The Ravensbourne Athletic Club Of Ladywell and Lee

On the northern side of Eltham Road, just to the east of Lee Green, there is an elegant early 20th century building that is now part of the 1950s Borough of Woolwich (now Royal Greenwich) development of Ravens Way. The neighbouring council blocks were carefully designed to blend in with the former club, so it is easy to miss.  It started its life as a residential clubhouse for Ravensbourne Athletic Club and has an interesting story.

The early mentions of the club come from the 1870s, with the club seeming to have been formed around 1871.    But to understand the Club and its building on Eltham Road, we need to understand the origins.  It was the sports club for Cook, Son & Co. which had been formed in 1819 and was one of the largest English wholesale clothing traders and drapers of the late 19th century and early 20th century.  By the 1870s they were based in St Paul’s Church Yard in the City.  It’s head by this stage was Sir Francis Cook and by the end of the century he was one of the three richest men in the country; he had large estates in both Richmond and Sintra, just outside Lisbon in Portugal.

Cook, Son and Co. concentrated on warehousing and distribution rather than manufacturing the clothing themselves.  It sold directly to the small outfitters than still predominated the sector – this may have included the Campion family who had shops near Lee Green, on Lee High Road, Catford and Forest Hill, a ghost sign for whom is still visible in Catford (see below)  Cook, Son and Co. used the railway system for commercial traveller visits.

Ravensbourne Athletic was formed in 1871, taking its name from the location.  It is one I am sure readers will immediately recognise; their fields were described as being ‘truly rural’ and in the ‘picturesque vale of Ladywell’ (1).  It never seems to have appeared on Ordnance Survey maps, but was noted as being around 3 minutes from the station (2).  The 400 yard track at the edge of their cricket pitch was described as being at the bottom of the hill (3) so it may have been around the current locations of Chudleigh Road or perhaps Marsala Road – the latter was later home to the Edwardian professional marathon champion – Charlie Gardiner.

The 1878 sports day was referred to as their 8th Annual Meeting, it had a full range of track and field events – almost all were handicapped, which was common in the era (4) as we saw with the career of Harry Hutchens who ended up living at the other end of Ladywell Fields in Catford.  He wouldn’t have been welcome here though as he was a professional sprinter, probably the finest Victorian one.  Back to the Annual Meeting, while some races were internal affairs, some were open to local clubs such as Blackheath Harriers who were then based at the Green Man in Blackheath.  Current athletic inhabitants of Ladywell Fields, Kent AC, weren’t formed until a few years later.

 In 1883 the Annual Meeting had moved to the cinder track of Stamford Bridge (lpictured above in 1909 via Wikipedia Commons) and it was noticeable that reports seemed to be dominated by several Harriers clubs all of which are still in existence Ranlegh, Highgate and South London as well as Blackheath.  The numbers watching though were reported as being down, particularly women (5).

The reasons for the move to Stamford Bridge probably lay in the development potential of the land in Ladywell, London was expanding and as was seen with the short lived velodrome in Catford, it saw lots of suburban sports facilities disappear.  Press reports noted that the club had been ‘driven out’ of Ladywell; so it may be a short lease had come to an end (6).

The move to Stamford Bridge was a temporary one though, it seems that by 1884 they were in Lee, while the massive clubhouse was almost 30 years away, their Annual Meeting was to be held on what is now Weigall Road Playing Fields.  The ‘ground’ was described as ‘prettily situated’  and had a ‘very fair turf course.’ The Club had taken a 21 year lease out and the 1884 ‘Sports’ saw the usual fayre of Club and open races (7).

The location of their new base was field next to the Quaggy, it had been home to annual horse races 50 years before, but was to become a series of cricket and sports grounds.  It happened in a similar way around the Pool and Ravensbourne flood plains in Beckenham – as covered with the Oxo Sports Ground a while ago. Being on a flood plain, in wetter winters, fixtures will have no doubt been lost to waterlogged pitches – something that happened in the winter of 2019/20 too.

The annual sports were clearly a major social event for the company.  There were several photographs from the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News for 1896, including ones of the son of the owner, F W Cook, and Sir George Pragnall who was a senior Royal servant. More interesting, perhaps, are the race start photographs which show a little more of the area – particularly the children’s race which includes the rear of houses on Eltham Road (8).

A couple of years earlier the Penny Illustrated Paper covered the event, which like many of the era included bicycle races – the ‘scratch’ race is shown in the photograph below – the start line was next to Weigall Road, with the pairs of gables of the houses clearly visible behind one of the pavilions and marquees (9).

While the Annual Sports brought out those in charge of the company, the rest of the year it was a busy club with dozens of activities going on including cricket, cycling, athletics, football, tennis, billiards, swimming, shooting and a library.  Teams and individuals representing Ravensbourne, nicknamed the Ravens, won a total of 135 championships in 1910 and it retained the Houston Challenge Trophy for Athletic preeminence in the City, which it had held  since 1894 (10).

It’s not clear why the club, which had 1,200 members, decided to both build a residential clubhouse and build such a large one with around 200 rooms, after all they had managed for 40 years without one.  The sports ground at the rear had three pavilions by 1893 but a gap on Eltham Road remained which was presumably owned or leased by the Club to provide access to the playing fields.  At some point around 1912 a decision was made to develop this gap into a clubhouse.  The the building work happened over the next two years  at a cost of around £20,000 which was donated by Sir Frederick Cook (11).

The newly constructed building was offered to the War Office at the end of July 1914 for use in the war (12) that had already started although Britain did not join until a few days later.  The offer was taken up and the building used for army billeting (13).

The block appears to have remained much the same as it was when it was built, certainly the exterior all looks original. However, a temporary structure may have been added at the back either around or during World War 2 when it also seems to have been requisitioned.

Back to the sport, the 1937 edition of the ‘Sports’ saw, perhaps, its most notable participant – the ‘Mighty Atom’, Sydney Wooderson, who comfortably won the  open mile scratch race in 4:20.6 (14). It was to be a summer of success for Wooderson, who took the mile World Record at the end of August in 4:06.6 at Motspur Park in south west London (15).

In the 1950s, the clubhouse and the houses around it were acquired by the Borough of Woolwich for council housing.  The rest of the homes were designed to merge in well with the former clubhouse which was converted into flats.  A new street was created behind, parallel to Lee High Road, which retains a subtle link to the Ravensbourne Athletic – using the club nickname, ‘Ravens’ in  Ravens Way, the former clubhouse is 130-184. The playing fields were opened up to the public, accessed from Weigall Road.

As for Cook, Son & Co., it merged with a not dissimilar firm, S & J Watts & Co, who were based in Manchester, in 1960 to form Cook & Watts.  The life of the new company was a very short one though as like many in the textile and clothing sector it was taken over by Courtaulds later in 1960.

And finally, at the front of the building is a delightful, small obelisk.  It’s history seems lost but, it bears the words ‘The shadows will lie behind you if you walk towards the light’ carved into the four faces of the obelisk.  The phrase and several variants have been attributed to a wide range of sources including Walt Whitman, another person called Whitman, along with the Victorian poet Charles Swain and a Maori proverb.  However, there  is nothing obvious to link to either the Club or its corporate owners.

 

Notes

  1. South London Chronicle 29 August 1874
  2. Cricket 03 August 1882
  3. South London Chronicle 29 August 1874
  4. The Referee 18 August 1878
  5. Sporting Gazette 25 August 1883 
  6. The Referee 20 July 1884
  7. ibid
  8. Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 04 July 1896 – the pictures linked to this are from there too
  9. Penny Illustrated Paper 14 July 1894
  10. Sporting Life 24 February 1911
  11. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser 03 August 1914
  12. ibid
  13. John Coulter (1997) Britain in Old Photographs: Lewisham & Deptford, A Third Selection p116
  14. Sunday Mirror 04 July 1937
  15. Sunday Mirror 29 August 1937

 

 

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 5 – Verdant Lane and Manor Lane

During the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown, Running Past has been following the boundary of Victorian Lee before it was subsumed into Lewisham at the end of the Victorian era, aided only by a Second Edition Ordnance Survey map. We have so far wandered, in stages, initially from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the second stage took us through Grove Park, crossing the never built Ringway;  then through Marvels and Elmstead Woods and a Borough of Deptford Cemetery; and in the previous instalment through Chinbrook Meadows appropriately following Border Ditch. We pick up the 1893 Lee – Lewisham boundary on what is now Downham Way – the most southerly of the red dots on the map below.

