What is currently known as the Broadway Theatre is arguably one of Lewisham’s finest 20th century buildings both inside and out. It dates from the early 1930s and used to be next to a gothic 1870s Town Hall – pictured together below.
When the Town Hall was first built there appear to have been lawns backing onto what was then called Springfield Park Crescent (now called Catford Broadway) . The Town Hall was gradually extended into the lawns around the turn of the 20th century. The rest of the curved site seems to be been enclosed for use as a council depot. At the eastern end of the Crescent, facing onto Rushey Green and the Black Horse and Harrow (now Ninth Life) was a fire station, presumably the small building behind the tram below.
After the fire station closed, the site’s owners, Lewisham Parochial Trustees, sold it to the Borough Council for around £1,300 in 1919. Originally, it was planned to build a war memorial there, but clearly plans changed, as that was built facing Lewisham Hospital (1).
Without a clear use identified, the site seems to have been used as something of a dump (2), so there will have been a degree of relief in Catford when in 1925 plans were announced for an alternative use for the site – the development of a new extension to the Town Hall, a concert hall and shops. An Act of Parliament was required for the development, part of a wider London County Council Bill, which presumably received Royal Assent in 1926. Part of the logic was the lack of a large hall, other than cinemas, in the old Borough of Lewisham (3).
The architects for the development were Bradshaw Gass and Hope of Bolton, who were selected after a competition which saw 71 entries (4). The Town Hall extension for the Borough of Lewisham was unusual for them in that most of their work was in the North-West. They are still based in Bolton but work such as this brought them to a much wider attention winning several other commissions to build town halls before World War 2.
The building work was put out to tender in 1930 and 27 bids were received, with G E Wallis and Sons one of £126,944 being successful (5). They were a firm with roots in Maidstone that had been in existence since 1860, although were central London based in Old Cavendish Street by that stage. The firm still exists as Wallis. Work was overseen by Alderman A Rennie who was Chair of the Town Hall Extension Committee (6), he was a longstanding councillor who was a member of the Municipal Reform Party (7) – the name the Conservative used in London local elections in that era.
The ‘Town Hall Extension’ was officially opened on 22 June, 1932 by the Duke of York, who became King George VI just over four years later.
Despite the Borough Council having built the Hall, it appears that they had no powers to organise or promote events in its early days, although this changed after World War 2. For the community and church groups, at least, there is a surviving register kept from April 1934 of those who had booked, the rooms used, whether this included the now listed organ. The first entry was for the London Advent Mission who booked the main hall between 6 and 10 on Sunday 1 April at a cost £10 10s which they had paid on the Friday before. There was an arrear brought forward of £4 14s from 1933/34 from Crystal Palace Speedway Supporters Motor Club.
The photograph below shows bookings from later that financial year in February 1935 – there were auctions, lectures, Lewisham Musical Association competitions, a boxing tournament and the Advent Mission were back, this time using the small hall. There were also orchestral concerts and weekly dances held.
There was a lot of comedy there in the 1980s and 1990s – with Alan Davies, Paul Merton and Eddie Izzard all appearing, along with several plays, including Catford Upon Avon Shakespeare Festivals in 2016 and 2017. It probably isn’t the best venue for staging plays though as the backstage area is tiny.
Despite the lack of space, most years the theatre has a pantomime – oh not they didn’t ….. oh, yes they did! One of the corridors behind the scenes has stunning photographs of many of the performances, some of which I vaguely remembered. You can book now for the 2023 pantomime (or could when the post was published in spring 2023).
The renaming to the Broadway was in 2002, 70 years after the opening by the Duke of York, by his daughter Queen Elizabeth II. There was a major refurbishment in which was completed in the spring of 2023 to allow better backstage access to enable it to meet concert promoters requirements along with making it much more accessible front of house.
Events are now beginning to be listed there, so do sign up for their mailing list and go and see performances there! When you do go, get there early, have a wander round, look out for some of the lovely details, like the glazing on the stairs above in the bar and the wrought iron work details on some other stairs (pictured below), and keep an eye open for posters and photographs of past performances – some real trips down memory lane are to be had!
23 July 1919 – Lewisham Borough News
07 May 1930 – Lewisham Borough News
30 December 1925 – Lewisham Borough News
The Times June 23, 1932
11 April 1930 – Forest Hill & Sydenham Examiner
South London Observer 14 April 1944
The photographs of the theatre under construction, the Town Hall with the tram terminus and the Hippodrome are all part of the collections of Lewisham Archives, they are used with permission and remain their copyright
The photo of the register and accounts is part of the collection of the theatre, it is used with permission and remains their copyright
The night time picture is on a creative commons – source
And finally, a massive thank you to Carmel O’Connor from the theatre for the behind the scenes tour and Rhoda Idoniboye from Lewisham Council for the invitation – it was an absolutely wonderful evening!
There have been several posts on Running Past about the evolution of public buildings around Lee – the two telephone exchanges, the trio of fire stations and most recently the municipal offices off what is now Woodyates Road. Next door to the latter, albeit constructed a little later was the Lee Sorting Office.
From around 1888, perhaps a little earlier, the Sorting Office was based on Lee High Road on the corner of what is now Lampmead Road (originally it was a dog leg of Lenham Road) – it is now home to a firm of solicitors, after being the offices of a realtively long standing business, Homesales, who were also in Market Terrace.
In the 1881 census, what was then 1 Sussex Terrace, was a grocer’s run by Nathaniel Short – he was from Greenwich and had four young children, with wife Elizabeth from Gravesend. They can have been there no more than a year as their youngest daughter was born in Lewisham, rather than Lee and the older children all were born in Bexleyheath.
Little had changed by the 1884 Kelly’s Directory, but by1888 the address was now 226 High Road, and Short had added a Post Office to the Grocery business. Out at the back there were some buildings used as a sorting office.
Where sorting had been done before isn’t immediately clear – there were several other local post offices, including one already covered at 10 Burnt Ash Road (now part of the Sainsbury’s site) run by Martin Martin. There was another in the row of shops between Brandram Road and Boone Street.
There was a high turnover of grocers and Postmasters, the Shorts moved on to Enfield by around 1888 – they were in Enfield in the 1891 census, making a circuitous trip via Australia to get there. William James Francis took over from the Shorts; Abraham Culverhouse was in charge when the census enumerators called again in 1891 and Roberts & Co were running the Post Office and grocers by 1896. There was no mention of a post office by 1900 when A M Curtis was there and it was not listed in the 1901 census and just being a grocer in 1904 when George Iliffe was there.
With a burgeoning population, continuing to run a sorting office from some small outbuildings behind a grocery shop was not really sustainable. Lewisham already had one – located in what is now the shopping centre and had gone out to tender in 1895 (1). Lee’s sorting office was put out to tender three years later. It was a site next to what were originally Lee Parish Offices, on what was then Woodstock Road. It became Woodyates Road after the development of the Woodstock Estate.
The Architect was Jasper Wager; a man from Bridgnorth in Shropshire, he had been working for Her Majesty’s Office of Works since 1877, they were responsible for a lot of public building work at this stage. The sorting office at Lee seems to have been one of the earliest projects that he was specifically responsible for. He was probably living locally at the time it was built – in the 1901 he is listed as living next to Greenwich Park in Vanbrugh Hill.
It is a striking building; the Local Listing describes it as ‘(a) single storey red brick Queen Anne Revival building (with) near symmetrical elevation onto Woodyates Road with stone mullioned and transomed window. Stone surround to centrally placed entrance door with stylised gablet with casement windows above.’
There is some lovely detail on it – particularly the stone sign Postmen’s Office over the main door (the newer brickwork to the side was the site of the postbox).
Looking at the 1911 census, around 35 men were listed as ‘postmen’ (no women) in Lee. Some obviously may have been based at other Sorting Offices. Unsurprisingly, they were concentrated in the smaller houses of the area, but in relative terms they were well paid, as shared households were rare, other than around half a dozen in their teens. The road with the most was Taunton Road – which was home to Edward Greenwood (131), Philip Cox (56), Arthur Fincham (47), Arthur Goodwin (69), Charles Wood and lodger William Hedge (99), plus two other lodgers William Pescott (72) and Bertie Ridgewell (64). Roads like Lenham, Lochaber and the small houses of Lee New Town also had significant numbers.
