Catford Southend – The Non-League Club that nearly took over Charlton Athletic – Part 2

In the first post on Catford Southend they were left at the outbreak of World War 1 as ‘a solid non-League team with a relatively new ground in early 20th century suburbia, in a similar position to many non-League teams that are still around almost 100 years later.’

Their story is picked up after hostilities ceased and football resumed in 1919, like a lot of sport, the Athenian League that The Kittens had played in before the war had been mothballed during the bloodshed of World War 1.  By the time the Athenian League was reformed for the 1919/20 season, Catford Southend had moved on – newcomers to the league that season were to include local non league stalwarts Kingstonian, Bromley and Wimbledon.

Catford returned to the London League after the War, it had been their ‘home’ for much of their existence.  On the field, the 1919/20 season was a struggle, had it not been for the abject performance of Islington Town, the Kittens would have been propping up the table.  Further up the Division, in second place, were Charlton Athletic – the Addicks had initially joined the league during Southend’s brief stint in the Athenian League.  It was probably the only time the first teams Charlton and Catford played in the same league – Charlton moved onto the expanded Southern League for the 1920/21 campaign.

Catford’s 1920/21 season (team photo above – see notes for credit) ended up with mid-table mediocrity – the brilliantly named Gnome Athletic (later the more prosaic Walthamstow Borough) propping up the table.  The following season saw the Kittens finish second, although some distance behind the runaway leaders, Grays.  The 1922/23 season, the last in the League saw Catford hovering above the relegation places.

Just outside the ground at the Dartmouth Arms on the corner of Laleham and Ringstead Roads.  A new landlord, Harry Issaacs, had arrived around 1921who was soon to develop big plans for Catford Southend, it isn’t clear whether he became the owner, but his impact became very clear in early 1923.

A proposal was made to Charlton Athletic in April 1923 for them to move to Catford,  play at what had become known as The Mount and merge to two teams under the Catford Southend name. The logic for the acceptance had been Charlton’s financial losses in the previous season and the hope that they would get more paying punters in through the turnstiles in Catford.

The Kittens had to give up London League status due to potential merger with Charlton as otherwise the merged team would have to play at Catford’s level in the football pyramid.

It seems that the orientation of the pitch was changed to allow a larger stand to be dismantled at the Valley and rebuilt at The Mount, Charlton seem to have paid for the move of the stand which would give the ground a capacity of 20-25,000 (other, less plausible, higher estimates are available). The map below (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland) from a couple of decades later shows the area covered by the enlarged ground.

1923/24 season that saw Charlton ground sharing at The Mount saw Catford playing in the Kent League.  As was covered in an earlier post of Charlton’s sojourn at the Mount, attendances were not as expected and at the end of the campaign the Addicks returned to the Valley. Running Past covered Charlton’s short stay a while ago – which included a stand sliding down the created terrace towards Laleham Road.  Charlton were heavily criticised at the London League AGM in June 1924 for causing the ‘demise’ of Catford.  While the report of club’s death was premature, The Kittens were in a perilous position (1).

The 1924/25 season saw the club turn professional in the Kent League, they weren’t allowed back into the London League due to their resignation 18 months before.  The decision to turn the Kittens into a professional outfit seemed ambitious at best.  There is much less information available about the Kent League, than those seasons that went before, Catford’s story having to be pieced together from very limited local press reports, often little more than scores and few tables.  Consequently there are frequent gaps in the narrative.  The manager was a former Spurs and Charlton forward Geoffrey Dodd, who had played for the latter at The Mount (2).

While there were some the early successes in the Kent League, they were not maintained.  The campaign started with a 3-2 home victory over Tunbridge Wells Rangers, with the Kittens coming from 2 down in the final quarter of an hour. The campaign continued well during September with a victory against Bexleyheath and draws against Margate and Gillingham (3).

dreamland

In mid-October there was a trip to Dreamland (above – source eBay July 2017), the new home of Margate; it proved to be a nightmare for the home team – the Kittens mauled the men of Margate 5-3.  Unusually, there was a team sheet in the Thanet Advertiser  Bransby, Champion, O’Connor, Shaw, Tolhurst, Wells, Hopper, Devonshire, Weston, Humphreys, Mills (4).

Results were more mixed during October and November and this became the pattern of things, while it hasn’t been possible to find an end of season table, by the end of March, Catford were mid table – 20 points adrift of the league leaders Chatham (5).

The 1925/26 campaign saw little improvement; early poor form saw Catford close to the bottom of the League at the end of October (6).  While results improved during December, including a 9-0 home thrashing of Ashford (7) , the mixed results continued, although another 9-0 victory against Sheppey will have brought cheer to the Catford faithful (8).

The Kittens were finally allowed back into the London League for the 1926/27 campaign but this seems to have been the final desperate throw of the dice to try to make their professional status work.  The Kittens struggled to resource running two teams and started to send ‘short’ teams to some matches – this led to a 13-1 humiliation being inflicted by Sittingbourne (9).

They started to not fulfil games in the Kent League, including a no show in Tunbridge Wells in December (10).  By the end of January 1927 the Kent League table showed a desperate position Catford had only managed to play 10 games, all of which were defeats, with just 5 goals scored and 49 conceded (11).

