History of Bromley & Sheppard’s Colleges

Bromley and Sheppards Colleges historyBy Des Blenkinsopp / Entrance to Bromley and Sheppard’s Colleges, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Essentially two separate buildings, both provide accommodation for retired clergy and their dependents. The two buildings comprise accommodation of 47 separate dwellings, with 40 of these being in Bromley College and the remaining 7 being in Sheppard’s College.

Bromley College

Now enjoying prestigious Grade I listing status and founded in the same year as the Great Fire of London (1666), Bromley College is by far the older of the two buildings. Its benefactor was John Warner who was the Bishop of Rochester and his intention was to provide accommodation for “twenty poore widowes of orthodoxe and loyall clergiemen.” He had considerable wealth and spent much of his time touring the West Country, often staying with friends and relatives. Warner took it upon himself to fund the building of Bromley College so that the widows of clergymen had someone permanent to live.

He didn’t originally intend for it to be built in Bromley but wanted it to be built closer to Rochester in Kent instead. However, since a site couldn’t be found to meet his wishes, Parliament passed an Act in 1670 entitled the ‘Settlement of Bishop of Rochester’s Charities Act’ which allowed for the building to be built anywhere within the diocese.

The new building, of course, had a chapel and was essentially built as a quadrangle, which is commonly known as the Wren Quad because it was thought that it had originally been designed by the well-known architect, Sir Christopher Wren. However, it’s now known that Captain Richard Ryder, who was one of Wren’s surveyors was actually the real designer and builder, Bromley College is noticeable for its many dormer windows set in the roof of the building (dormer windows are well-known for making rooms colder in the winter months). The attic was originally used for storage only but it was later separated into sections so that the maid could have more space of her own when she relocated there.

The New Quad

A second quadrangle (the New Quad) was added in the 18th century and was paid for by Maria Bettenson and William Pearce who was the brother of another Bishop of Rochester. Its purpose was to provide homes for unmarried daughters of the mothers who already lived at Bromley College but had died. As far as we’re aware the daughters had previously found themselves homeless after their mothers had passed away. 

After Sheppard’s College was completed, the plan was to enlarge the chapel but because the foundations weren’t strong enough to support this, it was instead rebuilt in 1862. The chapel contains ornate stained glass which features women from the Bible and now benefits from one further addition, a small clock tower.

Sheppards College

Sheppard’s College was the much later addition of the two buildings and wasn’t built until 1840. It was erected in the grounds of Bromley College and was financed by the sister of the President of Magdalen College in Oxford. The aim was to offer living accommodation for daughters who were originally living with their mothers in Bromley College. As you’d expect, it’s Grade II listed and is made up of a terrace of five houses with the central one jutting out from the other four.

Attempt to relocate to Bromley Common

In the earlier 1900s, the trustees wanted to rebuild the colleges at Bromley Common. It was intended to come to fruition after the end of WW2 but the residents of Bromley didn’t like the idea so the plans were shelved.

A bit about us

When we’re not too busy dashing around Bromley fitting blinds, we’re studiously researching the history of our local area including writing about HG Wells, and his disdain for Bromley as well as the history of Bromley Palace. And, if you want a really fascinating factoid, then read about how The Glades in Bromley is owned by the people of Alaska. I bet you never knew that 🙂

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