The River Wilmore – a Penge Stream

Running Past has covered several of the streams that eventually amalgamate to form the River Pool in Beckenham’s Cator Park – all had their sources in the Great North Wood which sits on one of South London’s most prominent pieces of high ground – stretching from South Norwood Hill, through the present Crystal Palace, Sydenham Hill and Forest Hill – to date these have included several without surviving names, those that I have called Pissarro’s Stream, Wells Park Stream and Adams’ Rill.

This lack of names is more than made up for by a quartet of options for this waterway – known variously as Boundary Stream, Boundary Ditch, the River Wilmore and Shire Ditch.  Regular readers of Running Past will know I am partial to using ‘Ditch’ – it is common in the Quaggy catchment. However, it seems out of place here and given the significance of this watercourse, I think that it deserves ‘river’ status.

Rivers and streams often form the boundaries between parishes, wards districts and counties – as was covered in a post on the Quaggy catchment on Border Ditch which is part of the boundary between Lewisham and Bromley.

The boundary that the Wilmore is used for refers to is a ‘lost’ one between Surrey and Kent (to the east), and later the frontier between Municipal Borough of Beckenham and Penge Urban District Council (UDC).  As a boundary it was there when John Roque mapped Surrey in 1762 (above) marking the edge of the surveyed land.

Penge has had a strange history in terms of boundaries – for hundreds of years it had been an isolated part of the parish of Battersea, itself part of the Hundred of Brixton.  In the second half of the 19th century the Metropolis Act brought it together with Lewisham and it was run by the Board of Guardians – this was a cross boundary arrangement with Lewisham being in Kent and Penge in Surrey. After the London local government re-organisation that came into force in 1965, Penge UDC was merged with its next door neighbour, Beckenham, over the Wilmore (along with the Municipal Borough of Bromley, Orpington Urban District and the Chislehurst bit of Chislehurst and Sidcup Urban District.)  to form the London Borough of Bromley.

The main sources of the Wilmore are in the high ground above South Norwood Lake.  The steep hillside coming down from the ridge that continues on from Sydenham Hill and Anerley Hill, on top of which once sat the Crystal Palace saw numerous springs where the geology changes and the gravel meets the London Clay beneath. The hillside below them is gently serrated with small valleys gouged out by fluvial activity as water tumbled down towards lower levels. These valleys are clear both on the ground, despite the volume of housing that clings to the hillside, as well as on Ordnance Survey maps where there are upward pointing notches in the contour lines.

Some of the flows are no longer visible either because they are no longer flowing due to changes in the water table or because they have been culverted.  The 1863 surveyed map above shows some evidence of the flows.

The reality on the ground now is a little harder to work out due to the extent to which, first the Croydon Canal , which opened in 1809, and its successor along much of the course 30 years later, the London and Croydon Railway, played havoc with the natural lines of the landscape, changing contour lines and flows.

Environment Agency 100 year flood risk map,  whilst relating to surface water is helpful in tracking former streams as storm flows will often follow the courses of former or hidden streams due to the small valleys that have been created.

There are two main groups of these the northerly streams ones which coalesce around Maberley Road and the Auckland Rise group which would have combined in what is now South Norwood Lake and Grounds, along with a southerly one originating around Goat House.

Maberley Branch

The exact sources of the streams forming this branch are not that obvious, development has made exploration of the upper slopes of the hill difficult.  In any case, changes in the water table have probably meant that they are no longer flowing,.  However, the multiple switchbacks caused by streams eroding the hillside are clear on Auckland Road, one around Fox Hill, the other in Stambourne Way (below).

Originally gravity would have probably suggested that the course was a downhill one – there are hints of this on the Environment Agency map.  However, the downward flow would have been blocked by the route of the Croydon Canal.  It is quite likely that its engineers wanted to use the streams to provide water for the reservoir that is now South Norwood Lake which was used to provide water for the canal.  This would probably explain this unexpected dog-leg to a confluence around the Harris Academy site and a flow onto the Lake.  The arrival of steam, 30 years after the canal no doubt confused matters further.

Close to the Maberley Road entrance of South Norwood Lake and Grounds there is what appears to be a seasonal stream, in the incredibly dry summer of 2018 there was, unsurprisingly, a lack of water.  The occasional watercourse seems to peter out just before it would have entered the Lake.

Auckland Rise Group

Of the three streams that once flowed about ground there is little evidence for two of them other than depressions in roads marking their presumably former existence, certainly nothing flowing in the driest summer for 44 years.  However, the third is most definitely flowing.

The upper reaches while clear in terms of contours aren’t on the ground – a long slog up the steep, winding road through the Auckland Rise estate to a small bit of woodland failed to produce any of the obvious signs of water that the notched contours suggested.  Although there were a couple of rather attractive wooden owls an overgrown picnic areas.

The stream would have flowed past the childhood home of the crime writer Raymond Chandler, which is remembered with a blue plaque – he had been gone from there for almost 30 years before he published his first novel ‘The Big Sleep’ in 1939.The course emerges from Auckland Close (where there is no hint of the stream) out into some bramble dominated woodland, not some residual part of the Great North Wood as it isn’t marked on the Ordnance Survey map above.  It doesn’t seem to have a name but the nascent stream emerges, finding a way through the choked woodland floor to the edge of some school playing fields abutting South Norwood Country Park before disappearing into a rudimentary screen – presumably then going, submerged, into the Lake.

South Norwood Lake would have been the man-made confluence of all these streams – a reservoir for water needed to keep up levels in the 28 sets of locks in the Croydon Canal. It is a pleasant park, with an elegant cricket ground – the Lake is home to a lot of wildfowl and plenty of spots for fishing.  The latter has a long history here – there is a beautifully preserved pre-decimal sign indicating fees – which had risen a little by the time of writing.

Goat House Branch

John Roque’s 1672 map of Surrey (above) suggests a branch emanating from ‘Goat House’.  In terms of location this would have been around the location of the current major bridge over the railway, around 250 metres from Norwood Junction.  There was for a while a pub of the name next to the bridge.  The route on a 1960s OS map is much clearer than on the ground – there were boundary markers at the junction of Thomsett and Wheathill Raods with Marlow Road and then a little way up Cambridge Road.  As these are broadly the same as the contour notches this was probably the route of the branch.  Like its northern counterparts, the railway played havoc with the route, as the 1960s Ordnance Survey map below shows.

The outflow appears to be along the northern side of the Lake, where in the dry summer of 2018 a trickle of water was heading north-eastwards. It then gets disturbed by the railway (formerly canal) again, along with another line from coming into Crystal Palace from Birkbeck station and Beckenham Junction beyond.  The land either side of Croydon Road is fairly flat, although gently failing away to the east, so an exact route is hard to be sure of.  But it probably crosses Selby Road running through the South Penge Park estate crossing Croydon Road near the sad site of a boarded up pub, the Mitre, which closed in March 2018, a recent refurbishment seemingly having failed to attract sufficient new drinkers.

The course eastwards was probably originally crossing Tremaine and Samos Roads.  The confluence with the branch from Goat House would have been around here.