The Downham estate was built by the London County Council (LCC) in the late 1920s and early 1930s on compulsorily purchased farm land. On this side of the estate included what was probably the last outpost of the land owned by the Baring family, Shroffold Farm, pictured later in the post.  We will probably return to the farm at some stage in the future. However, the farm was part of the Manor of Lee bought by Sir Francis Baring, later Baron Northbrook, the purchase of which was at least partially funded by both financing of slave owning operations as well as some direct ownership on enslaved people. While the Barings dispensed largesse to the locals in their latter years, their ability to do this was based, in part at least, on the enslavement of African men, women and children in Montego Bay in Jamaica at the end of the 18th century.

We’d split our circuit of Lee at the top of what was described in a 1790 map as ‘Mount Misery’, better known these days as Downham Way (the most southerly dot on the map). There was a lot of ‘misery’ in the area in that era. South Park farm, which was to become North Park – a little further down the hill in our broad direction of travel was a farm that for a while was known as Longmisery.

The reason for the split in the post at Mount Misery was that the boundary in 1893 had changed soon after the brow of the ‘Mount’ from field edge to stream at the boundary.

Before leaving this point, it is worth remembering that at the time the Ordnance Survey cartographers surveyed the area they would have had an undisturbed view almost to the north of the parish and St Margaret’s Church. Certainly this was what the local Victorian historian, FH Hart, noted in the early 1880s when following the boundary from this point.

The stream is Hither Green Ditch; a stream that Running Past followed a while ago which has several sources. The nomenclature ‘Ditch’ is used quite a lot within the Quaggy catchment, it shouldn’t be seen as belittling or derogatory it is just the way smaller streams are described – the 1893 boundary of also followed, Grove Park Ditch and Border Ditch, with Milk Street and Pett’s Wood Ditches further upstream.

This branch of Hither Green Ditch seems to have emerged somewhere around Ivorydown, south and above Downham Way. It merges with the 1893 Lee – Lewisham boundary just north of the street named after the farm, Shroffold. The merged boundary and stream followed the middle of Bedivere Road.

The section that the Lee-Lewisham boundary initially followed, is one of the sections of Hither Green Ditch that is barely perceptible on the ground, although the contours are clear on early 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey maps, if not current ones. Whether this part of the stream was actually flowing in 1893 is, at best, debatable, water tables had declined after the end of the Little Ice Age, the last really cold winter was in 1814 – with extensive flooding around the parish of Lee when there was a thaw.

The boundary and stream followed the edge of a small piece of woodland in 1893 which is now an area bordered by Pendragon, Ballamore and Reigate Roads. There is an attractive U shaped portion of the latter, where council surveyors struggled with dampness from the hidden Ditch.

The post war 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map, notes a flow at around the point of Railway Children Walk, an homage (or a homage) to E Nesbit who lived on the other side of the railway – on of at least a trio of locations within the Parish she resided in. A small detour is worth making for a view of another Lewisham Natureman stag standing proudly above the railway.

Detour made, the boundary follows Hither Green Ditch which was marked as flowing in the 1960s 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map, so was presumably also flowing in 1893. To the west of the Ditch, and boundary, was Shroffold Farm, the farmhouse (pictured below from the 1920s) was where the mosque is now located – diagonally opposite to where the Northover/Governor General was to be built 40 years later at the junction of Verdant Lane, Northover and and Whitefoot Lane. To the east was almost certainly land belonging to Burnt Ash Farm – both sides of the boundary owned by the Northbrooks.

While fields in 1893, this area is now part of Hither Green Cemetery. It originally opened as Lee Cemetery in 1873 but with a much smaller size at the northern end of the current one. Like the Borough of Deptford cemetery we passed through in Grove Park, it was outside the jurisdiction it served, all on the Lewisham side of Hither Green Ditch. There are two impressive chapels, the Dissenters one (for Methodists and the the Baptists of Lee High Road and what is now Baring Road), was built by William Webster of Blackheath and was damaged during the last war and is slowly decaying.

The southerly end of what is now the cemetery had changed from farm land to allotments in the early part of the 20th century. The exact timing of the expansion of the cemetery into the allotments isn’t clear, it was probably just before or just after the start of World War 2, it was showing as allotments in the 1938 surveyed Ordnance Survey map. But by the time the children who died in the awful attack on Sandhurst Road School in early 1943, were buried the area had expanded. There is a large memorial to those who perished, something covered in a blog post that marked the 75th anniversary of the bombing in 2018. The crematorium in the south east corner was opened in the 1950s.

The 1893 boundary is relatively easy to follow on the ground through the cemetery as Hither Green Ditch has left a small valley close to the Lombardy poplars that border the railway.

Just outside the cemetery in 1893 was a small hospital, Oak Cottage Hospital; it had been built in 1871 by the local Board of Works for dealing with infectious diseases like smallpox and typhoid (1).  It was overtaken by events in that the Metropolitan Board of Works (which covered all of London) decided to open a series of fever hospitals as a response to a major Scarlet Fever epidemic in 1892/93, the health system was unprepared and there was a severe shortage of beds.  One of these was the Park Fever Hospital, later referred to as Hither Green Hospital; Oak Cottage Hospital was briefly considered as a possible alternative location (2).   Oak Cottage Hospital closed soon after Park Fever opened in 1896 (3).  It eventually became housing in the 1960s or 1970s.

Beyond Oak Cottage Hospital in 1893, were again fields, probably part of Shroffold Farm. On the opposite side of Verdant Lane (then Hither Green Lane) was North Park Farm, about to be ploughed under by Cameron Corbett. The Lee Lewisham boundary continued to use Hither Green Ditch which was to remain visible until the development of the Verdant Lane estate in the 1930s. This section is pictured below, probably soon after the Corbett Estate was completed around 1910.

In addition to the Ditch, there were a pair of long gone boundary markers, one was just to the north of the junction of Verdant Lane and Sandhurst Road, perhaps at the point one of the confluence of two of the branches of the Ditch; the other where it crosses St Mildreds Road – again a possible branch of the Ditch that would have been obliterated by the railway.

St Mildreds Road hadn’t existed when the Ordnance Survey cartographers had first visited in the 1860s. While the church of St Mildreds had been built in 1872, even in 1893 only homes at the Burnt Ash Hill end had been build, including another of the homes in the area of E Nesbit in Birch Grove.

The boundary went under the railway close to what was a trio of farm workers cottages for North Park Farm, which are still there at the junction of Springbank Road and Hither Green Lane.

The boundary continued to follow Hither Green Ditch – it wasn’t just a Parish boundary at this point, but a farm boundary too – on the Lewisham side, Hither Green’s North Park Farm, which was mainly on the other side of the railway and was sold at around the time that the land was surveyed and would form the Corbett Estate. On the Lee side was Lee Manor Farm, which is pictured on a 1846 map below (right to left is south to north, rather than west to east) and Hither Green Ditch which had several small bridges is at the top.  There were several boundary stones and markers along what was broadly Milborough Crescent and Manor Lane.  There was then a sharp turn to the east along what is now Longhurst Road.

The confluence of Hither Green Ditch with the Quaggy was in a slightly different place in 1893, then it was more or less where 49 Longhurst Road is now located; it is now around 40 metres away on a sharp corner between between Manor Park and Longhurst Road, as pictured below.

We’ll leave the boundary of Lee and Lewisham here for now following what is now the Quaggy into Lewisham in the next instalment.

This series of posts would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go to person on London’s boundary markers, he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient.  He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me.  A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him.

Notes

  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) Hither Green, The Forgotten Hamlet p54
  2. Woolwich Gazette 02 June 1893
  3. Smith op cit p54

Picture Credits

 

 

 

The First Night of the Blitz in Lee, Hither Green, Catford and Lewisham

The afternoon of 7 September 1940 saw wartime football matches at the Valley, where Charlton lost 4-2 to Millwall, and a few miles away Crystal Palace beat yet to be rivals Brighton 5-2 in the wartime South Regional Competition.  The almost normality was about to come to a shuddering halt with the first raids of the Blitz, when German bombers came ‘en masse’ on a Saturday afternoon, some up the Thames, some from the south – it was to be the start of eight months heavy bombing of London.

A Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over the Thames at the start of the Luftwaffe’s evening raids of 7 September 1940

One of the waves came over the Surrey hills and were recalled by a then young cyclist

It was the most amazing, impressive, riveting sight …Directly above me were literally hundreds of planes … the sky was full of them. Bombers hemmed in with fighters, like bees around their queen…

Running Past has covered many of the V-1 and V-2 attacks of the second half of the war – including ones in Lewisham High Street, Lewisham Hill, Hither Green Station (pictured below) and Blackheath Village.  On the 80th anniversary of the start of the Blitz it seems appropriate to reflect on what happened that afternoon and into the early hours of the Sunday. We’ll look at that the first night of the Blitz from the perspective of the Lee, Catford and Lewisham areas that Running Past generally focuses on.  Hither Green largely escaped that first night with one significant exception a partial collapse of the railway bridge on Ennersdale Road with 20 injured and several trapped at around 20:25 which was noted in the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Log.

For many of the other attacks on the area, Running Past has used the ARP log for the old Borough of Lewisham.  However, in the early days of the Blitz the records seemed to be only partial, they seemed to be overwhelmed by incidents. There is better documentation for that first night in the records of the London Fire Brigade which are part of the collection of the Metropolitan Archives.  There were typed official green slips record each incident and a separate bound volume listing all the fires attended.  These were all pulled together for the 70th anniversary and a datasheet published in The Guardian, and elsewhere.  As we shall see though, even these aren’t perfect, serious incidents to homes in Limes Grove, Lewisham Road and Ennersdale Road railway bridge were not included.

The data shows the sheer scale of the attacks on the dockland communities on both sides of the Thames from late afternoon onwards, with a second wave of attacks from around 8:30 pm – seemingly the fires from the first attacks helping guide the Luftwaffe for a renewed onslaught as the natural light faded.  The attacks will have seen Londoners scurrying to their shelters – both household ones and communal ones such as those in Manor House Gardens and lots in the streets around Lewisham High Street.

The first bombs in the area – seemed to have been on Lewisham High Street furniture suppliers, Bolsom Brothers which was ‘severely damaged’ at 16:14 and the same with part of Chiesmans department store six minutes later.

There were a series of reports at 17:55, around Blackheath and Lee with damage to three houses in Brandram Road, including number 30, the original house is no longer there.  The ARP log noted another incident in a similar location around 19:09 but this could well have been the same one.  A couple of bombs failed to explode at the almshouses – given the communal shelter there (pictured below) there could have been a large loss of life had they exploded.

Around 20 minutes later 51-57 Lewisham Hill were hit – the damage noted in the Fire Brigade reports was to contents rather than the structure.  However, they were all marked as badly damaged in the LCC Bomb Damage maps – a mixture of repairable at cost, damaged beyond repair and completely destroyed, so either the Fire Brigade reports were incorrect or they were hit again either later in the Blitz or during the sporadic attacks that preceded the V-1 flying bombs – one of which caused enormous damage a little further down the Hill.  53 (the Victorian house and 55-57 are pictured below)

Bombers returned to Brandram Road at 18.31 with damage to 1, 2 and 4 although fortunately not the adjacent church – the worst damage seems to have been to a garage at number 2.

The second wave of attacks started from around 8:30 pm, and for the first few hours Lee, Catford, Hither Green and Lewisham were ignored with the much of the firepower being targeted on Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth areas.  By around 10:30 though dockland areas were re-targeted and half an hour later bombs started falling on Catford and Lee.

At 11:00 pm here was some limited damage to 34 Winn Road, part on an estate built by Wates just before the war; with an incendiary bomb being dropped on a nearby field in Alnwick Road. Around the same time an incendiary bomb fell in the street on Glenton Road, seemingly outside Holy Trinity Church – the extensive damage to the church was to come later in the Blitz. A bit further south ‘slight damage’ was recorded to 31-37 Abernethy Road, part of the late Victorian Firs Estate (top picture below).

The bombers returned to the skies above Abernethy Road around 11:45 pm, possibly ‘guided’ by a fire from the previous attack – the Fire Brigade report suggested that four houses of 41-47 were ‘severely damaged.’ As that numbering didn’t exist – in reality, these were almost certainly houses on Manor Lane Terrace about 30 metres away (lower picture above).  The damage to 31-37 seems much more serious than recorded and both groups of houses had been demolished by 1949. Neither site seemed to have been big enough for prefabs and the Victorian housing was replaced with council homes in the 1950s or 1960s.

In the early hours of Sunday morning the Luftwaffe turned some of their attention to Catford and the streets to the south of Brownhill Road.  The first attacks were at 0:18 and 0:20 on 141 Braidwood and 129 Killearn Roads, both suffered roof damage from an incendiary bomb – any sign of which was hidden behind a replaced roof and rendering.  At around the same time another incendiary hit a shed at Sandhurst Road School – the target of a much worse attack in early 1943 and there was some damage to 54 Laleham Road from another incendiary.

Twenty seven minutes past midnight saw an explosive bomb hit Jutland Road with seventeen houses damaged, several seriously – while some of the houses were repairable others weren’t with three houses being rebuilt (see below) – not in the style of the immediate post-war council housing so, presumably, private sector housing.

There was slight roof damage, now not obvious, from incendiary bombs to 86 Torridon and 91 Ardgowan Roads (the latter may have been hit twice as there was another report for it at 1:10 am) at the same time with some damage to fences to a couple of houses in Fordel Road. A few minutes afterwards saw the front bedroom of 127 Minard Road ‘severely damaged.’  The house was rebuilt well, with no obvious damage visible from the outside.

In between these attacks there had been an explosive bomb dropped on Sportsbank Street, which still had the stand for the former velodrome being used as warehousing, which damaged three houses, and ‘severely damaged’ three others – probably at the Laleham Road end.  The homes were rebuilt as council housing after the war (see below).

A few minutes earlier, at 138 Engleheart Road had been hit by an explosive bomb leaving two houses destroyed and two damaged beyond repair.  At 140 Ellen Moseley (37) was injured and died later in Lewisham Hospital – she was living in Hythe in Kent in 1939.  Again the homes were rebuilt post war.

Not every incident was recorded, and this was the case with the two in Lewisham where there was the biggest loss of life in the first night of the Blitz. The first of these was the bombing of 159 Lewisham Road (opposite Connington Road) where five died. Neville (20), Gwendoline (19) and Hilda Osborne (16) along with Charles Smith (23) and Christine Smith (nee Osborne – 24) who had married a few weeks before the bombing. They were all living at 213 Algernon Road in 1939 – Gwendoline  was a Photographic Clerk and Hilda an accounts assistant. Charles Smith was a Mechanical Engineering Draughtsman at the War Office as well as being in the Home Guard.

Despite the deaths and probable large amount of damage, the house (pictured above) was probably repaired during the war – it was marked on the LCC Bomb Damage Maps as orange – ‘general blast damage, not structural.’

The second unrecorded incident leading to significant loss of life was about half a mile further south; it seems that at some point during the night that 43 and 45 Limes Grove was hit. At 43 (the left of the houses below), Mayhew Edith Spedding died aged 56; she was the wife of George Spedding who was First Mate on a ship. In the 1939 Register she was listed there with George and what seem to have either been a couple of lodgers or it was a shared flat. It was a house that was split into two flats. Edith was badly injured in the bombing and later died at Lewisham Hospital.

Next door at 45, which was also two flats, lived the Bennions; both Edith Bennion (53) and her son William Arthur Bennion (18) were badly injured in the explosion, and like Mayhew next door, died later in hospital. They were survived by William Henry Bennion a mail porter and a school age daughter, also called Edith.

Lewisham had got off lightly compared with other areas, 11 deaths from the 430 who perished on that first night.  The all clear was sounded at around 5:00 am on the Sunday morning.  The respite was short though bombers arrived again over London the following night and did so every day/night for about two months and off and on for eight months.  Catford, Lee and Hither Green weren’t attacked every night but there will be more posts on the Blitz over the next few months.

