Author Archives: Paul B

The Woodman – A Former Pub on Lee High Road

The former Woodman pub is a fine Victorian building – with some lovely detail to be observed if you look skywards.

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The Woodman, in its first incarnation, was one of the earlier pubs in Lee – the original was the (Old) Tiger’s Head at Lee Green, but the local justices approved the licence in 1838, along with the nearby Swan of Lee (now Rambles Bar).  It was one of four public houses (clockwise from the top left below – the Swan, the Greyhound, the Woodman and the Royal Oak) around what was originally referred to as Lee New Town, all but the former Swan have closed, and from the outside at least, that too seems to have a precarious existence.

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The first landlord of the  Woodman appears to have been Alexander William James Durham who came from a family of publicans – he is listed there in the 1841 census on what was then referred to as New Road – what was to become Lee High Road used to followed a course which was largely that of Old Road and was straightened after the demolition of Lee Place and the breakup of the Boone estate in the 1820s.

His father, Jacob, seems to have owned the pub (it was part of his estate when he died in 1866) and lived close by in Boone Street, where he was listed in the 1841 census. Alexander moved on during the 1840s and was living in Lambeth when he died in 1848.

As is common with many pubs there was a steady ‘trickle’ of licensees at the Woodman throughout the mid-19th century, none seemingly staying more than a few years – for example, Ann Gordon, a widow from  Ockley in Staffordshire, was there in 1881 but had moved on by 1884 (1).  By 1886 the licensee was a J W Coombe (Comb) who was landlord when the pub was demolished and rebuilt (2)  – the current building it is dated 1887 (shown in a postcard via eBay November 2016).

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Coombe didn’t stay long in the new pub, by the time the 1891 census enumerators called, the publican was George Ridley, who hailed from Newbold in Warwickshire, and his wife Eliza, from Bunwell in Norfolk, were probably the first licensees of the rebuilt pub – they were there until around 1902 when George died, Eliza may have remained slightly longer but there was a new publican in 1905 – Thomas Craddock, who came from Southwark.

There were two bars, what was sometimes referred to as the snug at the front, and larger room at the back, with a separate off licence next door. All were interconnected so that whoever was serving could look after them all.

Around the Second World War Albert and Florence Cordwell ran the pub – Albert had been born in Lambeth and lived in the area until his death in Bromley in 1979.  During the war they put up photos on the wall of the locals that had fallen in battle.  In the years after the war there were ‘beanos’ – trips to the seaside and elsewhere – such as this one (probably from the late 1950s courtesy of Marianne Cole on Facebook). Unlike other local pubs, they seem to have been just for the men – with crates of beer loaded onto the coach for the journey.  The button holes were almost certainly provided by Bill, a florist (third from the right on the middle row). From around that time there were happy memories of Wally playing the piano in the back room (from one of the Facebook threads on this post).

imagePost war it went through a series of pub chains with various companies owning it, including Enterprise Inns, CC Taverns, Unique, Inntrepreneur and Courage.  There was a degree of continuity with the licensee though – with Brian running it from the late 1970s or early 1980s until the early 2000s, his tenure was fondly remembered on the Facebook threads that came out of this thread.

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By this stage it had a reputation as a good local; it was latterly described as a “fairly basic, but friendly, locals’ pub on Lee High Road with an Irish landlord  … decent enough for a pint or so if you’re nearby, or tackling the legendary Lee High Road crawl of an afternoon.” The photo in its latter years is on a creative commons via Ewan Munro.

Under Brian’s tenure, the pub certainly had a lot of live music – some just singalongs to popular 1930s and 1940s songs around the piano on the small stage in the back room Friday or Saturday night.  Jules Holland was spotted strumming with a couple of friends in the snug an at least one occasion.

Dermot was the landlord in the early 2000s, he continued the musical traditions of his predecessor, his ‘party piece’ was Ewan McColl’s Dirty Old Town, with students from Trinity (now Trinity Laban) School of Music performing jazz there on Monday nights. There were certainly traditional Irish music nights on Sundays.