A slight depression becomes obvious in Marlow Road, while there are no obvious signs of water rushing beneath manhole covers (it was very dry though)  The route beyond the small Wilmore-cut depression in Elmers End Road , is clear because until the mid-1960s the Wilmore was flowing above ground at this point. It squeezed between gardens for Ravenscroft Road and Chesham Road.  It is obvious from both the blue of the water and the coterminous black boundary dots on the early 1960s Ordnance Survey map

A slight diversion is needed at this point as we are now very much in Penge here; Penge to the fluvial flâneur of a certain age, will always gave a grizzly association – the ‘Penge Bungalow Murders.’ Fortunately, these were fictional rather than actual homicides and were to the starting point of the career of ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’, wonderfully played by Leo McKern. In the streets of Penge, bungalows are hard to find – I would love to think that this is John Mortimer’s inspiration about a 150 metres off course.  We digress though, and ‘she who must be obeyed,’ in this case the River Willmore, must be returned to.

The valley crossing the main downward hill from Crystal Palace towards Elmers End at right angles becomes a little more pronounced here.

 

There are a couple of bridges over the former stream which are obvious – the first reflects different street names in once different boroughs either side of the bridge, the second while plainer fails to hide the concrete casing that the Wilmore now has to lurk beneath squeezing between the houses. .

In 1894 the Lewisham and Penge Board of Works asked their counterparts in Beckenham to help pay for improvement works to what they referred to as Boundary Ditch as it was in places insufficient to deal with the volume of water entering from both parishes.

The culverting of the river seems to have started in late 1965 as it was promised in a statement by a Minister in April 1965.  This doubling up of street names is again apparent as the Wilmore crosses the main road – the former Kent side is called Beckenham Road, the Surrey side High Street.

The stream passes over High Street, crossing next to Tesco.  The Wilmore still flowed above ground alongside the southerly end of Kent House Road to around the railway bridge at the beginning of the 20th century – see above (source e Bay September 2015).

The River was then culverted and joined by Penge Stream, which will be covered in a later post and another, as yet,  nameless stream broadly following Parish Lane – this is clear on John Roque’s map of Surrey above. Oddly, until the mid-1960s the newly merged watercourse re-emerged between the gardens of Kent House and Reddons Roads before being forced into a sharp east turn behind the then Cator Park School (now like a school further upstream a Harris Academy) before traversing Cator Park to join the newly formed River Pool (the amalgamated Beck and Chaffinch Brook) .  It probably wasn’t the original course but the right angled diversion was probably to make cultivation easier – it certainly existed in the 1860s, before the area was developed.

Unlike upstream where culverting was over the top of the existing course, the 1965 works here diverted the flow, presumably under Kings Hall and Aldersmead Roads to enter the Park further south and run parallel to Chaffinch Brook for a hundred metres (the flows clearly audible through vented manhole covers), past the latter’s confluence with The Beck to form the River Pool. The Wilmore enters the Pool in the same place as it did before but from a different angle.

 

Picture & Map Credits

The Ordnance Survey maps images are all on Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland – the specific links are contained within the text.

I cannot remember where I copied a small part of John Roque’s map of Surrey from – it is no longer available on-line in the form that I saw it.  If it is your organisation’s image, do let me know and I will properly credit you.

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The 1968 Lewisham Floods

Mid-September sees the 50th anniversary of the 1968 floods in Lewisham caused by the Rivers Ravensbourne, Quaggy and Pool all overflowing their banks as a result of two days very heavy rain on 15 and 16 September 1968.  The summer of 1968  had been one of the wettest on record, so the ground was already pretty much saturated causing large amounts of water to immediately run-off with large amounts draining into the local rivers.

So what caused the floods? A warm and very moist air front which had its origins in the western Mediterranean converged with a cool, moist one from the Baltic over south eastern England.  The fronts then moved very little for two days.   A broad area from the Thames Estuary to Hampshire received six weeks of rain, 75 mm (3” for you non-metric folk), during those two days.  A large area including south east London received double this – 150 mm (6”) – 3 months of rain in 48 hours.  On  Sunday 15 September alone, the Met Office noted that Bromley saw the heaviest rain with 129.5 mm (5.2”); rain in Bromley  ends up in flowing down the Ravensbourne and Quaggy to Lewisham. With this volume of rainfall it is not surprising that drainage systems failed to cope.

To understand the sheer scale of the flooding it is worth noting that the Quaggy, which typically had a depth of 15 cm (3”) at one point was over 5 metres deep in Lewisham (1). Traffic was unable to run at all along the main road between Catford and Loampit Hill as the entire area, built in the Ravensbourne flood plain was flooded (2).

The Ravensbourne

The Ravensbourne runs in a fairly flat valley all the way through Catford and Lewisham and there was flooding all the way along course – The Times photographed flooding on Southend Lane, close to Bromley Road where the usually hidden Ravensbourne crosses (3).  There was flooding too further upstream at Bromley South where the Ravensbourne burst its banks.

There were lots of memories on Facebook threads on this of using boats from Peter Pan’s Pond – originally a mill pond on the Ravensbourne (now the pond outside Homebase) to row around the area, including getting into the bar at the Tiger’s Head and generally playing in the flooded waters.

In nearby Watermead Road, flood waters reached 1.5 metres deep in places (as they did on Southend Lane) – houses there took a year to dry out and there was some looting after the flood waters receded.   A little further downstream is one of iconic pictures of the Lewisham floods – the Robertson’s Jam Factory which had the Ravensbourne immediately behind (on a Creative Commons via David Wright on Geograph).    

Unsurprisingly, a hundred metres further down Bromley Road, there was also flooding at the junction with Aitken Road (on a Creative Commons via David Wright on Geograph). Those with basement flats were particularly badly affected – in one on Barmeston Road the water went up to the ceiling.  

The volume of water coming down the Ravensbourne was augmented by the also flooded River Pool (see below) – the confluence is just south of Catford Bridge.  This meant that Catford Town Centre was under water.  There were memories on Facebook of free buses being laid on to transport people wanting to get from Stanstead Road to Brownhill Road, elsewhere refuse lorries did the same thing.

There was a ‘not entirely successful’ attempt to sail from Catford to Lewisham on a wooden garage door brought downstream on the Ravensbourne.  More appropriate forms of water transport were used in Ladywell Fields where an unknown kayaker paddled close to the railway bridge.

The extent of the flooding becomes apparent in the foreshortened by telephoto lens shot looking towards Ladywell Bridge from the around the ‘playtower’

While not shown in the picture there was a boat that ferried people across the worst of the flooding at Ladywell.  Marsala Road, parallel to the Ravensbourne, itself became ‘a fast flowing river’ with water levels inside houses rising to over a metre above ground level at one point.  There were Facebook memories of playing on a tractor inner tube in the flood water on the street. The ground floors in neighbouring Elmira Street were flooded too.

In Lewisham it seems that the flooding caused a crane to topple over – presumably on the Sundermead Estate that was being built at the time (4).

The Quaggy

From its entry into Lewisham at Chinbrook Meadows (and no doubt further upstream too) there was flooding along the Quaggy, Just outside the park in Marvels Lane, next to Sydenham Cottages as the Quaggy burst its banks.

