A month or two ago it was noted in another post on Running Past, that there had ‘probably never been a single sale of land around Hither Green and Lee that has been more significant than the sale of North Park Farm by the Earl of St Germans in 1895 as it allowed for the development of was initially known as the St Germans estate, now generally known as the Corbett estate.’ This post picks up the story a few years after the sale after development was well under way, but far from being completed.
We return on 15 November 1899 in the company of one of Charles Booth’s investigators, Ernest Aves (there is a biography of Aves here)and PC Lloyds from Ladywell Police Station, who lived locally in Harvard Road. The walk gives a fascinating insight into the early days of the estate. Charles Booth (picture Creative Commons), the centenary of whose death is on November 23, 2016, conducted an ‘Inquiry into Life and Labour in London’ between 1886 and 1903 – for much of the city he produced wonderfully detailed maps coloured on the basis of income and the social class of its inhabitants. His assessment was based on walks carried out either himself or through a team of social investigators, often with clergymen or the police, listening, observing what he saw and talking to people he met on the road. Sadly, no map seems to be available for most of the walk but below is an extract which includes the most southerly part of Hither Green that seems to have been mapped – available from London School of Economics as a Creative Commons.
Albert Lloyds was about 35 and has been in the police for 11 years all of which has been in Lewisham, Booth feels that he is unlikely to get promotion due to his lack of education, he had five children in 1899. By the 1901 census Albert Lloyds, from Newchurch in Kent, was still living at 35 Harvard Road, with his wife Ellen and 7 children in a two bedroom house.
Corbett was described as ‘speculator in chief’ but was subletting much of the work, the contractors included James Watt, whom Running Past has already covered. The estate is described as being mainly for the ‘lower middle class’ and two styles predominated – ‘a small single fronted house letting at about £25 and a somewhat larger double-fronted house letting at £36 to £38.‘ The larger houses in Brownhill Road attracted a rent of £60. These were presumably monthly rentals. But there were lower, weekly, rents around ‘working class’ Sandhurst Road.
Aves seemed almost surprised that ‘many of the houses throughout the estate are said to be owned by their occupiers‘. Sale prices, on a leasehold basis a year earlier in 1898 had been £379 to £470 for the largest six bedroom homes; £298 – £353 for four bedroom homes and £215 to £252 for the 3/4 bedroom homes. The smallest 3 bedroom homes on the estate were not offered for sales until 1903 (1). The biggest of these are now fetching over £1 million, as was noted in a recent post in Clare’s Diary.
His starting point was where we had left the estate a few years earlier in a post about the farm that came before the estate – North Park. The original farm, occupied for years by William Fry, had gone, but houses occupied by the Sheppards were still there. Eliot Lodge (below), at the corner of Hither Green Lane, was still occupied by Samuel Sheppard and the other, the former house of Edward Sheppard, was occupied by the Chief Agent for the estate, Robert Pettigrew who was from Edinburgh – it was referred to as North Park House in the 1901 census. Both were given the second highest rating by Aves/Booth – red – ‘Middle class. Well to do.’ Oddly Pettigrew wasn’t always in this trade, he’d been a storekeeper in 1881, but may have come across Corbett whilst the latter was developing in Ilford – he returned to Essex after he retired.
While some of the shops had been built, but certainly not all and only two or three let – this was perhaps not surprising, while the road was laid out, the houses were yet to be built. The bustling parade of a decade later (see below – source eBay September 2016) was yet to come.
The only houses were the other remnants of North Park farm, the ‘pink’ (Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings) former farm cottages at the corner of Hither Green Lane.
Wellmeadow and Broadfield Roads
The northern parts of the road, closer to the station, had already been built as had the ‘large Weslyan Chapel building’ (covered a while ago in Running Past) but south of Brownhill Road it was still under construction.
The pattern was the same with Broadfield Road (wrongly mentioned at Brookfield). Aves referred to the streets as a ‘pink barred’, this is a slight variant on some of his earlier definitions – in correspondence, this seems to mean ‘high class labour – fairly comfortable good ordinary earnings’
This was oddly described as ‘the swell road of the estate’ – many of the larger houses had already been built and were ‘red’ with a few of the pink barred blocks of houses constructed.
Ardgowan, Torridon, Arngask and Fordel Roads
Ardgowan Road, north of Brownhill Road, had been completed by the time Lloyds showed the estate to Aves, but to the south, construction was still ongoing; the opposite seemed to be the case with Torridon Road. Arngask and Fordel Roads were both completed, but Aves merely seemed to pass by noting the same pink barred colouring of the other two streets.
Glenfarg and Sandhurst Roads
These were described as ‘the two working class streets’ they were largely built, unlike much of the rest of the burgeoning estate, to rent on a weekly basis and these were the slightly lower graded pink (without barred element).
Aves with his interest in poverty lingered here longer, seemingly mainly on Sandhurst Road –
‘most occupied by a decent class, but many on the down-grade. Two families (per house) frequent, and even in passing many signs of deterioration observable.’
Many living in these streets were employed on the estate and would be expected to leave when the work was finished. Given the estates position in then suburbia, Corbett presumably felt that to get the workers, he needed to build houses for them first – there seemed to be no philanthropy here, just business necessities. Certainly, Smith noted that these houses were much later coming onto the market (2).
Maybe influenced by his companion, Aves noted that
The street (Sandhurst) is not getting a good name, and disorder and drunkenness are not uncommon, in spite of the absence of licensed houses in the intermediate neighbourhood.
Booth still felt the road to be mainly pink, but, apart from the shops of Sandhurst Market, that it would be turning ‘purple’ (‘Mixed. Some comfortable others poor.’)
It took another eleven years for the the building work to be completed with homes on Verdant Lane and Duncrievie Road being finished in 1910 (3). The difference between 1894 and 1914 is enormous as the maps below show (both maps on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland).
- Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: the Forgotten Hamlet : Including the Corbett Estate’ p40
- ibid p40
- ibid p42
Census and related data comes from Find My Past.