Following the Quaggy – The Two Kyd Brooks

The relatively high area around Keston and Locksbottom  is the source for dozens of springs and small waterways feeding the Rivers Cray, Ravensbourne and the Quaggy, itself a tributary of the Ravensbourne, although around here it is known as Kyd Brook – not to be confused with the Upper, Middle and Lower Kid Brooks which are a trio of tributaries entering much further downstream.

The sources of the Kyd Brook are rather confused and, due to strictly enforced private land ownership, hidden from public view.  There are two main sources – an easterly branch and a westerly counterpart – this post follows them to their confluence.

The Eastern Branch

The easterly source appears to be a spring in private land which, from current OS maps seems have been dammed to form private lakes post-World War 2 (they didn’t exist in pre WW2 maps). They are invisible to all but the cartographically literate (and the owners) – the very dense hedge is as near as it gets in terms of viewing the source.

The course is easy to follow beyond the A21, the land slopes away gently northwards; modern maps indicate sections of the young river may be visible in the back gardens of Bennetts Way and Hilda Vale Road but, alas, not to the suburban explorer.  There is a small notch in Starts Hill Road where the river would have once flowed; progress following Kyd Brook downstream is blocked by allotments, but it is there where the eastern route emerges once more into the open.  On a Friday morning, despite the warm autumnal sun, the allotment holders were absent, so the earliest view was the river emerging onto the eastern edge of the delightfully named Tugmutton Common (also known by the far more prosaic Farnborough Recreation Ground).

Kyd Brook hugs the edge of the park, it is possible to follow it for a while – the river squeezes between the back gardens of Lovibonds Avenue and Grasmere Gardens before disappearing from view just beyond Lovibonds Avenue Screen   which stops debris entering and blocking the culvert.  It wasn’t always thus, until post-war development the river was above ground, as the map surveyed in 1948 shows.
There seems to be another small tributary rising somewhere around Darrick Wood, it is clear on OS maps, I vaguely remember this from running an old route of the Orpington 10k, but I didn’t re-investigate on the ground.  It joins before the eastern branch traverses Crofton Road.

Beyond Crofton Road, the river enters the delightful woodland of Crofton Heath, it cuts a small valley through the (just) turning trees – several wagtails were enjoying the dappled sunlight, alas, my shutter finger was not quick enough to capture them.  The river eventually emerges from the woodland and skirts fields with horses, the dividing fence with several encouragements not to feed them, before it disappears from view at another ‘screen’ on the descent into Petts Wood.


The Western Branch
The westerly source is a few hundred metres away in Ninehams Wood, this too is out of bounds, but the owners here are a little less subtle about keeping out the fluvial flâneur – a mixture of razor wire and threatening signage every few metres along the public right of way that skirts the woodland.


There probably wouldn’t have been that much to see though had I been brave enough to ignore the warning – there was little sign of water in one of the driest Septembers on record.  There was a dip in the path with a small gully and ‘screen’ which to stop debris entering the pipe that would take Kyd Brook northwards.

Even following a right of way parallel to the nascent Quaggy proved harder than expected – there was a massive wooden gate to the private estate which proved hard to open and one of the locals seemed reluctant to accept that there was a public right of way through the opulent modern pastiches of architectural styles past.  Back in the civilisation of the A21, the course was clear to see, there is a clear dip in the road adjacent to Ye Olde Whyte Lyon.  While there was no evidence of water – it was there in the past as an old postcard shows (Source – eBay Feb 2016).


It would then have crossed the current Princess Royal Hospital site.  Like many current hospitals, it had its origins as a workhouse.  It goes back to 1844 and there is much more on the site at the Bromley page of the workhouses website, before later becoming the Farnborough Hospital.  The site was re-branded and rebuilt as part of the disastrous Private Finance Initiative scheme of 2003, its financial difficulties nearly led to the partial closure of another hospital within the wider Ravensbourne catchment – my local one, Lewisham.  Although after protests and legal action, the closure of A&E and partial closure of the maternity section were prevented.


A couple of hundred metres along the road towards Orpington, a clear course for the young river appears on Tugmutton Common, marked on older OS maps as Broadstreet Green (see above), although it isn’t even damp to the touch; maybe there is a flow in wetter conditions though.  There is another ditch at right angles to Crofton Road, there is water in this, although not much, and while the ditch continues, meandering alongside the edge of the common oddly to the base of a tree, but the water peters out quite quickly.


The junction between the two is made underground, but the combined source emerges out into the open on the opposite side of Crofton Road, hugging a narrow space between gardens.

