kids encyclopedia robot

St Mary Cray facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
St Mary Cray
St Mary, St. Mary Cray, Kent - - 321895.jpg
St Mary the Virgin Church, St Mary Cray
OS grid reference TQ466680
• Charing Cross 13 mi (21 km) NW
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BR5
Dialling code 01689
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament
  • Orpington
London Assembly
  • Bexley and Bromley
List of places
LondonCoordinates: 51°23′31″N 0°06′29″E / 51.3920°N 0.1080°E / 51.3920; 0.1080

St Mary Cray is an area of southeast London, and is part of the London Borough of Bromley. It was an ancient parish in the county of Kent, that was absorbed by Orpington Urban District in 1934 and has formed part of Greater London since 1965. It is located 13 miles (21 km) southeast of Charing Cross.

St Mary Cray through time

The name Cray possibly derives from the Saxon crecca: a brook or rivulet, but it also relates to a Welsh word craie: fresh water. The Latin word creta: chalk, must not be overlooked, as the River Cray flows over a chalk bed. The village name derives from the dedication of the parish church to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Roman and Saxon remains have been found in the Fordcroft area. An excavation in 1960 was conducted by members of Bromley Museum in Orpington. Members of the Orpington and District Archaeological Society (ODAS) have excavated further sites that have become available.

St Mary Cray developed into a market town. The privilege of holding a market on Wednesdays was granted by Edward I (1272 - 1307) f

The district being an agricultural one, the small population worked on its many fruit farms and hopfields.

The most famous of the early industries were the 17th-century foundries of Hodson and Hull where several famous bells were cast. Christopher Hodson made bells for Canterbury Cathedral and Oxford.

The advent of the Industrial Revolution saw brewing and paper manufacturing grow into principal industries beside the River Cray. Three mills are mentioned in Domesday (1087). From the early 1800s until the Depression in the 1930s, many local workers were employed at the Joynson and the William Nash paper mills.

With the expansion of the railways, the population increased rapidly. The building of the railway viaduct across the Cray Valley is considered to be the origin in 1860 of Cray Wanderers FC who are London’s oldest association football club. Migrant workers came to the district to help construct the giant earth embankments for what became the London, Chatham & Dover Railway. Games of football started at Star Lane, today the site of a cemetery.

In the 1930s the farmlands of Poverest on the west side of the river were turned over to the construction of industrial and office buildings. The factories along Cray Avenue were engaged in industries ranging from paint and ink manufacture to baking and preserved foods.

During and after the Second World War, Star Lane cemetery was to become the burial ground for several airmen of the RAF and Commonwealth Air Forces. Three Polish airmen were also buried here, one of them being Stanisław Grodzicki, who was killed in an air crash over Croydon.

In 1971 the St Mary Cray Action Group was founded. It erected a new village sign, at Sandway, in 1992. John Horam, then the MP for Orpington, recorded in 1999: "The Crays are truly a slice of Kent, on the edge of London, once rural, now full of housing and commerce."


Cray Wanderers FC - Oldest football club in London

Forever Amber - Cray Wanderers FC's history website

St Mary Cray was the cradle of football in London and North West Kent with Cray Wanderers FC having been formed in 1860.

The Romany

St Mary Cray has the largest settled Romani groups and Irish Traveller community in the UK. In the past, hop and soft fruit farms in the area employed large numbers of itinerant workers.

Orpington and the surrounding area was rural, with many farms. Kent had many hop and fruit farms, so Orpington became, along with other areas such as Erith, a stopping area or atchin tan. One of the stopping areas was Corkes meadow or 'Corkes Pit', and Ruxley Pit another. Corkes Pit no longer exists, having been built on, but was near to the gas works in Sevenoaks Way. The other area, Ruxley Pit, was located at the top of Chalk Pit

Many Romany families from all over the UK, not just the Greater London Travellers, stopped at Corkes Pit in the 1960s. The hop farms started to use machinery to pick the hops and didn't require the labour from the travellers, and they started to use labour from abroad. It was now becoming hard to find stopping places, and the council made it hard for travellers to stop. The council had to provide permanent stopping areas for these travellers. One such area is the Star Lane site, which is one of the largest in the UK, and St Mary Cray has the largest group of Romany travellers. The lucky families got plots on these sites and others took houses (kenners), resulting in a great upset around the Corkes Pit area (Leesons Hill). Others moved from Greater London, and continued to struggle to get work and find kushti atchin tans. After the farm work dried up and the travellers could not follow the seasons for picking fruit such as apples (pobble), cherries (gulos), potatoes and hops, and when it became demeaning for the women and men to 'hawk', the men started to look for local labouring work and many families settled. Many of the young travellers are very far detached from the old nomadic life of the Romany people who left India over 1000 years ago, and some are worried that the Romany jib or language will be lost as time goes by. Even travellers in their forties cannot speak (roker) full Romany.

