Author Archives: Paul B

St James’ Stream – A River Pool Tributary

Running Past has been following the courses of the small tributaries of the River Pool, initially those that emanated from the higher ground of the Great North Wood from Sydenham to South Norwood Hill – Adams’ Rill, Wells Park Stream, Pissarro’s Stream, Porcupine Stream, Penge Stream, the River Wilmore and South Northwood Stream. Sandwiched between the main constituent flows of the Pool, the Beck and Chaffinch Brook, is the smaller St James’ Stream.

It is named after a church close to its confluence with Chaffinch Brook, unsurprisingly called St James, we will return to that when we get that far downstream as a stream needs to be followed from its source. Like its near neighbour, South Norwood Stream, there are two branches of the Stream.  It is shown to the eastern side of the Environment Agency flood risk map.

The Eastern Branch

The source is in high ground of Spring Park, an area that seems to be so called due to water sources rather than having any seasonal references. It wasn’t always referred to as this – up until the early 19th century it was referred to as Cold Harbour, presumably this had a similar derivation to the similarly named area of Mottingham  – col d’arbre (gap between wooded hills or pass).

As streams flow they create small valleys, which translate into notched contour lines on maps; the highest of these notches is in a pleasant grassed area bordered by Temple Avenue, Lime Tree Grove, Greenway Gardens and South Way. In reality, the source was possibly a little further south, probably in the woodland behind the houses on Greenway Gardens – more on that when we turn to the Western Branch, although no evidence of present day fluvial activity from the eastern Branch was found there.

The course would have taken the nascent stream in a north-easterly direction, probably through the small piece of woodland, Temple Copse, which seems well maintained by the Spring Park Residents Association. A circuit of the wood offered no clues to the course of the stream. There were hints of, presumably, past fluvial activity around the junction of Pleasant Grove and Shirley Way with a small valley, smoothed a little by the inter-war suburban roads.

The stream first appears on the ground in a small, pleasant park centred around a pond, which it takes its names from – Miller’s Pond which was a water feature for the large house and sometime farm – Spring Park House. It was bought in the mid-1830s by wealthy MP, Sir John Temple Leader, who brought in an innovative tenant farmer, Hewitt Davis who converted the land into a ‘model farm.’ Census records suggest that Davis had moved and the 275 acres were being farmed by John Callis by 1851.

By 1861 the house was a residence for a stockbroker, Horace Wilkinson, his wife Anne, two toddlers and seven servants. The farm seems to have been being run from elsewhere. This was the pattern with successive censuses. By the 1950s the notice board at the Pond suggests that the House was being used as a nurses home for the nearby Bethlem Hospital.

The pond was named after the last tenant, Thomas Alfred Miller, who was certainly there in 1911 and hailed from Essex. The second pond remains but seems not to be publicly accessible.

Over Wickham Road, and into the grounds of the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital, there is a pond marked on modern road maps, but on the ground it proved hard to find – there was a jumble of brambles, nettles and other dense undergrowth whet GPS suggested it should be. There were though a series of manhole covers broadly in the directions of flow dotted between the newer buildings of the Hospital, but alas after several weeks of little rain even hints of the sound of subterranean water proved elusive.

The Western Branch

The original source would probably have been in pleasant triangle of woodland flanked by Shirley Church Road, South Way and Greenway Gardens. At the first reconnoitre, the copse seemed to contain several valleys, but it became clear that they were pits, an early Ordnance Survey map suggesting that there had been gravel extraction there. The quarrying expunged any evidence of fluvial activity.

The course of the western branch is broadly northern while the notched Ordnance Survey contour lines are clear, the evidence on the ground is much less so; although the fluvially eroded dip on Midholm Road is very clear indeed. There is also a slight depression on Bennett Park before, unseen and unheard, the Stream follows for a while one of many paths behind homes in the area – a continuation of Farm Drive. The contour suggested route would take the Branch across Devonshire Way, Lake Road and finally Wickham Road. Evidence of erosion and fluvial flows was conspicuous by its absence though on the ground.

Over the road and into the grounds of the Royal Bethlem Hospital, a stream eroded dip becomes obvious. Before the Hospital was there, the land was home to Park Farm, the confluence with the western stream was made towards the south western corner of the estate. The newly joined Stream was dammed several times to form a series of ponds for breeding fish. The area is obvious but has incredibly dense trees and undergrowth, with the former ponds completely silted up with no current sign of water, there are suggestions that they may have been filled in during the 1940s to prevent patients harming themselves.  There are semi paths to a small depression which would have been the course, but while modern road maps suggest flowing water, on the ground it appeared that the stream had been culverted, the nearest to water was an oddly abandoned empty fish bowl.

The hospital was on the site on Monk’s Orchard House which was pulled down to make way for the Hospital.  The name is not directly monastic but refers to a family called Munke from the Addington area whose named lived on in some nearby woodland.  The name was appropriated by Lewis Loyd when he built the House and it has in turn given its name to the suburb and adjacent road.  The remains of terraces of Monks Orchard House remain in the Maudsley grounds.

When the Stream finally emerged from its culverting, the water seemed to be barely moving, almost stagnant. The small valley remained visible from the adjacent meadows – resplendent in late spring wild flowers when visited. By the next time the Stream was visible, it seemed to have been joined by several other flows from elsewhere on the Hospital estate.

The dense undergrowth and volume of nettles and brambles made much further exploration for the be-shorted runner tricky (the wounds from the same combination of plants from the exploration of South Norwood Stream had barely healed.)

The Bethlem Royal Hospital, now part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, is a psychiatric hospital whose roots were in the 13th century in Bishopsgate, close to the current location of Liverpool Street Station, from the 14th century it was sometimes referred to as ‘Bedlam.’ It was based at what is now the Imperial War Museum from 1815 until moving to Monks Orchard in the 1930s. Bronze Age relics were found during the construction.  In July 1948, following the setting up of the National Health Service, Bethlem was united administratively with the Maudsley Hospital to form a single postgraduate psychiatric teaching hospital.

The next sighting of the stream was just 400 metres away as the Stream flowed, but the hospital site has no non-fluvial exit to anywhere other than Monks Orchard Road. A detour of around a mile and a half is needed for the fluvial flâneur, the follower of streams.

It is easy to miss St James’ Stream’s next brief public appearance – a fleeting glimpse on the southern side of Upper Elmers End Road, a small screen with a river level gauge. Beyond the screen, the land is flat and notched contour lines which would indicate fluvial erosion few and far between. The stream presumably takes a culverted course under a David Lloyd Leisure Centre, Beckenham Rugby Club and Eden Park High School. The signs and sounds of water around the likely course behind gardens of Dunbar Avenue were absent though.

