‘Reed’s Corner’ – The Eltham Road Shops Before the Leegate – Part 1 – Up to 1905

Running Past has covered several shopping parades over the years – they form an interesting cross section of life, including changing shopping patterns, migration into south east London, changing shop types. In late 2020 we looked at one of the parades that had been demolished to make way for the Leegate Centre – Crown Terrace that become 1 to 19 Burnt Ash Road. We move just around the corner to Eltham Road to look at what were originally called Orchard and Eastbourne Terraces.

When the first Ordnance Survey map was surveyed in1863 it still it still showed Lee Green Farm (pictured below), its days were numbered though – its last farmer, Richard Morris(s) was about to move on to Blackfen. His father, William, had leased land from the Crown Estate for several decades, before moving on to College Farm at the highest point on Burnt Ash Hill where he died in 1851.

The farmland was owned by the Crown – originally part of the extended estates of Eltham Palace.  It was developed by a significant name in the growth of Lee, John Pound. Unlike Crown Terrace around the corner, the buildings seem to have been developed as shops – there were retail businesses there from around 1867.

The shop buildings were bigger than most of the parades that we have covered before around Lee and in the early days, at least, allowed several of the shopkeepers to have live-in staff. For the employer it meant that staff were on site and also encouraged obedience and loyalty to them. For the employee, it meant that their home was tied to the job and falling foul of the employer meant not only loss of job but loss of home too. We saw this with servant of the Lester family from Lee New Town – Charlotte Lester – who ended up in the workhouse, presumably after losing her job as a servant.

Like most of the local shopping parades, the numbering changed over time – Orchard Terrace was at the Lee Green end – its numbering was 1-8, the latter at Lee Green – it became 2 to 16 Eltham Road.  At the other end was 1-9 Eastbourne Terrace, its numbering went the opposite way, it became 18 to 34.  We’ll refer to them by their Eltham Road numbering to avoid confusion.

In between the two was Carston Mews, which we won’t cover, although was home for a while to one of the many local stables of Thomas Tilling’s buses.

We’ll cover the parade in three parts – this one covers the period up to around 1905 and third part follows the period until the end of the parade in the 1960s. The second part will cover the name that dominated the parade, the drapers, Reeds, which used several different shop fronts over the years.

2 & 4 Eltham Road

For the first 40 years of the shop’s life it was a grocer and for the first 30 years of that, the name over the window was Henry Frederick Cockle.  He was born around 1823 in Deptford.  He seems to have moved to Eltham Road as the shops opened or soon after; he was certainly there in 1871 with his wife Eady/Edith.  There were two assistants living over the shop with them at No 2 when the census enumerators called – Henry was listed was an ‘Oilman and Grocer.’

He initially only ran the business from No 2 as in 1871 Mary Collins ran a ‘Fancy Repository’; she’d gone by 1881, probably several years before, as 2 & 4 was then being run as one. While the name was still Henry Cockle, he had moved out to a large house at 14 Wickham Road in Brockley. It seems that he had expanded the range of goods sold as in the census he was listed as a wine merchant. There were three sons and two servants there , along with him and Eady. Back to Eltham Road, living over the shop, was the shop manager – George Hinch (27) from Lincolnshire plus six others who worked in the shop ranging in ages of 16 to 53, plus a 15-year-old servant Emily Fox from Deptford.

By 1891 the business name was the same, but the Cockles were in a house built by W J Scudamore in Southbrook Road. The trend of retail staff living over the ‘commodious’ premises continued with – 6 grocers assistants there – all male, all under 30 plus a housekeeper.

There were different names over the window by 1900 – Webb and Ellen – a small chain of grocers with around 15 branches around Greenwich, Woolwich and Lewisham that year. In 1901 George Pedley was the store manager, living over the shop with his wife, a young child and 6 live-in staff, including several who made deliveries to the residents. While the nature of the ordering and the delivery transport may have been different – much grocery shopping has reverted to this model in the 21st century.