The bombings changed the urban landscape, not as dramatically as they did in areas around the Thames, but most streets in the area have bits of post-war council housing amidst the Victorian terraces.  Most will tell a story of a family displaced and possibly injuries and deaths as a result.

Credits

Most of the information for this post comes from four sources:

The football results are from The Times of 9 September 1940.

Picture Credits

  • The Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses air raid shelter is from the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission and remains their copyright;
  • The Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over the Thames is from Wikipedia and is on a Creative Commons
  • The Hither Green Station V-1 photograph part of the Imperial War Museum collection (produced here on a Creative Commons)
  • The rest are copyright of the author and are usable elsewhere, attributed, on a non-commercial basis.

 

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 4 – Chinbrook and Downham

During the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown Running Past has been following the boundary of Victorian Lee before it was subsumed into Lewisham, aided only by a Second Edition Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1893 and a fair amount of local knowledge. Posts have taken us in stages from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the second took us through Grove Park, crossing the never built Ringway and the previous one through Marvels and Elmstead Woods leaving the boundary on the edge of Chinbrook Meadows allotments – and it is on to the Meadows that we now proceed.

This section is marked by the red dots on the adjacent map.

At around the point of a kissing gate, at the top of a steep hill down into Chinbrook Meadows the 1893 and 2020 variants of the boundary of Lee diverge.

The current variant of the boundary heads down into the lovely Chinbrook Meadows; it wasn’t always like this when the farmland became a park, the Quaggy was hidden. A blog post from a few years ago, covers its rejuvenation in 2002. The now Bromley and Lewisham border largely hugs the bottom of the railway embankment coming in from Elmstead Woods.

The 1863 version of the boundary crosses the railway in what is a deep cutting at this point, and emerged in what was then a small field and is now part of the smaller southwestern field of Chinbrook Meadows following the fences to the rear of the gardens of Portland Road until the Quaggy is again reached (further upstream than when covered in earlier in the circuit of Lee).

The 1893 boundary followed the Quaggy for around 100 metres until a confluence with the Border Ditch underneath the railway embankment. The ‘border’ in Border Ditch appropriately refers to the boundary we are currently following. When we followed Border Ditch as part of the tracking of the Quaggy and its constituent tributaries, the Ditch in Chinbrook Meadows was in a poor state but there were plans for a sustainable urban drainage system to be incorporated into its flow. Alas, this seems not to have materialised and the watercourse looked decidedly uninviting during lockdown – the photographs of its latter stages are from the initial visit in 2016.

Border Ditch has an even shorter flow than the Quaggy within Chinbrook Meadows – it emerges from culverting in a way that is more reminiscent of a drain than a stream.  As had been the case in the summer of 2016, there was little sign of movement in the ominous looking muddy water. 

The Ditch continues upstream and seems to have marked the border until the 1991 proposals came into force, although as was noted in the post on Border Ditch there were several minor re-alignments of the Ditch and the boundary over the years

Over the other side of the physical boundaries of the railway, which required a significant detour, Border Ditch only appeared as a field boundary on the 1893 Ordnance Survey map. It is now not only the border between Bromley and Lewisham but between the private sector semis of the former and the social housing of the latter. Traces of water were difficult to find in lockdown in the normally still flowing division between the two.

Streams, even quite small ones create valleys and out on the main Burnt Ash Lane the dip is noticeable and there lies both the current and 1893 variants of the boundary. The photograph above probably dates from just after the map was drawn, is of what was then a bridge and is looking towards Bromley.

Burnt Ash Lane was a name that once continued from here to the junction with St Mildred’s Road, but the it was renamed in ‘honour’ of the Lords of the Manor – the Baring Family. At the time they bought the Manor of Lee at least part of the Barings money was coming from an enslaved estate in Montego Bay in Jamaica. John Pound built much of Victorian Grove Park, on Northbrook/Baring land, naming the pub after them – the lovely Baring Hall.

We’ve strayed 400 metres away from the boundary putting the street name into some context, so back to the border, Border Ditch. The 1893 Lee (now Lewisham) – Bromley border continued westwards across fields to a three-way split in 1893 with Lewisham providing the third part of the trio. During the 19th century there had stood, according to F H Hart, ‘a tall round-top oak tree, a land mark from Lee Church’ at the junction of Lee Terrace and Brandram Road. It seems that this may have been lost by 1893, as this point was marked with a boundary post. In 2020, it is part of one of the dozens of largely access roads to garages in the area made largely redundant by the increase in car size, this one behind Welbeck Avenue.

The redundant access road is the course of Border Ditch which continues another 50 metres or so to a source in what is now some school playing fields. A small pond was marked in 1893. Oddly for such an elevated situation, close to the watershed between the Quaggy and Ravensbourne catchments, this was a small World War 1 airfield, Grove Park Landing Ground.

On the other side of the redundant track to redundant garages is the edge of one of the larger London County Council (LCC) estates, Downham, which was built in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The name doesn’t have any local links, rather it was that of a Chairman of the LCC just after World War 1.

The Lee – Lewisham boundary of 1893 was through fields, the boundary following what were then the hedges of field edges not marked in any way by posts, markers or marks on trees. Despite the transformation of the area between the World Wars, the street pattern still at least partially follows the field patterns. The former Lee – Lewisham boundary was follows the middle of what is now Geraint Road; like many boundaries that follow roads, it’s marked by white paint. The 1893 boundary then bisects Ivorydown, the name of a former field in this area, to reach Downham Way.

We will leave the boundary there for now because on the other side the nature of what is followed changes from field edge to hidden stream.

Credits and Thanks

  • The Ordnance Survey Map is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence.
  • The black and white photograph of Burnt Ash Lane was originally used in the post on Border Ditch on the basis of a creative commons from this site, although the photograph library with it seems to have been deleted.

The series of posts on the Lee boundary that this post is part of, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.

Lee’s Jubilee Coffee Tavern – The Pub Without Beer

Until around 1960, or perhaps a bit later, there was an attractive building on the corner of Lee High Road and Brightfield Road, which looked like a suburban bank building. Indeed, for most of its life that is exactly what it was, although it was built for an entirely different purpose – a temperance coffee house.

The Victorian temperance movement was quite active locally and had a base in the Lee Working Men’s Institution, initially in Boone Street and then in Old Road. There was a hall, a lending and reference library and reading room with books and newspapers. By the 1880s if offered concerts and entertainments, although nothing like the music hall operation of the Lee Public Halls near Lee Station.

A number of temperance groups attempted to recreate the Georgian coffee house scene, often near or adjacent to an existing public house. They were an attempt to

lure the working men from their pubs and the perils of demon drink …. (and attempted to show) there are beverages as comforting (and cheap) as beer.

The coffee taverns provided a range of games including billiards and pool along with newspapers in the hope that men would seek their entertainment (soberly) there.

The foundation for the Lee one was laid on 25 February 1888, although planning for it had started during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee the year before, hence the name given to it. Those involved included the local vicar and a Congregational Church minister from Blackheath (1).

At their peak around the mid-1890s, there were over sixty coffee taverns listed in Kelly’s across south London.

The building was designed by a William Rickwood and was erected ‘regardless of cost’ (2); Rickwood had designed many shops, other properties and another Coffee Tavern in Woolwich.

Like the other halls around it became a venue for various clubs and societies, including Lee Chess Club (3), but they needed somewhere more ‘commodious’ and moved to what became the Lee Centre in 1891. Lee Rovers Cycling Club occasionally met there for social events (4) – although they too later moved on, perhaps the draw of alcohol at the Rose of Lee (picured below from around this era) was too great (5).

Source eBay Dec 2019

There were, of course, several temperance societies that met there including the very long winded Invicta Lodge of the United Order of the Total Abstinent Sons of the Phoenix (6); this one sounds as though it was linked to a Masonic lodge – certainly other Masonic lodges, such as The Champion Lodge (No 318) met there (7).

Initially it seems to have been managed by Thomas and Alice Plumb (that’s the transcription of the census, but it is probably something else) who came from Norfolk. They had gone by around 1894 and the ‘Tavern’ was being managed was Henry Bailey, who hailed from Portsmouth. In 1891 he managed the Coffee Tavern in Beresford Square in Woolwich. He can only have been there a few years as his son was born in 1886 in Hampshire.