Lee Green flooded, although probably not as badly as it had done in the past from snow melt in the early 19th century.  Manor Lane, where the Quaggy is bridged and Leahurst Road flooded too. There was flooding on Lee High Road and the parallel streets – with memories of submerged basements and flooded gardens around Eastdown Park – the photogrpah belwo shows the bottom of Dermody Road and the bridge over the Quaggy into Weardale Road.

On Lee High road itself the shops on Manor Park Parade (opposite the Rose of Lee, now Dirty South) had almost 2 metres of water in their basements).

At Lee Bridge water reached the top of the steps of the White Horse and there are rumours of paper money floating in the basement of the then Midland (now HSBC) Bank opposite, which were covered in a blog post on the last stretch of the Quaggy.

The bottom of the High Street flooded as the whole area around the Quaggy and Ravensbourne confluence was inundated – perhaps the most icon photograph of the floods are of the ‘Lewisham Lake’, it made the front page of the Daily Mirror but local people put on their wellies just got on with life as the photograph below outside the Odeon (formerly Gaumont) shows.

One of the largely culverted tributary streams of the Quaggy, Hither Green Ditch, seems to have flooded on Verdant Lane.

The Pool

The Pool effectively forms in Cator Park in Beckenham from the confluence of The Beck, Chaffinch Brook (which certainly flooded) and the River Wilmore (often known as Boundary Stream).   Unsurprisingly, the River Pool flooded too at, and below, Bell Green.  The photograph below is from Winsford Road, with the backdrop of Grangemill Road in Bellingham (on a Creative Commons via David Wright on Geograph) – the area flooded to the left is still open ground and known locally as Dog Field (after a very short-lived greyhound track that was once there).  The high waters washed away large amounts of coke from the gas works, off screen right, which was deposited on the allotments behind Dog Field.

A little further upstream the Pool overflowed near Bell Green making the bridge from Southend Lane impassable other than by boat

Pool River in Flood - 1968

Elsewhere in the South East

Given the extent of the weather front it wasn’t surprising that the flooding wasn’t an isolated issue for Lewisham, although it was one of the areas that was hit worst; large swathes of south east England were flooded with rail contact between London and Kent was being completely cut.   Edenbridge in Kent was completely cut off after the River Eden, a tributary of the Medway, burst its banks. 150 passengers on a diverted train from Charing Cross to Hastings stuck on the train for almost 12 hours at the station there (6).

The AA described the picture from above with only a little exaggeration –  ‘The whole of the area form Essex to the Sussex-Hampshire border was like a giant lake, with dozens of main roads and hundreds of secondary roads flooded.’ (7)

In days when mobile communication is the norm – landlines were the only means of telecommunications – over 78,000 (9), including many in Lewisham were down as the GPO were overwhelmed (8).  Still 28,000 of those out of action by 19th September (10)

In the days that followed the flooding spread as the storm water made its way down the Thames – East Molesey being particularly badly affected. (11)

The Immediate Aftermath

In the days after the flood before the water subsided the army were brought into deliver food to those cut off on upper floors (14). Shops had sales of tinned food without labels which became something of a lucky dip and town centre shops, such as Chiesmans, had flood damage sales.

Basements were pumped out – including the Rose of Lee (now Dirty South) and no doubt the shops opposite.

The Mayor of Lewisham had used his dinghy to ferry a few people around and investigate what was happening on the ground (lake?) himself whilst the area was flooded (11).  However, the then Tory run council was accused of “falling down” on its duties.  Some victims were paid up to £1600 from surpluses on funds set up following the Lewisham Rail Crash in 1957 and the Hither Green one of 1967 (12).  Some were rehoused by the council, but beyond that, other than giving people a bottle of bleach, there seems to have been little practical support for those families make homeless or having had possessions ruined – particularly those who weren’t insured.  After the floods subsided, carpets were hung over fences and other possessions left outside in the hope that they would dry out and recover …..and then there would have been the smell as they probably didn’t properly dry out.

Lewisham’s population has changed a lot since 1968, many of the areas alongside the rivers have seen gentrification and those with better paying occupations move in.  It is easy to forget the changes in the last 50 years – ‘Employers, Managers and Professional Workers’ made up 34.5% of the adult population in last census in 2011 – in the census immediately after the floods in 1971 only 10.5% fell into this category.  Census employment categories have changed a lot over time but it is worth remembering that manual work still dominated in the area at the time of the floods.  Household contents insurance was rarer, and then, as now, poorer households didn’t have it.   While overall household insurance costs from the floods across south east England were estimated at £15 million (13), this would obviously not have taken into account those without.

There was little in the way of a Parliamentary debate about the floods – Parliament was in recess when the floods happened and seems to have moved-on by the time that the floods were debated in mid-October – in the Commons the focus was on farming and in the Lords, oddly on a telephone exchange in Cobham that was flooded for a couple of days.

Longer Term Changes

There was little change in approach to moving peak flows downstream, a continuation of plans that had been started on the River Wilmore (Boundary Stream) in Penge and other local rivers of creating concrete banks and beds to move water on faster – sometimes referred to as ‘channelisation’.  

 

This continued along parts of the Quaggy – notably between Grove Park and Eltham Bridge (see above); the River Pool between Bell Green and Catford had its meanders removed (left) and the concrete casing and straightening continued from its confluence with the Ravensbourne all the way through Catford, Ladywell and Lewisham (see below).

There were still occasional more localised flooding’s but the real downside of the concrete straight-jackets was that the lack of natural banks and beds meant that the rivers lost much of the plant and wildlife.

New approaches started to be developed from the late 1990s, with large scale flood water storage areas in Sutcliffe Park (above) and Weigall Road which hold peaks flows – much of this happening through work by QWAG, the Environment Agency and other local groups. Similar work is planned in Beckenham Place Park.   More natural, wider banks and meanders have been added and restored in several areas – notably in John Roan Playing Fields, Chinbrook Meadows, Manor Park and Ladywell Fields (below from late 2013) – these allow the rivers to hold more water in peaks, slow down flows and allow the return of plant and wildlife on banks.

Notes

  1. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Sep 17, 1968;
  2. Ibid
  3. The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 16, 1968; pg. 5; Issue 57357.
  4. The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 16, 1968; pg. 5; Issue 57357.
  5. ibid
  6. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Sep 17, 1968; pg. 1; Issue 57358. (796 words)
  7. The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 16, 1968; pg. 1
  8. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Sep 17, 1968; pg. 10; Issue 57358. (1129 words)
  9. The Times (London, England), Friday, Sep 20, 1968; pg. 2; Issue 57361. (376 words)
  10. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Sep 18, 1968; pg. 1; Issue 57359.  (792 words)
  11. South East London and Kentish Mercury 19 September 1968
  12. The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 16, 1968; pg. 1
  13. The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 23, 1968; pg. 4; Issue 57363.
  14. The Times (London, England), Friday, Sep 20, 1968; pg. 21; Issue 57361.

