Category Archives: Lewisham History

The Woodstock Estate – The 1930s Homes of Woodyates & Pitfold Roads in Lee

The area to the west of Lee station had been developed in the decades following the arrival of the railway – Lee station opened in 1866.   Most of the Lee Manor Conservation Area was built soon after and the area beyond it filled over the next few decades – much of it by the local builders W. J. Scudamore. The maps below from 1863, 1898 and 1914 show the gradual development clearly (1).

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The area to the south and east remained farmland though – with farms already covered in the blog such as Burnt Ash and Horn Park farms surviving until the 1920s and 1930s respectively.  These were the days before the arrival of the South Circular with St Mildred’s Road ending as a T junction at Burnt Ash Hill.

Grant funding was made available in 1933 for the dual carriageway of Westhorne Avenue to link up with the section from Well Hall Road to Eltham Road  that had been completed in 1930.  However, it is clear that preparations for Westhorne Avenue had been on the go for a few years before that, as developments were being drawn up either side which backed onto the new road.  On the northern side was a development originally known as the Woodstock Estate – now referred to as Woodyates and Pitfold Roads.

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Woodstock Road was the original name of what is now Woodyates Road; however it was merely a short lane to the Board of Works Depot (above) and to a Post Office Sorting Office (below), the former it was taken over by the new borough of Lewisham after local government re-organisation in 1899.  Before looking at the Woodstock Estate it is worth pausing briefly at this end of the street.

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Both the Sorting Office and the Council Depot have relatively imposing facades and are locally listed.  They are now in residential use as part of Jasmine Court and have been sympathetically converted into houses with new homes which are in keeping with the old, added on the former yards

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On the opposite side of Woodyates Road, the original street name is retained through a block of 1930s flats (see above) with a few nods towards Art Deco, Woodstock Court, which wraps around the junction with Burnt Ash Hill with shops on the main road.

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The Woodstock Estate itself was advertised for sale in the 1931 Lewisham Council Handbook (2), and no doubt other places too; prior to development it had been allotments and a nursery as the map below shows (3).  It had probably originally been part of Lee Green Farm and is likely that it was the location that the parachutist Robert Cocking met his death.

Woodstock1

The houses offered much subtle variety in style with the house in the architect’s impression having proved hard to find, the nearest seemed to be the top of the trio pictured.  They have been much altered since they were built with lots of extensions upwards and outwards.  Those that have remained close to the way they were built are now close to 1000 times more expensive than when they were initially advertised.  Sales of 3 bedroom houses in early 2017 were £585,000 and £600,000 with a garage in Woodyates and Pitfold Roads respectively.  While the development was next to the about to be built South Circular, unlike the earlier developments along St Mildred’s Road, there was no frontage onto it – the development backed onto it with generally quite large gardens from Pitfold Road.

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Some of the original green of the allotments were retained as part of the development (see bottom photograph above) which was certainly grander than the Scudamore developed homes of Holme Lacey Road from a similar era.  A small gated green area remains at the south eastern corner of the development.  In the middle of the estate a limited amount of allotments were retained too, although this too succumbed to development in the end.  It is now home to a church which, on a cursory glance, appears to offer grim consequences for the non-believer (4).

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As for the developers, G H Builders, they seem to have been a medium sized builders in the south east, building homes in Carshalton and Banstead in 1930; however an on-line newspaper search gleaned little more information.

 

The agents W & H Elliotts were based at the same address as the developers.  Again, little was to be found of them in on line newspaper and other searches other than a similar development to the Woodstock Estate in Edgware in 1933 (5).  The company may still be in existence, a private company incorporated in 1931 from the same era still exists.

Notes

  1. The maps are on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland from 1863, 1898 and 1914
  2. This image was copied from somewhere on social media in mid-2017, I thought that it was 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!
  3. On a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland
  4. Some cropping happened with this photograph ….. the warning is for an electricity sub station
  5. Hendon & Finchley Times 24 March 1933

 

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Following the Quaggy – Manor Park to the Ravensbourne