While the Kent League seem to have been inclined to leniency, once matches in the London League, were failing to be fulfilled, including one at Chelmsford, the London League acted, suspending Catford (12).  The Kent League did likewise but seems to have briefly lifted the suspension in an attempt to allow them to fulfil a game at Norfthfleet – which they were unable to do, leading  to a further suspension (13).

There was to be no comeback this time, by April the record of Catford Southend for the season had been expunged (14).  There doesn’t appear to be any evidence of either Isaacs going bankrupt or the winding up of the club, although it may well have been run through a holding company.

Ultimately, a successful London amateur non-League team was brought to extinction by over-ambition and trying to take a short-cut to Football League status which some of its nearest neighbours in Millwall, Crystal Palace and Charlton had all already obtained.

After the departure of The Kittens, the ground was re-absorbed back into the Park – certainly the Ordnance Survey map from 1949 (above) suggests that the stands had already disappeared by then and a new pitch created alongside.  The outline of the home of the Kittens is still clearly visible through the large flattened area’ pitch area.

Notes

  1. 9 June 1924 – Athletic News
  2. 11 August 1924 – Athletic News
  3. 5 September 1924 – Kent & Sussex Courier
  4. 11 October 1924 – Thanet Advertiser
  5. 28 March 1925 – Thanet Advertiser
  6. 24 October 1925 – Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald
  7. 12 December 1925 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
  8. 27 February 1926 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
  9. 8 January 1927 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
  10. 3 December 1926 – Kent & Sussex Courier
  11. 29 January 1927 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
  12. 4 February 1927 – Chelmsford Chronicle
  13. 4 February 1927 – Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser
  14. 23 April 1927 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald

Some of the information for the post has come from the fantastic non-League resource Non-League Matters, which, if you have a penchant for league tables past,  it could keep you occupied for days.

Sadly, the owner of the site looked as though they are planning to mothball the site in May 2017, if anyone reading this has any time on their hands and wants to take it over there are contact details on all the pages on the site other than the home page.

Picture credits – the team photograph is courtesy of the always helpful Lewisham Archives.

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Catford Southend – The  Non-League Club that nearly took over Charlton Athletic  – Part 1

Catford Southend have been mentioned once or twice in passing in Running Past, notably in relation to their almost takeover of Charlton Athletic and the latter’s brief stay at Southend’s then ground in Mountsfield Park, The Mount.  Their story is worth telling in its own right as it became a salutary lesson of what happens when there is over-ambition within football clubs.

The club seems to have had its roots in a forerunner club, Catford Rovers, which played from around the 1898/99 season against teams from around Deptford, Lewisham and Greenwich, including Greenwich Pupil Teachers (1).  The first reference to Catford Southend was at the beginning of the 1900/01 season with a newspaper report (2) inviting friendly opponents and a trial on playing fields on what is now Canadian Avenue – possibly a rear entrance to what are now St Dunstan’s School playing fields .  The secretary lived in a house built a few years before by the Catford builder James Watt.

The name Catford Southend suggests a specific location – Southend – around what is currently the junction of Whitefoot Lane and Bromley Road. Press reports for its early years often described their ground as ‘Bromley Road,’ while not absolutely certain this would suggest a ground within the estate of Park House which was at the southern end of what is now Conisborough Crescent.

Certainly it was a location used later as a sportsground by the fantastically named Waygood Athletic (sometimes called Waygood’s) who seem to have played in the long since defunct Southern Suburban League and Dulwich Amateur League along with running cricket teams. They were certainly there in 1914 when the Ordnance Survey  visited what was still a largely rural area. (Map image on a creative commons from the National Library of Scotland).  The main on-line press references for the Waygood’s are in the years from around 1905 to the outbreak of World War 1.  The name was almost certainly a reference to a business name rather than any suggestions of sporting excellence, probably R Waygood and Co Ltd  -Manufacturers of lifts, hoists and hydraulic presses who were based in Borough and later merged with Otis.

Back to Catford Southend or the ‘Kittens’ as they were affectionately nicknamed, they played in the  Bromley & District League 1st Division in their first campaign – the season included home victories against Langdale (3); Bromley St Johns (4); and a 2-1 away victory in Kidbrooke against Anchor, with both goals scored by Boarer (5).

By November that season the seeming success meant that they were able to put out a 3rd team which trounced St Laurence 14-1 (6).

The Kittens first XI joined the London League for the 1903/04 season, although they kept their team in Bromley League.  The London League had been set up in 1896; it was made up of three divisions when Catford joined.  The Premier Division was mainly teams that were to become the leading teams of London football – Spurs, Arsenal, QPR, Fulham, Brentford, West Ham and Millwall, who won the League that year.  The First Division was in the main the reserve teams of those in the Premier League.  The Second Division was a mixture of teams, some still in existence, playing non-League football, others, lost over the years.  Catford won the Second Division comfortably – winning all but one of their games.  They seem to have had to play games behind closed doors for six weeks after a referee was surrounded and abused by fans (7).

