Orpington (Orpedingetune) is recorded in the Doomsday book (11th Century) and Bishop Odo, William the Conquerors half brother, owned the Manor of Mayfield of which most of the current ‘Central Orpington’is now built on. All Saints Church was built in Saxon Times (1173) and is the oldest building in the area. In the 18th and 19th centuries St Mary Cray was the primary town. St Mary Cray High Street has some of the oldest buildings in the area. Agriculture (big farms), light commerce and light manufacturing were the economic bedrock.
Then came the railway! The mid 11th century saw the face of the UK change forever and Orpington was not going to be an exception. The industrial revolution had touched the area in St Mary Cray in the form of Mills, an Iron (Bell) Foundry and housing for Kent Miners but the big change was when the London Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) built its line out from London (Victoria) through to Kent (the line that has the current St Mary Cray railway station on it). St Mary Cray immediately benefited. The red brick arched viaduct and many buildings in St Mary Cray High St were created and many ‘Victorian’ houses were built around the area (it was even called New Town).
1800’s CRAY COTTAGES 1800’s HIGH STREET
St Mary’s Church now
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.
St. Mary Cray was once called South Cray and is first mentioned in 1032, when King Canute’s Treasurer gave the land to Christ Church Canterbury, who kept it until surrendered the dissolution. It is ‘Sudcrai’ in the Domesday Book, ‘Creye sancte Marie’ in 1257, ‘Seynte Mary Crey’ in 1270 that is ‘estate on the River Cray with a church dedicated to St Mary’. The whole centre of St.Mary Cray was blown up by a landmine overnight in 1941 and nothing was left.
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.
St Mary Cray now:
is an area of southeast London, and 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.