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History of Penge

History of Penge
  • council: Greater London
  • population: 30, 000
  • phone code: 020
  • postcode area: SE20
  • county: Greater London

Penge was an inconspicuous area with few residents before the arrival of the railways. A traveller passing through Penge would have noticed the large green with a small inn on its boundary.

Penge appears as Pensgreene on Kip's 1607 map. The green was bounded to the north by Penge Lane, the west by Beckenham Road and the southeast by the Crooked Billet. On a modern map that area is very small but the modern day Penge Lane and Crooked Billet are not in their original locations and Beckenham Road would have been little more than a cart track following the property line on the west side of Penge High Street. The original Penge Lane from Penge to Sydenham is now named St John's Road and Newlands Park Road. After the London, Chatham and Dover Railway was built, Penge Lane crossed the line by level crossing. When this crossing was closed Penge Lane was realigned to the east of the tracks until it passed under the railway to the present day Penge Lane.

The 1868 Ordnance Survey map shows the Old Crooked Billet located to the southeast of the current location. This earlier location was on the eastward side of Penge Green, which disappeared as a result of The Penge Enclosure Act, 1827 which enclosed the whole Green. This left the Crooked Billet with no frontage to Beckenham Road, so new premises were constructed on the present site in 1827 and subsequently replaced in 1840 with a three-storey building. This was severely damaged by enemy action in WWII and subsequently rebuilt.

The Crooked Billet is by far the oldest and arguably the most famous public house in Penge. Peter Abbott states that it was there in 1601 and speculates that it might be much more ancient. In modern times it is particularly well known for lending its name as a bus route terminus. From 1914 General Omnibus routes 109 and 609 both operated between Bromley Market and the Crooked Billet following different routes. The 109 was renumbered 227 by London Transport and continued to terminate at the Crooked Billet. (Route 609 was shortened terminating in Beckenham ). At various times the 227 operated from the Crooked Billet to Chislehurst, Eltham and Welling. Around 1950 some services were extended past the Crooked Billet to the Crystal Palace. Eventually alternate buses traveled the extended route until the present service arose at the time London Transport was privatised. The 354 buses now use the terminus, as do so short running buses on route 194 which carry the destination 'Penge High Street' or 358 which carry the destination 'Penge'.

William Hone wrote about a visit to the Crooked Billet in 1827 and included a detailed sketch of the last building on the original site.

Penge is served by London buses routes N3, 75, 157, 176, 194, 197, 227, 249, 354, 356. and 358. The bus station at Crystal Palace lies within the area historically occupied by Penge. This adds a large number of routes that technically serve Penge but are of little practical use to the residents of Penge.

Two A roads, the A213 and A234 pass through the area, intersecting at the Pawleyne Arms pub


Southern trains to London Bridge and East Croydon or West Croydon run from Penge West railway station (originally named Penge but renamed Penge West because of the change of name of Penge East railway station). Southeastern services between London Victoria and Orpington via Bromley South operate from Penge East railway station (originally named Penge Lane but renamed after the portion of Penge Lane in proximity to the station was itself renamed.). The other nearest stations are:

* Anerley railway station
* Crystal Palace railway station
* Birkbeck station
* Clock House railway station
* Kent House railway station

Transport for London has begun work on the southern extension of the East London Line, to be rebranded as the London Overground East London Railway. This will bring services to the Docklands and Shoreditch through Penge West to connect with the North London Line, opening in summer 2010. In the 1860s, Penge was also a terminus for the short-lived Crystal Palace pneumatic railway.

Famous public houses

* Penge is home to a number of taverns and public houses, indeed it was noted in Victorian times for its '25 pubs to the square mile'. The Crooked Billet is by far the oldest and arguably the most famous.
* The Pawleyne Arms is currently the terminus for the 176 bus service. It was previously an intermediate turning point for short running buses on the 12, 75 and 194 bus services, becoming the southern terminus for route 12 between 1986 and 1988 when the route was again shortened.
* The public houses in Maple Road have nearly all changed their names. The Dew Drop Inn is now The Market Tavern (and features in the television series The Bill as the Market Tavern in Canley Market). The London Tavern became The Hop Exchange and then The Hop House. As of 2006, it was closed, and as of 2009 the pub's facade has been removed and the building is undergoing conversion into residential accomodations. The Lord Palmerston has been delicensed and is now a pizza outlet. The King William IV became The Crown and is now The Maple Tree. Only The Golden Lion has retained its name, although it has extended its premises substantially.
* Other public houses in the area include: The Goldsmith Arms, Bridge House Tavern, Queen Adelaide Arms, The Alexandra, Graces (formerly Dr W G Grace), , Kent House Tavern, Robin Hood (closed, subsequently destroyed by fire in 2006 and demolished), Royal Oak, The Mitre, The Goat House (destroyed by fire and now demolished), The Waterman's Arms (now Superdrug), The Anchor (closed circa 1910), The Thicket Tavern and Hollywood East (formerly The Park Tavern). The last named was the venue for the inquest into the Penge Murders.
* Penge also has several clubs including a Conservative Club. The Penge & District Trade Union & Labour Social Club (CIU) built by local tradesmen in 1922, the former Liberal Club closed in 2005.

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