The Lesters of Lee New Town 

Running Past has often covered the stories of those living in and around Lee and Hither Green, particularly in Edwardian, Victorian times and before.  Because of the nature of the development of the area it has usually been the stories of the wealthy with servants, shopkeepers and publicans living in what was once suburbia and the farmers in the years before.  

The histories of several working class streets have been told –  notably Ardmere Road and Brightfield Road including under its previous name Robertson Street.  However, there have been few family stories – this post, on a family that lived in and around Lee Church Street for four generations, begins to put this right. Some relatively recent photographs of the area are below.

Lee New Town consisted of small terraced houses, many in narrow alleys on and off the current streets of Lee Church Street, Boone Street, Boone’s Road, Fludyer Street and Dacre Park.  It was built from the 1820s after the estate of Lee Place had been sold in lots. It was demolished both by the Luftwaffe and as part of a late 1950s slum clearance programme.  Boone Street is pictured below, probably from the 1950s before the demolition of the houses.

The Lesters were a long standing family who lived in Lee New Town for much of four generations.  It’s not an attempt to write a complete family history but to try and understand something of what life was like for an ordinary working class household in Lee from the 1850s into the 20th century.  We will focus on one member of the family from each generation.

Charlotte Lester, who successive generations have taken their name from was born in Colchester around 1803. It isn’t clear whether Lester is her birth surname or if she married in Colchester – there is no obvious record of either, although a child of that name was baptised in 1810.

Charlotte had two children in Colchester, James John Lester (1834) and Mary born there around 1838.

By the 1841 census, Charlotte was listed as a servant and living in Lewisham; she had hit very hard times as Charlotte and her two young children were in the Lewisham Union Workhouse. 

The Lewisham Poor Law Union was formed in 1836, serving the parishes of Lee, Charlton, Eltham, Kidbrooke, Mottingham, and Plumstead as well as Lewisham. The workhouse was on the site on the Lewisham Hospital. Victorian workhouse buildings remain on the site, complete with an eroded Lewisham Union badge over the entrance – the part to the left of the arch dates from before the Lesters’ stay, the rest was later (1). Charlotte will probably have been put to work picking oakum – unravelling strands of old rope.

There was a children’s section over the road on the edge of what is now Lewisham Park, so Charlotte was probably separated from James and Mary. Conditions were poor for the children – often suffering from rickets and anemia due to poor diet and sleeping four to a bed in what was a badly ventilated, cold building (2).

It isn’t clear how long the family was in the workhouse or where in the Union they had previously been.  As a servant, losing a job could quickly lead to the loss of home, directly if they ‘lived in’ or indirectly if they were unable to find new employment very quickly.  There was no welfare state safety net. 

Towards the end of 1843, Charlotte married John Kiddle in Greenwich – he was a Londoner who worked as a garden labourer.  Along with a new daughter, Eliza, who was born in Greenwich in 1845, they were listed as living at 9 Boone Street in 1851.  James, now around 15, was working as an errand boy. Houses from elsewhere on Boone Street are pictured below.

Whether they were actually living at 9 Boone Street is debatable – many of the houses on the street weren’t numbered in the census record apart from three households who were all given number 9. Either 19 people were sharing one property or some errors made.  If it was 9 it would have been close to where Boone Street now dog-legs around.  What is now the dog-leg was then Dacre Street.  What is probably more likely is that it was an incorrectly transcribed Boone’s Place where Charlotte was living in 1861.

It seems that John died around 1856, aged around 35.

In the 1861 census, Charlotte and Eliza were living in Boone’s Place, Charlotte working as a charwoman and Eliza, now 16, was still at school.  Boone’s Place was a small terrace facing north about 100 metres from the High Road off Boone Street, opposite the Smithy on the map below from 1893.

The census record isn’t completely clear, but it looks as though Charlotte was the head of the household at number 9 and it was a house that she shared with George and Mary Martin and their young son.  George Martin’s parents and seven siblings lived next door at number 8.

In 1871, Charlotte was still living at 9 Boone’s Place – listed as being the head of household, there was no occupation listed in the census. With her daughter Eliza and her husband Charles Robert Hoy, a baker, who she had married in Deptford in 1870. It isn’t immediately obvious what happened to the Hoys after the 1871 census.

Charlotte despite her hard life lived to around 74, a decent age given life expectancy in Victorian England – she died in Lewisham in 1877.

Back to Charlotte’s son James;  by 1861 he was living in George Square, one of the small  ‘courts’ in Lee New Town.  He had married Maria (née Wells) in Bromley in 1858.  They had two children James (1859) and Henry (1861) they were all listed as labourers in the census, but even in tough Victorian times, babies and toddlers weren’t sent out to work.

The small house that the Lesters lived in was almost certainly off Dacre Street and was shared with another family, the Smiths – there were 9 of them living there.

Infant mortality rates were high, and Henry had died before 1861 was out.  Over the next decade the Lesters had several more children – Maria (born 1863), Eliza (1864), George (1866), Emily (1869) and Samuel just before the census enumerators called again in 1871.  They had moved by 1871, by about 100 metres and were living at 10 Union Place – this was a small turning off the western side of Lee Church Street between the ‘Church’ and ‘Street’ on the map.

George, who will focus on in terms of this generation, was 5 and listed as a scholar, probably going to the National Schools over the road on the opposite side of Lee Church Street – pictured above just before demolition in the late 1950s alongside its current version.  A classroom is pictured below from the same era, but it had probably not changed markedly since George’s time there.

James and family were still living at 10 Union Place in 1881, James, now 46, was listed as a labourer. There were 10 children there ranging in age from 21 to 1. 

In 1881 George was 15 and living with his parents, he was working as a ‘cow boy’ – presumably a young assistant in a dairy rather than riding horseback through Lee wearing a Stetson. There were still several farms in the district which George could easily have walked to from Lee –  Burnt Ash, Lee Manor, College, North Park and Horn Park would fit the bill as would dairies, such as the one in Butterfield Street.

A decade later James, Maria and the family that remained ‘at home’ had moved out of Lee and were living in Victoria Terrace, part of Ennersdale Road. The house is still there although it is now 11 Leahurst Road – it is much bigger than the houses in Lee New Town. They were probably able to afford the no doubt higher rent as a lot of the family was now working – James was still a painter, Maria was working as a laundress, Henry (1871) a butcher, Alfred (1873) a servant, Charles (1875) and Ernest (1877) were both shop boys, with Annie (1878) and Alice (1880) both still at school. James died a few weeks after the census aged 57.

Maria stayed in the area – living in Molesworth Street in 1901, still working as a laundress at (63), with Charles (1875), a granddaughter and a couple of lodgers. She was still there a decade later with Alfred (1873) now a bank messenger, along with 2 boarders. What happened to her beyond that isn’t clear.

We return to George (born around 1866).  He married Sarah Elizabeth Reffin from Brighton in the summer of 1887; she seems to have been also known as Elizabeth – that is how she is referred to in later censuses. He was no longer a cow boy, by 1891 he was working as a bricklayers labourer.  In the early years of the marriage, the family moved around a little – they had three children born in 1889 (Catford), 1890 (Lee) and 1891 (Lewisham) and by the time of the census were back in Lee, living at 6 Dacre Square. Dacre Square was a tiny area of 12 houses accessed off the southern side of Dacre Street via an alley – below the ’R’ of street on the map. Dacre Square is just visible between properties on Dacre Street below (probably from the 1930s) as well as above.

George had a run in with the law in 1897 when he was was charged with being ‘riotous whilst drunk’ and assaulting two Police Constables after having to be ejected from the Swan.  He was found guilty and got a hefty fine of £6 or three months imprisonment with 6/- (30p) costs (3). In 2021 terms, the fine would have been around £800.

By the time of his conviction he was a bricklayer and living at 59 Dacre Street.  He and Elizabeth had 7 children living with them. 59 Dacre Street would have been almost opposite the entrance to Dacre Square – it may well be (just) pictured from the 1930s from Dacre Square below.

George and family were still in Lee New Town in 1911, living at 7 Royal Oak Place in 1911 – it isn’t clear exactly where this is, but logic would suggest it was close to the Royal Oak pub – at the top of Lee Church Street. There were eleven of them in the household ranging in age from 20 to 5.  

It isn’t immediately clear what happened to George after 1911.  However, a couple of George and Elizabeth’s children were still living in the area as war broke out in 1939 – the fourth generation of the family in Lee New Town.  Most of the oth ated to Canada in the 1930s.

Sidney (1897) was living at 7 St Margaret’s Passage and was working as a railway labourer – a house that was on the western side of the alleyway, more or less opposite the end of the Dacre Arms’ garden.  It was demolished for the flats which are pictured at the bottom of the first group of photographs.

The youngest son, Fred, born in 1906, was living at 52 Dacre Park – close to the corner of Boone’s Road – he seems to have worked for coal dealer – although this was incorrectly transcribed as ‘coal miner.’  Fred seems to have stayed in Lewisham until his death in 1983.  The home he was lived in was destroyed in the Blitz – there were prefabs there post war.

Note

  1. Lewisham Local History Centre (1992) Looking Back at Lewisham p56
  2. ibid p56
  3. Kentish Mercury 5 March 1897

Credits

  • Census and related data comes via Find My Past, subscription required
  • The pair of photographs of Boone Street and that of Boone’s Place (with children) come from the notice board adjacent to Kingswood Halls
  • The single photograph of Boone Street, the photo of the classroom along with those looking into and out of Boone’s Square are from the collection of Lewisham Archives and remain their copyright, but are used with their permission
  • The earlier photograph of the school is via Collage – Record number 189098 / Catalogue reference: SC_PHL_02_0327_59_2658 – permission given for use here, but no rights to use elsewhere, it remains their copyright
  • The Ordnance Survey map is on a non-commercial licence via the National Library of Scotland

The 1878 Lewisham and Lee Floods

There were serious floods in Lewisham in September 1968 which Running Past covered on their 50th anniversary. Previous floodings of the Ravensbourne, Quaggy and Pool were mentioned in passing at that stage, including a reference to some very serious ones 90 years earlier in 1878. It is to these that we now turn our attention. In syndicated press reports it was reported that in Lewisham the ‘whole of the village (was) 3 or 4 feet deep in water’ (1).

The 19th century had seen several inundations of Lee and Lewisham –  Victorian historian FH Hart noted very serious floods in 1814 as the ice melted following one of the last big freezes of the Little Ice Age – the last time there was a frost fair on the Thames.  There had also been really bad ones in 1853 and another flooding following a period of heavy rain on Christmas Eve 1876 – but the 1878 ones were described as being ‘the worst in living memory’ (2). 

The spring of 1878 seems to have been a very dry warm one with surfaces left hardened.  From the early hours of Thursday 11 April 1868, 3¼ inches (83 mm) of rain fell in 12 hours while this was the highest for 64 years, it was substantially less that the rainfall that led to the 1968 floods.

