Category Archives: Lewisham History

Preparations for World War Two – ARP Wardens, Sirens and Black Outs

As part of the 80th anniversary of World War 2 breaking out, Running Past has been looking at some of the preparations for war on the ‘Home Front.’ So far, this has included Lewisham children being evacuated to Kent then Surrey and the variety of shelters used to one of the key elements try to keep the civilian population safe during air raids. We return now to the Civil Defence services set up to try to keep the civilian population that remained in London and other urban centres as safe as possible from the air attacks that were expected soon after war broke out.  This post looks in particular the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) service.

Like the building of shelters, the roots go back to the interwar period. The ARP Department of the Home Office was set up in 1935 (1),  although appeals for volunteers were not made until 1937 – the approach was based on studying the impact of fascist bombing of Republican areas of Spain and the measures that were employed on the ground there (2). A second appeal for volunteers was made in March 1938 (3).

In the months before war broke out, it was agreed to pay full time ARP personnel £3 per week, although only £2 for women, with recruitment posters stressing the desire for ‘responsible men.’ Later in the year payments for some part time personnel were agreed (4).

Some of the early work that ARP wardens had to contend with was enforcing the blackout that was introduced on 1 September 1939 and lasted until April 1945 (5). Shop windows were darkened from 6:00 pm as were houses – requiring heavy curtains or blankets to ensure that no light escaped. Streets in almost darkness were dangerous with a large increase in injuries – 20% of the population reported as having suffered blackout related injuries in the first 4 months that they were in operation.

Road deaths increased around 40% when compared with pre-war fatalities. Regular readers will recall that a few years earlier Lewisham streets were noted as being some of the most dangerous in London.

Source ebay March 2016

Their control centre was in the basement of the old Town Hall in Catford (above) and, after January 1940, was funded through the rates, a predecessor of Council Tax (6). Every bombing, incendiary and related incident was phoned through to the ARP control centre who effectively acted as an emergency call centre.  They would find out about injuries, deaths, those trapped or missing, any fires that couldn’t be controlled locally (7) and look to send emergency services to assist.  On nights where there was heavy bombardment or large numbers of incendiary devices dropped these were not always available, as we saw with the fire that destroyed the original Church of the Good Shepherd in Lee, below.

Below is one small part of the Lewisham ARP log for the period between Christmas and New Year in 1940, while there had been a lull on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, hundreds of high explosives and incendiary bombs were dropped over the next few days, many around Lee. We’ll explore these attacks in much more detail in later posts.

At the level below the control centre, Individual wardens were based at schools and some purpose built concrete ‘pillboxes’ (8) around the community. They each served a population of 2 to 3,000, typically with a complement of six wardens, mainly part time (9).

One of the ARP posts in Lee was at what was then Hedgley Street School, pictured above (it was later Northbrook and currently Trinity Lewisham School) on the corner of Taunton Road. Running Past has covered the Noble family, who started the war at 49 Lampmead Road, a number of times before, including in relation to 1920’s play and the ‘Sunday Constitutional.’ Several of the family members worked for the ARP – Phyllis was briefly a warden with a navy battledress and steel helmet with a large white ‘W’ on the front (10). Her brother Joe and a cousin, who also lived at 49 Lampmead Road, worked as messengers based at the School – while in theory there were telephone links to Catford, cycle and motor cycle based messengers were used too in case lines came down.

The school was hit while Phyllis’ younger brother, Joe, was working there and partially destroyed. He was to be the only one injured – a bruised ankle from a falling fireplace (11). The ARP post presumably moved to an undamaged part of the evacuated school.

On the ground, the local ARP wardens would deal with whatever was needed, this ranged from providing first aid to those injured in incidents, directing people to shelters and help in getting the dead and injured out of bombed premises, this was both for hits on houses as well as the larger scale destruction of incidents like the attack on Sandhurst Road School in early 1943.

In front of St Stephens Church in Lewisham is a tall metal post with what looks like a pair of speakers attached to the top. It is easy to miss, particularly when the adjacent trees alongside the Quaggy are in leaf. It seems to be Lewisham’s last remaining air raid warning siren – one of around 25 around the then Boroughs of Deptford and Lewisham (12).

