Author Archives: Paul B

The 1930s Verdant Lane Estate – ‘Delightful Houses’ for Skilled Workers

The Verdant Lane estate was developed in the early 1930s with most homes sold by the middle of the decade – it consists of homes on the eastern side of Verdant Lane itself plus the streets of South Park Crescent (named after the former farm on the opposite side of Verdant Lane that became part of North Park Farm); Further Green Lane plus the smaller streets of Pasture Road and Sedgeway. The newly built houses, as we shall see later, were to become the homes of skilled working classes along with a few supervisory staff and managers.

The opposite side of Verdant Lane had been developed by Cameron Corbett as part of the development of North Park Farm, the west side of Verdant Lane had been one of the last streets to be developed in 1910 (1). The land now occupied by the Verdant Lane estate was presumably not farmed by the Sheppards at North Park and was probably part of Shroffold Farm which was located where the mosque is now situated at the junction of Verdant and Whitefoot Lanes with Northover.  Latterly, like much of the newer part of the cemetery, it was allotments as the map below shows.

The allotments are clear in the photograph below, taken from 140 Verdant Lane around 1920 (see credit below) – the bend in the road is the junction of Verdant Lane and Sandhurst Road.  The photograph also shows trees bordering one of the Quaggy’s tributaries, Hither Green Ditch; the stream seems to have been culverted around the bulge in the fencing.  The course of the Ditch is obvious in the small valley on Pasture Road, the remnants of the stream is probably now culverted either under the front gardens of Verdant Lane or under the access tracks to garages behind.

Adjacent to the estate was Oak Cottage Nursery, which dated from at least the 1860s, perhaps earlier.  The nursery lasted until after World War 2 (the map below is from the early 1950s), presumably until Oak Cottage Close was built in the 1960s or 70s. A small part of the nursery remains as a lovely community garden

The builders of the estate were J Gerrard and Sons from Swinton in Greater Manchester; they had been founded in 1864 by Jonathan Gerrard.  Gerrard had died in 1906, but the firm was still within the family, although by this stage focused in the main on large scale public building contracts including hospitals and public housing for Manchester City Council.  Private sector housing, particularly in southern England, seems to have been something of a rarity for them at this stage in their evolution.

By the 1950s they seem to have been specialising in building power stations, such as Fleetwood in 1956. It appears that the construction arm was sold to Fairclough in 1971, who in turn were taken over by AMEC in 1982 and then by Wood Group in 2017.  There is still a haulage firm operating and still run by the Gerrard family.

Who designed the houses isn’t clear – it may have been an in house team and they seem to have done their own sales, presumably from a show house on the estate.


The completion locally would have been on the Woodstock Estate,now mainly Woodyates Road, which was advertised in the same edition of Lewisham’s Official Guide (probably 1931).  While Woodstock was priced at £25 cheaper, with seemingly a similar specification, Gerrard’s, by asking for a higher deposit, managed to get the weekly cost to be slightly cheaper.

So who were the early occupants of the estate? The 1939 Register was effectively a mini-census carried out just before the start of World War 2 for the purposes of rationing.   It isn’t completely comprehensive, as anyone likely to still be alive now is redacted and those in the armed forces were not included. As part of the research for this post, the records of the 36 houses on eastern side of Further Green Road (35 – 105 odds) have been reviewed.  While other parts of the estate might have been slightly different, it is probably a big enough sample to get a reasonable picture of who lived there.

The men of the estate were employed in a wide mixture of trades, but there were a mixture of skilled manual workers and a range of office and managerial jobs

  • The skilled manual workers included a metal machinist, a couple of telephone engineers, two train drivers and a plasterer; and
  • The office and managerial roles included several warehousemen, a Director of a Shipping Agent, a Civil Servant, a theatre clerk and an office manager.

The difference between Further Green Road and a similar study in 1939 of Ardmere Road in Hither Green is stark – a large majority in Ardmere Road were semi and unskilled manual workers – the only Further Green Road resident that would fall into this category was the Brewer’s Drayman at 89. This was one of the very few entries with the suffix ‘Heavy Work’ added after the trade.  This would have entitled those described to extra rations.  Of the 50 paid jobs, only four had ‘Heavy’ appended to them – one of which was probably an error as it was given to a shorthand typist….

As was the case in Ardmere Road, working women, other than a few grown up children, were a rarity – most were listed as carrying out ‘Unpaid Domestic Duties.’

One of the surprising features of the estate was the lack of children – these in the main are three bedroom houses but there were only 11 children in the 36 homes (assuming all the redacted entries were children). This was almost certainly due to evacuation of children which had started at the beginning of September 1939 – including in Lewisham.  Most had returned by 1943 as the estate had  one of the bigger concentrations of the child victims of the Sandhurst Road School bombing.


  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: the Forgotten Hamlet : Including the Corbett Estate’ p40
  2. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser 29 December 1906

1939 Register data is via Find My Past

Image Credits

The pre-development photo is copyright of the always helpful Lewisham Archives and is used with their permission.

The Ordnance Survey maps of Oak Cottage and the estate before development are from the National Library of Scotland and are on a Creative Commons – the

The advert and floor plans were copied from somewhere on social media in mid-2017, I thought that it was from the excellent cornucopia of all things London local government – LCC Municipal – mainly to be found on Twitter, but I was mistaken – so if you posted it do tell me so that I can properly credit you!

Finally, thank you to David Underdown for reminding me of the reasons for the lack of children on the estate in late September 1939 – most had been evacuated.




The Ghosts of Hillyfields & Blackheath Prefabs Past

The prolonged spell of dry weather in June and July 2018 dried out the top soils in many areas and made visible archaeological remains of past buildings. It has enabled the likes of the flooded village of Mardale Green to be visible again, along with various ancient settlements in Wales.  A little more recent, and a lot nearer to home, are footprints of prefabs that appeared in Hillyfields and possibly on Blackheath too.