We left the Quaggy just outside Manor Park having seen the park’s rejuvenation  from one of Lewisham’s worst bits of open space to one of its best, before that Running Past had followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom; then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley, through the golf courses of Sundridge Park and on to Chinbrook Meadows; through the concrete and countryside of Mottingham; and then on through the playing fields and parkland of Sutcliffe Park and the Lee/Blackheath borders.
We left the river at an old crossing, although relatively new bridge that formed part of Hocum Pocum Lane; we continue along the Lane although it is now referred to as Weardale Road.  Unusually, it is visible for a short stretch as the western side of Weardale Road remains undeveloped, in spring it is a riot of colour from the plants that have colonised the banks.  The bridge is a great place for seeing the iridescent blue blur of the kingfisher – often sighted almost skimming the surface of the water, with occasional sightings of egrets and herons fishing in the shallows.
After 100 metres or so It bends sharply to the left, on the bend, in a tight triangular site, is almost certainly the finest modern building on the Quaggy – 22 Weardale Road – designed by and Anglo-Dutch architectural practice 31/44.
A little further on is the Rose of Lee pub, latterly called the Dirty South although it has gone through several names in the last 25 years.  It opened around 1900 and, perhaps, it’s greatest claim to fame was that it was the first venue that Kate Bush played.  It suffered damage and looting during the 2011 riots that spread across numerous locations in London in early August, it looked as though it was to become another lost Lewisham pub.  There were occasional signs of life and a few drinkers during 2016, but it took until 2017 to have a major revamp and re-open as the Dirty South in late October 2017.
Around here the Quaggy was once joined by Mid Kid Brook which used to flow  more or less alongside Lee High Road from close to Lee Green, its former valley is clear in places.  However, it was diverted to follow Lee Road to Lee Green, probably around the early 18th century.
The river is bridged by Eastdown Park, a bridge that was partially destroyed in a flooding in 1878 in an era when flooding seemed more common.
On the west side of f the Eastdown Park bridge (to the left of the photograph) is currently Penfolds garage – the remaining part of a company that used to have three bases locally, including taking over Lee Picture Palace as a car showroom in the 1970s. The usage of the site, which used to be home to a Baptist Chapel (below – source eBay April 2016), is about to change again – this time to flats.
The river follows a tight channel, built on both sides, occasionally over it – such as by KwikFit. The banks had been almost rural on the south-eastern side of until the College Park Estate in the late 1860s as the map below shows (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland).
By the next bridge, over Clarendon Rise, is without a doubt the most attractive riverside building on The Quaggy, a Hindu Temple, the London Sivan Kovil.  In September each year it is the venue for probably the most stunningly beautiful site in Lewisham – the Chariot Festival.
Attempts continue to be made either side of the Clarendon Road bridge to slow down flows through artificial meanders, while this allows some of the normal fluvial erosion and depositions on rivers in their natural state and thus will help a little with plant growth, it will be of little use in high flows though.
Soon after Clarendon Rise, just behind Lewis Grove, the Quaggy is covered at what used to be known as Lee Bridge.  Like much of the area upstream this too was liable to flooding – on an earlier Facebook thread on the river further upstream there were stories of what was then the Midland Bank (postcard from eBay September 2016) flooding in and notes floating around the flooded basement of the bank.
Historically, flooding was very common around Lee Bridge, this 1968 photograph, outside the Odeon (formerly Gaumont) Cinema commonly shown in relation to Lewisham flooding will probably relate to both the Quaggy and  Ravensbourne though – see comments below.
The extent of the covering of the Quaggy has varied over time, the recent development of the police station offered an opportunity to extend its visibility but it wasn’t taken and there is less of the Quaggy open now than there was a century ago as the postcard below shows (source – eBay February 2016).
The river currently re-emerges in front of St Stephen’s church, having first been joined by Upper Kid Brook. There used to be two arms to the Quaggy at this point – one by the former Roebuck pub, the second by the former Plough as the map below shows ( (Image on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland). Both pubs disappeared in the early 2000s, as part of the redevelopment of Lewisham town centre.
The river broadly follows the course by the former Plough Bridge (left photo above) but at the time of writing, the confluence with the Ravensbourne is hidden in the middle of the Lewisham Gateway development which has rendered the area around the station almost unrecognisable.  Eventually, the confluence with the Ravensbourne will be in a small park, Confluence Place, but it may be a wait until the reality is anywhere near the architect’s impression.

The Hither Green Rail Crash

Bonfire night was a Sunday in 1967, and, perhaps, a few fireworks were still going off in the streets between Grove Park and Hither Green marshalling yard as the twelve coach 19.43 from Hastings to Charing Cross passed the Hither Green signal box at 21.14 at about 70 mph with clear signals to pass through on the “Up Fast Line.”

The train was pretty much full, particularly at the front of the train as some of the intermediate stations had ‘short’ platforms.  The train was busy enough for standing in the 1st class corridor on the fourth coach.

Close to the sidings north of Grove Park, the third carriage seems to have struck a ‘small wedge shaped piece of steel that had broken away from the end of a running rail and became derailed.’ It didn’t immediately come off the track but when the coach struck some points close to St Mildred’s Road bridge (next to where Bestway is now – see photographs above), the third coach, the one ahead of it, and all the coaches behind it became completely derailed, and the second to the fifth coaches to turn over onto their sides.  The first coach ran on stopping just short of Hither Green station.

The coaches two to five had their sides torn off, this included the fourth coach where there were large numbers standing, there was other extensive damage to several coaches – notably coach two, whose roof was ripped off.

