Above: Engraving of Kent House which appeared in a two-volume work called ‘Greater London’, produced by Edward Walford, published about 1882. At that time the building was still a farmhouse.
Standing on the border between Beckenham and Penge, the large house derived its name from being the first building in the County of Kent on the local road from London. Eventually Kent House Road took is name from the property. This road and the Kent House Tavern are now the only reminders remaining of the name of the old house.
Kent House was recorded as early as the 12th century as a Norman-owned estate, half of which was leased to the Hospital of St Katharine (near the Tower of London) by 1240.
Over the following centuries the house was owned by a series of City merchants. One was John Styles, who dealt in wool in London and Calais in the 15th century. Another merchant, Anthony Rawlins, died at Kent House in 1694 and bequeathed money to found almshouses. They survive today in remodelled form, at the corner of St George’s churchyard, in Beckenham.
The Russian banker and Lloyd’s insurer John Julius Angerstein acquired Kent House in 1784. He was a very rich man who lived in a grand house called Woodlands near Blackheath. When he died, it was his large art collection that was acquired for the nation and which started the National Gallery. Kent House and its 178-acres of land became a farm from about 1806, with grazing rights on Penge Common.
Above: The original site of Kent House is shown by a yellow circle on this modern street map.
Kent House later became a nursing home and then a private hotel before being pulled down in 1957. Its site is now covered by Beckett Walk. No trace of the building remains to be seen today.