The Blitz and the later V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks had destroyed thousands of homes in south east London. – thousands were homeless, staying with families and friends, leaving considerable numbers homeless .The main plank in trying to deal with this was the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act 1944, which planned to deliver 300,000 prefabricated homes.
The old Borough of Lewisham put up 1,610 prefabs by 1948 and a further 1,088 by 1955. While many went on quickly cleared bombsites – such as those in Fernbrook Road and Lenham Road – parks and open spaces were often used. On the Greenwich side of Blackheath, open space on Pond Road in Blackheath was used but more significantly several parks saw significant concentrations of prefabs. Notable in this was the Excalibur Estate (pictured below) which was built on part of the Forster Memorial Park – the estate partially remains although a stalling redevelopment programme is underway. The Excalibur estate (below) was covered in an early post in Running Past. There were also big concentrations around the edge of Hillyfields as well as in a couple of locations on Blackheath.P1040344.JPG

Hillyfields Bungalows

As the 1949 surveyed map that included Ladywell shows, the open ground of Hillyfields was circled with prefabs – Hillyfields Bungalows – with a double row along Adelaide and Montague Avenues, and a single broken line on Hillyfields Crescent.  A number of different types of prefabs were used – the ones here were Arcon bungalows – somewhat different in shape and design to those at Excalibur.

They were certainly there until the early autumn of 1962 as there is cine film footage of them, although there are suggestions that residents may have been moved out before the winter as there are recollections of playing in the remains of the prefabs in the harsh winter of 1962/63.

The extent of the compaction of the ground caused by the foundations means that the ground dries out more quickly than the surrounding around and so sometimes makes the footprints of the prefabs visible from the air.  The Google maps satellite images, probably taken in the dry spring or early summer of 2011. – the top one of Adelaide Avenue, the lower of Montague Avenue.



They may have been visible on the ground at that point but the 2018 has made them a lot clearer than in previous years as the set of photographs below shows – the top pair are of the Adelaide Avenue prefab bases, the bottom trio are of Montague Avenue and Hillyfields Crescent.

Before leaving Hillyfields, the Ordnance Survey map above indicates a series of Nissen huts close to the tennis courts.  They probably related to search lights (there were search lights there in World War 1 too).  There was nothing visible on the ground in the drought conditions – a combination of post-war trees and play equipment have disturbed the surface too much.

St German’s Place, Blackheath

Alongside St German’s Place on Blackheath there was a double row of prefabs as the photograph from Britain from Above shows the edge of in the bottom left corner,


The extent is clearer from the 1949 surveyed Ordnance Survey map.

Unlike the position at Hillyfields, the post demolition outlines never seem to have been visible from the air – Blackheath has seen more more earth movement over the years than Hillyfields (apart from the former brick works around Hillyfields Crescent).  Non-natural soils have been added to the edge the grass, while the mounds look impressive in flower they will cover some of the remains of the prefab footprints.

A recent drain edges the Heath a metre further west than the mound and then beyond is a tangle of long grass. There are a couple of outlines that might be the base of a bungalow but it could easily be something else.

Hollyhedge Bungalows

In the top corner of the aerial photograph above another, larger, group of prefabs is present at the south eastern edge of the Heath, adjacent to what is now the Territorial Army Centre at Hollyhedge House – looking  beyond them is Lewisham, almost unrecognisable without the tall buildings.

The bunglaows were know as Hollyhedge Bungalows – their extent is clearer from the map below

There appeared to be nothing obvious visible on the ground when visited – a combination of lots of earth movement on the Heath in the relatively recent past and confusion of lines caused by tyres – no doubt due to the obstacles of the Race for Life Pretty Mudder race the Sunday before – the grass will recover quickly from that, once it rains.

Not every bomb site was developed immediately for prefabs – as Running Past has already covered , sites at Campshill House and Lewisham Hill were developed for new council housing almost straight after the War – the final photograph below shows both Lewisham Hill estate (2/3 way up on the right) as well as Hollyhedge Bungalows at the top.


The modern aerial images are from Google Maps – copied during 2014

The older aerial images are all from Britain from Above and on a Creative Commons

The map images are on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland – the full images are via links for Hillyfields; St German’s Place and Hollyhedge bungalows


Edgar Lloyd – Lewisham’s Early 20th Century Ultra-Runner

Over the years Running Past has covered a number of pioneering South London athletes – including the mid-19th century Tom Cook, the Greenwich Cowboy; William Gazley, the Star of Kent, the triple jumper Philip Kingsford and marathon runner Charlie Gardiner.  Another distance runner of the same era to Gardiner was Edgar Lloyd – they probably never completed together as the former was a professional whilst the latter remained an amateur.  Edgar Lloyd had his 15 minutes  of fame, well 6 hours 13 minutes and 58 seconds to be precise, in taking the World 50 mile record at Stamford Bridge in 1913.

William Edgar Lloyd was born in Lewisham on 31 July 1886.  He never used the ‘William’ and in press reports of his career was generally referred to as E W Lloyd.  Edgar was the second of four children of Magdelena and William Lloyd who had married in Croydon in 1881 – Magdelana was from Baden in Germany and was listed as a governess in the 1881 census.  William had something on an odd work history in the 1881 and 1891 censuses he was referred to a ‘Professor of Music,’ however in 1901 he was a storekeeper for an electrical engineer and in 1911 a book keeper for a corn merchant.

The family moved around a lot within Lewisham – in 1891 they were at 107 Gilmore Road (pictured above), moving to Ladywell Park in 1901 (roughly where the 1960s variant of Ladywell swimming pool was located) and to an also now demolished house on Perry Hill in 1911.  Edgar was still living at home in 1911, working as a telephone engineer for a firm called Miller; he had left school by the time he was 14 – working as an office boy for an engineering draughtsman in 1901.

In an interview after the record breaking race in 1913, Edgar suggested that he had been drawn to distance running by Petrie’s efforts in the 1908 London Olympic marathon (covered in the post of Charlie Gardiner), whether he had much of an athletic background before that isn’t clear (1).

