Stop 10: Chislehurst Commons - The Cockpit

Chislehurst Commons
Looking across the Commons to St Nicholas church
Still the heart of the old village

This piece of common land, at the heart of Chislehurst, is part of Chislehurst Commons, owned by the lord of the manor, protected under the terms of the Metropolitan Commons Supplemental Act 1886, and managed by the Trustees of Chislehurst Commons.

There are three main areas of common: by the parish church, where you are now; the area around the cricket ground and Mill Place; and the largest section which begins in the east by Camden Place and continues between Prince Imperial Road and Bromley Road, across Centre Common Road as far as, and just beyond, Kemnal Road. This last part of the Commons extends down to the High Street, as we shall see shortly. St Pauls Cray Commons, also managed by the Trustees, lies to the south east of Chislehurst straddling the road to Orpington.

The work of the Trustees of the Commons is funded partly by grants from Bromley Council, and increasingly by private donations.

The action by residents to protect the Commons was extremely controversial. Hearings were held in Chislehurst in 1885, at which feelings ran very high, as shown in the reports printed in the Bromley Times here... and here...

The Commons were always regarded as belonging to the residents, even though owned by the Lord of the Manor, as this epigram, quoted in Webb's History (page 241 of the 1999 edition), indicates:

'Tis bad enough in man or woman
To steal a goose from off the common;
But surely he's without excuse
Who steals the common from the goose

Note the depression in the ground in front of the church. This is the Cockpit, presumably so called as it was used for cockfighting. It was probably created by building materials for the church being dug out here.
Enter St Nicholas churchyard