Unlike the floods 90 years later in 1968, where the devastation was similar in the three catchments of the Ravensbourne, Pool and Quaggy; in 1878 it was mainly in the Quaggy and the Ravensbourne below the confluence with the Quaggy near Plough Bridge – named after the pub of the same name (pictured just before its demolition around 2007).

This is not to say the other parts of the catchment escaped – there was flooding higher up the Ravensbourne with Shortlands impassable; the local landowners at Southend, the Forster’s, home was flooded and the nearby bridge on Beckenham Lane (now Hill Road) was washed away – the bridge that replaced is pictured in the background of the postcard below. The cricket pitches by Catford stations were flooded up to sills of pavilion windows. Similarly, Bell Green was impassable on the River Pool (5).

The local press though focussed on the Quaggy and lower Ravensbourne – we’ll follow the trail of destruction and damage downstream from Lee Green. 

At Lee Green the basement of the shops at what was then called Eastbourne Terrace on Eltham Road (to the left of the photo, a couple of decades later) were completely flooded out with seemingly some flooding at ground level too. 

Further downstream where the Quaggy is bridged by Manor Lane, the road was impassable.  The area was in a period of transition from its rural past to suburbia, having been opened up by the railways through (but not stopping at) Hither Green, Lee and Blackheath.  There were still some larger houses from the exclusive village past – all situated in the higher ground around Old Road and on the hill between Lee High Road and Belmont Hill.   The lower lying fields were under water as was any housing built on the flood plain.  The same continued downstream through what is now Manor Park – the course of the Quaggy was a little different at that stage though. 

The houses that had been completed on what is now Leahurst Road (then a dog leg of Ennersdale Road) which backed onto the Quaggy were badly flooded.  As a result of the 1876 floods, the local Board of Works had built a large concrete wall, an early use of the material, to try to reduce the impact of future floods.  It was described as ‘perfectly useless’ as water bypassed it and inundated the houses in Eastdown Park.  The wall is still there – extended upwards a little after the 1878 floods.

There was a small dairy on Weardale Road, probably next door to the Rose of Lee.  Unsurprisingly it became flooded and the cowherd turned out the 30 cows who were found wandering in the water on Manor Park. The were taken to the higher ground of Lee Manor Farm.  Elsewhere in Lee, pigs were drowned.   

Beyond the Rose of Lee the relatively newly built Eastdown Park bridge ‘blown up by the force of the water.’ The bridge between Weardale Road and Eastdown Park also seems to have been destroyed.

The food waters became deeper as they went down Lee High Road, up to 1.2 metres (4’) deep in the houses of Elm Place, just before Clarendon Rise (then Road).  The Sultan on the other side Clarendon Rise was badly flooded too – the third time that this had happened in a decade as the publican, Robert Janes, explained in the press. The pub is pictured below from the next century.

Beyond the Sultan, flood waters flowed both over and under the road – at one point it was expected that the culvert  from the bottom of Belmont Hill to St Stephens church might be destroyed but in the end it was just the road surface that was wrecked – this is the high pavement that now stands in front of the police station. 

The roadway in front of St Stephens several feet underwater – with the Roebuck, Plough and other pubs such as the Albion all flooded.  Boats used to ferry people through Lewisham.  There was a real bottle neck around Plough Bridge, the ‘utter insufficiency’ of the narrow Plough Bridge to carry off ordinary storm water was regarded as one of the causes too. The whole area around Lewisham Bridge (pictured below from a few decades later) badly flooded, particularly Molesworth and Rennell Streets and unsurprisingly Esplanade Cottages in the middle of the Ravensbourne, along with the pub the Maid in Mill and rest of Mill Lane.

An iron girder bridge at Stonebridge Villas was washed down along with a wall by the railway, built to try to reduce flooding a year before was washed away – hundreds of houses on the lower lying parts of what became the Orchard estate to the east of the Ravensbourne were inundated. It was the same with the market gardens on the western side, along with large swathes of Deptford. Virtually all the area around the Ravensbourne on the map below from 15 years later was left underwater.

In addition to the high rainfall there was a clear underlying cause which was summed up well by a local man, Frederick Barff, who had grown up in Lee when it was still rural but was living in Eastdown Park in 1871 and if still there in 1878 would have been flooded out. He observed that prior to the development of Lee from the mid-1850s while there had been flooding, it initially stood in large areas of fields which absorbed the runoff without major consequences. The growth of Victorian suburbia had led to increased run off and more water ending up in rivers and stream and at a quicker pace (6).

In the immediate aftermath a temporary wooden bridge over the Quaggy between Weardale Road and Eastdown Park was approved the following day by the Metropolitan Board of Works (7).

There was a public meeting at the Plough on the Friday (next day) to ‘consider the best means of alleviating the distress amongst the poor of Lewisham, Lee, Blackheath and Catford. Crowded by the clergymen, parish officials and leading tradesmen of the district.’ In days before the state intervened in disasters like this it was left to charity to provide ‘coal and relief to those poor people in the district’ whose homes had been flooded. Over £200 was collected or promised for the Lewisham and Lee Inundation Relief Fund – with £120 going to the parishes of St Mark and St Stephen in central Lewisham that had been worst affected; £50 for Ladywell; with £50 for Lee and Blackheath.

So, what happened afterwards?  The approach that was used was one that continued towards the end of the 20th century and the 1968 floods – straightening and deepening rivers to try to move water on more rapidly.  This happened on the Quaggy behind what is now Brightfield Road – as the maps from 1863 and 1893 show. The Quaggy was also moved and straightened between Manor Park and Longhurst Roads – this happened a little later once the land was developed for housing.

Several bridges were replaced – the partially destroyed Eastdown Park bridge was rebuilt and replaced with a girder one (see below from the river), the river level is lower there now too, although whether this happened post 1878 or 1968 isn’t immediately clear (8). 

Plough Bridge was replaced in 1881 by the Metropolitan Board of Works (9) having been preceded by ‘general dredging and clearing the channels of the river’ (10).  Later a new sewer between Lee Bridge and Deptford Creek was constructed to try to take some pressure off the rivers from run off (11).

Another bridge replaced by the Board of Works was the one on Lee Road.  Previously this had been a ford and footbridge, but a large single span bridge replaced it following the floods, presumably with a lowering of the river bed (12). 

The underlying problems remained though, making flows quicker may alleviate problems in one location but without storage and a whole catchment solution, including the ability to control flows on the Thames it wasn’t much better than a sticker plaster. The fields that had acted as sponges continued to be developed and increased run off. In reality, not much had changed by the 1968 floods and it took the development of flood storage in Sutcliffe Park (pictured below) in the early 2000s to really make much difference. Without it Lewisham would regularly flood – it is pictured from late 2020.

Notes

Most of the information for this post comes from the Kentish Mercury of 27 April 1878 which covered the flooding and its aftermath in depth.  Readers can assume that contemporary information comes from there unless otherwise referenced.

  1. Dundee Courier 12 April 1878
  2. Kentish Mercury 20 April 1878
  3. ibid
  4. ibid
  5. ibid
  6. ibid
  7. Kentish Independent – 13 April 1878
  8. Woolwich Gazette 31 July 1880
  9. Woolwich Gazette 1 October 1881
  10. Kentish Mercury 16 October 1880
  11. Woolwich Gazette 17 June 1882
  12. Woolwich Gazette 31 July 1880

Credits

  • Census and related data comes via Find My Past, subscription required
  • The Ordnance Survey maps are on a non-commercial licence via the National Library of Scotland
  • Postcards of Lewisham Bridge and what was then Beckenham Lane are via eBay from 2016
  • The photograph of the Sultan is used with the permission of Robert Crawford, the great grandson of the Craddocks, licensees there in the 1920s, it remains his family’s copyright
  • The photograph of the destroyed bridge in Eastdown Park is from the collection of Lewisham Archives and remains their copyright, but is used with their permission

Granville – A Victorian Cricket Club

A while ago Running Past looked at Northbrook Cricket club who had a ground In an area bounded by Manor Lane, the railway from Hither Green, Burnt Ash Hill and Holme Lacey Road.  They had cricketing next door neighbours – Granville, whose ground had some illustrious visitors and parts of whose story we will look at now.

Unlike Northbrook, the club wasn’t formed in Lee, it had been in existence in Blackheath for 18 years before it arrived in Lee in 1884, a decade after its neighbours. Like Northbrook, it was a name that related to local landowners.  The name Granville appears in several street names including on the northeastern side of Lewisham High Street, Granville Park and the lost Granville Mews – the ‘ghost’ of its name superimposed over the lovely Holdaway ghost sign on Belmont Hill. 

Long and Lazy Lewisham blog noted the derivation earlier in the year – it was a family middle name used by the Eliot family who were the Earls of St Germans.  It would have been the 3rd Earl of St Germans, Edward Granville Eliot, who the parish would have been referring to when naming the streets.

The club appears to have been set up by Pearse Morrison (1) a commercial stationer and printer, who lived in Blackheath at a house on one of those streets named after the Earls of St Germans – 5 Eliot Park (2).

They played on the Heath (3), the freeholders for which were the Legge family, later the Earls of Dartmouth; there were 18 adult cricket pitches on the Heath in 1890 and no doubt a similar number a few years before (4). However, there was no booking system for pitches with a “first there has the ground” rule (5), so for a club with seemingly wealthy members it may have encouraged them to look elsewhere. 

The moved to Lee was for the 1884 season, that campaign was good one – they played 23 won 11, lost 2, drew  10 (6).

A prominent name in the club around the time of the move to Lee was ‘Furze’ who lived at The Laurels, also known as Laurel Cottage, a large house on Hither Green Lane from the mid to late 1860s until the early 1880s.   It was initially home to wine merchant Thomas Holloway Furze who died in 1869, and his wife Emma who died in 1882.  At least three of their sons played for the club (7).

Frederic, born in  1852, who was the club Vice President in 1878 (8). He moved to Copers Cope Road in Beckenham by 1881, along with his brother Edwin, it seems that they took over his father’s wine business.

Herbert Furze (1856), unlike his brothers, became a stationer and after living at The Laurels in 1881, he had married and moved to Foots Cray by 1891.

Edwin (1858) was also living at the The Laurels in 1881, but moved closer to the ground and in 1891 was at 56 Handen Road.  Edwin was still playing at that point and in pictured in the 1893 team photo, which we’ll cover later. 

During the 1890s a well known name played in several matches against Granville – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who played for Norwood. Conan Doyle was a decent cricketer and played several First Class matches for the MCC, just down the road from 221B Baker Street.  His cricketing claim to fame was getting perhaps the biggest wicket of all, W G Grace.