The next and penultimate appearance is beyond the Elmer’s End one-way system around the green where one of the suggested derivations of the name is that this was the place where local Anglo Saxon miscreants were executed. The re-emergence of the stream is close to the church it takes its name from – St James, Beckenham.

The church is slightly odd looking from the outside with what seems to be a double nave Cherry and Pevsner (1) explain why

The original church, of 1879-88 by A R Stenning, is hidden by the pretty Perpendicular building of 1934 by G Sworder Powell which doubled its size. Symmetrical south elevation to the road, with two wide gables and low flanking porches on the slant. Arcade of exceeding wide four-centred arches.

The St James Stream appears 50 metres to the north east of the eponymous Church on the eponymous Avenue in a concrete channel, seemingly devoid of any life, other than that forcing its way betwixt fencing panel and concrete banks (the photograph to the left below).

The Stream’s last few metres continue in the broadly north western course it has been following for a while, bisecting Forster Road (above right) before a confluence of the stream with Chaffinch Brook which is flowing between Forster and Clock House Roads, around 250 metres before the waters of another tributary, South Norwood Stream join.   The confluence is hidden from the public eye as it remains covered until reaching the rear gardens of the eastern side of Forster Road.

Notes

  1. Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner The Buildings of England – London 2 : South (1983) p159

Census and related data come via Find My Past

The Ordnance Survey maps are on a non-commercial licence from the National Library of Scotland, Spring Park House  and Monks Orchard (both 1897)

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Mountsfield – the Park, the House & the Butterflies

Hither Green Lane largely follows a ridge that is the watershed between the Ravensbourne and the Quaggy, it once offered fine views to the east towards Shooters Hill and to the west along the Ravensbourne and Pool valleys and Forest Hill, once part of the Great North Wood. These vistas were no doubt the reason behind the location of several large houses, that were homes to the wealthy – including Campshill House, Laurel Cottage, Oak Cottage, Wilderness House, Hither Green Lodge, and Mount Pleasant. Perched around the highest point on the ridge was Mountsfield – this post tells the story of the house, its occupants and the Park that came after.
The land for Mountsfield seems to have been bought around 1845 by Henry Stainton of Springfield House (1). Springfield was at what is now the junction of Rushey Green and Hawstead Road, next to the almshouses, it was named after a stream that ran alongside the main road (2).Henry Stainton was a wealthy iron merchant and the land and house that was built on it seem to have been bought for his son, Henry Tibbats Stainton as a wedding present when he married Jane Isabel Dunn (also from an iron and steel family) at Sheffield Cathedral in 1846. Henry Tibbats Stainton was born in August 1822 and baptised in the City of London church  St Benet, Paul’s Wharf.  But the family seem to have moved to Lewisham soon after. He was educated at home before going to King’s College, London before working for his father as an iron merchant.
The house seems to have been finished in 1847 (3), with the wide main drive sweeping slightly round from the current entrance in George Lane (above). The footprint and size suggest something rather grand, sadly though, no pictures seem to survive of it other than photos of bits of walls. The house was badly built, and had to be demolished in 1905 (4) – we’ll return to that later. A stable block remained until 1969, when it was largely destroyed by fire and that, along with some other outbuildings, were demolished in 1981 (5).

The outbuildings (partly shown above), latterly used as a cafe, were home to Henry Tibbats Stainton’s museum relating to his interest in entomology. Henry Tibbats Stainton had developed an interest in moths and butterflies around 1840 and by the time he moved to Mountsfield was a recognised authority on them.

The preface to ‘Stainton’s Handbook of Butterflies and Moths’ was penned at Mountsfield in February 1857. However, his references to Lewisham, Hither Green and Catford are disappointingly few and far between in the first volume.

He spotted Cosmidæ Euperia Fulvago, a moth that is ‘pale ocherous, faintly tinged with grey with darker centre’ spotted in Lewisham in 1846 (6). I have a mental ‘picture’ of Stainton wandering through the fields of North Park Farm or a little further afield to the meadows of Burnt Ash Farm. I hope that when he noted that ‘In lanes we find in addition to these, several species of Hipparchia, and perhaps the Fritlillaries, Hair Streaks and Skippers,’ (7) that this included the still rural Hither Green Lane and the farm track that became Verdant Lane. If there were sightings here they would have been included in ‘common everywhere’ category, frequently used by Stainton.
There seem to have been relatively local wanderings with mentions of Trochillium Incheumoniforme – a tiny moth was once observed at Charlton sand-pit, probably Gilbert’s Pit (8). He spotted several rare species in West Wickham Woods including Lophopteryx Carmelita (picutred), a reddish brown moth (9) and another moth Limacodes Testudo (10).

Stainton died from stomach cancer in December 1892 at Mountsfield, and was buried in the family vault at St Mary’s, Lewisham. An obituary described him as ‘a genial and generous friend and a painstaking industrious worker….(who took a) truly biological approach to taxonomy’.

By the time Henry Tibbats Stainton died, the city was encroaching on Mountsfield; the streets below to the west built on the former Mount Pleasant had been laid out and much of the housing built.

It would appear that Jane Stainton at least contemplated selling up soon after her husband’s death. She appointed a surveyor to act for her, as was noted in the enquiry in relation to building a Fever Hospital next door on the land belonging to Wilderness House and Hither Green Lodge. The surveyor suggested that the building of the Fever Hospital would lead to land of the Mountsfield estate, then valued at £500 – £600 an acre, being reduced to as little as £150 an acre (11).

In reality, Jane Stainton didn’t sell up and remained at Mountsfield until her death in 1898. There appear to have been some legal complexities in relation to what happened following Jane Stainton’s death without a will, which appear to have related to interests in both Scotland and England. The estate was put up for auction in 1900 as a result of a legal case McLaren v Stainton, although presumably wasn’t sold (12).

The following year, the London County Council (LCC) Schools Board purchased 14 acres for a school on Brownhill Road. It was noted at the same time that the LCC was looking to buy the rest of the estate for a park given the lack of one in the area (13).

The purchase of six acres for the park wasn’t completed by the LCC until 1904 though, with half funding coming the old Borough of Lewisham (14). The Park was opened in August 1905, and was soon extended as the LCC decided that they only needed half of the land that they had set aside for the school and the remaining 7 acres was returned to parkland – presumably land close to Brownhill Road (15). This would have addressed concerns expressed by the Hither Green and Catford Ratepyers Association about the lack of an entrance from Brownhill Road in the original plans (16).

As was the pattern with Lee Manor House and Manor House Gardens, the intention was to create a library as well as a Park. Sadly, the quality of the building of Mountsfield was so poor that when the LCC surveyors inspected the house a decision was made to demolish it (17).