While this wasn’t the case in either the 1901 or 1911 Censuses, some staff lived on site by the time World War Two broke out – in the 1939 Register there was postman Edward Wood and Ernest Rawlings who worked as a Post Office cleaner.
Like much of the post war development of the eastern side of Burnt Ash Road, the partial redevelopment of the site for housing in the mid-1990s related to the ending of Crown Estate leases. It had been the same with shops on Burnt Ash and Eltham Roads that made way for the Leegate Centre and the housing that was demolished for Leybridge Court and most of the nurseries. The Sorting Office closed in 1993 with sorting and deliveries on the Lewisham side of Lee being transferred to Endgate Street and, presumably, on the Greenwich side to Court Yard in Eltham.
The site for both the Municipal Depot and the Sorting Office was bought by Developer Gengis Kemal. The main depot building fronting onto Woodyates Road along with its stables in the north west corner along with the Sorting Office were all retained and converted. There was sympathetic infill to the rest of the site. The site is now known as Jasmin Court – it was originally to be called Jasmine after the daughter of the developer – the sign at the entrance to the former yard refers to it as this. However, it appears to have been incorrectly had an ‘e’ removed by Lewisham so Jasmin is what it is officially known as. It follows in the footsteps of a trio of misspelled Lee street names going back over a century – Holme Lacey Road, Aislibie Road and Wolfram Close (3).
London Evening Standard 5 July 1895
Kentish Mercury 12 August 1898
Before someone else notes this, the irony of this is not lost on a writer with poor proof reading skills
Census and related information is via Find My Past (subscription required)
Kelly’s Directory data comes from Southwark Archives
The Ordnance Survey map is part of the collection of the National Library of Scotland and is used on a non-commercial licence
I am indebted to George Willis who lives in Jasmin Court (the 1990s development that the offices and stables are now part of) who has researched the site – although most of the research for this post was in parallel so any errors are obviously mine. Thank you also to Darryl from the excellent 853 news blog for putting us in touch – if you don’t follow 853 you are missing out!
There is an interesting group of buildings that are locally listed at the Burnt Ash Road end of Woodyates Road, it comprises of some former council offices and a former Royal Mail sorting office. The group was covered in passing on a post on the development of Woodyates and Pitfold Roads in the 1930s. This post looks in a bit more detail at the Parish Offices which are pictured below.
Lee was a Civil Parish whose bounds were ‘beaten’ in Running Past in 2020 – following an Ordnance Survey map from the 1890s. It was a small parish and so for a lot of the limited range of public services offered they were undertaken jointly with other parishes – the workhouse as we saw in the post on the Lesters of Lee New Town was a joint one with Lewisham and several other parishes. The Board of Works was a joint one with Plumstead, Kidbrooke, Eltham and Charlton who had their own office in Charlton Village. The parish does not seem to have had any offices before the one in what is now Woodyates Road. For example, requests to inspect tenders relating to Lee were directed to the home office of the Sureyor to the Board – Francis Freeman Thorne who lived at the large house, Rosebank, Lee Road (1). The house was demolished post war.
Plans started to be drawn up in 1882 for offices and various associated buildings, including stables, with the tenders going out in early 1883. Lee was a long narrow parish and the site chosen was close to the station which opened in 1866. The land had originally been part of Lee Green Farm, but the Crown was putting it to other uses – a mixture of substantial homes and market gardening – the latter run as part of Maller’s Nurseries. However, this was not some rural idyll as it had been part of John Pound’s brickworks and there was a clay crushing machine on or close to the site. At around the time of the building, the land opposite, where Woodstock Court now is, was being used by the Parish as a ‘mud shoot’ – effectively as dumping ground for mud, manure and the like from Lee’s roads – presumably filling up the hole from the brickworks
So, who were the people behind the plans? The Lee members of the Board of Works were a mixture of wealthy business people who had moved to what was then suburbia and some of the more established trades and shop keepers:
The Board of Works had asked eight firms for prices, they were mostly local, but names included firms that would become well known, including Mowlem and Co. The successful tender accepted from S J Jerrard builders of Lewisham, their price of £3973, was almost £300 cheaper than the next lowest (2).
Samuel Jerrard was based at 40 Loampit Vale (on the eastern corner of Thurston Road, where a large sudent accomodation block is now situated), the firm’s main area of operation was in Ladywell – building much of Vicars Hill, Embleton, Algernon, Algiers and Ermine Roads in the 1880s and 1890s. His best-known construction in Lewisham is the Clocktower built for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.
Returning to the offices, the building and associated costs including stabling for a dozen horses, sheds for carts and so on were to be paid for by loans, mainly over 34 months from the Metropolitan Board of Works (who oversaw major capital works across London), in total, £6705 was borrowed (4). In terms of 21st century loans for capital works this seems like a very short period. In addition to the building costs, another £227 was borrowed (5) presumably for the costs of Clerk of Works, James Robinson. Another £1500 was borrowed for purchasing horses, carts, and associated harnesses (6) repayable over 12 months (7).
The parish decided soon after works started that the horse keeper should be based on site (8).
The structure of the offices was completed by the end of November 1883, as the Parish met there on 30 November; but there was still a fair amount to do though in terms of furniture, gas supply and so on. The Sanitary Inspector, Walter Bridgen, was to be invited to be caretaker – living on site, rent free but contributing to bills (9). A successor role as inspector of roads was advertised at £2 2s in 1893 and ‘reasonable use of coals and gas.’ (10). The location and layout of the completed offices is visible from the 1890s Ordnance Survey map below, behind shops fronting onto Burnt Ash Hill – the former Lee Public Halls is visible opposite as the laundry (currently part of Travis Perkins site, but in early 2023 about to be demolished.
Lee was to become an authority in its own right in 1894 and in 1900 it became part of the Borough of Lewisham into whose ownership the offices passed. In the census the following year, Henry Butcher was listed as ‘Horse Keeper (Borough Council)’ – he was 40 and from Storrington in Sussex – he was there with his wife Ellen and nephew William Knowles, a harness maker, aged 22 from Sussex.
Also living on site in 1901 was Thomas Whebby, he was a Sanitary Inspector for the Council from Dorset, aged 51, he was there with his wife Alice and 5 children aged between 10 and 24, all born in Yeovil. Thomas Whebby remained there in 1911 and there were still people living on site in the 1939 Register -John Bain 35 was listed as a ‘Municipal Officer – Inspector if Works’ – marked as 1-7 Woodyates Road, rather that the Woodstock Road it was built on.
Perhaps, surprisingly, horses were still being used by the Borough Council in 1939 and at what was described as 9 Woodyates was the person looking after them, horse keeper, Richard Short, who got the ‘heavy work’ supplement entitling them to more rations during World War Two.
During the war the buildings were used as a base for the Air Raid Precautions unit – the horse carts are visible at the back of the photograph below.
Much had changed in the area around the Depot by the time war broke out in 1939 – the fields, later allotments and nurseries had been sold for housing by the Crown Estate – Woodstock Road had become Woodyates Road as part of the Woodstock Estate. Opposite the Council yard the former ‘mud chute’ was to become the rather elegant art deco Woodstock Court.
The building remained in council use until the 1980s when the lease to the Crown Estate expired. We’ll cover the late 20th century redevelopment as Jasmin Court in a subsequent post on the Sorting Office next door.
Kentish Mercury 10 May 1879
Woolwich Gazette 3 March 1883
Kentish Independent 22 January 1887
Kentish Independent 17 March 1883
Woolwich Gazette 27 April 1883
Kentish Independent 17 March 1883
Kentish Independent 26 May 1883
Kentish Independent 15 December 1883
Woolwich Gazette 18 August 1893
Credits and acknowledgements
Census and related information is via Find My Past (subscription required)
I am indebted to George Willis who lives in Jasmin Court (the 1990s development that the offices and stables are now part of) who has researched the site – although most of the research for this was in parallel so any errors are obviously mine. Thank you also to Darryl from the excellent 853 news blog for putting us in touch – if you don’t follow 853 you are missing out!