The river enters Crofton Heath and flows initially more or less parallel to its eastern sibling, although there is less of a valley and the path alongside it is much less well defined.  It slowly comes closer and it too is culverted under suburbia, with a cul-de-sac taking its name.

The confluence between the two branches is close by – near the junction of Ryecroft Road and Kenilworth Road.  The valley of the combined Kyd Brook is clear a few metres further downstream as Ryecroft Road meets Queensway.  We will leave the river here for another day to follow downstream through Petts Wood.




William Webster – A Victorian Building & Civil Engineering Contractor

One of the larger houses on Lee Terrace is Wyberton House, it was home to one of a major building and civil engineering contractors of late Victorian London, William Webster whose firm was one of the main ones used by Joseph Bazalgette.  He lived close to St Margaret’s Church, for the last couple of decades of his life.  Amongst the firm’s work were three of my favourite south east London buildings – all of which have some exquisite detail:

  • Crossness Pumping Station
  • Hither Green Cemetery’s Non-Conformist chapel
  • Blackheath Concert Halls


William Webster was born at Wyberton, a small village near Boston in Lincolnshire, probably in 1822 based on census and birth record data.  After an apprenticeship with a local builder, he set up his own business restoring churches – amongst his early work was restoring the partially 9th Century church of St Peter & St Paul, Algakirk (pictured below via Wikipedia Creative Commons) with the renowned architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott, work which was completed in 1851.



He gradually took on larger work further south, including asylums in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire in the latter part of the 1850s.  He moved to 1 Grove Place in Lee (now Belmont Grove) around 1860 – he, his wife, mother, three children and two servants were there in the 1861 census.


He won several contracts for projects led by Sir Joseph Bazalgette including several of the northern Thames Embankments to allow for the construction of the Circle Line and sewer system, and several sewage pumping stations – notably Crossness in Thamesmead.   Opened in 1865, the building is impressive from the outside, built in a Romanesque style, but once inside it becomes clear why it is often referred to as ‘Cathedral on the Marshes’  – it has magnificent cast iron work, that has been painstakingly restored and is well worth a visit.  Webster’s name is cast into some of this.



The Dissenters Chapel at Hither Green Cemetery dates from a decade later, opening in 1873, when it was referred to as Lee Cemetery.  The Gothic building has some stunning detail – including some wonderful gargoyles in the small spire.  It suffered from World War 2 bomb damage and has been boarded up and allowed to decay since.  Its neglect gives it a slightly eerie feel, and, perhaps, adds to its beauty.


The large amount of work that the firm was obtaining allowed Webster to build a home to match his, presumably very large income.  He bought two adjacent smaller houses, 7 and 9 Lee Terrace, part of what are sometimes referred to as the Lee Grove Group which he then demolished and replaced with the massive 15 bedroom Wyberton House which was completed in 1869.  An estate agent’s description is in a cutting below, but its listing text describes it as

Stone fronted with polished granite decorations, other sides stock brick. Slate roof concealed by parapet. Slightly irregular building of 3 storeys ; 7 windows. Panelled parapet.  Cornice of alternate paterae and brackets. End windows set back. End quoins. Windows have cambered architraves with keystones and stops. First floor windows have cornices and brackets and window over porch has pediment on brackets. Porch has granite columns, fretted balcony and 4 steps. Three-light canted bays either side, the right side window with glass removed for chapel use.

The wealth also allowed a large number of servants – this grew from  two in the 1861 census to six in the subsequent  three – it wasn’t a house where servants would get any long service awards though, none of them appeared in more than one set of enumerator records.

William Webster died in 1888 and was despite his building the dissenters’ chapel at Hither Green Cemetery, he was interred at St. Margaret’s, Lee just over the road from where he lived.


Oddly for what was such a large company, it seemed to have disappeared almost without a trace – it certainly traded after William’s death, seemingly taken over by his eldest son, also William, who was listed as a contractor in the 1891 census.  Blackheath Concert Halls built in 1896, was constructed his stewardship.  However, it seems that the firm was sold up or folded soon after – by the 1901 census William was listed as a ‘Scientist, Living on Own Means’  – William was to die during the next decade, probably in 1904.


As for Wyberton House – after William Webster’s (senior) death, several attempts were made to sell the property during 1890 but to no avail (1), and William (junior) was living there with his family when the census enumerators called in 1891. William moved on to slightly less grand surroundings, in 1901 he was at the now demolished 50 Lee Park (a few doors up from the bombed Christ Church) add link.  It seems that there were few takers for the mansion his father had built as it was often empty.