The emergency services arrived within minutes of the accident and must have witnessed utter devastation..  There were 49 fatalities and 78 people injured – the sixth highest number of deaths in a single rail accident in Britain.

Amongst those injured was a young Robin Gibb from the Bee Gees who was treated at Hither Green Hospital.  He had been in the first class seats in the fourth carriage but only suffered from bruising and minor cuts from broken glass – he had been lucky – many of the deaths were those standing in the corridor to his carriage.

Local emergency services reacted quickly- all six operating theatres at Lewisham Hospital were staffed up quickly to deal with the worst casualties, with the less severe injuries, like Robin Gibb, going to Hither Green. Thirty fire brigade appliances from stations all over south London attended with cutting gear, with fire-fighters and ambulance staff coming into work on days off.  Local people tried to help too – Lewisham Hospital was inundated with offers from south east Londoners of blood donations and offers to transport the walking wounded to Lewisham and Hither Green hospitals; local houses became first aid stations and blankets were provided from houses in the neighbouring streets (1).  In a Parliamentary debate the following lunchtime, the Minister of Transport, Barbara Castle, noted

…. Sir Stanley Raymond, the Chairman of the (British Railways) Board, was on the scene of the accident as quickly as he could be. He has informed me that the selflessness shown not only by members of the emergency services, but by ordinary members of the public, including a number of teenagers, was unparalleled in his experience since the days of the blitz.

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The picture the next day was of carnage, as the photographs from The Times show – the first (above) shows the extent of the damage to carriages (2); the second from close to the bridge on St Mildred’s Road shows carriages toppled down the embankment parallel Springbank Road (3) – the rendered white Corbett houses are a giveaway in terms of the location.

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There is also video footage from British Pathé News both from the immediate aftermath and the days after the crash.

An enquiry was opened soon after and the cause was quickly found, the driver and guard were exonerated, and the findings reported upon in the press before the end of the month, with the final detailed report being published in 1968.

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The cause was found to be a fractured joint, the joint itself was new but the ballast underneath it had been had been inadequately built up when a wooden sleeper had replaced a concrete one in June 1967 – the inquiry concluded

I have no doubt that the fracture was caused by the excessive “working” of the joint resulting from its unsatisfactory support condition (pictured below)

HG Rail3

There is a list at the end of the post of the names of the  victims; they ought to be remembered.  While there is a small brass memorial to one of the victims Dianna Williams high on the wall of the newspaper kiosk close to the ticket office – this feels inadequate; there should be a more prominent memorial to the dead at Hither Green, perhaps at the bridge on St Mildred’s Road.  Contact me if you have any ideas about this.

Many of those involved in the emergency response were to suffer considerably in the aftermath at a time when post-trauma counselling was rare.  Several stories of this have come up in response to the blog – such as an engine driver based at Hither Green who helped with recovery work and had nightmares for years as a result of the horrors he encountered. He had to take early retirement from a job he loved because of his anxiety due to disturbed sleep. Other staff at Hither Green station too were traumatised by the events.

The site today shows nothing of the disaster – neither on the railway itself nor on the bridge over St Mildred’s Road.  But if you are travelling under the bridge or passing from Grove Park to Hither Green on the train, do reflect on those whose lives were cut short that night:

  • Rose Margaret Ashlee (36)  Crowborough
  •  Elizabeth Tamara Ashmore (20)  Bordon
  •  Howard L. Austin (17)  Etchingham
  •  Janet E. Bartlett (18)  Hastings
  •  Jennifer Ann Bohane (26)  Wadhurst
  •  Jacqueline Branch (16)  Hurst Green
  •  Gay E. Breeds (17) Addington
  •  Judith M. Breeds (21) Addington
  •  Dorothy V. Cannon (57)  Hampton
  •  Kathleen Charlton (73)  Chiswick
  •  Veronica B. Chevallier (34)  St John’s Wood
  •  Eric G. Coveney (64)  South Tottenham
  •  Terence D. Cronk (19)  Wateringbury
  •  Edith Olive May Dutch (65)  Fulham
  •  Eric H. O. Fletton (64)  Buckhurst Hill
  •  Rev. Harold Theodore Gibso Forster (51)  Harrow
  •  Julia H. Hardwick (28)  Tunbridge Wells
  •  Marion Gay Hardwick (23)  Tunbridge Wells
  •  Charles Haycraft (23)  Wadhurst
  •  Jacqueline A.  Hazard (20)  Nottingham
  •  Gillian Mary Heppenstall (29)  Mark Cross, Sussex
  •  Ella Gladys Kemp (40)  Cartsfield
  •  Bernard John Lavender (44)  Wembley
  •  Irene E. Lavender (44)  Wembley
  •  Mark Clifton Lavers (20)  Burwash
  •  Betty Lewis (26)  Hastings
  •  Ann E. Lingham (19)  Streatham S.W.
  •  Juliet W. Mcpherson-Heard (20)  Mill Hill
  •  George Alfred Meyers (26)  Neasdon
  •  Dianne Sandra Reed (22)  Enfield
  •  Susan Anne Ritson (21)  Maidenhead
  •  Ruby Hazel H.  Rolls (48)  Tottenham
  •  Hugh P. Roots (19)  Rolvenden, Kent
  •  Geoffrey Sellings (19) Hastings
  •  Michael Smith (2)  Bloomsbury
  •  Wendy  Smith (38)  Bloomsbury
  •  Richard Spencer (21) Abbey Wood
  •  Rosemary Stewart (22)  Upper Holloway
  •  William D. Thomson (28) Hastings
  •  Alison Winifred Treacher (23)  Steyning
  •  Christopher Ian Turner (31)  Cross-In-Hand
  •  James Gordon Melville Turner (60)  Staplecross, Sussesx
  •  Lindsay Margaret Ward (19)  Bexhill-On-Sea
  •  Joyce Watson (48)  Putney
  •  Harold Arthur White (75)  Chiswick
  •  Walter H. Whittard (64)  South Kensington
  •  Dianna Williams (19)  Rye
  •  Mabel Lillian Daisy Williams (69)  Hampstead Aven
  •  Catherine Yeo (20) Wadhurst

