Blackfen has for centuries been a small hamlet in the parish of Bexley in the county of Kent.
Administrative changes in 1894 meant that Blackfen became part of the new Bexley Urban District Council but in 1910 the southern half of Blackfen was transferred to Foots Cray Urban District Council, renamed Sidcup UDC in 1921 and in 1934 becoming Chislehurst and Sidcup UDC. In 1965 Blackfen was united once again into the London Borough of Bexley under the London Government Act. Ever since then, residents have argued over whether the Borough of Bexley is part of London or part of Kent.
Many, and perhaps younger generations in particular, identify more with London. If someone asks where I live, I say different things according to who has asked. Sometimes I say south-east London to avoid notions that I live in a picturesque village, but I always feel a terrible sense of disloyalty when I do this. Usually I would instinctively say Kent.
When I commute to central London each day, I do feel that I leave Kent in the morning and return to it each evening. When driving down the Maidstone Road between Ruxley and Swanley and reaching the ‘Welcome to Kent’ sign, I always protest “but I was already in Kent.”
How has this contradiction come about? Since 1965 Bexley has been a London Borough. We are eligible to vote for the London Mayor and part of our council tax goes towards funding the Greater London Authority. Bexley is under the Metropolitan Police and our regional television is London. However, Bexley does not have a London postcode.
Why does it have such great importance? After all, these are just administrative factors. A sense of belonging is a core part of our being. The Kent motto ‘Invicta’ (meaning ‘undefeated’) was adopted just after the Norman Conquest, and that motto was applied at the Battle of Britain in 1940 which was fought in the skies over Kent. The symbol of Kent, the white horse, is included in the Bexley Borough Coat of Arms.
The only reason Bexley does not have a London postcode is because the Post Office was not able to expand its London postal district after 1965 due to the prohibitive cost. If this changes, is it inevitable that one day people will forget that Bexley was once part of Kent? I hope not!