Belmont – The House That Named The Hill

Belmont Hill used to be known by a variety of names including Lewisham Lane and Butt Lane (see map below (1)). The present name is taken from a large house that used to be where the elegant Edwardian housing of Caterham and Boyne Roads are now situated.

The house was built for George Ledwell Taylor around 1830. When it was built, ‘Belmont,’ which was on a distinct rise, will have offered fine, uninterrupted views towards London and, a little nearer, in the direction of the Royal Dockyards at Deptford. This was, perhaps, deliberate – he had been appointed Surveyor of Buildings to the Naval Department in 1827; his work estate included Deptford.  It was one of the larger houses in the district – with only the Cedars surpassing it as the 1863, surveyed map below shows (2). One of the Quaggy’s tributaries, Upper Kid Brook was at the foot of the slope, and, not to be undone the neighbours, like the Brandrams at the Cedars almost next door, he too interrupted the flow to create a small lake – at the top of what is now Cressingham Road – marked below (3).

It wasn’t Taylor’s first home in Blackheath – he had designed a quartet of villas on what is now Lee Terrace, almost opposite the church. He lived in one of them for a while – two of the houses were later demolished to make way for William Webster’s massive Wyberton House – indirectly the proceeds of being one of Joseph Bazalgette’s main contractors.

Taylor was made redundant in a series of public expenditure cuts by the Admiralty in 1837. He went into private architectural practice and may well have moved on from Lee soon after. Certainly, he doesn’t seem to have appeared in censuses at Belmont.

When the census enumerators called in both 1851 and 1861 Belmont was home to the Soames family. Frederic was listed as head of household and referred to as a ship owner, he was away from home in the New Forest in 1861.  While listed as a ‘ship owner’ he seems to have been linked to Gilstrap Soames, who were a family of brewers and maltsters.  They had moved from Lee before the 1871 census and were to take over the Wrexham Brewery in 1879; the family were major creditors when it went into liquidation and renamed it as Soames Brewery.  The new company also got into financial difficulties in the 1930s and merged to form the Border Brewery.  The occupants in 1871 were George Barnes Williams, an Architect and his wife Helen (wrongly referred to as Ellen).

The long term occupants of Belmont were the Wainewright family, John (Senior) was referred to as Taxing Master of the High Court of Chancery – a role which seems to have been effectively a High Court judge specialising in costs; it is a role that they seem to be now referred to as Senior Cost Judge.

Each census they seemed to add more servants – by 1891 there were 12, albeit several looking after the elderly John (Senior) who was then 85.  He died in 1893, with his wife, Anne, passing on in 1897. The house didn’t last long after their deaths; the view that no doubt attracted Taylor had been broken by the railway and on the opposite side of the Upper Kid Brook was overlooked by Granville Park (home to the Billinghursts and Smiles households).

The city was expanding, Lewisham (Lee had been lost to local government reorganisation in 1899) and Belmont Hill, close to the station would have been a desirable location. The builders were H & J Taylor, who were the main developer of the larger, both in terms of numbers and size, development of Park Langley estate in Beckenham.  H & J Taylor seem to have been brothers Henry Thomas and John.  The latter had a son who was named John Belmont Taylor, presumably after the estate.  John Belmont and Henry Thomas Taylor were to move into partnership in the late 1920s and lived at Campshill House on Hither Green Lane.

The architect both at Belmont Hill and Park Langley was Reginald C Fry who won the Ideal House Competition, part of the Ideal Home Show for one of the homes in Beckenham in 1911. He appears to have used the Belmont Hill in his entry for the following year’s competition, but without the same success.  Fry lived for a while with his parents in a large house on Belmont Hill, The Elms, which seems to have been between The Cedars and Belmont; he was listed there in the 1901 census.

The area is rightly a conservation area – Lewisham’s Area Appraisal describes the homes as ‘eclectic, exuberant, typically Edwardian houses,’ although the next sentence suggests streets that are ‘characterised by modest terraced and semi-detached two storey villas of largely similar plan and size.’ There are hints of a myriad of architectural styles in the houses – the tiles in the porches are certainly worth pausing to look at.

The entrance into the estate from Belmont Hill is marked by impressive polygonal corner ‘towers’ with weather vanes on the houses on either side of this top end of Boyne Road, the one on the westerly side is particularly well preserved and detailed – the DKF initial remains a mystery though. The house at the junction of Belmont Hill and Lockmead Road, has an “angled, double, two storey bow window surmounted by a ‘bell turret’.”

 

The remnants of the views westwards that no doubt had attracted George Ledwell Taylor still existed in part until early into the current millennium, the once impressive vista is no more though, blocked by the ugly bulk of the police station and the new high rise developments of Lewisham Gateway.