The game’s afoot …..Conan Doyle’s first match in Lee was in 1891, when C J M Godfrey ripped through the Norwood batting taking five wickets, more on Godfrey later. Doyle fell cheaply, stumped off W Edwards bowling, taking no wickets himself. Like all the other batsmen he struggled on a rain sodden pitch in Norwood in a drawn game in September 1892. In July 1894 a Conan Doyle 38 saved the Norwood from defeat in Second XI match in Lee.

Later the same season, he opened the batting for the 1st XI  in a fixture at Norwood’s Pavillon Grounds, getting 20 before Helder bowled him, one of 8 wickets taken by him.  Whilst Doyle picked up a wicket it wasn’t enough to prevent a heavy defeat to Granville.

A Granville team photograph survives for the 1893 season.  Many of the names are ‘lost’ in terms of who they were but a few are worth mentioning. Charles John Melville (C J M) Godfrey was a professional who the club employed.  He was a right-handed batsman and a right-arm fast bowler who played a handful of first class matches for Sussex between 1885 and 1892 with a career best bowling of 5 for 22 in 1890, and a best of 17 with the bat in his final match against Yorkshire in 1892. Whilst playing for Oxford University his bowling was described as ‘energetic, if erratic’.

Perch (bottom row) was the grounds man (9) – it isn’t clear whether the lack of initial related to this status.  Edwin Furze (next to bottom row) we’ve already covered above. George Helder, who we’d seen above taking the wicket of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was the son of the Vicar of St Mildred’s church, a few hundred metres from the ground – he was 17 in 1893. 

Philip P Lincoln lived at a house almost opposite St Mildred’s church and was a Lime and Cement merchant. He seems to have continued his involvement in the club until the outbreak of World War 1.  Hope was expressed that he would be able to keep the club going after the loss of the ground (10).

R A (Richard Alfred) Glover, the bearded man in the centre of the picture, was the owner of the Wenlock Brewery in Hoxton, who lived at 143 Burnt Ash Road. He was presumably an officer of the club and will have made sure that the bar was well supplied. He’d moved onto Croydon by the time of his death in 1898.

During the 1893 season their primary matches were against Bickley Park, Croydon, Crystal Palace, Hampstead, Tunbridge Wells, Charlton Park, Streatham, Forest Hill, Hornsey, Blackheath, Bradfield Waifs, and a benefit against MCC and Ground (11) the ‘MCC’ were the amateurs who were members, the ‘Ground’ the professionals.  There was no league structure and the games were virtually all friendlies. 

1893 saw the tradition of an August tour of Sussex continue with a week of matches in Eastbourne, St Leonards and Willingdon (12).

There was also a home Granville Cricket Week in early August – the 1893 edition included games against Old Chigwellians, Border Regiment, Stoics, Eltham and a defeat to Forest Hill (13).

Fast forward into the new century a name appeared in the Granville scorecards that will be familiar to most people – W G Grace.  Running Past covered his later years in south London a while ago.  The last club he played for was Eltham and his first match for them was against Granville on 28 May 1910, at Chapel Farm (the current site of Coldharbour Leisure Centre). His impact was limited, while he opened the batting for Eltham he was trapped leg before wicket for 3 (14). An excellent scalp for an unnamed Granville bowler – likely to be either A S Johnson or J A Rutter who seem to have opened the bowling much of that season.

As well as turning out for Eltham, Grace still played for the MCC and captained them in their regular appearance at the Granville Cricket Week in 1912. Granville were made to bat and skittled out for 63; the MCC after an early wobble comfortably surpassed the home team’s score.  E L Downey took 5-36 for Granville.  In the other fixtures at Lee that week, they lost a thrilling final match to Guys Hospital by 2 runs despite a good opening partnership between J O Anderson and N Cockell.  Earlier in the week Anderson had put together a team which Granville had beaten.  They had also lost heavily to a Hampstead team that contained Harold Baumgartner who played Test Cricket for South Africa – his slow left-arm spin on a drying pitch had bewildered the Granville batsman – taking 9 wickets very cheaply, eight of them bowled (15). 

Grace appeared again in Lee for the MCC in 1913, they heavily defeated the men from Granville scoring well over 300 before dismissing the home team for less than 100, Grace’s contribution is not known.  In the Granville Cricket Week that year there were three victories for the home team – against Forest Hill, Hampstead and J Anderson’s XI, with defeats Wanderers, Richmond as well as the MCC. In games against J Anderson’s XI and Hampstead (and possibly others) there was a significant name playing for Granville, Cyril ‘Snuffy’ Brown who scored a century and took 9 wickets in the first of these (16).

Brown was a West Indian Test cricketer described as ‘a devastating bowler and attacking batsman’ who was a pioneer of bowling the ‘googly.’  He had already played for Barbados and the West Indies against the MCC when he came to London to train as a barrister in 1911. He mainly played for Clapham Rovers but in an era where clubs only played friendlies he turned out for several others, including Granville. It wasn’t just his bowling that impressed – he was described as ‘a brilliant field(er), and a splendid batsman; he has an easy style and can pull a ball with remarkable ease’ (17).

He returned to the West Indies in 1914, going on to be the first black captain of an island team, and had it not been for the racism within West Indies cricket may well have gone on to captain the Test team.

An article in the Sporting Life in 1913 noted that the end was nigh for the ground, with development planned for after the 1914 season.  World War One brought cricket to a halt there most sport – as we saw with Catford Southend.  Cricket doesn’t seem to have restarted in Lee after the war (18).

The housing took a while to arrive – Holme Lacey Road was built by W J Scudamore in the early 1920s.  The pavilion whose steps, W G Grace, and Snuffy Browne walked down is now occupied by 53 and 55 (pictured).

The Granville ‘square’ where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will have taken guard was covered by the Chiltonian Biscuit factory which had moved on from Staplehurst Road.  Today, it is the home of the Chiltonian Industrial Estate, pictured below, the square would have been at the far end of the photograph.

Notes

  1. 12 October 1878 – Kentish Mercury
  2. 20 July 1877 – Kent & Sussex Courier
  3. 19 June 1913 – Sporting Life Re Heath 
  4. Neil Rhind (1987) The Heath pp 55-56
  5. ibid
  6. 26 September 1884 – Kentish Mercury
  7. 12 October 1878 – Kentish Mercury
  8. ibid 
  9. 21 September 1893 – Cricket 
  10. 19 June 1913 – Sporting Life 
  11. 13 April 1893 – Cricket 
  12. 19 April 1893 – Sporting Life 
  13. 10 August 1893 – Sporting Life 
  14. 02 June 1910 -Cricket 
  15. 19 June 1912 – The Sportsman
  16. 19 June 1913 – Sporting Life 
  17. 07 September 1912 – Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 
  18. 19 June 1913 – Sporting Life 

Picture and Other Credits

  • The drawing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is via the Illustrated London News on 25 May 1901
  • The photograph of Snuffy Brown is via the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 07 September 1912 
  • The picture of W G Grace is from a year or two before he played for Eltham, as it is in the colours of London County, it is on a Wikimedia Creative Commons
  • Census and related data comes via Find My Past, subscription required
  • The 1893 team photograph & the picture of the Chiltonian Biscuit Factory are part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission but remains their copyright
  • The map showing the location of the ground is on a non-commercial licence via the National Library of Scotland

‘Gardening Shopping with Copping’ – a Lee High Road Ghost Sign

On the corner of Marischal Road and Lee High Road a ‘ghost sign’ has recently (July 2021) appeared from behind an advertising hoarding. It is for a family business that traded from the site for around 90 years. 

Ghost signs are painted advertising signs, they are not meant to be permanent – although they lasted much longer than their modern-day counterparts.  The urban landscape used to be full of them but most have been lost – either to modern advertising, being painted over or the buildings themselves being demolished.  They can be

  • National – Bryant & May off New Cross Road; or
  • Local – such as the Holdaway sign on Belmont Hill or Campions in Catford, these were usually on the side of the building that they operated from – this one falls into this category.    

The age of this sign is a little uncertain in that while the front of the building may have been rebuilt either during or after World War Two, it is less clear with the wall  that the ‘ghost sign’ is painted on.   There could have been variants of the same design over the years – the current version certainly predates changes in telephone numbers from 1959 as ’01 852’ is painted over what was presumably ‘LEE’.  The original could be as early as the 1920s as the gardening part of the family business started to be listed in Kelly’s Directories then.

Whatever the exact age of the sign, there is an interesting story of a long-lived family business, whose story we’ll now tell.

The Coppings had first opened a shop on Lee High Road in the late 1880s, at what was then 87 High Road, Lee – unlike further up the road, the numbering remained constant, only the ‘Lee prefix’ being added.  The street it was on the corner of though had a different name, it was then Douglas Road. In the 1888 Kelly’s Directory it was referred to as ‘Copping, T & Sons, Fruiterer etc.’

The ‘T’ was Thomas; in the 1881 census he had been listed as a gardener living in Ravensbourne Street in Deptford – born in 1843 he came from Thornham Parva in Suffolk as did his sons Levi, born in 1867 and Spencer in 1868.  They seem to have moved to Deptford in the 1870s as they were still in Suffolk in 1871 when the census was taken.

While Thomas’ name was over the window, in the 1891 census he is listed as a market gardener living in Kelsey Park in Beckenham.  Living over the shop in 1891 was his son Spencer, who was presumably running the shop.  He and his father seemed to have swapped roles by 1901 – with Thomas running what had been listed as a florist for several years – perhaps selling produce from Beckenham.

The shop, without any painted advertising sign, is on the corner of the second turning on the right of the postcard below – the first was the original end of Marischal Road, although that turning was lost with the construction of the Mercator Estate in the 1960s.

By 1911, though the name over the window of the florist shop was still Thomas, his son son, Levi (1867) was running the business.  Presumably Thomas had died, although there is no obvious record of this.  In the 1911 census he was living over the shop, listed as a ‘fruiterer, greengrocer and florist’ with 6 children including Levi (1890), George (1905) and Thomas (1907).  Levi (1867) had moved around a lot since living in Deptford; they had lived in Ivy Terrace, close to St Stephen’s Church in Lewisham in 1891, although they’d been in Sidcup the year before where Levi (1890) was born.  They had spent much of the next 15 years near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, close to where his wife Susan hailed from.  He was working there as a market gardener.

Soon after Levi (1867) took over the business, it expanded into 85 High Road.  While it continued to be listed as a fruiterer, presumably also a greengrocer and florist, by 1925 there was change as the shop was listed as garden contractors too – presumably taking in the skills of the rest of the family too.

Levi (1867) was still  living at 87 in 1939 with his son Thomas (1905) who was listed as a motor van driver.  Next door at 85 was Levi (1889), with daughter Jessie (1912) and son Leonard (1915). Levi senior died in 1940, he was already widowed, and in his will of £1617 was left to sons Levi (1889), described as a florist, George and Thomas who were both listed as horticulturalists.

