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Grove Park Ditch (West) – A Tributary of the Quaggy

One of the oddities of the Quaggy catchment area around Grove Park is that there are two completely separate tributary streams which are referred to by the same name.  Unfortunately, it isn’t an attractive name drawing on local history or some unique aspect of the wider local landscape, it is the rather mundane ‘Grove Park Ditch’.  Running Past covered the easterly of this duo a while ago.

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The source of the westerly Ditch seems to have been a pond, or the ground just above it, at the junction of what is now Leamington Avenue and Portland Road – the little bit of blue on the Ordnance Survey map published in 1898.  The stream’s route is clear from the Environment Agency Flood Risk maps, when the surface water option is selected – it is the thin blue line to the bottom right of the map.

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Its original course was probably no more than 200 metres long, the upstream pointing contour lines of the modern 1:25,000 OS map show it heading from its orginal source (the left hand picture above), towards the Quaggy’s original course – behind Leamington Avenue, roughly following a now largely overgrown track to garages behind the houses (middle picture), then crossing Leamington Close, still under a track to garages (right hand photo above), to join the Quaggy behind where Oak Tree Gardens are now situated.

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The Quaggy too was diverted underground in this area when the houses were built, there is a clear dip in Leamington Avenue (top photo immediately above) and its new submerged course is topped by another access track to garages.  Oddly, where the confluence would have historically occurred there was a large puddle (above, lower photo), I did plan to take a slightly closer look but dogs barking on the private land as I approached rather deterred me – a less than intrepid explorer.

Rather than have an underground confluence of the Quaggy and Grove Park Ditch (West), the latter has had its course significantly and circuitously extended, probably by around 500 metres.  It is seemingly piped over the Quaggy, probably crossing the junction of Portland Road and Oak Tree Gardens – there was a subterranean sound of water at around this point from one of a pair of manhole covers, although there sounded as though there may be more water than at the outflow (which I had already found) – so it could have course just been a drain.

The likely current course would probably have the encased stream following the edge of the westerly section of Chinbrook Meadows (beyond the short tunnel under the railway), behind the fencing to the branch line towards Bromley North.  Close to the railway junction with the main line, Grove Park Ditch (West) would then curve around the base of the railway embankments before emerging into the open.

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Unlike its eastern sibling which emerges with a roar, shouting ‘look at me, look at me’ creating itself a valley before turning into an attractive, babbling brook edging woodland and fields. Grove Park Ditch (West) rather lives up to the last word in its appellation.  There was a desultory emergence from the concrete casing into what was more reminiscent of a drain than a stream.  There was little sign of movement in the ominous looking muddy water.  I had hoped for more, well at least more water, on the morning after a heavy downpour. It wasn’t even easy to see, hidden behind stout metal Network Rail fencing preventing any ne’er do wells having access to the embankment from the westerly part of Chinbrook Meadows.

The emergent Ditch trickles slightly downhill for almost a hundred metres towards its final destination – its confluence with the Quaggy.  The coming together of the flows is rather lacking in distinction too, there is a twist to force the Ditch down and almost back upon itself to meet the Quaggy just inside the tunnel piping it under the railway with the all the force of a tap with low water pressure.  My failed attempts to photograph the junction were even less impressive than the reality.

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The good news is that there are plans afoot to try to make the last few metres of the ‘Ditch’ slightly more alluring, while the aesthetics will be improved considerably, the real reason is to install a sustainable drainage system (SuDS) which would enable water to run through a series of pools planted with native marshland plants that will naturally filter the water reducing the potential pollution impact of the ‘Ditch.’  I am no expert on gauging water quality by sight, but it didn’t look good.

While Grove Park Ditch (West) isn’t currently worth much of a trek Chinbrook Meadows is a different matter, it is a lovely park – one of my Lewisham favourites.  It was the site of a small dairy farm, Chinbrook Farm – the park first opening in 1929 and being considerably extended eight years later.  The Quaggy was channelised early in the ‘Meadow’s’ existence and, from memory, large fences and hedges partially hid the river.  The river was freed into a more natural gently meandering course with more natural planting and access after works that were completed in 2002.

© Derek Harper, Creative Commons

 

An finally … thank you to Lawrence Beale Collins of Thames21 for helping me with unpicking the two very different Grove Park Ditches.

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Hither Green’s Lost Globe Cinema

On Staplehurst Road, to the north east of Hither Green station, and now part of the Old Biscuit Factory development, is a rather elegant building next to the shops.  Over the years it has been put to a variety of uses, but originally it was a cinema, as the OS 25” Map, surveyed in 1914 shows.Globe.3

The Globe Cinema opened on 27th November 1913 with a capacity of around 700 and included features that audiences had come to expect of the cinema – tip up seats and a sloping auditorium (1). It was one of a quartet of cinemas that spring up in Hither Green and Lee in the late Edwardian period, perhaps the golden age for the growth of the cinema.  The others were the Park Cinema, on the corner of George Lane and Hither Green Lane, and a pair on Lee High Road – the Imperial Picture Palace near Lee Green, and the Lee Picture Palace on the corner of Bankwell Road – Running Past covered the last of these a while ago, and will no doubt ‘visit’ the others at some stage.

