Wood Cottage and the Maller Nurseries of Lee

There is a postcard that appears from time to time on Lewisham Facebook reminiscence groups and for sale on eBay of a small house set back from the road with the label Burnt Ash Hill.  In the former locations, it often causes consternation as there are no obvious current or even recent landmarks.  The house was Wood Cottage and this post seeks to tell at least some of its story, and more particularly the nurseries that it was linked to.

The cottage probably dates from the 1870s and was broadly where the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes now stands (pictured below) – midway between Lee Station and what is now the South Circular of St Mildred’s Road and Westhorne Avenue. 

The origin of the name is unclear, although the most likley scenario is after one of the Wood family who farmed the neighbouring Horn Park Farm who may have farmed the land for a brief period in the 1860s.

The firm running the nursery for much of its life was Maller and Sons.  It was set up by Benjamin Maller, a gardener who hailed from Surrey (Sussex in some censuses).  Born in 1823, he was living with wife Mary and daughter Mary at Belmont Lodge in 1851 – which was attached to Belmont a large house  on what is now Belmont Hill, where he was the gardener. 

In the 1861 census, Maller had moved just down the hill and was listed at 5 Granville Terrace, later it was to have the address 61 Lewisham High Street.  It is now part of the Lewisham police station site, but before that, became part of the Chiesmans empire.  Maller was listed as a ‘Nurseryman employing two boys’ in the census. Long and Lazy Lewisham which is covering the history of the High Street, notes that he had been there, trading initially with Robert Miller for around 5 years.

The partnership with Miller was short lived as was another with George Fry which ended in 1860. The next decade saw a rapid expansion, the 1871 census suggests he was employing 31 men and 6 boys. 

By 1881 they were listed in the census as being in Leyland Road – the numbering isn’t totally clear as the road was being developed and the house is just described as ‘The Nursery.’  This is pictured above (back middle), it was later numbered 72 and puts it now at the corner of Leyland Road and Alanthus Close. The nursery shown on an 1890s Ordnance Survey map. below, along with several other areas cultivated.

This would have been land leased from the Crown, part of the former Lee Green Farm (pictured below) which ceased operating in the1860s.  While the exact geography of the farm isn’t completely clear – it seems to have been a narrow farm covering land to the east of what is now Burnt Ash Road and Hill from Lee Green to around Winn Road.  Just a few hundred metres wide, it shrank rapidly as homes and shops were developed by John Pound following the arrival of the railway in Lee in 1866.  Land was also temporarily lost to clay pits and brickworks just south of Lee Station and north of The Crown.

In 1881 Maller was listed as a nursery man with 30 acres employing 4 men 8 boys.  The family included grown-up children Mary, Benjamin and Herbert – in the 1881 census at ‘the Nursery, Leyland Road’.

There had been  of significant reduction in labour since 1871 – 31 men to just 4 over 10 years.  This probably relates to the land they cultivated being rapidly lost to Victorian suburbanisation as streets like Dorville, Osberton and Leyland Roads were developed. 

Benjamin died in 1884 but the business continued as B Maller and Son afterwards, with Benjamin Boden Maller in charge – living variously at 107 and 111 Burnt Ash Road (there was access to the site from Burnt Ash Road too) and 72 Leyland Road. Benjamin Boden Maller died in 1913 although his son, also Benjamin, continued for a while.  However, in the 1939 Register he was listed as a Civil Servant living in Reigate.

So what did they grow? In 1879 an advert in the Kentish Mecury suggested the land cultivated from Wood Cottage (Burnt Ash Hill site) was for roses. The site around Leyland Road (listed as Burnt Ash Lane) was used for trees and and shrubs as well as having greenhouse plants and other plants that needed warmth – stove plants. While they cultivated Brockely Nursery they had moved from there as the Billinghursts (see below) were there by 1880 (1),

It seems that before the end of the century there was a change in focus with a lot of plants being grown for seed – they were regualrly advertising their illustrated seed catalogue to the gardeners of south east London and beyond (2).

In the early 20th century, they would also have auctions of surplus stock in September each year. The 1910 sale included 20,000 winter blooming heaths, gorse, winter aconites, ferns and palms (3).

The land that is now part of Alanthus Close seems to have remained with the Mallers until around the mid 1920s. On Burnt Ash Hill they will have added the land of the former brickworks less the frontage onto Burnt Ash Hill and a development next to The Crown centring on Corona Road.  This will have been an extension of the land cultivated from Wood Cottage.

It seems that the land was split three n the mid to late 1920s when the Mallers left.  There were different names at 107 Burnt Ash Road (May Scotland), 111 Burnt Ash Road (George Friend Billinghurst) and Norris Buttle at Wood Cottage.

May Clark Scotland was appropriately Scottish, born in Perth, she was running a florists at 111 Lewisham High Street by 1911, the name over the door was Alexander Scotland.

George Billinghurst was born around 1871 and seems to have spent his early years in Eliot Place in Blackheath, his father Friend Billinghurst was also a gardener.  There is no obvious link to the more well known Blackheath Billinghurst family, which included disabled suffragette (Rosa) May. They seem to have cultivated Brockley Nursery for a while (4), after the Mallers moved out, but family moved on to Croydon. By 1891 George was listed as a gardener, a decade later a florist and by 1911 a nurseryman living in Annerley Road.

Norris Buttle was living at 172 Ennersdale Road in 1901 and at 31 Leahurst Road in 1911 (these were probably the same house as the Ennersdale originally dog-legged around) – he was listed as a gardener then nursery gardener. 

With all three of them, details beyond 1911 proved difficult to work out.  Certainly none of them were at 72 Leyland Road – it was empty in 1939 as were 8 out of 10 the houses of that end side of the street going southwards.  It was a different picture going northwards.

Time was running out for the nurseries too, the land cultivated from Wood Cottage was lost in the 1930s as leases ran out and the Crown sold the land for development.  The land behind Wood Cottage was lost to the Woodstock Estate of Woodyates and Pitfold Roads.  Further south, the new South Circular and the developments around Horncastle and Kingshurst Roads, pictured above, further depleted the land.  The Cottage itself was lost to the new Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes – the church had acquired the land in 1936.

The land sandwiched between Leyland and Burnt Ash gradually was encroached upon with development at the southern end of Leyland Road although there were memories of roses being grown until the early 1960s when many Crown Estate leases ended. 

And finally, while no longer cultivated, there is a small piece of undeveloped land where the nursery was – the green space to the south of Alanthus Close. On some satellite images of the area in drought conditions show rectangles, probably the ghosts of greenhouses past – a little less clear than the prefabs around Hilly Fields.

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Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 16 August 1879
  2. Kentish Mercury 09 February 1894
  3. Kentish Mercury 02 September 1910
  4. Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 3 July 1880

 Credits

  • Census and related data come from Find My Past (subscription required)
  • Kelly’s Directories were accessed via a combination of Southwark and Lewisham Archives, with the reference to Lewisham High Street via the on-line collection of the University of Leicester
  • The postcard of Wood Cottage is via eBay in January 2021
  • The drawing of Lee Green Farm is from the information board at Lee Green
  • The photograph of the land between Burnt Ash Road and Leyland Road is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission.
  • The Ordnance Survey map is part of the collections of the National Library of Scotland – it is used here on a non-commercial licence
  • The satellite image of Alanthus Close is via Apple Maps

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Bankwell Road – Edwardian Migration & Employment

In the relatively recent past Running Past has looked at migration to several Lee streets based on censuses soon after the first residents moved in – the working-class Robertson Street (now Brightfield Road) and the middle-class middle section of Southbrook Road both in 1881.  Similarly, we have looked at the occupations of those first occupants – looking at Ardmere Road in Hither Green and parts of Springbank Road, along with the 1930s parts of Old Road and the Verdant Lane estate.

We turn our attention to a street that was built somewhat later than all but the last two – Bankwell Road whose homes were completed in early 1909. It is a small road running from Lee High Road to the northern entrance to Manor House Gardens. The street is in what was the grounds of Lee Place.

Lee Place had been one of the larger houses in the area from the 17th century until it was demolished at the end of Benjamin Aislabie’s lease in 1824.  The former estate was sold in plots with the area bounded by Old Road and Lee High Road (that section was initially referred to as New Road) being divided into three – see map above.  The easterly end was developed for shops and Lee Working Men’s Institution in the late 1870s; the westerly end was used as an orchard and kitchen garden for Pentland House before becoming Arts and Crafts style flats on Old Road and a shopping parade on Lee High Road – Market Terrace.

