On the corner of Waite Davies Road in Lee, high above street level, is a fading painted sign of a street name that is no more – Butterfield Street. It is now known by the name of a long-serving pastor who was based at a chapel opposite the sign – it is an interesting story.
The eastern end of Butterfield Street was a late Victorian development, just off Baring Road (then Burnt Ash Road) its name possibly relating to a former field, presumably like its near neighbour Summerfield Street. There was still, just, a farm nearby, Burnt Ash Farm, on the corner of St Mildred’s Road and Baring Road. The farm site was later to house United Dairies Depot, nearly became a Big Yellow Storage Depot but is now a housing association development.
Butterfield Street had an eponymous dairy run by Thomas Clark which in 1913 had 28 cows.
The Clark family had been farming in Lewisham since at least the end of the 18th century at Holloway Farm (roughly where Farmfield Road on the Downham Estate is now) and by 1841 had moved to College Farm, around Lewisham Town Centre (1).
By the 1870s, Thomas Clark had a small holding at what was to become Butterfield Street which was known as Clark’s Dairy. The diary became gradually surrounded by the growth of Butterfield Street – the eastern end in the late 19th century and westwards in the 1930s.
Thomas Clark was born in 1841 was married to Elizabeth, who hailed from Cuxton, near Chatham. In the 1881 census, the family was listed at 15 Butterfield Street, with six children (they were to have 10 children in total, although only 7 survived until the 1911 census). They used a field by the railway, presumably where the Willow Tree riding school now is, and they had 40 cows in a field roughly where Harland Road is now (2). This latter field was developed by the the builders W J Scudamore in the 1930s – something previously covered by Running Past . The fields and farm are pictured in this slightly blurry picture (see below for credits.)
The dairy seems to have been the base for a milk round which initially included Blackheath Standard and Morden College, but during WW2 restrictions meant that the round was just around Baring Road and Burnt Ash Hill. World War 2 also saw the cows evacuated to Ashford following Bomb damage, probably a V1 rocket on 16 June 1944 which hit Ronver Road.
It seems that the evacuation of the cows was only a temporary one, local residents have memories of cows being walked along Baring Road in the 1970s.
There were lots of recollections of horse and cart deliveries went on into the 1970s. This was also confirmed by Birchenough (3). The deliveries were latterly done by a family member Sid, who had some help from a lad on a Saturday. There are lots of memories of his horse Charlie who was remembered as being the last working milk horse in London. Charlie knew his ‘round’ and at
the bottom of Rayford Avenue was the end of the round and would often turn himself and the wagon around and bolt up the road for his stable with the wagon swaying, bottles rattling, and the milkie puffing along behind, swearing under his breath!
Some groceries were also sold from the dairy and regular local customers were allowed to keep a ‘slate’ when finances were stretched.
(At) Christmas time they would have a few live turkeys in the yard and you picked the one you wanted then picked it up nearer the day once it had been despatched! It was a lovely house and yard.
The farm house (pictured above, presumably with one of the Clark family at the gate) was at number 33 and still remains. The dairy was behind and the site and some of the buildings remain – it was used was used for a while by MJ Mechanical Services and then for many years by gas and plumbing contractors, P & R Installations. It was redeveloped for housing in 2016 and is now known as Old Dairy Lodge. The buildings have been much altered and/or replaced since Thomas Clark’s days there.
As for Butterfield Street itself, it quickly developed a a certain notoriety in terms of living conditions; the 1903 Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Lewisham noted that
The streets known as Butterfield Street, Summerfield Street and Ronver Road do not bear a good reputation, although the houses are in a fair condition structurally.
The change in name came in the 1930s, James Waite Davies was a Baptist pastor who worked at, what became known as, the South Lee Tabernacle from 1905. Waite Davies was born in 1861 in Newbury in Berkshire. The 1911 census showed him as living at 29 Baring Road, he had been married Kate, also from Newbury for six years, it was probably his second marriage as his oldest daughter living at home was then 20, he also had sons of 12 and three and another daughter of 5. All the children had been born in Lee.
In 1916 Kelly’s Directory listed Sunday services at 11:30 am, 3:30 pm and 6:45 pm, along with Monday and Wednesday evening services.
Waite Davies was pastor at the church from 1886 to 1930 and presumably the Butterfield Road had its name changed to celebrate and remember the life of a long standing priest and member of the community.
The South Lee Tabernacle is a fine building which still stands at the corner of Waite Davies and Baring Roads – it isn’t listed, but perhaps ought to be. It is now known as South Lee Christian Centre and used by the Trinity Presbyterian Church, a branch of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.
1 Josephine Birchenough with John King (1981) Some Farms & Fields in Lee p19
All the census and related data came via Find My Past
Thank you to P&R Installations, the former occupant of the dairy site, for sharing some of the history of the site.