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The proprietor was Ethel Mary Smith; she was the landlord of The Green Man Hotel (see picture below) on Blackheath Hill.  She was originally from Seaford in Sussex and was married to Charles Smith who was a Bermondsey ‘boy’ and was an insurance agent – he seems to have been the Managing Director of the firm behind the cinema (2).  The earliest reference to Ethel at The Green Man was in both the 1911 Kelly’s Directory and the census of the same year.  The 1914 Kelly’s had her still there but she had moved on by 1917.  What happened to her after that is unclear, if only she had had a less common name ….

Source - ebay March 2016

Source – ebay March 2016

Presumably the Smiths felt that a cinema was a logical extension of the existing trade at The Green Man and the new inhabitants of Hither Green would want to come to the pictures.  Whether it was competition from the other cinemas, poor bills or poor management, the cinema clearly struggled from the outset – it was put up for sale and temporarily closed on 16th February 1914, only 10 weeks after opening. It was sold at auction in April 1914 for £2,500 (3).

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The cinema re-opened on 23rd April 1914 as the Playhouse, opening with the 1913 film Spartacus (source for poster here)

 

The licencing authority, the London County Council, clearly had concerns about the cinema; probably centering around fire safety and refused to grant another when the licence expired at the end of May 1915.  While the Playhouse struggled for another few weeks, using non-flammable films, the request for another licence was refused and it closed around 19th July 1915. There were further unsuccessful attempts after the closure to get a new licence, the final attempt being in February 1916.

After closure, the cinema was taken over by what was to become Criterion Biscuits who seem to have already been on the site in the buildings behind the cinema (see the map above); this has already been covered by Running Past in one of the very earliest posts on the blog.

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Photograph by David Simpson – made available on creative commons

The auditorium is no more; it was demolished as part of the development of the Old Biscuit Factory although is visible in the photograph above just before the building work started, however the front of the building remains.  It is currently vacant – the original intention was to create a restaurant after it had finish being used as the sales base for the site. There was a convoluted, but ultimately successful attempt to change the use to a mixture of residential on the first floor and retail on the ground – but as of July 2016 it still appears vacant.

Notes

  1. Ken George (1987) ’Two Sixpennies Please – Lewisham’s Early Cinemas’ p40
  2. Ibid
  3. ibid

Census and related data are from Find My Past; and the Kelly’s Directory information via the University of Leicester.

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Catford’s Long Lost Velodrome

Catford was home to several sports stadia which have been lost over the years, including the greyhound stadium and The Mount, home to Charlton for a season, both of which have been covered before in Running Past.  Another very short-lived one was a cycling and athletics track on a site close to Brownhill Road, now taken up by Elmer Road and Sportsbank Street. It was the track home to Catford Cycling Club and Blackheath Harriers between 1895 and 1900.

Running Past has covered the early history of Blackheath (now and Bromley) Harriers on the Heath; Catford Cycling Club’s origins are little later, not being formed until 1886 – but within a decade or so it had become ‘probably the foremost track racing club in Britain’, according to its official history at least.

In the early 1890s, while the area around Rushey Green was beginning to be developed and from the 1893 Ordnance Survey map, building had reached a nascent Laleham Road but no further east – the big development of this area was to start a couple of year later by the sale of North Park farm  to form the Corbett Estate – on the eastern edge of the map.  The track was not there long enough to trouble the cartographers but was in the field to the north west of Cockshed Farm.

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Some of the early track meetings of the Catford Cycling club were held at Paddington Recreation Ground  – which had opened in the early 1880s, adding the cycling track in 1888. By 1889, the club was getting large numbers of entries for their main race day, the programme for which went on for 7 hours (1)  – their open mile novice handicap in that year attracted 143 entries (2) and 464 in total (3).  Racing was to continue the following year with meetings in July (4) and August (5).

By 1892 the club was getting crowds of 7,000 at Paddington Rec. (6) and holding international meetings with Dutch cyclists  there in torrential rain (as pictured below) (7)) in the home fixture, along with a return one in less inclement conditions in the Netherlands (8)

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By 1893 Catford Cycling Club  races were being held at the Herne Hill Velodrome which had opened a couple of years earlier, and with as many as 13,000 watching (9) thoughts seemed to turn to trying to get an equivalent closer to home.  The races at Herne Hill may well have had the ‘furiously’ riding George Lacy Hillier, officiating at them. – Running Past covered his career a few months ago,

During 1894 funding was secured to obtain both the land and construct at Catford ‘the largest track in Europe, the surface was of special cement designed to give a perfectly smooth running plane whilst allowing the newly invented pneumatic tyres perfect adhesion.’  It had with seating for 1,000 spectators, plus standing room for many thousands more.

