Historically a market town, chartered in 1158, Bromley was an ancient parish in the county of Kent.Its location on a coaching route and the opening of a railway station in 1858 were key to its development, and the shift from an agrarian village to commerce and retail. As part of the suburban growth of London in the 20th century, Bromley significantly increased in population and was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1903. A commercial and retail district, it has been part of Greater London since 1965.
The history of Bromley is closely connected with the See of Rochester. In AD 862 Ethelbert, the King of Kent, granted land to form the Manor of Bromley. It was held by the Bishops of Rochester until 1845, when Coles Child, a wealthy local merchant and philanthropist, purchased Bromley Palace (now the hub of the Bromley Civic Centre) and became lord of the manor. The town was an important coaching stop on the way to Hastings from London, and the now defunct Royal Bell Hotel (just off Market Square) is referred to in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was a quiet rural village until the arrival of the railway in 1858 in Shortlands, which led to rapid growth, and outlying suburban districts such as Bickley (which later overflowed into Bromley Common) were developed to accommodate those wishing to live so conveniently close to London.