6 Eltham Road

No 6 was initially an ironmonger run by Middlesex man John Aldous; in the 1871 census along with his wife Mary; they had probably been on the parade since it was first let, one of their six children had been born in Lee in 1865.  Oddly, there was a seemingly unrelated John Aldous, also an ironmonger, also with a wife called Mary, a little further down Lee High Road. 

By 1881, probably a few years before, a business type was to take over that would remain in the shop until it was knocked down in the 1960s – a baker and confectioner.  The name listed in Kelly’s Directories for years was James Galloway although he was almost certainly William James Galloway who had been plying the same trade at number 18 a decade earlier (we won’t cover him separately there as it was a shop that quickly became part of the Reed empire).

Galloway would have been 57 in 1881 and was born in Marylebone, probably arriving on the parade around 1868. It isn’t clear where the Galloways lived in 1881, but managing the business for them was Hannah Hayman who lived over the shop with two assistants in both 1881 and 1891, the name over the window remained the same despite William’s death in 1889.

Hannah had gone by 1901 and it was one of James’s sons, Archibald, who was baking, along with 3 assistants.  By 1905 Frank Sanders name was listed in Kelly’s Directory. 

8 Eltham Road

John Cole was probably the first occupant of the shop, born around 1831 in Rochester, he ran a draper’s shop with his wife Jane, who hailed form Stowmarket in Suffolk. Also living over the shop in 1871 were 7 staff, mainly in their teens and early 20s – a mixture of shop assistants and apprentices. Jane’s sister Sarah also lived there and was employed as a housekeeper.

By 1881, John Cole still owned the shop but seemed to be living over the road above another shop – then referred to as St Peters Court, named after the local church.   In St Peters Court were John and Jane plus 5 children plus a saleswoman in the shop, a mantle maker, a milliner plus an apprentice plus three servants.  The business seemed to be doing well.  Back over at No 8 were three Drapers’ Assistants and a dressmaker.

The Coles had gone from by the late 1880s from both sides of the road.  By this stage the name over the door was ‘Howes Bros.’, run by Norfolk man Albert Howes.  In the 1891 census, there was no evidence of the ‘Bros’ (although it was 100 years too early to ask ‘When Will I Be Famous?’).  There with him were two female assistants in their 20s along with a housekeeper.

The business was taken over by Tanner and Hook in the early 1890s, they had one other shop at 287 Brockley Road.  The ‘Tanner’ was Arthur Tanner who in 1901 who was from Banbury in Oxfordshire, it was a family business with two sisters running the business with him in 1901.  Who the Hook was isn’t clear, s/he certainly wasn’t running the shop in Brockley.

10 Eltham Road

The first business at number 10 was Thomas Green, a Cheesemonger. Born around 1839 in Hackney, he and his wife Priscilla from Stoke Newington had arrived via Sydenham where their 3 children had been born. There were no servants or assistants living above the shop with them in 1871. A decade later little had changed, the census noted that he employed two men and a boy, the boy was probably his son Edward (17).

By 1891 Thomas Green was still selling cheese, no doubt ably assisted by daughters Mabel and Ada who worked in the shop. By 1894 they were gone, and a different business was there – fruiterer and greengrocer, Walter William Wood.

The food miles of much of the produce sold would have been very small indeed. The Woods had been running Horn Park Farm, at what is now the junction of Alnwick and Horncastle Roads, since the 1880s on land owned by the Crown Estate. Under their stewardship, Horn Park Farm became a largely market gardening operation – growing tomatoes, mushrooms and cucumbers as well as a lot of flowers. The shop was run by Walter’s cousin Arthur Russell in 1901 who lived with the family at Horn Park Farm. Around 120 years later, the would have been towards the right of the photograph.

