A brief explanation of Biggin Hill….part four

21.  PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Originally, a horse drawn bus, No 95, stopped outside the ‘Black Horse’ before continuing on its way to Bromley, however by about 1912/13 the horse drawn bus had been replaced by a motor bus. For many years the only bus service to and from Biggin Hill was the 410 to Bromley and beyond, running one every half hour from about 7.00am till 10.00am and then one every hour till about 4.00pm when the service was again half hourly till 7.00pm. The buses then ran one an hour till the last bus at 10.00pm. Currently public transport has improved considerably with a number of private bus operators linking Biggin Hill (and the Valley) with Croydon, Orpington, Sevenoaks, Westerham and Central London.
It is interesting to note that when RAF Biggin Hill was operating the Officer & Aircrew Selection Centre, a candidate who failed the course was given his/her 410, this being their bus pass home, now that the Selection Centre has been moved to Cranwell in Lincolnshire, a candidate who fails to make the grade is still given their 410.
22. RAILWAY??: In about 1900 there was a proposal to bring a Railway Line from Orpington to Biggin Hill, the station was to have been located between St Winifred’s Road and Belvedere Road. The railway never went ahead, possibly because of the steep gradients that would have been encountered.
The only reminder of the time that the railway nearly came to Biggin Hill is ‘Coronation Terrace’, built in 1902, as railway workers homes. You will find Coronation Terrace located at the Westerham Hill end
of Main Road, approximately opposite Belvedere Road.
23. FREIGHT DISTRIBUTION: Mostly freight distribution into and out of Biggin Hill uses the A233
and is either direct from the manufacturer or contractors/suppliers originally servicing Safeway Superstore’, since acquired by Waitrose, this one Supermarket probably accounts for the largest H.G. Vehicles.
24. AIR FREIGHT: There is a small amount of air freight flown into or out of Biggin Hill Airport; which is transported to or from the airport on the A233. The amount of freight that can be carried in this way is restricted by the size of aircraft that is allowed to operate into and out of the airport. In the 1990’s The
largest freight aircraft that could fly from Biggin Hill was the Shorts 360. (5,400 lbs or 2,450kg payload).
Freight continues to form only a small part of the airport’s overall operation.
25. PRIVATE TRANSPORT: The 1991 Census confirmed the fact that Biggin Hill has the highest level of two car ownership (1.6 cars per household) in the Borough of Bromley. This probably results from the poor level of public transport of earlier years and that a high proportion of couples resident here, and both work.
26. WORK & EMPLOYMENT – THE AIRPORT: The Biggin Hill Town Map envisaged an Industrial development of 10 acres of land on Biggin Hill Airfield to provide local employment, mostly manual work. The development of 5 acres (Phase 1) took place in the early 1980’s but provided mostly Warehouses / Storage Accommodation. A further 5 acres of Airport land (Phase 2) have now been developed with ‘Hunting Aircraft’s’ new factory manufacturing interiors for a range of aircraft. The Airport taken as a whole, currently provides employment for about 1,200 people. This figure is set to rise with Biggin Hill Airport being identified as an Outer London Development Center by London Assembly.
27. EMPLOYMENT TRENDS: The majority of the working population of Biggin Hill commute to
professional / semi-professional employment away from the Biggin Hill area, with Bromley, Croydon,
Orpington and Central London being the main centers of employment. There is an above average percentage of the population who have their own business providing employment for between 1 and 10 people, in a range of local services ranging from Garages, Building Contractors, Accountants, Architects, to Business Consultants etc.
28. SHOPPING TRENDS: In 1908 Temples Store was the main shopping facility, situated on the corner of Polesteeple Hill and Stock Hill. Such was business that Temple’s soon opened another store on the corner of Hillcrest and Main Road at a point where Polesteeple Hill used to emerge, both provided everything the early resident could require. Temple’s Store was to continue trading until about 1970. The name of this early store is commemorated by Temple Road located near the top of Stock Hill.
Today, the local shops provide both a source of local employment and shopping facilities. The building of the Safeway Superstore in the early 1980s was to bring about a considerable change in the shopping
habits of the population. In earlier times the housewife with the use of a second car would have traveled to Locks Bottom, Petts Wood or West Wickham to undertake the family shopping, only
returning to Biggin Hill when she had completed all her purchases. The building of Safeways (now
Waitrose) changed the net migration to a positive immigration of shoppers from the outlying areas to do their shopping in Biggin Hill. By the late 1980s this influx of shoppers had lead to the building of a further 9 shops, although of course, there were losses where some older traders were unable to adjust to the new competition.
Following the establishment of Waitrose as the main supermarket for Biggin Hill, the old Iceland shop that used to sell a wide range of frozen produce was replaced by a Tesco Express, situated adjacent to the entrance to Waitrose Car Park.
29. MANUFACTURING BASE: Biggin Hill’s manufacturing base is currently small, the town being predominantly residential in character, with the Industrial Estate on the Airport providing the largest area of manufacturing (Hunting Aircraft). There are a number of small isolated manufacturing businesses situated behind the commercial (shopping) area extending northwards along the Main Road past Kingsmead. There are also a number of businesses, which exist without formal Planning Permission, set up within the residential and Green Belt areas in and around Biggin Hill; the Council endeavours to use the Town and Country Planning Acts to stop these ‘Non Conforming’ activities when they are drawn to its attention.
30. BIGGIN HILL & FARMING: Biggin Hill is surrounded by seven working farms, five of which are owned by Whelan Homes’s Farming Company. Local farming consists of Arable, Dairy and Sheep Farming.
31. CHURCHES: At the turn of the century the area now known as Biggin Hill was part of the Parish of Cudham, however as the community grew it became necessary for a Chapel to be built to serve the area. In 1903 St Mark’s Church was consecrated, no sign of this ‘Tin Tabernacle’ the original chapel remains but I believe it was sited on Main Road on the opposite side of Temple road to the store, approximately at the point where there used to be a public toilet. In 1959, the congregation having out grown the original St Marks decided to move a derelict church in East Peckham to Biggin Hill; this was done brick-by-brick, stone-by-stone and for this reason the Church acquired the name ‘The Moving Church’.
Apart from St Marks the Parish Church there is also a Roman Catholic Church – St Theresa’s located in Haig Road. The local Baptist Church, now named ‘The New Life Church’ has developed a large following which lead to the rebuilding of their church, next to the Waitrose Store.
There is a small Baptist Chapel on Westerham Hill, at the point known as South Street, and this chapel dates back to 1911. There was also a Baptist Mission hall in the valley, situated on Sunningvale Avenue, between Church Side Close and Swievelands Road. I and my colleague Cllr Hanscomb persuaded the Council to purchase this building as a valley Community Hall and in time this evolved into a local Children and Family Centre providing practical support for the young families within the area. Biggin Hill and District Residents Association continue to hold their committee meetings here, meeting on the evening of the second Monday of each month.