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Bromley heritage: Bromley's last town crier

PUBLISHED: 18:00 12 May 2014

Town crier Henry Checkley. Picture: Bromley Local Studies and Archives

Town crier Henry Checkley. Picture: Bromley Local Studies and Archives

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Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! is a cry that still rings out in some towns in Britain attracting tourists and being something of a novelty but it a sound that Bromley hasn't heard since 1892 when Henry Checkley, Bromley's last Town Crier and Beadle died.

He was the son of a Clergyman and came to Bromley with his widowed mother when she was given rooms at Bromley College. As Town Crier he was an official of the courts and required by them to makes public pronouncements but would also cry out details of local events and important news.

It was a duty that he carried out diligently, dressing in a gilt buttoned frock coat and gold braided hat and carrying a tall staff of office.

He was also the last Beadle, a church official, whose job was to work as an usher during services or outside the parish church gate to keep order and make reports.

He was one of Bromley’s eccentrics who claimed he was descended from the Churchill family and was known for his intemperance. After one bout of drinking two local shop assistants stole and hid his staff, then promptly forgot about it and it was only rediscovered many years later in the back room of Baxter’s shop in the High Street.

In later life he lived in a small ramshackle cottage locally known as ‘Rats Castle’ just off the High Street working ostensibly as a shoemaker but had a few strings to his bow such as having a pony-chaise for hire and being a bill-sticker. He died in poverty in 1892 and is buried in Reading.

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