The travelling life is now really over for the travellers, but they still stay in touch with some of their past. Along with fruit picking, the women would make and sell pegs and flowers door to door, which is called 'hawking', and would take things to sell in baskets called kels. This way of selling is now illegal, and has been lost. The Brazil family in Marden, along with others throughout Kent, are trying to show young travellers the past.

Some of the families from Greater London who would have stopped at Corkes Pit are: Clarke,Rutherford, Baker, Buckley, Jeeves, James, Vincent, Chambers, Rye, Friend, Saunders, Scamp, Lee, Love, Jackson, Chapman, Arnold, French, Ripley, Stanley, Crittenden, Price, Webb, Marley, Smith, Roberts, Jones, Philips, Renolds, Verrall, Brazil, Ball, Elliot, Taylor, Tracey, Driscol, Mead, Pateman, Bignell and many more. Most of the families still live in Orpington, and others live in Kent or London.

Famous Romanies from Orpington include: Rose Lee, Gilderoy Scamp, Darren Leigh, Mark Ripley, Johnny Love, Private Pateman.

Battle of St Mary Cray

On Saturday 24 April 1954 a clash between Teddy Boys or Edwardians, as they were then known, attracted attention. The Orpington & Kentish Times had the headline: "Gang Battle" at Railway Station: Edwardian Youths in Half-Hour Fight: Wooden Stakes, Sand-Filled Socks as Weapons". The two gangs were from Downham and St Paul's Cray, and the gangs sported stovepipe trousers, crepe shoes and drape jackets. Trouble had started earlier in the evening when a "rowdy" party of youths and a few girls from Downham Estate, Bromley, arrived at St Paul's Cray Community Centre, where a dance was being held. The paper reported "a knife was drawn when a member of the band objected to being jostled" and "a man had a glass of orange juice thrown in his face during an exchange of words." The MC, George Couchman said: "I warned the crowd police were standing by and also took the precaution of the band playing calming music – no quicksteps." The crowd dispersed at 11 o'clock, but a fight broke out at the local station, and 40 youths were held over night.

Local government

St Mary Cray was an ancient parish in the county of Kent. It formed part of the Bromley Rural District from 1894 and was absorbed by the Orpington Urban District in 1934. The Orpington Urban District was abolished in 1965 and the area became part of the London Borough of Bromley in Greater London.


Like nearby St Paul's Cray, it has been somewhat overshadowed by the growth of Orpington, which now provides local communities with their main shopping and business facilities. Today it is mostly suburban housing, to a large amount of working class and ex traveller people. Originally the main feature of the town was its small parade of shops which was once longer than Orpington High Street. Today, it is the Nugents Retail Park on Cray Avenue which include several large stores including Marks and Spencers and Next. The industrial estates of both St Mary Cray and St Paul's Cray were a dominant feature on Cray Avenue and Sevenoaks Way before Nugents opened however. A lot of these grew as part of the new 'light electrical industries' which were springing up. Throughout the 1950s the area now known as The Nugent housed two large Morphy Richards factories. Their business began in the small factory which used to be by the railway embankment, on the opposite side of the road. They eventually moved out of the area in the 1960s. Other areas are now home to retail outlets such as PC World, Comet, Land of Leather, Homebase, JJB Sports, MFI, Currys, Carpet Right and Arco. These retailers list their stores as Orpington branches. The art deco tower of the Allied Bakery, formerly Tip Top Bakeries, is a local landmark. Just along from the bakery is Lagoon Road so named because in the 1930s there was an outdoor lido called the Blue Lagoon.

Neighbouring areas are Crockenhill, Orpington, Petts Wood, St Pauls Cray and Swanley.


St Mary Cray station is the closest National Rail station.

Bus Routes

kids search engine
St Mary Cray Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.