By 1901 the working class area of Lee had not forsaken the local hostelries in any number and while the two Tigers Heads, the Prince Arthur and the Duke of Edinburgh thrived, the company behind the Jubilee Coffee Tavern had gone into voluntary liquidation. The lease was up for the ‘expensively appointed’ building, noting that it could be used for a public office or converted into shops. The 30 year lease was put up for sale in September 1901 (8).

The new owners were the London and South Western Bank, which had been set up in the 1860s to ‘link London with modest account holders in the main towns of the South West.’ It was a strategy that failed and the bank turned its attention to the expanding London suburbs, like Lee. It merged with the London and Provincial Bank in 1918, to become the snappily titled London, Provincial and South Western Bank in 1918. It didn’t last long, becoming part of Barclays the same year.

The Bank was trading as Barclays in 1920; but by 1925 Barclays had presumably decided to rationalise their branches and didn’t need two within a hundred metres or so of each other – the other was at Lee Green and had been a London and Provincial Bank branch (pictured above). The new occupant of 398 Lee High Road was another bank, Midland – a forerunner of the current HSBC. It continued to operate there until around 1960. It is pictured at the back left of the VE Day street party below.

It isn’t clear what happened to it after that, but 398 Lee High Road never again appeared in Kelly’s Directories, although the terrace with shops on it that was adjacent to is listed for another decade or so, and the Co–op next door until around 1975 (pictured in the first picture as Campions, clothiers who were featured a while ago) . The site is now part of Sainsburys – to the right of the photograph below.

Returning to the original use, perhaps it was the wrong time period. The last couple of decades have seen a return to coffee shops with several in Blackheath and Lewisham along with a couple of local parks such as Manor House Gardens and Manor Park (although there is currently a vacancy there after the Arts Cafe departed). About 50 metres away at 386 Lee High Road there was a coffee shop for around 15 years, initially trading as With Jam and Bread (linked to art studios that also used the building) and latterly as Arlo and Moe, although that ceased trading around 2018.

Notes

  1. 2 March 1888 – Kentish Mercury
  2. 6 September 1901 – Kentish Mercury
  3. 25 September 1891 – Kentish Mercury
  4. 16 February 1894 – Kentish Mercury
  5. 12 February 1897 – Kentish Mercury
  6. 13 June 1890 – Kentish Mercury
  7. 21 February 1890 – Kentish Mercury
  8. 6 September 1901 – Kentish Mercury

Credits

  • The black and white photographs are via Lewisham Archives, they remain their copyright and are used with their permission, the only exception to this is the postcard of the Rose of Lee, which is credited in the post.
  • The Kelly’s Directories were accessed via Lewisham and Southwark Archives

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 3 – through Grove Park

During the COVID-19 lockdown Running Past has been following the boundary of Victorian Lee a few years before it was subsumed into Lewisham, aided only by a Second Edition Ordnance Survey map and a smattering of knowledge of the area. The previous two posts have taken us in stages, from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the second took us On through Grove Park, crossing the never built Ringway, We’d left the boundary on Grove Park Road, on top of a culverted Grove Park Ditch, with a marker that had been weathered beyond any potential to decipher.  

For the pedants of periphery, the boundary marker is no longer on the boundary, in adjusting it to the rear fences of Marvels Lane it has led to the now Bromley – Lewisham boundary dog legging down the middle of Grove Park Road, the small sign of the former and the larger one of the latter announce the changes.  

The route followed in this section was entirely rural in 1893 as the Ordnance Survey map below shows with the Morse code dot dash line – although the most southerly end of Victorian Lee, the largely John Pound developed ‘new town’ of Grove Park is visible to the north east.

One the opposite side of Grove Park Road is the attractive Chinbrook Estate, built by the Greater London  Council (GLC) in the early 1960s; it is a development that has been covered by the 21st century’s foremost chronicler of council housing, Municipal Dreams, who noted 

“What was exceptional ….is the overall architectural and design quality of the Estate…..Chinbrook is a reminder of the best that might be achieved with proper investment and careful planning.”

Like the much larger Downham estate, which we will encounter further along the Lee boundary, it is an estate that straddles a boundary, Mottingham to the east, Lee to the west in 1893, at least.  The 21st century boundary is slightly different and is a currently  a Lewisham to Bromley one, The divisions aren’t immediately obvious, but as with Upwood Road further back, while there are no boundary stones, the  21st century markers are clear.  Along with the Borough colour coded bins, the Borough street signage indicates the location – white on blue for Lewisham, white on green for Bromley (plus some faded black on white signage, perhaps from the GLC era).

Back in 1893 there was a boundary marker close to where Grove Park Ditch now enters its long culvert on the edge of the estate; if it is still there, it is lost in the dense undergrowth.  Whilst the border probably ought to have followed Grove Park Ditch it doesn’t and seems to have followed field and probably ownership boundaries.  So the border follows what is now a fence between the attractive Lower Marvels Wood and the rear gardens of Grace Close.  The name coming from ‘W G’ who lived both in Mottingham and Sydenham. The estate provides links to other Lewisham sporting greats, Henry Cooper Way and Lions (Millwall’s nickname) Close. 

Over Dunkery Road, the 2020 boundary has been slightly amended compared with its late Victorian counterpart to cope with the slight dog leg of Duddington Close. There has also been a slight adjustment to for the 1930s council housing of Bilsby Grove.

The late Victorian boundary of Lee was at the border between the woodland of Marvels Wood and farmland.  The woodland remains but behind the council housing of Charminster Road the former fields have become Grove Park Cemetery.  It was an out of town burial solution by the Borough of Deptford whose main burial ground, Brockley Cemetery, was almost full by the early 1930s.  Running Past has covered Brockley Cemetery several times in the past, notably in relation to the murder of Jane Clouson who was buried there in the 1870s and has a large memorial.

Grove Park Cemetery was designed by their Borough Surveyor H Morley Lawson and ‘juxtaposed formal and informal elements and the cemetery buildings showed the influence of Moderne and Art Deco style.’  It was used from 1935.

From Bromley side of the boundary, the cemetery is largely hidden, albeit rather attractively by a hundred metre long mural by the seemingly now defunct Onit Design. At the top of the hill, within a metre of the boundary there is some even more impressive artwork, a chainsaw carving by Will Lee, which seems somewhat apt when following the Lee boundary.  There is some more of his work about 100 metres into the woods.

A couple of metres further on there is a very weathered boundary marker which in the Victorian Ordnance Survey map was a three way marker for Lee, Mottingham and Bromley; now the bigger London Boroughs of Bromley and Lewisham.  A metre or two along the path is another, hard to spot boundary marker, just inside the heavy duty palisade fencing ‘protecting’ the cemetery from the Green Chain Walk in what is now Elmstead Woods. It is unusual in the that it marks the direction of the boundary, located as it is on an angle.  The direction is incorrect as it appears that the marker was moved at the time of construction of the cemetery and unintentionally rotated by 90°.

The 1893 boundary darted easterly across the fields  towards Grove Park, the current variant, dating from 1991, is a little more circuitous and reflects the ownership of the cemetery and skirts its border.

There was, and probably still is, another marker at the eastern edge of the cemetery. However, in the very dense undergrowth it proved impossible to find amidst the brambles and nettles (poor companions for a short-clad runner).  All was not lost though, there was a marker of sorts – a Lewisham bollard, marking the  boundary of car park and Green Chain Walk.

Over the car park the Victorian boundary followed the northern edge of what are now allotments – we’ll leave the boundary there for a while before we go through Chinbrook and on to the edge of the Downham Estate.  

Credits and Thanks

The Ordnance Survey map is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence.

The series of posts on the Lee boundary that this post is part of, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.

The Four Churches of St Peter, Eltham Road

When the Ordnance Survey cartographers visited the area around Eltham Road, to the east of Lee Green, for the first time in 1863, a small number of large houses had been laid out at the edge of suburbia of Victorian London.  The feel though would have been rural, little different to when horse racing had happened in the fields parallel to the main road and Quaggy up until the mid -1840s.