There is a postcard that appears from time to time on Lewisham Facebook reminiscence groups and for sale on eBay of a small house set back from the road with the label Burnt Ash Hill. In the former locations, it often causes consternation as there are no obvious current or even recent landmarks. The house was Wood Cottage and this post seeks to tell at least some of its story, and more particularly the nurseries that it was linked to.
The cottage probably dates from the 1870s and was broadly where the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes now stands (pictured below) – midway between Lee Station and what is now the South Circular of St Mildred’s Road and Westhorne Avenue.
The origin of the name is unclear, although the most likley scenario is after one of the Wood family who farmed the neighbouring Horn Park Farm who may have farmed the land for a brief period in the 1860s.
The firm running the nursery for much of its life was Maller and Sons. It was set up by Benjamin Maller, a gardener who hailed from Surrey (Sussex in some censuses). Born in 1823, he was living with wife Mary and daughter Mary at Belmont Lodge in 1851 – which was attached to Belmont a large house on what is now Belmont Hill, where he was the gardener.
In the 1861 census, Maller had moved just down the hill and was listed at 5 Granville Terrace, later it was to have the address 61 Lewisham High Street. It is now part of the Lewisham police station site, but before that, became part of the Chiesmans empire. Maller was listed as a ‘Nurseryman employing two boys’ in the census. Long and Lazy Lewisham which is covering the history of the High Street, notes that he had been there, trading initially with Robert Miller for around 5 years.
The partnership with Miller was short lived as was another with George Fry which ended in 1860. The next decade saw a rapid expansion, the 1871 census suggests he was employing 31 men and 6 boys.
By 1881 they were listed in the census as being in Leyland Road – the numbering isn’t totally clear as the road was being developed and the house is just described as ‘The Nursery.’ This is pictured above (back middle), it was later numbered 72 and puts it now at the corner of Leyland Road and Alanthus Close. The nursery shown on an 1890s Ordnance Survey map. below, along with several other areas cultivated.
This would have been land leased from the Crown, part of the former Lee Green Farm (pictured below) which ceased operating in the1860s. While the exact geography of the farm isn’t completely clear – it seems to have been a narrow farm covering land to the east of what is now Burnt Ash Road and Hill from Lee Green to around Winn Road. Just a few hundred metres wide, it shrank rapidly as homes and shops were developed by John Pound following the arrival of the railway in Lee in 1866. Land was also temporarily lost to clay pits and brickworks just south of Lee Station and north of The Crown.
In 1881 Maller was listed as a nursery man with 30 acres employing 4 men 8 boys. The family included grown-up children Mary, Benjamin and Herbert – in the 1881 census at ‘the Nursery, Leyland Road’.
There had been of significant reduction in labour since 1871 – 31 men to just 4 over 10 years. This probably relates to the land they cultivated being rapidly lost to Victorian suburbanisation as streets like Dorville, Osberton and Leyland Roads were developed.
Benjamin died in 1884 but the business continued as B Maller and Son afterwards, with Benjamin Boden Maller in charge – living variously at 107 and 111 Burnt Ash Road (there was access to the site from Burnt Ash Road too) and 72 Leyland Road. Benjamin Boden Maller died in 1913 although his son, also Benjamin, continued for a while. However, in the 1939 Register he was listed as a Civil Servant living in Reigate.
So what did they grow? In 1879 an advert in the Kentish Mecury suggested the land cultivated from Wood Cottage (Burnt Ash Hill site) was for roses. The site around Leyland Road (listed as Burnt Ash Lane) was used for trees and and shrubs as well as having greenhouse plants and other plants that needed warmth – stove plants. While they cultivated Brockely Nursery they had moved from there as the Billinghursts (see below) were there by 1880 (1),
It seems that before the end of the century there was a change in focus with a lot of plants being grown for seed – they were regualrly advertising their illustrated seed catalogue to the gardeners of south east London and beyond (2).
In the early 20th century, they would also have auctions of surplus stock in September each year. The 1910 sale included 20,000 winter blooming heaths, gorse, winter aconites, ferns and palms (3).
The land that is now part of Alanthus Close seems to have remained with the Mallers until around the mid 1920s. On Burnt Ash Hill they will have added the land of the former brickworks less the frontage onto Burnt Ash Hill and a development next to The Crown centring on Corona Road. This will have been an extension of the land cultivated from Wood Cottage.
It seems that the land was split three n the mid to late 1920s when the Mallers left. There were different names at 107 Burnt Ash Road (May Scotland), 111 Burnt Ash Road (George Friend Billinghurst) and Norris Buttle at Wood Cottage.
May Clark Scotland was appropriately Scottish, born in Perth, she was running a florists at 111 Lewisham High Street by 1911, the name over the door was Alexander Scotland.
George Billinghurst was born around 1871 and seems to have spent his early years in Eliot Place in Blackheath, his father Friend Billinghurst was also a gardener. There is no obvious link to the more well known Blackheath Billinghurst family, which included disabled suffragette (Rosa) May. They seem to have cultivated Brockley Nursery for a while (4), after the Mallers moved out, but family moved on to Croydon. By 1891 George was listed as a gardener, a decade later a florist and by 1911 a nurseryman living in Annerley Road.
Norris Buttle was living at 172 Ennersdale Road in 1901 and at 31 Leahurst Road in 1911 (these were probably the same house as the Ennersdale originally dog-legged around) – he was listed as a gardener then nursery gardener.
With all three of them, details beyond 1911 proved difficult to work out. Certainly none of them were at 72 Leyland Road – it was empty in 1939 as were 8 out of 10 the houses of that end side of the street going southwards. It was a different picture going northwards.
The land sandwiched between Leyland and Burnt Ash gradually was encroached upon with development at the southern end of Leyland Road although there were memories of roses being grown until the early 1960s when many Crown Estate leases ended.
And finally, while no longer cultivated, there is a small piece of undeveloped land where the nursery was – the green space to the south of Alanthus Close. On some satellite images of the area in drought conditions show rectangles, probably the ghosts of greenhouses past – a little less clear than the prefabs around Hilly Fields.
Kentish Mercury 16 August 1879
Kentish Mercury 09 February 1894
Kentish Mercury 02 September 1910
Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 3 July 1880
Census and related data come from Find My Past (subscription required)
We turn our attention to a street that was built somewhat later than all but the last two – Bankwell Road whose homes were completed in early 1909. It is a small road running from Lee High Road to the northern entrance to Manor House Gardens. The street is in what was the grounds of Lee Place.
The section in middle now has Bankwell Road at its centre. It was a field until the beginning of the 20th century. The eastern frontage onto Lee High was developed as shops next to those developed in the 1870s around 1910, on the opposite side of Bankwell Road was a cinema, Lee Picture Palace, run and almost certainly built by James Watt.
While Watt was a prolific builder, both in his own right and as a contractor on the Corbett Estate, he didn’t build the houses on Bankwell Road. That was a firm called Hatch and Hatch who were based at 62 Rushey Green, in the main they were auctioneers but did some speculative building work. They were owned by Robert Frarey who also had a builders’ merchants called Catford Building Supply Association who were based at 161 Rushey Green – a site still in the same business trading as Catford Timber (1).
The houses seem to have been completed in early 1909 with number 3 being used as a show house as there was a sale at auction of furniture from there (2). Number 3 was one of four houses on that side of the road that were to be sold by auction in March 1909 on 99-year leases (3). The houses on the western side, pictured below, were completed a few months later (4).
There were a lot of problems for the tenants of the houses in the months after – the owner was still Robert Frarey who had presumably failed to sell the homes in March 1909 (5). Frarey was summoned for failing to supply water to numbers 6 and 8 (6).
There were issues too with delays in sorting out pavements, the road surface and street lighting which prompted a letter from one of the residents of the street to the local press in May 1909 when the street still had builders materials scattered about and to reach the front door in wet weather almost required ‘top boots or a raft’ (7). While the Borough of Lewisham stepped in and adopted the road, they found it difficult to get the money out of the owners (8).