The original Park, did not include the south western quadrant which was used initially by Lewisham Montrose and then by Catford Southend, affectionately known as ‘The Kittens’ from 1909  who played to a good non-league standard. In the early 1920s there were plans to merge The Kittens with Charlton Athletic who played part of the 1922/23 season at The Mount, which probably had a 25,000 capacity. The merger didn’t happen, Charlton returned to The Valley, and Catford Southend went into a rapid downward spiral – with their records for the 1926/27 season being expunged and seemingly ending in liquidation. The embankment for the terracing in the south west corner of the ground still remains (see below). Some parts of the physical structure of the ground seem to have remained until the 1950s, but the pitch was subsumed back into the Park.


At around the same time some former allotment land was purchased from Trinity College in Greenwich bringing the total size of the park to around 28 acres (18). It seems that around the time that the Park was created seven houses were built along the George Lane side of the Park to the corner of Stainton Road. These were short lived as they were destroyed, beyond the level of repair in the Blitz (19), and by 1949 the land had been subsumed back into the Park.

After the closure of the school on Brownhill Road, latterly Catford Boys, in the early 1990s, the playing fields were reunited with the rest of the Park.

The Park has been public open space for the citizens of Catford, Hither Green and elsewhere for over a century, although during World War Two much of the Park was turned over the allotments. It has an active Friends Group, a lovely community garden, a cafe, a parkrun and it is home to the now biennial Lewisham Peoples Day – 2020 will be the 35th edition. While the Victorian views towards Shooters Hill have been lost, the urban views up and down the Ravensbourne Valley and towards Forest Hill while now urban, remain almost as impressive as when Henry Tibbats Stainton moved in during the 1840s.

Notes

  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) Hither Green – The Forgotten Hamlet p34
  2. Leland Duncan (1908) History of the Borough of Lewisham p157
  3. Smith op cit p 34
  4. ibid p34
  5. ibid p34
  6. Henry Tibbats Stainton (1857) Stainton’s Handbook of Butterflies and Moths’ p257
  7. ibid p11
  8. ibid p104
  9. ibid p124
  10. ibid p124
  11. Kentish Mercury, 2 June 1893
  12. Kentish Mercury, 6 July 1900
  13. Kentish Mercury, 29 November 1901
  14. Kentish Mercury, 4 March 1904
  15. Smith, op cit, p59
  16. Kentish Mercury, 1 July 1904
  17. Smith, op cit, p34
  18. ibid p 59
  19. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps p129
Census, marriage and related information comes via Find My Past
Picture Credits
  • The drawing of Lophopteryx Carmelita is a part of a picture via Wikipedia and is on a Creative Commons
  • The Ordnance Survey map from 1867 is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence
  • The black and white photograph of the gardens and outhouses and that of Catford Southend are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission.

Old Road & Beyond – A Walk Through Some of Lee’s Past

The area bordering Manor House Gardens has a rich and interesting history which Running Past has written numerous posts about.  This post was written to ‘accompany’ a walk organised as part of the 2019 Manor House Gardens Festival, it can be used to independently to walk the route (it’s a circuit of around a mile, which can be found here) or as virtual tour of the area.  The ‘walk’ is divided into sections which relate to the planned stopping points – each of which is full of links to other posts in the blog which will have more detailed information.

Some Background

Before it was enveloped by the city Lee was a village, a village with three centres – Lee Green, the area around St Margaret’s Church and Old Road, as John Rocque’s map from 1746 shows.

Lee remained largely rural until mid-19th century until the coming of the railways – Blackheath & Lewisham stations opened in 1849, Lee in 1866 and Hither Green not until mid-1890s (it was just a junction before that).

The mid-1860s Ordnance Survey map above shows how little development there was beyond Lee Green and to the south of Old Road; farms remained until the 1920s and 1930s, such as Burnt Ash and Horn Park.

The Manor House

Old Road was once home to a series of large houses, starting from the eastern end these were Lee House, The Cedars, Lee Place, the Manor House, Pentland House and The Firs – geography played an important part, it is on a small hill which would have offered impressive views to the east and south but were high enough to protect from flooding from the Quaggy and the now diverted Mid Kid Brook, which used to flow down Lee High Road.

Lee Place

The first of the country houses was Lee Place; Its building was the result of the death of Lord of the Manor, Brian Annesley who had a moated farm probably where St Margaret’s Lee School is now situated.  His later years are believed to at least partially inspired Shakespeare to write King Lear – there was happier ending than in the play though.  The estate split up on his death.

Lee Place (above) probably built by/for George Thompson – had links to the slave trade but is better known as a soldier and MP during the Commonwealth brother of Maurice who lived at Lee Farm. It was the home to the Boone family (it was their family chapel) for several generations but was let out from the mid-18th century.  Its last tenant was Benjamin Aislabie.

The estate was sold in 1824 as still has an impact on the current landscape as it was broken up into relatively small lots which were developed at different times.  It allowed too the straightening of Lee High Road – the straightened bit was known as New Road for several decades

The Manor House

Lee Farm was previously on the site, which moved to what is now the junction of Baring and St Mildred’s Roads in 1727 and became Burnt Ash Farm. The former farm was bought initially by the slave trading brother of George Thomson, Maurice and then by William Coleman who sought to re-create the lands of the old Manor for his nephew,Thomas Lucas, both were ‘merchants’ with strong links to the slave trade.

The Grade II listed Manor House was built on the site of the farm in 1770 by Richard Jupp for Lucas.  It was bought by Sir Francis Baring in early 19th century, whose family wealth also had its origins in the slave trade – used it as their near London base – the merchant on the maroon plaque is depressingly vague. The Northbrooks let in out during much of the 19th century

They sold the house as a library and grounds to the London County Council in 1898 opening to the public in 1902.  The Northbrooks owned much of Lee and their gradual selling off of their ‘estate’ in the latter part of the 19th century which shaped the current urban landscape.

Pentland House

Pentland House was built in early 1790s and is probably the oldest residential building in Lewisham – it is a close run thing with St Mary’s Vicarage though!  It has been added to considerably and rendered in the early 19th century when extended.

It was home to the rich, but not that significant Smith family, who sold to some more Smiths, who sold to some more Smiths (albeit with a prefix) – it became a Goldsmiths’ College hall in 1913 which stayed until the early 2000s.  It is currently a largely backpackers hostel.

Flats & Houses Opposite

The houses and flats opposite are a bit less grand – Bankwell Road & adjoining bits of Old Road – completed in 1908, possibly by James Watt – it was the central of three plots of land bounded by Lee High Road and Old Road – as the 1890s Ordnance Survey maps below shows.

The eastern of the plots are Arts & Crafts style flats which are a bit out of kilter with rest of area.  The land they were built on had been part of Lee Place – the house itself was on this part.  The land was bought as an orchard and kitchen garden for Pentland House with the flats & Market Terrace on Lee High Road built in the mid-1930s.