The change in the next four or five years was dramatic with new housing laid out along Eltham Road, almost up to what is now Sutcliffe Park.  As the local MP remarked in 1870, ‘in a short period a town has sprung up in the neighbourhood.’  (1)

As we have seen with new developments elsewhere in the area churches followed soon afterwards – Christ Church in Lee Park (1854), Holy Trinity, Glenton Road (1863), St Mildred’s in 1871, the original Church of the Good Shepherd in 1881 along with the Baptist Chapel at the corner of Eastdown Park in 1854.  This new ‘town’ between Lee Green and Eltham was no different.

From around 1867, possibly slightly before, there was a temporary ‘iron church’ that was built somewhere in the area which was called St Peter, the exact location isn’t clear – a Rev. A Tien being appointed to minister from there from a church in Bedfordshire (2). As we have seen in relation to an iron church on what is now Baring Road (see above), ‘tin tabernacles,’ as they were often referred to, provided quick solutions to the provision of a church whilst funds were raised to build a permanent place of worship.

The foundation stone for the permanent church (pictured above) was laid on 3 December 1870 by Lady Louisa Mills, who was the wife of the local MP for West Kent, Charles Mills. He obviously wasn’t that impressed with his wife laying the foundation stone; his speech ‘regretting very much the absence of a member of the Royal Family’ (3). The Conservative Mills had previously lost his seat in Northallerton, amidst a bribery scandal. Also present at both the foundation stone laying and the service in the iron church that preceded it, were the Vicar Designate, the Rev J L Macdonald, along with the Vicars of Eltham and Greenwich (4).

The church was on the corner of what it now Lyme Farm Close and Courtlands Avenue, although it was just one street then referred to simply as The Avenue.  There were a dozen or so large houses in the development plus perhaps another 150 large houses along Eltham Road, Cambridge Road (now Drive), along with Weigall, Osberton and Leyland Roads.  It was an ambitious project for a small, albeit probably relatively wealthy and pious area.  So, there was a range of fundraising activity to help pay including bazaars and concerts to help pay for the new church (5).

In the end, it all came together quite quickly with the new church consecrated in July 1871, just six months after the foundation stone was laid.  The ceremony was undertaken by the Bishop of Colombo, in the absence of the Bishop of Rochester, most of local clergy in the area being present too.   The church seemed large for the area – holding 750 and cost £4,500 to build (6).

The local paper, the Kentish Mercury, described it as ‘early French’ in style consisting of ‘nave, side aisles and an octagonal chancel…. surmounted by a very characteristic tower and spire…..Both externally and internally the edifice is of red brick, relieved with copious Bath stone dressings’ (7).

The architects were Newman and Billing, both called Arthur, who were based in Tooley Street and had an extensive practice mainly concerned with church work from around 1860.  They were also acted as surveyors to Guy’s Hospital and to St Olave’s District Board of Works in Bermondsey.   Other work included the design of the Grade II listed St Luke’s in Hackney and the Grade I listed Parish Church of St Dunstan and All Saints (The Church of the High Seas)

The builders were Dove Brothers who were a long standing Islington based builders operational between 1781 and 1993, well known for late Victorian church construction building around 130 churches between 1858 and 1900, mainly in London.

The church had parish rooms, a some distance away in St Peter’s Court at Lee Green, behind the New Tiger’s Head. The first mention in Kelly’s Directories was in 1894, but given the naming of the alley (which is still there) it probably dates from the 1880s or before. The last mention of the parish rooms was around 1911.

The church seems to have suffered as the wealthy suburban residents moved on and was closed in 1939 in a poor state of repair; several of the houses were empty on Courtlands Avenue when the 1939 Register was collected as war broke out, with others in multiple occupation – a parish probably unable to cope with the high running costs of the building. While no damage was marked on the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps (8) – given there were a couple of V-1s that fell on neighbouring fields it seem seems likely that there was some damage; certainly the church website suggests that. It seems that the remaining parishioners worshiped for a while at the elegantly situated St John’s at the top of Eltham Hill.

The church was declared redundant in 1960, and along with the rest of the housing on Courtlands Avenue was demolished, probably the same year. The much denser housing, seemingly built by Wates. All that remains now is the war memorial, which has a brief note about the church’s history.

Courtlands Avenue wasn’t the only area of large housing demolished in the early post war period – flats appeared on Ravens Way and opposite on Reed Close – maybe 99 year Crown leases were coming to an end.  There was to be much larger scale development redevelopment around Lee Green, again on Crown land.

The new, denser developments with hundreds more homes provided a nascent congregation and the church re-established itself in a wooden hall on the corner of Weigall Road in 1960, joining with the, then recently rebuilt, Church of the Good Shepherd in Handen Road.  

The plot on which the hall that the church took over seems to have been undeveloped until the late 1930s when it was listed in Kelly’s Directory as Pyke Jocelyn School of Dancing, it changed hands during the war to become Saville Hall School of Dancing before a 1960 listing as St Peter’s Church. 

The wooden structure was replaced by a smaller, attractive multi-purpose building in 1983, presumably at least partially paid for by the sale of part of the site for a sheltered housing development next door.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 15 July 1871
  2. Bedfordshire Times and Independent 16 July 1867
  3. Kentish Mercury 10 December 1870
  4. ibid
  5. Kentish Mercury 10 June 1871
  6. Kentish Mercury 15 July 1871
  7. ibid
  8. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 p120

Credits

  • The photographs of the original church are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, remain their copyright and are used with their permission
  • The photograph of the tin tabernacle on what is now Baring Road was from eBay in September 2016
  • The Kelly’s Directory data is from a mixture of Lewisham and Southwark Archives

Beating The Bounds of Lee Part 2 – Winn Road to Grove Park

In the last post, we returned to the old tradition of ‘beating the bounds’ of the civil parish of Lee, ‘armed’ mainly with a Second Edition Ordnance Survey map of the area and a decent amount of local knowledge of the history. The survey for the map had been carried out in 1893, but it seems to have updated to reflect boundary changes relating to Mottingham in 1894.

We had left the Lee boundary on Winn Road, part of a small estate developed by William Winn, which, appropriately for the time this post was written, includes Corona Road.

The route followed is the red line on adjacent Ordnance Survey map. It was broadly the same circuit that had been followed in 1822 by the great and the good of the parish. Included in their number, although not in the ‘good’ part, was the final tenant of Lee Place, the odious Benjamin Aislabie – a slave owner after slavery was abolished in the Empire. At least the parish spelled his name incorrectly as ‘Aislibie’ when naming a street after him.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is af0690cd-be10-40de-8e36-558916f75f88.jpeg

We had left the boundary at the final of a trio of 1903 Lewisham boundary markers at the south easterly junction of Winn and Guibal Roads. Lee was merged with Lewisham into the Borough of Lewisham in 1900. The 1893 boundary was about 15 metres to the west and cut across to what is now Burnt Ash Pond, mid way down Melrose Close. The current Lewisham boundary with Greenwich veers off to the east down Winn Road to the Quaggy.

Burnt Ash Pond is usually a delightful little oasis of calm, but seemed to be suffering from lock down, seemingly covered with either duckweed or green algae when passed by on this occasion. The 1893 variant of the boundary passed through the Pond and continued southwards down Melrose Close, attractive late 1970s council housing, diminished by an entrance through largely abandoned garages. In 1893 the boundary passed through back gardens parallel to Burnt Ash Hill, almost opposite College Farm. There is an 1865 Lee Parish marker hidden in the undergrowth next to the pond, although it is not visible from the outside.

The name ‘Melrose’ came from another farm which seems to have evolved out of Horn Park Farm, whose farm yard we crossed in the first post, and was essentially a market garden operation and was also referred to as Woodman’s Farm, after its tenants. The Close was probably part of its land. Its farmhouse in Ashdale Road remains and was used as a site office for the developers of much of the area we are about to pass through, Wates. The farm’s main claim to fame was the unintentional landing of Willows II (pictured below) which was aiming for Crystal Palace and in the process created a record for the longest airship flight.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg


The boundary continues parallel to Burnt Ash Hill until a point almost opposite Ashwater Road when it follows what are now the rear fences of houses on the northern side of Senlac Road, presumably named after the likely location of the Battle of Hastings. In the back garden of a group of Wates built interwar semis between Exford and Ashdale Roads, there was once the junction of the parishes of Lee, Eltham and Mottingham. The house with three boundaries, then had two and now has none – the Bromley boundary is now at the bottom of the hill following the Quaggy. The change is a relatively recent one, dating from 1991 proposals, the current resident remembers paying council tax to both Lewisham and Bromley. In 1893 we would have been in fields.