The 11 remaining years of the lease was advertised as being for sale around 2008 for £75,000 with an annual rent of £37,500 but a turnover of just £234,000, although the estate agent’s details described it as ‘busy’.  It was described as ‘Ideal for husband and wife team with assistance from 1 Full Time Staff.’  There was clearly interest as a new landlord attempted to rescue the pub bringing back traditional Irish music nights and some real ale.

Given the state of the business before the lease was bought, it was always going to be a tough ask keeping the pub afloat, and so it transpired – something possibly not helped by poor ‘reviews’ latterly. The last pint of John Smiths (there proved not to be enough trade to support the London Pride served initially by the new landlord) seems to have been pulled sometime in late 2012 or early 2013.

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It was completely stripped of its fittings and was offered out on a much lower rent of £25,000, which was presumably taken on by its new tenant – a plumbing supplies firm – while the Courage cockerel remains the sign above has gone (source).

Unlike many other closed local pubs, there haven’t been pages of memories posted on Facebook – maybe there hasn’t been a trigger to do it… So, if you worked there or drank there, tell your story, who were the characters who propped up the bar, the landlord, the staff,  the atmosphere, the memorable nights, the particular celebrations that were held there, memories of the friends, the beers.  Post them below (you can use your Facebook or Twitter login – or via Facebook (if you found the post via here) – if it is you first comment ‘here’, you will have to wait for ti to be ‘moderated’.  I will update the post with comments.  Anything libellous will get deleted here & no doubt on the Facebook Group pages.

Notes

  1. Ken White (1992) The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham, Part 6C p251
  2. ibid p251

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past

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The Butcher, the Baker and the Disney Store – Shopping on Staplehurst Road

The shops on Staplehurst Road have served the Hither Green community to the east of the railway line for well over a hundred years, and, no doubt, some now even venture under the tracks from the west too (it was harder with the pre-1970s layout of the station).  Their dates are there to see, if you look up, in a couple of places.

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The numbering wasn’t always the same – the 11-17 was Station Parade (sign still there) and 19-37 was King’s Parade – these were the first to be let being mentioned in the 1907 Kelly’s Directory; Market Parade (2 to 12) gets its first mention in the 1908 edition, with Grand Parade (the Station Hotel plus the shops at 24 to 28) making its first appearance in 1911 (there were no Directories available on-line for 1909 and 1910).

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The 1911 edition (on a creative commons from the University of Leicester) is below

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In the early years, while some of the names on the shops changed, the businesses remained similar with some moving around in the street.  They were small shops specialising in one sort of produce – butchers, greengrocers, bootmakers, grocers, tobacconists and the like.

By the 1939 Register, while few of the original traders remained, little had changed in terms of the types of shop.  There are some gaps as the Register only captured those who were living above the shops and several – particularly 11-17 – aren’t recorded.  The changes become more apparent when we fast forward to 2017, most of the specialist food shops have gone – replaced by more generalist off licences and convenience shops along with, the more recent developments such as IT, mini cabs and betting (which was only allowed on the high street after a change in the law in 1961).

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Some of the stories of the early shopkeepers are worth telling  – Henry Edwards (sometimes spelled Edwardes) ran a pharmacy at number two (now Nisa) for much of the street’s early existence.  He was born in Egypt to British parents  and seems to have stayed in the then Middle Eastern colonies.  He moved to Catford in the latter half of the 1890s and was a mineral water manufacturer in the 1901 census.  He was almost certainly the first tenant of 1 Market Place, and stayed there until at least 1919 expanding into number 4 when a watch repairer moved out around 1918. The family had moved on by 1921 though – Henry was living in Fulham when he died that year.  Number 4 briefly had a resident who was later to become well known – Edith Summerskill, a left wing Labour MP for Fulham West, briefly lived there for a year or so from 1914 with her father who used the shop front as a surgery.