Picture Credits

  • Most of credited within the text
  • The Ordnance Survey map of the Pool’s meanders is via the National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
  • The photograph of Marvels Lane is from Borough Photographs, used with permission of Lewisham Archives
  • The photograph outside the Odeon has appeared numerous times on social media, never credited – if you are the copyright owner do let me know so that I can credit you (or remove if you would prefer.
  • The remaining 1968 photos were copied by Emily Hay from Lewisham Archives and are used with the kind permission of both
  • The modern photographs are mine, feel free to use them, credited, for non-commercial purposes.

A massive thank you to Emily Hay both for the photos and talking with me about her childhood memories of the floods – it was really helpful and much appreciated.

Suffragette City – Hither Green & Lee

During 2018 Running Past has covered several of the leading suffragettes who lived in Lewisham with posts on Clara Lambert, Eugenia Bouvier and Caroline Townsend along with an update on the post on May Billinghurst. This post seeks to bring together some of the other suffragette and suffragist activity in Lee and Hither Green that hasn’t been covered so far, it will be followed by a similar one on Lewisham and possibly one for Blackheath too before the year is out.

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Source eBay September 2016

Nancy LightmanThere were occasional public meetings at Lee Green, seemingly outside  including one addressed Nancy Lightman in July 1908 (1), Lightman (pictured – 2) was a teacher who regularly appeared on Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) platforms, particularly in the early days of the campaign – she spoke at a large suffragette demonstration held in Hyde Park on 21 June 1908.

A later one was addressed by a  Mrs Brailsford on 4 October 1910 who gave ‘a most interesting address’; her name appears a lot in reports of local activity so she was probably a member of the Lewisham WSPU branch (3).

One of the regular features of the WSPU campaign in Lee and Hither Green, and elsewhere, were attacks on pillar boxes.  They were targets because they were seen as an obvious institutions of the state, resplendent with the mark of the Monarch and would disproportionately impact on the wealthy, business and the Government who were denying women the vote.

May Billinghurst’s conviction for a ‘pillar box outrage’ in December 1912 has already been covered in Running Past; the same evening as she was arrested pillar boxes attacked in Beacon Road, Staplehurst Road (then probably on the corner of Leahurst, where the post office was then located and Northbrook Road – all between 6:30 and 7:30 pm – with tar being placed inside. While The Suffragette reported two arrests this was presumably May Billinghurst and Grace Michell – no one seems to have been charged for the Lee and Hither Green ones (4).

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The original Victorian Beacon Road pillar box attacked is still there at the junction with Hither Green Lane (see above). I did suggest to Royal Mail, that it might be appropriate to paint it in suffragette colours of purple, green and white – sadly, their courteous response declined the request.

In early 1913 there were further reports of ‘pillar box outrages’ outside 124 Burnt Ash Road (almost opposite Upwood Road) which had a copy of ‘The Suffragette’ posted into it, along with another at the junction of Manor Park and Northbrook Road (5) – below.

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There were reports of further attacks on post boxes in unspecified locations in Lewisham and Hither Green later in the year on 26 October (6).  Late in 1913 wax vesta matches and gunpowder were found in the post box in an unspecified location in Lee High Road but they failed to explode (7).

In July 1913 there was a march from various locations within Kent which was converging on Blackheath that was organised by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies who supported a more gradualist and non-militant approach to attempting to get the vote for women. They were described in the local press as the ‘law abiding and constitutional groups in women’s movement.’  (8)

The marchers, who were described as ‘pilgrims’ gathered in Taunton Road to march to Whitefield’s Mount on Blackheath before heading towards New Cross, Deptford and eventually Hyde Park a couple of days later. They received some barracking but nothing of the level often received by the WSPU. Banners on show included – ‘Home makers demand the vote.’  (9)

At the other end of the spectrum of suffrage and suffragette activity was the likely burning down of a cricket pavilion in Lee.  Suffragettes had started attacking sports facilities in early 1913 after Asquith’s Government had rejected demands for Votes for Women; it marked an extension on the damage to property of the window smashing campaigns.   The pavilions, golf clubs and the like attacked tended to be those not allowing woman members and left unattended for long periods.

northbrookCricket

In January 1914 the Northbrook Cricket Club pavilion was burned down – it was somewhat ironically located just off Burnt Ash Road, next to the railway – its pavilion was mid-way along what is now Holme Lacey Road (10).

Press reports nationally in ‘The Times’ were circumspect about who or what was responsible, noting that ‘nothing was found to support the theory that suffragists were responsible’ (11).  Elsewhere though there were strong indications that it was the work of the WSPU; the Daily Herald merely reported the fire not mentioning any possible cause or culprit – however, they carefully juxtaposed the report with an advert for the paper’s ‘Suffrage Week’ which was to start a few days later (12).

While responsibility was not directly claimed for the blaze either locally or nationally, it was covered as part of a series of reports  in that week’s ‘The Suffragette’ (see bottom right hand corner below) headed ‘Fires and Bombs as Answer to Forcible Feeding’ – so the implication about the cause of the fire was pretty clear (13).

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While as noted above the arson attacks on pavilions tended to be on buildings left unattended for long periods, there may have been an added ‘incentive’ in this case – the club was named after previous Lords of the manor and major landowners – the Northbrooks, who were Liberals in the House of Lords, the then Baronet having been a Liberal MP before succeeding to the Earldom in 1904.  Oddly, it wasn’t the first time the pavilion had burned down – there had been a major fire there in the early 1890s (14).

No one was every arrested or charged with the fire.

In terms of the activists in Lee there were a three households that were really important in the struggle for votes in Lee – the Townsends who lived at 27 Murillo Road on what was then referred to as The Firs estate. One of the sisters, Caroline Townsend was covered in a post in early 2018.

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The second was 62 Manor Park – this was home to the Leighs – John, a Canadian, and Eda an American had 4 daughters and a son, the adult daughters in the 1911 census included Cornelia, 20, and Gladys, 18. One of these two, it isn’t clear which as she was referred to as ‘Miss Leigh’, organised the sale of ‘The Suffragette’ (15) and its earlier incarnation, ‘Votes for Women’ (16) in Lewisham for much of the time it was produced. Presumably the same daughter organised jumble sale collections too (17). Cornelia was to live in Lewisham until her death in 1977, Gladys died in Sussex the year before. There was presumably at least tactic support for the cause of women’s suffrage from John and Eda, as the house was used for displaying the new Lewisham banner in July 1913 (18). Saturday rallies were held there too from the spring of 1913 (19).

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It is possible that Eda Leigh was a regular speaker in the early days of the campaign – a Mrs Leigh is frequently mentioned giving speeches in the area – including one in Catford in August 1910 (20).  However, the speaker is much more likely to be Mary Leigh.  A ‘Mrs Leigh’ was also involved in the day to day activity in the branch; she was more likely to have been Eda from Manor Park rather than Mary though.

EC98EA2D-390F-4B1B-A184-F39147E5A8AB

The other family was the Llewhellin’s of 114 Burnt Ash Hill, above,  a house probably built by John Pound. The parents were Arthur Jones Llewhellin, the mother was Sarah Jane (nee Thomas) – both were from Pembroke Dock in south west Wales, where they married in 1873. Arthur worked for the Inland Revenue and the family moved around a lot with children being born in Dublin, the Potteries, Malvern, Greenwich and Lewisham (Olive). In terms of the local WSPU branch both Sarah and more particularly Olive were active members. Sarah was widowed in 1906 and living on her own means in the 1911 census. Sarah was mentioned several time in ‘The Suffragette’ for donations, producing food for sale and catering, including for the Annual Branch meeting in 1912 (21).