The black and white photographs of the house and fields are from the collection of Lewisham Archives – they remain their copyright, and are used here with their permission, which is not transferable.
Amazing – cows!
It slightly surprised me too, but when I was following two of the Quaggy Tributaries a few months ago in Mottingham there were several farms that survived until after WW2, so perhaps a couple of fields and a dairy isn’t that surprising. What I find more odd is that some of the land they used is still fields – used by the riding school on Ronver Road. But even further ‘in’ the odd field still lasted until the 1930s – bits of Old Road and Lee High Road, once grounds of Lee Place, weren’t developed until just before the war.
There still is the remains of an old diary in Waite Davies Road. Now a plumbers office. Would this have been their base?
You may well be onto something ….I did wonder about the building – it is now empty but was used by a gas and plumbing company for many years. I thought that it wasn’t that old but you could well be right. Oddly, I know the MD of the company so I have e mailed him to see if he knows anything of the history of the building. Thanks for visiting.
You are right Terry! It was certainly that site where the dairy was located – the buildings have been altered a lot since and may not be the original ones. I will return later and add a photograph of the site. Thanks again.
You’re right Terry. Where the plumbers are was indeed the “farm”. I was sent round there to buy milk and eggs for my mum when I was a kid and when Mrs Clark wasn’t watching us kids would play high jinks in the haystack under the barn which I assume was feed for the cows and horses. Had a lovely cobbled yard which I hope is still there.
The cobbled yard was still there when P&R were there, from memory you can’t see behind the gates now.
The yard has recently been turned into a number of flats. So im not too sure how much of the yard now remains.
We moved to Baring Road in 1971 and I remember the cows being in Summerfield Street and being walked along Baring Road. Our milk came from that dairy until it closed.
Thanks Helen – that’s brilliant. I hadn’t realised that the cows had returned after WW2 when they were evacuated to Kent. I will update the post to reflect this. Thank you so much for commenting.
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I remember the dairy in Waite Davies Rd. I lived opposite the road (at 49 and later at 51 Baring Rd.) and, as a nipper, in the late 50’s I’d occasionally be sent down to the dairy, by my mother, to get a pint of milk.
Google street-view of the entrance https://email@example.com,0.013268,3a,75y,164.95h,82.92t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sLs9XyI9poY8n8xPf1Y0lyg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
Thanks for visiting Steve – I was aware of the location as I know a former Director of P&R who were the last occupants of the site. It is currently being converted into housing. Since writing the post I have found a photo of a milk cart belonging to the diary which at some time I will add into the post, along with your wonderful memories.
Hi Paul, I’m fairly certain I also remember the diary produce being delivered via horse and cart, and I recall the stables (complete with horses) when I used to visit the dairy….in fact that is possibly, no doubt, why I was happy to run errands down there.
I lived in Rayford Avenue for the first 20 years of my life, until 1970, and our milk was delivered daily by the dairy in Waite Davis Rd. He was a one man operation, with a boy to help on Saturdays, and his milk wagon was drawn by his pony, Charlie. In the school holidays my job was to lie in wait with a bucket and shovel as they delivered and scoop up the droppings. Charlie knew that the bottom of Rayford Avenue was the end of the round and would often turn himself and the wagon around and bolt up the road for his stable with the wagon swaying, bottles rattling, and the milkie puffing along behind, swearing under his breath! When Charlie finally retired in the ’70’s there was a big artical in the local press because he was the last milk horse in London.
What a great story Lee! Will include it in the main post when I next update it.
My brother Sailor Bunting from Summerfield St used to help with the milk rounds and the mucking out, because he loved horses and Charlie was his favourite, hence his first horse was called Charlie. He went on to become a farrier.
I too lived in Rayford Avenue (49) in 1945-1954, when we moved to Exford Road. I loved going to the dairy and feeling that I lived in the country as opposed to being a townie. I’m sure there were pigs there too. We used to meet up with other children and sit in the field next to the farm. What memories. My mother used to rush out with her bucket and shovel to scoop up the manure for her roses.
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Loving your blog. I recently moved to Ronver Road from the Old Kent Road (I ran @okrpeople for a while) so it’s great to have all this history condensed. I’m intrigued that Ronver and Summerfield don’t bear a good reputation! Was that then or now?!
From memory that was from an Environmental Health report from about 1903, so definitely ‘then’. Welcome to the area!
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I lived in summerfield street from the age of 7years in 1958 until 1975 and have fond memories of the dairy which I regularly visited to buy extra milk I can still picture the cobblestone yard and the stabled horse and the gentleman with cap and apron. We also had the horse and cart delivery of milk. Waite Davies, Summerfield street and Ronver road had a real village atmosphere.