It is probably likely that brothers Levi (1889), Thomas and George, who in 1939 was listed as a Garden Contractor living in Morden Road in Blackheath, continued the business.  Levi(1889) had moved to the Isle or Wight by 1960, where he died.  It isn’t clear about George, but he may well have died in Beckenham in 1968.

The business was run by Thomas and his family from the 1960s, 85-87 was listed as a ‘Coppings Garden Centre’ or variants of this from 1965. The shop seems to have survived into the 1990s, while Thomas died in 1981, his sons Peter and Michael, along with the latter’s family took over the reins of running the shop.

By the 1990s 85-87 had become a shop selling aquarium and related supplies, run by Peter Copping.

Michael continued the gardening contracting business based on the Charlton/Woolwich borders, initially as Copping’s Landscapes then through Coppings (Maintenance) Ltd between 1995, and the death of Michael Copping in 2015. There are fond memories of working for the landscaping business in the late 1980s – ‘a rough tough crew.’

More recently the shop has become a Oriental food supermarket.

Notes

  • Kelly’s Directories are via the always helpful Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • Census and related data is via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The postcard of Lee High Road is via eBay, March 2020

Thank you to Richard Sanderson for letting me know that the sign had appeared, without whom this post wouldn’t have happened. Thank you also to Syd Kennedy for making a link to the more recent gardening contracting business – see comments below.

Thank you also to Minnie Copping (see comment below) for helping join some of the strands of the story together.

Probably the First Shopping Parade in Lee – Part 2, the 20th Century & Beyond

In the first part of this post we looked at the early Victorian origins of the parade as it evolved from houses into shops. We’d seen gradual changes in the businesses reflecting Lee’s transformation from village to suburbia in the second half of the century. As we left it, it was a parade that seemed to be doing well – many of the shopkeepers able to afford to live in the suburban houses with servants.

We return to the parade as the new century dawned, again looking at each shop until redevelopment happened in the 1960s.

183 Lee High Road

183 was the shop next door to the Woodman; at the end of Victoria’s reign it was an Oil and Colourman, a paint seller, run by Frank Attfield. Frank Attfield’s name was to remain over the window until the late 1920s. Frank had retired by 1911 and the business was being run by his son, William, born in 1881. Both were living at 247 Lee High Road a house that was close to the corner of Lee Park – they had lived there since 1901. It is visible from Frank’s era in the postcard below.

Frank died in in 1938, he was buried at Hither Green Cemetery. At the time he was living at 14 Southbrook Road and left an estate of £15072 to William and his brother Edwin. It was a house he bought a couple of decades before.

William’s name stayed over the window until around 1950, when he would have been 69. However, other than his marriage to Dorothy in 1919, the trail goes cold on him.

Electrical Contractor Sidney Folkard was briefly there in the early 1960s, but the shop seems to have been empty after that.

185 Lee High Road

We’d left 185 with the name John Henry Churcher over the window of a carving and gilding business – essentially a picture framer. Living above the shop in 1901 though were Frederick Morse from Camberwell (41), his wife Marian and 7 children, the oldest (15) was also Frederick and worked the business too. Presumably Morse was Churcher’s manager as his name was above the window by 1911, with Churcher trading in Lewisham High Street by then.

The shop was empty in 1920. It had become a confectioner by 1925, known as Cox and Son – a trade that it continued in for most of the rest of the life. By 1939 Kathleen Latter lived there with husband Arthur who was a clerk elsewhere. She had gone before the end of the war – like a lot of confectioners seeming to struggle due to rationing. A series of names were over the window post World War Two – James Day in the 1950s, George Moiler by 1960, and J Atkinson in the 1960s. After that only Glenview Driving School got a mention in the depleted Kelly’s Directories.

187 Lee High Road

187 was a shop that stayed in the same trade, a butchers, throughout its history. Thomas Spearing straddled the turning of the centuries. He had been born in Redhill, Surrey in 1875, but he only lasted until few years into the new century before moving to south west London. In 1911 James Plummer (33) from Croydon was there; he had probably moved there by 1907 as all four of his young children were born in Lee.

Following James Plummer were Joseph Moore and Ernest Knifton, but they only lasted a few years each. Frederick Roy Nicholls was there by the time war broke out with wife Lilian assisting in the shop. Frederick died in 1962, when he was 66, and was probably running the shop until his death. Nothing obvious replaced the business.

189 Lee High Road

We’d left 189 with the name Harry Willson and Co, tailors, over the window.  The Wilsons had moved on by 1900 and there was a new trade – a boot and shoe dealer run by Louis George Brunning.  This was an expansion from the final shop in the parade at the corner of Lee Church Street, 205, where they ran an outfitters.  We will cover the Brunnings there.  J H Dodd took over the boot and shoe shop by 1911, although they were gone by the time World War 1 broke out and the shop was closed until the early 1920s.

There was a new trade by 1925, Pianoforte maker, which seems to have sold classical records too (1). The business was run by William Salisbury who had been carrying out the same business from 191 for at least a decade. Salisbury was born in 1868 and seems to have stayed at 189 until his death in 1942. Three years before he was there with wife Ethel, born in 1885; also there in 1939 was their son, also William (25); who was listed as ‘student, seeking work’ and Kate Bunyan who assisted in the shop. Kate was Ethel’s sister and later married James Salisbury who was presumably her nephew. The business continued until the end of the war, but the shop was empty in 1950 and remained so, seemingly for the rest of the building’s life.

191 Lee High Road

By the beginning of the century, Robert Oates’ drapers had expanded into the shop, that business is covered at 193, but pictured above, 191 is at the very left of the postcard.

The shop was empty in 1911 as Robert Oates sold up and the incoming draper, A Seymour, went back to two shops, which we’ll cover below. In 1915 a piano maker moved in, William Salisbury, it is a name that have already been covered – William spent most of their time on the parade next door at 189. The musical chairs of shop leases continued, no doubt accompanied by William Salisbury at the piano. Seymour’s took over 191 again when Salisbury moved next door – we’ll cover them at 193.

When Seymour sold up in the 1930s, 191 but not the rest of their mini empire, was taken over by the builder and plumber Benjamin Chapman who has been born in 1895. In 1939 he lived there with his wife Lilian and two others, whose entries were redacted – maybe young children who hadn’t been evacuated. The Chapmans had moved on before the end of the war and the shop was empty in 1945. Model Aircraft dealers, Prendergast and Co, took up residence for the sale of Airfix by 1950 and remained there into the 1970s.

193 & 195 Lee High Road

The drapers of Robert Oates had been a feature of this part of Lee High Road since 1881, like many well to do shopkeepers they had ceased living over the shop and had moved to 239 Lee High Road – a house that was between Lee Park and Dacre Park (then Turner Road).  They had expanded into 191 and in the 1901 census 191-195 was home to Sarah Gilham and Blanche Wallis who worked in the shop, plus three servants – presumably for the family home.

In 1910, Oates seems to have sold the lease up to Edwin Seymour (also referred to by his middle name Augustus); Oates remained in the area until his death in 1921. Oddly, Oates didn’t sell the stock to Seymour – that was bought up by Chiesmans in Lewisham for a very precise 43.875% off list price by tender, presumably Seymour had offered less and was offered for sale in their Lewisham town centre shop in April (2).

Seymour would have been in his last 20s when he took over the business – he initially contracted a little, focussing the business on 193 and 195 with 191 being empty in 1911.

Seymour came from Spalding in Lincolnshire and in 1911 he was living over the shops with his wife Ellen; her parents; a servant, Rose Hardey, Carrie Simmonds who worked in the shop, and the Seymour’s young son Jack, born in Lee in 1908.

The Seymours’ business had expanded back into 191 by 1925. Seymour’s father, also Edwin Augustus, was living over the shop when he died in 1932. Perhaps soon after they moved home although not the business, as by the time the 1939 Register was compiled they were living at 21 Manor Lane, with a draper’s assistant. However, it seems that the shop wasn’t to last much longer when the 1940 Kelly’s Directory was compiled the shop was empty – maybe an early victim of rationing. It remained empty until the late 1940s when Builders Merchants William Ashby and Son moved in, taking on 193-201. They had gone by 1960 and seem to have been the last tenants.

197 & 199 Lee High Road

Charles Hopwood was running a long standing ironmongers at the beginning of the 1900s, although he seems to have extended his business and in the 1901 census was listed as a Sports Good Manufacturer living in Brandram Road. He seems to have moved to 61 Eltham Road – now part of the Ravens Way estate and opposite Leybridge Court – but died just before the census of 1911.

Presumably the new business was why he sold up as by 1905 there was a new name at 197 & 199, but same business – Percy Winkworth’s name was over the window of the iornmongers; it wasn’t a name to last long – the shop was trading as Lee General and Furnishing, still basically an ironmonger a couple of years later but by 1916 it was empty. It is pictured above from the corner of Bankwell Road (built 1907) next to development which included the short lived cinema Lee Picture Palace, which opened in 1910.

By the mid-1920s there was a timber merchant, trading as Woodworkers Supply Company which lasted into World War 2, but empty again by the end of it.

During the 1950s, it was used by the sprawling empire of William Ashby’s Builders Merchants. However, that was closed by 1960 and 197 was home to Vanguard Engineering, although that had gone by 1965. For a while, the business premises were shared with the printers Dickson and Scudamore. The Scudamore was George who was the younger son of Cornelius Scudamore, who was the architect for the large-scale local builder, W J Scudamore. The Dickson was George’s brother in law, Maxwell.

201 Lee High Road

William Button had been selling sweets to the people of Lee since around 1894 though, born in Greenwich around 1853 he was there with his wife Sarah and three daughters when the 1901 census was collected.

Button was replaced by John Moors by 1911, although he was not listing as living over the shop (or seemingly anywhere else for that matter). The name remained over the window until the 1930s – although by the outbreak of the war he seems to have been listed as a Snack Bar Manager living in Forest Hill.  Maybe the parade couldn’t cope with two confectioners after Cox and Son opened at 185 in the mid-1920s.

In the mid 1930s someone called Newson was running the shop as a greengrocers – but was seeking offers in the region of £150 for the business, noting an annual rent of £70 (3).

By 1939 James Moulden was selling fruit– it wasn’t a business that lasted long as by the time the war ended, it was part of Ainslie and Sons based at 199. Like 199 it became part of William Ashby’s Builders Merchants, but when that closed in the 1950s, it seems to have remained empty thereafter.

205 Lee High Road

We had left 205 in 1901 when it was being run as an outfitter by Louis Brunning, he’d been there from the 1880s. By 1911 Louis had retired and was living in Bromley; his name still appeared over the shop window but it was his sons Herbert Welford and Leonard Godfrey Brunning who were running the business. Louis died in 1927, but by 1925 the brothers’ names appeared. Leonard died in 1934 and his name disappeared in subsequent Kelly’s Directories soon after.

The business seems to have remained in the family until Herbert’s death in 1956. The shop was empty in 1960.