Building was well underway by November 1894 (10) and almost complete by January 1895 (11).  The prospectus for it described it as ‘a new sports resort’ with Blackheath Harriers to make it their headquarters.  The opening ceremony was planned for May 4 1895 (12), although this ended up being delayed a couple of weeks (13).

The new stadium was opened by Lord Kinnaird, President of the Football Association, on May 18 (14) with a full programme in rather rainy conditions with 10,000 spectators – the races included a victory for  Birmingham’s F W Chinn in the Quarter Mile scratch race – see below (15).

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There were a couple of line drawings of the new track and the inaugural meeting in the Picture Post, with what was presumably meant to be Crystal Palace in the background (16).

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Records fell that summer as the track lived up to its expectations in terms of speed – CF Barden broke every record from 2 to 10 miles in late June (17); FW Weatherly beat the British quarter-mile flying start quarter mile a month later (18) and in September, AP Marples took over seven seconds off the licensed amateur mile record to finish in 1:56:40 (19).

Successful racing continued into 1896, when the Easter Monday meeting in early April saw crowds of 10,000 and with WH Bardsley of the Polytechnic Cycling Club, pictured on the far left,  taking the 1st place in the 10 mile scratch race (20).  There were at least two other race days in May one of which an attendances of over 15,000 (21) and the other an international against a Danish team (22).  JW Stocks beat many of the records set by CF Barden in early June (23) – it was the first of several British and World record set on the track that summer.

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picture via e bay Feb 2016

The opening meeting of the 1897 season saw crowds of only half the number of 1896 at just 5,000 (24), although numbers in races later in the season increased, with a peak of 10,000 in May (25).  Worrying signs were on the horizon that winter as a Catford builder, Henry Woodham, sought to lay out a street (Elmer Street, later Road) parallel to Brownhill Road, hard up against the track – while he was initially unsuccessful but it was a sign of things to come (26).

Racing continued as normal in 1898, although attendances were well down on previous years – the Whit weekend meeting attracted only 6,000 (27) compared with 15,000 24 months earlier. There were fewer race reports during the year, with some races being cancelled.  The 1899 season started with ‘disappointing’ crowds despite ‘delightful weather’ (28) and the paucity of press coverage continued.

Just 2,500 were there to see the opening fixture on Easter Monday in the new century (29) and while the annual 50 mile race was to happen in September it was to be its last at the track (30).  It was sold to a speculative builder for £7,500 (31), the reporter seemed to think that Catford was in south west London though.  In reality, the offer of a large amount of money from a developer in the context of falling gates was probably an offer too good to refuse for the owners.  When the builder was Henry Woodham or not is unclear – but he certainly developed houses in the area at around the time the stadium was sold an was based at 132 Brownhill Road.

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Oddly, the grandstand remained – used for warehousing until the 1990s, when it too succumbed to development – the modern houses below are where the stand once stood. The street name, with its hints of a brief record breaking past, is all that remains.

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Notes

  1. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, May 25, 1889; pg. 326; Issue 1460.
  2. Daily News (London, England), Monday, May 20, 1889; Issue 13453
  3. Berrow’s Worcester Journal (Worcester, England), Saturday, May 25, 1889; pg. 4; Issue 10206. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.
  4. Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Thursday, July 17, 1890; Issue 6603
  5. The Morning Post (London, England), Wednesday, August 20, 1890; pg. 3; Issue 36873
  6. Daily News (London, England), Monday, May 16, 1892; Issue 14389.
  7. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, September 03, 1892; pg. 151; Issue 1631
  8. Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Monday, August 15, 1892; Issue 10655.
  9. The Yorkshire Herald, and The York Herald (York, England), Monday, May 08, 1893; pg. 8; Issue 13081. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II
  10. Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Wednesday, November 14, 1894; Issue 11359
  11. The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), Monday, January 21, 1895; Issue 9306.
  12. The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), Wednesday, March 6, 1895; Issue 9344
  13. The Morning Post (London, England), Monday, May 20, 1895; pg. 2; Issue 38359
  14. Daily News (London, England), Monday, May 20, 1895; Issue 15331
  15. The Standard (London, England), Monday, May 20, 1895; pg. 2; Issue 22115
  16. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, May 25, 1895; pg. 327
  17. The Standard (London, England), Friday, June 28, 1895; pg. 8; Issue 22149
  18. Berrow’s Worcester Journal (Worcester, England), Saturday, July 27, 1895; pg. 6; Issue 10527.
  19. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Thursday, September 19, 1895; pg. 8; Issue 12788.
  20. The Morning Post (London, England), Tuesday, April 07, 1896; pg. 3; Issue 38636. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900.
  21. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, May 09, 1896; pg. 296; Issue 1824
  22. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, May 30, 1896; pg. 345; Issue 1827.
  23. The Morning Post (London, England), Tuesday, June 02, 1896; pg. 5; Issue 38684
  24. The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, April 17, 1897; pg. 3; Issue 38958.
  25. Reynolds’s Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, May 2, 1897; Issue 2438.
  26. Daily News (London, England), Thursday, October 21, 1897; Issue 16090.
  27. The Standard (London, England), Monday, May 09, 1898; pg. 2; Issue 23045
  28. The Standard (London, England), Monday, May 08, 1899; pg. 2; Issue 23357
  29. The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, April 14, 1900; pg. 6; Issue 39894
  30. Reynolds’s Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, September 9, 1900; Issue 2613.
  31. Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Tuesday, November 20, 1900; Issue 16505.