The reason for this was that Hatch and Hatch were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy – there was a creditors’ meeting in July 1909 where it became clear that one of the reasons for his debts was his inability to ‘realise property’ – presumably not selling on the homes in Bankwell Road and land owned in Wimbledon (9). It seems that by August 1909 the houses had been sold on, probably at a loss, by the Receivers (10).
One of the houses, probably number 12, described as a ‘pre-war villa’, was for sale for just £895 in 1927 (11).
The eastern side of the street with a then dairy at the corner is pictured below from early in their life.
So, who were the initial tenants many of whom had to live on a building site to start with? The 1911 Census was taken a couple of years after the houses were completed. A surprisingly high number of the 13 houses were empty (5, 6 & 11) when the enumerators called.
They were in the main young professionals with young children, the average age of the adults was 33. There were a couple of house shares – one three siblings (the Stevens at number 3) and the other two sisters and one of their husbands (the Trivett/Venner household at 7)..
Several were probably employed in local businesses – Edwin Linden at number 2 was a Clerk at a Cat and Dog Food Manufacturers. This may well have been Perfecta Foods which had been bought by Arthur Chilton King and was to become Chiltonian biscuits soon after. (There is a short post, which needs some updating from the early days of Running Past). The Linden family was to stay at number 2 until the late 1990s.
Also probably working at Chiltonian was Percy Jarrett from number 9 – he was listed as manager in a biscuit factory. Other trades included a provisions merchant, an electrical engineer, a couple of assistant teachers, a postal sorter, perhaps at Lee Sorting Office in what is now Woodyates Road, a Drapers’ Manager a Clerk for a Tent and Sail Maker – perhaps for John Edgington & Co who were to move in 36 Old Road after the war.
None of the married women worked but the Stevens sisters were both employed at a Telephone Exchange, perhaps the Lee Green one, then in Gilmore Road; the only other working woman was one of the Assistant Teachers, Grace Venner, who lived at number 7.
Before looking at the census records, the assumption had been that most of the adults would probably have been second generation migrants with parents having moved from elsewhere in the country to London. That was true of a few such as Draper’s Manager, Alexander Miller who hailed from Sydenham with a father from Poole in Dorset.
Madeline Trivett at number 7 was from Bermondsey and her teacher sister from Canning Town, three doors away Edith Howland seems to have come from Wandsworth – a lodger there was from what is now Tower Hamlets. So, only five out of twenty-six were born in London.
As the map shows, there was quite a spread across the country (there are three outliers all from Aberdeen, the Stevens siblings at number 3, which aren’t shown). Compared with the working class street of Robertson Street here are fewer Londoners and fewer from East Anglia and areas close to London. Compared with the wealthier early occupants of Southbrook Road, where 14% have been born in parts of the Empire, none fell into this category in Bankwell Road. As has already been alluded to there were considerably fewer Londoners too.
Of the children, unsurprisingly given the age of their parents most were local 10/14 were from what is the current Borough of Lewisham and three of the others within 5 miles.
It is only 10 houses so not too much can be inferred from it, but it is interesting that in one new street most came from outside the capital – migration to the city was still a significant feature.
Kentish Mercury 16 July 1909
Kentish Mercury 26 February 1909
Kentish Mercury 05 March 1909
Kentish Mercury 14 May 1909
Kentish Mercury 05 March 1909
Woolwich Gazette 11 June 1909
Kentish Mercury 14 May 1909
West Kent Argus and Borough of Lewisham News 19 October 1909
Kentish Mercury 16 July 1909
Kentish Mercury 13 August 1909
Sydenham, Forest Hill and Penge Gazette 8 July 1927
The photograph of the dairy and the eastern side of the street is used here with the kind permission of Bill Bowyer, it remains his copyright
Census and newspaper data is via Find my Past (subscription required)
The Ordnance Survey map is part of the collection of the National Library of Scotland, and is used here on a non-commercial licence
The migration map has been created with Google Maps
A while ago Running Past covered one of the more significant music venues in Lee, the still closed (mid 2022) Dirty South, the last incarnation of the Rose of Lee. A bit further down Lee High Road was El Partido, a short-lived club from early 1964 until some point towards the end of 1967. For a small venue above some shops away from central London it was able to attract a number of bands and artists who went onto have very successful careers including Elton John, Status Quo, influential prog rock band Gentle Giant., along with Jimmy Cliff early in his career and Bo Diddley a little past his peak.
El Partido was above numbers 8-12 Lee High Road, on the other side of the entrance to Clarendon Yard to the Sultan – a drinking haunt of Siouxsie Sioux amongst others. The buildings for both have gone, 8-12 is pictured on the right of the photograph below – mid-way between signs for Bonds Hats and the Coal Office from around 6 decades before.
When it opened it was probably above Jay’s Furnishing, hire purchase furnishers, whose ghost sign remains around the corner in Clarendon Rise, they had been there since the 1930s although they seem to have gone by 1965 and shop fronts below were empty. Whether their departure is linked to El Partido’s arrival isn’t clear.
El Partido was described as ‘a hangout for Mods and Jamaicans ….2 floors of live R&B, blues, ska and reggae, open all night and very noisy.’ In playing this mixture of music, particularly the reggae, it was unusual in the Lewisham of the mid 1960s. The club was described in a post on Transpontine blog as having
‘…. a small stage and very low ceilings just the place for live acts. Usually with two sound systems, one on each floor…..The smell of hash in the air people dancing everywhere.’
One of the best known (when he played) names to appear at El Partido was Bo Diddley in October 1965, although he was past his peak in terms of success. Nonetheless a set from Bo Diddley would have been something of a coup for the club. He had played numerous styles and influenced artists from Buddy Holly to the Beatles and the Clash. A couple of years before he had toured the UK with Little Richard, the Rolling Stones and the Everly Brothers.
Elton John (pictured a few years later), at that stage known as Reg Dwight, played with his then band, Bluesology, a couple of times in late 1965 and early 1966. Dwight’s alter ego, Elton John, wasn’t to emerge for another year or so. Bluesology also acted as the backing band for Major Lance a significant R&B and later Northern Soul artist who also appeared at El Partido in late 1965. Similarly Bluesology also provided the backing for the influential R&B singer Doris Troy in early 1966. She was later well known for being one of the backing singers on Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’
Simon Dupree and the Big Sound played there in early 1966, a psychedelic band, they neither included anyone called ‘Simon’, ‘Dupree’ and despite a hit with ‘Kite’, didn’t become ‘Big’; they nearly recruited the aforementioned keyboard player Reg Dwight who toured with them for a while in 1967. However, the Shulman brothers who made up most of the band, had some success and much more influence with the slightly odd prog rock band Gentle Giant in the 1970s.
The Drifters appeared there in early 1966; whether it was THE Drifters or a British group using the same name isn’t clear, if it was THE Drifters it isn’t clear which of the numerous variants it was.
In April 1966 Jimmy Cliff played, it would have been one of his earlier UK gigs soon after he signed to Island Records. On the same bill was Duke Reid who ‘dominated the Jamaican music scene of the 1960s, specialising in ska and rocksteady’ probably doing a DJ set at El Partido. A few weeks earlier Wilson Pickett was meant to have played but there seems to have been a double booking. Cliff was to return to El Partido in August 1966. (The album cover is from a couple of years later)
Carl Douglas was to appear a couple of times in the summer of 1966, eight years before his big hit – Kung Fu Fighting
The ‘Unbreakable’ Tea Set alas seem not to have been an early incarnation of Pink Floyd; the July date was in the summer of 1966 – they’d been known as Pink Floyd since late 1965, although the name change may have been prompted by, appearing on the same bill as the ‘unbreakable’ version.
The building was redeveloped into a fairly nondescript shop and office mix, probably in the mid 1990s, certainly it predates StreetView and the current Lewisham Planning Portal – a dental practice now occupies the cavity that Elton John performed in four times.