Why he joined Herne Hill Harriers (HHH) rather than one of the more local clubs isn’t obvious either; as an earlier post on athletics on Blackheath covered – there were three active local clubs Blackheath Harriers then based at the Green Man, Cambridge Harrier and Kent Athletic Club.  Herne Hill Harriers though seem to have had bases in Eltham and Croydon though which may have encouraged him.

Edgar’s name started to appear in reports and results of local cross country and other races from the autumn of 1908.  He took part in a cross country race in Eltham organised by HHH in October 1908 around what was then the upper reaches of the Little Quaggy through the farm land of Coldharbour and Chapel Farms, he didn’t ‘place’ though (2).

He improved quickly, competing in 4¾ mile handicap road race from HHH’s Croydon base at the now closed Leslie Arms in Lower Addiscombe Road in Croydon on a November evening.  He came 10th, with the 3rd best time – the quickest was Harry Green with whom he would compete at the 1912 Olympics (3).

Early in 1909 Edgar, pictured (4) was to come 25th in the highly competitive South of Thames 7½ mile race, which is still organised.  The race was held in a ‘little old-world village’ the clue to its location was that it was ‘within mile or so of the tram terminus at Catford’ – Southend (see below – via eBay April 2016).  They raced over land belonging to the Forsters – so it probably included Forster Memorial Park and possibly the then home to Catford Southend FC and later Waygood Athletic.  Ahead of him was another HHH runner – Jack Gardiner, brother of Charlie.  Jack’s vest was often worn for good luck by Charlie. HHH won comfortably, Edgar didn’t even ‘score’ for them he was the 7th Herne Hill runner home (5).

He seems to have upped his distances during the next couple of years and competed in the 1911 Polytechnic Marathon over the 1908 London Olympic course from Windsor – he came 7th to finish in 3:01:57, in an era when times were much slower.  The race was won by his HHH team mate Harry Green in 2:46:29 (6).  While other references to him running other marathon races have not been found it can be assumed that he ran a few others, probably including the 1912 edition of the Polytechnic Marathon, as he was good enough to be selected for the 1912 Olympic marathon. (Poster on a Creative Commons via Wikipedia)

Edgar was well down the field in the race in Stockholm, finishing 25th from the 68 starters in a time of 3:09:25 for the 40.2 km course.  Conditions though were described as ‘very hot’ with only 35 finishers.  Edgar is probably visible in film footage of the race.

Edgar’s 50 mile race was a somewhat strange affair.  It was organised by Finchley Harriers and was held at Stamford Bridge, which still had an athletics track surrounding the football pitch at that stage and as was noted in relation to Philip Kingsford, was home to the London Athletic Club.  There were races within races – the first few won by Edgar’s club mate Harry Green including

  • 20 Miles – 1:56:51 (8)
  • 2 hours – 20 Miles 952 yards (9)
  • Marathon 2:38:16 (10)

After this point the centre of attention turned to Edgar Lloyd pictured (11) who steadily drew away from the rest of the small remaining field.  At times, it was a bit of a struggle for Edgar as he got ‘rather short in his stride’ but he started beating the records set by Dixon in 1885 by 42 miles, despite a wobble around 45 miles when it appeared that he might fall behind Dixon’s time.  However, he got something of a second wind and finished well – taking 4:28 off the previous world best time (12).  The Stamford Bridge track is picture below in 1909 from Wikipedia.

How long the record stood for isn’t that clear, ultra-running was at that time, and still is, a niche sector of athletics and until the on-line era got relatively little press coverage.  While there are no mentions of Edgar having competed in ultra events after 1913, it doesn’t mean that he didn’t.  The 1913 event probably only got the level of coverage that it managed due to the record.  It isn’t clear how long Edgar’s record stood – by 1984 Bruce Fordyce had taken the time down to 4:50:21.

After the world record race, he still continued to compete, although like every athlete of his generation his career was disrupted by the War.  There are a few press mentions beyond 1918 but they are few and far between – such as coming 16th in a 3 mile race in 1919 in Dulwich village still competing for HHH.

By 1915 Edgar was probably based in Croydon, his son William was born there in 1915 – he had been turning out as a ‘second claim’ for Croydon Harriers before that. In the 1939 Register, he was living with his wife Edith and William at Oval Road in Croydon and working as an ‘Engineer’s Turner’.

Edgar stayed in touch with athletics – he gave his 1912 trophy to the Road Runners Club in the 1950s for their 50 mile track race and presented the trophy in 1953. He watched athletics too including a 50 mile race at Walton upon Thames in 1966 where he was impressed with the American runner Ted Corbitt, often regarded as the ‘father of long distance running’ who was still competing at a good standard at 47.

Edgar died in Bromley in 1972 but his name seems to live on in another trophy, the Edgar Lloyd Memorial Cup, endowed the year after he died, for a 3km junior walk.


  1. The Sportsman 13 May 1913
  2. Sporting Life 05 October 1908
  3. Sporting Life 20 November 1908
  4. Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 17 May 1913
  5. Sporting Life 15 February 1909
  6. Athletic News 05 June 1911
  7. The Sportsman 28 October 1919
  8. Pall Mall Gazette 12 May 1913
  9. The Sportsman 13 May 1913
  10. Ibid
  11. Athletic News 19 May 1913
  12. Sheffield Daily Telegraph 13 May 1913

A big thank you to Bob Phillips for making me aware of Edgar.

Census and related information are from Find My Past.

Ardmere Road – A Portrait of What Was Once Hither Green’s Poorest Street (Part 2)

Last week’s post left explored the early years of Ardmere Road, looking at who lived there, the poverty and low-level crime.  We return to the street just before World War Two when the 1939 Register, a mini census for rationing and related purposes, was collected in September of that year.

When we had ‘visited’ for the 1901 Census, a small majority of the small three bedroom houses were home to two households sharing with an average of almost 8 people per home in the street.   By 1939, the number of households sharing  was down to 1 in 5 and the average number of people living in each house had almost halved to 4.3.

