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