Despite winning the League, there was no automatic promotion and the team (below – see notes for picture copyright) played elsewhere in 1904/05, seemingly just in in West Kent League.  There were problems with the ground measurement that season with Kent Senior Cup and London Cup matches against Tunbridge Wells and Dulwich Hamlet respectively having to be replayed (8)

By the 1905/06 campaign most of the Premier League clubs had moved on either to the Southern League or the newly extended Football League.  Catford entered at the equivalent level, now  Division 1, which they again won, ensuring that Chelsea’s reserves came second.  The Kittens lost away the away fixture to Chelsea in February 1906 – but won 1-0 at home.  The team sheet for the away game still survives.

 

The 1906/07 campaign was less successful finishing only 4th; the following year Catford Southend just lost out on winning the title on goal difference to another lost local club – Deptford Invicta.  The 1907/08 team (pictured below – see notes for picture credit) nearly saw the Kittens as Champions – losing out to local rivals Deptford Invicta by a single goal’s difference.  The next seasons though was were more of a struggle with a relegation battle in 1908/09.

The move to The Mount was seems to have been for the 1909/10 season; it isn’t entirely certain because both Bromley Road and The Mount were referred to as Catford in press reports.  The difference is that some games started to be referred to as being played at Ringstead Road (9).  The ground was in the far south east corner of the park (map image on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland)’

It wasn’t the first time Catford Southend had played in Mountsfield Park, since around 1899 it had been home to Lewisham Montrose (Greenwich Montrose in 1899/1900) who seem to have continued in existence until at least 1907. Lewisham Montrose had an ‘interesting’ pricing policy which allowed the ‘ladies’ of Catford free entry but expected no girls, as the press cutting from September 1904 indicates (10).  This would have been about a year before the Park opened to the public after the acquisition of the former home and grounds of Henry Stainton in 1905.

Fortunes in the London League were little better with the move to Mountsfield Park (pictured below), finishing three from bottom in the first campaign there.  Rules were changed 1910/11 and allowed promotion to the Premier Division – it was more of a struggle for the amateur outfit playing against professional team’s reserve sides – including Millwall, Clapton Orient and West Ham – the Kittens were 7th from 8, with the bottom team Deptford Invicta. The Kittens only won 4/14 games.  The 1911/12 season was little better, but the 1912/13 campaign saw a splitting of the league into two smaller sections, with Catford 3rd from 6 teams.

The Kittens were founder members of the Athenian League, which was formed in 1912 and, for the next 70 years was one of the strongest amateur leagues in the South East.    Catford Southend won the league in its first season in 1912/13 winning eleven of the sixteen matches played, running teams in both Athenian and London Leagues.  Their form was less good in the following season with mid table mediocrity in a slightly expanded league (although no team was run in the London League)

They returned to the London League in 1914/15, finishing 3rd in the Amateur section,  but football was curtailed during the war.  This is where we will leave Catford Southend, for now, a solid non-League team with a relatively new ground in early 20th century suburbia, in a similar position to many non-League teams that are still around almost 100 years later.  Life was to change considerably for the Kittens when hostilities ceased and football resumed in 1919, we will return to their story in a future post.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 27 January 1899
  2. Kentish Mercury 24 August 1900
  3. Kentish Mercury 26 October 1900
  4. Kentish Mercury 21 December 1900
  5. Kentish Mercury 23 November 1900
  6. Kentish Mercury 9 November 1900
  7. Sporting Life 14 January 1903
  8. Kent & Sussex Courier 24 February 1905
  9. South London Press 22 October 1909
  10. Kentish Mercury 09 September 1904

Much of the information for the post has come from the fantastic non-League resource Non-League Matters, which, if you have a penchant for league tables past, could keep you occupied for days.

Sadly, the owner of the site looked as though they are planning to mothball the site in May 2017, if anyone reading this has any time on their hands and wants to take it over there are contact details on all the pages on the site other than the home page.

Picture credits – the team photographs are courtesy of the always helpful Lewisham Archives.

Britain’s First Cycling Stage Race Which Almost Started in Catford in 1944 

One of the now seemingly permanent features of the national and international cycling calendar is the Tour of Britain. It is an event that can trace its roots back to a race that was planned to start from Catford – the first ever British stage race.

Cycling stage racing has been common on the continent with races such as Le Tour de France and Giro D’Italia having their origins in the early 20th century. In Britain road racing had been effectively banned since the end of the 19th century.  Time trials  (where riders start on their own and race against the clock) were eventually tacitly allowed often in remote locations with ‘code-named’ courses to avoid any police interest.’ (1)   Mass start races were only ever allowed on tracks, such as the short-lived one on Catford’s Sportsbank Street or Herne Hill, or later on airfields or motor racing circuits – some of the earliest racing at Brands Hatch was cycling, as well as more notably at the Brooklands Circuit (2).

The first road race with a mass start had been organised in 1942 by Percy Stallard, (picture source) it was a single stage race from Llangollen to Wolverhampton.  He and the other organisers and riders were all banned by the National Cyclists’ Union (NCU) as a result.  Stallard set up the rival British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC) to promote racing rather than time trialing.

With Midlands roots, it was perhaps surprising that a war-torn London was to be the location for the (not so) Grand Départ of the first English Cycling stage race.  Perhaps using it as a fundraiser for the Red Cross helped and perhaps it was seen as a morale booster for those suffering at home.