12 Eltham Road

For much of its life, and all of this section of the post, 12 was a stationer’s. In the 1871 census William Martin (46) from Brighton was meeting the writing and reading needs of Lee.  He was there with Jane (38) from Eastbourne.  Their journey to Lee Green was a circuitous one via Rochester, a daughter of 14 was born there, and Blackheath. He had been the other side of Lee Green in Osborn Place, off Lee Road, trading as a librarian and music seller in 1861.  A couple of servants and an assistant in the shop were also there in 1871.  William seems to be unrelated to the Martin Martin who was also a stationer and ran the post office around the corner in Burnt Ash Road.

By 1879, possibly a little earlier, the Martins were plying their trade elsewhere and Ebenezer Wilmshurst’s name was over the window of number 12. Ebenezer was born around 1849 in Cranbrook in Kent, he was married to Ellen from Greenwich and had previously lived in Blackheath and Lee since 1879 where a daughter was born. With them were two stationer’s assistants, a domestic help and a ‘mother’s help’ who was just 13 – a cousin of Ebenezer. A decade earlier he was an Assistant Stationer in a shop in Osborn Place (not Willian Martin’s though).

The Wilmshursts were to stay until the late 1890s, although were living in Blackheath rather than over the shop in 1891.  The new owner was Alfred Wilson, like his predecessor he lived elsewhere, a couple of hundred metres away at 1 Cambridge Road (now Drive) in 1901.  There was the beginning of something different happening above the shop though – it seems to have been the first letting to people not associated with the businesses below.  Above the shop was the household of Henry Russell who worked as an ‘Explosives Operator’, presumably plying his trade at Woolwich Arsenal rather than above the shop!

Wilson was still running the business there in the 1905 Kelly’s Directory.

14 Eltham Road

This started life as a butcher run by John Page, he was from Suffolk and in 1871 was 28 and running the shop with his mother, widowed sister-in-law, plus two butchers assistants.  Page had moved on by 1881, probably by 1877.  The name Randall was over the window, but it is listed as Albert Frank in Kelly’s Directory and Alfred Frederick in the 1881 Census.  The latter was from Sussex, and was there with Devonian wife Annie, several children, two servants but no shop staff.

A F Randall had departed by 1888 as Walter William Cook was supplying meat to the neighbourhood, or at least some of it.  A decade before he’d been working in his mother’s butcher’s business 50 metres away on the Lee High Road side of Lee Green – it was more or less next door to the Police Station, an early version on the same site as the early 20th century one.  That business was still operating at this stage, so whether there had been some family feud or whether it was an expansion isn’t clear.  Oddly he and his family were listed in the census as living both other the shop and at 13 Brandram Road in 1891.  

Whatever happened, it wasn’t a business that lasted long – the shop had become part of Charles Reed’s expanding empire by 1896.

16 Eltham Road

George Dadley a cabinet maker from Northamptonshire who had been in Eltham Road since around 1868, possibly a little earlier. In the 1871 census he was listed as employing 4 men and 2 boys, none of whom lived over the shop. With him was his wife Jemima from Lincolnshire and two children under 3, both born in Lee along with a teenage servant from Devon. George died in in 1873, but Jemima continued running the business as an upholsterer – the 1881 census listed two children George (17) and Herbert (11) who were working as upholsterers – the latter was probably an error in recording rather than child labour going on at Lee Green.

The Reeds had taken over the shop by 1891, probably earlier, but Jemima stayed in the area, working from 43 Taunton Road until at least 1901, probably later.  She had retired by 1911 seems to have lived out the rest of her life in Boone’s Almshouses on Lee High Road (pictured below), until her death in 1922, aged around 85.

24 Eltham Road

John Michael Sears was a stationer and ‘fancy goods’ seller who plied his trade there in the late 1860s and early part of the 1870s. He had competition in the former trade from William Martin at no 12. The shadow of his next-door neighbour, C H Reed, was visible in his trade adverts before Christmas 1869. The shop succumbed to the Reeds in the 1870s.