Employment on the street although it was less dominated by the building trade than it had been at the beginning of the 20th century, it was still dominated by largely unskilled manual work with lots of general labourers, several dustmen.  There was some semi-skilled and skilled manual work – such as the husband of one of the shopkeepers who was a telephone engineer and a couple of bricklayers; however, these were real exceptions.

A much more obvious change was the role of women – nearly 40 years before a majority of Ardmere Road’s women worked.   Now they were the exception, most were listed as carrying out ‘unpaid domestic duties’ (something that wasn’t recorded in 1901). Of those women who worked, if was like the men, entirely manual, and almost entirely adult children.  There was only one exception to this where another adult woman carried out the ‘unpaid domestic duties.’

Because the 1939 Register was done for rationing purposes – a significant number of the men had the suffix or prefix to their trade of ‘Heavy Work’ which entitled them to extra rations. Such as ‘Builder’s Labourer – Heavy Work,’ slightly under half of the workers fell into this category.

World War 2 saw changes to the physical structure of the street – much of this damage was caused by a V1 attack on 29 June 1944 (which will be returned to at some point in Running Past), as well as a high explosive bomb that was dropped during the Blitz.  The map below (1)  shows the combined extent of the damage – as the key shows the darker the colour, the worse the damage.

Key: black=total destruction, purple=damaged beyond repair, dark red=seriously damaged (doubt if repairable), light red=seriously damaged (repairable at cost), orange=general blast damage (non-structural), yellow=blast damage (minor), green=clearance area

The position was slightly worse than the LCC map showed as when the Ordnance Survey cartographers visited around 1950 numbers 20 and 21 were showing as ‘ruins’ (2).

This site was redeveloped by the old Borough of Lewisham after the war as Council housing.

In the end, while 10 to 14 were left standing, they too ended up being demolished.  In this case it was Beaver Housing Society rather than council that built the new homes which were of a style that was closer to the original homes that those built by the Council.   They had certainly been built by the early 1950s.

Beaver was a Lewisham-based housing association that managed about 3000 homes, mainly in Lewisham and Greenwich. It ran its operations from Lewisham High Street – next to the former location of Kings Hall cinema – before moving to behind to Kings Hall Mews during the 1990s.  They ran into serious problems with their governance in the early 2000s and merged with London & Quadrant Housing Trust, generally known as L&Q, in 2004.  Their name disappeared soon after.

They inserted the small glazed tile into many of their developments, there is another just around the corner in Nightingale Grove which was developed at the same time – along with one on an impressive Grade II listed building on Croom’s Hill in Greenwich.

In the first part of the story we noted that there had been an attempt by William Barrett to turn 17 from an off licence to a pub.  The plans for creating up pub seem to have dried up, but William Barrett was certainly running the off-licence well into the 1920s based on Kelly’s Directories (3).  William died in 1929 and his wife, Fanny, in 1933.

By this stage, the licence was taken over by one of their daughters Winifred (“Winnie”) Amy Agnes Barrett.  Winnie was born in 1903 when the family had already been running the off licence at 17 for 6 years.  She was born into the trade and in all likelihood working in it from the age of 16 – certainly that was the legal age for consumption of alcohol in 1919.  She was listed in the 1939 Register as a Licensed Victualler, which she ran with her cousin, Grace Baker, and later Kelly’s Post Office Directories have her running the off licence until 1979.  The business seems to have been taken over by W Inkin in 1982, but didn’t last more than a couple of years longer (4).   It is difficult to imagine now a small corner shop off-licence remaining in the hands of the same family for 82 years. There were memories of Winnie and being sent to the off licence to buy rolling tobacco and cigarette papers on a Facebook thread on the first post.

17 has now been converted into a pair of flats.

Next door at number 18, the numbering on Ardmere Road is consecutive, was another shop that lasted a long time in the same family – Edith May’s grocers.  She seems to have started as an assistant to & servant for Mary Law who was running the shop by 1911, taking over from Thomas Dixon who had been there since around 1905.  Edith, then Coles, was 18 then having been born in late 1892.  Edith married William May in Whitechapel in 1920.

Mary Law ran the grocers until around 1924 when the Mays took over (5).  In the Kelly’s Directories Edward May is listed as the proprietor from the mid-1920s until around 1941 (6).  Given that he was listed as a Telephone Engineer in the 1939 Register the reality was that it was probably Edith’s business.  During the war the grocers was where lots of local homes were registered to for their rations.

It was an old fashioned shop, unlike the off-licence which seems to have had a refit after World War 2, Edith’s grocery was

….frozen in time. Old marble counters, wooden single drawer for a till, flagstone floor, shelves with doilies and a huge brass scales.

Edith May ran the shop until about 1980, having been involved with the shop for around 70 years.  The shop was taken over by someone called Bobins around 1982, but like Winnie Barrett’s off-licence, it didn’t last long in new ownership (7).  The shop front has gone and unlike next door there is little evidence from the outside of retail past (see below).

So what about the street now?  Census data remains confidential for about a century although some anonymised data is made available to researchers much sooner. However, it is possible to look at summary data on a variety of questions for quite small areas known as Output Areas.  Data for Ardmere Road is available together with the neighbouring Brightside and Elthruda Roads.  As would be expected, employment patterns have changed a lot since 1939.  The big areas of employment in Ardmere Road’s Output Area are retail and wholesale (18%); education (11%); health and social work (10%), information and communication (10%) and construction (8%).   These are relatively similar to Lewisham as a whole although more work in retail, manufacturing, construction and information, with slightly less in most other areas.

As for housing, of the 274 homes in the Output Area, 123 are owner occupied with 151 rented or shared ownership.  The average number of people per home were 2.55 – while lower than in 1939, this reflects as much that houses have been subdivided into flats.

