Category Archives: Lewisham History

The Bombing of Sandhurst Road School

Perhaps the most depressing and bleak of Lewisham’s World War Two memorials can be found in Hither Green Cemetery on Verdant Lane – it is to the 38 children and 6 teachers who perished in a daytime bombing of Sandhurst Road School on 20 January 1943.

The school between Minard and Ardgowan Roads had been opened in 1904 – midway through the development of the Corbett Estate – it was not that dissimilar to many of the era, including the one on Eltham’s equivalent Corbett Estate.  The opening ceremony was performed by the Chairman of the London County Council (LCC), J Williams Benn – grandfather of the late Labour politician Tony Benn. The LCC had just taken over responsibility for London’s Schools including those in Lewisham, from the London School Board.

While many children had been evacuated from London during the Blitz of 1940 and 1941 most had returned to the capital.  It was to be another 18 months before V-1 rockets started hitting south London.  There were though a few sporadic attacks designed to terrorise the civilian population in the intervening period – often in relation for Allied bombing raids on German cities – these became more organised towards the end of 1943 with Operation Steinbock.

The facts as to what happened are quite simple; it was lunchtime at Sandhurst Road School on 20 January 1943.  A group of 28 Focke-Wulf 190 Fighter-Bombers, escorted by Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters (totalling about 60 planes), had taken off at around noon in occupied northern France and had evaded air defences and one of them was able to fly low over Catford and Downham. One of the  Focke-Wulfs was seen over Downham Way spraying bullets towards those on the ground; soon after it flew over Ardogowan Road, just above the roofs of the Corbett Estate, it was carrying a single 500 kg bomb.

At just before 12:30 the plane flew over Sandhurst Road School, there were reports that the plane looped around the school with the pilot waving to children in the playground.  On the ground the bell for lunch had just gone – a few children heard a distant air raid warning siren.  Some pupils made their way to the air raid shelter – oddly a bricked up classroom on the second floor.  The sound of the plane was heard and a few outside realised that it had black crosses of the Luftwaffe.

The bomb was dropped and the children in the air raid shelter were

transformed from neatly dressed school girls into ghastly frightening creatures, covered all over in dust which was choking us too and some of us bleeding from cuts …somehow, there was no panic — just bewilderment. Choking, bleeding and with tears streaming down our faces, we made our way out of the shelter, over girders, plaster, bricks, wood, glass ….. through the debris … there was a huge smouldering gap below us were the bodies of those children (who had been queuing up for lunch), some dead, some dying, some in terrible pain.

Initially even some of the children started to try to help with the rescue effort before emergency services arrived on the scene, but by the evening

it seemed that every available man in the locality was there, digging, some with their bare hands, as was my brother, frantically searching for loved ones, hearts and hands torn. Boys in the services home on leave, digging, searching, all through the night. The Red Cross, the women in the church hall just across the road making tea, tending those brought into the hut, even the vicar in his shirt sleeves had been there since the search had begun. All with one motive, even if it meant constant danger from falling rubble — to get those little mites out.

Sandhurst School1

© IWM. Original Source– Non-commercial reproduction allowed

Despite the claims of the pilot waving at children there is some debate as to whether the pilot realised that it was a school – his report on the raid noted that the large building destroyed was block of flats.  However, other local schools though seem to have been attacked by machine gun in the raid, not necessarily by the same plane though, including at the nearby Catford Boys School and at Prendergast (then on Rushey Green) and a little further away on Ilderton Road, off the Old Kent Road.

Sandhurst School 2

Source News Shopper

In addition to the attack on Sandhurst Road School and the indiscriminate machine-gunning of civilians, which killed six and injured fourteen, there were several other local bombings in the same raid – the recorded ones are serious damage to several houses in Woodlands Street, off Hither Green Lane; Woodham’s Yard on Sangley Road (covered in happier times in Running Past in 2017) took a direct hit with six perishing and 14 injured; and four houses were demolished in Glenfarg Road (1).