Source ebay March 2016

The race was due to start in Catford outside the then Town Hall (above) on Saurday 5 August 1944, – the beginning of what was then the August Bank Holiday Weekend.  The planned route of the first stage is not clear but the second and third stages were the same –  starting at The Fantail (now Chapter 1) at Locksbottom and looping 60 miles out to Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Pembury before returning to Locksbottom – see below (3).  Just 40 riders were to start the race which received some media interest – the BBC planned to cover the first stage (4)

Presumably when the organisers had agree the route with the authorities, London seemed a relatively safe location – there had been a lull in attacks following the end of the Blitz.  But from June 1944 London was again targeted by the Germans.  The first V1 rockets hit Lewisham on 16 June, including attacks on Lewisham Park and the areas around George Lane and Davenport Road.  Around a 100 more were to hit Lewisham  in the 7 weeks before the planned start, so it was probably understandable that the  Ministry of War Transport wanted the start moved (5).

The race was moved to Farnborough, where, in the end, all three stages started  outside the Fantail Restuarant, almost opposite the Ye Olde Whyte Lyon pub, pictured from around three decades before (6).

As for the race, the first stage was won by the organiser of the initial Llangollen-Wolverhampton race, Percy Stallard.  The second stage saw Les Plume from Manchester triumph, despite the seemingly safe location in the Kent countryside, during the race the RAF shot down another London bound doodlebug very close to the peloton. With shrapnel coming down around the cyclists, the eventual winner wondered whether they should be in an air raid shelter rather than racing.

The final stage saw a lone breakaway, won by Ron Baker with a sprint for the rest of the podium places of the stage won by Stallard, over ten minutes behind the winner.  Les Plume took the overall victory by just a second from Len Hook who had placed well on each of the stages.  Baker took the King of the Hills competition.

The following year there was the Victory Cycling Marathon from Brighton to Glasgow and a similar national stage race has been almost ever present (there was a five year hiatus from 2000).

Notes

1 William Fotheringham (2005) Roule Britannia: A History of Britons in the Tour de France p8

2 ibid p8

3 Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser, 21 July 1944

4 The People, 30 July 1944

5 The People,  6 August 1944

6 Postcard via eBay February 2016

 

James Watt – The Builder of 5,000 Catford Homes

The development of the Corbett Estate on the borders of Hither Green and Catford has been covered several times by Running Past; firstly, looking at North Park Farm – whose sale was to allow the development of the estate, early in the development a walk with one of Charles Booth’s researchers in 1899  and a small section of the estate that was built by Frederick Taylor.  Corbett subcontracted most of the building work and probably the most important of the builders that he used was an already well-established Catford contractor – James Watt.  Watt has been mentioned briefly in relation to the short lived Lee Picture Palace which he ran and probably built.  However, he is worth a post in his own right.

Watt was Aberdonian by birth, born in 1857 his family moved to Stromness in the Orkneys by the 1861 census – his father was a farmer of a relatively small holding, just 25 acres.  Nothing is known of his early years, although by 1876 he was working in Hackney. He was certainly in Lewisham by 1887 as he married Emily from Brighton and in 1889 as his son James Henry was born then.  He initially worked as a foreman for another firm before setting up his own firm.

By the time the census enumerators called in the spring of 1891 he was living in Wildfell Road in Catford.  Also there was his brother, George who was listed as a joiner.  George was to stay around Lewisham, in 1911, for example, working as a builder’s foreman, perhaps working for James.

The house he was living in was one that the firm built, almost certainly the house on the corner of Scrooby Street (above right), where his firm also built houses.  The houses on Wildfell Road, from the outside at least, are arguably one of the most attractive terraces in Catford (see photo below) with some lovely detail (above left).  At the time of writing (July 2017) one of the small two bedroom houses was on sale for a fraction under £400,000.

Watt’s firm also built homes on Brookdale Road, along with Aitken and Barmeston Roads , further south,  off Bromley Road. He also built some of the houses on Canadian Avenue (formerly Berlin Avenue) – including ‘Kenilworth’ in 1901.  It isn’t always easy to tell exactly which houses he built – unlike the similar sized firm in Lee, W J Scudamore, there weren’t obvious patterns in the design.

By 1901 James Watt was at 4 Bromley Road (above), possibly a home built by the firm, although this isn’t certain. While he was a non-conformist, the house was next to St Laurence’s Vicarage – it was to be opposite his estate office and yard, probably the former Sangley Hall – see map below, on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland)

4 Bromley Road was also convenient for the development of the Sangley Farm estate for the Forsters.  No doubt at some stage Running Past will cover the farm, whose buildings were on the corner of what is now Bargery Road.  It included streets like Penerley and Culverley Roads and was very much housing for the Edwardian middle classes and was developed on a piecemeal basis between 1902 and the 1920s.  It isn’t clear which homes he built on the estate but it undoubtedly some of those photographed below in the previously mentioned streets.

As noted before, Watt built around a third of Corbett Estate too.  The only definite location for the firms work as in Fordel Road, where 38 lbs of lead piping was stolen from an unfinished house (1).   However, it is quite possible that Watt’s firm built roads like Minard and Braidwood Roads pictured below (source for both eBay July 2016).

