Origins of Bromley place names
Descriptions of the origins of place names in Bromley, and the date they were first recorded.
Aperfield (later Biggin Hill) - 1242
The open lands where the apple trees grow.
Beckenham - 862
Beohha's settlement. It is assumed Beohha was a Saxon landowner. In Anglo-Saxon the name suggests someone stooped and submissive. The name almost certainly does not relate to the river Beck which was probably named after Beckenham, not the other way round.
Biggin Hill - 1499
The hill next to the dwelling (probably a farm), or possibly 'the hill belonging to Bygge', a Saxon name.
Bromley - 862
The open field or clearings, where the broom bushes grow.
Chelsfield - 1086
Probably the field owned by Ceol, another Saxon landowner who may also have owned land in Rainham. An alternative origin is 'The field on the rounded hill'
Chislehurst - 955 or 973
The wooded hill where the ground is gravelly.
Cray (river) - 814 (Crayford)
Probably 'the clean, fresh and clear river' or possibly 'the river that often floods'.
Crofton - 973
The farm by or on the small hill.
Cudham - 1086
Probably Cuda's settlement. Cuda is assumed to be another Saxon landowner; or possibly 'the farm on the hill' as at Crofton.
Downe - 1296
Simply 'the hill' as in 'The Downs'.
Elmers End - 1226
The end or part of the parish (of Beckenham) owned by the Elmer or Aylmer family.
Farnborough - 862
The small hill, overgrown with ferns.
Foots Cray - 1086
The settlement on the river Cray, home of Godwine Fot.
Green Street Green - 1292
The green near to the overgrown Roman road.
Hayes - 1177
The rough ground covered with brushwood and undergrowth.
Keston - 862
There is little agreement among writers. It is assumed that there was a boundary stone or marker at Keston Mark and that could be the origin of the stone part of the name. The first part may derive from the Saxon name Cyssi or Cysses which may have been a person, a landmark or possibly an early name for Holwood.
Mottingham - 862
The settlement of Moda's people. Moda was a Saxon landowner. The name suggests someone who was bold, hard working and proud.
Orpington - 1032
The farm owned by Orped. The name suggests someone who was stout, active and bold.
Penge - 957
A Celtic name, meaning the hill in the forest.
Pratt's Bottom - 1332
The valley belonging to the Prat family.
Ravensbourne (river) - 1360
Uncertain - May be Rendel's stream from a Middle English personal name, the earlier name having presumably been lost. The Raven prefix is of late origin and so is unlikely to refer to the bird of that name. If the name is Saxon other possibly meanings are 'the fast flowing stream' or 'the crusted (algae covered/stagnant?)' stream. If the name is very old as many river names are, the meaning may be completely lost to us.
Ruxley - 1086
The clearing where the rooks are found.
Historically the area now know as Shortlands was known as Cley (or Clay) Hill, simply because that's what it is. There was a house of that name, which in the early 19th century was renamed Shortlands House (now Bishop Challoner School). Around the same time the area began to be known as Shortlands. Shortlands is a medieval term that refers to the layout of fields. Shortlands is based around the Ravensbourne River which runs by Shortlands Station. The fields would have been on the valley sides. In some valleys fields run parallel to the river, making then long and thin (long lands). Here they ran at right angles to the river up the slopes either side, making them shorter and wider (short lands), hence the name.
St. Paul's Cray - 1086
The village on the river Cray with the church dedicated to St. Paulinus, a saint of the early church who was buried at Rochester in 644.
St. Mary Cray - 1086
Formally called South Cray as the most southerly settlement on the river, it was later named after St. Mary to whom the church is dedicated.
West Wickham - 862
Wickham is a Saxon word meaning a settlement on the site of an earlier Roman settlement. A Roman road passes through the town and it has been suggested recently that the lost Roman city of Noviomagus may have been located here too. The West was added to avoid confusion with the other Wickham (now East Wickham) near Welling.