Most of the victims, 31 children and one of the teachers, Harriet Langdon, were buried together at Hither Green Cemetery in a civilian war dead plot a week later after a memorial service at St Andrew’s Church on Torridon Road.   The photograph of the crowded cemetery from the Illustrated London News, below (2), with the small coffins is perhaps the most poignant one relating to the bombing, much more so than those of the destruction to the school.

Equally moving was a description within one of the press reports from the Daily Herald (3) of one brief encounter with a 14 year old at the cemetery

“Children walked past the grave – snowdrops narcissi, anemones drifted over the silver name plates.

A girl twitched my coat.  She said “Can you see Rodney’s names down there?  I’ve brought violets for him. They’re the first from the garden.

She was June Jarrett.

When the school at Lewisham was hit, she spent hours searching in the debris for Rodney, her six-year-old brother.

Now with violets in her hand she sought him again.”

Unsurprisingly, most of the victims lived relatively close by, within a mile and a half or so of the school; there were still some who lived some distance away – their parents perhaps moving after the child had been admitted to the school. As has been noted in other posts on World War 2 bomb and rocket damage, despite the war there was still a lot of movement between homes in an area where the private rented sector was large and security of tenure limited, but obviously too because of damage to homes in the Blitz.  The biggest concentration was around  South Park Crescent where 5 of the victims lived.

The orange ‘pin’ marks the school, blue pins children, purple the homes of two siblings and red, the homes of the teachers who died (one is off map in Surrey).  The data came from the CWGC website.

There don’t seem to be any equivalent daytime attacks on Berlin schools by the RAF, although attacks tended to be at night time to avoid the German air defences.  There were in total just over 67,000 British civilian deaths during the war – a figure dwarfed by the numbers of ordinary Germans who died – estimates vary from 1.5 to 3 million, including thousands in the Charlottenburg area that Lewisham is now twinned with.  But it seems that this Terrorangriff, terror-raid, may have been a reprisal, demanded by Hitler, for a RAF bombing of Berlin on 17 January 1943.

That so many bombers got through the air defences without adequate warning and allowing such a catastrophic loss of young life to occur seems like an abject failure.  The Air Minister’s explanation was it was initially thought that the raid was heading for the south coast and it was policy not to send warnings to London unless it was certain that the raid was heading that way. Otherwise the Germans could have easily sent Londoners scurrying into shelters every few hours by sending planes over Kent.  It appears that of the 60 planes, it was a smaller group of around 12 that peeled off towards London which was initially missed and as a result warnings were late (4).

The school was rebuilt after the war and remains – there is a memorial garden of remembrance to the victims and a stained glass window.

There are several contemporary videos that include footage showing the devastation of the school, including this one.

There are some memories of a survivors of the attack in a documentary made to mark the anniversary of the start on World War 2.

Finally, it is worth remembering the names of those who died at the school

The children

  • Malcolm Britton Alexander (11)
  • Brenda Jean Allford (5)
  • Lorina Elizabeth Allford (7)
  • Olive Hilda Asbury (12)
  • Joan Elizabeth Baker (12)
  • Betty Ellen Barley (15)
  • Dennis Handford Barnard (10)
  • Ronald Edward Barnard (9)
  • Anne Rosemary Biddle (5)
  • Judith Maud Biddle (5)
  • Kathleen Myrtle Brazier (13)
  • Donald Victor Brewer (10)
  • Joyce Agnes Brocklebank (11)
  • Pauline Feo Carpenter (4)
  • Margaret Kathleen Grace Chivrall (12)
  • Pamela Mary Joyce Cooper (15)
  • Winifred Mary Cornell (13)
  • Eunice Joan Davies (9)
  • Pauline Mary Davies (7)
  • Joan Margaret Day (12)
  • Olive Annie Margaret Deavin (15)
  • Anthony Drummond (9)
  • Janet Mary Dutnall (5)
  • Richard George Fagan (9)
  • Cyril Arthur Glennon (6)
  • Norman Frederick Greenstreet (8)
  • Norah Marie Harrison (9)
  • Sylvia May Ellen Head (12)
  • Iris May Hobbs (15)
  • Rodney Charles Ash Jarrett (6)
  • John Edward Jones (10)
  • Doreen Alice Lay (6)
  • Mary Rosina O’rourke (15)
  • Evelyn Joyce Scholes (11)
  • Pamela Eileen Silmon (10)
  • Clive Derek Tennant (8)
  • Doreen Thorne (12)
  • Edna Towers (12)