Rent levels will vary depending on the type of landlord – with the suggested private rents in the region of £1250 a month, but the social housing owned by Lewisham Council and L&Q considerably cheaper but still a lot more expensive.  This is somewhat more that the 45p a week charged in 1907, even taking account of inflation.

As for sold house prices , two houses albeit tenanted were sold for just £140 in 1908 (8).  The most recent house sold was for £480,000 in September 2015, and a valuation now would probably be around £517,000.  The two bedroom houses (where the third bedroom is turned into a bathroom) are a bit cheaper.

As for the ‘shoddy building’ described by Charles Booth’s researcher,  other than the World War 2 damage, the houses (from the outside at least) seem to have stood the test of time better than many in the area.


  1. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 – permission has been given by the copyright owners of the map, the London Metropolitan Archives to use the image here
  2. On a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland
  3. 1925 Lewisham Brockley and Catford Kelly’s Directory (via Lewisham Archives)
  4. Various London Kelly’s Post Office Directories from 1965 to 1983 (via Lewisham Archives)
  5. 1925 Lewisham Brockley and Catford Kelly’s Directory (via Lewisham Archives)
  6. London Kelly’s Post Office Directories various years to rom 1965 to 1983 (via Lewisham Archives)
  7. ibid
  8. 20 November 1908 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England

Data from the 1939 Register comes via Find My Past

The 2011 Census Data comes via the Office for National Statistics

Thank you to Julie Robinson at Lewisham Archives help on the later Directories and to Helen Holland for her memories of Mrs May’s grocers shop.

Ardmere Road – A Portrait of What Was Once Hither Green’s Poorest Street (Part 1)

Ardmere Road in Hither Green is a quiet residential street of smaller Victorian terraced houses with some post Second World War bomb damage replacement homes; it is older than the homes to the south and predates the arrival of the station by around 15 years.

It was unusual in the area in that when Charles Booth’s researcher Ernest Alves included it on his 1899 walk which was mapping poverty in late Victorian London it was coloured ‘dark blue’, one up from the lowest class.  He described Ardmere Road as

 One of the fuller streets, shoddy building, two families the rule.

Charles Booth conducted an ‘Inquiry into Life and Labour in London’ between 1886 and 1903 – for much of the city he produced wonderfully detailed maps coloured on the basis of income and the social class of its inhabitants.  His assessment was based on walks carried out either himself or through a team of social investigators, like Alves, often with clergymen or the police, listening, observing what he saw and talking to people he met on the road.  The observations were part of a longer walk by Ernest Alves that took in much of the Corbett estate which was being built.  The extract of the map below is  available from London School of Economics as a Creative Commons.

Hither Green had been just a series of large houses along what is now Hither Green Lane and North Park Farm when the railway navvies carved the route through the area in the 1860s. There were little bits of development around the edges of the area in the next decade – with roads like Courthill Road emerging. The houses in Ardmere Road, along with the those in the neighbouring Maythorne Cottages were much smaller though and were built before the school in Beacon Road – the site for which was bought in 1881 (1)

So was Alves right about the street? The 1901 census was carried out a couple of years after Alves visited Hither Green, so the street was unlikely to have changed that much.  The census showed two households in each house were the just the majority, in 16/30 houses – with an average of 7.8 people living in the small three bedroom houses – the highest being 12.  There were a couple of shops – a grocer at 18 and an off-licence beer shop at 17.

All were manual labourers except for the Police Constable at 9, and you could probably make the case for PC Davies being a manual worker too.  A disproportionate number of the men worked in the building trade – some of these will have worked for Cameron Corbett’s contractors in the development of the Corbett Estate.  While Corbett initially rented out some of the smaller houses on his estate to building workers – notably in Sandhurst Road – this probably wasn’t sufficient.

A lot of the women worked – 8 were laundresses taking in washing for the wealthier households in the streets around – although some may have worked at laundries; there were a trio of charwomen and a couple of dressmakers.

In the early years of the street rent levels were low – around five years after they were built they were being offered for rent as ‘seven roomed houses, in good locality, bay windows, forecourt, rent 7s per week’ – that’s 35p for those without pre-decimal knowledge (2).

Rent levels seem to have slightly reduced in the next decade – 21-32 were sold in 1894 as the owner was bankrupt – a couple of hundred properties across London were sold at the same time. The advertised rent level at Ardmere Road would have averaged 31p a week (3).

A decade later, when there were further sales, rents had gone up significantly – at 21, 22 and 23 they were 9/- (45p), 8/6d and 9/- respectively.  Whereas at 4 and 5 they were more expensive at 10/-. A few hundred metres away on similar sized houses on Ennersdale Road houses were offered at 13/- a week (4). The rent increases  probably related to the opening of the station at Hither Green.  21 – 23 were sold again in 1907 – rents hadn’t changed though (5).

The tenanted value of the houses was around £140 – based on the sale of an unspecified pair of properties in 1908 (6).   The trio of 21-23 Ardmere Road homes was again sold just before the outbreak of World War 1 – rent levels had declined slightly to 8/6d. The freeholds of most of the street were sold at the same time (7).

Perhaps part of the reason for the frequent changing of hands were difficulties in collecting the rent. There was a case of claim and counterclaim at the Police Court in 1897. One of the tenants was alleged to have assaulted the rent collector by hitting him with a chair. The rent collector, who described himself a clergyman of the Church of England, was witnessed to having used language and behaviour that would not been heard coming from the pulpit – calling the tenant a ‘dirty cow’ and then attempting to strangle her after she only offered him 10/- towards rent (and presumably arrears). Both cases thrown out by the Police Court (8).

There was lots of low level crime relating to the street – the O’Connor brothers at 30 appeared several times in court. Hugh was described as a ‘bad lad’ after stealing a ‘whip from a trap’ in Ardmere Road in 1890 (9). He was again in court in 1894 after stealing tinned fruit from a shop on Ennersdale Road (10); younger brother Michael was convicted of stealing from orchard in Nightingale Grove and was remanded for a week the following year (11).