26 Eltham Road

26 was another short-lived business, in 1871 it was home to William Wheeler (29) a watchmaker from Thame in Oxfordshire, he had a young daughter who had been born in Lee.  He was gone before the census enumerators arrived again, with the shop becoming another part of CH Reed’s burgeoning draper’s business, probably before the decade was out.

28 Eltham Road

Charles Henry Lenn may well have been the first trader at 28 but was certainly there by 1870 selling china and glass ware to the locals of Lee.  He was from Okehampton in Devon, he and Stepney born wife Caroline had moved around London a lot over the previous 2 decades.  What retail experience he had before arriving at Lee Green isn’t clear, he’d been a carpenter and builder a decade before.

It was a name that was to last at least 40 years on the parade though. Caroline died in 1893 and Charles 5 years later, both were buried at what is now Hither Green Cemetery. The business carried on in Charles’ name run by daughters Susannah, Emma and Caroline . The shop was to the left of the photograph below.

30 Eltham Road

The first occupant of 30 Eltham Road seems to have been hairdresser, George Lambley from Bristol; he’d gone by the time census enumerators called in 1881 though as Lincolnshire born, Robert Johnson was trading as a shoe and bootmaker. Johnson and his wife Ellen from Gosport were to remain there until around 1895, in the middle of their time at 30, the name Stubbs & Co was over the window, but the Johnsons were always living there. Robert seems to have turned his hand to sales after leaving – he was living in Hither Green in 1901 and listed as a ‘boot traveller.’

Frederick Miller took over boot and shoe making duties on the parade, but was living in Clarendon Road (now Rise) in 1901.  Miller was to stay until around the outbreak of World War 1.

32 Eltham Road

While empty in 1871, by 1881 32 was home to a trade no longer seen on shopping parades – a brush maker.  Brixton born George James White was the man behind the brooms.  Along with his wife, Margaret there were four children, the eldest who worked in the shop.  They were there in the 1891 census but moved on by 1894 as the Reed empire closed in.  The Whites presumably plied their trade elsewhere and presumably successfully, in 1901 George was still making brushes but living in Micheldever Road.  He died a few years later though. The shop, pictured a few years later, is towards the left of the photograph below.

34 Eltham Road

This was a corner plot that seems to have been let with a market garden – this covered what elsewhere would be described as the ‘Piazza’ of the current Leegate Centre at the corner of Leyland Road (pictured below). The first occupant was James Walton who in the 1871 census was described a nurseryman who came from Jersey with his wife Jenny.  They had been in Lee since at least 1863, when their daughter Annie was born – this was before the parade was built.  Annie died in the 1880s and it was just James and daughter Annie there in 1891.

James married Harriet and in 1901 was still living above the shop at 34 with four children, the eldest were children from Harriet’s previous relationship.  There were also two of their own, along with a shop assistant and a servant. By this stage Kelly’s Directory had a suffix of FRHS after the name – James was now a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society.  They were to stay on there until at least 1905.

We will pick up the story of most of these shops in a couple of posts time; the next one though will look at the drapery empire of Charles Henry Reed which dominated the parade.

Picture & Other Credits

  • The press cutting is from the Woolwich Gazette 11 December 1869
  • The picture of Lee Green Farm is from the infomration board at Lee Green
  • The three pictures of the parade, along with that of the almshouses are from the collection of Lewisham Archives – they are used with their permission and remain their copyright
  • Kelly’s Directory data comes from both Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • Census and related data comes from Find My Past (subscription required)

4 thoughts on “‘Reed’s Corner’ – The Eltham Road Shops Before the Leegate – Part 1 – Up to 1905

  1. Pingback: ‘Reed’s Corner’ – The Eltham Road Shops Before the Leegate – Part 2 – Reeds Drapers | Running Past

  2. Pingback: ‘Reed’s Corner’ – The Eltham Road Shops Before the Leegate – Part 3 – From 1905 | Running Past

  3. Pingback: Pound Land – The Homes of John Pound, Victorian Builder & Brick Maker of Lee, Blackheath & Grove Park | Running Past

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