My Penge: Helen

‘It’s a genuine community’

Helen, an executive director in the public sector, has lived on St John’s Road for 16 years. She’s the interim chair of the Penge Cycle Club.

My favourite thing about Penge is all the new initiatives that are happening at the moment. I’m especially excited about the Bridge House Theatre – I’m on the advisory board and I’m helping them engage with the community and link in with the local councillors.

My least favourite thing about Penge is the missed opportunity for keeping that amazing market going in Maple Road. We’ve let something precious go there – it’d be great to recreate it.

You should move to Penge because it’s a genuine community. There’s a really interesting mix of people. It’s child friendly – my kids have done really well at the local schools. And there’s a very vibrant creative arts scene developing, too.

I wish Penge had more support from public authorities, including the Council and the NHS. It’s been a neglected part of the London Borough of Bromley for a long time, and there just hasn’t been the investment that other parts of the borough have had. The dynamism we’re seeing at the moment is coming from within Penge, from local people and local businesses.

When I fancy a night out in Penge, I go to Bluebelle Café in Maple Road. My friend Erica runs it, and every six weeks or so they have music nights with amazing live blues and jazz.

On a typical Sunday morning in Penge you’ll find me out on my bike with the Penge Cycle Club.

The best thing in Penge for keeping kids entertained is Go Ride Penge, run by Penge Cycle Club. It’s on Saturday mornings at Alexandra Junior School. We run fun skills sessions and group rides for kids aged 4 and up.

My favourite bit of Penge trivia is that there used to be a button factory on Maple Road that made 300 million buttons a year.

The thing I wish people knew about Penge is that there was a really vibrant creative community here back in the day – and now there is again, with the Bridge House Theatre. More and more people are finding out about it, but I want it to become much better known.



'My Penge: Helen' have 8 comments

  1. 20th December 2014 @ 1:22 pm Helen Parker

    I’m no cyclist, (tried twice, fell off both times,) but apart from that link, Helen is so right, with the Alexandra Nursery, The Blue belle evenings, (shsh don’t tell everyone, we might not get in) A fabulous butchers, (Murrays) other great cafes, (kaffe Kasbah for example, ) Craft fairs at the Congregational Church, Penge is on the up… To be honest, it had begun to feel as if that was the only way for it to go, but here’s to all the people with energy and vision making it happen!


    • 22nd December 2014 @ 11:28 pm Helen

      Thanks Helen. We Helen’s must unite! And I agree, there is so much happening in Penge. Poor Laura, when she interviewed me, I kept reeling off fantasic things that are going on. It was a real challenge to restrict the word count. Or maybe I just talk too much…..Anyway, if you’d like help to get back on a bike, let me know. We support everyone to acheive their cycling aims at the Penge Cycle Club; from kids coming off their stabilisers for the first time, kids wanting to skill up and have fun, younsters inspired by amazing UK cyclists to strt competitive league cycling, people who used to cycle in their youth and need to have support to gain confidence an get back on a bike, right through to the club rides including the lycra speed guys (men and women) that just flash past on their way to those Surrey Hills on a Sunday morning. Something for everyone and a great social life too :)


      • 18th February 2015 @ 9:59 am Edward Nightingale

        Hullo! Your mention of the button factory reminded me of its demise. There was a fire and some explosions, due to the raw materials, I suppose. There were buttons everywhere afterwards, and I found them for years in my garden half-way up Genoa Rd — not v near.

        There was also a pencil factory at the top of Jasmine Grove which I remember chiefly because my daughter, my wife, and I got in involved with, when it had become the home of a commune, made up of very different types of people — a wealthy American girl, having a kind of hippie gap year, a very efficient German girl doing her mild version of the Red Brigades– and then a bunch of no-hopers. My daughter helped with the heath food shop. There were endless meetings, where one squatted on the floor, and where, it being alternative and all, everyone had to agree every decision. It was awful, but not as bad as hearing the poetic offerings of people who had been smoking too much all day. I put an end to it (for me) after some layabout made the comment ”It’s alright for you, man, you’ve got a house, no hassle” No hassle! And me working my butt off to pay the mortgage. I’m still cross…. Maybe someone will write an Alternative History of Penge, no hassle.


        • 11th March 2015 @ 1:29 pm Karen

          Dear Edward,
          I am researching for a novel set in Penge at the moment and was wondering if could can let me know when the pencil factory was? Also the commune – was it the 1970′s/80′s?
          Many thanks in advance


          • 13th March 2015 @ 1:04 am Edward Nightingale

            Hi Karen,
            I just saw this. It is rather lost in the mists of time, but I would think it was mid to late 70s, going from my daughter’s age. I can ask her if you like – man.

            My late wife was made Treasurer ( which even then, I remember thinking a bit sad: these people who were changing the world, still appointing the usual offices of every committee ever). Unfortunately for some, she came from a business minded family ( they owned Sobranie, which made Black Russian cigarettes), so that when some guy would knock on the door and ask for money (because he needed some gear, man) she rather inconsiderately would refuse.
            I don’t recall a lot. I do remember thinking that the American girl and German girl, nice enough, were acting like Will o’ the Wisps for the less fortunate. When they got fed up, or things went wrong, they could call it a day, go home, and have successful careers.

            Let me know if you would like me to pump my daughter for more info.
            xx Edward

          • 13th June 2015 @ 10:46 am mark

            my brother lives in bromley ,i used to come up from bristol and help in the junk antique shop in maple road .i remember veg stalls all way down,loved working in the shop only know owner as PHIL with BRIAN shop next door,old bloke with pony tail. PHIL was so funny loved the bloke to bits ,miss all that so much..cant understand why they dont have junk antique stalls there evry sat or sunday ..with the london markets disappearing fast and the money in crystal palace someone would make a bomb

  2. 12th March 2015 @ 8:32 am Emma

    Loving these “my penge” columns..but I think you need to get some “real true born here” penge characters to answer these questions.
    My grandad is 90 this month, has lived here all his life, his mum owned the sweet shop up near crystal palace, he married a penge girl (one of those Arpley Road lot) and brought up family here…as in I still live here 44 years down the line.


    • 12th March 2015 @ 5:03 pm Paul Mawdesley

      Hi Emma

      We’d love to hear from your grandad! We have been trying to find a suitable Pengeite who spans plenty of decades and sounds like he’s the man. Can you email ptb-team@outlook.com with a suitable contact address/number? Many thanks

      Team PTB


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