The section in middle now has Bankwell Road at its centre.  It was a field until the beginning of the 20th century.  The eastern frontage onto Lee High was developed as shops next to those developed in the 1870s around 1910, on the opposite side of Bankwell Road was a cinema, Lee Picture Palace, run and almost certainly built by James Watt.

While Watt was a prolific builder, both in his own right and as a contractor on the Corbett Estate, he didn’t build the houses on Bankwell Road. That was a firm called Hatch and Hatch who were based at 62 Rushey Green, in the main they were auctioneers but did some speculative building work.  They were owned by Robert Frarey who also had a builders’ merchants called Catford Building Supply Association who were based at 161 Rushey Green – a site still in the same business trading as Catford Timber (1).    

The houses seem to have been completed in early 1909 with number 3 being used as a show house as there was a sale at auction of furniture from there (2).  Number 3 was one of four houses on that side of the road that were to be sold by auction in March 1909 on 99-year leases (3).  The houses on the western side, pictured below, were completed a few months later (4). 

There were a lot of problems for the tenants of the houses in the months after – the owner was still Robert Frarey who had presumably failed to sell the homes in March 1909 (5).  Frarey was summoned for failing to supply water to numbers 6 and 8 (6).

There were issues too with delays in sorting out pavements, the road surface and street lighting which prompted a letter from one of the residents of the street to the local press in May 1909 when the street still had builders materials scattered about and to reach the front door in wet weather almost required ‘top boots or a raft’ (7).  While the Borough of Lewisham stepped in and adopted the road, they found it difficult to get the money out of the owners (8). 

The reason for this was that Hatch and Hatch were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy – there was a creditors’ meeting in July 1909 where it became clear that one of the reasons for his debts was his inability to ‘realise property’ – presumably not selling on the homes in Bankwell Road and land owned in Wimbledon (9).  It seems that by August 1909 the houses had been sold on, probably at a loss, by the Receivers (10).

One of the houses, probably number 12, described as a ‘pre-war villa’, was for sale for just £895 in 1927 (11).

The eastern side of the street with a then dairy at the corner is pictured below from early in their life.

So, who were the initial tenants many of whom had to live on a building site to start with?  The 1911 Census was taken a couple of years after the houses were completed.  A surprisingly high number of the 13 houses were empty (5, 6 & 11) when the enumerators called.

They were in the main young professionals with young children, the average age of the adults was 33. There were a couple of house shares – one three siblings (the Stevens at number 3) and the other two sisters and one of their husbands (the Trivett/Venner household at 7)..

Several were probably employed in local businesses – Edwin Linden at number 2 was a Clerk at a Cat and Dog Food Manufacturers.  This may well have been Perfecta Foods which had been bought by Arthur Chilton King and was to become Chiltonian biscuits soon after. (There is a short post, which needs some updating from the early days of Running Past). The Linden family was to stay at number 2 until the late 1990s.

Also probably working at Chiltonian was Percy Jarrett from number 9 – he was listed as manager in a biscuit factory.  Other trades included a provisions merchant, an electrical engineer, a couple of assistant teachers, a postal sorter, perhaps at Lee Sorting Office in what is now Woodyates Road, a Drapers’ Manager a Clerk for a Tent and Sail Maker – perhaps for John Edgington & Co who were to move in 36 Old Road after the war.

None of the married women worked but the Stevens sisters were both employed at a Telephone Exchange, perhaps the Lee Green one, then in Gilmore Road; the only other working woman was one of the Assistant Teachers, Grace Venner, who lived at number 7. 

Before looking at the census records, the assumption had been that most of the adults would probably have been second generation migrants with parents having moved from elsewhere in the country to London.    That was true of a few such as Draper’s Manager, Alexander Miller who hailed from Sydenham with a father from Poole in Dorset. 

Madeline Trivett at number 7 was from Bermondsey and her teacher sister from Canning Town, three doors away Edith Howland seems to have come from Wandsworth – a lodger there was from what is now Tower Hamlets.  So, only five out of twenty-six were born in London.

As the map shows, there was quite a spread across the country (there are three outliers all from Aberdeen, the Stevens siblings at number 3, which aren’t shown).  Compared with the working class street of Robertson Street here are fewer Londoners and fewer from East Anglia and areas close to London.  Compared with the wealthier early occupants of Southbrook Road, where 14% have been born in parts of the Empire, none fell into this category in Bankwell Road.   As has already been alluded to there were considerably fewer Londoners too. 

Of the children, unsurprisingly given the age of their parents most were local 10/14 were from what is the current Borough of Lewisham and three of the others within 5 miles.

It is only 10 houses so not too much can be inferred from it, but it is interesting that in one new street most came from outside the capital – migration to the city was still a significant feature.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 16 July 1909
  2. Kentish Mercury 26 February 1909
  3. Kentish Mercury 05 March 1909
  4. Kentish Mercury 14 May 1909
  5. Kentish Mercury 05 March 1909
  6. Woolwich Gazette 11 June 1909
  7. Kentish Mercury 14 May 1909
  8. West Kent Argus and Borough of Lewisham News 19 October 1909
  9. Kentish Mercury 16 July 1909
  10. Kentish Mercury 13 August 1909
  11. Sydenham, Forest Hill and Penge Gazette 8 July 1927

Credits

  • The photograph of the dairy and the eastern side of the street is used here with the kind permission of Bill Bowyer, it remains his copyright
  • Census and newspaper data is via Find my Past (subscription required)
  • The Ordnance Survey map is part of the collection of the National Library of Scotland, and is used here on a non-commercial licence
  • The migration map has been created with Google Maps

El Partido – A 1960s Lewisham Music Venue

A while ago Running Past covered one of the more significant music venues in Lee, the still closed (mid 2022) Dirty South, the last incarnation of the Rose of Lee. A bit further down Lee High Road was El Partido, a short-lived club from early 1964 until some point towards the end of 1967.  For a small venue above some shops away from central London it was able to attract a number of bands and artists who went onto have very successful careers including Elton John, Status Quo, influential prog rock band Gentle Giant., along with Jimmy Cliff early in his career and Bo Diddley a little past his peak.

El Partido was above numbers 8-12 Lee High Road, on the other side of the entrance to Clarendon Yard to the Sultan – a drinking haunt of Siouxsie Sioux amongst others.  The buildings for both have gone, 8-12 is pictured on the right of the photograph below – mid-way between signs for Bonds Hats and the Coal Office from around 6 decades before.

When it opened it was probably above Jay’s Furnishing, hire purchase furnishers, whose ghost sign remains around the corner in Clarendon Rise, they had been there since the 1930s although they seem to have gone by 1965 and shop fronts below were empty. Whether their departure is linked to El Partido’s arrival isn’t clear.

El Partido was described as ‘a hangout for Mods  and Jamaicans ….2 floors of live R&B, blues, ska and reggae, open all night and very noisy.’ In playing this mixture of music, particularly the reggae, it was unusual in the Lewisham of the mid 1960s. The club was described in a post on Transpontine blog as having 

‘…. a small stage and very low ceilings just the place for live acts. Usually with two sound systems, one on each floor…..The smell of hash in the air people dancing everywhere.’ 

It appears to have gone through at least two phases of ownership, one when it was managed by Peter Rollins, with ownership by his brother John. The other owner was Bryan Mason, who also managed The Loose Ends who in turn frequently played at El Partido. The dates of either period of ownership aren’t particularly clear though.

The Loose Ends cut a couple of singles with Decca, including Tax Man from 1966 (Decca had a distribution centre further up Lee High Road, but that was a decade later).

Another regular was  Duke Lee who either performed and/or was DJ on numerous occasions.

In the early period at the beginning of 1964, one of the bands to play was The Spectres, who were an early incarnation of Status Quo – the band had its roots at Sedgehill School where Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster had met and by this stage included drummer John Coghlan.

One of the best known (when he played) names to appear at El Partido was Bo Diddley in October 1965, although he was past his peak in terms of success.  Nonetheless a set from Bo Diddley would have been something of a coup for the club. He had played numerous styles and influenced artists from Buddy Holly to the Beatles and the Clash. A couple of years before he had toured the UK with Little Richard, the Rolling Stones and the Everly Brothers. 

