suffragettes) and 18 other women/womens groups associated with Beckenham. £1,100 was raised for charity.

To be continued

Cliff Watkins 25.11.2013






May Queens

Beckenham’s annual May Day Queen celebrations have been an integral part of the town’s heritage and, since they began in 1920, one of the highlights of the events of the summer season centred on the High Street and Croydon Road Recreation Ground (aka the Rec).

 A short British Pathe film, from 1932, of the Beckenham May Queen.

In 2003 I photographed the May Day Parade from its start from Beckenham Green at the beginning of the High Street by Beckenham Junction Station. I use many of these photos in this article records the march through Beckenham’s unique town centre as its High Street descends and climbs with twists and turns to the end at the War Memorial Roundabout, thence along Croydon Road,  passing the original Cottage Hospital to reach the main entrance of the Rec.

Looking again at my photos I see that most illustrate, in one way or another, the history my home town.  In displaying the 2003 photos again at the start of 2019, I accompany them with a little historical commentary.

When the May Queen celebrations began in 1920, Croydon Road Rec was the obvious place for them to take place as it was Beckenham’s premier park (in terms of location – adjoining the High Street, and stature (it opened in 1890) and range of amenities which were already in use.

The following four groups of colour photos show a selection of the Beckenham  parades and ceremonies for 2003 and 2014, grouped under the following headings:

1.    2003  the Parade marching along Albemarle Road, into the High Street, and down Church Hill
2.    2003  the Parade passing the George and the Three Tuns to the War Memorial, thence past Beckenham Hospital
3.    2003  the Crowning Ceremonies in Croydon Road Recreation Ground
4.    2014  Photos of the Beckenham and Elmers End May Queens.
To see enlargements of the photo, please click on the first image in each of the four selections.
2003 May Day Beckenham

2003 May Day. Start of the Parade

2003 May Day Beckenham

2003 May Day. Through the High Street…

2003 May Day Beckenham

2003 May Day. Crowning Ceremonies

2014 May Queens

2014 May Queens

Events In 1952 … or thereabouts

Events In 1952 … or thereabouts

Beckenham was the most populous town in Kent.

Victor Thornton laid plans to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 by getting the Council to close Beckenham High St. to hold a street party.  The Queen’s  Mother was 52.

Electricity was generated, and exported locally, by a recycling plant at the Churchfields waste depot.

Nobel prizes were awarded to Wellcome scientists based in Park Langley. Other internationally important firms were Muirhead and Twinlocks.

Huge crowds came to see how overseas stars coped with grass courts in the pre-Wimbledon tennis tournament at Beckenham Cricket Club in Foxgrove Road.

The 227 bus took passengers to Chislehurst and the occasional 54 to Croydon.  The 726 Greenline went from Gravesend to Slough .

In winter, the Art Deco swimming baths were boarded over as an indoor venue. Wrestling and 5 a side soccer vied with theatre and concert nights.  Bob Monkhouse starred. More cultural needs were met by national orchestras performing in the Regal which was a multi media people’s palace, not just a cinema.  Carey Blyton competed with his Beckenham Salon concerts.

The parks were used for tennis, bowls, cricket and soccer.  Ablution facilities were limited to a galvanised tank of cold water wheeled in by the park keeper.

 Saturday London evening newspapers had the classified football results  in the shops by 5 pm. Two local newspaper, the Journal and the Advertiser competed.

A full summer programme of events in Croydon Road Rec. included the Flower Show, parades by local scouts and guides and the Hospital Fete.

Beckenham Hospital offered A & E, an operating theatre and ……  Beds.

Flooding was to be expected at Clock House or at Thornton’s Corner. But there were policemen on hand in the Church Hill police station and round the corner in Bromley Road was the Fire Station.

Supermarkets were unheard of. The High Street and neighbouring shopping centres were full of local shops.  Some like Ardec, Furley & Baker,  and Deens Garage are still in business 60 years on.

March of the Women

The Suffrage Movement in and Around Beckenham.

Women across the country had been seeking the right to vote in national elections since 1867, but a national organisation was not formed until 1897. In that year, the National Union of Women¹s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was founded with two branches in London & 18 provincial ones.

Link to pdf file:   March of the Women

An evening of quality music

The South London Singers’ Silver Jubilee Concert “Songs for a Summer Night”  held at the Methodist Church in Beckenham on Saturday 30 June 2007, was superb in every way, reinforcing the claim that they are the leading chamber choir in the area. As well as the 30-strong choir, the concert featured the baritone Julian Empett and the Hammig String Quartet; David Thorne provided impeccable piano accompaniment and the ensemble was conducted by John Nightingale.

A selection from John Rutter’s cycle of British folk-song arrangements, “The Sprig of Thyme”opened the programme, followed by three rarely heard part songs by Edward Elgar, the 150th anniversary of whose birth fell this year – “The Snow” and “Fly, Singing Bird”, both for ladies’ voices, and “Spanish Serenade”, for full choir, the first line of which, “Stars of the summer night”, suggested the title for the whole concert. All three songs were accompanied by piano and two violins, allowing every voice and note to be heard – very different from the full orchestral treatment of Elgar that one hears at the Proms, but just as rewarding.

Fast-forward about 100 years from the composition of these part songs to our own time for the next item, which was the première of Salt Water Songs, a cycle of settings for voices, string quartet and piano by Geoffrey Lawrence. This was a very demanding and “meaty” work, composed especially for the South London Singers, for whom Geoffrey sings bass; and Geoffrey clearly brought to bear his thirty years’ experience as a choral singer in this skilful interpretation of poems by Masefield, Shakespeare and Allan Cunningham.

Two works by Eric Coates, uncrowned king of British light music and a genius at creating memorable “signature tunes”, began the second half of the concert. These were anticipated with great interest, seeing that the programme indicated that the works in question –“By the Sleepy Lagoon” (forever now associated with “Desert Island Discs”) and “Knightsbridge March”, which was long ago linked to the 1950s weekly show “In Town Tonight” – were to be played not by a full orchestra, but by the Hammig String Quartet. In the event, the Hammig captured every resonance and range of tone in such a way that it was easy to close one’s eyes and imagine nostalgically that one were listening to a 40- or 50-piece concert orchestra.

The magic continued with the South London Singers’ and David Thorne’s successful treatment of Carey Blyton’s demanding madrigal-like piece “What then is Love?”, with its sensitivity in the use of dialogue and its skill in imitative part-writing.

The concert ended with the chamber version of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs, featuring Julian Empett. The entire company performed with the blend of ardour and mysticism required by this work, bringing the evening to a rousing close with the triumphant Antiphon, setting the familiar text “Let all the world in every corner sing”.

Cliff Watkins