The 1893 boundary broadly followed what is now an access road to the rear of houses in Jevington Road. The end of Jevington Road has a chain link fronted jungle facing it, the boundary pierces through the chain link, on the Mottingham side of the 19th century border is now a Den of a former Dragon, a Bannatyne Health Club. The Lee side is, arguably even healthier – some allotments, along with a community volunteer run library.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is c184c1fd-fb72-4fc1-aba9-0217594ac8ee.jpeg

This section would have been very different if the Conservative run Greater London Council (GLC) plans for Ringway 2 had come to fruition in the late 1960s. In South London, it was essentially a motorway replacement for the South Circular.

There was much secrecy about the detail of the route, although the most likely version suggested by Chris Marshall would have seen a five lane motorway driven through the allotments, with a minor interchange for Burnt Ash Hill and a major one on Baring Road. There was much opposition across south London to the scheme, and the absence of a motorway here points to its success. The only tangible remains of Ringway in the area is an eponymous community centre on Baring Road.

Returning to 1893, when the Ordnance Survey cartographers visited, the Grove Park Hospital had yet to be built – that wouldn’t be for another 15 years. We’ve covered the hospital when we followed the Quaggy through these parts.

On the northern wall is a boundary marker – the ‘MP’ is clear in that it relates to Mottingham Parish which from 1894 to 1934 was a ‘detached’ part of the Bromley Rural District. The ‘LP’ is less clear, Lee had disappeared into Lewisham by the time the hospital was built, but it was the Borough of Lewisham rather than the parish.

In 1893 the parish of Lee meandered across the soon to be hospital site, changing direction at a tree that doubled up as a boundary marker. The tree is long gone, presumably felled when the hospital was constructed and the boundary moved to the edge of the hospital site. Oddly, in the housing that replaced most of the hospital buildings, there is a tree at the same point as the former boundary marker.

On the eastern side of the hospital site, Lee’s boundary takes on a new format, the Quaggy. Rivers and streams often form the boundaries between parishes and local authorities, as we have found with several streams and rivers – including the River Wilmore in Penge and Border Ditch that we will encounter later in our perambulation around Lee.

Alas, the conterminous boundary with the Quaggy (shown top left below) only lasts for around 50 metres, about 2 and a half chains of Victorian measurement. However, we swap one watercourse for another as the boundary veers off the the east, following Grove Park Ditch, which depending on rainfall levels either cascades or splutters into the Quaggy (top right, below).

The confluence is a pipe opposite the Sydenham Cottages Nature Reserve, named after the farm workers cottages above. The nomenclature ‘Ditch’ is used quite a lot within the Quaggy catchment, it shouldn’t be seen as belittling or derogatory it is just the way smaller streams are described – there also are Milk StreetBorder and Petts Wood further upstream.

About 50 metres inside the Lee side of the boundary, Lewisham Natureman has been recently active – a new stag has been painted, drinking from the Quaggy (or would be in more typical flows) in the shade of an elder bush. We will return to his work at a few other points on our travels around the Lee boundary.

The course of Grove Park Ditch isn’t certain, it is culverted for almost half a mile, but would have crossed the fields below more or less parallel to a very rural looking Marvels Lane from 1914, presumably coterminous with the boundary.

There is a boundary marker outside 94 Grove Park Road. It is weathered and unreadable, but marks the Lee boundary with Mottingham – given the style is similar to those around Winn Road at the beginning of this section it probably dates from 1903, however, the location of the boundary was the same in 1893.

In the next instalment, we will follow the boundary through the rural Grove Park of 1893.

Picture Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey Map is via the National Library of Scotland, it is used here on a non-commercial licence
  • The picture of Willows II is from an original postcard in the authors ‘collection’
  • The Ringway map comes from Chris Marshall’s fascinating website
  • The postcard of Grove Park is from e Bay in November 2016

The series of posts on the Lee boundary that this post is part of, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.

Beating The Bounds of Lee, Part 1- Lee Green to Winn Road

As regular readers of Running Past will be aware, the blog has followed the course of a number of natural features and human constructs – rivers and streams, notably the Quaggy and its tributaries, the Greenwich Park branch railway and the Prime Meridian from the edge of Croydon, back through Lewisham and to the Greenwich Observatory. Such wanders make for interesting cross sections of the city. We turn our attention to another of these constructs – the boundary of the former civil parish of Lee which existed until 1900.

Beating the bounds is an ancient tradition, reminding parishioners of the importance of boundaries which was carried out during Rogationtide—the fifth week after Easter. There would be a walking of the parish boundaries, with children would carrying willow which would be used to beat the boundary markers. The boundary markers might be stones, streams or marks on trees, or roads. Oddly, other than around Lee Green, roads seem to have been neglected in deciding the parish boundaries of Lee.

No willow will be harmed in the perambulation of Lee, the on-ground research for which appropriately started on Rogation Sunday. The variant of Lee that we will be metaphorically beating is the civil parish mapped with the second edition of the Ordnance Survey 6” to the mile series. It was was surveyed in 1893 and published a few years later, just before Lee was merged with Lewisham to form the new Borough of Lewisham in 1900.

Lee in 1893 was a long narrow parish, a width of just over a mile and a quarter at its broadest point between Lee Bridge at the western end of Lee High Road to just beyond Cambridge Drive’s junction with Eltham Road. It’s length was around 5 miles at its longest – Blackheath, just to the north of the railway, in the north, to Marvels Wood on the borders of Mottingham to the south. The boundary was around 14 miles long, although with the diversions made to avoid trespass and Hot Fuzz style demolition of garden fences the actual 21st century trip around the borders of late 19th century Lee is somewhat longer….

We start at Lee Green, one of the three original centres of Lee, along with Old Road and the top of Belmont Hill; it had the green that it’s name implies, along with a windmill and a farm. The boundary with Liberty of Kidbrooke was to the north east, beyond the Quaggy and with the Parish of Eltham in the north eastern quadrant of Lee Green and to the north of Eltham Road. In 1893, that quadrant included a previous incarnation of the New Tigers Head, then called the Tiger Tavern, the photograph below was taken around 1897.

The Old Tigers Head shown above was the 1896 variant; three years before, when the Ordnance Survey visited, it was the earlier building pictured below. It was about to be demolished with the pub briefly migrating a couple of doors down during the rebuilding.

On the Lee side, the farm, called Lee Green Farm, had been there in 1863 when the Ordnance Survey cartographers first mapped the area, but had been demolished soon after. The farm building had been relocated to the current site of Leybridge Court on the already built Leyland Road by 1893.

Opposite, the impressive Fire Station would still be 13 years away, and its predecessor on Lee High Road a couple of years off, it would be the temporary Old Tigers Head first.

The boundary followed the centre of Eltham Road; in 1893 there was a boundary post more or less next to the easternmost leg of Ravens Way, presumably named after the Ravensbourne Athletic, whose buildings were incorporated into the post war development, but had not been developed in 1893. In the first incarnation of the Ordnance Survey map, the Lee Green Toll Gate (pictured below) would have been a few metres behind, a bus stop is located in its place now. Tolls were meant to cover the costs of maintaining the roads, but with the coming of the railways (1849 in Lewisham and Blackheath) income dropped and in 1888 the remaining Turnpike Trusts were wound up with responsibilities going to the local authorities.

The current, and indeed 1893 surveyed boundary, goes to the rear of the houses in Cambridge Drive, following the edge of the Old Colfeans playing fields. Cambridge Drive, originally Road, and the land bordering Eltham Road had been one of the first parcels of land sold from Horn Park Farm for housing by the Crown Estate. The 1890s and current variants of the boundary slightly diverge around Dorville Road, briefly, home to Edith Nesbit. The former border slightly cut across the playing fields, but was presumably revised to ensure that the cricketing boundaries weren’t crossed by administrative ones.