And the teachers

  • Ethel Jessie Betts (53)
  • Virginia Mary Carr (38)
  • Mary Frances Jukes (38)
  • Gladys Maud Knowelden (51)
  • Harriet Irene Langdon (40)
  • Constance May Taylor (58)

 

Notes

  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) Hither Green – The Forgotten Hamlet pp63-64
  2. Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, February 06, 1943; pg. 159; Issue 5416
  3. Daily Herald 28 January 1943
  4. Hull Daily Mail 27 January 1943

 

 

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A Faded Sydenham Ghost Sign of a Fine Sign Writer

Knighton Park Road in Sydenham is a street of small late Victorian three bedroom houses, typical of its era.  Apart from a few cars that use it as a cut through to try to avoid the traffic lights at the junction of Sydenham Road and Kent House Road, it’s very quiet once you get away from the internal combustion noise of the main road.

It isn’t an obvious location for looking for advertising ‘ghost signs’, like their modern billboard counterparts, they tended to be on main roads, in prominent locations, but this wasn’t an ordinary ghost sign – on the corner with Hillmore Grove there was a fading ochre painted advertising sign relating to ‘H Price.’

Henry Price lived and worked from 39 Knighton Park Road from before just World War Two to around his death in 1973; he painted signs and advertising boards as well as cars, vans and trucks.  His handiwork was on the corner of the house he used to live in.

The sign was striking, but much more impressive are the signs that he painted on the sides of vans, often those for a variety of stationery firms.  The stunning one below on a 20 cwt Morrison-Electricar has been shared by his grandson through Geograph  on a creative commons, but there are several others which have been scanned as part of a set on Flickr.

Sadly the sign is no more – I had waited for the perfect photograph opportunity on the north facing wall, hoping for the adjacent tree to be covered with spring blossom and combined with a lack of vans, trucks or cars before writing this post.  That perfect opportunity sadly never arose and, alas dear reader, the sign is gone – the house has been extended upwards and outwards and the outside render along with its ochre sign has been replaced.

This is no criticism of the owner or developer, signs like this are generally not protected, although their value is beginning to be recognised in some boroughs and local listing has given to a few signs in Hackney.

imageThere are better examples in Lewisham that tell more of the history of trades and shopping such as those to the family of outfitters John Campion in Catford and the painters and grainers C Holdaway & Son at the bottom of Belmont Hill that perhaps are more worthy of protection.

 

 

As the locations are being recorded and photographed on websites such as Ghostsigns, vast numbers probably don’t need to be protected.  In any case those that have survived generally only remain by chance – their location has protected them as in the case of the Campion one, or they have been hidden behind more modern advertising hoardings such as the Holdaway sign.  In any case, the signs were not designed to last that long and left to the elements will rapidly fade – the Wittals sign on the corner of Bankwell Road and Lee High Road was clear when it first emerged from behind a hoarding around 2005 but is now barely visible.  In any case, it is often the story ‘behind’ the sign that is more interesting than the sign itself – helping tell stories of lost trades, 19th century migration into the city and shopping patterns that have changed.

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The 1957 Lewisham Rail Crash

The evening rush hour of Wednesday 4 December 1957 was a very foggy one, while the Clean Air Act had been passed the year before it had yet to have a dramatic impact and fogs made worse by the pollutant laden air of the city were still common.

The train services had been disrupted throughout the day by the fog, the running order of trains had been changed and a Hastings train heading towards Ladywell was wrongly held at a red signal, on the assumption that a train heading towards Hayes was in front of it.  It wasn’t; the crowded electric commuter train was behind and stopped at a red signal close to St Johns, just beyond the point where the line from Nunhead joins, its brakes firmly on as it was on a slight incline at that point.

At just before 6:20 pm a late running steam train from Cannon Street to Ramsgate approached, its driver had missed two yellow warning signals and when he saw the lights of the Hayes train it was too late.  The Ramsgate train ploughed into the stationary Hayes-bound electric, the front coach of the former left the track and crashed into the bridge from Nunhead which partially collapsed onto the first three coaches of the still moving Ramsgate train – largely destroying them. The map above from the Ministry of Transport report shows the location, with the picture below showing the devastation under the bridge was from a few days later (1).

Further up the track two of the Hayes train carriages were forced upwards and together as a result of the impact from behind.  The accident could have been even worse as a train was approaching the bridge from Nunhead; fortunately the damage to the bridge caused a partial derailment and the driver saw the problems ahead and was able to stop in time.  The extent of the damage to the twisted bridge from above became visible as the fog cleared and daylight broke (2).

As was to happen a decade later with the Hither Green crash, local emergency services and people  (such as the unknown woman below (3)) responded to the aftermath of the crash. In a statement in Parliament the next day, the Transport Minister noted:

The Government would like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the outstanding work done, not only by the emergency services and the voluntary organisations but also by those living near the scene, who so unselfishly put their houses and their belongings at the disposal of the rescuers. The conditions in the dense fog and darkness were appallingly difficult and distressing, and there can be nothing but praise for all concerned who worked with such efficiency and determination throughout.

Express 5 Dec

The conditions that the rescue workers operated in were atrocious – one syndicated newspaper report (4) describing it as ‘Dante-esque’  – rescue workers ‘ moving like ghosts in the all-embracing fog guided by the screams of the injured trapped in the wreckage.’  There was too the evidence of everyday life of coats, gloves , handbags and briefcases strewn across the site along with Christmas parcels bought hours earlier in the West End scattered across the tracks – some just visible the following day in a photograph from the official report – the location with the art deco Grover Court to the left is clear.

While many of the casualties went to Lewisham Hospital they were also rushed to various other local hospitals, many of which are long lost to NHS rationalisation – St Alfege’s (later to become Greenwich) ,  the Brook, the Miller, St John’s (Morden Hill), St Giles (Camberwell) and oddly to the Maudsley – whether one of those injured had mental health issues too or the local hospitals were so stretched that this was where the beds were isn’t clear.

In the Facebook discussions on the post there were lots of memories of those who ‘escaped’ the crash through small changes to their normal routine with themselves or relatives leaving work slightly late and not being able to get onto the train and in days before many homes had telephones those waiting fearing the worst – such as a brother, expected home at 7:00 pm, but not opening the door until nearly midnight.  There were those who were lucky in their ‘choice’ of carriages saving them.  There will have been others though where changes to their normal routines will have meant that they didn’t return home that night.

Both parents of one person who commented on one of the threads were involved – her father was in the Civil Defence and so he decided to go and assist. Her mother was found in the wreckage about 11.00 pm – she had moved carriage at London Bridge, a move that probably saved her life.   She was taken to Lewisham Hospital and seems to have been in for a while with operation to dislocated hips and pelvis. She never fully recovered from her injuries but she was stoic and was determined to get back to ‘normal’ as soon as she could.

Many suffered mental scars after surviving the crash or being involved with the recovery – one man described his 15 year old self who worked for a company who had heavy duty cutting gear working most of the night in the recovery efforts. While there was a subsequent court case relating to what we now would refer to as post-traumatic stress none of the survivors or those involved in the rescue received the sort of support that would happen now.

George W GregoryThe story of one survivor is worth telling in a little more detail. George Gregory (pictured), from Accrise near Folkestone, was one of those who, eventually, made it home.  He was an aviation underwriter at Lloyds who commuted every weekday – the carriage he was one of those that the bridge collapsed onto. He was able to get out onto the track, although was very cautious of the live rail.  With other surviving passengers he helped with the initial rescue work until the emergency services arrived – they managed to free 20-30 passengers from the wreckage.  He then worked with a doctor who was administering morphine – marking with a ‘M’ those who had received it with his pen.  He stayed on site for almost 3 hours helping the emergency services.

George stayed the night with a dock worker who lived near the station who had also been helping with the rescue effort before returning home the following day.  He was a little overwhelmed by the generosity of the couple he stayed with (and other local people) – the dock worker had given his coat away to a cold crash victim.  They wouldn’t wanted nothing more than thanks from him, but apparently he left some bank notes down the side of a chair before he left.

Despite surviving the crash, George carried the events of that commute home through the rest of his life.  He had survived when close friends and colleagues hadn’t and had given up his seat to a woman who never made it home. He suffered nightmares for years as a result of the crash – often waking his wife up by trying to drag her from their bed and ‘rescue’ her from the crash (5).

In the end, 90 passengers lost their lives that night; there are few, if any, peacetime incidents in Lewisham that caused as many fatalities – the December 1952 London smog with a total death toll of between 4,000 and 12,000 may have well have done over a few days but data doesn’t seem to be broken down by borough.

There was a Ministry of Transport inquiry to find out what happened and to try to learn for the future.  The report found that the driver he had failed to slow after passing two caution signals so he was unable to stop at the danger signal, although some newspaper reports of the inquest suggest that he never saw it due to the density of the fog.  It concluded that an automatic warning system would have prevented the collision, although recognised that there were lines with even more rudimentary warning systems that needed to be prioritised.

The inquest jury found, by a majority decision that the 90 deaths were due to ‘gross negligence’ but it was a verdict rejected by the coroner who recorded one of accidental death.  The driver of the Ramsgate train was charged with manslaughter, but was acquitted at a second trial; at the first the jury were unable to reach a verdict.

The memorial to the crash is slightly oddly at Lewisham station given the proximity of the crash to St Johns, but perhaps it is more visible there at a busier station.  It seems strange that it gives no idea of the sheer enormity of the scale of the loss of life; it is sad that there is almost as much space is devoted to the names of the commercial organisations (a newspaper, two private rail companies and a funeral director)  who ‘made possible’ the installation of the plaque as to the accident itself.

A full list of the names doesn’t seem to be available for the crash, on line at least – something that just wouldn’t happen now.  The names of 86 of the 90 fatalities have been pieced together from on-line press reports, as well as the friends and relatives of those who died responding to this post.    While there are some local (to Lewisham) people, given the routes and destinations of the trains most of the dead were from the areas around Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Dover and Beckenham.

The youngest victim was Graham Freeman who was just three and had visited Father Christmas on Oxford Street that afternoon and was returning to Catford. He was found dead at the scene – a toy drum crushed by him and he was still holding a soft toy when he was found by rescuers (6).

Pat BakerPatricia (Pat) Baker was 19 and had lived at 9 Lushington Road, Bellingham since she was a toddler. She had been a pupil at Holbeach Secondary School in Catford.  When she she left, she had gone to work in statistics for the Regent Oil Company and liked going to the pictures and dancing.  Her Dad had tried to get the same train but had failed.  In the tangled debris of the crash she had hung upside down for 3 hours but was still chatting and joking with her rescuers before being able to be cut free; she he died in the early hours of 5 December (7).

Unlike the Hither Green crash a decade later, this crash felt a much longer time ago, the smaller hospitals of the early NHS, the pre-nationalisation steam trains and the rudimentary signalling and warning systems (semaphore was still used elsewhere).  They belonged to a different era, much less safe one – although as the 2016 Sandilands tram derailment showed, no rail system is 100% safe.

Next time you are travelling towards Lewisham through St Johns or from Nunhead, while the train probably won’t stop, at least pause for thought – the crash location will be obvious to even the occasional traveller on the line, remember those who died, remember that your journey is that little bit safer because of what happened to them.

image

Those who died included

  • Ms Agnes Adams (Embleton Road, Ladywell)
  • Mr Richard Allchin (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Joseph Allen (unknown)
  • Mr Leonard Ambrose (Tonbridge)
  • Ms Rosemary Gillian Ashley (Beckenham)
  • Miss Patricia Baker (Lushington Road, Bellingham)
  • Mr R A Baker (Beckenham)
  • Mr Morris J Banfield (Tonbridge)
  • Mr John Barnard (Tonbridge)
  • Mr P B Bassett (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Guthrie Birch (Folkestone)
  • Denise Bridle (Catford)
  • Mr F J Bond (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Charlesworth (West Wickham)
  • Pte Kenneth (wrongly referred to as Arthur) Clift (Hexal Road, Catford)
  • Mr Leonard Colin (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Coombs (Ashford)
  • Mr Roy Coppard (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Mr C A Davis (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Mr V B Emes (Abbey Wood)
  • Fusilier Brian England (Dover)
  • Mr C Everard (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Alfred Ernest Fletcher (Southborough)
  • Mr R Gibson Fleming
  • Mr Graham Freeman (Catford)
  • Mr H R Green (Horsmonden)
  • Mr Brian Hallas (Southborough)
  • Mr W J Halsey (Dymchurch)
  • Mr C Halstead (West Wickham)
  • Ms Florence Ada Harries (Persant Road, Excalibur Estate, Catford)
  • Mr Percy Heaver (Dover)
  • Ms Jospehine Henning (unknown)
  • Mr William Hicks (Sunderland Road, Forest Hill)
  • Miss Barbara Hubbard (Beckenham)
  • Mr M Humphries (Tonbridge)
  • Mr S T Humphries (Tonbridge)
  • Mr George Huxtable (Shirley)
  • Mr Colin James (Folkestone)
  • Mr Brian Jarrett (Pembury)
  • Mr Thomas Sydney Kennett (Dover)
  • Mr Sidney Lawrence (High Wycombe)
  • Miss E Leary (West Wickham)
  • Mr Liddle (Little) (Pembury)
  • Ms Eileen Mary Maskins (Downham)
  • Mr T W March (Tonbridge)
  • Miss F L Masters (Mastens) (Grove Park)
  • Mr McGauge (Not known)
  • Mr McGregor (Southborough)
  • Mr A R McGregor (Tonbridge)
  • Mr R D McGregor (Hildenborough)
  • Mr Robert Morley (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Rodney Newbery (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Vernon Newland (Beckenham)
  • Mr T F Nightingale (Tonbridge)
  • Miss A Noakes (Tonbridge)
  • Mr FJR Norris (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Mr C North (Chislehurst)
  • Mr Harry North (Folkestone)
  • Mr Andrew Phillips (New Romney)
  • Mr Colin Pope (Saltwood, near Folkestone)
  • Mr E J Pope (Hythe)
  • Dr Harold Priestley (Lewisham Park, Lewisham)
  • Mr Arthur Reeves (Romborough Way, Lewisham)
  • Mr L Relfe (Tonbridge)
  • Mr R W Reynolds (Crutchley Road, Downham)
  • Mr Derek Rose (Ardgowan Road, Catford)
  • Mr C E Rowson (Beckenham)
  • Mr Royle (Silvermere Road, Catford)
  • Mr Sedgewick (Dover)
  • Mr John Sherrott (West Wickham)
  • Mr John Shotton (Fordmill Road, Catford)
  • Mr Peter Slipper (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Edward Snook (Folkestone)
  • Mr Andrea Sofokis (Pomphret Road, Brixton)
  • Mr F Steeples (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Mr Charles George Stone (Southborough)
  • Mr Roy Harold Taylor (Folkestone)
  • Mr Roy Taylor (Tonbridge)
  • Mr R W Taylor (London)
  • Mrs S M Taylor (Broadfield Road, Catford)
  • Mr William Tidman (Beckenham)
  • R Wells (Camden)
  • Mr Ronald Williams (Downderry Road, Downham)
  • Mr Vernon Williams (Beckenham)
  • Mr John Wood (Tonbridge)
  • Mr W J Wyard (Hythe)

Notes

  1. Illustrated London News 14 December 1957
  2. The Sphere 14 December 1957
  3. Daily Express 5 December 1957
  4. Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail 5 December 1957
  5. George’s story comes from both a local paper – the Folkestone, Hythe and District Herald of 7 December 1957 and a emails from his daughter who also supplied his photograph.
  6. Daily Express 6 December 1957
  7. ibid