The House eventually found a long term use in 1906 when Knightsville College for Girls, moved from their previous home in what is now called Lewisham Way.  The College, run by Alton (or Altro) Knight had around 75 boarders in its previous location.  After the First Word War, the building was taken over by St Joseph’s Academy and it remained in their use until the early 1990s – amongst the pupils that would have passed through its doors were the author David Lodge, the sprinter John Regis and the footballer Jlloyd Samuel.  The house was converted into substantial flats after its use by St Joseph’s finished.


  1. The Times (London, England), Saturday, Jan 18, 1890; pg. 16; Issue 32912

Census and related information comes from Find My Past.



The Leahurst Road Murder

The northern end of Leahurst Road these days is a relatively quiet street – a mixture of Victorian terraces, council flats and houses that replaced the large segments of the street destroyed in the Blitz and by a V-1 rocket in June 1944; it is dominated by the imposing façade of Holy Trinity (formerly Ennersdale) School.  Running Past has been here before with the story of the 1920s Channel swimmer Hilda Sharp; but during the Second World War it was the setting for a notorious murder of an eleven year old girl, Sheila Margaret Wilson, despite being in the middle of the War it received a lot of publicity both locally and nationally.


Sheila had been evacuated like many London children during the Blitz but had returned to Leahurst Road in May 1942.  She was allowed to play in the street and run errands. On July 15 1942 she had gone out to buy sweets with her brother, presumably from the confectioners at 33 Staplehurst Road run by Elizabeth Furlong (1).  When she returned it seems that she had been given 2d to buy a newspaper and that she went out again on her own (2).

Sheila didn’t return, but it took several hours to raise the alarm, as her mother thought she was playing with friends.  The police, neighbours and ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Wardens searched the bombed remains of houses in the street but found nothing.

The police started door to door enquiries, but appear to have been quite slow doing it – it took them five days to knock on a house about 25 doors along Leahurst Road. They were told that one of the lodgers had moved out just after Sheila had disappeared.  They searched under the floorboards of his room and found the body of Sheila, who had been raped and then strangled.

The lodger was Patrick Kingston – the police issued a statement which was covered in numerous newspapers, including  in The Times (see below – 3), that they wanted to ‘interview’ him – they mentioned his missing finger and a limp caused by injuries as an ARP Warden.


While there was no doubt as big a manhunt as wartime police resources could muster, it wasn’t this that found the fugitive.  Oddly, he returned Leahurst Road, eight days after the crime, in the early hours of 23 July and was arrested there; he was reported as having admitted to the murder to a Police Inspector – ‘I strangled her, and then I got scared and ran away.’ (4)

Patrick Kingston appeared at Woolwich Magistrates Court the same day – limping into court on a thick walking stick (5).  He was remanded in custody to a further hearing which was held at Greenwich Police Court in early August 1942, where he was committed for trial (6).

The case was heard at the Old Bailey on Monday 14 September and all over within a few minutes as Kingston pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death (7); a sentence that was carried out three weeks later.


What of the murderer?  By a strange con-incidence the Kingstons are a family that has already been covered before in Running Past – they were decimated in the First World War by the Zeppelin attack on Glenview Road (now part of Nightingale Grove).

Patrick Kingston was born in Greenwich in 1904, he was one of at least 11 children – the family had moved to Lewisham around 1908 and by co-incidence they were living in Leahurst Road at the time of the 1911 census.   Kingston’s father, also Patrick, was killed in the Lee sewer tragedy on 15 July 1914 – drowned when attempting to clear a blocked drain in Eastdown Park and seven of his siblings died in the Zeppelin attack in October 1917.

Kingston had probably only survived the attack because he was effectively in care at the time, residing at an industrial school that cared for ‘neglected, orphaned and abandoned children’ – due to ‘being out of control’ (8).  This came out in a court hearing in 1922 when he was charged theft from church offertory boxes and sacrilege (9). He was again living in Leahurst Road at the time of that hearing. He was still living there, close to Hither Green Station, with his mother later that year when he signed up for the army (10).


A Patrick William Kingston of roughly the right age was found guilty of theft in 1926 and described by the police as having ‘a depraved mind,’ he was then working as a hotel porter in Southend (11) – this may, of course, be a different Patrick Kingston, but could have co-incided with his discharge from the army.

Kingston was 35 at the outbreak of war and would have been liable to conscription, as were all men up to the age of 41, so presumably had been exempted due to his health, perhaps the missing finger pre-dated the war.  He was an ARP Warden – but injured in the course of his ARP duties, leading to his limp.