Before moving on worth reflecting on the library, the park and indirectly the rest of the current urban landscape was paid for by the slave labour in the plantations of the Caribbean owned or traded by those that lived here and over the road.

On the way to Lochaber Hall at the first house on Manor Lane Terrace look at the wall – the remains of a sign pointing towards air raid shelters in Manor House Gardens (more on that later).

Lochaber Hall, the Firs, Holy Trinity

Lochaber Hall

If think Lochaber Hall looks like a church hall you’d be right, it was originally church hall for Holy Trinity in Glenton Road (pictured below).  The church was destroyed in the Blitz and is now Callaghan Close (almost opposite the Telephone Exchange) and named after the 1970s Prime Minister who lived in Blackheath.

The Hall was designed by Ernest Newton, a locally renowned architect and President of RIBA, he also designed St Swithuns, the original Church of Good Shepherd and Baring Hall at Grove Park. Slightly surprisingly it is Grade II listed. Immediately after World War Two it was used as a hall for the Church of the Good Shepherd as that church was largely destroyed in a fire & the congregation was using the adjacent hall as the church.

The Firs Estate

The Firs was another of the large country houses of Lee, it was a large red-brick house which was a built around 1700 as the ‘town’ residence for the Papillion’s, a prominent Huguenot banking family – it stayed in the family’s ownership for a century.  The last owner from the mid-1860s was John Wingfield Larkin, a member of a wealthy Kent family who had been a merchant in Egypt and British consul in Alexandria between 1838 and 1841.  The family sold up on his death as the city encroached in 1893.

It was developed as Murillo, Old, Rembrandt & Lochaber Roads by the end of 19th century.  It is not certain who the builder/developer was – although is a stained glass for Siderys on Murillo Road – who were prominent builders in the area.

The houses on the corner of Manor Lane Terrace and Abernethy were largely destroyed on the 1st night of the blitz.  27 Murillo Road was home to one of the more prominent Lewisham suffragettes – Caroline Townsend.

Lee Manor Farm

This was originally at the Manor House, moved to what is now the junction of St Mildred’s Road and was renamed Burnt Ash Farm in 1727; that farm was split in the early 19th century and new farm buildings constructed opposite The Firs (close to the current junction of Manor Lane Terrace and Manor Lane).  It didn’t stay the farm house that long and we’ll return to it at our next stop.

Junction of Manor Lane Terrace & Kellerton Road

Manor Park Estate

We are in the land of W J Scudamore here and along with John Pound are probably the two firms of builders that most influenced the area – buying land from the Northbrooks. W J Scudamore were based on Manor Lane (corner of Handen Road) then Lee High Road (part of Sainsbury’s site) and latterly on Holme Lacey Road in Lee and active in Lee, Hither Green and later elsewhere from the 1890s until the 1930s.

The Manor Park Estate (as the roads around here were originally referred to as) was built for a mixture of rent and sale – sale prices were £265 or£275 for the bigger ones – it was 1906…!

They definitely also built

  • Shops on Manor Lane (eastern side)
  • Newstead Road
  • Some of St Mildred’s Road
  • Holme Lacey & Dalinger Roads
  • Several small sections of Leahurst, Longhurst and Fernbrook Roads
  • Probably lots of others too

Wolfram Close

On the site of the last location of the Lee Manor Farm (pictured below) – the land farmed was to the south of here.  The farmhouse seems to have been sold with the land for the Manor Park Estate and became a home for the Scudamore family who remained there until 1961.

The site was redeveloped in the 1960s or early 1970s, it isn’t clear whether this was by Scudamores, as they went into liquidation in 1966. It is presumably named after the last occupant of the Manor House – Henry Wolffram from Stuttgart who ran a ‘crammer’ school for would-be army officers – the spelling of his name is incorrect though – the cul de sac as one ‘F’ the name two ‘Fs’.

The council estate behind Cordwell Road – is named after one of the last farmers of the farm.

 

Manor House Gardens

The park was created in the early 1770s as gardens for the Manor House until 1898 when the Northbrooks sold up to the London County Council (LCC), which as with Mountsfield Park on the Hither Green and Catford borders wanted to ensure that the newly developing suburbia had parks and libraries provided. The Gardens had been left in a poor state by last occupant (Henry Wolffram) and didn’t open to the public until 1902.

Source –  eBay Feb 2016

It contains a rather impressive Ice House which was used as an air raid shelter in World War Two; there were a couple of other ones too, the outline of one of them was visible in the parched grass in the hot weather of 2018.

The Gardens have been ‘listed’ since 1987 and underwent a major refurbishment in 2000.  The small lake has been part of grounds for most of its post agricultural life.  The River Quaggy flows through the Gardens, it used to be at a higher level but the bed was  excavated partially to reduce flooding – probably in the 1880s.

Behind the library, there are two little bits of Catford – foundation stones for the now demolished St Laurence Church and the original Town Hall.

Lenham Road/Lammead Road Corner

If we were standing here in the 1870s we would be in or next to the River Quaggy as there was a meander that originally came up to this point. It was straightened in 1880s both to allow development but possibly too as flood prevention measure – there were really bad floods in 1878.

Most of housing on Lenham, Lampmead (and Aislibie that will walk up) Roads dates from late 1880s when Lee House (more on that later) was demolished and the land sold for development. It was slightly different on the other side of the river – Robertson Street, now Brightfield Road probably dates from the late 1850s or early 1860s.

The houses at the corner are very different – early 1960s council housing as opposed to late Victorian.  This was because early in the morning of 22 June 1944 a V-1 rocket hit the corner, killing 6.  There was a lot of Blitz damage on Lenham Road as well as on Aislibie Road where there are several bits of infill council housing from the late 1950s or early 1960s.

49 Lampmead (above) was home to Phyllis Noble who was to become Phyllis Willmott and wrote a 3 part autobiography about growing up in Lee in the 1920s and 30s – this has been covered a few times – including in relation to the Sunday Constitutional and children’s play.

Almsot opposite, at the junction with Aislibie Road in 2016 a house had Blitz type damage as a result of badly executed building work.

Lee Centre

Lee House & Centre

This was originally the site of Lee House, a medieval mansion that was rebuilt in the 1820s probably partially as a result of the re-alignment of Old Road, it is pictured below. However, by the 1880s it no longer met the needs of the wealthy Victorian gent as city encroached with the railways.

Lee Centre was built on the site in the 1880s – initially it was home to a few clubs, including a chess club. But it was never developed uses that befitted its impressive architecture by World War 2 it had effectively become used for storage and nurse appointments; it was used for education from 1970s and more recently by various charities.

