Category Archives: Lewisham History

Catford Southend – The Non-League Club that nearly took over Charlton Athletic – Part 2

In the first post on Catford Southend they were left at the outbreak of World War 1 as ‘a solid non-League team with a relatively new ground in early 20th century suburbia, in a similar position to many non-League teams that are still around almost 100 years later.’

Their story is picked up after hostilities ceased and football resumed in 1919, like a lot of sport, the Athenian League that The Kittens had played in before the war had been mothballed during the bloodshed of World War 1.  By the time the Athenian League was reformed for the 1919/20 season, Catford Southend had moved on – newcomers to the league that season were to include local non league stalwarts Kingstonian, Bromley and Wimbledon.

Catford returned to the London League after the War, it had been their ‘home’ for much of their existence.  On the field, the 1919/20 season was a struggle, had it not been for the abject performance of Islington Town, the Kittens would have been propping up the table.  Further up the Division, in second place, were Charlton Athletic – the Addicks had initially joined the league during Southend’s brief stint in the Athenian League.  It was probably the only time the first teams Charlton and Catford played in the same league – Charlton moved onto the expanded Southern League for the 1920/21 campaign.

Catford’s 1920/21 season (team photo above – see notes for credit) ended up with mid-table mediocrity – the brilliantly named Gnome Athletic (later the more prosaic Walthamstow Borough) propping up the table.  The following season saw the Kittens finish second, although some distance behind the runaway leaders, Grays.  The 1922/23 season, the last in the League saw Catford hovering above the relegation places.

Just outside the ground at the Dartmouth Arms on the corner of Laleham and Ringstead Roads.  A new landlord, Harry Issaacs, had arrived around 1921who was soon to develop big plans for Catford Southend, it isn’t clear whether he became the owner, but his impact became very clear in early 1923.

A proposal was made to Charlton Athletic in April 1923 for them to move to Catford,  play at what had become known as The Mount and merge to two teams under the Catford Southend name. The logic for the acceptance had been Charlton’s financial losses in the previous season and the hope that they would get more paying punters in through the turnstiles in Catford.

The Kittens had to give up London League status due to potential merger with Charlton as otherwise the merged team would have to play at Catford’s level in the football pyramid.

It seems that the orientation of the pitch was changed to allow a larger stand to be dismantled at the Valley and rebuilt at The Mount, Charlton seem to have paid for the move of the stand which would give the ground a capacity of 20-25,000 (other, less plausible, higher estimates are available). The map below (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland) from a couple of decades later shows the area covered by the enlarged ground.

1923/24 season that saw Charlton ground sharing at The Mount saw Catford playing in the Kent League.  As was covered in an earlier post of Charlton’s sojourn at the Mount, attendances were not as expected and at the end of the campaign the Addicks returned to the Valley. Running Past covered Charlton’s short stay a while ago – which included a stand sliding down the created terrace towards Laleham Road.  Charlton were heavily criticised at the London League AGM in June 1924 for causing the ‘demise’ of Catford.  While the report of club’s death was premature, The Kittens were in a perilous position (1).

The 1924/25 season saw the club turn professional in the Kent League, they weren’t allowed back into the London League due to their resignation 18 months before.  The decision to turn the Kittens into a professional outfit seemed ambitious at best.  There is much less information available about the Kent League, than those seasons that went before, Catford’s story having to be pieced together from very limited local press reports, often little more than scores and few tables.  Consequently there are frequent gaps in the narrative.  The manager was a former Spurs and Charlton forward Geoffrey Dodd, who had played for the latter at The Mount (2).

While there were some the early successes in the Kent League, they were not maintained.  The campaign started with a 3-2 home victory over Tunbridge Wells Rangers, with the Kittens coming from 2 down in the final quarter of an hour. The campaign continued well during September with a victory against Bexleyheath and draws against Margate and Gillingham (3).

dreamland

In mid-October there was a trip to Dreamland (above – source eBay July 2017), the new home of Margate; it proved to be a nightmare for the home team – the Kittens mauled the men of Margate 5-3.  Unusually, there was a team sheet in the Thanet Advertiser  Bransby, Champion, O’Connor, Shaw, Tolhurst, Wells, Hopper, Devonshire, Weston, Humphreys, Mills (4).

Results were more mixed during October and November and this became the pattern of things, while it hasn’t been possible to find an end of season table, by the end of March, Catford were mid table – 20 points adrift of the league leaders Chatham (5).

The 1925/26 campaign saw little improvement; early poor form saw Catford close to the bottom of the League at the end of October (6).  While results improved during December, including a 9-0 home thrashing of Ashford (7) , the mixed results continued, although another 9-0 victory against Sheppey will have brought cheer to the Catford faithful (8).

The Kittens were finally allowed back into the London League for the 1926/27 campaign but this seems to have been the final desperate throw of the dice to try to make their professional status work.  The Kittens struggled to resource running two teams and started to send ‘short’ teams to some matches – this led to a 13-1 humiliation being inflicted by Sittingbourne (9).

They started to not fulfil games in the Kent League, including a no show in Tunbridge Wells in December (10).  By the end of January 1927 the Kent League table showed a desperate position Catford had only managed to play 10 games, all of which were defeats, with just 5 goals scored and 49 conceded (11).

While the Kent League seem to have been inclined to leniency, once matches in the London League, were failing to be fulfilled, including one at Chelmsford, the London League acted, suspending Catford (12).  The Kent League did likewise but seems to have briefly lifted the suspension in an attempt to allow them to fulfil a game at Norfthfleet – which they were unable to do, leading  to a further suspension (13).