Whether any of this had any bearing on the murder is unclear.  There appears not to have been much in the way of checking on his mental state – it was left to his lawyer to state that he had ’twice seen Kingston and was satisfied that he knew the meaning of pleading guilty, which he preferred to do rather than having the case formally proved.’(12)

As for Sheila’s mother, after seemingly being scammed by a low-brow Sunday newspaper into ‘talking’ to Sheila through a medium , she seems to have stayed on in Lewisham, someone with the same name and of the right age died there in 1984 (13).


  1. From 1939 Register – via Find My Past
  2. Yorkshire Evening Post 24 July 1942
  3. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Jul 21, 1942; pg. 2; Issue 49293
  4. Dundee Courier 24 July 1942
  5. ibid
  6. “News in Brief.”Times [London, England] 6 Aug. 1942: 2
  7. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Sep 15, 1942; pg. 2; Issue 49341.
  8. Portsmouth Evening News 30 July 1924
  9. ibid
  10. From military record via Find My Past
  11. The Scotsman 20 May 1926
  12. Manchester Evening News 14 September 1942
  13. From death records via Find My Past





North Park – The Farm Before the Corbett Estate

There has probably never been a single sale of land around Hither Green and Lee that has been more significant than the sale of North Park Farm by the Earl of St Germans in 1895 as it allowed for the development of was was initially known as the St Germans estate, now generally known as the Corbett estate. We will return to the development sometime later, but for now we will look at the farm itself.

The name of North Park Farm goes back to at least the mid 16th century (1); while it is possible that the location changed over the next century it was clear on John Roque’s 1745 map – the easterly buildings in ‘Hether Green.’


It was situated on what is now Duncrevie Road – it remained in that area until the sale. Initially it was a relatively small farm, around 65 – 75 acres (2).  For a while it seems to have been known as Plum Farm – there is a reference to it as this on at least one map.

There had been a South Park Farm too – a small farm of around 70 acres centred around Dowanhill and Hazelbank Roads, which later ‘moved’ to somewhere around the Torridon and Brownhill Roads junction (3). The farm was renamed ‘Longmisery’ in the early 19th century but seems to have been merged with North Park Farm by the middle of that century (4) along with part of Rushey Green Farm by 1838 and a former nursery, Butlers Gardens, around 1860 (5). The latter nursery of around 43 acres was run by Willmot and Co, later Willmot and Chaundy – referred to in relation to Hocum Pocum Lane.

By this stage the farm was being had been run by the Owens for a generation and a half; there is reference to Abraham Owen in the 1843 Tithe Awards farming 201 acres, including around 38 acres of pasture and the remaining arable. He also farmed another 40 acres, elsewhere in Lewisham from landowners other than the St Germans, including church lands.

Owen also ran a butcher’s shop which was located at what is now 304 Lewisham High Street, almost opposite the current fire station. The family also had another shop a little further north, at Lee Bridge (the bottom of Lee High Road) – Abraham’s son is reported as having rescued a boy who fell into a flooded River Quaggy in 1844.

While a tenant farmer, Owen seems to have been a man of influence – his name appears in the 1838 list of Land Tax Commissioners for Lewisham – generally ‘commissioners were drawn from the gentry, but also included members of the peerage and of the professions, such as doctors. They were not paid for the work they did.’

In addition to the farming and the butchers, Owen (and his father Edward before him) acted as an auctioneer – amongst many other farm sales, he undertook the sale of the lease of Horn Park Farm in 1822, which William Morris(s) seems to have been the successful bidder for (6).

Abraham Owen died in 1845 which probably triggered the disposal of the lease to the farm, his will described him as a farmer and butcher.

The last farmers of North Park were the Sheppards – brothers Edward and Samuel. The family had an early mention in 1823 when they were farming land that was in the line of the railway, presumably close to St Johns Station.  The Samuel referred to would have been their father, as the two brothers would have been children then, Samuel was born in 1819 and Edward in 1814, both in Deptford. According to the 1841 census, the farm was Ravensbourne Farm – Samuel (Senior) had been born in 1781 and there were four adult children living on the farm. The oldest brother, Henry took over Ravensbourne Farm, after his father had died – Edward was still there in 1851.

While the brothers took over the farm in 1849 (7) they didn’t move in until later. The farm was managed for them by William Fry, who may have worked for the Owens just before the Sheppards took over, as his three youngest children in the 1851 census were born in Lewisham – the oldest of them born in 1848. Fry originated from Brasted in Kent, but had been working for a decade in Erith. Fry was to continue working for the Sheppards – he was still on the farm, in The Cottage, probably the original farm in 1861 – one of the buildings at the eastern side of the farm on the upper map below. His wife, Sarah, had 10 children by then.


