How a William H Cook chicken farm hatched history interest of Phil, 39, that led to new book Around Orpington Through Time
PUBLISHED: 14:20 25 October 2013 | UPDATED: 10:58 11 November 2013
Fascinated by local heritage since he was a teenager growing up on the site of the old William H Cook chicken farm, IT consultant Phil Waller has found time to compile Orpington’s first mainstream history book in three decades. He told the Bromley Times what gives it the “wow factor”.
It started when a Ramsden schoolboy wandered into his local library and asked to see an old picture of the former chicken farm on which his road had been built.
“I asked this staunch librarian lady if I could see an old photo of Tubbington Lane and out came this huge book of old pictures,” Phil Waller, now 39, told the Times.
“I was hooked.”
Twenty-five years on, Phil Waller hopes to pass that excitement on to a new generation of historians with his photo book Around Orpington Through Time.
It shares part of its title with Around Orpington, the formidable Dorothy Cox tome Phil spent a fistful of coins on as a teenager – at 30 years old, the most recent Orpington history book widely published, and long out of print.
“Orpington hasn’t had a mainstream history book available in big bookshops for nearly three decades,” said IT consultant Phil.
“The last one published was quite expensive and hefty. It’s a very rare book and out of print – it goes for quite a lot of money on eBay.”
So when Amberley Books asked Phil – who runs the Orpington History Organisation (OHO) – to produce a new Orpington history guide, he could immediately see the potential.
“People across the world will be buying it,” he reasoned. “A lot of people moved out of Orpington in the 1950s and 1960s because there were big orphanages here sending people across to places like Canada, South Africa and Australia, and those people are now interested in their family history.
“There are small local pamphlets available from the library but nothing like this.”
The book features “then and now” pictures of different places in and around Orpington, sourced with help from the council archives, Bromley Museum and the OHO.
Its guiding rule was simple: every page had to have what Phil calls the “wow factor”.
“I was looking for pictures where people would instantly recognise either the old image or the new one,” he said. “When you see the difference, that’s where you get the ‘wow factor’.
“If you show something fantastic like an old manor house you get the ‘wow factor’ from that, too.”
In fact, it’s the old manor house – on the site of what is now Orpington High Street – that resonates the most with Phil.
“It was there 100 years ago and it had ducks and peacocks walking around on the lawn,” he said.
Other favourites include an aerial picture showing the industry that used to be based in St Mary Cray. Appliance firm Morphy Richards and Oertling, who made weighing scales, both had factories there.
Phil hopes the book will be available for years to come so anyone with a passing interest in the area can pick it up – without the hefty eBay price tag of its predecessor.
It’s part of a series of regional history books issued by the same publisher.
If the title is successful there could even be Orpington sequels.
“A picture does paint a thousand words,” said Phil, “so we don’t have to write so much in the captions.”
Around Orpington is available from Monday from booksellers and online.