There were a couple of dozen similar reports of theft in the local press between the early 1880s and the outbreak of the Great War. While not attempting to excuse them, most seem to have been born out of the grinding poverty that seems to have existed on the street. A laundress at 23 was remanded for pawning various clothes which belonged to a resident of the nearby, wealthy College Park estate (12).

There were thefts of a marrow in 1886 (13) and milk in 1887 (14), and several occasions of stealing lead piping including from empty houses on the street which belonged to the Finsbury Building Society the same year (15).

There were, of course, alcohol related convictions too, the father and son Lustys, from 21 were together charged with being drunk and disorderly in 1887 (16).


There was an off-licence at 17 run initially by Lewis White, who held the licence from 1879 to 1897. He was also a ‘General Dealer’ and had several brushes with the law, including allowing purchasers to drink outside the off-licence in 1884 (17). He was charged with selling alcohol outside permitted hours in early 1887 (18).

The last event seems have led to the bench refusing to grant him a new licence, so in the end it was transferred to William Barrett (19).  Barrett seems to have tried to extend to 18 in 1898 and obtain a full beer house licence, unsuccessfully on this occasion (20).  Oddly the Ordnance Survey, incorrectly  showed the 17 as a public house when surveyed in the 1890s.  Perhaps that’s how William Barrett’s tenure there appeared to the cartographers, it wasn’t though what the magistrates had approved though! (21)

We will leave Ardmere Road early in the 20th century, the second part of the post returns to the street in 1939 and looks at the changes to the street since then.


  1. 29 October 1881 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  2. 26 September 1884 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  3. 27 October 1894 – South London Press – London, London, England
  4. 13 May 1904 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  5. 17 May 1907 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  6. 20 November 1908 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  7. 07 March 1914 – Middlesex Chronicle – London, London, England
  8. 28 August 1897 – South London Press – London, London, England
  9. 26 September 1890 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  10. 20 April 1894 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  11. 30 August 1895 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  12. 6 October 1880 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  13. 08 October 1886 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  14. 16 December 1887 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  15. 18 February 1887 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  16. 25 March 1887 – Kentish Mercury – London
  17. 06 September 1884 – Kentish Independent – London, London, England
  18. 14 January 1887 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  19. 01 October 1897 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  20. 09 September 1898 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  21. On a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland

Charles Booth’s map is  available from London School of Economics as a Creative Commons.

Notes re FMD

Clara Lambert – A Militant Catford Suffragette

Running Past has covered several of the leading members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in Lewisham and Blackheath – May Billinghurst, Caroline Townsend, Eugenia Bouvier as well as the locally born Emily Wilding Davison.  Another of the prominent local militant suffragettes was Clara Lambert who lived at 174 Glenfarg Road on the Corbett Estate in Catford.  Clara went by a number of aliases too – Catherine Wilson and May Stewart.

Clara came from a very different background to many of the other active suffragettes – she was working class, having worked as a seamstress and in the family laundrette.  Many of the local ones such as Eugenia Bouvier and May Billinghurst, were from much wealthier backgrounds – reflecting Lewisham’s then position in the newly developing south London suburbia.

Clara joined the WSPU in 1903, around the time that it formed.  While her address in arrests is usually given in Catford, she was certainly involved with the setting up of the WSPU branch in Walthamstow in 1910. 

Clara was one of 300 suffragettes who met at Caxton Hall in November 1910 on what became known as ‘Black Friday’ and then marched to Parliament to attempt to lobby Asquith.  There was considerable brutality from the police and hostile bystanders, including sexual assaults.

It was noted in ‘The Vote’ that women were ‘thrown down, cuffed, pushed, gripped, pinched, battered, bruised, thrown back again and again by police and rowdies.’ ‘Arrest followed arrest’ with those arrested including Clara Lambert (1).

115 women, along with four men, were detained on Black Friday, but the following morning Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, dropped all charges on the grounds of public policy ‘on this occasion no public advantage would be gained by proceeding with the prosecution.’

In March 1912 the WSPU started a programme of window smashing, described in one syndicated paper as an ‘exceptionally malignant attack…. (with) wild scenes in London.’ (2) The sheer scale of the attacks one weekend overwhelmed the police in central London; this related both to the numbers of angry shop and business owners all wanting to press charges as well as noisy suffragettes who kept up a barrage of chants of “Votes for Women”‘ which echoed around the police stations of the centre of the capital.  Clara along with many of the others had her bail surety given by Frederick Pethwick Lawrence.

The case was heard a few days later and Clara pleaded guilty (3)  to smashing the windows of 5, 6 and 9 The Strand (4), close to Charing Cross, with a hammer.  The businesses were Joshua Turner, a hat and cap make; Samuel Smith and Son, speed indicator makers and the London and South Western Railway booking office.  She refused to give an undertaking to be bound over to keep the peace, so was sentenced to 4 months in prison (5).

Her parting shot after being sentenced was that “I shall come out of Holloway more determined than ever.”  (6)

Clara actually ended up at Aylesbury Prison, along with several others sentenced at the same time.  She was released on 15 June and greeted at 10:26 arrival on that day at Marylebone Station by a crowd of suffragette well-wishers (7).

While the spell in Aylesbury Prison was the first for Clara, it wasn’t her last.  She was again arrested in late January 1913 after another bout of window smashing – on this occasion it was the windows of the Hamburg American Line in Cockspur Street off Trafalgar Square.  She was arrested with Olive Llewhellin who lived in Burnt Ash Hill in Lee – both were remanded in custody, although Olive Llewhellin was later discharged (8).  Clara is top left and Olive bottom right on the photograph below (see picture credits).

She was committed for trial for ‘wilful damage’ in mid-February 1913 (9) before being tried in front of an all-male jury – women were not allowed to serve on juries until 1919.