Olive was one of many suffragettes who refused to register in the 1911 census. Olive’s activity was a mixture of militancy and organisation. She was arrested twice – the first time was with Clara Lambert in late January 1913 after smashing the windows of the Hamburg American Line in Cockspur Street off Trafalgar Square. While Olive was remanded in custody, unlike Clara, she was later discharged (22).

She was also arrested as part of protest by the Cymric Suffrage Union, which she was also a member of, due to her Welsh ancestry, when Lloyd George refused to see a deputation (23).

Lewisham Suffragette banner

Olive was the driving force behind the Lewisham WSPU banner, above, (24) – she had designed a well-received poster for the office window in 1912 (25). This seems to have led to her designing the banner (26) and being in charge of the fundraising for it (27).  She is pictured bottom right below, with Caroline Townsend to the left; above her to the left is Clara Lambert and a Miss Warwick to the right (28).

WSPU banner

Olive was Branch Treasurer from early 1913 (29) and briefly acted as Branch Secretary  in mid-1913 (30). She was an occasional speaker at public meetings held most Sunday evenings at 7:00 in Lewisham Market – such as on Sunday 21 September when she spoke with Eugenia Bouvier (31).

Olive became a teacher, registering in 1927, when she was living in Stockwell.  She was living in Poole in Dorset in 1939, she later returned to London –she died in Wandsworth in 1972.

 

Notes

  1. Votes for Women 30 July 1908
  2. Picture copyright is held by the Museum of London, but use is allowed for non-commercial research purposes such as Running Past.
  3. Votes for Women 14 October 1910
  4. The Suffragette 27 December 1912
  5. Lewisham Borough News 3 January 1913
  6. The Suffragette 31 October 1913
  7. The Suffragette 4 January 1914
  8. Lewisham Borough News 1 August 1913
  9. ibid
  10. Map on a creative commons via the National Library of Scotland
  11. The Times 26 January 1914
  12. Daily Herald 26 January 1914
  13. The Suffragette 30 January 1914
  14. Blackheath Gazette 28 April 1893
  15. The Suffragette 12 September 1913
  16. Votes for Women 15 July 1910
  17. The Suffragette 12 September 1913
  18. The Suffragette 4 July 1913
  19. The Suffragette April 11 1913
  20. Votes for Women 26 August 1910
  21. The Suffragette 25 October 1912
  22. 31 January 1913 The Suffragette
  23. The Suffragette 13 October 1913
  24. The banner is part of the collection of the Museum of London, as is the photograph who allow its use for non-commercial research such as this.
  25. The Suffragette 25 October 1912
  26. The Suffragette 4 July 1913
  27. The Suffragette 20 December 1912
  28. The photograph of the Lewisham Banner is part of the collection of the Museum of London (on a creative commons)
  29. The Suffragette 24 January 1913
  30. The Suffragette 1 August 1913
  31. The Suffragette 19 September 1913

Census and related data comes from Find My Past

Thank you to the always helpful Julie Robinson at Lewisham Archives in terms of press cuttings held there from Lewisham Borough News

The 1930s Verdant Lane Estate – ‘Delightful Houses’ for Skilled Workers

The Verdant Lane estate was developed in the early 1930s with most homes sold by the middle of the decade – it consists of homes on the eastern side of Verdant Lane itself plus the streets of South Park Crescent (named after the former farm on the opposite side of Verdant Lane that became part of North Park Farm); Further Green Lane plus the smaller streets of Pasture Road and Sedgeway. The newly built houses, as we shall see later, were to become the homes of skilled working classes along with a few supervisory staff and managers.

The opposite side of Verdant Lane had been developed by Cameron Corbett as part of the development of North Park Farm, the west side of Verdant Lane had been one of the last streets to be developed in 1910 (1). The land now occupied by the Verdant Lane estate was presumably not farmed by the Sheppards at North Park and was probably part of Shroffold Farm which was located where the mosque is now situated at the junction of Verdant and Whitefoot Lanes with Northover.  Latterly, like much of the newer part of the cemetery, it was allotments as the map below shows.

The allotments are clear in the photograph below, taken from 140 Verdant Lane around 1920 (see credit below) – the bend in the road is the junction of Verdant Lane and Sandhurst Road.  The photograph also shows trees bordering one of the Quaggy’s tributaries, Hither Green Ditch; the stream seems to have been culverted around the bulge in the fencing.  The course of the Ditch is obvious in the small valley on Pasture Road, the remnants of the stream is probably now culverted either under the front gardens of Verdant Lane or under the access tracks to garages behind.

Adjacent to the estate was Oak Cottage Nursery, which dated from at least the 1860s, perhaps earlier.  The nursery lasted until after World War 2 (the map below is from the early 1950s), presumably until Oak Cottage Close was built in the 1960s or 70s. A small part of the nursery remains as a lovely community garden

The builders of the estate were J Gerrard and Sons from Swinton in Greater Manchester; they had been founded in 1864 by Jonathan Gerrard.  Gerrard had died in 1906, but the firm was still within the family, although by this stage focused in the main on large scale public building contracts including hospitals and public housing for Manchester City Council.  Private sector housing, particularly in southern England, seems to have been something of a rarity for them at this stage in their evolution.

By the 1950s they seem to have been specialising in building power stations, such as Fleetwood in 1956. It appears that the construction arm was sold to Fairclough in 1971, who in turn were taken over by AMEC in 1982 and then by Wood Group in 2017.  There is still a haulage firm operating and still run by the Gerrard family.

Who designed the houses isn’t clear – it may have been an in house team and they seem to have done their own sales, presumably from a show house on the estate.

E17CAAB6-1B21-4E73-A176-CD0F7538E59D

The completion locally would have been on the Woodstock Estate,now mainly Woodyates Road, which was advertised in the same edition of Lewisham’s Official Guide (probably 1931).  While Woodstock was priced at £25 cheaper, with seemingly a similar specification, Gerrard’s, by asking for a higher deposit, managed to get the weekly cost to be slightly cheaper.

So who were the early occupants of the estate? The 1939 Register was effectively a mini-census carried out just before the start of World War 2 for the purposes of rationing.   It isn’t completely comprehensive, as anyone likely to still be alive now is redacted and those in the armed forces were not included. As part of the research for this post, the records of the 36 houses on eastern side of Further Green Road (35 – 105 odds) have been reviewed.  While other parts of the estate might have been slightly different, it is probably a big enough sample to get a reasonable picture of who lived there.

The men of the estate were employed in a wide mixture of trades, but there were a mixture of skilled manual workers and a range of office and managerial jobs

  • The skilled manual workers included a metal machinist, a couple of telephone engineers, two train drivers and a plasterer; and
  • The office and managerial roles included several warehousemen, a Director of a Shipping Agent, a Civil Servant, a theatre clerk and an office manager.