 

 

 

The Kaleidoscope and the Former Hither Green Pub

Hither Green used to have a healthy smattering of public houses, or at least the northern end did.   Go south of Ennersdale Road, though, and you would always have had to head towards Downham or Rushey Green to find one, this was because the developer of the Corbett Estate, the non-conformist Archibald Cameron Corbett, frowned upon drinking and there were no public houses or off licences on the estate.

Only two pubs remain – the Holly Tree on Dermody Road and the Station Hotel, well, near the station.  In the last decade or two several have called ‘last orders’ – The George on George Lane, the Spotted Cow on Hither Green Lane, the Queen’s Arms on Courthill Road and  the Sir John Morden on Campshill Road have all been lost to developers and turned into flats.

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Another that is going the same way is Hansbury’s, known as the Sir David Brewster for most of its life, which has been boarded up for about a year. The pub goes back to around 1868 (1); Courthill Road started to be developed in 1867 (2).  The building which looks as though it ought to be semi-detached,  is very different in style to surrounding properties.

David-BrewsterDavid Brewster (1781 to 1868), his picture via Wikipedia is to the left, was a famous Scottish mathematician, astronomer and scientific instrument maker who was Knighted in 1831.  Perhaps his most famous legacy was the kaleidoscope – 2016 is the bicentenary of its invention.

Brewster would have been relatively well known at the time, although the pub in Courthill Road was the only one that took his name.  One of Ken White’s series of booklets on Lewisham and Lee pubs provides the logic to the appellation – the first licensee was a Peter Brewster who applied for the licence  on 25 August 1868 (3).  There was certainly no direct link, other than the surname, to Sir David Brewster, the latter was born and remained living in the Scottish borders and, while he had four sons, none were called Peter.

The landlord of the Sir David Brewster came from either Suffolk (1871 census) or Essex (every other reference).  Prior to becoming a publican he was a builder, he was living in Stoke Newington in 1861 but had moved around that area, his children were born in Bethnal Green and Shoreditch.  He seems to have kept on his original trade – in the 1881 census he was listed as a builder and beer retailer; perhaps it was building work that had brought him to Lewisham.   His first wife Hannah, who seems to have moved from Essex with him, died sometime after 1871 as by 1881, Brewster had remarried an Irish woman, Catherine – both died in 1888.

Peter Brewster’s death was a tragic one; he was the victim in the ‘Lewisham Poisoning Case’ (5) where a chemist sold undiluted strychnine instead of a dilute version of it. Catherine successfully sued the chemist but didn’t live much longer herself.

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After the deaths of the Brewsters, there was a steady trickle of licensees at the Sir David Brewster, with none lasting more than a year or two (4).  Most didn’t crop up again before or after on the Pub History site, so it was probably their only attempt at pub management.  The Lusbys who arrived around 1901 may have had stints in several East End pubs, although the evidence isn’t conclusive.

Little is known of the pub after 1918, I have found no on-line or on-line newspaper references to the pub after 1918, the ‘beer retailer’ William Johnson, who had been there in the 1911 census, was also noted in the 1916 Kelly’s Directory, but by the end of Word War 1 a Lewis Dros was listed as a beer retailer in what was described as ‘Brewster’s Cottage.’

Oddly, there was no reference to the pub in the 1944 Post Office Directory, despite the London County Council Bomb Maps , leaving the pub uncoloured – indicating no bomb damage (6).

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Picture Creative Commons – Ewan Munro

There was a serious fire which seems to have closed the pub for a while in the mid to late 1980s. When it re-opened, there was a new landlord, Mick Hansbury, who renamed the pub, taking the family name – Hansbury’s.  Mick Hansbury  seems to have moved on from the Sir John Morden – linking the name of this pub to that of the landlord clearly had echoes of the past.