She expected little sympathy from the jury “I have not come to appeal to your intelligence because I have come to the conclusion that men do not have any.” Clara was sentenced to six months imprisonment which was described as being ‘vindictive’ in ‘The Suffragette’ (11).  On hearing the sentence she told the court (12):

I shall not accept imprisonment under any circumstances. I shall do the hunger strike, and if it means my life to save the lives of thousands of other women, it must be so.

She was probably released under the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’ which came into force mid-way through her sentence.  There had been considerable public disquiet about hunger strikers being force-fed by the prison staff, the act allowed prisoners to be released on licence as soon as the hunger strike affected their health. Woman were allowed a predetermined period of time in which to recover after which they were rearrested and taken back to prison to serve out the rest of their sentence.

On 16 March 1914, she entered the House of Commons in male clothing with a male companion and made her way to the Central Lobby, presumably the security in the early 20th century was less tight than the airport style checks for current visitors.  It seems that the police based in Parliament had been warned by Special Branch ‘to be on the alert to detect a woman who dressed as a man.’  She was noticed by a Constable on entering the Commons and followed to the Central Lobby and when she sat down she was then arrested.  When searched she was found to have a riding whip hidden in her left overcoat sleeve.  She was charged under the Vagrancy Act with being a suspected person found in an enclosed area; she was said to have replied to the police when charged, “If I had carried out my purpose they would have had it hot.”  She was subsequently sentenced to six weeks’ hard labour.

The whip has used by several militant suffragettes – notably by Helen Ogston at the Royal Albert Hall when she attacked those attempting to remove her after a protest against Lloyd George there.

Clara was again released early under the Cat and Mouse Act.  Her next arrest seems to have been in early April 1914 for smashing a number of glass cases and a porcelain saucer in the Asiatic section at the British Museum with a butcher’s cleaver. Clara was thought to have smuggled in the cleaver under her skirt.

The case appears to have been heard under her alias, Mary Stewart (13), at Bow Street Magistrates Court, where she was described as being ‘in a very excited manner began to shout and declaim’ to the magistrate, refusing to recognise the authority of the court.  Her hearing was adjourned for a few hours but but when she returned she was ‘disorderly and continued speaking loudly’ while two officers held her firmly in the dock.

Presumably she was bailed and absconded because on 24 April 1914, Scotland Yard circulated a memorandum to all police stations in the country featuring a Special Branch surveillance photograph (below – see picture credits) her giving her details: she was five feet one inch tall, had a sallow complexion, brown hair and grey eyes – along with a surveillance photograph.   She wasn’t on the run long and was arrested and sentenced to six weeks hard labour.

There were a couple of other incidents which were noted in the records of her friend Violet Croxford – Clara apparently planned to attack the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, at Waterloo Station on his way to a wedding with a whip that she had concealed.  She missed him there, followed him to the wedding and took a taxi to the venue, but again missed him but set fire to a haystack instead.

She claimed responsibility for throwing an over-ripe tomato which hit Public Prosecutor, Mr Archibald Bodkin, during the trial at the Old Bailey for arson of fellow WPSU member, Rachel Peace in 1913 (14); she was arrested and held until court rose.

So who was Clara Lambert?  She had been born in or around West Ham in 1875; certainly that is where her birth seems to have been registered, although in censuses she was variously reported as being from Walthamstow, Hackney and London (Middlesex).  It was a family that had moved around a lot her parents (George and Elizabeth) were living in Bethnal Green in 1871 with 4 children.  The eldest of those seems to have died by 1881, but there were still 9 children (all of school age) of which Clara was the 5th oldest at the home in Hackney.  George was listed as a ‘Coffee Tavern Manager’ which seemed to be the only income coming into the home which was shared with another couple.

By 1891 the family had moved south of the river and were now in Plough Road, Rotherhithe – there had been another child in the intervening decade although the older of Clara’s twin sisters was no longer there.  George was now a ‘Book Keeper in the Iron Trade’ and the older children were all working – including Clara who at 16 was listed as a dressmaker and her two remaining older sisters who were both listed as laundresses.  By 1901 the involvement in the laundry trade seemed to have increased with George listed as a laundryman, Clara and her youngest sister, Edith, were collar dressers, presumably linked to the laundry trade, and the oldest sister at home, a shirt dresser.

Whether George’s involvement with the laundry is as worker, manager or owner isn’t clear.  However, by the 1906 Kelly’s Directory some, or all, of the family had moved to Glenfarg Road and Arthur Lambert, one of the son, was listed as a laundry proprietor – the location of the business was listed as Glenfarg Road although this seem unlikely in a small terraced house.  This was the just built suburbia of the Corbett Estate, and while not one of the biggest houses, was a step up from where the family had been living before, and suggested that the family laundry business was doing well.

The 1911 saw many suffragettes evading being returned in the census.  At Glenfarg Road only two of Clara’s brothers, Arthur and Frank, and a sister Jane were listed.  It is almost certain that Clara was living there – court reports from before and after list her in Catford.  It may be that here mother and other sisters were ‘evaders’ too.  The family seems to have moved on by the time the First World War finished as the business wasn’t listed in Glenfarg Road in the 1919 Kelly’s Directory.

During World War 1 Clara somewhat surprisingly joined the Women’s Police Service (WPS) where she seems done social work type activities in South Wales.  She continued to campaign for votes for women after the War – speaking at a “well attended meeting” in Lewisham Market in June 1918 (15).

She met Violet Croxford in the WPS and the pair of them continued with similar work in London’s West End with Dick Sheppard and later set up a women’s refuge in Kent.  In the 1939 Register, they were living in South Road, Hythe, and both listed as ‘Boarding House Proprietress.’  They retired and moved to Farncombe, Surrey in 1953, where Clara lived until her death in 1969; Violet lived until 1985.