 

Notes

  1. The Times (London, England), Monday, Nov 06, 1967; pg. 8; Issue 57091
  2. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Nov 07, 1967; pg. 8; Issue 57092.
  3. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Nov 07, 1967; pg. 2; Issue 57092.

 

The Lenham Road V-1 Attack

Lampmead and Lenham Roads are quiet residential streets coming off Lee High Road, they are mainly Victorian terraces.  There are also several infill homes built by the London Borough of Lewisham,or its forerunner.  There is a story behind their presence in the early 21st century streetscape – they are the indirect result of a V-1 rocket attacks which hit the junction of Lampmead and Lenham Roads on just before 5 am on the morning of 22 June 1944.

Running Past has covered several of the almost two hundred V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks on Lewisham, including the ones on Lewisham High Street, Lewisham Hill and Hither Green’s Fernbrook Road.  They are important to remember both in terms of the death and injuries caused to ordinary Londoners whose stories often get forgotten, but also in terms of their impact on the urban landscape – both in the short-term and longer term.

Six died as a result of the attack on Lenham and Lampmead Roads and no doubt many more were injured.  Those who lost their lives were James Joseph Carroll (20) and Patrick Leonard (26) who died at 34 Lenham Road; Hugh William George Harvey (59) who died at 6 Lampmead, Joseph Daniel Barry (55) died next door at number 8, his neighbour Alfred William Roedear (64) died at no 10 – his wife Annie appears to have survived, and Flora Borthwick (37) perished at 12 Lampmead.

What is perhaps surprising is that of those who died only one, Hugh Harvey, who was a groundsman and coach at the outbreak of the war living at 6 Lampmead Road, had lived there when the war broke out (1).  It is worth remembering that the private rented sector was still dominant at that time – accounting for almost 60% of homes – security of tenure, while perhaps slightly greater than it is now, was still limited.  In Lewisham these landlords included some of the bigger builders in the area – WJ Scudamore and James Watt.

During World War 1 there had been profiteering by some residential landlords which had led to rent strikes and unrest which threatened to undermine the war effort.  These had been repeated in the East End of London in 1938 and 1939. In this context, full rent control was introduced early in World War 2.  However, this seems not to have led to a stable community in this part of Lee – similar issues were found with the Lewisham Hill V-1.

The V-1 would have exploded on impact and a blast wave rippled out from the impact point, effectively creating a vacuum in the centre – the combined impact was to both push and pull buildings leading to large numbers of collapses.  The impact was often spread over quite a wide area with total destruction in the centre with much less damage on the outside.  The map below  produced by the London County Council during the war (2) shows this well – the darker the hand-colouring, the greater 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)

By the time the Ordnance Survey cartographers surveyed the area in 1949 (see below & note 3), the debris had been cleared and the site filled with 14 prefabs – a small part of attempting to deal with post-war housing needs.

The old Borough of Lewisham put up 1,610 prefabs by 1948 and a further 1,088 by 1955.  They would have no doubt not been that dissimilar to those on the Excalibur estate in Catford (below from 2014).  The prefabs probably lasted until the 1960s when they were replaced with council housing.

As the lower of the two maps above shows, there were several smaller gaps in the neighbouring Aislibie Road (named after Benjamin Aislabie – the last tenant of Lee Place), the result of bombing during the Blitz, the gaps were not used for the prefabs but they too were later filled by post war council housing.

Notes

  1. The 1939 Register didn’t cover armed forces so possible that some of victims had been living there before war broke out, employment details from Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  2. 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
  3. On a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland