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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.’

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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.

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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).

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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.
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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.

Notes
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

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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.

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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.

 

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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; 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.

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.

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)

The filming of the Long Good Friday is remembered too – apparently Bob Hoskins had a kick about with several local teenagers.

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

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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…..

 

 

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Notes

  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

 

 

 

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Notes

  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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Derek Harper, Creative Commons

 

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

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Hither Green’s Lost Globe Cinema

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

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

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

Source - ebay March 2016

Source – ebay March 2016

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

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

 

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

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

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Photograph by David Simpson – made available on creative commons

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

Notes

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

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

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Catford’s Long Lost Velodrome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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picture via e bay Feb 2016

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

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

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

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

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Notes

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