Mick and Kathy Hansbury’s stewardship at the pub is fondly remembered by several former regulars and a staff member (see comments below).  The clientele seems to have reflected the area at the time – a real mixture ‘West End theatre workers, teachers, manual labourers and a strong Irish contingent.’   It seems to have been a traditional pub that really looked after its regulars – a Christmas dinner for the elderly and party for the customers in the festive period, with regulars invited to dinner with the Hansbury family if they had nowhere to go on Christmas Day.There were days away to the seaside and the races as well as the more traditional ‘fayre’ of darts and pool leagues, along with regular golfing events. The Hansburys moved on in early 1997, and the ‘tenancy’ was taken over by the Kevin and Anne Albrecht who seem to have continued the approach of their predecessors until around 2003 when it was taken over by a company – Pubs n Bars for a few years.

The penultimate chapter began in 2007 when the lease was bought by new owners  – Dougie and Bridget Millar and their business partner Glen.  They did a major refurbishment of the pub which I remember quite well – I often thought ‘I must stop by when I am not running’, but sadly never did.

Under their stewardship, they continued many of the traditions started under the Hansburys – the outings and the looking after the regulars at Christmas. In the years before its closure it had positive comments on a local message board including ‘my favourite pub locally, the bar staff are very friendly and it has a lovely community atmosphere. The karaoke is great fun as well.’ ‘A very accommodating bar with nice people and a very ambient and relaxed atmosphere.’ ‘The pub is genuinely a good little local to drink in ….one of those pubs that keeps you coming back for more.’

The final ‘chapter’ of the pub’s history is still being written, but appears very likely that it won’t have a happy ending  – the pub got new owners in 2012 – they unsuccessfully attempted to get planning permission to turn the property into flats – they then sold it.  The Millars unsuccessfully attempted to buy it and pulled the last pint in July 2015 and had to move on.  Hansbury’s was sold again in December 2015 for £705,000 at auction and there are plans to extend and convert into 3 flats.

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Hansbury’s remains (July 2016), partially empty – the upper floors look as though they are inhabited, but the ground floor is boarded up.  It is a shadow of its former self. But perhaps the final mention should go to those who have lost their local, the pub’s characters:

People like Joe Duffy used to sit at the bar and drink his Guinness for over 30 years… like Les and Bob the builder, Dave, Paul Eade, Morris, Russell, Eugene, Corky, Trevor the plasterer, Andy scaffold, Chris Brian and Craig Green, Jim Boyle, Ian, Neil, Alex and many, many more……. Hansbury’s was what it was because of these people “the community.”

 

Notes

  1. Ken White (1992) The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham, Part 6C p239
  2. Joan Read (1990) Lewisham Street Names & Their Origins p16
  3. White op cit p239
  4. Ibid
  5. The Morning Post (London, England), Wednesday, August 15, 1888; pg. 2; Issue 36243
  6. The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945

The census are related information is via Find My Past

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank all those who have added comments here, on Facebook and ‘off-line’, it is really appreciated and has both enabled me to piece together the recent history and add in a lot of more personal elements – for me, at least, it has really added to the post.

I would love to add more though …  So, if you worked there or drank there tell your story – who were the characters that were regulars at Hansbury’s/Sir David Brewster? What about the landlord, the staff, the atmosphere, the memorable nights, the particular celebrations that were held there, memories of the friends, the beers…?  You can use your Facebook or Twitter login to comment here, first comments get moderated before they appear though.  If you found the post via Facebook, you can write your recollections there.  I will update the post with the memories.  Please don’t put anything libelous or that might offend others though…

It Isn’t Far from Lee to Gommecourt ….

The route to the southern edges of Picardy from south-east London is a straightforward one these days; the town of Albert can be reached in around four hours via the Channel Tunnel from Lee or Hither Green.  A variant of the journey was taken by numerous young men just over a century ago

This week sees the centenary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 and many of those that made that short journey never returned, killed in the initial onslaughts and buried in a foreign field.  The story of the first day has been told numerous times before both factually (such as here) and fictionally, although few more eloquently or poignantly than by Sebastian Faulks who described a scene a day or two before the offensive began:

As they rounded the corner, he saw two dozen men, naked to the waist, digging a hole thirty yards square at the side of the path. For a moment he was baffled. It seemed to have no agricultural purpose; there was no more planting or ploughing to be done. Then he realized what it was. They were digging a mass grave. He thought of shouting an order to about turn or at least to avert their eyes, but they were almost on it, and some of them had already seen their burial place. The songs died on their lips and the air was reclaimed by the birds.

Sebastian Faulks (1994) Birdsong (London, Vintage), p215

The sheer enormity of the scale of human loss becomes obvious when looking at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website – there are almost 18,000 names of deaths on first day of the battle.

This post focuses on the role of a local regiment – the 56th Division, 1st/5th Battalion of the London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), they were a ‘City’ Regiment but many of their soldiers were from south east London. Their role that day was essentially a diversionary one to try to divert German troops away from a more significant push further south on the Somme, the secondary aim was to help secure the northern flank around Gommecourt thus pushing the German’s back to positions that would be less easy to defend.