Lee Service Station and Costcutter

It was clear that the parade had been on the decline since the end of World War One something probably exacerbated by the shiny new shops of Market Parade opposite which had opened in the 1930s.

Kelly’s Directories listed very few of the shops from around 1965, in a way that wasn’t the case with the parades on the south of Lee High Road, notably Market Parade opposite. This was probably because the shops were not let – perhaps beyond their useful life; requirements to pay to go into Kelly’s didn’t happen until the 1980s. The exceptions were J Atkinson, the confectioners at 185 and Prendergast & Co., Model Aircraft Dealers at 191 that lasted until around 1970.

By this stage the eastern end of the parade had presumably been demolished – it was listed as Carris Service Station from 1965, perhaps trading a year or two earlier. Carris Motors had been around for a while, there were several members of the Pilmore Bedford family who owned and ran the firm listed as running motor trade businesses in the 1939 Register, including a couple in adjacent houses in Bromley Road. The company Carris Motors was first registered in 1946. By 1953 they were based at Lewisham Bridge, where the DLR station is now situated, selling cars and light commercial vehicles as well as servicing and repairs. They seem to have sold Hillman, Humber and Sunbeam at that stage, all part of the Rootes Group.

The operation in Lee High Road is listed in Kelly’s ‘Carris Service Stations Ltd. – Motor Garage & Service Station.’ So it isn’t clear which elements of the business it included, but probably not sales. That moved on to Bromley Road in the 1960s, initially with the same Rootes brands, but by the late 1980s it had becomea Vauxhall dealership, then in competition with Lee Green’s Penfolds. They seem to have made the mistake of switching to the post British Leyland Rover by 1995 and had ceased trading by 1999.

By 1970 it seems that either Carris had sold up or it had been re-badged as Lee Filling Station.  While it is has gone through various incarnations in terms of names it has been a BP garage for most of that time, surviving in a market that the supermarkets have muscled into.  During the 1990s it expanded its range of goods initially selling newspapers and related goods and then becoming a Marks and Spencer food franchise, the current buildings being constructed in the early 2000s. Ironically, as we saw in relation to Market Terrace whose completion had caused problems for the older shops on the north of Lee High Road, itself suffered from the Marks and Spencer franchise.

At the other end of the former parade, 183-185, next to the Woodman is a block that received planning permission in 1993, but completed in 1999.  Since then it has always been a Costcutter Supermarket.  It has three stories of flats above it – significantly higher than the shops that preceded it but similar to the adjacent former Woodman.

Notes

  1. Norwood News 16 December 1927
  2. Kentish Mercury 22 April 1910
  3. Sheffield Independent 10 March 1936

Credits

  • The postcard of the parade showing Oates drapers is from the authors own ‘collection’
  • Kelly’s Directories are via the always helpful Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • Census and related data is via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The postcard of the Woodman is via eBay in October 2016
  • The postcard from the corner of Bankwell Road is courtesy of Luke Anthony Briscoe on Facebook

Probably the First Shopping Parade in Lee – Part 1, the 19th Century

About a third of the way from Lewisham to Lee Green is a petrol station which sits between two pubs – The Woodman, which closed a while ago and The Swan, re-badged a few years ago as Elements Bar.  It was the location of one of the earliest shopping parades in Lee certainly dating back to at least the 1840s, probably slightly earlier.  This first part will covered the 19th century, with the second bringing the story up to the 2020s.

Prior to its building, the land had been part of the Lee Place estate which was broken up and sold in lots in the mid-1820s. The most obvious change that this brought with it was the main road bypassing what is now known as Old Road.  The area to the north of the shops was developed for servants housing and known as Lee New Town.

The road the shops were on was not called the High Road yet; in 1841 it was still referred to as ‘New Road’, presumably to distinguish it from Old Road – the numbering was east to west 1 to 14 which was the The Woodman.

By the 1851 census, the parade next to the pub was referred to as Durham Place.  This was after the first publican of the pub next door, The Woodman, Alexander Durham.  The Durham family owned the pub until the mid-1860s.

The easterly part of the parade was later referred to as Manks Place, the derivation for this isn’t clear; the numbering went in the opposite direction to Durham Place.  It was known as 183 to 205 High Road from the late 1880s  (the prefix Lee was added in the 20th century).  To prevent confusion, we will refer to it by the 20th century numbering!

The layout on the properties is shown in the 1860s Ordnance Survey map above, which predated the redevelopment of the Woodman which is helpfully dated on the side. It seems likely that the properties were built as houses and became shops as was the case at 1-19 and 2-30 Burnt Ash Road around 40 years later.

183 Lee High Road

In 1841, the business next to the Woodman was run by George Baker, who was subject to nominative determinism and was a baker aged 45.  The bakery was still there in 1851 but, alas, Charles Watson who hailed from Stanstead in Essex was now running it, he seems to have moved to Lee the previous year based on the ages and birthplaces of his children; he was 35.

A decade later, 183 was still a baker but the proprietor had changed to Elizabeth Clarke, who was 52 and came from Surrey and was there with here three children. In was still a bakery in 1871, now run by James Case (although the handwriting was terrible) who was running the business with his son, also James, who hailed from Eltham.

During the 1870s the business changed – it was ‘home’ to Frank Attfield, an oil and colourman – a paint seller.  It was to be a business that stayed at 183 for several decades.  Frank was born in Camberwell in 1855, but his family moved to Lee by 1858 and in 1871 was living in Brandram Road with his parents. In 1881 also there was his wife Emma plus 3 children including William Cator Attfield who was to later take over the business, he was just 8 months old in 1881.  Frank and Emma married in Sudbury in Suffolk in 1876. The business was good enough to be able to afford to move out to the then newly built 9 Aislibie Road by 1891.

185 Lee High Road

In 1841 John Hearns, 51, was selling shoes to the people of Lee – it isn’t clear whether he made and repaired them too.  Hearns, who hailed from Greenwich was still there in 1851 with his wife, Hannah from Deptford.  The 1861 census was a little unclear, but it is likely that the shop was empty.

By 1871, it may have reverted to a house and was home to William Joyce, a plumber.  A decade later, John Churcher, born in 1846, was trading there as an upholsterer.   He came from Hampshire and lived there with his wife, Martha, plus two young children

Churcher was there until the first decade of the 20th century although changed his trade to cabinet maker (1884), picture frame maker (1888) and carver and gilder by 1894.  In practical terms this was the same thing as we saw with the Stimpsons in Lee Road

Like his next door neighbour, business was good enough to be able to move from above the shop, he was living at 23 Ennersdale Road in 1891 and 20 Eastdown Park in 1901.

187 Lee High Road

187 was a shop that seems to have stayed in the same trade throughout its life – in 1841 the butchers in rural Lee was run by Richard Howarth (the handwriting isn’t completely clear though) with a live-in assistant and his wife Mary.  By 1851 the trade was being carried out by Richard Hancock (born 1815) from Somerset, with a couple of shop assistants; he was still there in 1861 and doing well – he had married local woman Hannah – they had four children and four servants.

Richard died in 1867, and the lease was transferred to his widow Hannah Hancock was still running the shop in the 1871 census with two sons who assisted with the business.  Her sister in law plus a servant completed the household.

William Hardstone (30) wore the butcher’s apron in 1881.  He was from farming stock in the then rural St Mary Cray where he was working as a farm labourer a decade before.   Brother George and sister Sarah were working at 187 as butcher and bookkeeper respectively.  Two other butchers were living over the shop along with a servant.

By 1888 Chandler and Sons were there or at least Henry Fuller Chandler (31) from Surrey was running the butchers.  Who the sons were isn’t clear, Henry only had young children – maybe he was the ‘Son’ in a bigger business. A couple of young butchers and a domestic servant also lived there.

As the century drew to a close Thomas Spearing from Redhill in Surrey was wearing the butcher’s apron. The shop, from a little later, is where the height of the buildings in the postcard below slightly increases.

189 Lee High Road

In 1841 Thomas Chipperfield was trading as a linen draper; it wasn’t a business with any degree of longevity though as the next time the census enumerators called John Genery, 46, (the writing isn’t clear) was working as a corn dealer.  This would have been largely horse related supplies rather than seeds for local farms, such as the one at Lee Green and Lee Manor Farm on what is now Manor Lane Terrace.  Genery was from Deptford, and his wife {Phoebe (45) hailed from Cambridgeshire.  In 1861 someone called Harries seemed to there, but the rest of the entry is illegible.

In 1867 the trade changed and Henry Bullesback (56) took over the shop as a tailor and outfitter.   He came from Prussia, now Germany.  He had been in the area since at least 1860 he was listed in the 1861 census as being at Lee Green, along with his Derbyshire born wife, Emma and a young son.  

Henry was made bankrupt in 1868, when he had been living at 1 Lee Park.  This probably led to the family all living over the shop by 1871 where they seem to have remained until around 1895 when the name Harry Wilson and Co was over the window. They described themselves as ‘Scientific Tailors’ seemingly referring to the use of geometry in their trade (1).

191 Lee High Road

In 1841 the shop was a grocer, run by George Gates and his wife Hannah.  By 1851 the shop was still a grocer but now being run by Richard Marsh (36) was there wife Ruth, 4 of their own children and two step children. They had been at 195 in 1841 carrying out the same trade.  Richard had added ‘cheese monger’ to grocer by 1861, his daughters Emma (1842) and Sarah Jane (1846) had moved back into the flat above the shop by 1891, assisting with the business.  

Richard died in 1892 and while Emma and Sarah Jane continued the business for a few more years, they had gone by the turn of the century. The new proprietor was Robert Oates who had enlarged his drapery business from 193-195 to which we will now turn.

193 & 195 Lee High Road

We’ll cover these two shops as one, as for most of their life they were used as a single shop. In 1841 it appears that 193 was yet to be a shop and was home to the Thomas Sidery, a bricklayer born in Lee in 1820.  While we can’t be sure, it assumed that he was part of the extensive multi-generational building family, covered in relation to the Firs Estate.

A decade later it seems to have become a shop run by Thomas Freer (48) who was a stationer from Bridport, he lived there his wife, Eliza, 50, from Poole. The 1861 census was somewhat confused in terms of numbering but seems to have been the first time that Thomas Hoys fishmongers appeared on the parade – they are more associated with 203, so we’ll cover them there.

Next door, as we’ve already seen, Richard Marsh was at 195, in 1841.  A decade later it was ‘home’ to James Mouton’s business as a cordwainer, a shoemaker; he came from just up the road in Eltham.

By 1871 both 193 and 195 were let as one by James Turner who was a draper.  Turner hailed from Andover and was a widow; at the time of the census he was there with three children under 10, three assistants, presumably the ‘three hands’ mentioned in the census. There were two servants too.