The firm had interests in land over a large swathe of south east London, it isn’t clear as to what they built and what they may have acquired to privately rent, but it certainly included buying 217 Westcombe Hill, Blackheath, acquired in 1918; Land and buildings, Morden Grange; 107 Lewisham Road in 1923 along with several houses in Ravensbourne Road in Catford.

Watt continued to build homes in the area in the 1920s – including homes along Bromley Road, while 115 (below, built in 1922) is definitely one of the firm’s, many others in the area are similar too – so, no doubt were built by Watt.  Like another local builders that Running Past has covered, W J Scudamore, Watt expanded his area of operation in the interwar period buying sites in Orpington in 1928 and Croydon in 1930.

Not only was Watt a builder, but he was a pioneer of popular entertainment in the area. The first time that Running Past ‘came across’ Watt was when he built and initially ran Lee Picture Palace on the corner of Lee High Road and Bankwell Road.  It was one of many cinemas he owned. He opened his first cinema in 1909 – the Electric in Catford (now retirement flats on Sangley Road and marked on the map above), but went onto own around 25 cinemas and ice rinks over the years – mainly in south London, but extending as far as Tottenham, Paddington, Belvedere and Wandsworth. These included the cinema almost opposite his home – initially called Central Hall Picture House (like most in his chain) but later the Plaza, ABC and Cannon (it is now a church) – pictured below on a Creative Commons via Cinema Treasures.  As the map above shows, Catford was also home to one of his skating rinks, next door to the cinema.

James Watt died in 1932, a very wealthy man – his estate was worth in excess of £618,000 (2). His wife, Emily, died later same year.  It has been suggested that the firm had built 5-6,000 homes in and around Catford by the time he died.

The business seems to have been taken over by his older son, James Henry – who took over the family home at 4 Bromley Road, he was living there in 1939, listed as a Director and company Secretary of Building Trades Companies.  However, it seems that times were hard as he was sharing with another family.

It is not clear what happened to James Henry, the 1939 Register is the last definitive mention on-line of him.  It is clear that the younger brother, Horace (born in 1899) who had spent time in the nascent Flying Corps during and after World War 1, and was later a director of a Catford Haulage company, seems to have taken control after World War Two.  He bought a house in early 1948 in 7, Charsley Road, but later that year was to sell a large part of the business, then known as James Watt (Estates) Ltd. (3)

The firm continued until 1957 when it was wound up, it was still based at Central Parade on Bromley Road. Horace was still alive at that point, he was retired and living in West London and was listed on a passenger ship heading for South Africa the following year.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 23 December 1898
  2. The Scotsman 22 July 1932
  3. The Times (London, England), Monday, Mar 29, 1948; pg. 2; Issue 51031

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past

Following the Quaggy – Lee Green to Hocum Pocum Lane

We left the Quaggy close to Lee Green with a Lewisham Natureman stag ‘grazing’ by the outflow of Mid Kid Brook, before that Running Past has followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom; then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley, through the golf courses of Sundridge Park and on to Chinbrook Meadows; through the concrete and countryside of Mottingham; and latterly through the playing fields and parkland of Sutcliffe Park and the Lee/Blackheath borders.

The river changes here; gone now are the almost bucolic feel of the river through the playing fields and parkland in the section of the river from Sutcliffe Park to Lee Green. The Quaggy is now very much an urban river, with building up to the banks and the route downstream for the fluvial flâneur often parallel with the river only visible on bridges.

Riverside pubs have been conspicuous by their absence so far, but are a much more regular feature as we follow the last mile or so of the course.  The Old Tiger’s Head, 50 metres or so away from the river, was the base for the mid 1840s horse racing of the Lee Races. Lee Green was still rural then, complete with a green, a windmill and a farm – Lee Green Farm. The pub was very different then, being rebuilt in the 1890s, as the picture above from an information board at Lee Green shows.
The Quaggy squeezes between some 1990s flats and a plot of land that was Victorian housing and will presumably be returned to housing again; it was latterly the showroom of Penfolds Vauxhall dealers, after they moved from the former Lee Picture Palace on the corner of Bankwell Road.  The river, for a short period, is again banked and bedded in concrete – little is able to grow but that didn’t stop a few optimistic sticklebacks from attempting to eke out an existence in a hostile environment (below, top left) when I did the research for the post.

The Quaggy emerges out into the open at what used to be called Lee Green Bridge and the first proper riverside pub, the Duke of Edinburgh, still serving and with a pleasant garden at the rear.  The pub dates from around 1871 when the landlord, a Mr W Baker, took over licence of the Black Horse, which was a short-lived ‘beer house’ that may have been on the same site (1)

The river forms the rear boundary between homes in Lampmead and Brightfield Roads – the former named after a field. The course wasn’t always thus, the Quaggy originally took a course further to the north touching the southern end of what is now Lenham Road.  The differences are clear between the 1863 (top map below) and 1893 visits of the Ordnance Survey Cartographers (maps on a Creative Commons via National Library of Scotland). The effective development of Lampmead required the straightening of the river, following what was previously a path behind the houses of Robertson Street, which was to become Brightfield Road at around the same time.  The curved building (above, top right and bottom) hugs the banks of the river.
The Quaggy is bridged by the dog-leg of Brightfield Road before tumbling down into Manor House Gardens.  The Gardens are one of Lewisham’s flagship parks and were the grounds to a large house built and maintained from the proceeds of slavery until bought by the London County Council as a library and park in 1902.

Source – eBay Feb 2016

The Quaggy seems to have originally fed the small lake although is now at a much lower level.  It is bridged a couple of times within the park, both having been the venues for generations of Pooh Sticks, no doubt played before the game was named in the 1920s by A A Milne.
The river has natural earth banks topped with a dense tree canopy throughout its 400 metres or so through the park, during the summer the river is heavily shaded.  The steep banks make the river relatively inaccessible through the park.
Flowing out of Manor House Gardens, the river crosses Manor Lane, an old farm track and again forms a boundary – between the WJ Scudamore homes of Thornwood Road, a Lewisham Council sheltered scheme off Manor Lane and later more Scudamore homes on Manor Park.  This was a largely rural area until Hither Green station was build in the 1890s, there was a junction there from the 1860s, as the 1870 map below  on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland) shows. This part of Lee was still used for market gardening, mainly run from Manor Farm, until the Scudamores built homes of what was marketed as the Manor Park Estate..
Over the other side of Manor Park the river turns almost 90 degrees, to flow between more gardens, between Manor Park and Longhurst Road, briefly visible by peering around a bridge on one side of Staplehurst Road – close to the shops posted about earlier in 2017.  Just before the bridge the river is joined by one of its tributaries, Hither Green Ditch (Quaggy Hither Green).
The river continues northwards, squeezing between the gardens of Manor Park (the street) and the northern end of Longhurst Road before opening out into Manor Park (the park rather than the street).  The park’s rejuvenation has been covered before in Running Past, the former small pig farm has gone from one of Lewisham’s worst bits of open space to one of its best.  The Park has become a community hub – centred around the Arts Cafe.  The river itself is used much more – including the annual Quaggy Duck Race and the Float Your Boats event in June 2017, pictured below.
The Quaggy itself while having a ‘natural’ feel at the end of the back gardens of Leahurst Road, was concrete encased and hidden from the park on  the opposite bank.   Flooding used to be common in this area – in the mid-1960s, the then MP for the area Chris Chataway described residents as living ‘in fear of this wretched stream.
At the edge of the Park, there is a bridge – while the structure is a new one, the crossing an old one – it was the final section of Hocum Pocum Lane – an ancient path from Lee High Road to St Mary’s Church, and possibly beyond.
We’ll leave the Quaggy here for its final section to its confluence with the Ravensbourne in Lewisham.
Notes
  1. Ken White (1992) ‘The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham’ Part 6a, p134

James Elroy Flecker & the College Park Estate

There are several poets with a link to Lewisham – Running Past has already covered Thomas Dermody and Robert Browning, and will no doubt return to Ernest Dowson and, perhaps David Jones and Spike Milligan.  Another on that illustrious list is James Elroy Flecker, like Dermody, his link with the Borough was a fleeting one, although unlike Dermody it was at the beginning rather than end of his life.

Flecker was born at 9 Gilmore Road (above) on 5 November 1884.  His family’s time in Lewisham was limited though, in the spring of 1881 when the census enumerators called, his father, William Herman Flecker, was teaching at New College in Eastbourne.  However by the summer of the same year he married Sarah Ducat, a musician who was daughter of Polish emigres and lived in New Cross.  By 1888, at the latest, the Fleckers had moved on – James’ sister was born in Cheltenham in 1888 – William was teaching at Dean’s Close School.

His father may have continued teaching whilst in Lewisham; although there seems to be no record of where he taught.  It is certain though that he entered the church by the time James was born.  William was a curate, not at the church that they would have been able to see from the front of the house, St Mark’s on Clarendon Road, but at Holy Trinity on Glenton Road, where James was baptised.  It was a church was lost in World War Two and was covered a while ago in Running Past – see below (source Wikipedia Commons – originally from Illustrated London News)

Before looking at the life and career of James Elroy Flecker, it is worth pausing in Gilmore Road. The house had been developed in the late 1860s or early 1870s as part of the College Park estate on the land of a farm, College Farm, owned by the Mercer’s Company.  This should not be confused with the eponymous farm in Lee, although the land for that was also owned by the Mercers Company, which was covered by Running Past earlier in 2017.

 

The College Farm house, above (on a creative commons), was roughly at the corner of Lewisham High Street and Albion Way – it is probably one of the buildings set back from the road marked on the map on the opposite side of the road to Avenue Road (lost to the Shopping Centre).  The fields (all numbered on the map – on a creative commons via the National Library of Scotland) are now covered by Clarendon Rise (formerly Road), Bonfield Road, Albion Way (formerly Road) and, of course, the road with the elegant villa that was briefly home to the Fleckers – Gilmore Road. The development was ‘one of the most significant additions to the number of middle class houses in Lewisham during that building boom.’