Once the warning sounded ARP wardens ensured that residents took cover in one of the air raid shelters; they sounded on over 1200 occasions during the war. Other locations seem to have included a former police station on Catford Hill, Catford Police Station on Bromley Road and Sandhurst Road School. The survival of the Lewisham one probably relates to its location next to the Quaggy and has a residual use as a flood warning siren.

The chilling sound of the air raid warning siren and, at the end, the all clear sound is on the YouTube video.

Finally, it is worth remembering that many ARP wardens lost their lives during the war; across London around 300 perished (13).  Those that died serving their community in Lewisham included (14):

  • Albert Brown (64) of 1 Eliot Hill was Injured at 14 Montpelier Vale on 8 March 1945 in the aftermath of the V-2 attack on Blackheath and died later the same day at Lewisham Hospital (pictured below);
  • Henry Cottell (52) was a Senior Air Raid Warden of 41 Manor Lane Terrace was injured at Lee High Road on 29/12/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
  • Barbara Fleming (16) of 20 Farmfield Road in Bellingham was injured on 16/04/1941 at Warden’s Post, Ashgrove Road; died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
  •  Douglas Hardisty (44) ; of 70 Vancouver Road in Forest Hill who was a Captain in the  Home Guard as well as being an ARP Warden was Injured 21 March 1944, at corner of Vancouver Road and Kilmorie Road; he died at Lewisham Hospital;
  • Kenneth Smith (33) of 251 Burnt Ash Hill was injured at Methodist Chapel, Burnt Ash Hill on 13/10/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital; and
  • Marjorie Wickens (19) of 7 Taunton Road died at the Albion Way Shelter on 11 September 1940.


Running Past will return to the fire watchers, the expanded fire service and other elements of the in later posts on World War Two.

Notes

  1. Mike Brown (1999) Put That Light Out! Britain’s Civil Defence Services at War 1939-45 -Stroud, Sutton Publishing p2
  2. ibid p3
  3. ibid p5
  4. ibid p7
  5. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 – 1945 p12
  6. ibid p28
  7. ibid p28
  8. ibid p27
  9. ibid p27
  10. Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming Of Age in Wartime – London, Peter Owen, p42
  11. ibid p45
  12. Blake, op cit, p41
  13. ibid p29
  14. These are based on records from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

Picture Credits

  • The recruitment poster comes from the collection of the Imperial War Museum and is used on a Non-Commercial Licence.;
  • The photograph of Hedgley Street School & the ruins of the Good Shepherd come from a booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p16 and it used with the church’s permission;
  • The picture of Sandhurst Road School is via The Newsshopper;
  • The postcard of the Town Hall is from eBay in March 2016;
  • The ARP Log is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their consent and remains their copyright;
  • The photograph of Blackheath is of an unknown source, although given its age is probably a government one and would thus be out of copyright; and
  • The ARP helmet is via Wikipedia and is on a Creative Commons.

 

Preparation for World War Two – Going Underground

At the time of the anniversary of evacuation Running Past, started to look at some of the preparations for war on the ‘Home Front’ with Lewisham children being evacuated to Kent then Surrey.  We return now to some of the preparations that were made to try to keep the civilian population that remained in Lewisham as safe as possible from the air attacks that were expected soon after war broke out – looking here at air raid shelters.

In theory, planning had started just after World War 1 with the setting up of the Air Raid Precautions Committee in 1924.  As regular readers of Running Past will recall, there had been devastating air raids during World War 1 on both Glenview Road in Hither Green with a Zeppelin attack (above), and with a Gotha airplane attack on Sydenham Road which also bombed the area around Staplehurst Road and Hither Green Station. However, little progress had been made because of the apparently irreconcilable conflict between the need to send the public underground for shelter from air attack but the need to keep them above ground for in the event of gas attacks.  The latter had been expected as a result of gas attacks during World War 1.

During the Munich Crisis of September 1938 the Government instructed local authorities to start building trench air raid shelters with precast concrete walls which were then covered.  They became a permanent feature in the lead up to war.

There were a series of public shelters in Lewisham High Street under the planted area that ran down most of the market (see above from a couple of decades before World War 2) – they had to cope with day time raids when the town centre would be busy (1). One of these was to be hit by a V-1 rocket in July 1944. There were also large public shelters opposite Lewisham Hospital and in the grounds of Robertson’s Golden Shred works on Bromley Road (2).