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Lucy Goericke’s grocers shop was another relatively long standing business on the street – she started around 1911 at number 6 (now part of Nisa) moving on to 28 (now Bill’s Barbers) by 1914.  She came from Canvey Island and had married Karl Otto in early 1899 in Hackney with their daughter, Ethel being born later in the year.

She had certainly moved before the Second World War as she was listed on electoral registers in Bexley from 1938.  However, as the 1939 register only covered who was living at properties and there was no record for 28 Staplehurst Road she may have been still running the grocer’s shop there.  She died in April 1958, by which time she had moved to Ealing, and was described as a widow. Her daughter had died seven years before in Lambeth.

What happened to Karl is unclear, there is no mention of him in Britain after the 1911 census.  In the early part of the First World War, many German men were deported and German businesses attacked – Running Past has covered this in relation to Deptford, but there were also disturbances at Lee Green and Catford.  Oddly a Karl Ludwig Otto Goericke of the right age and Lucy Goericke were listed as missing persons in Australia in 1915.

Laban Nash was a relatively old man when he came to Hither Green around 1907 – born in 1843 in Norfolk he had worked as a labourer (1881) and then a Covent Garden porter (1891 and 1901) – he and his wife Elizabeth would have been well into their 60s when taking on the tenancy of 7 King’s Parade (now Body Silk Clinic) when the shops opened, moving on to 2 Grand Parade (now Coral’s) in 1911.  Laban lived until 1923, it is not clear whether Elizabeth outlived him or not.

Their next door neighbours, the Strouds, were poulterers and fishmongers – they hailed from Kent, the father, Albert, probably started the business – Stroud and Sons – but by the time the census enumerators called in 1911, Frederick Arthur Stroud, aged 24 was running the business.  While Frederick seems to have lived until 1964, it is not clear how long the fishmongers business lasted.  There were people living ‘above the shop’ in 1939, but they were unrelated to the business.  The shop is currently vacant.

William Gardiner was one of the early traders, setting up a butcher’s shop around 1907 – he was from Whitchurch in Hertfordshire, he married Ethel from Gravesend in 1908 – initially at 2 Kings Parade (vacant but may become Park Fever beer and chocolate retailer through crowd funding ) before moving to take over a shop vacated by another butcher at 10.

There were two long lived family businesses next door to each other.  George Jones, a grocer had moved into 31 (now Body Silk) around 1914   – in 1901 he had been managing a similar business in Hastings, although originated from Northop in Flintshire.  In 1939 there were three children living above the shop – Doris, an unemployed piano teacher, Hilda who was probably caring for her disabled mother (Kate) with Claude (24) who was assisting his father (67) in the shop.  The relatively common name meant that finding out anything further about the family proved difficult.

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Next door to them at 29 (now Quick Shopping) for many years were the Darvills (not to be confused with the unrelated Darvell & Son at 19 – now home of DJ’s Cars – see above, source eBay Summer 2016).  The Darvills were a newsagents, tobacconist and stationers across several generations from 1908 until at least 1939, initially at 23 (Station Café) before moving to 29.  John was from Spitalfields and his wife Emily who was from Westminster.  In 1911 they were at Kings Parade with their three children, Kathleen, Gertrude and John along with Emily’s widowed sister, Agnes.  John Senior died in 1922, but the rest were still there in 1939, although Emily was to die before the war was out with Agnes passing away in the early 1950s.

John Jnr married Doris Freshwater, a ‘tailoress’ (1939 Register) who lived in Ennersdale Road and perhaps popped into the shop on way to station in (late) 1939, like the rest of his family, he  stayed in SE London or north west Kent (Kathleen) until their deaths.

Kathleen and Gertrud never married and it is possible that they kept the shop going beyond the end of the war.  One day I will try to do some more work on this at the Lewisham archives, but if anyone knows …..