Wonderful memories Paula! I’ll update the post at some time and include them. I’ve been in that yard a couple of times but sadly never took a photo, it has recently been converted into flats called Old Dairy Lodge and is hidden behind gates.
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My Great Grandparents lived at 46 Ronver Road they were called Frederick Charles Clarke and Ellen Amelia Clarke. They were members of South Lee Tabernacle and knew Reverend James Waite Davies well. I am wondering if they were related to the Clark’s that ran the dairy as the spelling is different. Their daughter (my Nan) was called Jessie Eunice Clarke she was one of eight children and she became a nurse at West Hill Hospital in Dartford. My Dad has recently passed away (Richard Arthur Ewers) and I am interested in finding out about my family history. It seems a coincidence because my Nan’s husband (Percy Ewers) was a milkman at the dairy in Watling Street, Dartford and they lived at Ivy Villas and ran a shop on the end at Bean.
How interesting! Spellings of names did change within the same family – it may be worth seeing if you can find anymore out about your family – the Find My Past site is free until 8 February if you are interested https://www.findmypast.co.uk
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I’m joining an old thread but this conversation has been so interesting! My husband and I recently bought a property at 33 Waite Davies Road. It’s the house (only one on Waite Davies that resembles an old farm house) at the front of the new development of flats. Our house is joined on one side by terraced housing and on the other side by a gate into flats that we were told were old stables. I would love to know if the house we have bought is the old dairy farm house. Do you think this is where the Clark family lived? Any info is much appreciated.
The short answer is that I am not sure, it seems that the buildings next door were used for milking and probably stabling too. It is a post that I will go back to at some point, as there are links to other farms in the area which I want to unpick and it would be good to work out where the Clarks were based, there are quite a few memories of them delivering milk as late as the 1970s on Facebook threads.
Hopefully the link below will from the National Library of Scotland which will have been surveyed around 1893 might help.
My uncle Steve Clark lived on Bramdean Cresecent, he is pictured with the horse. The lady with the dog pincher, is my Aunt Polly she lived of off Manor way if I recall.
Hi Aisling, my family lived in Baring Road from the early 60’s and I spoke to my mum about your house today and she confirmed your property was the Butterfield farmhouse next to the entrance to the dairy…therefore, I’m guessing, if they ran the dairy, it would’ve indeed been owned by the Clarks.
Do your deeds not mention anything about previous owners? If not, have you tried the Land Registry?
I lived in Summerfield Street from about 1953 until I got married in 1971. I remember the dairy so well! Mum would send us round to get milk and sometimes other groceries and it always mortified me when I was told to “put it on the slate “. To those that don’t know, this means Mum didn’t have any money and would pay at the end of the week. The milkman was called Sid and would come round with his horse and cart. I remember Christmas time they would have a few live turkeys in the yard and you picked the one you wanted then picked it up nearer the day once it had been despatched! It was a lovely house and yard.
Linda, my mum used to say put it on the slate too. But I think they always knew that if you were a regular customer.
I would really like to obtain some reference material about the history of the land around Lee station, particularly Woodyates Rd.
Could you please point me in the right direction?
I did a blog post a while back on that area, which is about as much as I know.
Thanks for visiting
I’ve just come across this post as a result of a member of the facebook group ‘I’m from SE London’ posting a link to it.
For info, a few years ago I came across evidence of another former dairy in Lee, along Heather Road. https://www.flickr.com/photos/32293736@N04/22582935014/in/photolist-HKUmnE-HNVXXr-HGzxgK-G2ijpg-JAgrc4-JAgkc8-JE5wmq-JH97WT-DoPQM1-AUWsa3-uTm51Q-FYMrYY-DN4BeZ-DyZeP2-CvNV6N-ANyFut-BjLHwh-ApEDNT-ANyVMr-ApzrNw-xzHgx1-xC2PDr-xkqsV1-xBcT8J-skDDMQ-rH2g19-qNj77E-rsK4Dm-rCCyRo-qtojVP-p2vzyz-q4Pha3-oec2rN-fqaV2e-eesfkM-ohZrSZ-k8TU5a-g5jewx-fU8tBF-ftXEJq-ffGQoM-faiadL-eV5fZg-eeGq8R-d36Z9S-d371iw-bCcJCi-bphQwb-k75oVD-k76cDr
There was also another, which was at the junction of Baring Road with the S Circular. As far as I can remember, this was also a United Dairies depot.
That’s a sign I never noticed! Wonder if it’s still there? You are right about the dairy, it was Burnt Ash Farm before – I did a blog post on that a while back which I will update at some point as I have some photos of the farm itself now.
Thanks for sharing the ghost sign!
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What a fascinating read and a lovely article. Just moving into ‘Butterfield Street’ and great to learn its history! Shame to have missed the cows and milk round though!