Running Past covered a couple of the Lee shelters that were located in Manor House Gardens – one in the Ice House, and the other seemingly under the grass almost next to it – the likely outline appeared in the drought of 2018.  A third was under the lawn in front of Manor House Library was mentioned in passing in the Lewisham ARP log (3).

A large one was also constructed in the grounds of Merchant Taylors’ almshouses (above), although it isn’t clear whether this was just for the inhabitants of the almshouses or for wider use.  There is a ‘ghost sign’ on the external wall to the almshouses on the corner of Brandram and Lee High Roads – although it has faded and it isn’t certain whether it is pointing to Manor House Gardens or the almshouses.

Some local streets also had communal shelters too – one is shown at the back of a photograph of a VE Day street party in Taunton Road in Lee.

The public shelters were not bomb-proof and many people were killed in direct hits – this included one on the Albion Way shelter in Lewisham where 41 people died on 11 September 1940.  There was another street air raid shelter in the next road – Mercia Grove.  Memories of which were included on the BBC website around the 50th anniversary of VE Day – which was described

At the bottom of the stairs there were four bays. Each bay had a wooden slatted seat at either side, along its length. …We soon made the shelter comfortable, with rugs for the floor and a paraffin stove for warmth and to boil a kettle. We slept on the floor and on the benches. After a while, bunks were installed. These served as seats during the day when it was a public shelter and at night we were issued shelter tickets and a designated bunk number. .. Soon there was a sink installed and a small portable oven, for which we paid a small rental fee. When the blitz was at its height we went down at 6.30 after the evening meal, until the all clear, or until it was time to get ready to go to work the next day. On the long summer evenings (double British summertime) we played gramophone records in the street and danced to the music, when all was quiet, no Jerry’s above.

Other locations too were used as air raid shelters, including underneath railway arches, such as those in Ladywell which, like its Lee counterparts, had a painted sign showing the way to it which still survives above it.

Below, a probably more permanent one than was possible under the arches in Ladywell is pictured from elsewhere in SE London. There were also railway arch shelters at Plough Bridge (sheltering 40, close to Lewisham Station); Morley Road (95) and Catford Hill (105) (4).

 

Elsewhere in London tube stations were used, but this clearly wasn’t an option in south east London. Initially cellars and basements of larger houses, churches and factories were also used but their use brought with it dangers of collapse of the building above with heavy masonry or machinery coming through from higher floors.   A few buildings built just ahead of World War Two were built with air raid shelters, such as one in East Sheen, covered in the excellent Flickering Lamps blog.

One of the stranger public shelters used by Lee and Hither Green residents involved catching a train to Chislehurst to shelter in the caves; even when London had been free of attacks for a couple of months in July 1941, 2,000 still sheltered there every night (5).

Not all air raid shelters were communal ones, it wasn’t always feasible for people to quickly get to the public ones, so individual household ones were developed – Anderson shelters (below) which were external and the internal Morrison ones.

Anderson shelters were named after Sir John Anderson, who was the Government Minister responsible for air-raid precautions prior to the outbreak of World War II.  They were made from 14 galvanised steel panels bolted together and were 1.8 m high, 2 metres long and 1.4 metres wide, and were buried 1.2 metres deep and then covered with 40 centimetres of soil.  They ‘housed’ six and were issued free to all householders who earned less than £5 a week, which was most people in areas such as Lewisham; those with a higher income were charged £7 for them.  In Lewisham around 23,000 were issued – so about 192,000 could be accommodated (6).

Running Past visited a partially fictional Anderson shelter on the Brockley/New Cross borders when looking at one of the early works of one of Lewisham’s best known authors – David Lodge’s Out of The Shelter.

While they performed well apart from dealing with direct hits, as they were buried in the ground they tended to be cold and damp, not the place to spend lots of consecutive nights – something common at the height of the German Bombing campaign.  The level of waterlogging led some Lewisham families to go back to the original advice and hide under the stairs.