Next door was built as St Margaret’s Parish Rooms, long before Kingswood Halls were built; it was also home to school for many years before becoming offices and warehouses for stationery supplier and then a toy merchant.  It has been a nursery for the last decade or so.

Chiesmans’ Warehouse

In a former incarnation this was home to the teetotal Lee Working Men’s Institution, it was taken over as a depot for the Lewisham Department Store, Chiesmans who rebuilt it around 1914 – it was almost completely destroyed in during the Blitz before being rebuilt on same footprint for Chiesmans in mid 1950s.  After some slightly less than legitimate activities it is slowly being converted into flats.

The Cedars

Was situated on what is now the opposite corner of Aislbie Road, it was another large house – the estate was broken up and mostly sold at the same time as Lee House.  The house itself remained until the 1890s before being sold for development – hence the housing at the north-western corner of Aislibie Road is different to the rest of the street.  The street itself was named after, although spelled incorrectly, the slave owner and terrible cricketer Benjamin Aislabie – the last tenant of Lee Place.

 

Manor House Gardens (Old Road entrance)

This is next door to 36 Old Road, this was part of the estate of The Cedars.  Post development the site was used for many years as stables for Thomas Tilling’s horse drawn buses and then as a workshop by the firm afterwards.  It went through several uses afterwards – the sweet makers Whitehouse and Co from 1929; John Edgington and Co Marquee Manufacturers who latterly made floats for the Lord Mayors Show were there from 1949 (including some of those below) and then Penfolds used it as a crash repair workshop from the late 1980s until around 2010.  Development into flats started a few years later but has been paused for a couple of years.

 

Picture Credits

  • John Rocque’s 18th century map is from the information board at Lee Green
  • The Ordnance Survey map from the 1860s is on a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland
  • The picture of Lee Place comes from the information board opposite St Margaret’s Church
  • The picture of Holy Trinity Glenton Road is via Wikipedia Commons – originally from Illustrated London News
  • The photograph of The Firs is from the information board on Brandram Road, opposite St Margaret’s church.
  • The drawing of Lee Manor Farm is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission
  • The 1890s Ordnance Survey map is courtesy of the National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons.
  • The pair of Ordnance Survey maps from  1863 (top) and 1893 are on a Creative Commons via National Library of Scotland
  • The sale plan of Lee House is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission
  • The picture of Benjamin Aislabie is on a Creative Commons via one of Lewisham Archives sites 

Arts & Crafts Housing on Old Road

Old Road in Lee is veritable cornucopia of housing types – two of the large houses of Lee remain – the Manor House, now a volunteer run library, and Pentland House, now a hostel. There is the 1890s housing at the western end which was built on the site of The Firs. At the other end is the Edwardian housing centred on Bankwell Road – possibly built by James Watt, he certainly built the cinema that was part of the same plot.

In between are 1930s flats built with more than a nod to the Arts and Crafts style of housing, more often seen in suburbia of the era with mock exposed beams against white rendered eaves. The reason for two terraces of 1930s housing  and the row of shops of a similar style and era on Lee High Road, Market Terrace, goes back to 1824 and the break-up of the estate of Lee Place, the original country home of Lee.

Lee Place had probably been built for George Thomson, but was for most of its life home to the Boones, they latterly let the house to Benjamin Aislabie – when his lease expired the estate was broken up into small lots with the house being demolished. Two of the lots were used to build Lee New Town (the area around Lee Church Street) and the Merchant Taylors Almshouses. The lot built on in the 1930s was bought by the owners of Pentland House and used as an orchard – it is to the right on the Old Road snow scene, probably from the 1890s.

When Pentland House was bought as halls of residence for Goldsmiths College around 1913, the orchard was bought with it.  The Ordnance Survey map below from the 1890s shows the plots the the north of Old Road clearly.

The land was sold in the early 1930s for housing – the first mention of homes being lived in was in the 1933/34 Kelly’s Directory for Blackheath, Greenwich and Lee – one of the last local editions.

So who lived in the homes? Less than six years after residents moved in World War Two broke out and the 1939 Register was collected – so while there will have been some movement since the initial letting and sales, it gives an interesting insight into some of the early households who made this part of Old Road their home.  A surprising number of the flats did not have entries, whether they were empty or missed by those compiling the Register isn’t clear.

Occupations were mainly manual, although there were a few clerical grade civil servants and similar jobs in selling advertising, insurance and the like. It was quite similar to the Verdant Lane estate which was developed at around the same time.  Unlike Ardmere Road (where Running Past has done a similar analysis of the 1939 Register), where around a third of the male household members had the  ‘Heavy’ suffix to their trade entitling them to more rations, there were only a couple in Old Road.

As was generally the pattern at both Ardmere Road and Verdant Lane (where a 1939 Register analysis was also done) relatively few women worked with most listed either as ‘Housewife’ or  ‘Unpaid Domestic Duties.’  The exceptions were a couple of shop assistants, maybe working in local shopping parades on Lee High Road or Market Terrace plus a laundress, a couple of typists and an embroidery machinist. In all but one of these the woman was the head of household – something that wasn’t seen in either Ardmere Road or Verdant Lane.

The ages were younger though than Verdant Lane – the average age there was almost 42; in the Old Road flats there were mainly relatively young couples living there – the average age was 36, although this was pushed up a couple of years by the single retired couple who had a working son.

This is perhaps not surprising; the homes were smaller, mainly one bedroom flats, compared with the three bedroom houses at Verdant Lane, although any children of school age would have been evacuated in early September 1939.  However, given how few redactions (generally for those who would be still alive) it would indicate almost no pre-school children who would have remained in Lee.  Had the Register been taken a month earlier there would have no doubt be several children in the flats – Winifred and William Kinsey’s son Anthony at 19 would have been 11 in 1939 and was no doubt evacuated with friends from the street.

The tenure of the flats after they were built in the 1930s isn’t clear – although nationally over half of housing was private rented in 1939.  Based on Land Registry data, just over half the flats have been sold since 1999 – 2 bedrooms flat sold for £405k in late £2018, although the last 1 bedroom flat sold seems to have been in 2015 which changed hands for £270k. However, this probably implies that a lot remain in private renting  or have returned to the private rented sector in the recent past. Two of the blocks, four flats, seem to have been acquired by Lewisham Council at some stage, although one of the flats has been subsequently sold under Right to Buy.

So how has the area changed since 1939?  For the slightly wider 2011 Census Output Area which covers a slightly wider area of 134 homes including most of the rest of Old Road, Bankwell Road, the adjoining part of Lee high Road and Hamlet Close.  51% were owner occupied and 42% privately rented with  the remainder socially rented.

