Bromley Street, BR1

Place Name

Bromley was first recorded in the Anglo Saxon charters of AD862 and AD973 as Bromleag or Brom-leag. It comes from the Anglo-Saxon words meaning the open field or clearings, usually on dry, sandy soils, where the broom bushes grow. It comes from two Old English words brōm and lēah. Common broom bushes (Cytisus scoparius) were a widespread shrub with golden yellow flowers that grew all over the south east. They continued to be a useful commodity up until the invention of the modern broom in the 1800s. J Bryan Lowder in Slate gives a short history of the broom, writing: “Before the 19th century, broom-making was an idiosyncratic art; most were fashioned at home from whatever materials were at hand. The basic design involved binding the sweeping bundle to a wooden stick with rope or linen twine. However, these homespun brooms had short lives and had to be replaced often. The professionalization of broom-making appears to have begun in Anglo-Saxon England, where artisans known as ‘besom squires’ in the southeastern region would take twigs from the many birch trees in the area, trim and then lash them to poles of chestnut and other woods. A bawdy 18th-century folk song called ‘The Besom Maker’ makes fun of a female besom maker’s need to search the local woods for materials, and, along the way, other pleasures.”

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