My former next door neighbours  Jack (actually George) and Doris had an Anderson Shelter in their garden which was still dug into its original place by his first wife’s parents; while the soil covering of the roof was removed, they used it as a shed until they died in the late 1990s.  This was not uncommon – while local authorities collected the shelters as scrap many hung on to them, with several memories of playing in them in and around Lewisham into the 1960s.

Morrison Shelters were indoor shelters which, in theory at least, could be used as tables between air raids.  They were named after the Minister of Home Security at the time that they were first issued – Herbert Morrison, who was to become Labour MP for Lewisham South in the 1945 General Election.

Pictured below, they were effectively a cage 2 metres, by 1.2 metres and 0.75 metres high with a steel plate top and mesh sides. They had to be assembled IKEA-like by the household, with tools supplied.  Like the Anderson Shelters, they were provided free to low income households.  Around 500,000 were distributed during the Blitz with a further 100,000 ahead of V-1 attacks.  They were much more effective than the Anderson Shelters in preventing protecting households even withstanding some direct hits.

In posts in the not too distant future we will look at other World War 2 preparations on the Home Front – gas masks, warning sirens, the Women’s Voluntary Services and the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) wardens.

Notes

  1. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 – 1945 p41
  2. ibid p42
  3. The ARP log for Lewisham is a fragile document that lists (virtually) all the attacks, property by property, raid by raid – we will come back to this in future posts.
  4. Blake op cit p43
  5. ibid p43
  6. ibid p41

 

Picture credits

 

 

The Sultan – A Lost Lee High Road Pub

The Sultan was a Lee High Road pub on the corner of Clarendon Rise which was demolished in the early 2000s and is now (2019) a Nandos with four floors of flats above. This post attempts to tell the story of the pub whose drinkers included on occasion John Cooper Clarke and Siouxsie & the Banshees.

There have been two pubs on the site; the first seems to date back to around 1825 (1) and predated the development of the College Park estate on the opposite side of the Quaggy. When built, there was no bridge over the river at that point – this seems to have come as the estate behind was developed. Little is known of the first incarnation until its latter years other than the Lord of the Manor omitting to collect the rent so the tenant obtaining the title (2).

While the unknown tenant may have taken ownership, the beer house seems to have been bought by Courage at some time in the 1860s and 1870s; it was reported in 1870 that they had given a 17 year lease to Ambrose Paine who had gone bankrupt.  His mother, Elizabeth had asked to take over the tenancy but was refused and Courage took them to court to gain vacant possession (3).

Robert Janes, born around 1825, was the landlord during the 1870s – in 1871, he and his wife, Martha and five children were living over the pub, and unlike many other local pubs of the era there were no live-in staff. A decade earlier and he’d been a butcher living on Lewisham Road, close to Blackheath Hill.  It was a trade that he’d carried on in Lewisham in 1851.

The Quaggy which runs behind the site flooded badly in 1878 – the picture above shows the damage a few hundred metres upstream at Eastdown Park.  The flood  seems to have seriously financially damaged Janes – it was the third time in his stewardship that it had flooded and unlike neighbours, who had some financial relief from the parish, Janes got nothing – he posed the question in the local press as to whether it was ‘on account of my being a beer house keeper?’ (4).

The letter may have had an impact though as a new gully was constructed to try to protect the cellars and they escaped flooding in August 1879 (5).

The next name above the door was that of Frederick Waghorn from the spring of 1880 – Frederick put out adverts in the local press advertising ‘wines and spirits of the finest quality’ at The Sultan in (5).   Frederick was noted as being a plasterer in the 1881 census, so it was presumably Sarah who was running the pub its early years.  Frederick died in 1889.

At some stage in their period at The Sultan, the beer house was rebuilt (7).  Throughout the period that the Waghorns were there, the new building was split with a shop front on the corner of Clarendon Rise – as the mid-1890s Ordnance Survey map below shows. Between 1886, and probably earlier, the occupants of 16 on the corner were fruitiers, initially Thomas Longhurst but from 1888 to the end of the first decade of the 20th century Walklings, although  variety of others used the site too.

In the early days the of the Waghorn tenancy the Sultan was also home to the Lee and Lewisham Harmonic Brotherhood, who held a quarterly supper there (8).

After Frederick’s death, the licence passed several times between family members – initially it was Sarah’s name on the brass plate (9), but it was transferred to her son Walter in 1896 (10).