Elton John (pictured a few years later), at that stage known as Reg Dwight, played with his then band, Bluesology, a couple of times in late 1965 and early 1966.  Dwight’s alter ego, Elton John, wasn’t to emerge for another year or so.  Bluesology also acted as the backing band for  Major Lance a significant R&B and later Northern Soul artist who also appeared at El Partido in late 1965. Similarly Bluesology also provided the backing for the influential R&B singer Doris Troy in early 1966.  She was later well known for being one of the backing singers on Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’

Simon Dupree and the Big Sound played there in early 1966, a psychedelic band, they neither included anyone called ‘Simon’, ‘Dupree’ and despite a hit with ‘Kite’, didn’t become ‘Big’; they nearly recruited the aforementioned keyboard player Reg Dwight who toured with them for a while in 1967.  However, the Shulman brothers who made up most of the band, had some success and much more influence with the slightly odd prog rock band Gentle Giant in the 1970s.

The Drifters appeared there in early 1966; whether it was THE Drifters or a British group using the same name isn’t clear, if it was THE Drifters it isn’t clear which of the numerous variants it was.

In April 1966 Jimmy Cliff played, it would have been one of his earlier UK gigs soon after he signed to Island Records.  On the same bill was Duke Reid who ‘dominated the Jamaican music scene of the 1960s, specialising in ska and rocksteady’ probably doing a DJ set at El Partido. A few weeks earlier Wilson Pickett was meant to have played but there seems to have been a double booking.  Cliff was to return to El Partido in August 1966. (The album cover is from a couple of years later)

Carl Douglas was to appear a couple of times in the summer of 1966, eight years before his big hit – Kung Fu Fighting

The ‘Unbreakable’ Tea Set alas seem not to have been an early incarnation of Pink Floyd; the July date was in the summer of 1966 – they’d been known as Pink Floyd since late 1965, although the name change may have been prompted by, appearing on the same bill as the ‘unbreakable’ version.

El Partido seems to have closed down in 1967, the reasons aren’t completely clear but there seem to have been a number of drug raids from the constabulary.

The building was redeveloped into a fairly nondescript shop and office mix, probably in the mid 1990s, certainly it predates StreetView and the current Lewisham Planning Portal – a dental practice now occupies the cavity that Elton John performed in four times.

And finally …..there is a rumour of an appearance (although not performance) of Jimi Hendrix at El Partido. There are a fair number of rumours like this in the area, including a stay at the Station Hotel at Hither Green. There isn’t any clear evidence for any of them, but it is part of the musical folklore of the area, which is depicted in a mural in Manor Park close by.

Credits

  • The Kelly’s Directory information comes via Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • The photograph of the lower end of Lee High Road is via Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission but remains their copyright
  • The picture of Bo Diddley is on a Creative Commons via Wikipedia, as is the 1971 photo of Elton John
  • The Jimmy Cliff album cover is also from By All Music Guide, Fair use license via Wikipedia
  • The dates of when acts performed at El Partido come from Garage Hangover
  • The advert for El Partido was a screen shot from Facebook a few years ago, it almost certainly originated in the music press, probably Melody Maker where the club regularly advertised. If its your image and you want me to take it down do let me know.

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War and a Lee Street – Taunton Road

Over the years Running Past has looked at the impact of the Blitz and the V-1 and V-2 attacks at the end of World War Two, as well as looking at the preparations that were made ahead of war being declared.  This post takes a slightly different tack, looking at one street and the impact that was felt there – Taunton Road, a street of mainly Victorian terraced houses running from Burnt Ash Road to Manor Lane.

In the main we’ll look at World War Two, but we’ll start with World War One; like virtually every other street there were young men who went to war from Lee but who never returned….

Frank Eugene Gamblin was just 19 when he died on 31 May 1918 in Northern France.  He was the son of Thomas and Edith Gamblin of 50 Taunton Road (at the corner of Hedgley Street).  He was a Private in the Devonshire Regiment.  Frank had been working part time as a ‘Milk Boy’ aged 12 in 1911, still at school and living in Rhyme Road in Lewisham.

Just beyond the school, at 58 Taunton Road, lived William Jupp; he had been born in Lee, although the family have moved to Hove for a while but was in the street by the 1911 census. At that point he was still at school, but just over seven years later, on 24 August 1918, he died near Albert in Northern France, aged just 21, a rifleman in the London Regiment.  His parents, Rachael and William, were still living in Taunton Road.

James Woodnott was a Private in the London Regiment who died at Aubers Ridge on 4 October 1918 in Northern France and was buried close by.  Born in 1886 he was the oldest of the five who died. He had grown up in Dacre Street; by 1909 he had married Fanny, and in 1911 he was working as a carman living in Neuchatel Road in Catford.  They were living at 83 Taunton Road, opposite the park entrance, as war broke out with two children, born in 1913 and 1914.

Another man with links to the street was Alfred Edward (Edwin) Braine. He had a couple of rooms at number 13 before he went to war. Born around 1881, he seems to have lived on the street for much of his life – growing up at 37. He was serving as a Sergeant in the Royal Field Artillery when he died towards the end of on the war on 20 September 1918 and is buried or commemorated at the Vis-en-Artois Memorial. He may well have joined the Army at 18, someone of a similar name (the middle name is listed as Edwin) and age signed up in October 1899 in the same regiment.

Charles Frederick Broad had grown up in Taunton Road, born around 1896 his parents, Rose and Huntley, were living at 84 Taunton Road by 1901.  He was still at school in 1911 but died less than six years later aged just 20 in Belgium on New Year’s Day 1917 where he was buried at Spoilbank Cemetery (pictured below).  He was a Lance Corporal in the London Regiment.  His parents were Huntley Charles Broad and Rose Matilda Broad still of 84 Taunton Road.

Entrance stone for Spoilbank cemetery

Two doors away at 80, was the mother of Ernest E Jackson; he was a Corporal in the Royal Fusiliers and died at Gallipoli on 13 August 1915, aged 22.  He may have no direct contact to Lee other than through her – Mrs Florence Brosinovich, who had married Henry in 1893.  Ernest was almost certainly born Brosinovich.

For reasons that will become clear, we will continue with the group of houses to the west of the park entrance where the Brosinovich and Broad households lived.  Unlike the bigger houses in the streets to the south, that part of Taunton Road hadn’t changed that much between 1911 and the outbreak of World War Two, it was still predominantly single-family homes, mainly housing skilled working-class households, when the 1939 Register was collected.

Florence Brosinovich and some of her family were still at 80, they shared with another couple. 80 was the only shared house in the group, two households with 5 people and all but Florence worked. 

The Broads were still at 84, Charles’ younger brother was working as a local government officer and his father in his 60s was working as a printer.  Their neighbours at 86 were the Buttons where Robert worked as a lorry driver and got the ‘heavy work’ supplement which would have entitled him to larger rations.  On the other side at 82 were three women sharing, including typist Doreen Tew, who would have turned 19 in the autumn of 1939.

Others in the group of houses to the west of the park included Amos and Elizbeth Howick at 70 who were in their 60s, he was a bricklayer and he too would have been entitled to the ‘Heavy Work’ supplement in the rations.  The Wilsons at 74, included paper hanger Henry in his early 50s, his work wouldn’t have got the supplement.

A little further down the street was Hedgley Street School (now Trinity), which is pictured above; there is a separate post on this but just before the 1939 Register was collated most of the children would have been evacuated to Ashford in Kent.  Although given it was another year until the start of the Blitz, many children will have drifted back to Taunton Road and neighbouring streets by the time bombing started.

As the children moved out, the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) service moved in.  Their role has been explored in an earlier post but one of the but several of the Noble family from 49 Lampmead Road were to be based there.  This included Phyllis (later Willmott) and her brother Joe who was injured when school bombed and seriously damaged with the front part largely destroyed in 1941 – the school never re-assembled.

Oddly the Nobles were to move to the house next door to the school (52) which had a yard (now part of the school playground) for Phyllis father’s building business – a trade that would have been kept very busy with repairing local bomb damage.