The difference between Further Green Road and a similar study in 1939 of Ardmere Road in Hither Green is stark – a large majority in Ardmere Road were semi and unskilled manual workers – the only Further Green Road resident that would fall into this category was the Brewer’s Drayman at 89. This was one of the very few entries with the suffix ‘Heavy Work’ added after the trade.  This would have entitled those described to extra rations.  Of the 50 paid jobs, only four had ‘Heavy’ appended to them – one of which was probably an error as it was given to a shorthand typist….

As was the case in Ardmere Road, working women, other than a few grown up children, were a rarity – most were listed as carrying out ‘Unpaid Domestic Duties.’

One of the surprising features of the estate was the lack of children – these in the main are three bedroom houses but there were only 11 children in the 36 homes (assuming all the redacted entries were children). This was almost certainly due to evacuation of children which had started at the beginning of September 1939 – including in Lewisham.  Most had returned by 1943 as the estate had  one of the bigger concentrations of the child victims of the Sandhurst Road School bombing.

Notes

  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: the Forgotten Hamlet : Including the Corbett Estate’ p40
  2. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser 29 December 1906

1939 Register data is via Find My Past

Image Credits

The pre-development photo is copyright of the always helpful Lewisham Archives and is used with their permission.

The Ordnance Survey maps of Oak Cottage and the estate before development are from the National Library of Scotland and are on a Creative Commons – the

The advert and floor plans were copied from somewhere on social media in mid-2017, I thought that it was from the excellent cornucopia of all things London local government – LCC Municipal – mainly to be found on Twitter, but I was mistaken – so if you posted it do tell me so that I can properly credit you!

Finally, thank you to David Underdown for reminding me of the reasons for the lack of children on the estate in late September 1939 – most had been evacuated.

 

 

The Ghosts of Hillyfields & Blackheath Prefabs Past

The prolonged spell of dry weather in June and July 2018 dried out the top soils in many areas and made visible archaeological remains of past buildings. It has enabled the likes of the flooded village of Mardale Green to be visible again, along with various ancient settlements in Wales.  A little more recent, and a lot nearer to home, are footprints of prefabs that appeared in Hillyfields and possibly on Blackheath too.

The Blitz and the later V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks had destroyed thousands of homes in south east London. – thousands were homeless, staying with families and friends, leaving considerable numbers homeless .The main plank in trying to deal with this was the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act 1944, which planned to deliver 300,000 prefabricated homes.
The old Borough of Lewisham put up 1,610 prefabs by 1948 and a further 1,088 by 1955. While many went on quickly cleared bombsites – such as those in Fernbrook Road and Lenham Road – parks and open spaces were often used. On the Greenwich side of Blackheath, open space on Pond Road in Blackheath was used but more significantly several parks saw significant concentrations of prefabs. Notable in this was the Excalibur Estate (pictured below) which was built on part of the Forster Memorial Park – the estate partially remains although a stalling redevelopment programme is underway. The Excalibur estate (below) was covered in an early post in Running Past. There were also big concentrations around the edge of Hillyfields as well as in a couple of locations on Blackheath.P1040344.JPG

Hillyfields Bungalows

As the 1949 surveyed map that included Ladywell shows, the open ground of Hillyfields was circled with prefabs – Hillyfields Bungalows – with a double row along Adelaide and Montague Avenues, and a single broken line on Hillyfields Crescent.  A number of different types of prefabs were used – the ones here were Arcon bungalows – somewhat different in shape and design to those at Excalibur.

They were certainly there until the early autumn of 1962 as there is cine film footage of them, although there are suggestions that residents may have been moved out before the winter as there are recollections of playing in the remains of the prefabs in the harsh winter of 1962/63.

The extent of the compaction of the ground caused by the foundations means that the ground dries out more quickly than the surrounding around and so sometimes makes the footprints of the prefabs visible from the air.  The Google maps satellite images, probably taken in the dry spring or early summer of 2011. – the top one of Adelaide Avenue, the lower of Montague Avenue.

IMG_0393.PNG

IMG_0515.PNG

They may have been visible on the ground at that point but the 2018 has made them a lot clearer than in previous years as the set of photographs below shows – the top pair are of the Adelaide Avenue prefab bases, the bottom trio are of Montague Avenue and Hillyfields Crescent.

Before leaving Hillyfields, the Ordnance Survey map above indicates a series of Nissen huts close to the tennis courts.  They probably related to search lights (there were search lights there in World War 1 too).  There was nothing visible on the ground in the drought conditions – a combination of post-war trees and play equipment have disturbed the surface too much.

St German’s Place, Blackheath

Alongside St German’s Place on Blackheath there was a double row of prefabs as the photograph from Britain from Above shows the edge of in the bottom left corner,

IMG_0514.JPG

The extent is clearer from the 1949 surveyed Ordnance Survey map.

Unlike the position at Hillyfields, the post demolition outlines never seem to have been visible from the air – Blackheath has seen more more earth movement over the years than Hillyfields (apart from the former brick works around Hillyfields Crescent).  Non-natural soils have been added to the edge the grass, while the mounds look impressive in flower they will cover some of the remains of the prefab footprints.

A recent drain edges the Heath a metre further west than the mound and then beyond is a tangle of long grass. There are a couple of outlines that might be the base of a bungalow but it could easily be something else.

Hollyhedge Bungalows

In the top corner of the aerial photograph above another, larger, group of prefabs is present at the south eastern edge of the Heath, adjacent to what is now the Territorial Army Centre at Hollyhedge House – looking  beyond them is Lewisham, almost unrecognisable without the tall buildings.

The bunglaows were know as Hollyhedge Bungalows – their extent is clearer from the map below

There appeared to be nothing obvious visible on the ground when visited – a combination of lots of earth movement on the Heath in the relatively recent past and confusion of lines caused by tyres – no doubt due to the obstacles of the Race for Life Pretty Mudder race the Sunday before – the grass will recover quickly from that, once it rains.

Not every bomb site was developed immediately for prefabs – as Running Past has already covered , sites at Campshill House and Lewisham Hill were developed for new council housing almost straight after the War – the final photograph below shows both Lewisham Hill estate (2/3 way up on the right) as well as Hollyhedge Bungalows at the top.

Notes

The modern aerial images are from Google Maps – copied during 2014

The older aerial images are all from Britain from Above and on a Creative Commons

The map images are on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland – the full images are via links for Hillyfields; St German’s Place and Hollyhedge bungalows

 

Edgar Lloyd – Lewisham’s Early 20th Century Ultra-Runner

Over the years Running Past has covered a number of pioneering South London athletes – including the mid-19th century Tom Cook, the Greenwich Cowboy; William Gazley, the Star of Kent, the triple jumper Philip Kingsford and marathon runner Charlie Gardiner.  Another distance runner of the same era to Gardiner was Edgar Lloyd – they probably never completed together as the former was a professional whilst the latter remained an amateur.  Edgar Lloyd had his 15 minutes  of fame, well 6 hours 13 minutes and 58 seconds to be precise, in taking the World 50 mile record at Stamford Bridge in 1913.

