One of the stranger looking houses in Victorian Hither Green was Bullseye Cottage which stood on what is now the corner of Harvard Road and Hither Green Lane. The Bullseye name came from its rather distinctive circular windows. It was latterly known as Japes Cottage after its final inhabitant, William Japes.
There is a surviving painting of the cottage by an unknown artist dates from around 1860 and is looking roughly south-west – Crystal Palace (and its adjacent water tower), moved to Anerley Hill in 1854 is visible across the largely open countryside.
William Japes was gardener at Laurel Cottage, see below (source), which was a large house around 200 metres further south along Hither Green Lane , almost opposite Mountsfield Close, between Lanier and Theodore Roads.
Laurel Cottage dated back until at least the early 19th century, it was advertised for letting in 1835 (1), and described as a ‘detached‘ Gothic Villa’. Great play was made of one of its previous occupants having been Sir John McMahon, who was ‘Keeper of the Privy Purse’ from 1812 until his death in 1817. The ‘gardener’s cottage’ mentioned was presumably Bullseye Cottage.
William Japes hailed from Cambridgeshire – seemingly from Willingham, a village mid-way between Cambridge and Huntingdon. He married Louisa from Lewisham around 1832 so he must have moved to the area before then. Whether he was already working at Laurel Cottage at that stage is unclear; the first reference to him at Bullseye Cottage was in the 1851 census – in addition to Louisa, the were five children living there, along with a visitor.
While the children moved on from Bullseye Cottage, William and Louisa seem to have remained – they were still as living on Hither Green Lane in 1871, although the house wasn’t given a name or number. William was still listed as a gardener in the census (no mention of ‘retired’), although they had a couple of lodgers living there too. Development was afoot though Harvard Road seems to have been laid out around 1871 (2).
William died in Lewisham in 1874 and if Bullseye Cottage was still there at that stage, it seems that the cottage was demolished soon after to make way for the shop fronts now there. As for Laurel Cottage, that survived around another 20 years or so until it too succumbed to urbanisation, Theodore Road dates from 1897 (3). The shop fronts below are on its former site.
Little can be found of Laurel Cottage’s occupants other than there was a steady flow of inhabitants noted by the deaths, marriages, auctions and servant advertisements reported in the press. As late as 1883 there were some elements of farming going on from the land associated with the ‘cottage’ – the auction particulars included an Alderney cow and several head of chicken (4). The marriage of the younger daughter of a W J Seward warranted an advertisement in The Times in 1887 (5).
- The Morning Post (London, England), Wednesday, March 25, 1835; pg. ; Issue 20061
- Joan Read (1990) ‘Lewisham Street Names & Their Origins’, p26
- Ibid p54
- The Times (London, England), Friday, Mar 23, 1883; pg. 12; Issue 30775.
- The Times (London, England), Thursday, Oct 06, 1887; pg. 1; Issue 32196.
The painting is owned by Lewisham Archives and made available on the Art UK website, reproduction is allowed for the non-commercial research purposes, such as this post.
The census and related data, other than where ‘linked’ comes from Find My Past.