Employment patterns  have probably changed more – the biggest employment sector was education (15%)Heath and Social Work (13%), IT (9%), Finance and insurance (8%) and the motor trade (8%).  This was not dissimilar to the rest of Lewisham  – although there were fewer working in admin activities and accommodation and food services, with more in manufacturing and education

Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey map is courtesy of the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial license;
  • The Picture of Lee Place is from the information board opposite to St Margaret’s Church;
  • The snow scene is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, who hold the copyright, it is used with their permission;
  • Kelly’s Directories records were accessed at Lewisham Archives;
  • Land Registry data on tenure is through Nimbus Maps (Registration required)
  • The 1939 Register data comes via Find My Past (subscription required)

South Norwood Stream – A River Pool Tributory

Running Past has traced the routes of several of the small tributaries of the River Pool that emanated from the higher ground of the Great North Wood from Sydenham to South Norwood Hill – Adams’ Rill, Wells Park Stream, Pissarro’s Stream, Porcupine Stream, Penge Stream and the River Willmore.  A little further down the hill are a pair of streams that run through the wild urban oasis of South Norwood Country Park and have a confluence within it.  The Park is not to be confused with South Norwood Lake and Grounds, which we passed through with the River Willmore.  Collectively the streams appear to have been named, albeit not obviously on maps, South Norwood Stream – which seems appropriate based on its location.  Unlike all the other streams followed to date in the catchment it is visible for much of its route.

As there are two main flows, which need to be distinguished and as a there is already ‘South’ in the name these can’t be based on compass points – North South Norwood Stream would be far too confusing!  The northern flow is along the edge of the Beckenham Cemetery, two of the more famous names of buried there are Thomas Crapper (of flush fame) and W. G. Grace, who Running Past covered on the centenary of his death in 2015.  Whilst tempted to use the former, particularly as the South Norwood Country Park was once Croydon’s Sewage works (more on that later), it is a flow that deserves a better epithet – so it will be referred to as Grace’s Brook.

The southern branch is close to Elmer’s End so this seems rather appropriate to call it Elmer’s Brook.  However, the two competing narratives for the derivations of the name  are fairly grizzly, in both the ‘End’ relates to a brutal death – either for a ‘famous highwayman’ being hanged or more likely it came from  the Anglo Saxon word for criminal, Elmerus, and related to local people being executed on the Green.  Although with the latter, nothing was found on-line to back this up other than other references to Elmers End and delving further into the name it seems as likely that it is a variant of a German name Hildimar – meaning famous fighter.   Those of you wanting a more benign option and who have had small children in the recent past, may well be aware of an Elmer whose demise has yet to be reported, an elephant with a brightly coloured coat – although that appears to have been commemorated (although not in name) by the Glass Mill Leisure Centre further downstream in Lewisham.

Grace’s Brook

The sources, and there are two of them, are close to that for one of the branches of the Willmore which was at Goat Bridge.   Fluvial flows are indicated on maps with upward pointing notches in contour lines caused by the stream eroding the ground as it flows.  For the northerly source, the highest of these is around John Street, although the land rises above that and there was a small pond on the Victorian Ordnance Survey map (see top left hand corner below – on a non-commercial licence from National Library of Scotland) which was around 50 metres along Manor Road from Portland Road which may have been the source.

There is a fine Victorian building now on the site with a car park on the at the rear, but no 21st century sign of water.

The subsequent route takes the Brook along Harrington Road, there were still no obvious subterranean sounds of flowing water emanating from beneath manhole covers.  The Brook emerges out into the open near the eponymous Croydon Tramlink stop on the edge of South Norwood Country Park.  Sounds of water were heard sooner than any physical sign in the impenetrable bramble and nettle strewn undergrowth.

The Environment Agency Flood Risk maps (where surface water is selected) show the route quite clearly.

The southerly of the sources has contour lines which peter out at Merton Road close to the large railway cutting, which broadly followed the route laid out by its predecessor the Croydon Canal, again, nothing was obvious on the ground.  It may well be that this is or was the source.  While difficult to be certain the route probably follows Crowther and Holland Roads – there is a pronounced valley at this point on Portland Road.

A little way up the northern side of the valley was the home of William Walker at 119 Portland Road; Walker was a diver who used his underwater skills to help shore up and underpin serious subsidence at Winchester Cathedral during 1906, without which the Cathedral may well have collapsed.  Born in 1869, he trained with the Royal Navy at Portsmouth Dockyard, and amongst other projects he had worked included the Blackwell Tunnel.  He died during the ‘flu epidemic of 1918 and was buried just downstream in at Beckenham.  There is an impressive plaque on the front of the house.

The valley continued along Belfast Road, albeit with no obvious watery sounds from beneath the ironwork in the road.  Ground levels and contours suggest that the Brook would probably flowed just to the north of the brickworks which were where the Croydon Arena is currently situated; they will have utilised the heavy clays  of the area.  It was an area where there were several brickworks – evidence of which remains in Brickworks Meadow in Woodside and Heavers Meadow in South Norwood.  Unlike several of the other works in the area, the marked (on Ordnance Survey map above) Portland Road Brickworks appears not to have been mentioned in on-line.  The same is the case for the South Norwood Potteries – although there is a small cul de sac, Pottery Close, which is near the confluence with the northern branch.

The newly merged Grace’s Brook skirts the northern edge of South Norwood Country Park initially with natural banks but soon in an old concrete channel, there is little in the way of obvious life although a few plants seem to be inhabiting cracks in the concrete banks.  The path alongside was barely visible and painful to follow in places due to nettles and the benign cow parsley. Despite the volume of urtica dioica and a marked absence of rumex leaves to salve the resultant rash, the Park was a delight – an area of wilderness criss-crossed by paths and with a small lake at the Elmers End Road side.

It wasn’t always thus, for a century from 1862, the land was used as a sewage farm with lagoons filtering out the sediment – it wasn’t that successful given the clay subsoil – some of the concrete channels used apparently still remain though, although were never seen due to the height of the foliage .  The area was used for training for armed forces during World War 2 and also abandoned and largely left to go wild until the creation of the Country Park. Elsewhere in the park there was dumping of rubble from the Blitz in Croydon which now provides a fine vantage point for the rest of the Park.

 

Elmer’s Brook

Unlike Grace’s Brook, the source is a little indeterminate – contours seem to imply a source on the edge of Long Lane Wood (although this was never found); it then follows a footpath on the opposite side of Long Lane – historically there were flows alongside but there is nothing now either side of the border with a driving range.   While modern Ordnance Survey maps offer an intermittent blue line alongside the west of the Tram Link tracks it was several hundred metres before anything definitive was found.

A secondary source appears to be to the south west of the Croydon Arena, although contour lines and on ground investigation proved inconclusive as to where this might have been.  As with Grace’s Brook while sounds of water were heard at various points the depth and density of the undergrowth proved a barrier to finding the flow.