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And finally …… as for the Disney store, Staplehurst Road cannot claim to have had an official outlet selling merchandise relating to Buzz Lightyear, Cinderella or Frozen – the Disney store was at number 37 (now Stanford’s Estate Agents) and predated Mickey Mouse by a decade – it was a drapers run by a Miss E H Disney.  She arrived on the street in 1917 and was still there in 1919 – but was gone by 1939, sadly nothing definitive is known about her.  The shop had been a drapers or hosiers since the first Kelly’s Directory reference. By 1939, while Mickey Mouse may have been well known to the cinema going public, the Disney shop was no more – the Post Office had moved from 19 to 37, a location it was to keep until at least the Millennium.

Notes

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past

Kelly’s Post Office Directory data from University of Leicester 

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A View From The Point

Time series of images make for interesting viewing – it is a technique that many have used, such as the Chilean-born photographer Camilo José Vergara who recorded changes in particular buildings over 40 years and fellow blogger Bobby Seal who recorded the same view at the same time of day over a year and created a video.

On Twitter, the Barnsley Bard, Ian McMillan, creates 140 character poetic ‘images’ of his (very) ‘Early Stroll’ of around 40 minutes, that includes a visit to the paper shop – it is one of the joys of twitter .

The Point is perhaps my favourite view of London, it was the starting point for my first post on Running Past  – there is an uninterrupted vista over the city in an arc from around Battersea in the south west to glimpses of Orbit in the Olympic Park to the north east.

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Oddly, it isn’t a well-known panorama, often I am the only one admiring; it doesn’t have the impressive Inigo Jones foreground of the view a little further around the escarpment in front of the Observatory which draws in the tourists.

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It is a place of solitude, despite the proximity of the often pollution laden A2, frequently the only sounds are the birds in the quite dense shrubbery that flanks the viewpoint along with the more distant rumble of the DLR.

In places, the horizon is truncated by the hilly landmasses of north London – Hampstead Heath and Highgate along with their relatively near neighbour which Alexandra Palace sits atop.  All the tall London landmarks are visible – St Pauls, Telecom Tower, the ‘Cheese Grater’, the ‘Walkie-Talkie’, the ‘Shard’, the ‘Eye’, and the tops of the Canary Wharf towers – the number of stories depending on the level of pruning.

On a clear day the Wembley arch is visible in a way that the Towers never were – it sometimes glints in the sun – it is about 10 miles away as the crow flies; on a really clear day there are views beyond to what appear to be the tiny undulations of to what must be the Chilterns to the south and Harrow on the Hill to the north of it.

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I first discovered the view from The Point on a run in the mid-1990s and have been frequently drawn back, although only started taking photographs a couple of years ago.   The camera can never pick the level of detail of an eye scanning the horizon – the clarity of the view on a frosty autumn morning or after a summer afternoon downpour are hard to replicate, particularly with a smart phone camera with no optical zoom.

Some of the changes would need a much longer time series of photographs to become apparent – most of the larger landmarks of the cities of London and Westminster have appeared in the time that I have been viewing – it is a gradual evolution of the view, almost imperceptible from visit to visit.  Over longer time periods the view has changed more – I bought a 1940s photograph of the view (taken slightly lower down the hill), while fascinating, its slightly blurry image is almost unrecognisable compared with those 70 years later, with considerable bomb damage around Deptford Creek.  Only St Pauls Deptford seems constant – its steeple particularly clear.

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The middle distance has evolved considerably – the Pepys Estate and other ‘regeneration’ schemes that have brought high specification private housing, but little genuinely affordable social housing, to the riverside and in the process have driven traditional Thames-side activities away from the waterfront.  Deptford Creek, the mouth of the Ravensbourne, around a mile away, is much altered – it is no longer visible but now seems lined with glass and steel, including the  impressive Laban Centre.  The changes are even greater to the north – when I first ‘discovered’ the view, 1 Canada Square was there but little else on the Isle of Dogs, the Barkantine Estate towers on the east of the ’Island’ were still fairly dominant, they are now dwarfed by everything around them.

There are lots of other changes too, which it is easy to forget.   Helpfully the viewpoint has a guide to the view provided by the old Greater London Council, which predated many of the now landmark buildings that dominate the skyline, less helpfully , most of the time those in charge of the grounds maintenance have allowed shrubs to block the view it described although an early January pruning has restored the view.