Returning to James Elroy Flecker ….While he was born Herman Elroy, he became known as James Elroy; he was the eldest of four children born to William and Sarah Flecker, he had a well to do education, initially attending his father’s school before moving to Uppingham and then Trinity College, Oxford. After teaching for a while he entered the Consular service – being sent to Constantinople in 1910.  He became ill there from consumption which was to blight the rest of his life.  He had met Helle Skiadaressi on his first posting and they married in what is now Izmir in Turkey.  He had a series of postings around the Middle East interspersed by illness before moving to Switzerland for the final 18 months of his life on the advice of doctors. He died there in January 1915.

220px-james_elroy_flecker_at_cambridgeFlecker (left, via Creative Commons) He had begun to write poetry whilst at Uppingham , the rhythm and language have been described as ‘Tennysonian’ although much of his early work was adaptions of Greek and Roman poets.  His first book of poems, ‘Bridge of Fire’, was published around the time he left Oxford in 1907.  He continued to adapt the work of Parnassian School – including work by Goethe and Baudelaire – it was a reaction to the sentimentality of their Romantic predecessors. His death was described in the 1920s as “unquestionably the greatest premature loss that English literature has suffered since the death of Keats”.

Any post on a poet, needs some poetry – while most of his work to a 21st century audience is, perhaps, not that accessible, there are a several poems with a London theme that still seem to resonate, even if the trams he wrote about are long gone.  The first a tale of cross river love, the second the first few stanzas of a poem seemingly about nights out in the city:

Ballad Of The Londoner

Evening falls on the smoky walls,

And the railings drip with rain,

And I will cross the old river

To see my girl again.

 

The great and solemn-gliding tram,

Love’s still-mysterious car,

Has many a light of gold and white,

And a single dark red star.

 

I know a garden in a street

Which no one ever knew;

I know a rose beyond the Thames,

Where flowers are pale and few.

 

The Ballad of Hampstead Heath

From Heaven’s Gate to Hampstead Heath

Young Bacchus and his crew

Came tumbling down, and o’er the town

Their bursting trumpets blew.

 

The silver night was wildly bright,

And madly shone the Moon

To hear a song so clear and strong,

With such a lovely tune

 

From London’s houses, huts and flats,

Came busmen, snobs, and Earls,

And ugly men in bowler hats

With charming little girls…..

Beyond the poetry, Flecker had, from his Oxford days, the reputation of the being a good speaker, a raconteur and was capable of what might now be referred to as ‘sound bites’ – two of which include

“What is life without jam?”

“The poet’s business is not to save the soul of man but to make it worth saving.”

Note

Census and related data comes via Find My Past 

 

Elsa Lanchester – Catford’s Bride of Frankenstein

48 Farley Road is an ordinary looking Victorian terraced house in Catford; it has a brief, but important, place in British cinematographic history – in the early 20th century it was the birthplace in 1902 and home to Elsa Lanchester, who was to become the Bride of Frankenstein (Picture on Creative Commons via James Vaughan on Flickr)

Her parents were Edith (“Biddy”) Lanchester and James (“Shamus”) Sullivan; to suggest that their lifestyle was ‘different’ would be something of an understatement.  They were members of the Social Democratic Federation and challenged late Victorian and Edwardian mores in relation to marriage by living together outside marriage.  After telling her family that she was going to move in with Shamus, her family had her sectioned for several days. Biddy later became secretary to Eleanor Marx, a role she retained until Marx’s death.  She stayed with Marx in Sydenham after the birth of her first child, Waldo Lanchester who was to become a famous puppeteer.

In Elsa Lanchester’s autobiography there is, sadly, little reference to the Lewisham life of one of ‘Hollywood’s most delightful comediennes and the wife of one of its greatest, and most tortured, actors’ (Charles Laughton) (1). The family moved frequently around South London, in addition to Catford (see picture below), there were short-lived homes in Lewisham, Clapham and Norwood before settling in Battersea.  Part of the reason for these frequent movements was to try to prevent Elsa being vaccinated as her brother Waldo had reacted badly to his and Edith wanted to prevent government interference in the life of Elsa (2).

This fear of authority extended to what was recorded in the census – in 1901, at Farley Road,  Biddy was recorded as a visitor and Waldo her son.  Similarly in the 1911 census night Edith, Elsa and Waldo camped in Surrey woodland away from their then Clapham home to avoid being included in the returns (3). Oddly James still mentioned all but Edith to the enumerators.

The various family homes often had socialist visitors  who Elsa refers to as ‘kitchen comrades’ – this included the Pankhursts and there were regular trips to Women’s Social and Political Union rallies, one of which Biddy was arrested on (4). There were childhood memories of May Day rallies, sherbet fountains and singing the Internationale and the Lewisham written Red Flag (5).

There were trips to both the ballet, to see Pavola’s Swan Lake as well as seeing the likes of George Robey, Marie Lloyd at Clapham Grand (6).  Elsa went to classes in weaving, spinning and sandal making with Raymond Duncan (brother of Isadora) in Clapham (7).  Through him she ended up at Isadora Duncan’s dance school in Paris although there seemed to be little real talent for teaching from Duncan so little was learned other than to ‘become an autumn leaf’ (8).