One of the earliest bombs to hit the street was on 25 September 1940 when an Anderson shelter in the garden of number 1, a small house on the opposite side to Sainsburys, took a direct hit – Charles (who worked at RAF Kidbrooke) and Claire Rivers both died, along with their 7-year-old daughter Sylvia – orphaning several other children.  There were 11 there in October 1939, including five who were redacted presumably children who weren’t evacuated. One of the surviving children, Ruby, ended up in an orphanage but was discovered by a brother were returned to Lewisham on leave and reunited her with other family members.

The deaths at number one weren’t the first from the street during World War Two though.  Sylvia Wickens from number 7 had volunteered to be an ARP Warden, she was based in Lewisham Town Centre and was one of 41 who died at Albion Way on 11 September 1940, when a public shelter took a direct hit. 

Almost four years later another resident of the street died in an attack on Lewisham town centre – Maude Clarke from 85 died in the High Street V-1 attack in July 1944.

Returning to the Taunton Road, the most damaging raid was just before Christmas in 1940, when the section of the street that we covered above in relation to the 1939 Register was hit by a High Explosive bomb on 15 December.  82 probably took a direct hit as there was most damage there, but several other houses were destroyed beyond repair and replaced after the war with council homes.

At 82 there were two deaths – one was the 23-year-old Monica Tew, who was listed as the daughter of H Tew. It may be remembered that Monica’s sister, Doreen was living there in 1939, the Tews may be have been displaced by earlier raids elsewhere.

82 was a shared house by 1940, also there were the Setons whose 7-year-old daughter Elizabeth also perished.  She had probably been originally been evacuated (see above) but had later returned to Lewisham.

Assuming that Florence Brosinovich had remained at 80 in the year since the 1939 Register was collected, she would have been made homeless – it seems that she moved to somewhere in the Reigate, Godstone, Dorking and Epsom area of Surrey where she died before the war was out in 1943.

There were other bombings on the street – lots of incendiary bombs fell around the junction with Wantage Road on 8 December 1940, not obviously causing any significant damage.  At some stage houses closer to the now Sainsburys site were destroyed, although this was either missed when I went through the ARP logs or wasn’t recorded, not every incident was on busy nights. 

At the end of the War, on VE Day there were celebrations of the end of the war, no doubt they were tempered by the deaths and injuries to friends and neighbours.  There was certainly a party on Taunton Road, possibly two.  The photograph above is taken from around the park entrance looking back towards Wantage Road – there is a concrete air raid shelter in the background.  The one below is in the section close to Burnt Ash Road that was redeveloped 20 years or so later. 

Notes & Credits

  • The photograph of Spoilbank Cemetery is via Wikipedia on a Creative Commons
  • Thank you to David Carter for the information about his family who were orphaned in September 1940 link here
  • The photographs of VE parties are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with permission but remain their copyright
  • The photograph of Hedgely Street School is from a booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p15 – it remains their copyright and was accessed via Lewisham Archives and was used with the permission of both
  • The census and related data comes via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The World War One casualties come from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
  • Most of the detail of the bombing raids come via the ARP Log for Lewisham which is held by Lewisham Archives
  • Thank you to Denise Whibley Baba on Facebook for details of Alfred Edward (Edwin) Braine.

Bellingham Lido – the ‘finest in London’

Catford has lost many sports venues over the years – notably the Greyhound Stadium, but also a velodrome, The Mount which was once home to Charlton Athletic, a former ground of London Irish, another smaller greyhound and midget car racing track as well as a significant cricket ground in Penerley Road. Another of these lost sporting venues was Bellingham Lido which opened in July 1922, it was one of the first in inner London and was apparently, at the time, the longest pool in London.  It was to open its doors during summer months for hardy swimmers for almost 60 years.  We’ll look at its development and demise, putting it in the context of other London lidos and open-air swimming facilities.

The backdrop to the development was the conversion of Bellingham from farmland to homes in the early 1920s.  Interestingly at the time, it was referred to as a ‘garden city’ a ‘new town of ten thousand’ – based on principles adopted in the building of Letchworth twenty years before (1).

While Bellingham was a London County Council (LCC) estate, some of the facilities in surrounding areas were provided the Borough Council, Lewisham. The site, for those not familiar with it, was a slightly awkward one between the Ravensbourne and the railway – about a hundred metres south of Bellingham station, access was over the river – the map below shows the location and layout, just post World War 2.

What was initially referred to as either an open-air swimming pool or an air pool, cost between £8,000 and £9,000 over a period of about 9 months.  In addition to providing swimming and bathing facilities for Bellingham ‘garden city’ and Catford it was used as a means of reducing local unemployment.  The work was carried out in-house by the Borough Council with 38 unemployed local men being used to build the pool (2).

The Mayor, Cllr C H Dodd (of the still trading Blackheath solicitors, who started life in Eltham Road), opened the pool describing it as ‘the largest and finest’ in London (3). Kathleen Dodd, his niece, and the Lady Mayoress, was the first to take the plunge into the cold water accompanied by the King sisters from Forest Hill Swimming Club (4)– she is pictured below (5); a swimming gala followed. 

It seems that the LCC watched its building with interest as around the time of its opening were asking for expressions of interest for building open air swimming pools form other Borough Councils (6).

While there is no evidence that she swam here it would be good to think that Hilda ‘Laddie’ Sharp, Hither Green’s pioneering Channel swimmer might have at least done some training here – she swam the Channel in 1928. 

Water initially drained into the Ravensbourne and there was no filtration plant initially built as part of the lido – water was drained late on Sunday mornings into the Ravensbourne and then refilled.  Presumably the quality of water was poor by the end of Sunday morning’s session.   A new filtration plant was agreed in late 1929.  Around £9000 was borrowed from the Ministry of Health for this along with increasing the ‘number of first and second class slipper baths’ from 31 to 57 at Ladywell and 12 to 25 at Bell Green.  The inspector noted ‘you will be quite clean in Lewisham.’ (7).

Whilst Bellingham may have been the first lido in what was then the old London County Council area it was by no means the first open water swimming in what we would now regard as London.  Several ponds that had been used for years for swimming, notably those on Hampstead Heath whose usage dates from around 1800 and the as well as the Serpentine soon after (8).  Outside what was the LCC area were already several open-air swimming pools in South London including Erith (built in 1906), Croydon (1909), Wimbledon (1913) along with Tooting Bec (1906) (9).

At their peak in 1939, the leader of the LCC Herbert Morrison described London as a ‘City of Lidos’ – there were a staggering 67 lidos open that year (10).   In neighbouring areas this included Brockwell, Danson Park, Eltham Park, Charlton, Bromley Southlands, Peckham Rye, St Mary Cray and Southwark Park (11).

In addition to issues around filtration there were serious problems with leakages – having to be refurbished over the winter of 1959/60 and opening a little late for the summer of 1960. (12). Fond memories of the lido from this era and a bit later often appear in Facebook threads in the various Lewisham reminiscence groups.

The lido closed in 1980 (13) – presumably as a result of the public expenditure cuts that most councils had to make in the early years of the Conservative Government led by Margaret Thatcher. 

It was a similar fate that beset most of the local lidos – Danson Park and Bromley both closed in 1980 too, although Bromley re-opened for a while in the mid-1980s, the last length was swum in 1987; Peckham Rye also closed in 1987, Southwark Park in 1989 and Eltham Park in 1990 (14) – its outline is still fairly clear though.

Locally only two remain – both built much later than Bellingham -Brockwell (1937) and Charlton (1939).  The latter had a major refurbishment a decade ago with Olympic legacy funding.  It re-opened as a heated pool in 2013 and is the perfect place to watch the sunrise on a cold winter’s morning.

Whilst now having no lido, Lewisham does now have open water swimming in Beckenham Place Park (pictured below) – it’s part of the conversion from an underused golf course to a well-used public park.  There was £440k grant funding from the Greater London Authority (a successor of the LCC) for both the pool and large scale tree planting, it opened in 2019. It is open year-round although booking is required.

As for the Bellingham Lido site, it was eventually replaced with the social housing of Orford Road, let from around 1990.

Notes

  1. Sydenham, Forest Hill & Penge Gazette 28 July 1922
  2. Brockley News, New Cross and Hatcham Review 4 August 1922
  3. ibid
  4. ibid
  5. from Bromley & West Kent Mercury 4 August 1922
  6. Forest Hill & Sydenham Examiner 4 August 1922
  7. Forest Hill & Sydenham Examiner 27 December 1929
  8. Simon Inglis (2014) Played in London (Swindon, English Heritage) p155
  9. ibid pp 158-159
  10. ibid p154
  11. ibid pp 158-159
  12. Sydenham, Forest Hill & Penge Gazette – 24 June 1960
  13. Inglis op cit p158-9
  14. ibid

Picture and Other Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey map is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence
  • The photograph of the entrance is from the collection of Lewisham Archives – it is used with their permission but remains their copyright.
  • The postcard is from e Bay in July 2019.

‘Reed’s Corner’ – The Eltham Road Shops Before the Leegate – Part 3 – From 1905

There were shops on Eltham Road, where the Leegate Centre now stands, which dated from the mid-1860s.  The first post in this group looked at their transition from Lee Green Farm to  a flourishing parade with a variety of shops which, in 1905; the second looked at the frim that dominated the parade for much of its life – the family drapers, furnishing and ironmongery firm  C  H Reed, the domination was so great that this south east quadrant of Lee Green was known as ‘Reed’s Corner.’  In this final part we’ll look at the rest of the parade from 1905 until the bulldozers moved in during the 1960s.

We’ll take the same approach to the narrative as we did in the first post, generally looking at shops eastwards from Lee Green.

2-4 Eltham Road

We had left this pair of shops as a grocer which was part of a south east London chain of around 15 branches – Webb and Ellen.   They remained until around 1906 when number 2 was acquired by London and Provincial Bank – it straddled the corner of Burnt Ash and Eltham Roads and had addresses in both roads at various stages – it was covered in part on the post on Burnt Ash Road shops too.  It seems likely that the building was partially rebuilt on the Burnt Ash Road side but on Eltham Road side, if any building work was undertaken it was done to match existing properties.

The Bank went through through two name changes in quick succession – firstly, in 1918 when it became the snappily titled London, Provincial and South Western Bank. following a merger with the London and South Western Bank.  The latter also had a branch that we’ve already covered at the junction of Lee High and Brightfield Roads which was origianlly a temperance coffee tavern. Probably by the time the sign writers had finished the new title, it had become redundant as it was taken over by Barclays later in 1918.  It seems to have stayed a Barclays branch until the parade was demolished in the 1960s.

Initially, 2 and 4 were let separately, in 1905, number 4 was an off licence run by John Lovibond & Sons. They were the owners of the Greenwich Brewery at 177 Greenwich High Road, almost next to the station, although it was a firm which originated in Somerset.  In 1911 it was being run by Harry Beney who lived over the shop. It seems that they may have done a deal with Barclays in the early 1920s as around they moved from one side of the bank to 1a Burnt Ash Road around 1925, where they remained until that parade was demolished.

In its early days, the bank manager was Harry Kitto who lived over the bank; but from the late 1930s the rooms above the Bank were let out to solicitors Page, Moore and Page who remained there until around 1960, although there was no Moore towards the end.  From around 1950 they were joined by accountants Levett and Co.

6 Eltham Road

We’d left number 6 with Frank Sanders running a bakers and confectioners; it had been in the same trade for at least 30 years and was to continue in that trade until the bulldozers moved in during the 1960s.  Frank Sanders was from Hounslow and had arrived with his large family from Reigate.  Given where his children were born, he may have been commuting from Reigate to start with, but by 1911 Frank, his wife Alice and 9 children were living above the shop. 

The Sanders name continued until around 1935, when Frank presumably retired – he died in Lewisham in 1938.  The new name over the window was Ernest John Hall, it was a surname that continue until the end of the parade.  Little is known about him other than the marriage to Annie who seems to have taken over the busines around 1950.  The Halls didn’t seem to live above the shop, in 1939 it was home to Frederick Dundas who worked as a fitter at RAF Kidbrooke, there with wife and probably 5 children, most were redacted though.

8 Eltham Road

Tanner and Hook had taken over the business in the early 1890s, they had one other shop at 287 Brockley Road.  The ‘Tanner’ was Arthur Tanner was from Banbury in Oxfordshire, it was a family business with a sister and shop assistant living with his over the ‘Fancy Draper’s’ shop in 1911.  Their shop from this era is at the right of the postcard below.

The name stayed on until around Arthur’s death in 1926 and then became a tobacconist which changed hands several times before Alan John Martin took over during World War 2.  He was to stay until the end of the parade in although it wasn’t possible to find any more about him. 

During the 1930s and during the war, it was a building that was home to several other businesses – a house agent run by Thomas Jones and a series of hairdressers.  Part of the upper floors were also let as a flat in 1939.  In the early 1960s Perry’s Restaurant was also there but it sems like a short-lived enterprise.

10 Eltham Road

The greengrocer and fruiterer which had been run by Walter William Wood of Horn Park Farm, since the 1890s continued into the 1930s, although run by Sydney after Walter’s death in 1924.  They moved to 34 Eltham Road around 1935. The shop in Walter’s time is towards the right of the postcard above.

The shop became a butcher; initially the name over the window was Herbert J Jackman, but it may well have actually been run by John Dennis.  Dennis had been living in Cambridge Drive since 1901 and seems to have come from the same part of Cornwall as the draper Charles Reed.  Certainly, Dennis’ name was over the window in the early 1940s, presumably until his death in 1946.  It remained a butcher until the end with the last name that of John Manson.

Like much of the rest of the parade, by 1939, the rooms above the shop were being let out – to a ship and house painter.

12 Eltham Road

We’d left number 12 in 1905 as a stationers and bookseller under the stewardship of Alfred Wilson.  Wilson lived two doors away in Cambridge Drive from his parade next door neighbour, John Dennis.  By 1911 though there were new names over the window, cousins (Percy) Jennings and (Stewart) Hill, they were aged 25 and 32 respectively – they lived above the shop.  Also above the shop in 1911, but not for long, was solicitor Charles Henry Dodd, a firm that still exists in Blackheath – he was later to become Major of Lewisham on three occasions.    

It was just Percy listed in Kelly’s in 1916, but he had left by the time the Directory was published. He had signed up with the London Regiment in November 1915. He never returned to Eltham Road – as he was killed in action in West Flanders on 23 January 1917.  Percy’s sister, Lillian Jennings, seems to have run the the business after he enlisted in the army and it was her name over the window in 1920. Harold Tibbles took over the business which continued until the early 1930s when Reed’s expanded again.

18 Eltham Road

In 1905 18 Eltham Road was part of the Reed, soon to become Griffith, empire. John Grffith soon expanded into the shop fronts at the other side of Carston Mews and knocked through into the shops on Burnt Ash Road. They seem to have moved out of 18-26 Eltham Road around the beginning of the war and the empty shop, along with its neighbours, was requisitioned by the army.

The shop front seems to have remained empty until 1925 South East  Premier Garage, Motor Engineers moved in, they may well have been using some of Carston Mews behind too. They’d gone by 1935 though, when Show Card Makers, Cut Out Press were there but they had gone by the time war broke out again when both shop and the floors above were empty.

The shop remained empty until around 1950 when Crystal Chemical Co (Lee Green) were there and the final years saw the shop front split between two odd bedfellows – Juno Fashionwear and coopers Robert Tyson.

20 Eltham Road

Like 18, 20 went from being part of the Reed ‘empire’ in 1905 to Griffith & Co., to empty, to being requisitioned by the army.  It was to remain empty until around 1930 when it became home to a small manufacturing unit run by John Barber who was listed in Kelly’s as a Leather Goods Manufacturer.  Like the garage at 18, this was a move away from the retail uses. As we’ll return to in a future post, history is repeating itself with some of the non-retail uses of the declining Leegate Centre. 

John Barber would have been in his late 30s when he moved to the parade – he didn’t live over the shop – he was at 50 Effingham Road in 1939, with his wife Lilian.  He seems to have come from a family who worked in the leather trade; born in Camberwell, his father was listed in various censuses as a leather cutter (1901) and harness maker (1911). It is a business that remained until the end of the parade in the early 1960s.

The floors above the shop seem to have been let briefly to a Wireless Supplies dealer around 1935, but had been turned over to unlinked flats in 1939 and presumably was the same in the years after.

22 Eltham Road

Prior to World War 1, this had always been part of the Reed empire, it had been one of the shops where they started.  After the drapers moved along the road the shop was then requisitioned. The first retail use after World War One was around 1930 when Stanley Pooles opened a Grocer’s.  He was gone by 1935 as Victor Webling was plying the same trade – he’d been around the area since around 1925 when he married Kathleen in Lewisham, they were living in Grove Park in 1939.  Victor stayed until the end of the parade and remained in Lewisham until his death in 1978.

24 Eltham Road

Like the near neighbours, 24 remained empty after Griffith & Co moved out and the army moved in and then on – it was to stay this way until 1930.  It was probably symptomatic of the decline of the area – which had gone from very large houses which were homes to single families with several servants to the houses becoming subdivided into flats – we saw this in the post on the houses that were on the Eltham Road frontage of what is now Leybridge Court, along with one the nearby St Peter’s Church. The wealth disappeared as the houses were subdivided.

Around 1930 Davis and Carter, who were wholesale stationers, moved into 24 – they were to be a feature on the parade until its demise.  The rooms that once acted as a workers’ hostel for Reed’s were subdivided into four flats by 1939.

26 Eltham Road

This had been the last of the Reed/Griffith shops before they shuffled along the parade around the outbreak of World War 1.  Like the others, it was requisitioned by the Army but emerged as another non-retail use by 1925 – Lee Green Temperance Billiard Hall.  There were several such premises in south east London at this stage – the best known at the junction of Courthill Road and Lewisham High Street (which was later Riley’s).

The Billiard Hall was to last much longer than the decade of the temperance Jubilee Coffee Tavern a couple of hundred metre away at the corner of Lee High and Brightfield Roads.  At the outbreak of World War 2, it was managed by Edward Fuller who lived above the green baize tables with his daughter, May.  He survived World War 2 by a few days.  It may have been a one-man operation as it was soon taken over by the British Legion (Lee Green) Club in whose stewardship the premises remained until the bulldozers moved in.

28 Eltham Road

We’d left 28 with the name of Charles Henry Lenn over the window of a shop selling china and glass.  It had probably been there since the parade opened; Charles had died in 1898 but the business carried on in his name, in 1911 run by daughters Susannah, Emma and Caroline who were still living over the shop along with their sister in law Lilian.    They moved on within a few years and the sisters were living in Somerset by 1921. The shop is on the left of the postcard below.

By 1916 there was a new name to the parade, although not to Lee Green.  Frederick Lear had moved from 118 Lee Road where he’d been trading as an antique furniture dealer in 1911.  He was born in 1859 and was from Cheltenham, his wife Laura from Jersey helped with the business.  It was a business that they’d moved several times before it had been in Deptford in 1891 and Lewisham High Street in 1901.  Frederick died soon after they moved in and the shop was empty in 1920.

Herbert Lindley was running a confectioner in 1925, one of a series of different trades he’d tried – it was different in every census.  This one didn’t seem to last either as Walter J Mercer was running a café, referred to as ‘refreshment rooms’ in the 1930 Kelly’s.  Mercer didn’t stay that long as by 1935 Robert Flett was there running what was still a café.  His wife Alexandra was a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force  driver, presumably based at Kidbrooke.  Robert also was an agent for coach bookings. In a separate household above the shop were the retired Smiths.

By 1950 G  W Langham was operating a tobacconist – he added a Post Office counter to the business later in the decade – presumably replacing the one at 6 Burnt Ash Road when Penfolds took over. It remained until the demise of the parade.

30 Eltham Road

We’d left Frederick Miller undertaking boot and shoe making duties on the parade in 1905, but he was living elsewhere – in Clarendon Road (now Rise) in the 1901 census.  The name over the window stayed until around the outbreak of World War 1 when it had changed to Samuel Gilbert who continued with the same trade.

It may well be that like neighbouring properties it was requisitioned by the military – there was no business there in 1920.  By the mid-1920s Rosie Coombs was running a milliner’s shop  which remained the case for a decade, it was a property shared initially with auctioneer Thomas Jones (who moved to number 8) and then the hairdressers Miss A P Measures.

Around the time World War 2 broke out Vera Boore had taken over the milliner’s shop, she lived around the corner in Leyland Road.  There was no obvious sign of bomb damage on the property, but it wasn’t a business that survived the war, maybe it was the rationing of clothes that saw the business close. 

Another non-retail activity started in 1950 – a Christian Science Reading Room which remained until the demolition company moved in.

32 Eltham Road

In 1905 number 32 was an outpost of Griffith and Co.  This had changed by1911 when it became a tobacconist turn by George Harry Buttler, he was there wife Sarah and daughter Ruby who was a shop assistant in the shop along with a young servant. Like 18 to 28, the shop is not listed as having a business in 1920 – it may well have been with the Army in those years. 

For around a decade it was an extended part of Howard Perceval’s Outfitters (see 34) but by 1935 was a stationer run by Constance Tibbles – she’d given up by the time war broke out again though and was listed as a typist living in Blackheath in 1939.  The supply of stationery had been taken over by David Evans who lived in the newly built Woodyates Road.  It didn’t survive the war though.

The shop was empty for most of the rest of its history apart from a period when the Woods extended from 34.

34 Eltham Road

We’d left the shop and the nursery on the land next door in 1905 with both managed by James Walton. James had been there since at least 1871, probably a few years before.  By this stage James was in his early 70s – whether the land became too much for hm isn’t clear but by 1911 the family business was trading around the corner at 7 Burnt Ash Road.

From 1911, the land and shop were split.  The nursery was cultivated by Walter Wood from Horn Park Farm (immediately above) who also traded at 10 Eltham Road (see earlier in the post). The shop was an outfitter’s run by Howard Percival, little was able to be found out about him – although he is also listed as having a similar business from around 1915 close to Blackheath Station at 3 Lee Road and his wife (Mrs H) having a confectioner close to Lee Green at 129 Lee Road.  He expanded into 32 by 1925 but had gone from the parade within the decade.

By 1935 the Woods had taken over 34 (having moved from number 10) – it isn’t clear whether the was still farming, the land for Horn Park Farm was rapidly being sold for housing development by the Crown – notably the Horn Park Lane area for private sector houses and the area around the original farm for council homes.  Sydney was made bankrupt in 1935/36 but was still listed as a ‘farmer etc.’ in the 1939 Register, living at 3 Guibal Road. The farming may just have been the small holding at 34 – by 1948 it had lost the greenhouses that had been there in the Victorian period. The current location is the paved area of Leegate and the units behind.

There was expansion into 32 by 1950 and the shop and presumably the land seem to have been run by Sydney until around 1960, when he would have been 67.  Walter Burvill took on the shop for is last few years.

It is clear that the parade struggled towards the end.  Certainly, elsewhere in neighbouring streets such as Osberton and Leyland Roads, along with along Eltham Road itself, the Crown Estate was letting the 99 year leases granted in in the mid-1860s run down and the area seems to have become quite neglected. 

Road traffic was increasing too and the shops only allowed for one row of traffic in each direction with a bus stop in front of Reeds – the current road layout with 3 lanes westwards barely copes with traffic volumes at times.  Had they survived longer no doubt the parade would later have come under pressure from transport planners.

At some point in the not too distant future we will turn our attention to what came after – the development (and demise) of the Leegate Centre.

Notes & Credits

  • The ‘story’ of the parade in this and other posts has been pieced together using census data from 1871 and Kelly’s Directories, generally looking at every 5th year from the early 1880s
  • All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The Kelly’s Directory data was accessed via Southwark and Lewisham Archives
  • The black and white postcards and photographs of the parade along with the painting of Horn PArk Farm are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright

‘Reed’s Corner’ – The Eltham Road Shops Before the Leegate – Part 2 – Reeds Drapers

In the previous post on this parade we looked at the origins of Eastbourne and Orchard Terraces, which were to become 2-34 Eltham Road, seeing the change from rural Lee Green from Lee Green Farm to a shopping parade for what was then suburban London.  We left the parade in 1905 and will return return to those shops, but first we will turn our attention to the dominant name on this south east quadrant of Lee Green – Reeds.  It was so dominant that this part of Lee Green was referred to as ‘Reed’s Corner.’

The ‘Reed’ initially referred to C H Reed & Co and the C H Reed was Charles Henry Reed who moved Lee Green in 1866. Their ‘empire’ came to dominate the Eltham Road shops (and some of those around the corner in Burnt Ash Road) often taking over empty shops when they became vacant. 