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Other changes are more obvious – seasons, weather, cloud cover, pollution levels, times of day and foliage growth.  The seasons make a surprising difference – the winter sun with its much lower angle casts a very different light to its midsummer counterpart – the former is clearer, brighter and crisper but the contrast is greater. My visits are often on a Sunday morning, more recently I have frequently laced up my running shoes in the afternoon. In the summer, I sometimes eschew the Wednesday evening ‘club run’ for a run nearer home – decisions that are often based around the timing of the sunset or the weather.

I only tend to visit in daylight, it is uneven under foot and ill lit at night, although there are exceptions, and rarely when it rains, although where there is a choice I would tend to avoid running in the rain and the phone stays firmly in the pocket.

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But perhaps that is the key point, I am one of the variables, perhaps the single biggest influence on the series of pictures – it depends on me being there to be captured – it isn’t just the wet days, I may ‘skip’ the loop to The Point if I know the visibility is poor – the clarity of the view towards the spire of Our Ladye Star of the Sea on Crooms Hill from my emergence onto the Heath– is often the bellwether of adjustments to my run.  I also decide on the angle of the photograph, the amount of zoom, while my eye is drawn more towards the horizon, the lens is drawn west-north-west towards the City, towards the glimpses of the River.

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The Catford Studios – South London’s Walk-on Part in Silent Films

Strangely in the early days of the British Film industry one of the main studios was in Catford – the former home of the Forster Family, The Hall (or Southend Hall) at Southend – the Hall is to the left hand middle of the postcard (via eBay April 2016).

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As the 1919 Ordnance Survey map below (on a creative commons from the National Library of Scotland) surveyed in 1914 shows, it was still a largely rural area.southend-1919

 

The Hall was leased by the Henry William Forster M.P to the Britannia Film Company in August 1914, despite its name, the company seems to have been Italian owned by the Marquis Guido Serra di Cassano and was generally known as Windsor Films.

It was a daylight studio (see picture below – copyright details here) which sought to make use of natural light, it was built in the grounds of the Hall and was about 5000 square feet with the house being used for processing and administration.

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The building to the right is what is now the church hall of St John’s Church, the hall was built in 1824 and the former chapel for the hamlet of Southend as well as for the Forster family. It was replaced as a church by the current adjacent buildings in 1928.

The studios saw the production of the 1916 silent movies ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ and an adaptation of an Edgar Wallace novel, ‘The Man Who Bought London’ were both made there in the early days.

The ownership is slightly confused after then – while one of the main histories of the British Film Industry of the period has Marquis Guido Serra di Cassano owning until after World War 1, documents at the Lewisham archives suggest that he surrendered the lease to the Forsters in late 1917.

Whatever happened it is clear that an Anglo Italian Producer and Director, Arrigo Bocchi used it as a base for several feature films and shorts– including the 1919 silent movie, ‘The Polar Star’ – some of the films were based on the romantic novels of Elinor Glyn who was popular at the time.

kenelm_foss_vanity_fair_17_dec_1913One of the actors that Bocchi worked with was the Croydon born Kenelm Foss (left, on Creative Commons), Foss took control of the studios after agreeing a purchase from Serra for £23,000, and seems to have taken possession of the studios after a down payment of £2,300 in 1919.

The balance was not forthcoming though and in early 1920, the Catford Studio was bought by Walter West’s firm BroadWest who were based in Walthamstow.  Catford was effectively a secondary studio for the firm.  It is not clear which films were made in Catford and which in Walthamstow, but they may have included ‘The Loudwater Mystery’ (1921), ‘Was She Justified?’ (1922) and ‘When Greek Meets Greek’ (1922).  The Studios didn’t last long with the new owners though – with West moving his operations to Kew in 1922– seemingly as a cost saving measure.

Sadly none of the films made at the studios seem to have survived nor have any posters for them, certainly none seem to have been converted into any available digital format – some were on YouTube a few months ago but the account seems to have been taken down.