The Prince Arthur – A Lost Lee Green Pub

From the outside, some pubs lure you in with warmth, light or laughter exuding from the windows or doors.  A couple of hundred metres down Lee High Road from Lee Green,  the Duke of Edinburgh always has a welcoming feel, as did, The Woodman, a little further towards Lewisham – they are pubs that want to ‘pull’ in the wavering would–be drinker inside. Sadly, in its latter years, at least, the Prince Arthur, close to Lee Green, never seemed to be one of those pubs – it didn’t seem to offer even the slightest of enticements to the passing casual drinker to step inside.

The building was originally one of a row of early 19th century ‘cottages’ – several of which still survive on Lee high Road, and, from 1904 next door to the police station.  The latter closed around 2003 and was converted into flats and the pub only lasted another couple of years.  It is, however,pure conjecture as to whether the two events were in anyway linked…. The picture above from the London Metropolitan Archives – shows the pub – a quarter of the way in from the right in happier days.

The pub opened around 1870.  The name, Prince Arthur, was presumably after the  the 3rd son, 7th child, of Queen Victoria who had a local connection in that he attended the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich from 1865, when aged 16.

The first landlord seems to have been William Scudds; the 1871 census wasn’t that helpful in terms of detail, but 10 years earlier he was living on Eltham High Street, where he’d been born. The new pub was run with his wife Elizabeth, his sister in law, Charlotte, and help from two servants. Ten years later saw Elizabeth still there – listed as a beer seller, but William had died in 1876 – aged just 36.  Elizabeth was helped by two sisters and her sister-in-law when the census enumerators called in 1881.

Elizabeth married Alfred Thurston later in 1881; the only man of that name in the area was 70 in 1881, while they had a daughter around 1883, Alfred is not mentioned again in on-line records and Elizabeth is again listed as a widow in 1891.  It remained a business run by the family Elizabeth was still listed as a ‘beer retailer’ in 1901.  She died in 1910 at the age of 64 – a death registered in Greenwich.

Charles Gosling, born in 1872, seems to have taken on the pub soon after Elizabeth died, and like her, his tenure was a long one – he was still there when the 1939 Register was drawn up – the only other occupant then was Vera Brighty who undertook unpaid domestic duties.  Vera was from near Wisbech and seems to have remained in Lewisham until her death in 1998. It hasn’t been possible to find anything definitive about Charles on-line, other than he was probably born in Lambeth.

From the 1980s there seems to have been a steady trickle of licensees – Brian Levett from 1988, Roger Bristow from 1989, Carol Bristow from 1995 and probably the final landlord Gerald St Ange from 1999.  The photo to the left is from this era and via the Dover, Kent Archives of Lost Pubs.

There are fond memories of the pub in the late 1980s and 1990s in the era when Roger and Carol Bristow ran the pub (see comment from Tony below)  – ‘relaxed atmosphere, looked how a pub should be, darts, good jukebox and the odd after hour sessions.’  Roger knew the regulars by name and the after driking refuelling was at the also departed Starburger.

The turning point for the pub seems to have been Roger and Carol splitting up, Carol remained and turned the Prince Arthur into much more of a ‘party pub.’  The regulars seem to have drifted away soon after.

Other memories of the pub from that era seem few and far between – it doesn’t seem to warrant any mentions in Facebook public pages at least, while there are a few comments on other sites – notably  Beer in the Evening,  they were universally negative.  The repeatable ones include it being a ‘horrifically bad boozer.’

The pub pulled its last pint in 2005; this was well before the spate of closures after the change in smoking laws, along with changing drinking patterns and supermarkets discounting alcohol contributed to a 12% reduction in the number of pubs between 2007 and 2015. It was taken over after its closure in 2005 by the painting and decorating merchants – Driscolls – who moved from the shop front next door into the building.

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

Note

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past

 

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

 

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.

HG Rail1

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.

HG Rail2

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.