Charles had been born in 1839 in North Cornwall, his wife Maria (probably nee Nichols), also came from Cornwall. Their starting point on the parade seems to have been 20 & 22 Eltham Road, then 2 and 3 Eastbourne Terrace, certainly that was the case in the 1871 census. 

Charles was noted as having 10 Assistants and 6 Apprentices in 1871, as was to be the pattern for decades to come most of these lived on site, along with a cook and a housemaid.

A decade later the business had expanded into what is now 18 Eltham Road as the Galloways moved further along the parade and eastwards, Charles had taken over 24 and 26 – a total of 5 shop fronts.  While listed as a drapers, it was making and selling furniture and some clothes too.  The extended business required a lot more staff and the upper floors of the parade were effectively turned into a hostel – while most of the trades of those listed in the census were drapery related – there were two cabinet makers, two dressmakers, a mantle maker and a furniture sales apprentice, along with several dealing with deliveries.  Most were under 30 and the majority men.

No longer there in 1881 though was Charles’ wife, Maria, she was living in Forest Hill with Charles William, born in 1873, sometimes referred to as William, along with a daughter Maria (seemingly later referred to as Beatrice, 1875) and Ernest (1881). Whether they were separated or not it wasn’t clear.

Reeds were regualr advertisers in the local press and as the cutting below from 1887 expanded into supplying carpets and other floor coverings for the wealthy folks in the large houses of Lee.

By 1891 the empire had taken on its sixth shop, when Jemima Dadley moved on from 16 Eltham Road.  The shop was opened as an ironmonger’s, a business type that had been absent for 20 years on the parade (and round the corner in Burnt Ash Road). Charles was still listed as living at Eltham Road. The drapery and associated trades hostel over the shop had expanded – there were now 56 people living above the shops. The postcard below is probably from around this era, with Reeds on the far left.

The business extended into Burnt Ash Road by the mid-1890s, moving the furnishing part of the business there.  Charles died in 1895 although this son Charles William continued to run the shops for another decade until selling up to Griffiths and Co around 1905 (their name is on the postcard below). 

While it may have initially been ‘round the corner’  at some stage around this point there had been a ‘knocking through’ from Eltham Road into Burnt Ash Road – whilst the 1893 surveyed map below, shows them as separate, this was not the case by 1914 (second map) or indeed after World War Two (final map).

The Griffith was John Griffith, born in Aberdaron around 1859 in the far north west tip of Wales. He was married to Rosina and seemed to have arrived via Reigate where their daughter was born in 1902. They continued the Reed approach to housing staff over the shops – in 1911 there were 27 with 6 live-in servants.

The number of shop fronts that Griffith & Co used declined though with 32 reverting to other trades from 1911.

They also seem to have moved out of 18-26 as there is an interesting photograph of the shop from World War 1 with the shutters down, the Griffith name still there, and soldiers billeted in the rooms above the shops.  Presumably, the army had requisitioned what was probably an empty building, in the same way as they had for the Ravensbourne Athletic clubhouse (now part of Ravens Way) a few hundred metres further up Eltham Road. Griffith & Co seemed to have focussed the business on the shops on the other side of Carston Mews (the bit that refers to Thomas Tilling at the right of the photograph).

By 1916 though the Reed name was back as Charles’ son William Reed was running the business. Like John Griffith, he was only using 14-16 Eltham Road off the right of the photo (along with the Burnt Ash Road shop fronts).  18 – 26 to the east of Carsten Mews were empty until at least 1920.  The building seems to have been converted back into individual shops to be let as single businesses – this is clear from the Ordnance Survey maps above for 1914 and 1948.

There was another name change around 1925.  William died in 1924 and the shop was then known as Reeds (Lee). 

The new Reed was William’s brother Ernest, who in the 1939 Register, was living just around the corner in Leyland Road.  By this time there had been an expansion into 12, next to an existing shop.  They may well also have extended the showrooms for the shop upwards as unlike most of the rest of the parade there was no private renting above the shops.

The Reed name was there until the bulldozers moved in – still listed in the 1965 Kelly’s Directory.  Ernest died in 1966 in Lewisham.  The family name had been there for almost all of the 100 years that the parade was there.  

In the next post we’ll return to the rest of the shops in the parade to see how they fared after 1905 until the end of the parade in the 1960s.

Notes & Credits

  • The ‘story’ of the parade has been pieced together using census data from 1871 and Kelly’s Directories, generally looking at every 5th year from the early 1880s
  • All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The Kelly’s Directory data was accessed via Southwark and Lewisham Archives
  • The black and white postcards and photographs of the parade are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright
  • The Ordnance Survey maps are on a non Commerical Licence from the National Library of Scotland (1897, 1914 and 1948)
  • The press cutting is from the Woolwich Gazette 4 March 1887

‘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)

Victorian Migration to Lee – Southbrook Road

A few months ago, Running Past covered migration to one of the working-class streets in Lee, Robertson Street, which was renamed in the 1880s and is now Brightfield Road. It was always the intention to look at look at some of the wealthier streets of Lee to see what the differences were. The homes we’ll look at this time are in Southbrook Road which were featured in an Edwardian postcard and, in 1881, would have been London suburbia.

The development of Southbrook Road had started at around the same time as the railway came to Lee – the station opened on 1 September 1866.  The houses at the Burnt Ash Road end of the street seem to have been built just ahead of this. 8 Southbrook Road was sold at auction with a lease of 74 years in 1889 – on the assumption that it was on a 99-year lease, it presumably had been built around 1864. As an aside, the rent was just £35 a year (1).

Like many Lee street names, the naming relates to the Baring family, who were Lords of the Manor; in 1866 the ‘Lord’ would just have been Francis Baring, the 1st Baron Northbrook. Southbrook, like Northbrook and Micheldever, they were parts of the family estate in Hampshire (2).  

The houses in the postcard seem to be on the ‘even’ side to the west of Wantage Road, with Manor Lane in the background.  If this assumption is correct, in the 1881 census, the houses pictured had relatively recently been sold and/or let, those at the Manor Lane end were still under construction.  In the 1881 census on the ‘even’ side while 32 to 48 had been let, 50 to 52 were noted as being ‘unoccupied.’  On the opposite side of the road 33 – 45 had been completed and, apart from 41 which was unoccupied all let or bought.  One of the houses in this group was sold for £710 in 1879.

The houses had been built by John Pound, who we’ve covered several times before.  It seems that they were finished off by John Urquhart Allan, an Aberdonian builder who was living at 26 Taunton Road In 1881. He’d arrived via Croydon, where he’d married Harriet from Dorset.  However, Allen wasn’t to emulate John Pound in terms of creating a large building empire, although the reason for his professional demise was the same – bankruptcy (3). Allan moved to north west London and restarted in his original trade, a carpenter; he stayed there until his death in 1915.

In the main, these were homes for young professionals – only two homes were ‘headed’ by someone over 37. Interestingly, two thirds of this group of households had extended families living with them. This is not a pattern noticed to any significant extent when looking at Victorian census data in the larger houses of Lee for other posts. Indeed, a decade later in the same houses it was quite uncommon.

The same style of houses had already been built to the east of Wantage Road – from electoral registers that are available on-line, it appears that there may have been sold and/or let let from around 1875. In these earlier houses there were fewer extended households and heads of household slightly older. One of those residents of the slightly older houses was someone we have come across before, William Marks, one of the founders of Northbrook Cricket Club.

This post will look at numbers 24-48 evens and 23-45 odds. For the purposes of tracking the ‘immigration’ to Lee we’ll look at the Head of household and their partner as one group (44 people), their children (32) as another group and their servants (26) as a third group. Disappointingly, some of the detail is absent with a small number of birthplaces – for example, details on the Swifts at 36 were reduced to England and a couple of others just London, such as the Mathams at 33 – although other data for them suggests they came from the City of London.

Looking first at the household heads and their partners; there are some significant differences to the working-class households of Robertson Street, later Brightfield Road.  As can be seen from the map above, none of the Southbrook Road residents had been born in Lee or Lewisham (it had been 16% in Robertson Street), while there were a fair number from the rest of London – in total 40% were Londoners, this was around 9% less than in the nearby working-class housing. A slightly smaller proportion came from the neighbouring counties of Kent and Surrey than in Robertson Street. 

