Orpington is a suburban town and electoral ward in the London Borough of Bromley in Greater London and lies at the south-eastern edge of London's urban sprawl. It is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London. It was until shortly before the 1974 General Election in the county of Kent.
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. On the 22 July 1573CE, Queen Elizabeth I was entertained at Bark Hart (Orpington Priory) and her horses stabled at the Anchor and Hope Inn (Orpington High Street). On the southern edge of Orpington, Green St Green is recorded as 'Grenstretre' which means a road covered with grass. It is known in the 1800s as Greenstead Green.
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, hop fields 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
After the Conservative member for the Orpington constituency, Donald Sumner, had resigned to become a county court judge, a by-election was held on 15 March 1962. Orpington was considered a safe Conservative seat, but Eric Lubbock, the Liberal candidate, won with a 22% swing away from the Conservatives. 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.