And finally …..there is a rumour of an appearance (although not performance) of Jimi Hendrix at El Partido. There are a fair number of rumours like this in the area, including a stay at the Station Hotel at Hither Green. There isn’t any clear evidence for any of them, but it is part of the musical folklore of the area, which is depicted in a mural in Manor Park close by.
The Kelly’s Directory information comes via Lewisham and Southwark Archives
The photograph of the lower end of Lee High Road is via Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission but remains their copyright
The advert for El Partido was a screen shot from Facebook a few years ago, it almost certainly originated in the music press, probably Melody Maker where the club regularly advertised. If its your image and you want me to take it down do let me know.
Over the years Running Past has looked at the impact of the Blitz and the V-1 and V-2 attacks at the end of World War Two, as well as looking at the preparations that were made ahead of war being declared. This post takes a slightly different tack, looking at one street and the impact that was felt there – Taunton Road, a street of mainly Victorian terraced houses running from Burnt Ash Road to Manor Lane.
In the main we’ll look at World War Two, but we’ll start with World War One; like virtually every other street there were young men who went to war from Lee but who never returned….
Frank Eugene Gamblin was just 19 when he died on 31 May 1918 in Northern France. He was the son of Thomas and Edith Gamblin of 50 Taunton Road (at the corner of Hedgley Street). He was a Private in the Devonshire Regiment. Frank had been working part time as a ‘Milk Boy’ aged 12 in 1911, still at school and living in Rhyme Road in Lewisham.
Just beyond the school, at 58 Taunton Road, lived William Jupp; he had been born in Lee, although the family have moved to Hove for a while but was in the street by the 1911 census. At that point he was still at school, but just over seven years later, on 24 August 1918, he died near Albert in Northern France, aged just 21, a rifleman in the London Regiment. His parents, Rachael and William, were still living in Taunton Road.
James Woodnott was a Private in the London Regiment who died at Aubers Ridge on 4 October 1918 in Northern France and was buried close by. Born in 1886 he was the oldest of the five who died. He had grown up in Dacre Street; by 1909 he had married Fanny, and in 1911 he was working as a carman living in Neuchatel Road in Catford. They were living at 83 Taunton Road, opposite the park entrance, as war broke out with two children, born in 1913 and 1914.
Another man with links to the street was Alfred Edward (Edwin) Braine. He had a couple of rooms at number 13 before he went to war. Born around 1881, he seems to have lived on the street for much of his life – growing up at 37. He was serving as a Sergeant in the Royal Field Artillery when he died towards the end of on the war on 20 September 1918 and is buried or commemorated at the Vis-en-Artois Memorial. He may well have joined the Army at 18, someone of a similar name (the middle name is listed as Edwin) and age signed up in October 1899 in the same regiment.
Charles Frederick Broad had grown up in Taunton Road, born around 1896 his parents, Rose and Huntley, were living at 84 Taunton Road by 1901. He was still at school in 1911 but died less than six years later aged just 20 in Belgium on New Year’s Day 1917 where he was buried at Spoilbank Cemetery (pictured below). He was a Lance Corporal in the London Regiment. His parents were Huntley Charles Broad and Rose Matilda Broad still of 84 Taunton Road.
Two doors away at 80, was the mother of Ernest E Jackson; he was a Corporal in the Royal Fusiliers and died at Gallipoli on 13 August 1915, aged 22. He may have no direct contact to Lee other than through her – Mrs Florence Brosinovich, who had married Henry in 1893. Ernest was almost certainly born Brosinovich.
For reasons that will become clear, we will continue with the group of houses to the west of the park entrance where the Brosinovich and Broad households lived. Unlike the bigger houses in the streets to the south, that part of Taunton Road hadn’t changed that much between 1911 and the outbreak of World War Two, it was still predominantly single-family homes, mainly housing skilled working-class households, when the 1939 Register was collected.
Florence Brosinovich and some of her family were still at 80, they shared with another couple. 80 was the only shared house in the group, two households with 5 people and all but Florence worked.
The Broads were still at 84, Charles’ younger brother was working as a local government officer and his father in his 60s was working as a printer. Their neighbours at 86 were the Buttons where Robert worked as a lorry driver and got the ‘heavy work’ supplement which would have entitled him to larger rations. On the other side at 82 were three women sharing, including typist Doreen Tew, who would have turned 19 in the autumn of 1939.
Others in the group of houses to the west of the park included Amos and Elizbeth Howick at 70 who were in their 60s, he was a bricklayer and he too would have been entitled to the ‘Heavy Work’ supplement in the rations. The Wilsons at 74, included paper hanger Henry in his early 50s, his work wouldn’t have got the supplement.
A little further down the street was Hedgley Street School (now Trinity), which is pictured above; there is a separate post on this but just before the 1939 Register was collated most of the children would have been evacuated to Ashford in Kent. Although given it was another year until the start of the Blitz, many children will have drifted back to Taunton Road and neighbouring streets by the time bombing started.
As the children moved out, the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) service moved in. Their role has been explored in an earlier post but one of the but several of the Noble family from 49 Lampmead Road were to be based there. This included Phyllis (later Willmott) and her brother Joe who was injured when school bombed and seriously damaged with the front part largely destroyed in 1941 – the school never re-assembled.
Oddly the Nobles were to move to the house next door to the school (52) which had a yard (now part of the school playground) for Phyllis father’s building business – a trade that would have been kept very busy with repairing local bomb damage.
One of the earliest bombs to hit the street was on 25 September 1940 when an Anderson shelter in the garden of number 1, a small house on the opposite side to Sainsburys, took a direct hit – Charles (who worked at RAF Kidbrooke) and Claire Rivers both died, along with their 7-year-old daughter Sylvia – orphaning several other children. There were 11 there in October 1939, including five who were redacted presumably children who weren’t evacuated. One of the surviving children, Ruby, ended up in an orphanage but was discovered by a brother were returned to Lewisham on leave and reunited her with other family members.
The deaths at number one weren’t the first from the street during World War Two though. Sylvia Wickens from number 7 had volunteered to be an ARP Warden, she was based in Lewisham Town Centre and was one of 41 who died at Albion Way on 11 September 1940, when a public shelter took a direct hit.
Returning to the Taunton Road, the most damaging raid was just before Christmas in 1940, when the section of the street that we covered above in relation to the 1939 Register was hit by a High Explosive bomb on 15 December. 82 probably took a direct hit as there was most damage there, but several other houses were destroyed beyond repair and replaced after the war with council homes.
At 82 there were two deaths – one was the 23-year-old Monica Tew, who was listed as the daughter of H Tew. It may be remembered that Monica’s sister, Doreen was living there in 1939, the Tews may be have been displaced by earlier raids elsewhere.
82 was a shared house by 1940, also there were the Setons whose 7-year-old daughter Elizabeth also perished. She had probably been originally been evacuated (see above) but had later returned to Lewisham.
Assuming that Florence Brosinovich had remained at 80 in the year since the 1939 Register was collected, she would have been made homeless – it seems that she moved to somewhere in the Reigate, Godstone, Dorking and Epsom area of Surrey where she died before the war was out in 1943.
At the end of the War, on VE Day there were celebrations of the end of the war, no doubt they were tempered by the deaths and injuries to friends and neighbours. There was certainly a party on Taunton Road, possibly two. The photograph above is taken from around the park entrance looking back towards Wantage Road – there is a concrete air raid shelter in the background. The one below is in the section close to Burnt Ash Road that was redeveloped 20 years or so later.
Thank you to David Carter for the information about his family who were orphaned in September 1940 link here
The photographs of VE parties are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with permission but remain their copyright
The photograph of Hedgely Street School is from a booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p15 – it remains their copyright and was accessed via Lewisham Archives and was used with the permission of both
The census and related data comes via Find My Past (subscription required)
Catford has lost many sports venues over the years – notably the Greyhound Stadium, but also a velodrome, The Mount which was once home to Charlton Athletic, a former ground of London Irish, another smaller greyhound and midget car racing track as well as a significant cricket ground in Penerley Road. Another of these lost sporting venues was Bellingham Lido which opened in July 1922, it was one of the first in inner London and was apparently, at the time, the longest pool in London. It was to open its doors during summer months for hardy swimmers for almost 60 years. We’ll look at its development and demise, putting it in the context of other London lidos and open-air swimming facilities.