The shops were still a drapery in 1881, but there was a new name on the awnings over the window – Robert Oates, from Andover; he was listed in the census as being a ‘draper employing 16.’  He was 36 (born in 1845) and there with wife Sarah, 2 children, 2 servants plus Louisa who worked in the shop. Oates was still trading there a decade later but no longer living over the shop; he had moved to 239 Lee High Road – a large house that was between Lee Park and Dacre Park (then Turner Road). Some of Oates’ employees, three dressmakers, were living at 193/195 in 18910

Oates was a regular user of the local press to advertise new goods and sales – such as the summer sale of 1899 (2). 

By the turn of the century the shop had expanded into 191, which as we have seen had previously been a grocery run by the Marsh family. The Oates ’empire’ is pictured below, probably from around 1908.

197 & 199 Lee High Road

As with 193 & 195, this pair of shops spent much of their lives being operated as single businesses, so they’ll be treated as one here.

The writing and subsequent scanning was poor with both the 1841 and 1851 censuses – the 1841 entries appear to suggest that a shoemaker, James Feltham, and Matthew Simcock with an indecipherable business were plying their trade there in 1841.  By 1851, 197 appears to have been home to a draper’s shop run by George Cannon, although 199 seems to have been empty.

By 1861 though trade and joining of the two premises was clear – John Aldous was running a smithy and iron monger, the former part no doubt shoeing the horses of the district. Aldous came from Suffolk lived there with his wife, Mary from Shropshire – they’d married in Lewisham in 1840. They were still listed in 1871 as an ‘iron monger employing 9 men and 4 boys.’

There was a new man in the shops by 1881, Charles Hopwood, also an ironmonger ‘employing 6 men and 2 boys’ – he was 25 and from Colchester in Essex, and lived there with his sister. He’d moved his home to 46 Brandram Road by 1887, where he was still living in 1901. 

The shop is pictured above, to the right of Oates drapery – its from a year or two after Hopwood moved on in the early 1900s.

201 Lee High Road

The 1841 census isn’t particularly clear at this end of what was then New Road with seemingly four numbers for what were later three properties, the writing was impossible to decipher anyway.  However, it was to be some time before the property became a shop, it was residential in 1851 and an overcrowded lodging house in 1861.

By 1871, it seemed gone the way of the rest of the terrace and was being used as a drapers, run by Welshman  Charles Edwards (35) – he was living there with wife Elizabeth (40), she from Cranbrook in Kent.  The Edwards had gone by 1881 and it was still empty when the 1884 Kelly’s Directory was produced.

Arthur Herringway had opened a confectioners there by 1888, although seems to have sold up to a German national, Christian Beckhauser (the handwriting was poor so the spelling may be incorrect) by 1891, his stay was a short one as Greenwich man  William Button was there by 1894 still selling sweets and chocolates – probably not chocolate buttons though – they were much later.

203 Lee High Road

Like 201, most of the earlier years of its existence saw 203 being used as a house rather than a shop.  In 1841, it was the home to Benjamin Wainwright who was a shoemaker.  A decade later Esther Ward (24) was there, described as a ‘builder’s wife’ – she was probably widowed as her brother William Brown (19) marked as builder employing 11 men and 3 boys.  There were also a lot of other family members there.  By 1861 there were two households – both headed by servants for the larger houses of the district- a gardener and a coachman.

By 1871 though the Thomas Gray Hoys was there selling fish and poultry – he had been further up the parade in 1861; he was there with his wife Mary Ann along with a servant and an assistant in the shop.  The family is listed as living in Eltham by 1881, although the census is unclear and a neighbouring census reference to St Peter’s probably means that they were on Eltham Road.   The business was probably passed to Hoys son, also Thomas Gray Hoys, who in 1901 was living at 34 Effingham Road.  However, Thomas Senior died in 1903, and the name continued over the shops for another few years.

205 Lee High Road

This was a property on the corner of Lee Church Street.  In 1841 and 1851 it seemed to be still residential, home to Richard Page, a plumber and glazier.  By 1861, it was a grocer run by Charles Hudson, he also sold oil for lamps.  He was 21 and hailed from Deptford and lived there with his wife Mathilda who was from Lee.

By 1871 the trades were similar. grocer and cheesemonger, although the proprietor had changed – it was now  John Green and his wife, Elizabeth who came from East Farleigh in Kent. A decade later the grocer’s apron was worn by David Kennard from Maidstone Kent, there with wife young son and his father.

Before the end of the 1880s a surname and trade was to appear that was to remain until the 1950s – Brunning an outfitter; initially it was Louis George Brunning.  While not moving to Lee High Road until around 1888, they had been trading as a bootmaker at 99 Lewisham High Street since at least 1881.   They are listed in the census in 1901 when he was there with his wife Annie, from Holloway plus 6 children, including Herbert (1879) who was working as a tailors cutter and a 7 year old Leonard Geoffrey. 

We’ll return to the Parade next time to look at the 20th century and beyond. As the century changed, it seemed to be in a relatively healthy position – empty shops were rare and many of the shopkeepers able to afford to live in some of the larger homes of Lee and employ servants. The birth places, particularly in the years after the railway arrived, showed the levels of migration into Lee from places all over the country.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 27 December 1895
  2. Kentish Mercury 14 July 1899

Credits

  • The postcard of the parade showing Oates drapers is from the authors own ‘collection’
  • Kelly’s Directories are via the always helpful Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • Census and related data is via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The postcard of the Woodman is via eBay in October 2016

Lee Court – Art Deco Housing for Young Professionals

There are a small number of very attractive 1930s Art Deco buildings in and around Lee; Running Past has covered a couple of them in passing – Dowson Court on Belmont Grove and Woodstock Court on the corner of Burnt Ash Hill and Woodyates Road. We turn our attention to, perhaps the most impressive of them, Lee Court on Lee High Road.

Lee Court occupies a prominent location on the north side Lee High Road, just to the east of the currently closed Rose of Lee/Dirty South, its lines follow the gentle curve of the main road.  It is next door to Lee Green Telephone Exchange.

After being farmland, it became part of the grounds of Hurst Lodge (pictured above) one of a pair of mansions, the other being Lee Lodge.  There was a specific post on these houses and what came after them a while ago.  Hurst Lodge was inhabited until the mid-1920s, but was then bought by Patterson Edwards who made toys, including rocking horses

It seems that Patterson Edwards saw the housing development potential of the edge of the site and sold off a narrow sliver of land, in the same way that previous owners of Lee Lodge had cashed in on land for Manor Park Parade (to the right of the postcard below) a couple of decades earlier.

Source eBay Dec 2019

It is not clear who built or designed the flats, but by the early 1930s there was an elegant four storey Art Deco mansion block of 48 flats with a small estate office at the western end. There are six sections, each with its own stairwell and originally all the flats had Crittall steel framed windows – a small number of which seem to remain.  Buildings of this type and age are a rarity in Lewisham, and while the current freeholders have neglected the exterior a little, it should have been locally listed years ago; this finally happened in 2020, although as we will see later this tardiness will have a long term impact. 

The 1939 Register was collected a few years after building was finished and gives some idea as to who was living there. Looking at flats 1-24 it is striking that there were no children; while with evacuation a month before the Register was collected, few were to be expected, in most of the other locations that Running Past has used the 1939 Register for, a few remained. This was certainly the case at Verdant Lane estate, which was built at around the same time.

The reason is probably that relatively young professionals predominated – there were few manual workers with caretaker George Lester at Flat 1 and the lodgers with the Harlands at 22 – a driver and a packer for a chemist being the exceptions. Unlike a lot of the other locations a lot of the women worked – Ethel Harland was a model, there were a trio of typists at Flat 5 and a couple of clerks. The jobs of the men included draughtsman, pub landlord, research physicist and several clerks. There were no ‘Heavy work’ suffixes which would have offered extra rations.

Households were small, the Harlands with 4 was the biggest, most though were single people and couples though.  There were a surprising number of single person redacted households.  It is not clear why, all were probably relatively young though.

In the recent past there have been relatively few sales – only two in last couple of years (to end of April 2021), most are owned by individuals, many as buy to let, although there are a handful of company let’s and one leased by Lewisham Homes.

The visual impact of the building is about to be significantly lessened as planning permission was granted for an additional storey on the roof in September 2020 after a more modest approval to extend the Estate Office upwards was allowed to lapse.  The Estate Office will be demolished in the proposals.

While it is now locally listed, as the application was made before that local listing came into force it might as well not be.  Although as was the case with the now demolished gas holders at Bell Green, local listing often counts for very little.

The financial benefits of the development will pass to the freeholders of the block, Grandpex Company Ltd. They seem to have bought, through mortgages, the freeholds of around 21 blocks bought at various stages since the early 1950s. The charge on Lee Court dates from late 1998.

Lewisham needs extra homes and building additional storeys on existing blocks is often a good way of doing this – the rather unattractive block of shops in the south western quadrant of Lee Green was probably enhanced by this. It is not that different to the hundreds of loft conversions in the area. However, this is probably not the block to do it to. However, in the context of there being no local listing at the time the application was made there was probably little that either Planning Officers or the Planning Committee could do other than approve the application.

Picture and Other Credits

  • The postcard of Manor Park Parade is via eBay in December 2019
  • The photograph of Hurst Lodge, is from the collection of Lewisham Achives it is used with their permission and remains their copyright
  • The architects drawing of the additional storey to the block are via Lewisham Planning Portal
  • 1939 Register Data is via Find My Past (Subscription required)
  • The photo of the Estate Office is via StreetView as is is currently so overgrown
  • The details of ownership is via Nimbus Maps, registration required

Victorian Cricket and a Suffragette attack in Lee

In an area bounded by Manor Lane, the railway between Hither Green and Holme Lacey Road there was once a pair of cricket grounds, Granville at the Manor Lane end and Northbrook at the western end abutting Lee Public Halls.  We’ll look at Northbrook now and Granville in a later post.

The land appears to have previously been on the southern (left) edge of Lee Manor Farm – the farm map below from the 1840s probably marks it as ‘C K 12.1.10’.  Further to the south was Burnt Ash Farm (at the current junction of Baring and St Mildred Roads).  

In the mid 1860s the railway embankments had cut through the southern end of the farm cutting off the fields and seeing several other parcels of land sold for development.  

Both farms were owned by the Baring Family, at that stage headed by Thomas Baring, Baron Northbrook from 1866 and Earl of Northbrook from 1876.  The title was named after a village close to their Stratton Park estate in Hampshire.  As was covered a while ago, some of the family money came directly from slavery, including some slave ownership.

The Northbrook Cricket club seems to have been founded in 1871 by two relatively wealthy locals of mid Victorian suburbia – William Willis and  William Marks (1).  The latter was born in 1822 and was a Silk Merchant who lived at 30 Southbrook Road (also referred to as The Cottage) in the 1881 and 1891 censuses but had probably moved there in 1871.