While there is nothing now obvious on the ground, at this point it would have fed two concentric rectangular moats surrounding a 13th century house, the house was probably abandoned due to flooding  by the mid-15th century.   The site was excavated in the 1970s before the Country Park was created, with significant and interesting finds of timbers, pipes and pottery along with the moats.  It was marked on the 19th century Ordnance Survey map – see above.

Another man-made water feature was created when the Country Park was created – a small lake.  Elmer’s Brook skirts around the edge of it before a confluence (which may be a recent man-made one) with Grace’s Brook. The volume of water from Elmer’s Brook appears less at this point than further up-stream, it is suspected that much of the flow is now going into the lake although no obvious evidence of this was found.

What is now South Norwood Stream darts under Elmers End Road flowing through Dorset Road allotments opening out onto the flank of Maberley Road playing fields (a different Maberley Road to the one covered in the post on the River Willmore).  The banks here are naturalised (see photographs at the top of the post) and while in parkland, the streamside path is choked with plants.  It then passes through passing through a Bromley Recycling facility before doglegging along the edge of Churchfields Recreation Ground, again with concrete banks and continues under the railway between Elmers End and Clock House.

For the fluvial flâneur there is a mile long retracing of steps through parks and along footpaths through Elmer’s End before seeing South Norwood Stream again as it crossed Clock House Road, the stream having dawdled just 75 metres in its now concrete channel.  It is bridged by the road and in the gardens between Clock House and Forster Roads a confluence with Chaffinch Brook is made unseen due to a large buddleia bush blocking the view.

Lee Working Men’s Club – a Lost Lee Road Watering Hole

A while ago Running Past covered the Lee Working Men’s Institution which was initially on Boone Street but later at 87 Old Road.  There were several questions on Facebook threads about whether the Institute was in some way linked to the Lee Working Men’s Club that used to be at 113 -115 Lee Road.  The short answer was ‘no’, and those that set up the Institution on Boone Street would probably have been appalled by the thought – it had strong links with the Victorian temperance movement noting that ‘their great rival’ was the public house (1)

So what of their near namesake on Lee Road?  The Lee Working Men’s Club & Institute (I’ll drop the & Institute to avoid confusion) first appeared in Kelly’s Directories in the late 1920s – over 30 years after its near neighbour at 119, the Lee Constitutional Club, Conservative was added later; maybe something on that another day. It could well have been a little earlier than this as Kelly’s Directories were sometimes a year or two behind changes in business on the ground and there was no entry for the address in the 1920s.

The houses had been built well before the Ordnance Survey cartographers arrived in the mid-1860s (see buildings highlighted above) – it was probably constructed soon after the railway arrived in Blackheath in 1849.  However, as just post war maps make clear – while current site numbering is 111 to 115, it hasn’t always have been this.  111 was originally part of a pair of Victorian semi-detached villas next door to the site and what was the Working Men’s Club was 113-115. So not to confuse matters  the numbers used will be the current ones.

In 1896 111, the building at the side,  was used by  John Walls to carry on a Dairy business, he’d been previously listed as a ‘cow keeper’ in Kelly’s since an early one in 1884 – presumably keeping his small herd in the still rural land toward Eltham.  113-115 was the private dwelling of Charles Valentine Game – Game was appropriately a butcher, who had lived in Burnt Ash Lane in the 1860s.  115 was then referred to as ‘Holland House.’  Game seemed to live there until his death in 1894.

In the first decade of the 20th century John Walls departed and presumably the outbuilding at the side was incorporated into the main house. It became home to a private school, initially run by Valentine Johnson and then Warwick Wyatt Crouch.  The school had closed its doors by the time the 1911 Kelly’s Directory was compiled and the house was home to Major Ernest Edward Bruno.

The next occupant was the Working Men’s Club at some stage during the 1920s. There were some early recollections of the Club in some local memoirs.  Regular readers will recall that a while ago Running Past covered the ‘Sunday Constitutional’ that the Noble family’s men used to have in the late 1920s and early 1930s Lee, starting from a house in Lampmead Road. It was something covered in the memoirs of their daughter who was to become Phyllis Willmott, a noted Social Work and Social Policy academic. In that post the menfolk, with children in tow, went to various hostelries in Lee and Blackheath whilst the women stayed at home to cook the Sunday dinner.

Evenings had been spent downstairs (Phyllis and her immediate family had most of the 1st floor at 49 Lampmead Road) around her gran’s piano. However, as the children got older, it seems as though this was replaced with drinking outside the home, to which both the children and their mother were allowed to come too. The destination was Lee Working Men’s Club (2).

It was clear that this was something that Phyllis wanted to do but wasn’t allowed to come every week – her prayers at Boone’s Chapel often included requests to be allowed to the Working Men’s Club (3). (This is what is now Emmanuel Pentecostal Church, rather than the Grade II listed 17th century one further down Lee High Road).

When Phyllis and her family started going to Lee Working Men’s Club there was strict demarcation inside. Women and children were generally only allowed in the Hall at the side, what is now 111 (4). There was a regular dance night at the Club some Sunday’s in the Hall. The beer befuddled men would make a late appearance for the last waltz, generally poor dancers they would be guided around the dance floor by their more sober wives and girlfriends (5).

When it was warm enough the dances and events were held in the garden which had a ramshackle external bar, and a couple of sheds selling – jellied eels, horseradish and the like at one and saveloys and sandwiches at the other.  The horseradish was locally grown – harvested from the side of the railway close to Hither Green station (6).

Perhaps surprisingly, there are few on-line memories of the Club – a Facebook thread from earlier in 2019, had positive memories of being a Club that seemed child friendly, with several generations of the same family having almost grown up there. There were recollections too of bands and being in bands that played there.

While its doors were still open when the StreetView car passed by in June 2008 (see above), ‘sale agreed’ signs were outside when the next drive past occurred in the autumn of 2009.

So what went wrong?  Apart from the more general changes in drinking patterns, the most likely explanations are both local and national.  The haemorrhaging of office businesses from Lee Green (Osborne Terrace and Leegate) along with the closure of the Police Station a little further down Lee High Road meant that the clientele for lunchtime or post work drinks was considerably reduced.  There was competition too in the cheap beer market with Wetherspoons opening the Sir Edmund Halley in Leegate.  The factors were importnant too in the closure of two Lee Green pubs – the Prince Arthur and the New Tiger’s Head. Nationally, the smoking ban introduced in 2007 may well have sounded the death knell for the Club.  It is obvious though from comments on a Facebook thread that the closure caused some bitterness and disagreement amongst members.

