Bromley (written Brambele, Brambelegh, Brembeley, in ancient records) adjoins the village of Stratford Bow on the south-east. This parish contains between four and five hundred acres of land, the greater portion of which is used for farming purposes. About sixty acres are occupied by nursery-men and market-gardeners.
The village attains its distinctive appellation from a nunnery of the benedictine order, dedicated to St. Leonard, and founded in the reign of William I. by William, Bishop of London, for a prioress and nine nuns. At the suppression of monastic houses this nunnery was valued, according to Dogdale, at 108l. 1s. 11d. per ann. Every domestic part of the structure has long since disappeared; but the chapel formerly attached to the nunnery is still remaining, and now constitutes the parochial church.
The manor of Bromley was long the property of the nuns; and was granted by Henry VIII. after the Dissolution, to Sir Ralph Sadler. In the early part of the 17th century it was possessed by the crown; and in 1620, it was settled among other manors, on Charles I. then Prince of Wales. By King Charles this manor was granted to certain persons, trustees for the City of London, by whom it was sold to Sir John Jacob. It has since passed through many private hands, and is now the joint property of George Johnson, Esq. and James Humphries, Esq. Lands in this manor descend according to the custom of. Gavel-kind.
A second manor within this parish, termed the manor of Bromley Hall, belonged to the Priory of Christ Church, in London. On the Dissolution it was granted by Henry VIII. to Richard Morrison; and, after passing through the possession of various persons (among whom occurs William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burleigh) was purchased, in 1799, by Mr. Joseph Foster, an eminent calico-printer.
The Parish Church of Bromley, which is dedicated to St. Mary, retains some traces of Norman architecture, and may reasonably be concluded to have been the chapel appended to the former nunnery. This is a small building, and has been subject to various alterations. The windows are quite dissonant in character, but not any evince considerable antiquity. A portion of the exterior has been covered with the sort of plaister denominated rough-cast; and at the west end is a small wooden turret.
The interior consists only of a nave and chancel, which are divided by an ascent of one step. At the west end are the remains of a large round-headed arch, with two bands of moulding on the outward curves, rudely carved in the Saxon or Norman style. On the south side of the chancel are the three stone stalls used by the priest and deacons during the performance of high mass; and nearer to the spot formerly occupied by the altar are two recesses, one of which probably contained the Piscina. The arch at the west end is the principal remain of Norman architecture within this church, but there are relics of columns and of pointed arches, now worked into the walls, which would seem to prove that the building was once of much greater extent than at present.
The Communion table is placed in a recess, which was constructed by Sir William Benson, whose arms, together with some other coats, are inserted in the cast window. The roof is supported by plain rafter work. In the chapel of St. Mary was interred, according to Stow, Elizabeth, sister of the good Queen Philippa, and daughter of William, Earl of Henault. On the south wall of the chancel is a monument, supported by black marble pillars of the Corinthian order, to the memory of Abraham Jacob, Esq. who died in 1629. Effigies of the deceased and of his wife are represented kneeling at a desk. On the same wall is the monument of William Ferrers, Esq. who died in 1625. Busts of the deceased and of his wife are represented under arches, in the habit of the times. Their hands are united over that mournful emblem of mortality, a flesh-less scull; and, in the lower division of the monument, is the whole length effigies of a child, a rose in its hand, and its head supported by a pillow.
The other conspicuous monuments in the church are those of Sir John Roberts, Bart. (1692), and Sir Richard Munden, a naval officer of great merit, who died in 1680.
An additional burial ground to Bromley Church was consecrated by the Bishop of London in October, 1813. This ground lies to the south-east of the church, and was attached to the manor-house, a spacious brick edifice, which was built by Sir John Jacob, in the reign of Charles I. and was taken down some few years back. It is observable that on digging the ground large quantities of human bones are found here.
The benefice of Bromley is a curacy. The great tithes, and the advowson, belonged to the nunnery of St. Leonard, and are held by the persons possessed of the manorial rights.
Here is a Sunday School for girls, established within these few last years. Nearly one hundred children are instructed and clothed by this institution.
On the southern side of the road, and in the parish of Bromley, but near the entrance of the village of Stratford Bow, are two ranges of Almshouses, which form together three sides of a quadrangle, having a very neat chapel in the centre of one division. Twelve of these houses were built by the Drapers' Company, in 1706, as trustees under the will of Mr. John Edmonson. The eastern range was founded in 1613, by Sir John Jolles, Knt. and comprises eight dwellings, for as many poor widows, four to be of the parish of Bromley and four of Stratford Bow. Nearer to Stratford is an almshouse, founded in pursuance of the will of Mrs. Bowry, for aged seamen or their widows. The building comprises eight tenements.
There are in this parish extensive calico-printing grounds, the property of Messrs. Foster, which are attached to the ancient manor house of Bromley-hall; and a distillery, on a large scale, belonging to Messrs. Currie and Co.
by J. Norris Brewer