The backdrop to the development was the conversion of Bellingham from farmland to homes in the early 1920s. Interestingly at the time, it was referred to as a ‘garden city’ a ‘new town of ten thousand’ – based on principles adopted in the building of Letchworth twenty years before (1).
While Bellingham was a London County Council (LCC) estate, some of the facilities in surrounding areas were provided the Borough Council, Lewisham. The site, for those not familiar with it, was a slightly awkward one between the Ravensbourne and the railway – about a hundred metres south of Bellingham station, access was over the river – the map below shows the location and layout, just post World War 2.
What was initially referred to as either an open-air swimming pool or an air pool, cost between £8,000 and £9,000 over a period of about 9 months. In addition to providing swimming and bathing facilities for Bellingham ‘garden city’ and Catford it was used as a means of reducing local unemployment. The work was carried out in-house by the Borough Council with 38 unemployed local men being used to build the pool (2).
The Mayor, Cllr C H Dodd (of the still trading Blackheath solicitors, who started life in Eltham Road), opened the pool describing it as ‘the largest and finest’ in London (3). Kathleen Dodd, his niece, and the Lady Mayoress, was the first to take the plunge into the cold water accompanied by the King sisters from Forest Hill Swimming Club (4)– she is pictured below (5); a swimming gala followed.
It seems that the LCC watched its building with interest as around the time of its opening were asking for expressions of interest for building open air swimming pools form other Borough Councils (6).
While there is no evidence that she swam here it would be good to think that Hilda ‘Laddie’ Sharp, Hither Green’s pioneering Channel swimmer might have at least done some training here – she swam the Channel in 1928.
Water initially drained into the Ravensbourne and there was no filtration plant initially built as part of the lido – water was drained late on Sunday mornings into the Ravensbourne and then refilled. Presumably the quality of water was poor by the end of Sunday morning’s session. A new filtration plant was agreed in late 1929. Around £9000 was borrowed from the Ministry of Health for this along with increasing the ‘number of first and second class slipper baths’ from 31 to 57 at Ladywell and 12 to 25 at Bell Green. The inspector noted ‘you will be quite clean in Lewisham.’ (7).
Whilst Bellingham may have been the first lido in what was then the old London County Council area it was by no means the first open water swimming in what we would now regard as London. Several ponds that had been used for years for swimming, notably those on Hampstead Heath whose usage dates from around 1800 and the as well as the Serpentine soon after (8). Outside what was the LCC area were already several open-air swimming pools in South London including Erith (built in 1906), Croydon (1909), Wimbledon (1913) along with Tooting Bec (1906) (9).
At their peak in 1939, the leader of the LCC Herbert Morrison described London as a ‘City of Lidos’ – there were a staggering 67 lidos open that year (10). In neighbouring areas this included Brockwell, Danson Park, Eltham Park, Charlton, Bromley Southlands, Peckham Rye, St Mary Cray and Southwark Park (11).
In addition to issues around filtration there were serious problems with leakages – having to be refurbished over the winter of 1959/60 and opening a little late for the summer of 1960. (12). Fond memories of the lido from this era and a bit later often appear in Facebook threads in the various Lewisham reminiscence groups.
The lido closed in 1980 (13) – presumably as a result of the public expenditure cuts that most councils had to make in the early years of the Conservative Government led by Margaret Thatcher.
It was a similar fate that beset most of the local lidos – Danson Park and Bromley both closed in 1980 too, although Bromley re-opened for a while in the mid-1980s, the last length was swum in 1987; Peckham Rye also closed in 1987, Southwark Park in 1989 and Eltham Park in 1990 (14) – its outline is still fairly clear though.
Whilst now having no lido, Lewisham does now have open water swimming in Beckenham Place Park (pictured below) – it’s part of the conversion from an underused golf course to a well-used public park. There was £440k grant funding from the Greater London Authority (a successor of the LCC) for both the pool and large scale tree planting, it opened in 2019. It is open year-round although booking is required.
As for the Bellingham Lido site, it was eventually replaced with the social housing of Orford Road, let from around 1990.
Sydenham, Forest Hill & Penge Gazette 28 July 1922
Brockley News, New Cross and Hatcham Review 4 August 1922
from Bromley & West Kent Mercury 4 August 1922
Forest Hill & Sydenham Examiner 4 August 1922
Forest Hill & Sydenham Examiner 27 December 1929
Simon Inglis (2014) Played in London (Swindon, English Heritage) p155
ibid pp 158-159
ibid pp 158-159
Sydenham, Forest Hill & Penge Gazette – 24 June 1960
We’ll take the same approach to the narrative as we did in the first post, generally looking at shops eastwards from Lee Green.
2-4 Eltham Road
We had left this pair of shops as a grocer which was part of a south east London chain of around 15 branches – Webb and Ellen. They remained until around 1906 when number 2 was acquired by London and Provincial Bank – it straddled the corner of Burnt Ash and Eltham Roads and had addresses in both roads at various stages – it was covered in part on the post on Burnt Ash Road shops too. It seems likely that the building was partially rebuilt on the Burnt Ash Road side but on Eltham Road side, if any building work was undertaken it was done to match existing properties.
The Bank went through through two name changes in quick succession – firstly, in 1918 when it became the snappily titled London, Provincial and South Western Bank. following a merger with the London and South Western Bank. The latter also had a branch that we’ve already covered at the junction of Lee High and Brightfield Roads which was origianlly a temperance coffee tavern. Probably by the time the sign writers had finished the new title, it had become redundant as it was taken over by Barclays later in 1918. It seems to have stayed a Barclays branch until the parade was demolished in the 1960s.
Initially, 2 and 4 were let separately, in 1905, number 4 was an off licence run by John Lovibond & Sons. They were the owners of the Greenwich Brewery at 177 Greenwich High Road, almost next to the station, although it was a firm which originated in Somerset. In 1911 it was being run by Harry Beney who lived over the shop. It seems that they may have done a deal with Barclays in the early 1920s as around they moved from one side of the bank to 1a Burnt Ash Road around 1925, where they remained until that parade was demolished.
In its early days, the bank manager was Harry Kitto who lived over the bank; but from the late 1930s the rooms above the Bank were let out to solicitors Page, Moore and Page who remained there until around 1960, although there was no Moore towards the end. From around 1950 they were joined by accountants Levett and Co.
6 Eltham Road
We’d left number 6 with Frank Sanders running a bakers and confectioners; it had been in the same trade for at least 30 years and was to continue in that trade until the bulldozers moved in during the 1960s. Frank Sanders was from Hounslow and had arrived with his large family from Reigate. Given where his children were born, he may have been commuting from Reigate to start with, but by 1911 Frank, his wife Alice and 9 children were living above the shop.
The Sanders name continued until around 1935, when Frank presumably retired – he died in Lewisham in 1938. The new name over the window was Ernest John Hall, it was a surname that continue until the end of the parade. Little is known about him other than the marriage to Annie who seems to have taken over the busines around 1950. The Halls didn’t seem to live above the shop, in 1939 it was home to Frederick Dundas who worked as a fitter at RAF Kidbrooke, there with wife and probably 5 children, most were redacted though.
8 Eltham Road
Tanner and Hook had taken over the business in the early 1890s, they had one other shop at 287 Brockley Road. The ‘Tanner’ was Arthur Tanner was from Banbury in Oxfordshire, it was a family business with a sister and shop assistant living with his over the ‘Fancy Draper’s’ shop in 1911. Their shop from this era is at the right of the postcard below.
The name stayed on until around Arthur’s death in 1926 and then became a tobacconist which changed hands several times before Alan John Martin took over during World War 2. He was to stay until the end of the parade in although it wasn’t possible to find any more about him.
During the 1930s and during the war, it was a building that was home to several other businesses – a house agent run by Thomas Jones and a series of hairdressers. Part of the upper floors were also let as a flat in 1939. In the early 1960s Perry’s Restaurant was also there but it sems like a short-lived enterprise.
