Spotlight on Chislehurst
It’s the best of both worlds in Chislehurst; this gorgeous place has all the charm and character of a traditional Kentish village, and yet is also part of Greater London, with easy access to the city and beyond. Whether you want the peace and quiet of the countryside or the hustle and busy of town life, Chislehurst offers it all.
by Lisamarie Lamb
History in Brief
The name Chislehurst is Saxon, and, literally translated, means ‘gravelly wood’. The reason for the name becomes evident the more you walk around the wooded areas surrounding the village; not much has changed in a thousand years. The area was never particularly good for agriculture, so instead the main income of Chislehurst was derived from mining for chalk and lime, and the well-known Chislehurst Caves are part of that mining industry from so long ago.
Chislehurst was first mentioned in records in AD973, when King Edgar gave a piece of land (Chislehurst) to St Andrews Priory in Rochester. It grew from there, really coming into its own in 1865 when the railway was built, and wealthy Londoners found they could move out of the city into more peaceful surroundings, but still commute to the office for work. It was at this time that more and more beautiful houses were built to accommodate them.
From then on, Chislehurst kept growing and adapting, reaching a peak in the mid-1970s after which new building slowed and the village settled back down to an attractive, fascinating existence.
Things to Do
The Chislehurst Caves are probably the most famous attraction in Chislehurst. Every day you can visit the caves and take part in a guided tour, where experts on both Chislehurst and the caves themselves will give you an idea of the history behind these six hectares of underground passages that lie 30 metres below the ground. Your guide will take you on a journey of true discovery, with just a lamp lighting the way. It’s atmospheric, fascinating, and creepy, and shouldn’t be missed. The tours start at 10am each day, and then continue on the hour until 4pm, and last for around 45 minutes. With free parking, a café, and a gift shop, visiting the Chislehurst Caves is an excellent way to spend some time.
Scadbury Park and Manor House
Scadbury Park Nature Reserve is a 300-acre area of tranquillity and beauty. Perfect for taking a long, leisurely walk in, there are a number of public footpaths that will take you through Saxon woodland which includes oak, ash, sycamore, birch, and more. You can even walk to the site of Scadbury Manor House, which, in its time, was surrounded by a moat, and dates back to at least 1424 when Thomas Walsingham purchased it. Although a ruin now, it must have been spectacular once.
Royal Parade is a wonderful place to go shopping. Full of interesting and unique shops that characterise Chislehurst’s village atmosphere, here you can find everything from shoes to menswear, from designer clothing to stunning art. And why is it called Royal Parade? It’s because this is where Queen Victoria loved to shop when she visited Chislehurst.
World of Golf
For golf enthusiasts, Chislehurst’s World of Golf offers ‘the complete golfing experience’. Whether you’re an expert with the clubs or an absolute beginner it doesn’t matter; World of Golf will have someone on hand to give you hints and tips, and guide you on your way, as well as offering a superb driving range that rivals any found elsewhere.
Dolls’ House Parade
Dolls’ House Parade (on Royal Parade) is a charming shop that, of course, specialises in dolls’ houses and dolls’ house furniture. But more than that it gives customers an opportunity to indulge in their hobby, to learn more about it, and to speak to those who are passionate about miniatures and dolls’ houses.
Chislehurst has a plethora of restaurants to enjoy on a night out, and there are cuisines and styles to suit every taste and every budget.
The Imperial Arms
If you are looking for a lively, welcoming, traditional English pub, then the Imperial Arms is the place for you. With superb food, a selection of real ales, and a lovely courtyard for when the weather is good, this is where locals and visitors alike can come to eat, drink, and certainly be merry. At the weekends there is live music, and in the week there is a pub quiz as well as special deals on a lobster meal every Thursday.
Denny’s Seafood Restaurant
Denny’s Seafood Restaurant is actually located inside what used to be Chislehurst Station’s waiting room, so it really is a part of the village itself (and has been since 1985). Here you can eat lobster, langoustine, crab, oysters, monkfish, and so much more – it’s fresh and seasonal and extremely popular. And for those who prefer meat or vegetables, there are non-fish dishes too.
This Italian restaurant can cater to couples or larger parties, so no matter who you are with you can all enjoy the freshly made dishes that include baked stuffed mushrooms, crespelle, and lasagne. And don’t forget the dessert – the sweet trolley is laden with delicious treats!
Chislehurst is a village with a large heart and a fantastic community spirit, so it’s no surprise that there are a number of annual events that take place throughout the year. Here are just a few of our favourites.
Open Air Cinema
The open air cinema opens its doors in July on the Common next to St Nicholas Primary School. Come rain or shine, the film will still play, and no matter what is showing, taking part and even dressing up is something that is definitely encouraged. All profits go to the Trustees of the Commons, to maintain the green spaces in and around the village.
The annual Chislehurst Summer Fair takes place every year on Chislehurst Common – in 2015, it will fall on 20th June. Jam-packed full of arts and crafts, stalls, games, and entertainment, it really is a community event and a wonderful opportunity to meet and greet old friends and new.
Chislehurst Rocks is an amazing free music event that happens every September. With two stages, rides, refreshments, workshops, a fun fair, and animals, this is a music festival with a difference, and it is open to all ages making this a very special family day out at the end of each summer. Past acts include Neon District, The 286, and Night Owl.
Christmas Tree Festival
Christmas is a special time in Chislehurst, with a number of different events taking place. One of the favourites, however, is the Christmas Tree Festival. This is where people can show off their decorating skills, and give others ideas on how it should be done. In 2013, there were over 40 trees on display, and this year should be even bigger and better. It all starts on 29th November, with dance displays, a Christmas-themed café, and various stalls. It continues until 7th December.
Prickend Pond is a lovely place to visit. It is home to a variety of ducks and geese which can be fed (although it is best to check what type of food to give them – traditional stale bread isn’t always good for pond birds), as well as being an enchanting area to walk around.
Did You Know?
When Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon III) was exiled in 1870, he came to live in Chislehurst where he remained until his death in 1873.
If you want to find out more information on Chislehurst including news, events, attractions and more, visit the town’s community website, www.visitchislehurst.org.uk.