By 1861, Edward had married Jemima and they were living at the new farm house which had been built in the mid 1850s, and was located about half way up Duncrevie Road (just to the west of the farm buildings on the upper map). The the census says he had ‘250 acres, 16 men and 4 boys’ – several of these would have been William Fry and his family members. Jemima died in 1876 (8), there seems to be not reference to them in the 1871 census, but the farm and employment had shrunk to 200 acres and 10 men in 1881. By 1891, he was listed as a retired farmer although still living on the farm, he suffered from mental health problems in his later years and needed an ‘attendant’ to help him cope; Edward died in 1892, before the farm was sold.

Fry was still there in 1871 at what was described as North Park Farm in the census. By 1881 though, he was living with his son who was a ‘fly proprietor’ on Lewisham High Street. A ‘fly’ was a one horse, two wheeled carriage, in case you wondered… Fry’s wife Sarah had died in 1871, with William passing away in 1888.

As for Samuel, he had married Emma in 1849 although there is no census record for them in 1851 – they may have been at Burnt Ash Farm which he had a brief interest in. In 1861 he was working as a market gardener, still around Deptford – their address was 7 Market Garden. Samuel and his family moved to the North Park farm in the 1860s, Eliot House (sometimes called Lodge) was built around 1867 for him. It still remains on the corner of Duncrevie Road and Hither Green Lane (the westerly of the highlights on the lower map).

The 1871 census shows that Samuel and Emma had six children who had all been born in Deptford, the eldest son also Samuel, was to take over Bellingham Farm. By 1881, little had changed other than the eldest daughter, also Emma, had moved out. Samuel (1819) was to live until 1904, remaining at Eliot House.

A lot of wheat was grown on the farm, a newspaper report noted in 1868 that there were much higher yields at North Park Farm than in neighbouring farms (9). Latterly though, with the growth of London the wheat will have almost certainly given way to market gardening.

Small parcels of land on the edge of the farm had been sold off to speculative builders almost two decades before the final sale of the farm, they were hoping for Hither Green junction to become a station – these were to become Brightside (developed from 1878), Elthruda (1882) and Mallet Roads (1882) (10). Mallet was the author of a masque about Alfred the Great which contained ‘Rule, Britannia!’ It was written in 1740 but there is no obvious link with Lewisham.

Other than the farm house, the only other obvious remains of the farm are a trio of farm workers cottages which are now 387 and 389 Hither Green Lane, at the junction with Springbank Road (11). They were referred to as Sheppard’s Cottages, for around a decade after the sale of the farm in Kellys Directories.

1 Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: The Forgotten Hamlet’ p10
2 ibid p11
3 ibid p 12
4 ibid p12
5 ibid p11
6 The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, June 01, 1822 p1
7 Smith op cit p11
8 Daily News (London, England), Monday, August 28, 1876; Issue 9469.
9 The Times (London, England), Thursday, Aug 13, 1868; pg. 9; Issue 26202
10 All the development dates come from Joan Read (1990) ‘Lewisham Street Names & Their Origins (Before 1965)’
11 Smith op cit p11

Census and related data comes from Find My Past, references to Kelly’s Directories come from Leicester University and the Ordnance Survey maps are from the National Library of Scotland on a creative commons


The Long Good Friday & the Camouflaged Pub

The demise of some pubs is felt strongly by local communities, by their former regulars and often by those who were occasional drinkers but perhaps saw the pub as part of their community – their passing is regretted and the mere mention of their name provokes fond memories.  But for a pub which started life as the ‘Northover’ on the south corner of the junction of Northover and Whitefoot Lane  these rose-tinted reminisces proved harder to find, although not impossible, as we’ll return to later; a comment on a local blog described it as the ‘late unlamented Governor General’ (its latter name) set the scene.

The pub opened around 1937 as the Northover; not that much imagination in naming a pub after the street it was sited on.  It was a striking, large building on a big plot designed by the firm A W Blomfield for Watneys.  Blomfield was a well-established architectural firm, the founder made his name as a church restorer – his work included substantial alterations to what was then St Saviours, Southwark – now the Cathedral and his staff included for a short period a very young Thomas Hardy. Arthur Blomfield had died a generation before the pub was designed though.


The pub is clear about 40% of the way up on the right hand side of the 1937 photograph  from Britain from the Air website that was taken around the time it opened.  Beyond it are the well planned lines of the Corbett Estate dominating the rear of the shot and the local authority housing of Waters Road the mid ground.  The open ground around the middle of the shot was to become the Excalibur Estate a decade later.