However, it was back in Sarah’s name by 1904 as she was found guilty of ‘selling intoxicating liquor to a drunken person’ (11). She was back in court for the same offence the following year but with a much larger fine of £2 with costs (12).  The pub is on the right hand side of the photograph below from Lee Bridge from around this era, although its ‘sign’ isn’t that clear.

By 1911 George Craddock was pulling the pints at The Sultan, he was a Bermondsey boy, helped by his wife Alice – they’d probably been there a couple of years as their young children were born in Lee. George came from a family of pub landlords – his father was running Blackheath’s Royal Standard in 1901, and a decade before the City Arms in West Square, Bermondsey. His older brother, Thomas, ran the Woodman further up Lee High Road.  George stayed at The Sultan until the late 1920s.  It seems that it was under his stewardship that The Sultan took over the shop front next door, around 1925. It seems that he moved onto a different pub – in the 1939 Register he was listed as a Licensed Victualler, living in Upwood Road although it isn’t clear which pub he was running.  He died in Lewisham in 1967.

By the 1930 Kelly’s Directory it was listed as being run by Richards and Sons. Nine years later, when World War 2 broke out the landlord was, Leonard Orves who lived some distance away in Ronver Road.   W J High was the landlord in 1945; succeed by his wife or daughter Ellen in 1950.  Beyond the 1950s while the pub is listed in Kelly’s Directories, the name of the landlord is absent,

Roll forward 50 years, the pub had a mixed, but overall positive, review in the News Shopper in 2000; their Pub Spy described as a ‘curious little gaff’ which ‘doesn’t exactly look welcoming from the outside.’ It had an ‘Under New Management’ sign – usually subtext for past problems which may or may not have been dealt with.

The décor was mainly dark wooden panelling, the public bar complete with pool table was empty although the lounge at the rear was busier and noisier with rock ‘n’ roll and reggae from the jukebox.  The review summed the pub up as

The Sultan is not a good bet for young groups on the razzle, or even an ideal family boozer. But it is a pub for friendly, real people who enjoy their drink.

The new management didn’t last long though, as in October 2002 planning permission was granted to demolish and replace The Sultan with a 4 storey block of flats and a restaurant – presumably the well-known purveyor of peri peri chicken, Nando’s, had been lined up by the developers before their submission.  Its neighbour is the stunning London Sivan Kovil Hindu Temple, just visible behind.

With most of the Lewis ham and Lee pubs that have disappeared there seem to be fond memories on-line, these were included for posts on pubs such as the Woodman and New Tiger’s Head further up Lee High Road and the town centre pubs The Plough and The Roebuck.  Sadly, with The Sultan there are few memories, even fewer than for the largely unlamented loss of the Prince Arthur at Lee Green.  Even a photograph proved tricky to find – it wasn’t clearly photographed in any of the boxes of photographs of Lee or Lewisham at Lewisham Archives.  The nearest was a photograph taken from the Lee Bridge (see above) the junction of Lewis Grove, Belmont Hill and Lee High Road. 

I have no fond memories of the Sultan either – I can only remember going in once, and that wasn’t planned.  Sometime during 1993, I had been into Lewisham with my toddler son in a buggy and was confronted by a low-speed car chase – the pursued car had come out of Clarendon Rise, had mounted the pavement in a vain attempt to evade the traffic backing up at the junction of Belmont Hill and Lewis Grove.  The narrow pavement was busy so the driver slowly inched towards the Clock Tower.

I took evasive action and pushed the buggy into the Sultan’s lounge; I was met by a small, slightly unsteady stampede coming the other way of drinkers, glasses in hand, eager to find out the reason for the siren and flashing lights.  The Sultan wasn’t the most inviting pub lounge I’ve ever been in – dark and a fug of smoke so thick that the bar was a little indeterminate in outline.  Outside the excitement swiftly abated; the police pursuers had quickly arrested the driver who had come to a halt when a lamppost blocked his path.  The drinkers retreated back into the boozer and we returned to the healthier atmosphere of the heavily polluted Lee High Road with the young driver being led away by the constabulary.