As for the house, it was demolished after World War 2 and Whitefoot Lane was straightened – it was replaced by post war former council flats, Langthorne Court, which are now managed by Phoenix Housing, who are based on the neighbouring site of the former Green Man pub.

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The Sundridge Park Ditches – Tributaries of the Quaggy

Sundridge Park is an area which formerly had several streams joining the Quaggy – there are a number of tell-tale sets of notched contour lines on modern Ordnance Survey maps heading towards Chin Brook, the local name for the Quaggy at the eastern end of the Park (it is again Kyd Brook at the western end).  Other than Milk Street Ditch and its own small tributary, which Running Past has already covered, none have allowed any blue selections by the Ordnance Survey cartographers, indicating current water, so the valleys may be historic, created in times when water tables were higher.

However, they become obvious when looking at Environment Agency flood risk maps (using the surface water option).

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All seem to be unnamed but I have referred to them as ‘Ditches’ – this is not to belittle them, far from it, it can be seen as bestowing significance on them – most of the named Quaggy tributaries in this area have the appellation ‘Ditch’ – Petts WoodMilk Street, Border and Grove Park.

There are several on the southern side of the railway – including the valley of parts of Sundridge Avenue, another which would have risen somewhere around Scotts Park Primary School.  There is a further one which is almost adjacent to St Joseph’s School – the latter (and probably the former) were used to feed a long gone boating lake, complete with boat house shown on the 1897 Ordnance Survey map below (source National Library of Scotland on a creative commons).

 

The location of the lake is obvious on the ground, well obvious to those who ignore the ‘private’ signs (but unlike the western branch of the Kyd Brook higher up in the catchment, there was no razor wire or indeed fencing to deter the fluvial flâneur.)  While a notice threatened ‘deep water’, the former lake was a rather dried-up shadow of its former self.

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There is another ‘Ditch’ just to the rear of Garden Road, the small valley is obvious on the road up to the clubhouse but not on the golf course viewed through the fencing at the bottom of the Garden Road.

The most obvious valleys are on the northern bank of Kyd Brook – one may have been diverted by the construction of Elmstead Woods station – the dark blue flood risk stops there, but the valley continues – there are clear notched contours just to the west of Rockpit Wood (see the area marked ‘Botany Bay’ on the 1919 OS Map on a National Library of Scotland creative commons, below).  The woods take their name from a small quarry, in which there have been found lots of fossils.  While no water is marked on the map below, there is a small stretch of azure on the Environment Agency map above – a small remnant of a past watercourse.

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There is certainly another ‘Ditch’ behind the Mansion, possibly a dammed stream creating a small pond on the hillside – a stream isn’t obvious from OS Maps but it features on the East Course golf course map adjacent to the 15th and 16th fairways, with a smaller arm from close to the Mansion. They probably wouldn’t be noticed by those playing the ‘demanding’ par 3 15th, hidden by the woodland to the right of the fairway .  While the confluence with the Quaggy is marked, I failed to spot it from my surreptitious run along the road up towards the Mansion.

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The deepest valley is one emerging opposite Milk Street Ditch – the source of this is in Elmstead Woods , the other edge of the wood is source to another tributary – Fairy Hall Flow.  This is clear on the ground, close to Grove Park Cemetery; with two small ditches coalescing at a screen in a small dip on the Green Chain Walk.  While I haven’t seen any water there for a while, I certainly remember small channels flowing alongside the path in wetter seasons.  The combined flow, when it flows, would take it under a corner of Grove Park Cemetery and then at a slight dip in the path crosses the Green Chain Walk just before it enters Elmstead Woods.  There is the ferrous presence of a manhole cover allowing access to the occasional stream in a small dip in the path going back towards Chinbrook Meadows allowing access before it reaches the railway.

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The railway bars its way and the Flood Risk Map (above) suggests that it may have flooded in the past – there seems to have been a new concrete structure built which presumably ushers the wrong kind of water away from the tracks.

There appear to be remnants of the stream adjacent to the 10th fairway on the West Course – visible on the fly-through of the course.