By 2012 the site was split the hall, formerly 113, now 111, was (and still is) a Pilates studio and the main building is a nursery – part of a chain – Zoom, itself part of a larger chain Bright Horizons.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 09 March 1867
  2. Phyllis Willmott (1979) Growing Up in a London Village p124
  3. ibid p125
  4. ibid p126
  5. ibid p127
  6. ibid p128

Credits and Thanks

  • The photograph of the Club when it was still operating is via StreetView in 2008
  • Kelly’s Directory information comes via Southwark Local History Library and Archive
  • The photograph of the garden is  copyright of  Lewisham Archives and is used here with their permission
  • Census and related data come via Find My Past

Porcupine Stream – A River Pool Tributary

There are a number of streams (or former streams) that we have already covered that rise in the high ground that stretches from the borders of Croydon to the borders of New Cross – in the past covered by woodland known as the Great North Wood. Running Past has covered (and named) several of these including Penge Stream, Adams’ Rill, Wells Park Stream and the River Willmore.

We now turn our attention to another group of streams whose sources are very close to another covered – Pissarro’s Stream.  It doesn’t seem to have a name that has survived, but for the purposes of identification has been called Porcupine Stream here – the reasons for this became clear in John Rocque’s map of the 1740s (above), we’ll return to the farm later.  The map suggests around four sources – some of which are above Charleville Circus and others currently within Crystal Palace Park.  It is this latter group that we turn our attention to first.

More than perhaps any small section of south east London, the moving of the Crystal Palace to the top of Anerley Hill in 1854 saw massive changes to the levels of land, obliterating former contour lines and altering flows of streams.  Streams were ‘stolen’ to help provide the water for the large array of fountains and cascades within the Park, although with the help of Brunel, two enormous water towers recycle water from the large reservoirs in the middle of the Park which provided the bulk of the water.

Despite the changes to the landscape, a small valley is visible high up in the northern corner of the Park and point to a former stream that would have fed what is now the small lake in front of the decaying Concert Bowl, sometimes referred to as the ‘rusty laptop’. There is  a small flow behind the Concert Bowl which follows the course the stream would have followed to fill the one of the many reservoirs that were created in the Park, which is now referred to as the Fishermen’s Lake.  Whether it now contains water diverted from the original stream’s course is unclear.

Before moving on, the Concert Bowl used to be a significant venue for the summer outdoor festivals – it was a stage that once saw the likes of Pink Floyd,  Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and The Cure perform. As the 1863 surveyed Ordinances Survey map shows, in the years after the opening of the Park that corner was home to quieter activities – an archery range and the English Landscape Garden.

Any flow beyond the Fisherman’s Lake would have been into the now lost North Basin (see Ordnance Survey map above).  There used to be an implication in a now deleted on-line Environment Agency document that any excess water was diverted to the eastern end of the Park seemingly to join the stream coming down from above Charleville Circus and Ordnance Survey map contours suggest that this was probably the original route anyway. 

We have ‘visited’ Charleville Circus before, as the source of Pissarro’s Stream is just to the east of it.  To the north-west of the Circus, in the apex of Westwood Hill and Crystal Palace Park Road – currently home to an imposing 1930s mansion block, Torrington Court, are the other sources of Porcupine Stream. While Rocque’s map suggested three or four sources, the upward pointing contour lines of fluvial erosion only highlight one of these.  The route above Charleville Circus is through private gardens, but a fluvially eroded depression is just about visible from the main road.   Very briefly, possibly coincidentally, the route across the Circus was coterminous with a boundary which helpfully still has a pair of Lewisham Parish boundary markers in the south east and south west quadrants.

The boundary veers off the the north just south of Charleville Circus, briefly following Pissarro’s Stream.  Porcupine Stream, though, ‘ploughs’ a small furrow – visible clearly on Border Crescent,  and on Ordnance Survey maps, flowing parallel to Crystal Palace Park Road.

While contours suggest a deepening of the small valley down the hill, the on ground reality is slightly different with the dip only just perceptible on Sydenham Avenue and on Lawrie Park Road at the rear of another elegant 1930s block, Park Court designed by by Frederik Gibberd,.  The route followed, as the Environment Agency surface water flood risk map shows (above), is broadly along the appropriately named Springfield Road.

Considerably below the surface, the stream broadly follows the route on another line marked on maps – that of one of several railway tunnels through Sydenham Hill – this one carrying the railway between Sydenham Hill and Penge East stations.

Just below Springfield Road, the stream would have met the Croydon Canal, later to be, London and Croydon Railway– it isn’t clear whether the stream was used to feed the canal or not, some were, some weren’t.  On the other side of the railway contours would indicate a flow just off Station Road in Bredhurst Close – however, it, and it is a large ‘IF’, the stream is still flowing culverted it may have been moved a few metres to the south as there is always the sound of rushing water below a manhole cover close to the junction of Crampton and Station Roads (it could, of course, be just a very active sewer…).   before a confluence with the branch coming from the Park close to the elegant Penge East station.

The rushing water has never been regularly heard from other manhole covers in the area and contour lines imply a route under the current railway close to Penge East in the direction of Parish Lane.

What is now Parish Lane was once home to Porcupine Farm – it was active from the mid-18th century in Rocque’s map (see above), probably earlier, until 1851; it is listed in a directory with William Wrenn being the farmer, published that year.  It is possible that the farm had been first leased by Wrenn’s father in 1800 – there is evidence of a lease in Penge to another William Wrenn in 1800.

It has also been suggested that it may have also been a pub.  However, the farm wasn’t mentioned in the 1851 census and while William Wrenn was probably still farming it, he was listed as farming 100 acres with 4 labourers but living on the main Beckenham Road.  The farm buildings were still there, but weren’t mentioned by name in the 1863 surveyed Ordnance Survey map.  Without the farm it was referred to as Porcupine Meadow and was sold by the Duke of Westminster to the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes.  The idea behind the scheme was to build workers cottages close to stations.

164 small semi-detached houses were built on Porcupine Meadow between 1866 and 1870; the financing of the scheme was based on

…working men are prepared to pay down a deposit of £10 and enter into the necessary arrangements for securing the absolute ownership of a cottage and garden at the end of 12 or 13 years by paying a weekly sum which would cover all expenses and yield a liberal rate of interest for the investment in the meantime.

Back to the stream – in would have flowed down Parish Lane, to a confluence with Penge Stream somewhere around the Green Lane junction with Parish Lane before joining the Willmore ahead of its confluence with the Pool.

Picture & Map Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey map is on a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland 
  • John Rocque’s map was a screen shot from years ago, I can no longer find the original source to properly credit it
  • the postcard of the Crystal Palace was via eBay in April 2019
  • the photograph of Penge East station is from Wikipedia on a Creative Commons

1851 census data comes via Find My Past