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Map Source Wikimedia Commons

Initially the London Regiment met with success and took the first and second German lines, but there was much more resistance from the third line and the British suffered considerable causalities and were driven back to their original lines.  Of the 826 from the regiment at the start of the day 275 were listed as dead by the end of the day on the CWG site.  Just 89 came through the day alive and unwounded.

There were are least a dozen local men who died that day at Gommecourt with the London Rifles.  It is worth reflecting on some of those young south London lives cut short on the first catastrophic day of battle where the worth of the human life seemed to count for so little. They will have climbed out of their trenches at around 7:30, none seen again alive and with most their remains were never identified.

James Frederick Wingfield – 36 Burnt Ash Road

James was a 30 year old Rifleman of the 1st/5th Battalion of the London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade)  He was the oldest of 8 children (in the 1911 census) of son of James Peter and Elizabeth, the former was Company Secretary for a wine merchant.  The family originated in East London, where James had been born in South Hackney and by 1911 were living at 9 Effingham Road; in Civvy street, James was an Accounts Clerk.

In the intervening five years Frederick had married Ada Gertrude Glanville and had moved just around the corner to 32 Burnt Ash Road – her parent’s home – probably close to the postcard depiction below of around that time (source e bay February 2015).

Burnt Ash

There is no known grave for James Wingfield and he is remembered along with 72,194 others at The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme to missing British and South African men, who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918.  It is just a couple of miles down the road from Gommecourt.  James and another local man who died the same day, 20 year old Arthur Webber from 69 Eltham Road, are also commemorated on the War Memorial at the former St Peter’s Church site.

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© Copyright Stephen Craven and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


Cecil Ravenscroft – 94 Mount Pleasant Road

Cecil was a 19 year-old rifleman born in Chicester in East Sussex in 1896, to Byfleet Charles Ravenscroft who hailed from Worcestershire and Catherine from Swansea.  They seem to have been a family that moved around a lot this oldest brother was born in Lewisham in 1890, but in the following year’s census they were in Ifield in West Susseex (now part of Crawley).  In the 1901 census they were back in Lewisham, although only visiting someone in Brockley Park.  Cecil’s younger brother, Charles was born in Lewisham in 1895.

Cecil’s father died in 1911, before the census was conducted on 2 April.  The family was living at 49 Albacore Crescent and the 14 year old Cecil was working as a clerk, perhaps in the ‘City.’

By the time of Cecil’s death, the remaining members of the family were living at 94 Mount Pleasant Road. He was buried at Hébuterne Military Cemetery, about a kilometre south of Gommecourt.

Hébuterne Cemetery

Picture from CWGC Website which allows reproduction of images and material elsewhere

Frank Dension Chandler – 23 Vanbrugh Park

Corporal Frank Chandler was born in Camberwell in 1893, his parents were Gibbs William and Lizzie Chandler who were from Camberwell and Isle of Dogs respectively – they were living at Liford Road, Camberwell in the 1891 census.  In 1901 the family was still at Lilford Road, Frank was the fourth oldest of the six children of the family, but his mother Lizzie had died in 1898.

some chandlerBy 1911 they had moved to East Dulwich Grove, his father having married Alice from Hamstead in Kent in 1907; by 1916 the family was living at 23 Vanbrugh Park. In Civvy Street Frank (pictured – source here) worked for Lloyds broker’s Nelson Donkin & Company

Like James Wingfield, there is no grave for Frank and he is remembered at Thriepval.

 

Paul Hopf – 9 Davenport Road

There was considerable confusion too at the time, some soldiers were reported as dead but survived the initial onslaught; unless there are a strange set of circumstances, Rifleman Paul Hopf was likely to have been one such man.  He had been born in Catford in 1887, his parents Emilie and Paul were from Germany.  Paul, senior, seems to have died sometime between the 1886 and the 1891 census.  The family was not recorded in the 1901 census but in 1911 Paul was living was his mother and four siblings in Westdown Road in Catford – he is listed as a bank clerk.

The following year Paul married Madeline G Clarke, who lived in Pennerley Road, although had moved in the previous decade from Moseley in Birmingham.  They had a daughter, also Madeline, who was born in 1913.

In the early stages of the war there were a lot of attacks on German nationals, something that the blog covered in relation to Deptford a couple of years ago, many were deported.  With an English born family, who presumably would have had to stay behind, Emilie remained in Catford.

Paul Hopf is listed as dead on the CWGC website and was ‘buried’ at the now peaceful looking Gommecourt 2 Cemetery.  However, a man of the same age and same name, except for the Anglicisation of Hopf to Hope, and employed as a ‘bank clerk’ was still living in Lewisham in 1939, he was married to Madeline G Hope of the same age and birth location as the woman Paul Hopf married.  He was to die the following year and Madeline was to pass away in Sleaford in 1943.

Returning to the Somme, the initial push on that first terrible day foreshadowed what was to come – there was to be little success at Gommecourt – the OS Trench maps from around the end of the ‘battle’ six months later, show almost no progress from the initial lines.  Gommecourt was still under German control.