William Edgar Lloyd was born in Lewisham on 31 July 1886.  He never used the ‘William’ and in press reports of his career was generally referred to as E W Lloyd.  Edgar was the second of four children of Magdelena and William Lloyd who had married in Croydon in 1881 – Magdelana was from Baden in Germany and was listed as a governess in the 1881 census.  William had something on an odd work history in the 1881 and 1891 censuses he was referred to a ‘Professor of Music,’ however in 1901 he was a storekeeper for an electrical engineer and in 1911 a book keeper for a corn merchant.

The family moved around a lot within Lewisham – in 1891 they were at 107 Gilmore Road (pictured above), moving to Ladywell Park in 1901 (roughly where the 1960s variant of Ladywell swimming pool was located) and to an also now demolished house on Perry Hill in 1911.  Edgar was still living at home in 1911, working as a telephone engineer for a firm called Miller; he had left school by the time he was 14 – working as an office boy for an engineering draughtsman in 1901.

In an interview after the record breaking race in 1913, Edgar suggested that he had been drawn to distance running by Petrie’s efforts in the 1908 London Olympic marathon (covered in the post of Charlie Gardiner), whether he had much of an athletic background before that isn’t clear (1).

Why he joined Herne Hill Harriers (HHH) rather than one of the more local clubs isn’t obvious either; as an earlier post on athletics on Blackheath covered – there were three active local clubs Blackheath Harriers then based at the Green Man, Cambridge Harrier and Kent Athletic Club.  Herne Hill Harriers though seem to have had bases in Eltham and Croydon though which may have encouraged him.

Edgar’s name started to appear in reports and results of local cross country and other races from the autumn of 1908.  He took part in a cross country race in Eltham organised by HHH in October 1908 around what was then the upper reaches of the Little Quaggy through the farm land of Coldharbour and Chapel Farms, he didn’t ‘place’ though (2).

He improved quickly, competing in 4¾ mile handicap road race from HHH’s Croydon base at the now closed Leslie Arms in Lower Addiscombe Road in Croydon on a November evening.  He came 10th, with the 3rd best time – the quickest was Harry Green with whom he would compete at the 1912 Olympics (3).

Early in 1909 Edgar, pictured (4) was to come 25th in the highly competitive South of Thames 7½ mile race, which is still organised.  The race was held in a ‘little old-world village’ the clue to its location was that it was ‘within mile or so of the tram terminus at Catford’ – Southend (see below – via eBay April 2016).  They raced over land belonging to the Forsters – so it probably included Forster Memorial Park and possibly the then home to Catford Southend FC and later Waygood Athletic.  Ahead of him was another HHH runner – Jack Gardiner, brother of Charlie.  Jack’s vest was often worn for good luck by Charlie. HHH won comfortably, Edgar didn’t even ‘score’ for them he was the 7th Herne Hill runner home (5).

He seems to have upped his distances during the next couple of years and competed in the 1911 Polytechnic Marathon over the 1908 London Olympic course from Windsor – he came 7th to finish in 3:01:57, in an era when times were much slower.  The race was won by his HHH team mate Harry Green in 2:46:29 (6).  While other references to him running other marathon races have not been found it can be assumed that he ran a few others, probably including the 1912 edition of the Polytechnic Marathon, as he was good enough to be selected for the 1912 Olympic marathon. (Poster on a Creative Commons via Wikipedia)

Edgar was well down the field in the race in Stockholm, finishing 25th from the 68 starters in a time of 3:09:25 for the 40.2 km course.  Conditions though were described as ‘very hot’ with only 35 finishers.  Edgar is probably visible in film footage of the race.

Edgar’s 50 mile race was a somewhat strange affair.  It was organised by Finchley Harriers and was held at Stamford Bridge, which still had an athletics track surrounding the football pitch at that stage and as was noted in relation to Philip Kingsford, was home to the London Athletic Club.  There were races within races – the first few won by Edgar’s club mate Harry Green including

  • 20 Miles – 1:56:51 (8)
  • 2 hours – 20 Miles 952 yards (9)
  • Marathon 2:38:16 (10)

After this point the centre of attention turned to Edgar Lloyd pictured (11) who steadily drew away from the rest of the small remaining field.  At times, it was a bit of a struggle for Edgar as he got ‘rather short in his stride’ but he started beating the records set by Dixon in 1885 by 42 miles, despite a wobble around 45 miles when it appeared that he might fall behind Dixon’s time.  However, he got something of a second wind and finished well – taking 4:28 off the previous world best time (12).  The Stamford Bridge track is picture below in 1909 from Wikipedia.

How long the record stood for isn’t that clear, ultra-running was at that time, and still is, a niche sector of athletics and until the on-line era got relatively little press coverage.  While there are no mentions of Edgar having competed in ultra events after 1913, it doesn’t mean that he didn’t.  The 1913 event probably only got the level of coverage that it managed due to the record.  It isn’t clear how long Edgar’s record stood – by 1984 Bruce Fordyce had taken the time down to 4:50:21.

After the world record race, he still continued to compete, although like every athlete of his generation his career was disrupted by the War.  There are a few press mentions beyond 1918 but they are few and far between – such as coming 16th in a 3 mile race in 1919 in Dulwich village still competing for HHH.

By 1915 Edgar was probably based in Croydon, his son William was born there in 1915 – he had been turning out as a ‘second claim’ for Croydon Harriers before that. In the 1939 Register, he was living with his wife Edith and William at Oval Road in Croydon and working as an ‘Engineer’s Turner’.

Edgar stayed in touch with athletics – he gave his 1912 trophy to the Road Runners Club in the 1950s for their 50 mile track race and presented the trophy in 1953. He watched athletics too including a 50 mile race at Walton upon Thames in 1966 where he was impressed with the American runner Ted Corbitt, often regarded as the ‘father of long distance running’ who was still competing at a good standard at 47.

Edgar died in Bromley in 1972 but his name seems to live on in another trophy, the Edgar Lloyd Memorial Cup, endowed the year after he died, for a 3km junior walk.

Notes

  1. The Sportsman 13 May 1913
  2. Sporting Life 05 October 1908
  3. Sporting Life 20 November 1908
  4. Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 17 May 1913
  5. Sporting Life 15 February 1909
  6. Athletic News 05 June 1911
  7. The Sportsman 28 October 1919
  8. Pall Mall Gazette 12 May 1913
  9. The Sportsman 13 May 1913
  10. Ibid
  11. Athletic News 19 May 1913
  12. Sheffield Daily Telegraph 13 May 1913

A big thank you to Bob Phillips for making me aware of Edgar.

Census and related information are from Find My Past.

Ardmere Road – A Portrait of What Was Once Hither Green’s Poorest Street (Part 2)

Last week’s post left explored the early years of Ardmere Road, looking at who lived there, the poverty and low-level crime.  We return to the street just before World War Two when the 1939 Register, a mini census for rationing and related purposes, was collected in September of that year.

When we had ‘visited’ for the 1901 Census, a small majority of the small three bedroom houses were home to two households sharing with an average of almost 8 people per home in the street.   By 1939, the number of households sharing  was down to 1 in 5 and the average number of people living in each house had almost halved to 4.3.