There was to be no comeback this time, by April the record of Catford Southend for the season had been expunged (14).  There doesn’t appear to be any evidence of either Isaacs going bankrupt or the winding up of the club, although it may well have been run through a holding company.

Ultimately, a successful London amateur non-League team was brought to extinction by over-ambition and trying to take a short-cut to Football League status which some of its nearest neighbours in Millwall, Crystal Palace and Charlton had all already obtained.

After the departure of The Kittens, the ground was re-absorbed back into the Park – certainly the Ordnance Survey map from 1949 (above) suggests that the stands had already disappeared by then and a new pitch created alongside.  The outline of the home of the Kittens is still clearly visible through the large flattened area’ pitch area.

Notes

  1. 9 June 1924 – Athletic News
  2. 11 August 1924 – Athletic News
  3. 5 September 1924 – Kent & Sussex Courier
  4. 11 October 1924 – Thanet Advertiser
  5. 28 March 1925 – Thanet Advertiser
  6. 24 October 1925 – Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald
  7. 12 December 1925 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
  8. 27 February 1926 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
  9. 8 January 1927 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
  10. 3 December 1926 – Kent & Sussex Courier
  11. 29 January 1927 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
  12. 4 February 1927 – Chelmsford Chronicle
  13. 4 February 1927 – Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser
  14. 23 April 1927 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald

Some of the information for the post has come from the fantastic non-League resource Non-League Matters, which, if you have a penchant for league tables past,  it could keep you occupied for days.

Sadly, the owner of the site looked as though they are planning to mothball the site in May 2017, if anyone reading this has any time on their hands and wants to take it over there are contact details on all the pages on the site other than the home page.

Picture credits – the team photograph is courtesy of the always helpful Lewisham Archives.

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Catford Southend – The  Non-League Club that nearly took over Charlton Athletic  – Part 1

Catford Southend have been mentioned once or twice in passing in Running Past, notably in relation to their almost takeover of Charlton Athletic and the latter’s brief stay at Southend’s then ground in Mountsfield Park, The Mount.  Their story is worth telling in its own right as it became a salutary lesson of what happens when there is over-ambition within football clubs.

The club seems to have had its roots in a forerunner club, Catford Rovers, which played from around the 1898/99 season against teams from around Deptford, Lewisham and Greenwich, including Greenwich Pupil Teachers (1).  The first reference to Catford Southend was at the beginning of the 1900/01 season with a newspaper report (2) inviting friendly opponents and a trial on playing fields on what is now Canadian Avenue – possibly a rear entrance to what are now St Dunstan’s School playing fields .  The secretary lived in a house built a few years before by the Catford builder James Watt.

The name Catford Southend suggests a specific location – Southend – around what is currently the junction of Whitefoot Lane and Bromley Road. Press reports for its early years often described their ground as ‘Bromley Road,’ while not absolutely certain this would suggest a ground within the estate of Park House which was at the southern end of what is now Conisborough Crescent.

Certainly it was a location used later as a sportsground by the fantastically named Waygood Athletic (sometimes called Waygood’s) who seem to have played in the long since defunct Southern Suburban League and Dulwich Amateur League along with running cricket teams. They were certainly there in 1914 when the Ordnance Survey  visited what was still a largely rural area. (Map image on a creative commons from the National Library of Scotland).  The main on-line press references for the Waygood’s are in the years from around 1905 to the outbreak of World War 1.  The name was almost certainly a reference to a business name rather than any suggestions of sporting excellence, probably R Waygood and Co Ltd  -Manufacturers of lifts, hoists and hydraulic presses who were based in Borough and later merged with Otis.

Back to Catford Southend or the ‘Kittens’ as they were affectionately nicknamed, they played in the  Bromley & District League 1st Division in their first campaign – the season included home victories against Langdale (3); Bromley St Johns (4); and a 2-1 away victory in Kidbrooke against Anchor, with both goals scored by Boarer (5).

By November that season the seeming success meant that they were able to put out a 3rd team which trounced St Laurence 14-1 (6).

The Kittens first XI joined the London League for the 1903/04 season, although they kept their team in Bromley League.  The London League had been set up in 1896; it was made up of three divisions when Catford joined.  The Premier Division was mainly teams that were to become the leading teams of London football – Spurs, Arsenal, QPR, Fulham, Brentford, West Ham and Millwall, who won the League that year.  The First Division was in the main the reserve teams of those in the Premier League.  The Second Division was a mixture of teams, some still in existence, playing non-League football, others, lost over the years.  Catford won the Second Division comfortably – winning all but one of their games.  They seem to have had to play games behind closed doors for six weeks after a referee was surrounded and abused by fans (7).

Despite winning the League, there was no automatic promotion and the team (below – see notes for picture copyright) played elsewhere in 1904/05, seemingly just in in West Kent League.  There were problems with the ground measurement that season with Kent Senior Cup and London Cup matches against Tunbridge Wells and Dulwich Hamlet respectively having to be replayed (8)

By the 1905/06 campaign most of the Premier League clubs had moved on either to the Southern League or the newly extended Football League.  Catford entered at the equivalent level, now  Division 1, which they again won, ensuring that Chelsea’s reserves came second.  The Kittens lost away the away fixture to Chelsea in February 1906 – but won 1-0 at home.  The team sheet for the away game still survives.

 

The 1906/07 campaign was less successful finishing only 4th; the following year Catford Southend just lost out on winning the title on goal difference to another lost local club – Deptford Invicta.  The 1907/08 team (pictured below – see notes for picture credit) nearly saw the Kittens as Champions – losing out to local rivals Deptford Invicta by a single goal’s difference.  The next seasons though was were more of a struggle with a relegation battle in 1908/09.

The move to The Mount was seems to have been for the 1909/10 season; it isn’t entirely certain because both Bromley Road and The Mount were referred to as Catford in press reports.  The difference is that some games started to be referred to as being played at Ringstead Road (9).  The ground was in the far south east corner of the park (map image on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland)’

It wasn’t the first time Catford Southend had played in Mountsfield Park, since around 1899 it had been home to Lewisham Montrose (Greenwich Montrose in 1899/1900) who seem to have continued in existence until at least 1907. Lewisham Montrose had an ‘interesting’ pricing policy which allowed the ‘ladies’ of Catford free entry but expected no girls, as the press cutting from September 1904 indicates (10).  This would have been about a year before the Park opened to the public after the acquisition of the former home and grounds of Henry Stainton in 1905.

Fortunes in the London League were little better with the move to Mountsfield Park (pictured below), finishing three from bottom in the first campaign there.  Rules were changed 1910/11 and allowed promotion to the Premier Division – it was more of a struggle for the amateur outfit playing against professional team’s reserve sides – including Millwall, Clapton Orient and West Ham – the Kittens were 7th from 8, with the bottom team Deptford Invicta. The Kittens only won 4/14 games.  The 1911/12 season was little better, but the 1912/13 campaign saw a splitting of the league into two smaller sections, with Catford 3rd from 6 teams.

The Kittens were founder members of the Athenian League, which was formed in 1912 and, for the next 70 years was one of the strongest amateur leagues in the South East.    Catford Southend won the league in its first season in 1912/13 winning eleven of the sixteen matches played, running teams in both Athenian and London Leagues.  Their form was less good in the following season with mid table mediocrity in a slightly expanded league (although no team was run in the London League)

They returned to the London League in 1914/15, finishing 3rd in the Amateur section,  but football was curtailed during the war.  This is where we will leave Catford Southend, for now, a solid non-League team with a relatively new ground in early 20th century suburbia, in a similar position to many non-League teams that are still around almost 100 years later.  Life was to change considerably for the Kittens when hostilities ceased and football resumed in 1919, we will return to their story in a future post.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 27 January 1899
  2. Kentish Mercury 24 August 1900
  3. Kentish Mercury 26 October 1900
  4. Kentish Mercury 21 December 1900
  5. Kentish Mercury 23 November 1900
  6. Kentish Mercury 9 November 1900
  7. Sporting Life 14 January 1903
  8. Kent & Sussex Courier 24 February 1905
  9. South London Press 22 October 1909
  10. Kentish Mercury 09 September 1904

Much of the information for the post has come from the fantastic non-League resource Non-League Matters, which, if you have a penchant for league tables past, could keep you occupied for days.

Sadly, the owner of the site looked as though they are planning to mothball the site in May 2017, if anyone reading this has any time on their hands and wants to take it over there are contact details on all the pages on the site other than the home page.

Picture credits – the team photographs are courtesy of the always helpful Lewisham Archives.

Britain’s First Cycling Stage Race Which Almost Started in Catford in 1944 

One of the now seemingly permanent features of the national and international cycling calendar is the Tour of Britain. It is an event that can trace its roots back to a race that was planned to start from Catford – the first ever British stage race.

Cycling stage racing has been common on the continent with races such as Le Tour de France and Giro D’Italia having their origins in the early 20th century. In Britain road racing had been effectively banned since the end of the 19th century.  Time trials  (where riders start on their own and race against the clock) were eventually tacitly allowed often in remote locations with ‘code-named’ courses to avoid any police interest.’ (1)   Mass start races were only ever allowed on tracks, such as the short-lived one on Catford’s Sportsbank Street or Herne Hill, or later on airfields or motor racing circuits – some of the earliest racing at Brands Hatch was cycling, as well as more notably at the Brooklands Circuit (2).

The first road race with a mass start had been organised in 1942 by Percy Stallard, (picture source) it was a single stage race from Llangollen to Wolverhampton.  He and the other organisers and riders were all banned by the National Cyclists’ Union (NCU) as a result.  Stallard set up the rival British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC) to promote racing rather than time trialing.

With Midlands roots, it was perhaps surprising that a war-torn London was to be the location for the (not so) Grand Départ of the first English Cycling stage race.  Perhaps using it as a fundraiser for the Red Cross helped and perhaps it was seen as a morale booster for those suffering at home.

Source ebay March 2016

The race was due to start in Catford outside the then Town Hall (above) on Saurday 5 August 1944, – the beginning of what was then the August Bank Holiday Weekend.  The planned route of the first stage is not clear but the second and third stages were the same –  starting at The Fantail (now Chapter 1) at Locksbottom and looping 60 miles out to Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Pembury before returning to Locksbottom – see below (3).  Just 40 riders were to start the race which received some media interest – the BBC planned to cover the first stage (4)

Presumably when the organisers had agree the route with the authorities, London seemed a relatively safe location – there had been a lull in attacks following the end of the Blitz.  But from June 1944 London was again targeted by the Germans.  The first V1 rockets hit Lewisham on 16 June, including attacks on Lewisham Park and the areas around George Lane and Davenport Road.  Around a 100 more were to hit Lewisham  in the 7 weeks before the planned start, so it was probably understandable that the  Ministry of War Transport wanted the start moved (5).

The race was moved to Farnborough, where, in the end, all three stages started  outside the Fantail Restuarant, almost opposite the Ye Olde Whyte Lyon pub, pictured from around three decades before (6).

As for the race, the first stage was won by the organiser of the initial Llangollen-Wolverhampton race, Percy Stallard.  The second stage saw Les Plume from Manchester triumph, despite the seemingly safe location in the Kent countryside, during the race the RAF shot down another London bound doodlebug very close to the peloton. With shrapnel coming down around the cyclists, the eventual winner wondered whether they should be in an air raid shelter rather than racing.

The final stage saw a lone breakaway, won by Ron Baker with a sprint for the rest of the podium places of the stage won by Stallard, over ten minutes behind the winner.  Les Plume took the overall victory by just a second from Len Hook who had placed well on each of the stages.  Baker took the King of the Hills competition.

The following year there was the Victory Cycling Marathon from Brighton to Glasgow and a similar national stage race has been almost ever present (there was a five year hiatus from 2000).

Notes

1 William Fotheringham (2005) Roule Britannia: A History of Britons in the Tour de France p8

2 ibid p8

3 Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser, 21 July 1944

4 The People, 30 July 1944

5 The People,  6 August 1944

6 Postcard via eBay February 2016

 

James Watt – The Builder of 5,000 Catford Homes

The development of the Corbett Estate on the borders of Hither Green and Catford has been covered several times by Running Past; firstly, looking at North Park Farm – whose sale was to allow the development of the estate, early in the development a walk with one of Charles Booth’s researchers in 1899  and a small section of the estate that was built by Frederick Taylor.  Corbett subcontracted most of the building work and probably the most important of the builders that he used was an already well-established Catford contractor – James Watt.  Watt has been mentioned briefly in relation to the short lived Lee Picture Palace which he ran and probably built.  However, he is worth a post in his own right.

Watt was Aberdonian by birth, born in 1857 his family moved to Stromness in the Orkneys by the 1861 census – his father was a farmer of a relatively small holding, just 25 acres.  Nothing is known of his early years, although by 1876 he was working in Hackney. He was certainly in Lewisham by 1887 as he married Emily from Brighton and in 1889 as his son James Henry was born then.  He initially worked as a foreman for another firm before setting up his own firm.

By the time the census enumerators called in the spring of 1891 he was living in Wildfell Road in Catford.  Also there was his brother, George who was listed as a joiner.  George was to stay around Lewisham, in 1911, for example, working as a builder’s foreman, perhaps working for James.

The house he was living in was one that the firm built, almost certainly the house on the corner of Scrooby Street (above right), where his firm also built houses.  The houses on Wildfell Road, from the outside at least, are arguably one of the most attractive terraces in Catford (see photo below) with some lovely detail (above left).  At the time of writing (July 2017) one of the small two bedroom houses was on sale for a fraction under £400,000.

Watt’s firm also built homes on Brookdale Road, along with Aitken and Barmeston Roads , further south,  off Bromley Road. He also built some of the houses on Canadian Avenue (formerly Berlin Avenue) – including ‘Kenilworth’ in 1901.  It isn’t always easy to tell exactly which houses he built – unlike the similar sized firm in Lee, W J Scudamore, there weren’t obvious patterns in the design.

By 1901 James Watt was at 4 Bromley Road (above), possibly a home built by the firm, although this isn’t certain. While he was a non-conformist, the house was next to St Laurence’s Vicarage – it was to be opposite his estate office and yard, probably the former Sangley Hall – see map below, on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland)

4 Bromley Road was also convenient for the development of the Sangley Farm estate for the Forsters.  No doubt at some stage Running Past will cover the farm, whose buildings were on the corner of what is now Bargery Road.  It included streets like Penerley and Culverley Roads and was very much housing for the Edwardian middle classes and was developed on a piecemeal basis between 1902 and the 1920s.  It isn’t clear which homes he built on the estate but it undoubtedly some of those photographed below in the previously mentioned streets.

As noted before, Watt built around a third of Corbett Estate too.  The only definite location for the firms work as in Fordel Road, where 38 lbs of lead piping was stolen from an unfinished house (1).   However, it is quite possible that Watt’s firm built roads like Minard and Braidwood Roads pictured below (source for both eBay July 2016).

The firm had interests in land over a large swathe of south east London, it isn’t clear as to what they built and what they may have acquired to privately rent, but it certainly included buying 217 Westcombe Hill, Blackheath, acquired in 1918; Land and buildings, Morden Grange; 107 Lewisham Road in 1923 along with several houses in Ravensbourne Road in Catford.

Watt continued to build homes in the area in the 1920s – including homes along Bromley Road, while 115 (below, built in 1922) is definitely one of the firm’s, many others in the area are similar too – so, no doubt were built by Watt.  Like another local builders that Running Past has covered, W J Scudamore, Watt expanded his area of operation in the interwar period buying sites in Orpington in 1928 and Croydon in 1930.

Not only was Watt a builder, but he was a pioneer of popular entertainment in the area. The first time that Running Past ‘came across’ Watt was when he built and initially ran Lee Picture Palace on the corner of Lee High Road and Bankwell Road.  It was one of many cinemas he owned. He opened his first cinema in 1909 – the Electric in Catford (now retirement flats on Sangley Road and marked on the map above), but went onto own around 25 cinemas and ice rinks over the years – mainly in south London, but extending as far as Tottenham, Paddington, Belvedere and Wandsworth. These included the cinema almost opposite his home – initially called Central Hall Picture House (like most in his chain) but later the Plaza, ABC and Cannon (it is now a church) – pictured below on a Creative Commons via Cinema Treasures.  As the map above shows, Catford was also home to one of his skating rinks, next door to the cinema.

James Watt died in 1932, a very wealthy man – his estate was worth in excess of £618,000 (2). His wife, Emily, died later same year.  It has been suggested that the firm had built 5-6,000 homes in and around Catford by the time he died.

The business seems to have been taken over by his older son, James Henry – who took over the family home at 4 Bromley Road, he was living there in 1939, listed as a Director and company Secretary of Building Trades Companies.  However, it seems that times were hard as he was sharing with another family.

It is not clear what happened to James Henry, the 1939 Register is the last definitive mention on-line of him.  It is clear that the younger brother, Horace (born in 1899) who had spent time in the nascent Flying Corps during and after World War 1, and was later a director of a Catford Haulage company, seems to have taken control after World War Two.  He bought a house in early 1948 in 7, Charsley Road, but later that year was to sell a large part of the business, then known as James Watt (Estates) Ltd. (3)

The firm continued until 1957 when it was wound up, it was still based at Central Parade on Bromley Road. Horace was still alive at that point, he was retired and living in West London and was listed on a passenger ship heading for South Africa the following year.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 23 December 1898
  2. The Scotsman 22 July 1932
  3. The Times (London, England), Monday, Mar 29, 1948; pg. 2; Issue 51031

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past

Elsa Lanchester – Catford’s Bride of Frankenstein

48 Farley Road is an ordinary looking Victorian terraced house in Catford; it has a brief, but important, place in British cinematographic history – in the early 20th century it was the birthplace in 1902 and home to Elsa Lanchester, who was to become the Bride of Frankenstein (Picture on Creative Commons via James Vaughan on Flickr)

Her parents were Edith (“Biddy”) Lanchester and James (“Shamus”) Sullivan; to suggest that their lifestyle was ‘different’ would be something of an understatement.  They were members of the Social Democratic Federation and challenged late Victorian and Edwardian mores in relation to marriage by living together outside marriage.  After telling her family that she was going to move in with Shamus, her family had her sectioned for several days. Biddy later became secretary to Eleanor Marx, a role she retained until Marx’s death.  She stayed with Marx in Sydenham after the birth of her first child, Waldo Lanchester who was to become a famous puppeteer.

In Elsa Lanchester’s autobiography there is, sadly, little reference to the Lewisham life of one of ‘Hollywood’s most delightful comediennes and the wife of one of its greatest, and most tortured, actors’ (Charles Laughton) (1). The family moved frequently around South London, in addition to Catford (see picture below), there were short-lived homes in Lewisham, Clapham and Norwood before settling in Battersea.  Part of the reason for these frequent movements was to try to prevent Elsa being vaccinated as her brother Waldo had reacted badly to his and Edith wanted to prevent government interference in the life of Elsa (2).

This fear of authority extended to what was recorded in the census – in 1901, at Farley Road,  Biddy was recorded as a visitor and Waldo her son.  Similarly in the 1911 census night Edith, Elsa and Waldo camped in Surrey woodland away from their then Clapham home to avoid being included in the returns (3). Oddly James still mentioned all but Edith to the enumerators.

The various family homes often had socialist visitors  who Elsa refers to as ‘kitchen comrades’ – this included the Pankhursts and there were regular trips to Women’s Social and Political Union rallies, one of which Biddy was arrested on (4). There were childhood memories of May Day rallies, sherbet fountains and singing the Internationale and the Lewisham written Red Flag (5).

There were trips to both the ballet, to see Pavola’s Swan Lake as well as seeing the likes of George Robey, Marie Lloyd at Clapham Grand (6).  Elsa went to classes in weaving, spinning and sandal making with Raymond Duncan (brother of Isadora) in Clapham (7).  Through him she ended up at Isadora Duncan’s dance school in Paris although there seemed to be little real talent for teaching from Duncan so little was learned other than to ‘become an autumn leaf’ (8).

After returning from Paris as war broke out, Elsa began to make a living out of short-lived dancing assignments, including a week as a snake dancer in Edmonton (9). After the war ended she worked for a charity teaching dancing called Happy Evenings, during her second summer of this she set up a school in Charlotte Street in central London (10).  She also used the premises to set up what was effectively an after-hours theatre club – the Cave of Harmony – which began to attract a famous clientele which included the likes of H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and Evelyn Waugh who became a regular visitor(11). As she was with many friends and acquaintances, Lanchester was quite cutting about Waugh – describing him as ‘not at all attractive looking….pink in patches as though he had a bad cold.’ (12) The Cave of Harmony didn’t provide enough income to fully support her, so Elsa took a range of other jobs to make ends meet including cleaning (13)  and acting as a ‘correspondent’ for couples that couldn’t get an ‘honest’ divorce (14).

She began to get parts in plays as a result of the Cave of Harmony contacts, including several through Nigel Playfair, then manager of the Lyric Hammersmith. By the time she met Charles Laughton in 1927 (pictured together left – source), she had become moderately well-established on the London stage; he was still making his way – they married in 1929. They appeared together several times on the stage, notably in ‘Payment Deferred’ – an adaptation of a novel by sometime Lewisham based CS Forester (covered a while ago in Running Past) (15).

There was an incident during the run, where police arrived at the door with a ‘boy’ who was trying to get money out of Laughton who then confessed to Elsa about his homosexuality – Elsa’s response of ‘It’s perfectly alright ,it doesn’t matter…’ The latter remark seems to have upset Laughton greatly (16).  Laughton played William Marble and Elsa his daughter in Payment Deferred, the play lasted for 3 months in the West End (17) before transferring to Broadway and then Chicago for short runs with both of them appearing.

It was the critically acclaimed performance by Laughton in Payment Deferred that was to mark the beginning of his film career – he was to keep the role in the film version of the play and had several other parts in Hollywood films. Elsa though was overlooked for the daughter – the studio wanting the more bankable, in box office terms, Maureen O’Sullivan (18).

Her own movie debut was to come in a film that her husband starred in, playing Anne of Cleves in the Private Life of Henry VIII in 1933 (Picture on a Creative Commons via Wikipedia).

Her breakthrough was two years later as the Bride of Frankenstein.  Oddly, her autobiography, ‘Elsa Lanchester – Herself’ spends little time on the film; she includes no photographs, and the four pages of narrative is little more than a description of the time spent in makeup creating both her hair and the bandages that were wrapped around her.  She did note some of the reviews though, including this one from the subsequent ‘An Illustrated History of the Horror Film’ (19)

Elsa Lanchester in her white shroud and Nerifertiti hairdo is a truly fantastic apparition  …. a delicate suggestion of both the wedding bed and the grave

The film had good reviews on release and, unlike many of the era, has stood the test of time; at the time of writing in 2017 it had a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It did well at the box office too – by 1943 it had made a profit of $2 million. (Picture below on a creative commons via Wikipedia)

 

Lanchester had a successful career after the Bride of Frankenstein, although you’d be hard pressed to work this out from her autobiography; her own accomplishments only seem worth mentioning in passing, whereas the trials and tribulations of Laughton’s various roles and his angst in preparing for them, as he became one of Hollywood’s ‘leading men,’ are dealt with in great detail.  While Elsa, was only once the ‘leading lady,’ in Passport to Destiny, she had a good career as a supporting actress – winning a Golden Globe for Agatha Christie’s ‘Witness for the Prosecution’, along with and Oscar nomination for the same film and another Oscar nomination for ‘Come to the Stable’.

She also found success returning to her roots at the Turnabout Theatre off Sunset Boulevard.  The theatre was a bizarre mixture of a puppetry stage at one end of the theatre and one for actors at the other end with reversible seats. Lanchester performed a similar solo vaudeville act to the one she had done in the past at the Cave of Harmonies at the Turnabout Theatre (20).

She had a number of early television presenting roles in the USA, including hosting ‘Words about Music’ on US TV every Saturday night for a year in the late 1950s .  Elsa played various small parts in American TV shows including ‘Burkes’s Law’ pictured below in 1964 (On a Creative Commons via Wikipedia)

She toured an autobiographical one woman show –‘Elsa Lanchester – Herself’ which Laughton had directed. He was to die of cancer in late 1961 but Lanchester continued to work into her late 70s, her final film was in 1980.  She published her autobiography in 1983 but suffered from a stroke soon after and passed away in late 1986 aged 84.

But it is as The Bride of Frankenstein that she is best remembered – hopefully, one day this might include a plaque at 48 Farley Road.

 

Notes

  1. Quoted on rear cover of Elsa Lanchester – Herself, 1983.
  2. ibid p7
  3. ibid pp7-8
  4. ibid p17
  5. ibid pp6-7
  6. ibid p19
  7. ibid p19
  8. ibid p28
  9. ibid p45
  10. ibid p50
  11. ibid p 56
  12. ibid p57
  13. ibid p58
  14. ibid p59
  15. ibid p97
  16. ibid p97
  17. ibid p100
  18. ibid p107
  19. ibid p138
  20. ibid p171

Census and related data comes via Find My Past 

The Roebuck – A ‘Lost’ Lewisham Town Centre Pub

The Roebuck was a Lewisham pub that dated back until at least the 1740s, possibly earlier.  In recent times its address was in Rennell Street but originally it was located on the High Street next to one of the two arms of the Quaggy as it joined the Ravensbourne.  The other ‘arm’ had a pub too, the Plough, which Running Past covered a while ago.

In between the two pubs was Plough Green, named after the Plough, and before the Enclosure Acts which allowed the wealthy and powerful to ‘enclose’ common land, there was an area of grass “Plough Green” roughly around the area of the old town centre roundabout; it was home a St Thomas Day fair – the Green is shown below (source on a Creative Commons) – the building shown was an early incarnation of the Roebuck.  This area was enclosed in 1810 and built upon. (1)

The two arms of the Quaggy were obvious in early Ordnance Survey maps, the Roebuck is the realtively large building just north of Rennell Street.  It was almost opposite the Lewisham Tollgate – marked ‘Lewisham TH.’ (Image on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland).

The first mention of the pub was in parish registers in 1742 (2)  It was originally at 40-42 the High Street and it seems to have had a garden or bowling green at the side of it – which was later built upon.  The garden had a chestnut tree, in the picture below, which was said to have been planted in 1683 (3).

The William Miller referred in the picture of the pub, was the landlord from around 1834, the previous landlord was a William Lance – he decided to return to his former trade as a hatmaker (4).  Miller was probably from Lewisham (his sister certainly was), he died in 1849, but his wife, Elizabeth, took over the tenancy – the owners were Roach and Hill (5) – helped by his son Robert, who was also listed as a licensed victualler in the 1851 census. Elizabeth Hall was from Westerham in Kent, although had lived in Lewisham since 1825, possibly earlier, as Robert was born there. The rate book listed the pub as having assembly rooms, garden, yard, stables and building land (4).  Elizabeth was to remain the publican until around 1863 (6).  In the 1851 census there were two relatives living at the Roebuck, one working as a barmaid, along with three servants and two paying lodgers.

Robert had moved on by 1861 but a daughter Eliza had returned to work at the pub along with her husband, George Beven who was running the stables at the Roebuck.

After the Millers left there was a steady trickle of licensees; in 1871 the landlord was Richard Wooff who was 40 – he lived there with his wife Hannah and 4 children and a neice – there were three live-in servants helping to run the Roebuck.  He seems to have later moved on to the Three Tuns in Blackheath (now O’Neill’s) with one of his sons.

At the 1881 census James Tyrell from Rainham was the ‘Licensed Victualler’, also living there was his wife Frances, three children and three servants. The beer around this time was supplied by the Nicholls brothers  from the Anchor Brewery in Lewisham, which was covered by Running Past a while ago, whose offices (below) still remain in Tesco’s car park.

A decade later, Samuel and Elizabeth Fryatt were running the Roebuck (or Roe Back as it is incorrectly transcribed in the census…). The Fryatts had six live-in staff including one with the wonderfully named role of Potman and Billiard Marker.  Around this time the pub moved to the corner of Rennell Street, its former site was later to become the Gaumont (picture below from postcard – eBay Nov 2016).   The new building didn’t stop the steady flow of publicans though, Owen Ward from Ireland was there in 1901, when the census enumerator called, but had moved on by 1905, to be replaced by EE Coley.  Charles and Beatrice Freeman had arrived by 1911, he from Brighton, she from Portsmouth.  The business was creating enough trade to support three live-in barmaids, two cooks and a domestic nurse – presumably to look after the Freemans’ children.  The Freemans certainly lasted longer than many of their predecessors; they were still there in 1921 Post Office Directory.

Leonard Jennings was the landlord by 1938 and in the 1939 Register; he was a Bermondsey boy, born in 1877 – he married Sarah Elizabeth in 1906 in Southwark.  They had moved on by the end of World War Two, Leonard passing away in Greenwich in 1947.  One of the next landlords (1956) was W H J Harris.

The pub moved again, probably in the late 1950s or early 1960s, from its impressive position on the corner of the High Street and Rennell Street to a position a little further back down Rennell Street.  There are a couple of photos courtesy of Boak and Bailey’s Beer Blog  – one each of its exterior and interior from 1961.

It had a function room (downstairs) where bands played – those performing there included the local ‘legend’ Albert Lee, who grew up in Kidbrooke Park Road in Blackheath – according to several comments on Facebook threads relating to this post he was a regular performer there.  It also nearly saw the demise of Dave from Chas ‘n’ Dave who was non-fatally electrocuted on stage there whilst playing with The Tumbleweeds.  Other famous names spotted there included Lee Brilleaux from the Feelgoods, alas this wasn’t as a performer, but to buy some cigarettes before a gig at the Gaumont around the corner.

During the 1970s the Roebuck also became a relatively well-known Country & Western venue on Tuesday nights, hosting bands in the basement.  A Facebook thread from a while ago fondly recalled a local singing postman who was renowned for his rendition of Charley Pride’s ‘The Crystal Chandelier.’ Around the same era a Shadows tribute band called Apache who played regularly at the venue.

Other Facebook reminiscences from this post included Saturday nights which frequently saw tribute acts in the basement including Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison and the Everley Brothers. After the bar closed, some went to the Gaumont on the pub’s former site for late night ‘pictures’. Kicking out from there would be after the last bus – so it would be a long walk home.

The YouTube video of Dreamstate  performing there in 1991 gives a few glimpses of what the room was like (the volume is at Spinal Tap 11, so you may want to turn down the sound on your device before opening ….)

Harry Robinson was landlord during the 1980s and also owned Lewisham firm Robinson’s Hauliers based in Thurston Road.  My own recollections are from a decade later – my memory is of a dark, dismal place with little natural light and a blurry fag smoke fug even when there were few drinkers lighting-up.

Within a year or two of my last visit, the Roebuck became a gay bar, initially retaining the Roebuck name but latterly it was known as Bar Phoenix (see above on a Wikipedia Creative Commons), which included ‘weekly drag entertainment’.  There are a few on-line reviews from that era

The Roebuck, near Lewisham Shopping Centre, is dire, but has to be seen to be believed. It attracts a strange mix of ‘fresh’ and ‘experienced’ faces.

This gay-friendly bar is a real find. I’d heard good things about The Roebuck from friends so last Saturday we trooped off to the place anticipating a good night. We simply had a ball. The service was outstanding and the atmosphere unrivalled by any bars in the area. The Roebuck has got to be seen to be believed!

It remained until around the end of the first decade of the 21st century before it was demolished – part of the early preparation work for the redevelopment of the northern end of Lewisham town centre. Rennell Street still exists; it is part of a short stretch of dual carriageway to be endured by those passing through the town centre by road with risks of high levels of pollution.

The final resting place of the pub is ‘marked’ by a pedestrian crossing (left, below) with its Victorian incarnation remembered via The Roebuck Memorial Traffic Lights (right, below).

Notes

  1. Leland Duncan (1908) History of the Borough of Lewisham p96
  2. ibid p77
  3. ibid p77
  4. Ken White The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham 6c p233
  5. Ibid
  6. ibid

Census and related data comes via Find My Past 

Following the Quaggy – Sutcliffe Park to Lee Green

In previous posts, Running Past has followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom and then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley, through the golf courses of Sundridge Park and on to Chinbrook Meadows.  Most recently, we left he river at on the south side of Eltham Green Bridge, by an old London County Council sign, wondering about how to moor a boat there.

North of the bridge, over Eltham Road, is Sucliffe Park; until the early 20th century the area was farmland, The Quaggy meandered through the fields as the map below shows (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland).  Woolwich Borough Council acquired the land just after World War 1.  It was named after the then Borough Engineer (1).

The meanders had been removed by the time that the Ordnance Surveyors cartographers visited again in 1938 and encased in concrete – as the map below shows (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland). The river was completely enclosed at some stage during the post war period, Ken White believed it to be around 1970 (2) although several on Facebook threads thought it was much earlier than this.

The look that remained until the current Millennium was of a flat, featureless park (apart from the athletics track that is home to Cambridge Harriers, whose early history was covered a while ago.  It was reminiscent of a miniature Hackney Marshes (Photo below on a Creative Commons via Restoring Europe’s Rivers wiki)

In Facebook threads on upstream posts, there were lots of memories of playing in the Quaggy and culverts around the Park, seemingly including some of the streams that join the Quaggy – notably Well Hall Stream.

This all changed in 2002. A new meandering channel was created for the Quaggy, close to its pre-1930s course, albeit at a slightly lower level, with the park itself being remodelled to create a flood plain able to store 85,000 m³  with a series of boardwalks, viewing points and a large pond. The old channel was retained for extreme flood situations and flow can be switched to it when the storage in the park is full (above, right photograph).

The park which used to be rarely visited other than for weekend football is now a well-used focal point and reconnecting the community with the river and its natural environment – it is often held up as an excellent example of urban river management. Unlike other parts of the Quaggy’s catchment, it is beginning to be used as a place of play and discovery – children can sometimes be seen jumping across the river, there were reminiscences about doing this in Mottingham, feeding ducks on the pond along with the occasional sightings of fishing nets and buckets.

The Quaggy was originally joined by Well Hall Stream in the park, although when followed a while ago, there was little evidence of any current flow.

The river goes through some complex engineering that can shut off the flows in periods of high water, and re-emerges the other side of Kidbrooke Park Road in the playing fields of John Roan School.  Here too the river has changed, the concrete encasement had continued west of the road, I remember having to scramble down angled concrete to fish out footballs from the river during my sons’ Saturday morning football practice there. 

The Quaggy is theoretically joined by Lower Kid Brook (above) opposite a rather impressive Woolwich Borough marker (below left), or rather it isn’t any more – the flow was probably diverted into the Quaggy three hundred metres to the east in Sutcliffe Park.

Beyond John Roan playing fields, the river is sandwiched between Lyme Farm Road estate, which replaced Victorian housing, and Crofton Albion FC.  It emerges out into the public gaze again at Weigall Road where the 1903 boundary markers from Woolwich had again been busy (above right).

Over the road, to the south, there is another series of playing fields – the first is a public one, Weigall Sports Field which was once home to Ravensbourne Athletic Club’s grass running track.  It was part of a residential club and sports centre for employees of Cook, Son and Co (St Pauls) Ltd. which was a clothing wholesale company – the building faces on to Eltham Road (see above) and was completed in 1912.  Prior to then there were newspaper reports of them being based in Ladywell Fields, hence the name from a different catchment.  The building on Eltham Road was requisitioned for World War 1 billeting but returned to its former use after the War.  It continued as this until after World War Two when it was converted into flats – it is now part of Ravens Way (perhaps a shortening of the club’s name) (3).

Its next door neighbour is the Bowring Group Sports Ground (below), although its days in recreational use are probably numbered as it seems to have been acquired for  a ‘Free’ School.

The northern banks of the Quaggy also used to have playing fields, the just post war Ordnance Survey map shows cricket grounds (on a Creative Commons from National Library of Scotland.) The outlines of the fields are still there and indeed the derelict remains of one the pavilions remains.  The formerly manicured grounds have been largely abandoned and now form part of the Weigall Road flood defence and storage, although the intention has always been dual use.

It isn’t meant to be an accessible area, but fences on Weigall Road and Blackheath Park are always porous enough for the runner of a smaller stature to enter without having to resort to contortions or scaling boundaries.  It the last long section of the river where the Quaggy has a bucolic feel – it probably hasn’t changed much since the fields by the river were used as the venue for the horse racing of the Lee Races in the first half of the 19th century.

The flood defences have a second fence to prevent the fluvial flâneur but in a period of low flow they proved to be of limited deterrent.  Apparently the Weigall Road storage will hold 65,000 m³ of water.

There is/was probably a small tributary joining around here.  There is very boggy ground just south of the derelict pavilion, more standing water in wetter seasons but still pooling in a very dry Spring.  There is an occasionally running stream which forms the boundary between the fields, in recent years I have only seen water there in the very wet winter of 2013/14.

On Facebook pages relating to upstream posts, there are fond memories of playing in and on the banks of the Quaggy in these parts – there still sometime cross river swings with a ducking for those with poor grips, although none have been noticed for a year or two.

Beyond the Weigall Road flood storage area, the Quaggy briefly disappears before being bridged by Meadowcourt Road and then flowing onwards towards Osborne Terrace.  The river is then bridged by Lee Road, there was only a footbridge until as late as the 1860s, as the 1863 published 25″ Ordnance Survey shows (on a Creative Commons via National Library of Scotland). The road bridge was certainly there by the time the cartographers returned in 1893.

 

This was an area of flooding – Hastead reported depths of 10′ (3 metres) in the 18th century and FW Hart reporting similar depths after the rapid thaw following the bitterly cold 1813/14 winter, there was flooding over a wide area including a lot of Lee Park.  Hart reported flooding being a regular occurrence in the early 19th century with a Bromley farmer drowning in 1830.

 

There is another Woolwich marker from 1903 by the bridge, only someone has chiselled out – the borough name, perhaps they were going to return and add Greenwich, but they never did.  Next to the bridge there is a pipe with water entering the Quaggy, with a Lewisham Natureman stag ‘grazing’ next to it, this is the diverted Mid Kid Brook.  On the opposite bank, there is a ghost sign for a ‘carver and gilder’ (more here), oddly hidden by the current cafe owners.  We’ll leave the river here for another day.

Notes

  1. Ken White (1999) The Quaggy & Its Tributaries p25
  2. ibid p25
  3. John Coulter (1997) Lewisham and Deptford in Old Photographs: A Third Selection