After returning from Paris as war broke out, Elsa began to make a living out of short-lived dancing assignments, including a week as a snake dancer in Edmonton (9). After the war ended she worked for a charity teaching dancing called Happy Evenings, during her second summer of this she set up a school in Charlotte Street in central London (10).  She also used the premises to set up what was effectively an after-hours theatre club – the Cave of Harmony – which began to attract a famous clientele which included the likes of H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and Evelyn Waugh who became a regular visitor(11). As she was with many friends and acquaintances, Lanchester was quite cutting about Waugh – describing him as ‘not at all attractive looking….pink in patches as though he had a bad cold.’ (12) The Cave of Harmony didn’t provide enough income to fully support her, so Elsa took a range of other jobs to make ends meet including cleaning (13)  and acting as a ‘correspondent’ for couples that couldn’t get an ‘honest’ divorce (14).

She began to get parts in plays as a result of the Cave of Harmony contacts, including several through Nigel Playfair, then manager of the Lyric Hammersmith. By the time she met Charles Laughton in 1927 (pictured together left – source), she had become moderately well-established on the London stage; he was still making his way – they married in 1929. They appeared together several times on the stage, notably in ‘Payment Deferred’ – an adaptation of a novel by sometime Lewisham based CS Forester (covered a while ago in Running Past) (15).

There was an incident during the run, where police arrived at the door with a ‘boy’ who was trying to get money out of Laughton who then confessed to Elsa about his homosexuality – Elsa’s response of ‘It’s perfectly alright ,it doesn’t matter…’ The latter remark seems to have upset Laughton greatly (16).  Laughton played William Marble and Elsa his daughter in Payment Deferred, the play lasted for 3 months in the West End (17) before transferring to Broadway and then Chicago for short runs with both of them appearing.

It was the critically acclaimed performance by Laughton in Payment Deferred that was to mark the beginning of his film career – he was to keep the role in the film version of the play and had several other parts in Hollywood films. Elsa though was overlooked for the daughter – the studio wanting the more bankable, in box office terms, Maureen O’Sullivan (18).

Her own movie debut was to come in a film that her husband starred in, playing Anne of Cleves in the Private Life of Henry VIII in 1933 (Picture on a Creative Commons via Wikipedia).

Her breakthrough was two years later as the Bride of Frankenstein.  Oddly, her autobiography, ‘Elsa Lanchester – Herself’ spends little time on the film; she includes no photographs, and the four pages of narrative is little more than a description of the time spent in makeup creating both her hair and the bandages that were wrapped around her.  She did note some of the reviews though, including this one from the subsequent ‘An Illustrated History of the Horror Film’ (19)

Elsa Lanchester in her white shroud and Nerifertiti hairdo is a truly fantastic apparition  …. a delicate suggestion of both the wedding bed and the grave

The film had good reviews on release and, unlike many of the era, has stood the test of time; at the time of writing in 2017 it had a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It did well at the box office too – by 1943 it had made a profit of $2 million. (Picture below on a creative commons via Wikipedia)

 

Lanchester had a successful career after the Bride of Frankenstein, although you’d be hard pressed to work this out from her autobiography; her own accomplishments only seem worth mentioning in passing, whereas the trials and tribulations of Laughton’s various roles and his angst in preparing for them, as he became one of Hollywood’s ‘leading men,’ are dealt with in great detail.  While Elsa, was only once the ‘leading lady,’ in Passport to Destiny, she had a good career as a supporting actress – winning a Golden Globe for Agatha Christie’s ‘Witness for the Prosecution’, along with and Oscar nomination for the same film and another Oscar nomination for ‘Come to the Stable’.

She also found success returning to her roots at the Turnabout Theatre off Sunset Boulevard.  The theatre was a bizarre mixture of a puppetry stage at one end of the theatre and one for actors at the other end with reversible seats. Lanchester performed a similar solo vaudeville act to the one she had done in the past at the Cave of Harmonies at the Turnabout Theatre (20).

She had a number of early television presenting roles in the USA, including hosting ‘Words about Music’ on US TV every Saturday night for a year in the late 1950s .  Elsa played various small parts in American TV shows including ‘Burkes’s Law’ pictured below in 1964 (On a Creative Commons via Wikipedia)

She toured an autobiographical one woman show –‘Elsa Lanchester – Herself’ which Laughton had directed. He was to die of cancer in late 1961 but Lanchester continued to work into her late 70s, her final film was in 1980.  She published her autobiography in 1983 but suffered from a stroke soon after and passed away in late 1986 aged 84.

But it is as The Bride of Frankenstein that she is best remembered – hopefully, one day this might include a plaque at 48 Farley Road.

 

Notes

  1. Quoted on rear cover of Elsa Lanchester – Herself, 1983.
  2. ibid p7
  3. ibid pp7-8
  4. ibid p17
  5. ibid pp6-7
  6. ibid p19
  7. ibid p19
  8. ibid p28
  9. ibid p45
  10. ibid p50
  11. ibid p 56
  12. ibid p57
  13. ibid p58
  14. ibid p59
  15. ibid p97
  16. ibid p97
  17. ibid p100
  18. ibid p107
  19. ibid p138
  20. ibid p171

Census and related data comes via Find My Past