Before the arrival of the railways Lee was still rural and ome to a series of country houses for the wealthy – Running Past has covered several of these already, Lee Place, the Manor House, Pentland House, Lee House and The Firs that were along Old Road. A little further to the west, along Lee High Road towards Lewisham was a slightly smaller pair of country houses, Hurst Lodge and Lee Lodge – the map below shows them from the 1860s.
It would have been farmland prior to the building of the two large houses which may well have been part of the estate of Dacre House – perhaps fields of the farm on the ‘opposite side of Brandram Road’ to which was managed by James Lawman who died in 1827 (1).
The exact date the houses were built is unclear – with Pevsner suggesting 1819 (2), although the page on Hurst Lodge in Ideal Homes gives the build date as 1837. While the story of their later years is intertwined we’ll look at them separately to start with.
Lee Lodge was the house that was slightly closer to Lewisham of the pair and also referred to as 125 Lee High Road, after the current numbering arrangements were introduced in the late 19th century.
The early owners or tenants have been difficult to pin down for Lee Lodge. However, by 1851 it was home to Thomas Drane, a Civil Engineer who seemed to specialise in railway work and the year before had been briefly Professor of Civil Engineering at Queen’s College, Galway. Along with him was his wife, Alice, and three step children and a complement of 6 servants. Thomas didn’t make the next census; he died in Lewisham in 1855.
The next obvious census listing was in the 1881 census; unfortunately for posterity is that the owners/tenants were away – the Head of Household was Hannah Gibbons who was described as ‘Servant in Charge.’ However, electoral registers suggest that the owner was Mark Mills who despite not appearing in censuses, appears to have been there from at least 20 years from 1868.
From 1889 Lee Lodge was home to Henry George Smallman, a central London Solicitor, in the 1891 census he was living there his wife Louisa, 6 children and 4 servants. Henry Smallman seems to have put the Lodge up for sale in 1896. He clearly understood the changing nature of Lee – describing it as (3):
A picturesque family detached residence with charming old grounds, offering in its present form a comfortable and retired abode, with a fine billiard room 34’ by 19’, and without basement, but equally adaptable for a place of workshop, social or political club, house or school or other institution. The property is, however, on account of its central position and large extent, of greatest value as a freehold site, available for the erection of extensive premises in connection with the business of a builder, contractor, carrier, jobmaster, laundryman, furniture warehouseman, or other commercial undertaking. Smallman seems to have previously sold the narrow strip of land facing directly onto the High Road for the shops of Manor Park Parade which opened around 1895.
The suggestion of ‘carrier’ or perhaps some targeted marketing of the site to them seems to have led to the next occupants of the site – the removal and haulage company Pickfords who presumably used it as their local base for removals. By 1900 – the house, or at least the outhouses, were being used by for stabling for some for their horses and presumably their base (a photograph of the same era from their Salisbury depot), although the Hammond family were effectively acting as housekeepers in the 1901 census.
By 1911 it was still being used by Pickfords , but the building was being shared with a complementary business – the farriers, Parr, Williams and Son. By 1916 Pickfords had moved their operation to 18 Manor Parade in front of the house. Their horses had presumably departed, probably replaced by motorised vehicles as had happened with Thomas Tilling’s buses from Old Road. Another firm of ‘carriers’ had moved into Lee Lodge, Carter Paterson who were associated with on-going transport from railway stations; they stayed there until the early 1920s.
Lee Lodge appears to have been demolished by Pickfords, certainly there was no sign of it in the 1914 surveyed Ordnance Survey map which described the site as a ‘Carrier Depot.’
The first tenant is unclear, while Ideal Homes suggests that it was a ‘ship owner’ – this is likely to have been Benjamin Thomas Crichton who was listed at Hurst Lodge in 1851 along with his wife, niece and 4 servants. He was living nearby in Lee Road in 1841 when the census enumerators called though. Crichton died in 1855.
Relatively long term residents of Hurst Lodge were the Kersey family (the house is pictured above from early in their residence); Robert was a financier and industrialist. They moved in around 1881 staying for most of the 1880s before letting the house out for a while.
They had returned by the time of the 1901 census, Robert was to die early in the 20th century, but the house stayed in the family – initially Robert’s widow Harriett and then son Alexander remained there until the mid-1920s; it was to be a short term move for the latter as he sold up to Patterson Edwards in the mid to late 1920s, enabling them to take over the entire site.
Soon after Patterson Edwards took over the full site, a narrow strip fronting Lee High Road was sold for housing. The flats built are some of the more prominent and elegant Art Deco style flats in Lewisham; they will be the subject of a separate post in the future although seem in want of a little ‘love’ appearing, from the outside at least, a little neglected.
Patterson Edwards were listed in early Kelly’s Directories as ‘toy manufacturers,’ best known for producing rocking horses, with the Leeway brand. However, they made prams, children’s bicycles and tricycles, toy motors cars and wheelbarrows too.
By 1931, they were employing 300 in Lee in an extensive factory. The extent of the factory can be seen in the photograph from the air in 1939. Around 35,000 rocking horses with hand carved faces were made in Lee until production of them stopped in 1966.
Patterson Edwards moved to Orpington in the early 1970s, although didn’t last that much longer – they ceasing trading a decade later.
The site seems to have been empty for a year or two before Selecta moved there from a smaller site in Southwark in 1974. Selecta was the distribution and sales arm of Decca, dealing with telephone sales and orders from record shops up and down the country. Decca was a predominantly classical record label in that era, and also sold lots of popular orchestral music such as James Last; but their catalogue also included Adam and the Ants and various novelty acts such as the Smurfs and Windsor Davies and Don Estelle – who visited the depot.
Selecta was on the site until the mid to late 1980s, when Decca sold the site for property development. Halley and Celestial Gardens is a low rise flatted development, which, from the outside at least, has stood the test of time better than many developments of that era. The name presumably comes from the Astronomer Royal who is buried in the Old St Margaret’s churchyard. The development is somewhere that Running Past, has visited before when following the prime meridian as there is an elegant pergola at zero degrees within the grounds.
- Edwyn and Josephine Birchenough (1968) Two Lee Houses – Dacre House and Lee House pp39-40
- Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p423
- The Times (London), May 23, 1896
- The black and white photos of Hurst Lodge and the Decca entrance are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright.
- The photgraph of the Pickford horse-drawn vehicle is from Pickford’s website
- The rocking horse photograph comes from eBay, August 2019
- Census, electoral register and related data comes via Find My Past (subscription required)
- The Kelly’s Directory information comes from a mixture of Lewisham and Southwark archives.
- The Ordnance Survey map is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-Commercial Licence
- The 1939 aerial photograph is via the fantastic Britain from Above, its use is allowed in non-commercial blogs such as Running Past, it remains their copyright