  1. 26 November 1910 -The Vote
  2. 2 March 1912 – Shields Daily News
  3. 14 March 1912 – Shields Daily News
  4. 8 March 1912 – Votes for Women
  5. 14 March 1912 – Staffordshire Sentinel
  6. 14 March 1912 – London Daily News
  7. 14 June 1912 – Votes for Women
  8. 31 January 1913 The Suffragette
  9. 14 February 1913 The Suffragette
  10. 22 February 1913 – Leeds Mercury
  11. 28 February 1913 – The Suffragette
  12. Ibid
  13. 11 April 1914 – Manchester Evening News
  14. Monday, Nov 17, 1913 – The Times
  15. 28 June 1918 Britannia

Picture credits

Census & related information come via Find My Past


Philip Kingsford – A Pioneering Lewisham Triple Jumper

Running Past has covered several south east London athletes and athletics over the years – ranging from the late Georgian walkers including George Wilson, the Blackheath Pedestrian, to Tom Cook, the Greenwich Cowboy, a Victorian professional runner, to Charlie Gardiner, a professional distance runner just before World War One and the Inaugural Women’s AAA meeting in Downham. Of a similar era to Gardiner was Philip Kingsford who was one of the first English athletes to compete seriously at the triple jump.

Kingsford was important in that he paved the way for the likes of Phillips Idowu and Jonathan Edwards whose 1995 record of 18.29 metres still stands.

His parents were Philip William and Laura Jane (nee Cave) Kingsford who had married in Greenwich in mid-1890.  Philip William was a merchant seaman, latterly captain of the SS Britannia probably from the Rotherhithe area, Laura hailed from Belfast.

Philip Cave Kingsford was born on 10 August 1891 in Lewisham.   At the time of the census a few months before he was born his mother was living at 18 Sunninghill Road off Loampit Vale in Lewisham, pictured above.  He father was not listed, presumably away at sea.  His brother Reginald (Rex) was born the following year, again in Lewisham.

The family moved to 90 Addison Gardens near Shepherds Bush around 1900 – Philip William was on the electoral register from that year.  Unsurprisingly, given his line of work Philip William was not listed in the census as he was presumably away at sea as he had been in 1891.

Philip William died in 1907 in Uxbridge, probably at what is now the Hillingdon Hospital; he is buried at Margravine (Hammersmith Old) Cemetery, Hammersmith with his younger son Rex who was ‘killed in advance of 1 July’, on the first day of the Somme  (he is also remembered at Thiepval).

While his younger brother and mother were still at Addison Gardens in 1911, Philip had moved out, although is not obviously listed anywhere else in the census.   After moving to Shepherds Bush, Philip and his brother went to the fee-paying Latymer Upper School where he seems to have been an outstanding athlete and played in the school’s football team.  He moved onto St Mark’s College, Chelsea.

He joined the London Athletic Club, one of the oldest clubs in the country, which by that stage was operating out of Stamford Bridge, less than a mile from home. He began to specialise in the jumps, initially the long jump and the standing long jump.

His career doesn’t seem to have appeared in much in press reports other than a few mentions in 1912, 1913 and 1914.

He competed in the 1912 AAA trials at long jump, along with the standing long jump – coming second in the former to Percy Kirwan who had won championships for 3rd year clearing 6.86 to Kirwan’s 7.07.  It was good enough to get Kingsford to the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.  Philip had cleared 7.02 early in the season at the LAC spring meeting at Stamford Bridge (1).


He is believed to have started to try out the triple jump in 1912, As the athletics historian Ian Tempest noted ‘English triple jumping was in poor shape in the pre-WW1 period as the event was hardly ever contested. Like so many events, it had effectively been re-invented at the 1908 Olympic trials.’ (2)

Philip set what was the English record and what was to become a British record for the triple jump of 13.57 m (3)  at a club event in June 1912. Sadly for Philip, the record seems to have been a few days after the trials at the AAA meeting which may well have been the deadline for decisions about the Olympic team.  So despite being the best British triple jumper, Kingsford didn’t represent Britain in that event.

Kingsford wasn’t at his best in Stockholm (poster below (4) – his longest long jump was only 6.65 m placing him 15th from the 30 competitors.  His season’s best would have seen him in 5th place.  He was last in the standing long jump, the last time the event appeared in the Summer Olympics.

As for the triple jump competition in Stockholm, Britain was represented by the Irish athlete (this was before partition) Timothy Carroll who finished next to last, with a distance way behind that achieved by Kingsford a few weeks earlier.

Only one press report has been found for the 1913 season –Kingsford competed for the London AC in a match against Sweden in 1913 (5).  1914 saw him become the AAA Champion in the long jump with his best ever jump of 7.09 m.  He was also the best British athlete in the triple jump in the AAA Championships, coming 4th behind three Scandinavians, including the Swede Ivar Sahlin who won in 14.03.  He is pictured below at the AAA (6)

Soon after the AAA Championships he was a comfortable victor in both long and triple jump at a three way international between England, Scotland and Ireland in 1914 at Hampden Park (7)

Completive athletics, like most sports was effectively put on hold for the duration of the First World War, Philip gave up his teaching job at Addison Gardens School and  served with the Middlesex Regiment in India.  While Philip survived the war he died soon after in July 1919, whether it related to wounds or illness from the war, the ‘Spanish ‘Flu’ epidemic or something else isn’t clear.

Philip Kingsford’s legacy was that he was the first in a long line of British triple jumpers that led to the Jonathan Edwards’ jump of 18.29 m at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg.


  1. Daily Herald 13 May 1912
  2. Probably from Ian Tempest (2002) Triple Jump – Booklet produced for National Union of Track Statisticians (NUTS)
  3. There were longer jumps by Irish triple jumpers, notably 14.92 by Tim Aherne to win gold at the 1908 London Olympics at White City, but these seem to have no longer been recognised after partition
  4. On a Creative Commons via Wikipedia
  5. Pall Mall Gazette 17 June 1913
  6. On a Creative Commons via Wikipedia
  7. Nantwich Guardian 17 July 1914

A big thank you to Bob Phillips, both for making me aware of Philip and for helping to fill in some of the details about Philip’s education, and the location of his British record winning this post wouldn’t have happened without him.

Census and related information are from Find My Past.