The Village High Street.
When we talk of The Village we naturally think of the High Street as the centre of village life, with tradesmen, shops and public houses serving the Manor Houses and Estates and the workers on those estates. The central figure was the Village Squire, the last of whom in Beckenham was Cornelius Lea Wilson, who died at Village Place in December 1911 at the age of 96.
Starting at the lower end of the High Street there were:-
BECKENHAM LODGE which stood at the junction of Croydon and Beckenham Roads. Up to about 1810 it was occupied by the Banyer family, then by Hulbert Wathen who, in 1842, sold to John Woolley. The grounds extended along Beckenham Road as far as Queens Road with the front entrance by Westfield Road, and the estate Bailiffs cottage was one of a pair which stood on the present comer of Elm Road, opposite the Baptist Church. In the grounds were some Cedar trees which gave the name to Cedars Road when the house was pulled down for road developments.
VILLAGE PLACE, formerly THE CEDARS again because of the Cedar trees in its grounds, was built in the early part of the 18th century by William Davis on the site of a former house. The grounds extended along the back of the High Street as far as Church Hill with the Beck flowing through part. An old map shows parkland extending to Kent House and marked 'Beckenham Park'.
Alderman Richard Lea resided at Village Place, and in 1828 Col. Samuel Wilson, who in 1838 was Lord Mayor of London, a J.P. for Kent and Westminster, and Harbinger to the Queen. Later the Lea family intermarried with the Wilsons to give us the Lea-Wilson family connection familiar to many 'Old Villagers'.
The coach of Squire Lea Wilson was a familiar sight in the Village, and on Church Hill there stood a Gazebo, used as a lookout for the coach returning from London, via Lewisham. In 1926 this Gazebo was purchased by Mr. T.W. Thornton and re-erected in his garden off Kelsey Square where it remained until destroyed in the development of Thornton Dene, off Greenways.
Village Place was used as a Military Headquarters during the first World War and was demolished in 1920 when the Rectory Estate was developed, The Drive being part of the old mansion drive. The parade of shops in the High Street was called Cedars Parade.
ELM COTTAGE stood opposite the entrance to Village Place, and was so called because of a large Elm tree in the grounds, measuring nearly 15 feet in circumference and standing 100 feet high. Tradition says that this building once stood in Wickham Road and was moved brick-by-brick to the new site!
Rev. Andrew Brandram, M.A., Rector of Beckenham from 1838 to 1850, lived there at one time, but later Mr. Legg used the building as stables for the local horse-bus. In 1900 the Cottage was used as a Territorial Headquarters for the Volunteer Corps, from which some men went to the Boer War; and it was also used by the Territorials up to the time of the first world war.