The other founder was William Willis QC (pictured), who was a barrister from Bedfordshire living at 4 Handen Road in 1871, 12 Northbrook Road in 1881 and 1891, he moved to the Elms at the corner of Belmont Grove and Belmont Hill during the 1890s (2) and in Belmont Park by 1911.  Willis was also a Liberal politician and MP for Colchester from 1885 until his death in 1911.

Unsurprisingly, given the name of the club, its President was Lord Northbrook (3) and the ground was imaginatively  named Lord Northbrook’s Ground (4).

It was a club with a vision of success who employed a professional in its early years – the Kent player Henry Palser (5).  He seems to have been a local man who was born in 1841, his father had been ‘Beadle of Lee Church’ in 1851.   Palser had an intermittent career as a professional around the country over the next couple of decades; out of season, he worked as a bricklayer – he was living in Court Hill Road in Hither Green in 1881.  

In the local press there wasn’t that much coverage of the club, mentions only seeming to mention fundraisers often at Lee Public Halls, next door, at least until it became a laundry. The Royal Hand Bell Ringers and Glee Singers featured in early 1880 (6).  They also covered annual dinners and the speeches at them – 1878’s noted a good season winning 16/28 matches drawing 8 and losing 4; the batting averages were topped by a Mr Cole at 41 which he won a bat for at the annual dinner (7).

From the early 1880s there began to be extensive coverage of their games, or at least the scorecards in a Victorian newspaper called ‘Cricket.’  Oddly while batting averages were published, bowling ones weren’t. The matches seemed to be friendlies, or at least no league tables were produced.   There is no intention here to do a complete season by season history of the club, it would be repetitive and probably not that interesting; instead we will look at a season every few years.

1883 was their 13th season and it was noted as being ‘successful and satisfactory.’ Matches played that season included their next door neighbours Granville, Sidcup, Burlington, Addiscombe, Old Charlton who played in Charlton Park, Lausanne, Islington Albion, Eltham (at Chapel Farm – now Coldharbour  Leisure Centre), Orpington, Hampton Wick, Pallingswick (close to Hammersmith) and Croydon.

Thirty six matches were played that summer of which 15 were won, 8 lost – of the 13 drawn games, 8 were in the favour of the men from Lee. The batting averages were headed by a W J Smith on 22.13 (8).

By 1889 the opponents were similar although matches had extended down into Kent, with matches against Gravesend and Greenhithe added.  There were 46 matches played 15 won, 12 lost, 12 drawn and 7 abandoned in the wetter summer.  The batting averages were headed by P W G Stuart  on 52.7 (9) – he was probably army Lieutenant, Pascoe Stuart who had been born in Woolwich but had moved away from the area by 1891. Heading the bowling averages was E D J Mitchell who lived just around the corner in Birch Grove, just over the road from E Nesbit of Railway Children fame.

In the late 19th century, Lee was a prosperous area on the edge of the city and those who played for the team in that era reflected that.  They included that season Thomas Blenkiron (10) a silk merchant who live on Burnt Ash Hill who had family links to Horn Park Farm – the house they lived in was called Horn Park. 

1893 started badly for the club with the pavilion being destroyed by fire in January the cause was not  clear (11). The rebuilding was incredibly rapid, with a new ‘half timbered structure with three gables’ built by Kennard Brothers of Lewisham Bridge and opened in late April ahead of the new season (12). The location was mid-way along what is now Holme Lacey Road (below).

Reporting became a lot more reduced during the 1890s, the reasons for this aren’t that clear although it may be because the nature of the Cricket newspaper may well have changed.  In the 1880s smaller clubs like Northbrook were able to pay to have their scorecards covered, this didn’t happen any more in the final decade of the century with mentions reducing to, at best, a couple of sentences.  1899 was a poor season for the club, matches includes matches against Goldsmiths’ Institute – the home away away games involved heavy defeats; a winning draw against Dulwich and a draw in the return fixture at Burbage Road, a losing draw against the London and Westminster Bank, defeats to Panther, Charlton Park and Forest Hill (13).

The number of mentions  got further and further between in the 20th century, with only a handful of reports each year.  There were a few more mentions in 1912 which seems to have been a relatively successful one for the club. There was a winning draw against Albemarle and Friern Barnet in and victories against Addiscombe and  Crofton Park in May and June respectively – A W Fish scored 50s in both games and probably his brother, HD was a centurion in June against Hertford, with Mansel-Smith a centurion against Bromley Town a few days earlier.

There was a comfortable victory against Derrick Wanderers in Manor Way in Blackheath (pictured above in 2020); the ground is still open space but is now abandoned and fenced off, owned by a development company hoping no doubt for a planning law changes that will allow them to develop the site.

In January 1914 the Northbrook Cricket Club pavilion was burned down again. While the Lewisham WSPU branch never claimed responsibility, that week’s ‘The Suffragette’ implied it was the their work the headline noting. ‘Fires and Bombs as Answer to Forcible Feeding’ and having a report on the fire below (bottom right hand corner). The national press was a little more circumspect about naming the culprit though and no one was ever charged with the arson.

It isn’t clear what happened to the club after their 15 minutes of infamy in 1914.  While it is possible that it continued for the rest of the 1914 season, it is likely that World War One brought cricket to a halt there most sport – as we saw with Catford Southend football club.   

By 1924, the landowners, presumably still the Northbrooks, had cashed in on the value of the land and sold it.  The Northbrook ‘square’ was covered by the Chiltonian Biscuit factory which had moved on from Staplehurst Road.  Today, it is the home of the Chiltonian Industrial Estate, pictured below.  The pavilion and southern edge of the outfield was covered at around the same time by the houses of Holme Lacey Road, built by W J Scudamore – pictured earlier in the post.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 28 April 1893
  2. Neil Rhind (2020) Blackheath and its Environs, Volume 3 p518
  3. Kentish Mercury 11 January 1873 
  4. Sporting Life  23 September 1871 
  5. Kentish Mercury 27 May 1871 
  6. Kentish Mercury 24 January 1880 
  7. Kentish Mercury 23 November 1878 
  8. Cricket 20 September 1883 
  9. Cricket 26 September 1889 
  10. Cricket 26 September 1889 
  11. Reynolds’s Newspaper 8 January 1893
  12. Kentish Mercury 28 April 1893
  13. Cricket 1899 various dates 

Credits

  • The 1843 map of Lee Manor Farm and the picture of the Chiltonian Biscuit Factory are part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright;
  • The picture of William Willis is via WikiTree on a Creative Commons
  • The map showing the location of the ground is on a non-commercial licence via the National Library of Scotland
  • Census and related data comes from Find My Past

Brightfield Road – the Street with Two Names, Part 2

In the first part of this post, we explored the 19th century history of Brightfield Road from its building as Robertson Street to its extension and renaming in the 1880s. We turn now to the 20th century and beyond, looking in particular at how the street fared in the World Wars.

We pick up the story with the 1901 census; the street had changed in the late Victorian period from homes for the building trades employed by John Pound, and other local builders, as well as for servants for the large houses in Lee, to a wider mixture of working class occupations.  Looking at the lower numbers at the eastern end of the street, little had changed by 1901 with a mixture of working class jobs such as road mender, carpenter, horse keeper and coachman (this excludes the shops which we will return to in a later post).

The average size of households had reduced to 5.3 (from 5.8 a decade before) mainly as a result of slightly fewer households taking in lodgers and/or houses being split between households. This was much smaller than the numbers in the not dissimilar homes in Ardmere Road in Hither Green which were built at around the same time.

There was little change by 1911, although the average household size dropped again to 4.5.  The nature of the jobs was little different though – manual trades and still lots relating to horse based transport.

The street fared badly in World War One, many of the sons, brothers and husbands of the households were either volunteers or conscripts to fight on the battlefields of France and Belgium – eight of them never returned home to Lee all were buried in cemeteries or remembered on memorials close to where they died.

  • William Upton of number 42 was a Driver in the Royal Engineers and died on 13 March 1918. He was a labourer in civvy street and was around 25 when he died; he was buried at Sailly-Labourse Cemetery in France.
  • Sidney George Munday lived five doors up from William Upton at 52, he was a Private with The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). He was 21 when he died on 14 April 1918 and is remembered at the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.
  • William Henry Church had lived just over the road at 33, he was just 20 when he died serving as a Private in the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) on 18 September 1916.  He was buried at Etaples Military Cemetery in northern France.
  • Willie J Church was just 18 when he died on 6 June 1918, serving as a  Private in the London Regiment.  He is buried at Bienvillers Military Cemetery in France.  He lived at number 85, it isn’t clear whether he was related to William Henry Church.
  • Arthur John Cobb will have known Willie, as he lived  two doors away at 89 with his wife Gertie.  They served in the same Regiment too.  Arthur died on 18 February 1917 and was buried in France at  Merville Communal Cemetery Extension.
  • Alfred William Meggs lived seven doors down at 75, he was 20 and serving as a Corporal with the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) when he died on 3 October 1916.  He is remembered at the Thiepval Memorial, pictured above.
  • William George Bickle had lived five doors away at 65, he died two days after Christmas in 1915 aged just 16, the youngest on the street to perish. He shouldn’t have been there but, probably like Willie Church he will have lied about his age – soldiers needed to be 18 to sign up and 19 to be sent abroad as we saw with Herbert Burden from Catford who was shot for desertion aged just 17.

As World War Two broke out, the numbers living in the smaller houses at the eastern end of Brightfield Road were probably the lowest that there had ever been in the street’s existence – an average of just 2.9 people per home.  A large chunk of this related to the evacuation of children in September 1939, just before the ‘census’ for rationing purposes was taken, the 1939 Register.  However, even taking this into account household size had reduced with very few lodgers and a lot more houses just inhabited by couples and single people.  This will probably be at least in part as a result of limited non-contributory pensions being paid from 1909.

Since 1911 all the horse related trades had disappeared and the eastern end of the street was home to several involved in train, lorry and tram related transport.  There were several working at the Royal Arsenal making armaments.  Very few had the ‘Heavy Work’ suffix to their role which would have allowed them to have larger rations though.  The difference with Ardmere Road here is significant.   A slightly smaller proportion of women worked to 28 years before in 1911, but the trades were little more diverse – still mainly shop, laundry and work and dressmaking though.

There were a couple of nights heavy bombing in early December 1940, on the nights of the 8th and 9th of December.  Given the significance of these nights in the area we’ll return at some point but several houses had incendiary bombs hit them – 19, 20, 22, 43, 46, 52, 60, 113 and 123.  All seemed to have been put out and the houses remain.   There was a high explosive bomb that seems to have landed in the rear garden of 95 without causing too much damage.

Just after Christmas incendiary bombs rained down on Brightfield Road with 32, 34, 42, 43, 49, 63 and 83 all hit by them (some are pictured below) – the fires were put out by wardens and the inhabitants, but many of the roofs were damaged.