The boundary, now with Greenwich (in 1863 with Eltham), re-emerges on Upwood Road. Former municipal generations needed to make boundary stones or even marks on trees to indicate the edge of their territory. Their modern counterparts have more subtle methods – different shades of tarmac, wheelie bins of changed hues and my favourite here, the humble street light. Lewisham has energy efficient, 21st century LED lights whereas the Royal Borough has a cornucopia of types including some rather attractive Borough of Woolwich concrete ones which probably dates from the 1950s.

The 1893 and current variants again diverge at this point, the former boundary heading south east, the current one turning back westwards behind elegant interwar detached houses of Upwood Road. The divergence seems to have been after the move of Colfe’s, then a Grammar School, in 1963. The original had been in a site between Lewisham Hill and Granville Park in Lewisham.

It had been largely demolished by a V-1 flying bomb in 1944 – the site is pictured above, and until the 1960s used what are now Brindishe Green and Trinity Primary schools in Beacon and Leahurst Roads respectively. The new school would have stood astride the then Woolwich and Lewisham boundary, so the current variant hugs the railway line heading towards Mottingham from Lee.

The boundary crosses the South Circular close to Alnwick Road where a pleasant Green is situated. The 1893 flâneur would have found the last large farm of Lee at the southern edge of the green on what is now Horncastle Road. Running Past has already told the story of Horn Park Farm; but there was a cautionary tale that is worth repeating in relation to boundaries.

Magistrates at the Green Man in Blackheath had to decide on the case of whether Lee or Eltham parishes should pay for the care of a farm worker at the farm. The boundary passed through the centre of the house on the farm he lived in. In fact, his bed was actually on the boundary – the magistrates found in favour of Lee as the farm labourer would have put his feet on the Eltham side first.

The development of Horncastle Road seemed to follow field boundaries, which also marked the administrative border. There were a couple of stones in 1893 that have been replaced by rear garden fences. As we saw in a post on Corona Road, the Crown Estate, had sold off land alongside Burnt Ash Hill, initially used as a brick works used by John Pound and then developed by William Winn. Almost all of Winn’s development has been lost to the Blitz and post war redevelopment.

The 1893 boundary bisected a tennis club within the development, but seems to have been adjusted soon after as there are a trio of very weathered 1903 boundary markers marking the current border between Lewisham and Greenwich on Corona Road at its junction with Guibal Road, on Guibal Road itself and at the junction of Guibal and Winn Roads.

While the derivation of Winn and Corona Road is clear, developer and relating to the Crown, Guibal isn’t immediately obvious. It isn’t a family name of either William Winn or his wife and the only obvious mentions in the press at the time relate to the development of a centrifugal mining fan by a French engineer, Théophile Guibal in 1872. It is not an obvious connection to an area with no mining heritage.

In the next post on ‘beating the bounds’ we will look at the boundary from Winn Road southwards towards Grove Park.

Picture Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey map is on a non-commercial licence from the National Library of Scotland, other maps from the same source have been referred to for the post;
  • The photographs of Lee Green and the Lee Green Toll Gate are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, remain their copyright and are used with their permission;
  • The photograph of the earlier version of the Old Tigers Head is from an information board at Lee Green; and
  • The photograph of Lewisham Hill and Granville Park bomb damage is via the Imperial War Museum on a Creative Commons).

This, and the series of posts on the Lee boundary that will follow, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.

The World War Two Home Front – Digging For Victory, Allotments and Women’s Land Army

Since the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War in September 2019, Running Past has been looking at a number of aspects of life on the ‘Home Front’ during the War.  This has included the evacuation of Lewisham’s children to safer areas, the shelters built to try to keep the local population safe during air raids, the role of the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Service and the rationing of food.  On a similar vein we’ll look now at what is referred to a Digging for Victory, the growing of food in gardens and allotments along with briefly looking at the Women’s Land Army.

In 1939 Britain was importing large quantities of food – including 70% of cheese, cereals and sugar, 80% of fruit and more than 50% of meat. It was fully expected that the Germans would target food supplies coming in via sea, as they had done with the U-Boat Campaign in World War 1.  At the national level merchant shipping was put under Admiralty control in August 1939 – with food coming via convoy.

While they have links back to the 17th century, allotments, as we know them, have their roots in the Victorian period, demand for them in areas such as the then suburban Lewisham seems to have come from middle classes who wanted space to grow their own.  As we have seen with Lee Working Men’s Institution and Lee Public Halls there were several gardening clubs locally. Allotment numbers were not that large though with 244,268 plots in 1873 across the   country.

Numbers grew steadily in the Edwardian era and by the time World War One broke out, there were somewhere between 450,000 and 600,000 allotments. Those pictured above, bounded by Hafton, Hazelbank and Wellmeadow Roads, probably date from early in this period.  There was a large expansion during World War 1 with just over 1.5 million allotments in England by 1918.

Numbers of plots declined in the interwar period such that by the outbreak of World War Two just 819,000 allotment plots were cultivated. Many around Lee and Hither Green were lost to development in this period – two of the larger interwar private housing developments in the area – the Woodstock (the area around Woodyates Road) and Verdant Lane estates were both built on allotment sites in the 1930s, as was part of Reigate Road on the Downham Estate and a plot to the north east of bend in Meadowcourt Road near Lee Green.

The Ministry of Agriculture launched the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign soon after the outbreak of war in 1939. There was propaganda throughout the war encouraging people to use their gardens, parks and unused land for cultivation, stressing that ‘food just as important a weapon of war as guns’– several hundred thousand leaflets were distributed, with posters such as the one above displayed and it was a regular feature in propaganda films such as this one…

Around a million new allotments were created and many parks and open spaces were converted into allotments.  In the old Borough of Lewisham about 3000 were created (1)  – this included large swathes of Mountsfield Park as the 1940s Ordnance Survey map shows.

Parts of Beckenham Place Park were turned over to the growing of potatoes, with sheep grazing on the now former fairways (2).  Parts of Ladywell Fields were turned into allotments and on Blackheath around half of the triangular green bounded by Hare and Billet Road, Orchard Road and Eliot Place was turned into allotments.

One of the most iconic views in south London changed during the war with the field below the Observatory in Greenwich Park being dug up for allotments, the same had happened during World War One there.

It wasn’t just parks that saw food grown, other bits of land were brought into use too – a narrow strip of, presumably, railway company owned land between Milborough Crescent and the embankment was cultivated.  This was the same with the land on the other side of St Mildred’s Road where a narrow strip all the way down to Grove Park Nature Reserve was turned into allotments.

Other land too seems to have been taken over –  the land in a triangle bounded by Dacre Park (then Turner Road), Boone’s Road and Lee Park was a nursery and had been since the 1860s, probably before, emerged out of the war as allotments.  They continue to remain in that usage and are pictured below.

Another aspect of maintaining food availability was increasing the amount of help on farms – this was done through the Women’s Land Army which was launched ahead of the War in June 1939.   This was initially based on volunteering but a degree of conscription was added. By 1944 it had over 80,000 members; while most were already rural based around a third came from London and other cities.

Several women from Bellingham, including Olive Boyes who had previously worked at Chiltonian Biscuit Factory, Rene Powell and Joan Hicks joined the Women’s Land Army in the spring of 1942. They took a train from Catford to Ashford with Olive and Rene ending up in a small village called Hamstreet, with Joan and her friend Ivy being sent to Faversham.

Betty Hilda Baker lived at 41 Nightingale Grove had started the war as a ‘confectionary hand’ – perhaps working for Whitehouse and Co. at 36 Old Road.  Born in 1918 she was living with her parents, Charles and Julia, along with what are probably two younger siblings, Stanley who was a 23 year old butcher’s assistant and one that was redacted. It is known that she joined the Land Army but not known where she was stationed.

Joan Pearson lived at 73 Bramdean Crescent in Lee, at the outbreak of war she was an invoice clerk for Fords, aged 17.  When she joined up in 1942, she was working for Crosse and Blackwell near Charing Cross station – she wanted to ‘do something useful’ and to ‘get away from London.’ She ended up driving tractors in the New Forest.

Notes

  1. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 -1945 p24
  2. ibid

Where not specifically referenced, examples of locations of allotments come via Ordnance Survey maps.

Credits