10 Eltham Road
The greengrocer and fruiterer which had been run by Walter William Wood of Horn Park Farm, since the 1890s continued into the 1930s, although run by Sydney after Walter’s death in 1924. They moved to 34 Eltham Road around 1935. The shop in Walter’s time is towards the right of the postcard above.
The shop became a butcher; initially the name over the window was Herbert J Jackman, but it may well have actually been run by John Dennis. Dennis had been living in Cambridge Drive since 1901 and seems to have come from the same part of Cornwall as the draper Charles Reed. Certainly, Dennis’ name was over the window in the early 1940s, presumably until his death in 1946. It remained a butcher until the end with the last name that of John Manson.
Like much of the rest of the parade, by 1939, the rooms above the shop were being let out – to a ship and house painter.
12 Eltham Road
We’d left number 12 in 1905 as a stationers and bookseller under the stewardship of Alfred Wilson. Wilson lived two doors away in Cambridge Drive from his parade next door neighbour, John Dennis. By 1911 though there were new names over the window, cousins (Percy) Jennings and (Stewart) Hill, they were aged 25 and 32 respectively – they lived above the shop. Also above the shop in 1911, but not for long, was solicitor Charles Henry Dodd, a firm that still exists in Blackheath – he was later to become Major of Lewisham on three occasions.
It was just Percy listed in Kelly’s in 1916, but he had left by the time the Directory was published. He had signed up with the London Regiment in November 1915. He never returned to Eltham Road – as he was killed in action in West Flanders on 23 January 1917. Percy’s sister, Lillian Jennings, seems to have run the the business after he enlisted in the army and it was her name over the window in 1920. Harold Tibbles took over the business which continued until the early 1930s when Reed’s expanded again.
18 Eltham Road
In 1905 18 Eltham Road was part of the Reed, soon to become Griffith, empire. John Grffith soon expanded into the shop fronts at the other side of Carston Mews and knocked through into the shops on Burnt Ash Road. They seem to have moved out of 18-26 Eltham Road around the beginning of the war and the empty shop, along with its neighbours, was requisitioned by the army.
The shop front seems to have remained empty until 1925 South East Premier Garage, Motor Engineers moved in, they may well have been using some of Carston Mews behind too. They’d gone by 1935 though, when Show Card Makers, Cut Out Press were there but they had gone by the time war broke out again when both shop and the floors above were empty.
The shop remained empty until around 1950 when Crystal Chemical Co (Lee Green) were there and the final years saw the shop front split between two odd bedfellows – Juno Fashionwear and coopers Robert Tyson.
20 Eltham Road
Like 18, 20 went from being part of the Reed ‘empire’ in 1905 to Griffith & Co., to empty, to being requisitioned by the army. It was to remain empty until around 1930 when it became home to a small manufacturing unit run by John Barber who was listed in Kelly’s as a Leather Goods Manufacturer. Like the garage at 18, this was a move away from the retail uses. As we’ll return to in a future post, history is repeating itself with some of the non-retail uses of the declining Leegate Centre.
John Barber would have been in his late 30s when he moved to the parade – he didn’t live over the shop – he was at 50 Effingham Road in 1939, with his wife Lilian. He seems to have come from a family who worked in the leather trade; born in Camberwell, his father was listed in various censuses as a leather cutter (1901) and harness maker (1911). It is a business that remained until the end of the parade in the early 1960s.
The floors above the shop seem to have been let briefly to a Wireless Supplies dealer around 1935, but had been turned over to unlinked flats in 1939 and presumably was the same in the years after.
22 Eltham Road
Prior to World War 1, this had always been part of the Reed empire, it had been one of the shops where they started. After the drapers moved along the road the shop was then requisitioned. The first retail use after World War One was around 1930 when Stanley Pooles opened a Grocer’s. He was gone by 1935 as Victor Webling was plying the same trade – he’d been around the area since around 1925 when he married Kathleen in Lewisham, they were living in Grove Park in 1939. Victor stayed until the end of the parade and remained in Lewisham until his death in 1978.
24 Eltham Road
Like the near neighbours, 24 remained empty after Griffith & Co moved out and the army moved in and then on – it was to stay this way until 1930. It was probably symptomatic of the decline of the area – which had gone from very large houses which were homes to single families with several servants to the houses becoming subdivided into flats – we saw this in the post on the houses that were on the Eltham Road frontage of what is now Leybridge Court, along with one the nearby St Peter’s Church. The wealth disappeared as the houses were subdivided.
Around 1930 Davis and Carter, who were wholesale stationers, moved into 24 – they were to be a feature on the parade until its demise. The rooms that once acted as a workers’ hostel for Reed’s were subdivided into four flats by 1939.
26 Eltham Road
This had been the last of the Reed/Griffith shops before they shuffled along the parade around the outbreak of World War 1. Like the others, it was requisitioned by the Army but emerged as another non-retail use by 1925 – Lee Green Temperance Billiard Hall. There were several such premises in south east London at this stage – the best known at the junction of Courthill Road and Lewisham High Street (which was later Riley’s).
The Billiard Hall was to last much longer than the decade of the temperance Jubilee Coffee Tavern a couple of hundred metre away at the corner of Lee High and Brightfield Roads. At the outbreak of World War 2, it was managed by Edward Fuller who lived above the green baize tables with his daughter, May. He survived World War 2 by a few days. It may have been a one-man operation as it was soon taken over by the British Legion (Lee Green) Club in whose stewardship the premises remained until the bulldozers moved in.
28 Eltham Road
We’d left 28 with the name of Charles Henry Lenn over the window of a shop selling china and glass. It had probably been there since the parade opened; Charles had died in 1898 but the business carried on in his name, in 1911 run by daughters Susannah, Emma and Caroline who were still living over the shop along with their sister in law Lilian. They moved on within a few years and the sisters were living in Somerset by 1921. The shop is on the left of the postcard below.
By 1916 there was a new name to the parade, although not to Lee Green. Frederick Lear had moved from 118 Lee Road where he’d been trading as an antique furniture dealer in 1911. He was born in 1859 and was from Cheltenham, his wife Laura from Jersey helped with the business. It was a business that they’d moved several times before it had been in Deptford in 1891 and Lewisham High Street in 1901. Frederick died soon after they moved in and the shop was empty in 1920.
Herbert Lindley was running a confectioner in 1925, one of a series of different trades he’d tried – it was different in every census. This one didn’t seem to last either as Walter J Mercer was running a café, referred to as ‘refreshment rooms’ in the 1930 Kelly’s. Mercer didn’t stay that long as by 1935 Robert Flett was there running what was still a café. His wife Alexandra was a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force driver, presumably based at Kidbrooke. Robert also was an agent for coach bookings. In a separate household above the shop were the retired Smiths.
We’d left Frederick Miller undertaking boot and shoe making duties on the parade in 1905, but he was living elsewhere – in Clarendon Road (now Rise) in the 1901 census. The name over the window stayed until around the outbreak of World War 1 when it had changed to Samuel Gilbert who continued with the same trade.
It may well be that like neighbouring properties it was requisitioned by the military – there was no business there in 1920. By the mid-1920s Rosie Coombs was running a milliner’s shop which remained the case for a decade, it was a property shared initially with auctioneer Thomas Jones (who moved to number 8) and then the hairdressers Miss A P Measures.
Around the time World War 2 broke out Vera Boore had taken over the milliner’s shop, she lived around the corner in Leyland Road. There was no obvious sign of bomb damage on the property, but it wasn’t a business that survived the war, maybe it was the rationing of clothes that saw the business close.
Another non-retail activity started in 1950 – a Christian Science Reading Room which remained until the demolition company moved in.
32 Eltham Road
In 1905 number 32 was an outpost of Griffith and Co. This had changed by1911 when it became a tobacconist turn by George Harry Buttler, he was there wife Sarah and daughter Ruby who was a shop assistant in the shop along with a young servant. Like 18 to 28, the shop is not listed as having a business in 1920 – it may well have been with the Army in those years.
