There are a small number of very attractive 1930s Art Deco buildings in and around Lee; Running Past has covered a couple of them in passing – Dowson Court on Belmont Grove and Woodstock Court on the corner of Burnt Ash Hill and Woodyates Road. We turn our attention to, perhaps the most impressive of them, Lee Court on Lee High Road.
Lee Court occupies a prominent location on the north side Lee High Road, just to the east of the currently closed Rose of Lee/Dirty South, its lines follow the gentle curve of the main road. It is next door to Lee Green Telephone Exchange.
After being farmland, it became part of the grounds of Hurst Lodge (pictured above) one of a pair of mansions, the other being Lee Lodge. There was a specific post on these houses and what came after them a while ago. Hurst Lodge was inhabited until the mid-1920s, but was then bought by Patterson Edwards who made toys, including rocking horses.
It seems that Patterson Edwards saw the housing development potential of the edge of the site and sold off a narrow sliver of land, in the same way that previous owners of Lee Lodge had cashed in on land for Manor Park Parade (to the right of the postcard below) a couple of decades earlier.
It is not clear who built or designed the flats, but by the early 1930s there was an elegant four storey Art Deco mansion block of 48 flats with a small estate office at the western end. There are six sections, each with its own stairwell and originally all the flats had Crittall steel framed windows – a small number of which seem to remain. Buildings of this type and age are a rarity in Lewisham, and while the current freeholders have neglected the exterior a little, it should have been locally listed years ago; this finally happened in 2020, although as we will see later this tardiness will have a long term impact.
The 1939 Register was collected a few years after building was finished and gives some idea as to who was living there. Looking at flats 1-24 it is striking that there were no children; while with evacuation a month before the Register was collected, few were to be expected, in most of the other locations that Running Past has used the 1939 Register for, a few remained. This was certainly the case at Verdant Lane estate, which was built at around the same time.
The reason is probably that relatively young professionals predominated – there were few manual workers with caretaker George Lester at Flat 1 and the lodgers with the Harlands at 22 – a driver and a packer for a chemist being the exceptions. Unlike a lot of the other locations a lot of the women worked – Ethel Harland was a model, there were a trio of typists at Flat 5 and a couple of clerks. The jobs of the men included draughtsman, pub landlord, research physicist and several clerks. There were no ‘Heavy work’ suffixes which would have offered extra rations.
Households were small, the Harlands with 4 was the biggest, most though were single people and couples though. There were a surprising number of single person redacted households. It is not clear why, all were probably relatively young though.
In the recent past there have been relatively few sales – only two in last couple of years (to end of April 2021), most are owned by individuals, many as buy to let, although there are a handful of company let’s and one leased by Lewisham Homes.
The visual impact of the building is about to be significantly lessened as planning permission was granted for an additional storey on the roof in September 2020 after a more modest approval to extend the Estate Office upwards was allowed to lapse. The Estate Office will be demolished in the proposals.
While it is now locally listed, as the application was made before that local listing came into force it might as well not be. Although as was the case with the now demolished gas holders at Bell Green, local listing often counts for very little.
The financial benefits of the development will pass to the freeholders of the block, Grandpex Company Ltd. They seem to have bought, through mortgages, the freeholds of around 21 blocks bought at various stages since the early 1950s. The charge on Lee Court dates from late 1998.
Lewisham needs extra homes and building additional storeys on existing blocks is often a good way of doing this – the rather unattractive block of shops in the south western quadrant of Lee Green was probably enhanced by this. It is not that different to the hundreds of loft conversions in the area. However, this is probably not the block to do it to. However, in the context of there being no local listing at the time the application was made there was probably little that either Planning Officers or the Planning Committee could do other than approve the application.
Picture and Other Credits
- The postcard of Manor Park Parade is via eBay in December 2019
- The photograph of Hurst Lodge, is from the collection of Lewisham Achives it is used with their permission and remains their copyright
- The architects drawing of the additional storey to the block are via Lewisham Planning Portal
- 1939 Register Data is via Find My Past (Subscription required)
- The photo of the Estate Office is via StreetView as is is currently so overgrown
- The details of ownership is via Nimbus Maps, registration required
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