The Verdant Lane estate was developed in the early 1930s with most homes sold by the middle of the decade – it consists of homes on the eastern side of Verdant Lane itself plus the streets of South Park Crescent (named after the former farm on the opposite side of Verdant Lane that became part of North Park Farm); Further Green Lane plus the smaller streets of Pasture Road and Sedgeway. The newly built houses, as we shall see later, were to become the homes of skilled working classes along with a few supervisory staff and managers.
The opposite side of Verdant Lane had been developed by Cameron Corbett as part of the development of North Park Farm, the west side of Verdant Lane had been one of the last streets to be developed in 1910 (1). The land now occupied by the Verdant Lane estate was presumably not farmed by the Sheppards at North Park and was probably part of Shroffold Farm which was located where the mosque is now situated at the junction of Verdant and Whitefoot Lanes with Northover. Latterly, like much of the newer part of the cemetery, it was allotments as the map below shows.
The allotments are clear in the photograph below, taken from 140 Verdant Lane around 1920 (see credit below) – the bend in the road is the junction of Verdant Lane and Sandhurst Road. The photograph also shows trees bordering one of the Quaggy’s tributaries, Hither Green Ditch; the stream seems to have been culverted around the bulge in the fencing. The course of the Ditch is obvious in the small valley on Pasture Road, the remnants of the stream is probably now culverted either under the front gardens of Verdant Lane or under the access tracks to garages behind.
Adjacent to the estate was Oak Cottage Nursery, which dated from at least the 1860s, perhaps earlier. The nursery lasted until after World War 2 (the map below is from the early 1950s), presumably until Oak Cottage Close was built in the 1960s or 70s. A small part of the nursery remains as a lovely community garden.
The builders of the estate were J Gerrard and Sons from Swinton in Greater Manchester; they had been founded in 1864 by Jonathan Gerrard. Gerrard had died in 1906, but the firm was still within the family, although by this stage focused in the main on large scale public building contracts including hospitals and public housing for Manchester City Council. Private sector housing, particularly in southern England, seems to have been something of a rarity for them at this stage in their evolution.
By the 1950s they seem to have been specialising in building power stations, such as Fleetwood in 1956. It appears that the construction arm was sold to Fairclough in 1971, who in turn were taken over by AMEC in 1982 and then by Wood Group in 2017. There is still a haulage firm operating and still run by the Gerrard family.
Who designed the houses isn’t clear – it may have been an in house team and they seem to have done their own sales, presumably from a show house on the estate.
The completion locally would have been on the Woodstock Estate,now mainly Woodyates Road, which was advertised in the same edition of Lewisham’s Official Guide (probably 1931). While Woodstock was priced at £25 cheaper, with seemingly a similar specification, Gerrard’s, by asking for a higher deposit, managed to get the weekly cost to be slightly cheaper.
So who were the early occupants of the estate? The 1939 Register was effectively a mini-census carried out just before the start of World War 2 for the purposes of rationing. It isn’t completely comprehensive, as anyone likely to still be alive now is redacted and those in the armed forces were not included. As part of the research for this post, the records of the 36 houses on eastern side of Further Green Road (35 – 105 odds) have been reviewed. While other parts of the estate might have been slightly different, it is probably a big enough sample to get a reasonable picture of who lived there.
The men of the estate were employed in a wide mixture of trades, but there were a mixture of skilled manual workers and a range of office and managerial jobs
- The skilled manual workers included a metal machinist, a couple of telephone engineers, two train drivers and a plasterer; and
- The office and managerial roles included several warehousemen, a Director of a Shipping Agent, a Civil Servant, a theatre clerk and an office manager.
The difference between Further Green Road and a similar study in 1939 of Ardmere Road in Hither Green is stark – a large majority in Ardmere Road were semi and unskilled manual workers – the only Further Green Road resident that would fall into this category was the Brewer’s Drayman at 89. This was one of the very few entries with the suffix ‘Heavy Work’ added after the trade. This would have entitled those described to extra rations. Of the 50 paid jobs, only four had ‘Heavy’ appended to them – one of which was probably an error as it was given to a shorthand typist….
As was the case in Ardmere Road, working women, other than a few grown up children, were a rarity – most were listed as carrying out ‘Unpaid Domestic Duties.’
One of the surprising features of the estate was the lack of children – these in the main are three bedroom houses but there were only 11 children in the 36 homes (assuming all the redacted entries were children). This was almost certainly due to evacuation of children which had started at the beginning of September 1939 – including in Lewisham. Most had returned by 1943 as the estate had one of the bigger concentrations of the child victims of the Sandhurst Road School bombing.
- Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: the Forgotten Hamlet : Including the Corbett Estate’ p40
- Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser 29 December 1906
1939 Register data is via Find My Past
The pre-development photo is copyright of the always helpful Lewisham Archives and is used with their permission.
The advert and floor plans were copied from somewhere on social media in mid-2017, I thought that it was from the excellent cornucopia of all things London local government – LCC Municipal – mainly to be found on Twitter, but I was mistaken – so if you posted it do tell me so that I can properly credit you!
Finally, thank you to David Underdown for reminding me of the reasons for the lack of children on the estate in late September 1939 – most had been evacuated.