A Dairy, a Pastor and a Lee Street Name

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 a (hopefully) interesting story.imageThe 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 covered in the blog in October.

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.


Source e bay October 2016

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 – see comment from Helen below.  There were also fond local recollections of both collecting milk from the diary and the Clarks delivering milk from Waite Davies Road well into the 1970s in Facebook comments on the post.  This was also confirmed by Birchenough (3).

The site of the diary is still there, 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 but, at in November 2015, appears to be for sale.  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.


imageThe 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

2 ibid

3 ibid

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 of the history of the site.


25 thoughts on “A Dairy, a Pastor and a Lee Street Name

    1. Paul B Post author

      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.

    1. Paul B Post author

      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.

      1. Paul B Post author

        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.

  1. Helen

    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.

    1. Paul B Post author

      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.

  2. Pingback: Looking Back at 2015 | Running Past

  3. Pingback: William Morris – A Farmer from Lee Green Farm | Running Past

    1. Paul B Post author

      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.

      1. Steve E

        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.

  4. Lee Hunter

    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.

  5. Trish Riddle (née Box)

    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.

  6. Pingback: Dairy Farming in Lee – College Farm | Running Past

  7. Debbie

    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?!

    1. Paul B Post author

      From memory that was from an Environmental Health report from about 1903, so definitely ‘then’. Welcome to the area!

  8. Pingback: Pound Land – The Homes of John Pound, Victorian Builder & Brick Maker of Lee, Blackheath & Grove Park | Running Past

  9. Paula (nee) Harris

    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.

    1. Paul B Post author

      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.

  10. Pingback: Pound’s Pubs | Running Past

  11. Kate A

    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.

  12. Pingback: The Tin Tabernacle of Lee | Running Past

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.