For around a decade it was an extended part of Howard Perceval’s Outfitters (see 34) but by 1935 was a stationer run by Constance Tibbles – she’d given up by the time war broke out again though and was listed as a typist living in Blackheath in 1939. The supply of stationery had been taken over by David Evans who lived in the newly built Woodyates Road. It didn’t survive the war though.
The shop was empty for most of the rest of its history apart from a period when the Woods extended from 34.
34 Eltham Road
We’d left the shop and the nursery on the land next door in 1905 with both managed by James Walton. James had been there since at least 1871, probably a few years before. By this stage James was in his early 70s – whether the land became too much for hm isn’t clear but by 1911 the family business was trading around the corner at 7 Burnt Ash Road.
From 1911, the land and shop were split. The nursery was cultivated by Walter Wood from Horn Park Farm (immediately above) who also traded at 10 Eltham Road (see earlier in the post). The shop was an outfitter’s run by Howard Percival, little was able to be found out about him – although he is also listed as having a similar business from around 1915 close to Blackheath Station at 3 Lee Road and his wife (Mrs H) having a confectioner close to Lee Green at 129 Lee Road. He expanded into 32 by 1925 but had gone from the parade within the decade.
By 1935 the Woods had taken over 34 (having moved from number 10) – it isn’t clear whether the was still farming, the land for Horn Park Farm was rapidly being sold for housing development by the Crown – notably the Horn Park Lane area for private sector houses and the area around the original farm for council homes. Sydney was made bankrupt in 1935/36 but was still listed as a ‘farmer etc.’ in the 1939 Register, living at 3 Guibal Road. The farming may just have been the small holding at 34 – by 1948 it had lost the greenhouses that had been there in the Victorian period. The current location is the paved area of Leegate and the units behind.
There was expansion into 32 by 1950 and the shop and presumably the land seem to have been run by Sydney until around 1960, when he would have been 67. Walter Burvill took on the shop for is last few years.
It is clear that the parade struggled towards the end. Certainly, elsewhere in neighbouring streets such as Osberton and Leyland Roads, along with along Eltham Road itself, the Crown Estate was letting the 99 year leases granted in in the mid-1860s run down and the area seems to have become quite neglected.
Road traffic was increasing too and the shops only allowed for one row of traffic in each direction with a bus stop in front of Reeds – the current road layout with 3 lanes westwards barely copes with traffic volumes at times. Had they survived longer no doubt the parade would later have come under pressure from transport planners.
At some point in the not too distant future we will turn our attention to what came after – the development (and demise) of the Leegate Centre.
Notes & Credits
The ‘story’ of the parade in this and other posts has been pieced together using census data from 1871 and Kelly’s Directories, generally looking at every 5th year from the early 1880s
All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
The Kelly’s Directory data was accessed via Southwark and Lewisham Archives
The black and white postcards and photographs of the parade along with the painting of Horn PArk Farm are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright
In the previous post on this parade we looked at the origins of Eastbourne and Orchard Terraces, which were to become 2-34 Eltham Road, seeing the change from rural Lee Green from Lee Green Farm to a shopping parade for what was then suburban London. We left the parade in 1905 and will return return to those shops, but first we will turn our attention to the dominant name on this south east quadrant of Lee Green – Reeds. It was so dominant that this part of Lee Green was referred to as ‘Reed’s Corner.’
The ‘Reed’ initially referred to C H Reed & Co and the C H Reed was Charles Henry Reed who moved Lee Green in 1866. Their ‘empire’ came to dominate the Eltham Road shops (and some of those around the corner in Burnt Ash Road) often taking over empty shops when they became vacant.
Charles had been born in 1839 in North Cornwall, his wife Maria (probably nee Nichols), also came from Cornwall. Their starting point on the parade seems to have been 20 & 22 Eltham Road, then 2 and 3 Eastbourne Terrace, certainly that was the case in the 1871 census.
Charles was noted as having 10 Assistants and 6 Apprentices in 1871, as was to be the pattern for decades to come most of these lived on site, along with a cook and a housemaid.
A decade later the business had expanded into what is now 18 Eltham Road as the Galloways moved further along the parade and eastwards, Charles had taken over 24 and 26 – a total of 5 shop fronts. While listed as a drapers, it was making and selling furniture and some clothes too. The extended business required a lot more staff and the upper floors of the parade were effectively turned into a hostel – while most of the trades of those listed in the census were drapery related – there were two cabinet makers, two dressmakers, a mantle maker and a furniture sales apprentice, along with several dealing with deliveries. Most were under 30 and the majority men.
No longer there in 1881 though was Charles’ wife, Maria, she was living in Forest Hill with Charles William, born in 1873, sometimes referred to as William, along with a daughter Maria (seemingly later referred to as Beatrice, 1875) and Ernest (1881). Whether they were separated or not it wasn’t clear.
Reeds were regualr advertisers in the local press and as the cutting below from 1887 expanded into supplying carpets and other floor coverings for the wealthy folks in the large houses of Lee.
By 1891 the empire had taken on its sixth shop, when Jemima Dadley moved on from 16 Eltham Road. The shop was opened as an ironmonger’s, a business type that had been absent for 20 years on the parade (and round the corner in Burnt Ash Road). Charles was still listed as living at Eltham Road. The drapery and associated trades hostel over the shop had expanded – there were now 56 people living above the shops. The postcard below is probably from around this era, with Reeds on the far left.
The business extended into Burnt Ash Road by the mid-1890s, moving the furnishing part of the business there. Charles died in 1895 although this son Charles William continued to run the shops for another decade until selling up to Griffiths and Co around 1905 (their name is on the postcard below).
While it may have initially been ‘round the corner’ at some stage around this point there had been a ‘knocking through’ from Eltham Road into Burnt Ash Road – whilst the 1893 surveyed map below, shows them as separate, this was not the case by 1914 (second map) or indeed after World War Two (final map).
The Griffith was John Griffith, born in Aberdaron around 1859 in the far north west tip of Wales. He was married to Rosina and seemed to have arrived via Reigate where their daughter was born in 1902. They continued the Reed approach to housing staff over the shops – in 1911 there were 27 with 6 live-in servants.
The number of shop fronts that Griffith & Co used declined though with 32 reverting to other trades from 1911.
They also seem to have moved out of 18-26 as there is an interesting photograph of the shop from World War 1 with the shutters down, the Griffith name still there, and soldiers billeted in the rooms above the shops. Presumably, the army had requisitioned what was probably an empty building, in the same way as they had for the Ravensbourne Athletic clubhouse (now part of Ravens Way) a few hundred metres further up Eltham Road. Griffith & Co seemed to have focussed the business on the shops on the other side of Carston Mews (the bit that refers to Thomas Tilling at the right of the photograph).
By 1916 though the Reed name was back as Charles’ son William Reed was running the business. Like John Griffith, he was only using 14-16 Eltham Road off the right of the photo (along with the Burnt Ash Road shop fronts). 18 – 26 to the east of Carsten Mews were empty until at least 1920. The building seems to have been converted back into individual shops to be let as single businesses – this is clear from the Ordnance Survey maps above for 1914 and 1948.
There was another name change around 1925. William died in 1924 and the shop was then known as Reeds (Lee).
The new Reed was William’s brother Ernest, who in the 1939 Register, was living just around the corner in Leyland Road. By this time there had been an expansion into 12, next to an existing shop. They may well also have extended the showrooms for the shop upwards as unlike most of the rest of the parade there was no private renting above the shops.
The Reed name was there until the bulldozers moved in – still listed in the 1965 Kelly’s Directory. Ernest died in 1966 in Lewisham. The family name had been there for almost all of the 100 years that the parade was there.
In the next post we’ll return to the rest of the shops in the parade to see how they fared after 1905 until the end of the parade in the 1960s.
Notes & Credits
The ‘story’ of the parade has been pieced together using census data from 1871 and Kelly’s Directories, generally looking at every 5th year from the early 1880s
All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
The Kelly’s Directory data was accessed via Southwark and Lewisham Archives
The black and white postcards and photographs of the parade are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright
The Ordnance Survey maps are on a non Commerical Licence from the National Library of Scotland (1897, 1914 and 1948)
The press cutting is from the Woolwich Gazette 4 March 1887