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.
- Source – Wikipedia on a Creative Commons
- National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
- National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
Census & related information come via Find My Past