The V2 Rocket Attack on Blackheath’s Methodist Chapel

Just to the east of Blackheath station, behind the shops in Tranquil Vale is a car park with steps at the rear, locals use it as a cut through between Blackheath Grove and Wemyss Road. To the south of the car park there are a few architecturally nondescript looking 1960s shops, a restaurant, and a building that used to be a library but was closed a few years ago and is now a private school.

image

Until a Thursday afternoon in March 1945 it was home to one of the dominant features of the the pre-World War 2 Blackheath landscape – a Methodist chapel.

Source - eBay (Sept 2016)

Source – eBay (Sept 2016)

At 12:06 on 8 March 1945 the last V2 rocket to hit Blackheath landed on the Methodist chapel, completely destroying it and causing significant damage to the rest of the Village (1).

Blackheath methodist 3

The rocket had been fired from the Dutch capital; battery 485 was moved around Den Haag regularly to reduce the likelihood of itself being a target.  That fateful morning it was based in Statenkwartier, close to the upmarket coastal resort of Scheveningen, presumably hidden in the extensive sand dunes or the woods behind then.  The battery continued bombarding London and the south east for almost another three weeks until German forces retreated in the face of the Allied advance, this included an attack on Deptford Creek nine days after the Blackheath attack.

Given the timing and scale of the damage, it is perhaps surprising that there weren’t more deaths; of the five who died, four, all women died at the scene or very soon after (2) including three who lived within a half a mile of the blast – Daisy Denny (Foxes Dale), Alice Drain (Pond Road) and Eve Taylor (Lee Road); Eve Leibe lived a little further away in St Mildred’s Road. The fifth fatility was an ARP Warden, Albert Brown, who had lived at Eliot Hill (3). There were also 134 non-fatal injuries.

Methodism had a strong history in Blackheath; the blog has covered preaching by both Whitefield and John Wesley from Whitefield’s Mount in the 18th century.

Blackheath methodist 2The chapel itself was opened in 1864 and was designed by James Wilson (1816 – 1900) of Bath who had certainly designed a number of Gothic style Methodist chapels elsewhere in London – including in Poplar, Westminster, Islington and Clerkenwell.

It was described by the Illustrated London News (4) as being ‘in the Decorated or Middle Pointed period of Gothic Architecture, and built of Kentish ragstone, with Bath dressing.  The interior is lined with freestone, no plaster being used in any part of it.’  It was built to seat a congregation of 969; although by 1940 this was reduced to 830. It had a 120 ft tower and spire (5) which, until its destruction, was a prominent feature of the Blackheath landscape.

image

Notes

  1. The photograph of the aftermath of attack in Blackheath Village has appeared uncredited numerous times on Twitter and in a couple of places online, although never properly attributed. I have attempted to contact all the sites with it on to try to discover  the ownership of the image, without success  If you are the owner of this image let me know, I am more than happy to (ideally) attribute or take off the site if you would prefer.  Just leave a message in comments.   It is quite possible that it is a UK Government picture, if this is the case it is effectively in the public domain anyway (see notes here)
  2. The details of the deaths come from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website 
  3. ibid
  4. New Wesleyan Chapel, Blackheath. Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, October 20, 1866; pg. 392; Issue 1395 (also the source of the lower trio of photos)
  5. ibid

 

7 thoughts on “The V2 Rocket Attack on Blackheath’s Methodist Chapel

  1. Pingback: The V2 Rocket Attack on Blackheath’s Methodist Chapel | Running Past | First Night History

  2. Pingback: Lee High Road’s Lost Baptist Chapel | Running Past

  3. Pingback: The First Night of the Blitz in Lee, Hither Green, Catford and Lewisham | Running Past

  4. Pingback: Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 8 – Blackheath to Lee Green | Running Past

  5. Paul Hanmore

    My mother Patricia White of Dinsdale Road Blackheath married my father, Sgt. William Hanmore while he was home on leave from the Royal Artillery, still fighting in Germany. The wedding was arranged at Christ Church in Greenwich (London) for 2.00 pm on 8th March 1945. She said: “We had all gathered at the Church in good time but the vicar had not turned up and we could only wait but finally he made it. A V2 rocket had made a direct hit on the Methodist Church in Blackheath Grove at 12.06 pm and our vicar had rushed over to the area on his bike to offer support and comfort, forgetting that he had a wedding to conduct in his own Church! There were no means of getting in touch with him and it wasn’t until he came back past his Church much later and saw our car outside that he realised he had a wedding party inside waiting for him.”

    Reply
  6. dinah fuller

    I grew up at 97 Lee Road and only have one memory of the war. My mother and I were shopping in Blackheath in a shop near the station. There was suddenly an enormous crash or bang, everyone screaming because a baby outside the shop in its pram had glass in its eyes, obviously the window had gone. My mother grabbed me and we ran home. All of this I can remember, I must have been three, but it has stayed with me all of my life. I was 80 this year and still think of that poor baby. The shop, I think, was a drapers (not sure) but if anyone has information, date, what happened to the baby etc. I would be grateful. Born in 1941 obviously, moved to Eltham when I was 10, Somerset 14, now live in Devon. Many thanks if you can help.

    Reply

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