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I will leave the final words about that the catastrophic losses from those initial assaults to someone who has written extensively about the Somme and particularly about Gommecourt, Alan McDonald

The men of the 56th and 46th Divisions had been sacrificed to no end. It was predictable, it was unnecessary, it was criminal.

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Grove Park Ditch – A Quaggy Tributary

As Running Past has noted before, little imagination went into the naming of most of the Quaggy’s tributaries, the notable exception being Mottingham’s Fairy Hall Flow.  Grove Park Ditch is one of those appellations that is lacking in allure, purely functional, mundanely descriptive – although, as we will find, it is in places much more than that.

Grove Park Ditch is a near neighbour of the seemingly no longer flowing Fairy Hall Flow, its source in Lower Marvels Wood is a couple of hundred metres away from where the Flow once babbled through farmland on what is now Beaconsfield Road.

For reasons that are unclear, there is second stream which is also known as Grove Park Ditch – this rises a few hundred metres to the west and becomes visible in the part of Chinbrook Meadows to the west of the railway.  For a while, I did wonder whether they were one at the same – it would have been just about feasible for the eastern ‘Ditch’ to squeeze through a narrow corridor between the 40 and 45 metre contour lines and do a semi-circumnavigation of the charming Chinbrook Meadows to end up in the right place.  It doesn’t.  Running Past will return to the westerly Ditch in a later post.

The ‘source’ is in the lovely Lower Marvels Wood, presumably a remnant of the past woods that covered the area – using the Green Chain Walk it would be just about possible to get to the outflow of the Ditch (and its namesake) entirely through woodland and parkland.  Alas, this is not the way Grove Park Ditch flows.

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The amount of water at the source is impressive, and has eroded a relatively deep channel which was quite a slippery scramble to get down see.  It presumably isn’t the real source; there is a concrete construction around the ‘source’ with a just visible pipe curving off to the east – presumably water is culverted from somewhere else.  There are one or two small ponds marked on Victorian OS maps a little higher up the gently sloping hillside in Marvels Wood – they aren’t marked on modern maps and my limited exploration on a very soggy Sunday morning failed to find any sign of them.

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After the initial erosion from the force of the water from the source, the ‘valley’ soon becomes imperceptible with the Ditch clinging to the southern edge of Lower Marvels Wood, almost hidden from the playing fields it borders.  For a small stream flowing through woodland and a park edge, it seems to ‘attract’ a vast quantity of urban debris, if the large pile by the plastics and glass by the traps close to Lambscroft Avenue is anything to go by – this is just before the Ditch is lost to view,

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The ‘Ditch,’ once encased in concrete, heads down the gentle slope, under houses towards the playing fields of Eltham College.  The exact route is unclear; it isn’t marked on old OS maps as a stream.  However, as historical boundaries often followed natural features such as streams, it is quite likely that the original course marked the local government boundary from the highlighted boundary stone (on the map below) until it reached the Quaggy.  During my reconnoitre I didn’t hear the sounds of rushing water emanating from below manhole covers, however, this may have related more to the cacophony of the above ground torrential rain, with one or two thunderous rumbles, drowning out any subterranean sounds.

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Any access to the playing fields of Eltham College (Running Past  has ‘visited’ the former Fairy Hall before) and those of the City of London School is limited, the gates are locked and the borders are patrolled. So it wasn’t possible to see whether there was any above ground evidence of the Ditch, maps suggest there might be, although the satellite view of Google suggests that it is submerged, hidden just beyond the boundaries of cricket pitches.  The maps appear to show another small stream or drainage ditch too.

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The outflow of Grove Park Ditch is a pipe from the wall of the horribly channelised Quaggy – the walls and river bed are concrete and presumably devoid of much life as a result.  As the Quaggy Action Group suggested a decade ago, it is a ‘suitable case of treatment’ of the kind that has enhanced both Chinbrook Meadows and Sutcliffe Park, both visually and in their ability to hold storm flows.  The outflow was easier to see than to photograph from the Green Chain Walk path, although this was largely because of the siling rain when I ‘explored’ for this post.

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While not part of the ‘Ditch’, on the western side of the Quaggy there is modern cartographic evidence of a couple of streams joining the Quaggy from the area around what is now Hadlow College, the Victorian OS map showing just the ponds, however, this too is private land and not accessible to the fluvial flâneur.

 

Campshill House – Housing for the Victorian Elite & the Post War Working Classes

Campshill was one of the larger houses on Hither Green Lane – it was home for a few generations to some of the wealthy of Victorian society. It declined during the 20th century being demolished to make way for post-war council housing.  It was built in the mid-1820s after Henry Lee had leased the land from Trinity College and built Campshill House. Henry was a brick maker and lime merchant who had previously lived with his brother, Henry, at Ellerslie House, close to their works on Loampit Vale.