Early in 1941 there was a high explosive bomb that hit the roadway close to the bridge over the Quaggy, several houses were destroyed or had to be demolished due to the resulting major gas explosion (1). The damage is the darker colours is shown on the bottom left hand corner of the map below (2). No one died with only two requiring optional treatment but there was widespread damage in terms of broken windows and major structural damage to houses up to 100 metres away (3).

On the odd side, 103 – 107 were never replaced and the gap was used to form an entrance to Manor House Gardens.  Over the road, whilst the last house, 92 (at the left of the photograph) survived, 84 to 90 didn’t and they were replaced by private sector housing after the war.

Over the bridge, 75 to 79 were lost too at some stage in the Blitz.  They too weren’t replaced – the playground to what was then Hedgley Street School (now Holy Trinity School) was extended.

Several civilians on the street died;

  • Annie Taylor from 121 Brightfield  died in an attack on 110 Springbank Road as we saw in a post on that street;
  • Alfred Dibley of 56 died on 5 July 1944 at St John’s Hospital on Morden Hill presumably as a result of a V-1 attack;
  • Elizabeth Grant of 70 died at Albion Way Shelter early in the Blitz and
  • Eliza Jenner was injured at an attack on number 4 on 11 May 1941 and died at Lewisham Hospital the same day.  

There was a VE Day party there, a bit later than most on 2 June 1945.  The street scene is now markedly different – the attractive bank buildings (once a temperance coffee house) and the three storey shops at the end of the street were lost after the war either to Penfold’s or Sainsbury’s expansion.  We’ll return to the shops in a later post.

So who lives there now?  While it isn’t possible to use census data from 2011 just for the street there is a Output Area that relates to most of the street, along with Lampmead Road.  The employment categories are very different to the census data that we have looked at before.  The main employment types of the 196 residents in employment were shops (7%), finance, insurance and banking (10%), professional and scientific (13%), education (19%) and health (7%).  It will be interesting to see what changes there are when the 2021 Census results are collated.

Most of the homes seem to be owner occupied homes – although there are eight or nine owned by property companies letting the homes and three are let by social landlords.  The change is massive compared with when the homes were built as Robertson Street when virtually all will have been privately rented.

Certainly rising house prices will make affordability nigh on impossible for the sort of people that lived there before World War Two. One of the bigger houses was sold for £842,500 in 2020 – now single-family dwellings, when built they had been ‘conveniently arranged for two families. Let to very respectable tenants at 12/- a week’ in 1892 (4). 

One of the smaller houses sold for just under £500,000 just before the first lockdown.

We will return to Brightfield Road at some point in the future to look at the shops that used to be on the street.

Notes

  1. Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming of Age in Wartime London, Peter Owen p51
  2. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 p116
  3. Willmott op cit p51
  4. Kentish Mercury 25 July 1892

Credits

  • Permission has been given by the copyright owners of the Bomb Damage Maps, the London Metropolitan Archives to use the image here, it reamins their copyright
  • All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The photographs of the VE Day party is part of the collection of the Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission and remains their copyright;
  • The photograph of the Theipval Memorial is on a creative commons via Wikipedia

Brightfield Road – the Street with Two Names (Part 1)

Streets having their names changed is nothing unusual – we’ve covered it a couple of times before with Dermody Road (formerly Hocum Pocum Lane), Waite Davies Road (formerly (Butterfield Street). Similarly, on the other side of Lee High Road the bottom of Dacre Park was previously known as Turner Road. Like the second two examples, there is fading evidence of a painted street sign bearing the earlier name. However, it isn’t as easy to decipher the former name, Robertson Street, due to multiple layers of faint paint, re-pointing and a burglar alarm. In a pair of blog posts we’ll tell the history of the street – from its building to the present day.

The builder of the original part was someone we’ve covered several times before, John Pound, mainly in relation to his house building but also shops on Burnt Ash Road, pubs and Lee Public Halls. The street was built by Pound around 1862 (1), with applications made to the Board of Works that March for drainage connections. The land was owned by Lord Northbrook, although it doesn’t seem to have been farmed as part of Lee Manor Farm – it isn’t in the farm map of 1846 – and the estate seems to have retained the freehold post development (2) as permission was sought from Lord Northbrook’s agent for some work.

The homes were unlike most of those in the rest of the area at the time. The arrival of the railway in Blackheath had seen substantial homes with space for servants built to the north of Lee High Road. The function of these smaller houses was similar to those in Lee New Town – providing homes for the servants who didn’t ‘live-in’ and working classes of mid-Victorian Lee. There was another function too, large-scale housing development in what was then suburbia needed somewhere for the building labourers and trades to live in an era without cheap public transport. Pound seems to have done the same around Waite Davies Road and Summerfield Street for his brickworks in South Lee. It was a pattern followed by Cameron Corbett with houses in Sandhurst Road a few decades later.

Pound also seems to have built the neighbouring Hedgely Street – he made an application for sewer connections in 1868 (3).  The street was adopted and paved in 1871 at a cost of 4/6d on the rates for occupiers – not the landlord (4).

So, who were the early occupants?  We’ll look at the first 20 houses in the 1871 census, the first census they appeared in; while the numbers appeared as consecutive in the census reports it isn’t clear whether this was the case on the ground.  The numbering is now odds and evens. The shops have been ignored for now, but may be returned to in a later post.

The majority (52%) of heads of household were working in the building trade, mainly skilled trades with the remainder split between various forms of domestic service and other trades.  Relatively few of the women worked, but those who did, tended to be listed in the census as charwoman or laundress.  While not in in the houses reviewed in detail, elsewhere in the street there were farm labourers housed – presumably still working at either Burnt Ash, Lee Manor or Horn Park which were all still working at that stage.

Almost half of the houses were either home to two households or took in a lodger, there were some very overcrowded homes as a result – 13 lived at no 17 for example. Almost all the households had children.

A decade later the average number in each house was 6.7 (it had been 5.5 in 1871), mainly due to an increase in lodgers and shared houses.  More women were working, although the trades were mainly around washing, ironing and cleaning.  Male employment had changed little too, the majority working in the building trades.

Unsurprisingly, there was some crime relating to the street, a fair amount of it alcohol related. John Mahoney had to be removed by heavies from the Tiger’s Head for being drunk and aggressive. He then went over the road to what is now referred to as the New Tiger’s Head, but press reports called the Little Tiger, where he was arrested after falling asleep drunk. He then violently assaulted the arresting officer for which he spent 6 weeks in prison (5).

Robert Stow was found guilty of assaulting a police officer after being arrested for being drunk and disorderly outside the nearby Duke of Edinburgh – his defence was that he didn’t know it was a policeman and that he’d had too much rum to drink cut no ice with the magistrates.  He was fined 20/- or 2 weeks in prison (6).

Theft wasn’t completely absent though – Thomas Upton (23) a labourer from 19 Robertson Street charged with stealing 25 hens from Blackheath Park and then selling them in Greenwich.  He was sent to prison for 14 days (7).

The western side of the terrace backed not onto the Quaggy, as it does now, but onto a path from that broadly followed what is now Aislibie Road.  After the floods in 1878 and probably also to allow better development of the land that was to form Lampmead Road, the Quaggy was deepened, straightened and took the route of the path. The differences are clear between the 1863 (top map below) and 1893 visits of the Ordnance Survey Cartographers.

The extension of the street to the northern side of the Quaggy seems to have happened around 1885 following the piecemeal sale of the Lee House estate. The builder may well have been George Mitchell; he made the application for connecting the new homes Brightfield Road to the existing sewers in what was still referred to as Robertson Street. John Pound asked for money for the connection (8). It is assumed that these would be the homes that are now numbered 109 to 127 Brightfield Road (some of which are pictured below), but could have been those to the south over the Quaggy.

Three years later a decision was made by the Metropolitan Board of Works in March 1888 to change street names in the area.  It seems that Lampmead Road was created, it had originally been a dog-leg of Lenham Road going towards Lee High Road.  The biggest change was in relation to Brightfield Road – from 1883 it had run from Old Road and then dog-legged around to the new homes built by George Mitchell.  The section from Old Road now became Aislibie Road and Brightfield Road, while shortened to the north took expanded over the river and Robertson Street was no more (9). In addition to the remains of the painted sign, a stone one remains and is now part of a garden wall.

The new Brightfield Road had changed a lot by 1891 compared with the last census for Robertson Street. John Pound’s building work had finished in the area and only 8% of the heads of household at the eastern end of the street were working in the building industry, just over a third were servants – mainly jobs relating to horses with the remainder a wide variety of manual jobs. As was the case a decade earlier a lot of the women worked – mainly as dressmakers and laundresses. Most households had children and most of the houses were either shared or homes to lodgers too – overcrowding remained, although it was less bad than in 1881 – the average was 5.8 rather than 6.7 a decade earlier.

There were a few sales of the houses which seemed to be all tenanted over the next few years. In 1892, 111 -125 (odds) were up for sale at auction. These are the larger houses backing on to Manor House Gardens, then let as a military crammer school before the House and Gardens were sold to the London County Council in 1898. The particulars of the sale of the houses in Brightfield Road noted the proximity to Lee and Blackheath stations. Each house was ‘conveniently arranged for two families. Let to very respectable tenants at 12/- a week.’ There were unexpired leases of 92 years (10).

Three years later some more of the later houses, 75-79 which were adjacent to the original houses were sold – they were advertised as being on long leases, having a weekly rent of 12/- and an annual ground rent of £5 (11).

The change in name didn’t stop crime relating to the street in 1897, Emma Agate was arrested for theft of a large number of garments from Lee Public Halls Steam Laundry (in early 2021 home to Travis Perkins off Holme Lacey Road) where she worked as an ironer, she was found with a number of pawn tickets. She denied the charges but was remanded in custody (12).

There were a couple of bigamy cases – William James was charged with bigamously marrying Mary Bator of number 61 in 1889 (13). Four years later, Walter Garland admitted to a bigamous marriage to Alexandra Taylor of 60 Brightfield Road (14).

We’ll leave Brightfield Road at the end of the 19th century, returning in the second part to cover the 20th century and beyond.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 22 March1862
  2. Kentish Independent 01 June 1872
  3. Kentish Independent 10 October 1868
  4. Kentish Independent 16 December 1871
  5. Kentish Mercury 18 June 1870
  6. Kentish Mercury 30 October 1875
  7. Kentish Independent 10 April 1886
  8. Kentish Independent 02 May 1885
  9. Kentish Mercury 9 March 1888
  10. Kentish Mercury 25 July 1892
  11. Kentish Mercury 29 September 1895
  12. Woolwich Gazette 27 August 1897
  13. Kentish Mercury 13 June 1890
  14. Woolwich Gazette 27 April 1894

Credits

  • The maps are on a Non-Commercial Licence via the National Library of Scotland
  • All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The photo of the stone sign is courtesy of Frederic Heffer