The location of the pub was on the edge of the Downham estate which had been developed from the 1920s, there was an excellent post on the estate in the Municipal Dreams blog.  The first and then largest pub in England, the Downham Tavern, had been built in 1930; the Northover was one of the second phase of community facilities which included the library and swimming pool, whose original incarnations were also opened in 1937.

It was in a prominent location and as the Britain from above shot showed, highly visible from above; as a result it would have been vulnerable to attacks from the Luftwaffe – so some attempts were made to camouflage the pub during World War Two – they clearly worked as the pub survived the war intact – remnants of the camouflage remained into the 1970s.

It is not clear when the name change happened, although the logic is clear – it was a reference to the rich and prominent local Forster Family, who lived at Southend Hall, which was at what is now the junction of Whitefoot Lane and Bromley Road.  Henry Forster had been ‘elevated’ to the peerage in 1919 and was Governor-General of Australia between 1920 and 1925.  He died in 1936.

govgen5The pub’s only real claim to fame was that it was that it had a small ‘part’ in the 1979 gangster movie ‘The Long Good Friday’ (poster – Wikimedia Commons) which starred Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, which the picture to below (source – the fantastic Reel Streets) is a ‘still’ from. Unlike Bob Hoskins, where the film became a launchpad for a successful career, the Governor-General faded back into obscurity and local semi-notoriety.



Other on line references are very few and far between, the Governor-General appears in several message board discussions of ‘rough’ pubs where fights were a regular occurrences and there was even a strange suggestion that the pub’s name change followed its purchase by Danny LaRue.  While LaRue certainly owned other pubs and hotels, such as the Swan at Streatley on the Thames, and the upmarket hotel Walton Hall – owning a boozer on the edge of a council estate is probably unlikely.

There have been a few Facebook ‘threads’ on the pub including several relating to this post; the SE London Memories Group which started with its reputation claiming it ‘used to be a drinking hole for most of South East London’s underworld.’  Many remembered this aspect of the pub’s past with comments such as – ‘Northover was the sort of pub where you wiped your feet on the way out and ordered a fight at the bar along with your drinks.’ Someone else called it a ‘pint and a fight’ pub.  One person remembered their father returning home, rather shaken, after someone he had been standing next to at the bar was threatened with a crossbow.

One former employee described it as ‘a dump …. nothing but punch ups, (the) public bar was like a wild west saloon! ’  It was pointed by someone else though out that most of the pubs in the area had fairly similar reputations.

But many more had fonder memories – there was a function room at the back which several had held their weddings receptions, it was often packed out on Friday evenings when there were rock & roll and rockabilly bands and often discos; and, for the more refined, there were dinner dances there too.  It was the venue for football and other club ‘do’s’ too.

There were memories of the two worlds colliding too – there was a recollection of a mass brawl following a talent night being gate-crashed in the 1970s.

On a different thread , the pub is remembered as the location of the first, underage, pint – trying to and probably failing to look 18, and younger memories of sitting in the garden with just lemonade and crisps where the salt came in a blue packet (presumably before it was done on a retro basis).  Similar recollections came on some of the threads relating to this post too.

The filming of the Long Good Friday is remembered too – apparently Bob Hoskins had a kick about with several local teenagers, and generally being friendly towards locals; he may have received the attentions of a number of the local young women… One of the part of the filming went slightly wrong in that an actor was meant to be swung around seem to hit a poster on a wall, there was apparently a mixture of fake and real blood when it was salvaged as a souvenir.

The pub car park was the scene of a rather bizarre incident in the late 1970s when a large block of ice deposited from an aeroplane smashed through a car taking the engine with it!

The pub closed in the early 1990s – a pattern followed by several others on the edge of Downham – the Garden Gate, now a McDonalds, just off Bromley Hill and the Green Man, demolished and now a housing association office.  These days the site would no doubt have been developed for housing but around 2000 it opened as a petrol station, initially, as Q8, latterly a Shell filling station


As with other ‘lost pub posts’ on Running Past, it would be good to be able to add in some other memories into the post. If you worked there or drank there tell your story – who were the characters that were regulars at the Governor-General? What about the landlord, the staff, the atmosphere, recollections of the friends, the memorable nights, (given its reputation) perhaps the fights and any memories of the filming of ‘The Long Good Friday.’  You can use your Facebook or Twitter login to comment here, first comments get moderated before they appear though.  If you found the post via Facebook, you can write your recollections there.  I will update the post with the memories.  Please don’t put anything libellous or that might offend others though…..




A Hither Green Ghost Sign of a Long ‘Lost’ Brewery

In the middle of a row of shops on Hither Green Lane is a single-storey building, which seems oddly out of place in the two/three storey late Victorian properties – it has created some advertising space which remains filled by a painted ‘ghost sign’ which, at its very latest was painted in 1909 – more on that later.  The single-storey building may have originally been the same size as the rest of the terrace, the building was destroyed in a fire in 1894 (1).


The sign has clearly gone through at least two incarnations, painted over the top of each other, and have unevenly weathered, it appears to read – ‘Fox & Sons’. Below that is ‘…nborough’, then ‘Ales Stout’ and finally ‘In bottle and cask’.  There looks to be ‘wine’ in the midst too.


It is quite common for ‘ghost signs’ to relate to the business on the side of the building that it was painted on – Running Past has covered several including John Campion & Sons in Catford, a bakers in Sandhurst Road, Catford, a now hidden one at Lee Green and perhaps my favourite Wallace Prings Chemists in Bromley.  This is not the case here – Fox & Sons were brewers from Green Street Green in Farnborough, now on the edge of Bromley. In the period up until the end of World War 1, and probably much longer, 210 Hither Green Lane seems to have been one of a pair of butchers shops on Hither Green Lane run by Joseph Hurdidge.  Hurdidge was born in Old Ford in 1865 and seems to have taken over the (presumably) tenancy of the 132 Hither Green Lane around 1890 and probably expanded to 210 when the shops were developed a little later.  Hurdidge certainly remained in the trade and remained in the Lewisham area for the rest of his life – in the 1939 Register he was still working but widowed and living at 78 Eltham Road, Lee, where he died in 1952.


There were a couple of off licences on Hither Green Lane – one just to the north of Harvard Road, run for years by a Robert Mott and one adjacent to Woodlands Street run by Florence Jackson.  Neither was mentioned in the sign though, although they may have sold bottled Fox and Co beer.

So, like most modern advertising billboards, it seems to have been a more general sign – which the Brewery probably repeated in many locations – there is a postcard of a still serving pub from around 1906, the British Queen in Locksbottom, with an identical advertisement on the building side.

Source eBay April 2016

Source eBay April 2016

So what of the brewery? John Fox (born around 1787 in Buckinghamshire) had moved to Green Street Green in 1818 to run Oak Farm.  He brewed a little for himself and his employees but decided to set up a proper brewery on the site in the 1830s.  The business was taken over by his son Thomas (born 1819) who was still running the brewery (pictured below) with his sons in the 1881 census, but died in 1886. The third generation, Thomas (born 1852) and Walter St John Fox (born 1855), took full control after their father’s death.


Source here

By the mid 1860s they had three main beers – BB Bitter, which they sold at £2 a barrel, XL Pale Ale at £2.25, and East India Pale Ale for £2.50 cash price.   All had been “carefully brewed from malt of the finest quality and they are hopped with the best Kent growths.”  They delivered to most of the then rural suburbs of south east London – including Lee and Lewisham every Thursday.  By 1891 the Oak Brewery was attempting to mimic the Burton Pale Ales and treated the water with gypsum, quarried by the River Trent to try to do this.

By 1909 they had expanded their range of beer – the best known was Farnborough Ale (FA) – which they described as ‘bright, sparking and nutritious.’ They had almost 40 tied public houses and employed 110 workers in brewing, distribution as well as associated trades such as barrel making and a blacksmith.  The brewery was the centre of village life in Green Street Green, with around 30 tied cottages.

Early in the 20th century, the brothers may have been in some financial problems – they were certainly re-mortgaging some of the ‘tied houses’ in 1906.  The partnership was dissolved in 1907 and they decided to retire, putting the brewery put up for sale including its ‘tied houses.’ (2 – see cutting below).


It was not a good time to sell – values in the brewing industry were falling sharply (3), the 1904 Licensing Act gave magistrates more powers to refuse licences, particularly if there were a number of pubs in the area, although the value of the smaller number licences was expected to increase (4).

The Oak Brewery was bought in June 1907 for £89,000 (5); but the new owners clearly struggled and there was a second auction in April 1908 (6), but with a ‘reserve’ of £60,000 it failed to attract any interest.  It was split into smaller lots in June 1909 (7 – see below) with other breweries buying up the tied houses.  As brewing stopped in July 1909, presumably there was a separate sale of the buildings which were put to a variety of other uses after 1909 including military uses in the First World War and a later a plastic factory. The buildings were demolished for housing in the 1960s.



  1. The Times (London, England), Monday, Dec 10, 1894; pg. 10; Issue 34443.
  2. The Times (London, England), Saturday, May 18, 1907; pg. 20; Issue 38336.
  3. The Times (London, England), Saturday, Dec 28, 1907; pg. 13; Issue 38528.
  4. Ibid
  5. The Times (London, England), Saturday, Jun 19, 1909; pg. 15; Issue 38990.
  6. Ibid
  7. ibid

Census and related information comes from Find My Past

Kelly’s Directory data is from the Collection at Leicester University





1930s Lewisham – ‘Streets Notorious for Road Accidents’

With Lewisham introducing a 20 mph zone on all the roads they control from 1 September 2016, an article in the ‘Illustrated London News’ from the 1930s caught my eye – it looked at concentrations of accidents within London, based on data from the Ministry of Transport for the six months to the end of September 1934 (1).

There were four stretches of London road identified as being particularly prone to accidents:

  • Chiswick High Road and King Street;
  • Fulham Palace Road, High Street Fulham and Putney Bridge;
  • Commercial Road and East India Dock Road; and
  • Lewisham High Road, High Road Lee and Eltham Road (effectively the A20 from New Cross to Sutcliffe Park).

There were around 100 accidents between New Cross and where Lewisham Clock Tower is now situated (see below, 2), with a real concentration in Lewisham town centre.  In case you were wondering, Lewisham Road station was on Loampit Hill, opposite Tyrwhitt Road, the building is now used by Aladdin’s Cave, a salvaged furniture and fittings dealer.


There were a 60 or so further to the east, with three deaths, all on a short stretch of Eltham Road (see below, 3).

The key to the maps show the seriousness of the accident, in terms of injury and the vehicle involved, presumably the vehicle causing the accident – although this isn’t clear.  Of the twenty one accidents causing serious injuries and deaths during the six months, there was a real mixture of vehicles involved bus (six), lorry (five), cycle (five), car (four) and motor cycle (two).  Around 1/3 of the 160 accidents involved pedestrians, and just over half those causing death or serious injury were involving pedestrians.


The Transport Minister asked the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee to ‘take immediate remedial measures to mitigate the dangers of these roads (4).’

While it is impossible to be absolutely sure about this, because definitions and recording have changed, it would seem that the road was more dangerous in 1934 than it currently is despite changes in traffic volumes.  2015 Transport for London (TfL) data suggests that there were six serious accidents on the same stretch of road, compared with the 21 in the first six months of 1934 (see notes 5 and 6 though). A House of Commons Library paper suggests that in 1938 there were 314 casualties for every 100 million kilometres travelled, while in 2012 there were 41 casualties per 100 million kilometres travelled – an almost 8 fold difference!

The context to the 1934 figures was the decision by the Ramsey McDonald led Government in 1930 to remove all car speed limits from 1 January 1931 – these had been limited to 20 mph from 1903, although had been hard to enforce.  The net result of the changes was a significant increase in road casualties – a new record was set in 1934 with 7,343 deaths and 231,603 injuries being recorded, with half of the casualties being pedestrians and three-quarters occurring in built-up areas.  To put this in some context, while definitions will have changed a little, the equivalent figures for the year to September 2015 were 1,780 and 188,830.

During 1934 a new Transport Minister was appointed, Leslie Hore-Belisha, who suffered a near miss as a pedestrian trying to cross Camden High Street. Hore-Belisha described the accident data as ‘mass murder.’  During his period in office, Hore-Belisha introduced of two innovations that eventually led to a drop in road accidents: the driving test and what was to become known as the Belisha beacon on pedestrian crossings (they didn’t get zebra stripes until much later); his period in office also saw a major overhaul of the Highway Code.


There was to be be no major initial impact of the changes though – road deaths continued to rise reaching 8,609 in 1940.

As for Lewisham’s 20 mph zone, it doesn’t apply to the A20, A21 or the A206 (the South Circular) – they are trunk roads and the responsibility of TfL.  It is an important step in the right direction, but Lewisham have to get the signage much clearer – there are still miles of roads without it being mentioned and contradictory signs on the edges of former, smaller 20 mph zones.  There then needs to be more resources going into education and policing for it to have a real impact – perhaps unlikely with still austerity minded central government squeezing local resources.



  1. Black Spots of London: Streets Notorious for Road Accidents. Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, November 17, 1934; pg. 804; Issue 4987
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. The TfL data may not be entirely reliable – I was the victim of a Fiat Punto driver who failed to stop during the pedestrian phase of a crossing on Sydenham Road in January 2015, my injuries were serious, a broken neck, but the accident does not appear in TfL data.
  6. These data relaiblity issues were accepted in a House of Commons Library report – the data is ‘widely recognised as being an incomplete count of both accidents and casualties, although figures on fatalities are generally acknowledged to be robust.’

The image at top of post is illustrative rather than being of Lewisham – the source is here.