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I had hoped to be able to see the valley when tracking Milk Street Ditch’s short traverse of the golf course but the last vestiges of autumnal colours prevented a clear enough view.

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Strange Treatments for Whooping Cough in Hither Green and Sydenham

One of the stranger medical trials in Britain happened at the Park Hospital, later known as Hither Green Hospital in the late 1940s – using a decompression chamber to treat whooping cough.

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The Park Hospital from a few decades earlier (via eBay, Jan 2016)

The background was a serious problem in post war Britain with a whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic in 1941 with 173, 330 cases and 2,383 deaths.  There were over 60,000 cases and at least 500 deaths every year throughout that decade.

The trial had its roots in the 1920s when a Strasbourg pilot took his child who was suffering from whooping cough for a flight and found that the coughing had almost ceased after 3 days.  Why the pilot attempted this was not explained, though.  Further work done in Switzerland and Germany prior to World War 2  found that the ‘treatment’ was most effective in the 5th and 6th weeks of the disease and that it cured 30% of cases within 3 days and alleviated symptoms within a further 30% of cases.  However, given the scale of the problem and the limited number of non-military aircraft replicating the trials on a bigger scale were not really feasible.

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So a decompression chamber was used, initially in Paris, where the results seemed to be similar to those in airplanes, and in Sweden, where they were inconclusive.  The Park Hospital at Hither Green managed to get hold of a former RAF decompression chamber (pictured above and below – source British Medical Journal 1949) and tried the same testing – the initial reports published in the British Medical Journal were that it seemed to work for some cases – around a third saw significant improvement or cure.

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Despite the technique seeming to work in at least some cases, the rationale for remained unknown.  There are few references to the type of treatment after the early 1950s, other than one suggestion that it continued to be used by the RAF as late as the 1990s. So it can, perhaps, be assumed that the later results at the Park Hospital were similar to the inconclusive ones in Sweden, or as we will see later, possibly overtaken by other medical advances.

There were several memories of the treatment in Facebook comments on the post – including being told that they were in a rocket going to the moon and it leading to subsequent issues with claustrophobia for one former patient.

The altitude treatment wasn’t the only rather odd treatment, in modern terms at least, tried in Lewisham there was an alternative tried at the South Suburban Gas Works at Bell Green in the 1920s (below – see notes for photo credit) when the company turned their pump room into a clinic where children who were suffering could go and ‘take the smells’ (1).

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It wasn’t a new idea – there were Scottish reports of children living at a gas works not getting whooping cough during an outbreak in Fife in 1891.  It certainly wasn’t the only place in Britain where gasworks related ‘cures’ this were tried, with reports of it happening on a more informal basis in Shoreham on Sea and High Brooms in Kent amongst others.  There were several memories in Facebook comments on the post of similar strategies being used in relation to taking children to places where new road surfaces were being laid and making them breathe in the fumes.

The logic at Sydenham seemed to be that one of the gases, ammonia, had a similar effect to smelling salts, and the smell of the tar caused a tickling sensation around the throat which, while it brought on violent fits of coughing, seemed to remove the ‘whoop.’ (2)

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The Bell Green gasworks have all but disappeared – all that remains is the former social club, the Livesey Memorial Hall (covered a while ago in Running Past) and the now threatened gas-holders.

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The trials in Hither Green were not that long before the  post-war introduction of both vaccines for whooping cough and antibiotics to treat the condition, both lessened the need to try other methods, so even had the decompression chamber ‘worked’ it may not have lasted that long anyway.

The disease has never been eradicated though – the vaccines wear off over time and there has never been complete take-up, in 2015 the provisional figures for recorded whooping cough (pertussis) were 3063 cases with 4 deaths.

Finally, there is a short film made by British Pathé News about the tests, sadly it isn’t one of the films uploaded onto YouTube so it can’t be embedded here – but it gives a few glimpses of the the Park Hospital and it is worth watching for that.