While I have no fond memories, David (see comments below) most certainly did from the late 1970s and early 1980s

I drank here from 1977 to 81. I lived up the road in 35 Gilmore road. It was run by Dougie an ex boxer, who everyone called Dougie Sultan. He would punch any drinkers who misbehaved. He was short but shaped like a barrel. It was a real dive but tolerated any drinker who behaved. We were punks and art school kids and unwelcome in most pubs, but not the Sultan. As a consequence at some point it hosted for a drink Siouxie and the Banshees, Swellsie the pink poet, John Cooper Clark and many others.

A featured drinker was a council worker called Sid who resurrected knocked over lampposts. He used to sing a song at the to of his voice – “I am pissy Sid from Sydenham Hill, never worked and never will”.

The Sultan- to its credit, was significant in the “Battle of Lewisham High Street”, when the National Front marched through Lewisham – by joining forces with the Kebab shop opposite (the Bogaz Icci) to drive the fascists out.

As with other ‘lost pub posts’ on Running Past, it would be good to be able to add in some other memories into the post. If you worked there or drank there tell your story – who were the characters that were regulars at The Sultan? What about the landlord, the staff, the atmosphere, recollections of the friends and the memorable nights.  You can use your Facebook or Twitter login to comment here, first comments here get moderated before they appear though.  If you found the post via Facebook, you can write your recollections there.  I will update the post with the memories.  Please don’t put anything libelous or that might offend others though…..

Notes

  1. Ken White (1992) The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham, Part 6C p240
  2. ibid p240
  3. Kentish Mercury 12 March 1870
  4. Kentish Mercury 03 August 1878
  5. Kentish Mercury 30 August 1879
  6. Woolwich Gazette 17 April 1880 and several others
  7. White, op cit, p240
  8. Kentish Mercury 17 December 1886
  9. Kentish Mercury 14 February 1890
  10. Kentish Mercury 28 August 1896
  11. Kentish Independent 24 June 1904
  12. Kentish Mercury 02 June 1905

Picture & Other Credits

  • The photographs from Lee Bridge and of the bridge on Eastdown Park are part of the collection of Lewisham Archives and is their copyright and used with their permission.
  • The Kelly’s Directory information comes from a mixture of Lewisham and Southwark archives.
  • Census and related data come via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The Ordnance Survey map is part of the National Library of Scotland’s collection and is used on a non-commercial licence.

Hurst & Lee Lodges – Wealthy Victorians to Rocking Horses, Record Distribution & 1980s Flats

Before the arrival of the railways Lee was still rural and ome to a series of country houses for the wealthy – Running Past has covered several of these already, Lee Place, the Manor House, Pentland House, Lee House and The Firs that were along Old Road. A little further to the west, along Lee High Road towards Lewisham was a slightly smaller pair of country houses, Hurst Lodge and Lee Lodge – the map below shows them from the 1860s.

It would have been farmland prior to the building of the two large houses which may well have been part of the estate of Dacre House – perhaps fields of the farm on the ‘opposite side of Brandram Road’ to which was managed by James Lawman who died in 1827 (1).

The exact date the houses were built is unclear – with Pevsner suggesting 1819 (2), although the page on Hurst Lodge in Ideal Homes gives the build date as 1837. While the story of their later years is intertwined we’ll look at them separately to start with.

Lee Lodge

Lee Lodge was the house that was slightly closer to Lewisham of the pair and also referred to as 125 Lee High Road, after the current numbering arrangements were introduced in the late 19th century.

The early owners or tenants have been difficult to pin down for Lee Lodge. However, by 1851 it was home to Thomas Drane, a Civil Engineer who seemed to specialise in railway work and the year before had been briefly Professor of Civil Engineering at Queen’s College, Galway.  Along with him was his wife, Alice, and three step children and a complement of 6 servants.  Thomas didn’t make the next census; he died in Lewisham in 1855.

The next obvious census listing was in the 1881 census; unfortunately for posterity is that the owners/tenants were away – the Head of Household was Hannah Gibbons who was described as ‘Servant in Charge.’ However, electoral registers suggest that the owner was Mark Mills who despite not appearing in censuses, appears to have been there from at least 20 years from 1868.