Employment on the street although it was less dominated by the building trade than it had been at the beginning of the 20th century, it was still dominated by largely unskilled manual work with lots of general labourers, several dustmen.  There was some semi-skilled and skilled manual work – such as the husband of one of the shopkeepers who was a telephone engineer and a couple of bricklayers; however, these were real exceptions.

A much more obvious change was the role of women – nearly 40 years before a majority of Ardmere Road’s women worked.   Now they were the exception, most were listed as carrying out ‘unpaid domestic duties’ (something that wasn’t recorded in 1901). Of those women who worked, if was like the men, entirely manual, and almost entirely adult children.  There was only one exception to this where another adult woman carried out the ‘unpaid domestic duties.’

Because the 1939 Register was done for rationing purposes – a significant number of the men had the suffix or prefix to their trade of ‘Heavy Work’ which entitled them to extra rations. Such as ‘Builder’s Labourer – Heavy Work,’ slightly under half of the workers fell into this category.

World War 2 saw changes to the physical structure of the street – much of this damage was caused by a V1 attack on 29 June 1944 (which will be returned to at some point in Running Past), as well as a high explosive bomb that was dropped during the Blitz.  The map below (1)  shows the combined extent of the damage – as the key shows the darker the colour, the worse the damage.

Key: black=total destruction, purple=damaged beyond repair, dark red=seriously damaged (doubt if repairable), light red=seriously damaged (repairable at cost), orange=general blast damage (non-structural), yellow=blast damage (minor), green=clearance area

The position was slightly worse than the LCC map showed as when the Ordnance Survey cartographers visited around 1950 numbers 20 and 21 were showing as ‘ruins’ (2).

This site was redeveloped by the old Borough of Lewisham after the war as Council housing.

In the end, while 10 to 14 were left standing, they too ended up being demolished.  In this case it was Beaver Housing Society rather than council that built the new homes which were of a style that was closer to the original homes that those built by the Council.   They had certainly been built by the early 1950s.

Beaver was a Lewisham-based housing association that managed about 3000 homes, mainly in Lewisham and Greenwich. It ran its operations from Lewisham High Street – next to the former location of Kings Hall cinema – before moving to behind to Kings Hall Mews during the 1990s.  They ran into serious problems with their governance in the early 2000s and merged with London & Quadrant Housing Trust, generally known as L&Q, in 2004.  Their name disappeared soon after.

They inserted the small glazed tile into many of their developments, there is another just around the corner in Nightingale Grove which was developed at the same time – along with one on an impressive Grade II listed building on Croom’s Hill in Greenwich.

In the first part of the story we noted that there had been an attempt by William Barrett to turn 17 from an off licence to a pub.  The plans for creating up pub seem to have dried up, but William Barrett was certainly running the off-licence well into the 1920s based on Kelly’s Directories (3).  William died in 1929 and his wife, Fanny, in 1933.

By this stage, the licence was taken over by one of their daughters Winifred (“Winnie”) Amy Agnes Barrett.  Winnie was born in 1903 when the family had already been running the off licence at 17 for 6 years.  She was born into the trade and in all likelihood working in it from the age of 16 – certainly that was the legal age for consumption of alcohol in 1919.  She was listed in the 1939 Register as a Licensed Victualler, which she ran with her cousin, Grace Baker, and later Kelly’s Post Office Directories have her running the off licence until 1979.  The business seems to have been taken over by W Inkin in 1982, but didn’t last more than a couple of years longer (4).   It is difficult to imagine now a small corner shop off-licence remaining in the hands of the same family for 82 years. There were memories of Winnie and being sent to the off licence to buy rolling tobacco and cigarette papers on a Facebook thread on the first post.

17 has now been converted into a pair of flats.

Next door at number 18, the numbering on Ardmere Road is consecutive, was another shop that lasted a long time in the same family – Edith May’s grocers.  She seems to have started as an assistant to & servant for Mary Law who was running the shop by 1911, taking over from Thomas Dixon who had been there since around 1905.  Edith, then Coles, was 18 then having been born in late 1892.  Edith married William May in Whitechapel in 1920.

Mary Law ran the grocers until around 1924 when the Mays took over (5).  In the Kelly’s Directories Edward May is listed as the proprietor from the mid-1920s until around 1941 (6).  Given that he was listed as a Telephone Engineer in the 1939 Register the reality was that it was probably Edith’s business.  During the war the grocers was where lots of local homes were registered to for their rations.

It was an old fashioned shop, unlike the off-licence which seems to have had a refit after World War 2, Edith’s grocery was

….frozen in time. Old marble counters, wooden single drawer for a till, flagstone floor, shelves with doilies and a huge brass scales.

Edith May ran the shop until about 1980, having been involved with the shop for around 70 years.  The shop was taken over by someone called Bobins around 1982, but like Winnie Barrett’s off-licence, it didn’t last long in new ownership (7).  The shop front has gone and unlike next door there is little evidence from the outside of retail past (see below).

So what about the street now?  Census data remains confidential for about a century although some anonymised data is made available to researchers much sooner. However, it is possible to look at summary data on a variety of questions for quite small areas known as Output Areas.  Data for Ardmere Road is available together with the neighbouring Brightside and Elthruda Roads.  As would be expected, employment patterns have changed a lot since 1939.  The big areas of employment in Ardmere Road’s Output Area are retail and wholesale (18%); education (11%); health and social work (10%), information and communication (10%) and construction (8%).   These are relatively similar to Lewisham as a whole although more work in retail, manufacturing, construction and information, with slightly less in most other areas.

As for housing, of the 274 homes in the Output Area, 123 are owner occupied with 151 rented or shared ownership.  The average number of people per home were 2.55 – while lower than in 1939, this reflects as much that houses have been subdivided into flats.

Rent levels will vary depending on the type of landlord – with the suggested private rents in the region of £1250 a month, but the social housing owned by Lewisham Council and L&Q considerably cheaper but still a lot more expensive.  This is somewhat more that the 45p a week charged in 1907, even taking account of inflation.

As for sold house prices , two houses albeit tenanted were sold for just £140 in 1908 (8).  The most recent house sold was for £480,000 in September 2015, and a valuation now would probably be around £517,000.  The two bedroom houses (where the third bedroom is turned into a bathroom) are a bit cheaper.

As for the ‘shoddy building’ described by Charles Booth’s researcher,  other than the World War 2 damage, the houses (from the outside at least) seem to have stood the test of time better than many in the area.

Notes

  1. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 – permission has been given by the copyright owners of the map, the London Metropolitan Archives to use the image here
  2. On a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland
  3. 1925 Lewisham Brockley and Catford Kelly’s Directory (via Lewisham Archives)
  4. Various London Kelly’s Post Office Directories from 1965 to 1983 (via Lewisham Archives)
  5. 1925 Lewisham Brockley and Catford Kelly’s Directory (via Lewisham Archives)
  6. London Kelly’s Post Office Directories various years to rom 1965 to 1983 (via Lewisham Archives)
  7. ibid
  8. 20 November 1908 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England

Data from the 1939 Register comes via Find My Past

The 2011 Census Data comes via the Office for National Statistics

Thank you to Julie Robinson at Lewisham Archives help on the later Directories and to Helen Holland for her memories of Mrs May’s grocers shop.