 

Notes

  1. Gipsland Times 7 January 1926 via the Washed Out Goth blog
  2. ibid

Picture credits – both the Sydenham pictures are on a creative commons via Steve Grindlay’s lovely Flickr page which is well worth a ‘visit.’

 

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Henry Woodham & Sons and the Catford Steamrollers

The name of Henry Woodham came up a while ago in relation to the short-lived velodrome in Sportsbank Street in  Catford, Woodham unsuccessfully attempted to build next to it in 1897 and may have been the developer who bought the stadium in 1900 and built in surrounding streets early 20th century.

The firm was much better known as a highways contractor and latterly also as a plant hire company, and local memories focus very much of the impressive looking steam rollers that the firm used, including the Ruston Hornsby roller below (on a Creative Commons via the Tractor and Construction Plant Wiki)

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The firm was based at a plot of land at 121 to 139 Sangley Road, almost opposite the Roman Catholic Church of Holy Cross, next to one of the alleys between Sangley and Engleheart Roads.

The yard would have originally been part of Cockshed Farm – it is midway between the Farm and Sangley Lodge on the 1893 OS map below (on a creative commons via National Library of Scotland)

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The highlighted yard is more obvious in the 1930s map of the same area – also on a creative commons via National Library of Scotland.

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There are fond local memories of the yard – there were several recollections on a recent Facebook page, including those who remembered the yard as children and would “always sit upstairs on the bus so that we could ‘look over the wall’ to see those wonderful machines as there was a bus stop outside.”

Several of the steam rollers have been preserved by enthusiasts, including the one below (on a Wikipedia Creative Commons) at Bredgar and Woshill Railway, near Sittingbourne. It was bought new by Henry Woodham & Sons in 1922, it still has a company plaque and was used on road repairs until the 1950s.

ruston__hornsby_115023_of_1922

 

So who were Henry Woodham and Sons?  Henry had been born in Elmers End in 1857, into a labouring family.  He moved around a fair amount as a young man – he was in Camberwell in the 1870s, marrying Maria and arrived in Catford by 1879 – his elder son, Henry George, was born there in 1879.  Henry (senior) was employing 11 as a road and sewage contractor living at 25 Brownhill Road in the 1881 census.

He was still living in Brownhill Road in 1901 (Sydney Villa) and 1911 when all five adult children were living at 182 Brownhill Road, including the ‘Sons’ Henry George and Reginald (born in 1881).

Henry Senior had retired by 1911, but was still living in Brownhill Road (102) with a housekeeper.  He subsequently moved to Bromley where he died in 1928.

By 1911 the business was being run by Henry George and Reginald, the former was living at 11 Ardoch Road with two children, including a Henry Ernest Clifford born in 1905.  Reginald who was living at 168 George Lane.

Reginald had retired and was living in Sevenoaks by the time the 1939 Register was drawn up – dying in neighbouring Tonbridge in 1956. Neither of Reginald’s sons went into the family business – Reginald (1904) worked as an engineer for Woking Council in 1939, with Gerald dying early in 1925, when only 17.

Henry George seems to have tried to expand the business into Devon between the wars.  But returned to returned to south east London, before his death in Bromley in 1961.  His son, Henry Ernest Clifford was listed as a Public Works Company Director in 1939, at 72 Arran Road, but maybe the business wasn’t doing quite so well – he was sharing with an unrelated father and son. He died in south east Surrey in early 1969.

By this time the business was gone, liquidated in 1965 – the registered office was in Bickley at that time, although the business was still carried out in Catford.

As for the yard, after Woodham and Sons went into liquidation, it seems to have been home to demolition firms, initially Sid Bishop Demolition, latterly Harris.   Like the former grandstand of the velodrome the small plot eventually succumbed to the developers.

The housing seems to have taken the name of the last users of the site and is known as Harris Lodge – a mixture of flats and bungalows. img_2819

And finally, another of the impressive steamrollers that plied their trade out of Sangley Road (although was later sold to A J Ward), the Excelsior – via a creative commons from Grace’s Guide.

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Note

All the census and related data comes from Find My Past