Logically this post should start at the beginning but there is no scenic setting for the source of the Upper Kid Brook, and I don’t want to put readers off so the end, the outflow, must be the beginning on this occasion – alongside the St Stephen’s Church, Lewisham.
Its architect was George Gilbert Scott, better known for his gothic revival work, such as St Giles, Camberwell, and the St Pancras hotel and station. St Stephens is somewhat different –
thirteenth-century, with some French details – ‘eclecticism of a chastened kind, and the union in some degree of the merits of the different styles’
But as rivers should be followed downstream, it is back to the beginning in what used to be a marshy area in north east corner in bend of Hervey Road at the junction with Begbie Road, close to the lower end of Shooters Hill Road. There is nothing tangible to see of the Brook around here, there are upstream pointing contour lines of the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map at 40 metres, close to the north western corner of the playing field between Begbie Road and Wricklemarsh Road.
The 35 metre OS map contour clue is in the gardens of homes close to the south eastern side of the Kidbrooke Grove and Kidbrooke Gardens. On the ground another distinguishable dip on Kidbrooke Grove and the Victorian ‘Brook House’ offer further hints as to the course.
To the west of Kidbrooke Grove there are some man-made signs of the course of the still underground the Brook (it was apparently piped underground around here at the time the railway was built in 1849) – old boundary markers that followed the Brook are alongside the path bordering Morden College on a narrow fenced off green strip of grass. This ‘strip’ is clear from the OS map too as the ‘valley’ marked by the 35 metre contour is around 25 metres wide centring on the path.
There is more of the same at the front of Morden College as the contours and boundary markers cuts across its grounds – there is a marker on their front lawn and then another against the far wall of the Lodge.
The next few metres of the route are easy to work out; the ground drops away quickly to the east of the Paragon. Perhaps once the Brook babbled and tumbled down a series of small waterfalls in some pastoral idyll, but the current reality is a little less bucolic, it is almost certainly the same as much of the route so far – at best, a buried pipe.
Behind the Paragon the Brook flows through the Fulthorp Road estate, named after a 15the century landowner, the land was compulsorily purchased by Greenwich Council after WW2 and was the first council housing within the Cator Estate in1954 using a neo-Georgian style to try to fit in with the surrounding architecture.
The Brook used to supply a pond on the imaginatively named Pond Road, which formed a reservoir for the Wricklemarsh Estate.
While the pond is long gone, its western side is clearly demarked by the low boundary wall. The Brook’s course was to the west south west from the pond, although this may well have changed once it was diverted underground.
Below the Pond there were considerable problems with winter flooding due to heavy rain and snow melt with flooding of up to three feet (one metre) reported around the current centre of the ‘village’ (1). One of the methods used to try to alleviate the problem was the creation of a series of small reservoirs – the biggest of which was known as The Canal and was behind the current Blackheath Grove. The water was used to irrigate Hally’s Nursery there in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (2).
There had been an attempt to alter the course of the Brook in the dip in ‘The Village’, which was then referred to as Dowager’s Bottom (orHole), in the early 18th century by Gregory Page, owner of Wricklemarsh. It was perhaps an early attempt to deal with flooding problems, but Page was ordered by a court at the Green Man on Blackheath Hill to restore the line of the stream or pay a penalty of £10 (3).
The Brook’s valley was taken over by the North Kent Railway from 1849 and the Brook itself hidden from view. It flowed along the back of what is now Blackheath Grove, under the Post Office then crossing Tranquil Vale opposite the entrance to the station car park. The old boundaries would have it flowing just north of the car park, which was once railway sidings, but Edith’s Streets suggests a re-routing at this point to allow housing. It may actually have been buried under the tracks at this point, there are suggestions that after heavy rain it can be heard whilst waiting on the platforms, this may of course be just wishful thinking ….
There was frequent flooding from the Brook in this area too; Neil Rhind’s excellent book on Blackheath, refers to clearing them being a task for the Hollis family, who lived in former cottages in Tranquil Vale (4).
Its former route of the Brook is almost certainly hidden beneath the 1970s Lewisham council housing of Hurren Close, and then crossing Heath Lane (formerly Lovers Lane) to St Jospeh’s Vale.
Just before this point, there may have been a small tributary joining the Brook, there is a small valley clear on OS maps, starting around The Orchard on the Heath, as well as an obvious dip in Eliot Vale, the course would have then broadly followed Baizdon Road to the Brook.
The 1894 large scale OS map has the Brook feeding two small lakes, one complete with a boating house, which were part of the estate of The Cedars on Belmont Hill. There are upstream pointing 20 metre contours line is at the south western edge of St Josephs Vale.
(Alan Godfrey 1894 Blackheath and Greenwich Park)
The course then cuts to the other side of the railway around the bottom of Belmont Grove, where not to be outdone by their neighbours, the owners of Belmont, another large house on Belmont Hill also had a small lake fed by the Brook. Belmont was where roads such as Boyne and Caterham Roads now sit.
The lake has long since gone; most recently covered by a housing association development whose service road, at the top of Cressingham Road, the Brook follows. It continues through the back gardens between Cressingham and Boyne Roads. There is another tell-tale dip in the road in Lockmeade Road before following St Stephens Grove for the last 100 metres or so to The Quaggy.
There used to be an old boundary stone that marked the outflow point just south of St Stephen’s Church, but this may have disappeared with the development of the police station. Unlike the Mid Kid Brook, even the outflow isn’t that obvious – there are three pipes above the channelised bank of The Quaggy which all flowed in the rain but were water free on a dry day.
1 Rhind, N (1976) Blackheath Village and Environs 1790 to 1970 (Bookshop Blackheath Ltd.) p71
2 ibid p71
3 ibid p67
4 ibid p105