Notes

  1. Source – Wikipedia on a Creative Commons
  2. National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
  3. National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons

Census & related information come via Find My Past

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16 thoughts on “Belmont – The House That Named The Hill

  1. Jonathan Causer

    Reginald Cuthbert Fry was my great-uncle. The family home for him and his 5 brothers (one was Sydney Fry, founder of Frys Motor Works) was indeed The Elms Belmont Hill, which can be seen on the 1916 OS map. Elm Court now stands on the plot, but not the exact site. Reg went missing for twelve hours when he was only 3, but all that we know comes from his aunt’s diary, ‘Tramp took him’. In 1913, when Reg was 36 he married Muriel Hamilton Jackson aged 23. They were divorced, and in 1922 he married Rosemary Godfrey. They had two daughters: one had been born in 1919 three years before the marriage, and the bride was 7 months pregnant with the second. In about 1909 Reg designed an unusually strong bridge in which he sought to interest the government

    Reply
    1. Paul B Post author

      Thank you that’s really interesting – particularly about the link to the car dealership. Was hoping at some stage to write about it (along with Penfolds). Will check the 1916 map – only looked at earlier ones, although think I assumed right in terms of the house. Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
      1. Jonathan Causer

        I have a photo of The Elms if you would like it. Also of Reg with his ‘military bridge’. There is a drawing of the house in ‘Charlie Hammond’s Sketch Book’, edited by Christopher Fry (who adopted the name Fry). Reg is mentioned on the website bdonline.co.uk crediting the RIBA Journal.

      2. colbay01

        Penfolds was originally a carting company in Deptford. My grandfather would rent a horse and cart from them for 2/6 a day in the 1880’s. They pastured their horses on what is now St Joseph’s Vale. With the advent of motors, the horses went, and Penfolds went into the motor business. The pasture land was then excavated for sand and gravel and Mr Penfold built several houses in Belmont Grove and Heath Lane. In the 1940’s he also bought army surplus vehicles and these were also parked there, a wonderful playground for us local children. I remember Guy Fawkes night 1945 (first time after the war that we could have a bonfire). Mrs Penfold gave each neighbourhood child attending a whole Mars Bar. Nobidy asked how she got them with the rationing!

      3. Paul B Post author

        That’s fascinating – I must admit that I didn’t know much of their story until they got to Lee Green. Thanks for giving me a bit more to go on!

    2. Martyn

      One of Reginald’s brothers appears to have been John Fry, or Fry’s Metal Foundry in Holland St, SE1. http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Frys_Metal_Foundries – now long gone and replaced with the Neo Bankside development.
      He was a trustee for many years of the neighbouring Hopton’s Almshouses, in Hopton St, and to mark his generosity to the charity, his name still adorns the doorway to the John Fry Room

      Reply
    3. Anne D Saker

      Reginald C Fry was my Grandfather, my mother being his second daughter. I have the original ‘Child Lost in the Lewisham High Road’ poster when he went missing.

      Reply
      1. Paul B Post author

        That’s interesting – at some stage in the future, I will probably come back to you as at some stage I want to do a post on the Frys.

  2. Peter Tingey

    I have a couple of photographs which include The Elms taken as a child in 1955 when I lived in Belmont Hall Court. Also, of course, Ernest Dowson lived in the villa on the site of Dowson Court. Thanks for a very interesting post.

    Reply
    1. Paul B Post author

      Thank you for your kind words! Interestingly, there was a comment from someone else about The Elms – they were part of the family of the architect of the estate that replaced Belmont, Reginald Fry. Am I right in thinking that The Elms was known as The Grove at some point? By the way, if you are interested, I covered Ernest Dowson in the blog a while ago
      https://runner500.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/days-of-wine-and-roses-the-sad-life-death-of-ernest-dowson/

      Reply
      1. Peter Tingey

        Colin Bailey- I’m touched you remember my Mother. I remember the Watsons, was it Peter and Raymond? Also the Farquhar-Smiths, Patsy, Robert and Terry. I still see Alathea and Richard McCarthy from 4 Belmont Grove. Did you know the Williams from 3 Belmont Hall Court? Ruth married Seretse Khama, the first President of Botswana, and their story was told in the film A United Kingdom (2016) but sadly the film makers failed to use Belmont Grove. I remember him well from his visits, he wasn’t someone you would easily forget.

  3. Daniel Azzopardi

    Great blog – very interesting. The pargetting and brickwork around the house at the corner of Boyne and Belmont (as shown in your photograph) is original apart from that around the turret – my wife and I (the owners) could not find anything beyond blurry black and white photos when we restored the exterior of the house a couple of years ago, so we commissioned the panels. To clear up the mystery: DKF is our mark on the restoration: ours and our daughter’s initials; 1903 is the year the house was built.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Campshill House – Housing for the Victorian Elite & the Post War Working Classes | Running Past

  5. Pingback: Lee House to Lee Centre | Running Past

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