The Lee family were to remain at Campshill until around 1858, after both Henry and his widow had died, the latter in 1849 (1).

One of the next inhabitants was James Allan who bought the House in 1861.  He was an Aberdonian, born in 1811, he had worked for a variety of Scottish shipping based employers before moving to London with one of these which was to become the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company, later the Peninsular and Oriental Company (P & O).  He was to become Secretary, then Managing Director in 1848 – a position he held until his death in 1874.

Allen’s career was described as

one of steady industry and intelligent supervision. Without marked energy either of intellect or of action, his progress was rendered sure by the wisdom of his judgments, which were singularly undisturbed by any emotion of interest or of temper, and by his amiability of character, which disarmed hostility.

While the area was predominantly rural in feel when Allan bought Campshill House – the map below was surveyed in the 1860s

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The lease for the house was put up for sale in 1879, with an advertisement in The Times describing it as a ‘capital family residence’ (2)

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The purchaser may have been a W. H. Smith who lived at the House in the 1880s and 1890s, he wasn’t connected to the eponymous booksellers; the son of the founder of the stationers lived in altogether more grand Grosvenor Place, but may have known Campshill’s W. H. Smith, as both were members of the London Library.

Campshill’s W. H. Smith seems to have owned a firm of Gibraltar based shipping agents, Smith Imossi and Co, which still is in existence.

In the early inter-war years the Campshill House, was home to a glass bottle merchant and then a garage.   By 1927 it was home to John Belmont Taylor; Taylor was a surveyor, he was in partnership with Horace William Langdon but their partnership was dissolved in 1927.  This was probably not a good move for Taylor – the quantity surveying firm he left behind was to become internationally successful; continuing today as Langdon & Seah.  Taylor seems to have become a small scale developer, with Henry Thomas Taylor, in Hayes (Kent) where the latter lived – buying land in Langley Way on the Hayes/West Wickham borders in 1929 and The Crescent, Hayes, in 1932 and 1933.  The name had changed to ‘Canada House’ by 1929 – the name is thought to refer to the billeting of Canadian troops at the House during World War 1.

It seems likely that Taylor was the last occupant of the House. The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945, shades the main house as a dark blue, one step better than ‘completely destroyed’ and outbuildings in purple, ‘damaged beyond repair.’  So it is of little surprise that the site was acquired by the local authority for early post war housebuilding.

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In any case the area had changed since the time of the Allans and Lees; as outlined in the post on ‘Hocum Pocum Lane’ which skirted the edge of the estate, the former market gardening area around Eastdown Park had been developed from the 1870s and the arrival of a station at Hither Green junction in 1895 saw the rest of the area developed.  Victorian terraced houses and the early council housing of Romborough Way and Campshill Road surrounded it.

146 homes were built where there had been built where there had been one, on what was initially referred to as the Heather Green Estate (picture below (3)); the builder was A Roberts, a firm that seemed to specialise in medium sized public sector projects such as this.

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The architect for the development was  M. H. Forward, who was Lewisham’s Borough Architect, a position he held at least until 1962/63 – when he was responsible for the rather out of keeping additions to the side of Sydenham Library. In the intervening period he started the redevelopment of the old Lewisham Town Hall site which was eventually completed by his successor in 1968.

The Heather Grove Estate was opened by the Lewisham MP, Herbert Morrison in 1948 – there is video footage of the opening with the then Deputy Prime Minister unveiling a commemoration stone and going inside the flats – sadly it isn’t publicly available.

While the new homes were built to a high standard, there were issues of affordability, something that has echoes in present new social housing, which have Orwellian ‘affordable’ rents.  It was noted by the Tory MP for Lewisham West, Henry Price in a Parliamentary debate in 1950

The rents here are 36/- (£1.80) a week, and for a four-bedroomed flat 39/- (£1.95) despite a subsidy of about 27/- (£1.35) per week. The result was that of the first 80 people to whom these flats were offered more than 40 had to refuse them because they could not afford to pay the rent. The flats had to be let to families a little lower down the list whose need was not so great but whose pockets were a little deeper.

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Nothing remains of the former Campshill House, however, one feature escaped the post war wrecking ball – an obelisk remains on the grassed area to the east of what is now referred to as Benden House.  There is no inscription other than a date, 1721, but it is thought to be a memorial to an animal.  The date is a century earlier than the former house, so whether it was on the site before the House or was a family monument that was subsequently moved to the site by a previous occupant is unclear. The estate is now known as Monument Gardens.

 

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The Campshill name lives on the street behind and the latter ‘Canada’ appellation in the newer development fronting onto Hither Green Lane (visible in the top right photograph above).

Notes

  • 1 The Standard (London, England), Saturday, April 21, 1849; Issue 7703
  • 2 The Times (London, England), Saturday, Jul 05, 1879; pg. 18; Issue 29612
  • 3 Picture via ebay May 2016