Here the similarities end.  With Robertson Street many had come from rural communities in East Anglia; in Southbrook Road the none came from those areas.  Instead, the roots of 14% were in the south west of England, particularly Devon.  Another major different was the number with birthplaces in the Empire (14%); these included County Down and Dublin in Ireland, one from what is now Cape Town and two who were born in Jamaica (these are excluded from the map).  It is, of course, possible that the latter group may have been Black Caribbean, rather than there with trade or the colonial service, but this is much less likely but difficult to be certain about as ethnicity wasn’t recorded until the 1991 census.  

There were 32 children in the homes, this excludes three boarders and another child that was being looked after for a relative.  The data is somewhat skewed by one large household that had seven children all born in what is now Cape Town.   Of the other 25, 10 were born in Lee and 12 elsewhere in London – mainly in neighbouring areas such as Eltham, Camberwell and New Cross – indicating the stopping off points in the journey to Lee. 

William Marks was a silk merchant and his journey to 1881 Lee was shorter than many of the household heads – born in 1822 in Sheerness, his wife Jane came from Gravesend. Their children had all ‘flown the nest’ by 1881 but they’d been in Stepney in 1852 and Charlton by 1859 where they remained until a move to Lee around 1875 – he was on the electoral register in Lee then.

Martha Pollard was 34 in 1881 and was one of the more locally born residents, hailing from Woolwich.  She was married to John Pollard who was 52 in 1881 and came from Devonport, now part of Plymouth.  There is nothing obvious between his birth and the 1871 Census when the couple were living in Camberwell, he was working as a clerk at Somerset House.  They seem to have had several children when living in Camberwell, at least two of which weren’t on the census in 1881 (they could have been away from the property on census night).  They’d moved to Lee around 1876 as a daughter was born there.

As was common in the larger houses of the area, most of the houses had servants – the patterns of migration were much more similar to the working-class housing of Robertson Street, most were from London and the southeast, with a handful from the south west and Wales.

While not that much can be drawn into a small number of households in a couple of Lee streets, it certainly appears that the wealthier in Lee typically came from further away than their working-class counterparts.

And finally …. the view from about the same location as the postcard is not that different in early 2022 to that of over a hundred years before – the horse and cart has been replaced by a car but much else is similar due to the availability of off-street parking in the large front gardens.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 19 July 1889
  2. Joan Read (1990) Lewisham Street Names and their Origins p50
  3. Kentish Mercury 11 December 1885

Credits

  • The postcard is from eBay in May 2020
  • The census and related data come via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The maps are created using census data over Google Maps
  • The confirmation of the builders and the 1879 purchase price comes from the deeds of one of the houses.

One Night in the Blitz – the Air Raids on Lewisham of 8 December 1940

Last year Running Past looked at two of the most intense nights of World War Two bombing in Lee on the 27 and 29 December 1940.  We turn our attention to a night earlier in December 1940 when Lee, Hither Green and parts of the Corbett Estate were again hit  – the night of 8-9 December 1940 – most of the bombs fell in a short period around 11:00 pm on the Sunday evening.   

As was the case with the raids almost three weeks later, Lee wasn’t the real target and was a stopping off point on a major raid on London during which German bombers dropped over 380 tons of high explosive bombs and at least 115,000 incendiaries. 250 Londoners were killed on 8 December and 600 more seriously injured. Several streets in Lee, such as Brightfield Road (below), were hit in both raids.

As we have found with other posts on the Blitz, including the first night and the raids on 27 December and 29 December 1940, it is worth remembering that not every incident was reported to the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) HQ at Lewisham Town Hall, some being just reported to the Fire Brigade but others never going through official channels. This is particularly the case with incendiary bombs which residents were often able to put out themselves.

This particular night was clearly chaotic at the ARP HQ with some incidents clearly being reported and/or written up several times – as far as possible the narrative and maps have attempted to strip out the duplicates. There were around 70 incidents reported in just Lee, Hither Green and the Corbett Estate with no doubt lots not reported and large numbers elsewhere in the old Borough of Lewisham.

So, what were incendiary bombs? They were cylindrical bombs around 35cm long, and 5cm in diameter. Inside was a mechanism that ignited an incendiary compound that filled the cylinder, thermite, on impact. They were often dropped in ‘breadbaskets’ typically containing 72 incendiaries.

There appear to have been at least three ‘breadbaskets’ dropped on Lee at around 10:50 pm– one around Wantage Road, another on Burnt Ash Road, although the numbers were smaller there and a third around Brightfield Road. There were around 70 incendiaries that the ARP logged – with most, the note on the log was ‘fire put out without significant damage to property.’ The fires in Brightfield Road were of a different class to those elsewhere though– the ARP log noted that they were ‘distinguished’ – presumably a typo. Several of the houses in the postcard above were hit, whilst the photograph was taken over 30 years before, the street scene, that much will not have changed by 1940. The locations recorded from the raid in Lee are mapped below.

There were relatively few injuries – those that there were tended to be from the aftermath and/or trying to put out fires – four were injured in Burnt Ash Road, including a child who was blinded at 90 Burnt Ash Road and an ARP warden was injured in Micheldever Road.

At around the same time as incendiaries rained down on Lee several were dropped around what was then Campshill House in Hither Green Lane, Ryecroft and Campshill Roads (at the top of the map below).  A few minutes later there were a couple in the streets to the north of Brownhill Road – Ardgowan and Springbank Roads (there is a separate post on attacks on Springbank Road.) There were also incendiaries dropped in Fernbrook Road – 67 and 101 were both damaged along with another two at 127 Manor Park and Leahurst Road area (see Lee map above).  No doubt a few more fell but weren’t recorded.

At about 11:05 it seems that a ‘breadbasket’ was dropped on the eastern side of the Corbett estate with several hits on Verdant Lane and a lot falling in Minard Road (pictured below) – although they mainly landed in the street. Whilst this would have destroyed cars in 2021, this presumably wasn’t much of an issue in 1940.

While in the main, it was incendiary bombs that hit Hither Green, Lee and the Corbett Estate that night, there were a few high explosive bombs dropped too. The earliest was in Nightingale Grove at the junction with Maythorne Cottages (the eastern side of the ‘tunnel’ and current main entrance to Hither Green station.) It failed to explode, but the road was closed and, presumably, residents evacuated at around 10:00 pm. Three and a half years later, more or less the same location was hit by a V-1, causing several deaths and the destruction of a lot of homes.

Around 45 minutes later another one exploded at the junction of Mount Pleasant and Fordyce Roads causing a crater in the road and damaging the water supply.  Another unexploded high explosive bomb was reported at 59 St Mildred’s Road around 1:00 am, it was probably dropped earlier in the evening and the residents were evacuated.

The most destructive high explosive bomb was reported at 11:30 pm – at the junction of Dacre Park and Eton Grove, close to Lee Terrace.  Two houses were demolished and several others were damaged beyond repair.  Dacre Park was blocked for a while and four were reported as being injured. 

One of those injured was William John Sherriff, a 21-year-old merchant seaman from Port Talbot in South Wales; William was taken to Lewisham Hospital but died there the following day.

While of a similar size to the site from the Fernbrook Road V1 and several around Boone Street, the old Brough of Lewisham did not prefabs built on it; the site was cleared and flats built on it soon after the war, pictured below.

As noted earlier, Lewisham wasn’t the primary target of the raid – the bombers moved on towards central London where a high explosive bomb demolished the south and east sides of the Cloisters of St Stephen’s Chapel within the Houses of Parliament. The BBC buildings in Portland Place were badly damaged that night too.

Notes

  • In several locations the term ’many’ was used in the ARP log – this includes the both the eastern and western sides of Burnt Ash Road, Effingham Road (around the current Brindishe School), the eastern end of Burnt Ash. In these cases, I have assumed at least four incendiaries fell.  Some also aren’t exact – one group of four were noted as being on Micheldever between Wantage and Burnt Ash Roads.
  • The numbers are undoubtedly an underestimate – incendiary bombs that harmlessly fell in gardens or roads probably wouldn’t have been reported.

Credits

  • Most of the information for this post comes from the Lewisham ARP Log – it is a fascinating document, which is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives.
  • The postcard of Effingham Road is via eBay in February 2018
  • The maps are created via Google Maps