Orpington is a suburban town and electoral ward in South East London and is a part of the London Borough of Bromley. It forms the southeastern edge of London's urban sprawl and is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.
Stone Age tools have been found in several areas of Orpington, including Goddington Park, Priory Gardens, the Ramsden estate, and Poverest. Early Bronze Age pottery fragments have been found in the Park Avenue area. During the building of Ramsden Boys School in 1956, the remains of an Iron Age farmstead were excavated. The area was occupied in Roman times, as shown by Crofton Roman Villa, and the Roman bath-house at Fordcroft. During the Anglo-Saxon period, Fordcroft Anglo-Saxon cemetery was used in the area. The first record of the name Orpington occurs in 1038, when King Cnut's treasurer Eadsy gave land at "Orpedingetune" to the Monastery of Christ Church at Canterbury. The parish church also pre-dates the Domesday Book.
Until the railway came, the local commercial centre was nearby St Mary Cray, rather than Orpington. St Mary Cray had a regular market, and industry (paper mills and bell foundry), whereas Orpington was just a small country village surrounded by soft fruit farms, hopfields and orchards.
These crops attracted Romani people, working as itinerant pickers, to annual camps in local meadows and worked-out chalk pits. This work has largely ended, but the Borough still provides a permanent site at Star Lane, and the gatherings are commemorated in local street names, such as Romany Rise. In 1967, Eric Lubbock, then Liberal MP for Orpington promoted a private member's bill to provide permanent Gypsy sites; this resulted in the Caravan Sites Act 1968 that placed an obligation upon local authorities to provide sites for locally residing travellers. In 1971, an international meeting of Romany people was held at Orpington, this Orpington Congress marked the founding of the International Romani Union, a group seeking political representation for Romanis throughout Europe.
By-election of 1962
The Conservative member for the Orpington constituency, Donald Sumner, had resigned to become a county court judge, and a by-election was held on 15 March 1962, the symbolism of the date being noted as the Ides of March. Orpington was considered a safe Conservative seat, but Eric Lubbock, the Liberal candidate, beat the Conservative into second place, with a 22% swing away from the party. The result caused a sensation and was headline news across the nation. It is from this win that the revival of the Liberal Party is usually dated.