From 1889 Lee Lodge was home to Henry George Smallman, a central London Solicitor, in the 1891 census he was living there his wife Louisa, 6 children and 4 servants. Henry Smallman seems to have put the Lodge up for sale in 1896. He clearly understood the changing nature of Lee – describing it as (3):

A picturesque family detached residence with charming old grounds, offering in its present form a comfortable and retired abode, with a fine billiard room 34’ by 19’, and without basement, but equally adaptable for a place of workshop, social or political club, house or school or other institution. The property is, however, on account of its central position and large extent, of greatest value as a freehold site, available for the erection of extensive premises in connection with the business of a builder, contractor, carrier, jobmaster, laundryman, furniture warehouseman, or other commercial undertaking. Smallman seems to have previously sold the narrow strip of land facing directly onto the High Road for the shops of Manor Park Parade which opened around 1895.

The suggestion of ‘carrier’ or perhaps some targeted marketing of the site to them seems to have led to the next occupants of the site – the removal and haulage company Pickfords who presumably used it as their local base for removals. By 1900 – the house, or at least the outhouses, were being used by for stabling for some for their horses and presumably their base (a photograph of the same era from their Salisbury depot), although the Hammond family were effectively acting as housekeepers in the 1901 census.

By 1911 it was still being used by Pickfords , but the building was being shared with a complementary business – the farriers, Parr, Williams and Son. By 1916 Pickfords had moved their operation to 18 Manor Parade in front of the house.  Their horses had presumably departed, probably replaced by motorised vehicles as had happened with Thomas Tilling’s buses from Old Road. Another firm of ‘carriers’ had moved into Lee Lodge, Carter Paterson who were associated with on-going transport from railway stations; they stayed there until the early 1920s.

Lee Lodge appears to have been demolished by Pickfords, certainly there was no sign of it in the 1914 surveyed Ordnance Survey map which described the site as a ‘Carrier Depot.’

Hurst Lodge

The first tenant is unclear, while Ideal Homes suggests that it was a ‘ship owner’ – this is likely to have been Benjamin Thomas Crichton who was listed at Hurst Lodge in 1851 along with his wife, niece and 4 servants. He was living nearby in Lee Road in 1841 when the census enumerators called though.  Crichton died in 1855.

Relatively long term residents of Hurst Lodge were the Kersey family (the house is pictured above from early in their residence); Robert was a financier and industrialist. They moved in around 1881 staying for most of the 1880s before letting the house out for a while.

They had returned by the time of the 1901 census, Robert was to die early in the 20th century, but the house stayed in the family – initially Robert’s widow Harriett and then son Alexander remained there until the mid-1920s; it was to be a short term move for the latter as he sold up to Patterson Edwards in the mid to late 1920s, enabling them to take over the entire site.

Soon after Patterson Edwards took over the full site, a narrow strip fronting Lee High Road was sold for housing. The flats built are some of the more prominent and elegant Art Deco style flats in Lewisham; they will be the subject of a separate post in the future although seem in want of a little ‘love’ appearing, from the outside at least, a little neglected.

Patterson Edwards were listed in early Kelly’s Directories as ‘toy manufacturers,’ best known for producing rocking horses, with the Leeway brand. However, they made prams, children’s bicycles and tricycles, toy motors cars and wheelbarrows too.

By 1931, they were employing 300 in Lee in an extensive factory. The extent of the factory can be seen in the photograph from the air in 1939. Around 35,000 rocking horses with hand carved faces were made in Lee until production of them stopped in 1966.

Patterson Edwards moved to Orpington in the early 1970s, although didn’t last that much longer – they ceasing trading a decade later.

The site seems to have been empty for a year or two before Selecta moved there from a smaller site in Southwark in 1974. Selecta was the distribution and sales arm of Decca, dealing with telephone sales and orders from record shops up and down the country. Decca was a predominantly classical record label in that era, and also sold lots of popular orchestral music such as James Last; but their catalogue also included Adam and the Ants and various novelty acts such as the Smurfs and Windsor Davies and Don Estelle – who visited the depot.

 

Selecta was on the site until the mid to late 1980s, when Decca sold the site for property development. Halley and Celestial Gardens is a low rise flatted development, which, from the outside at least, has stood the test of time better than many developments of that era. The name presumably comes from the Astronomer Royal who is buried in the Old St Margaret’s churchyard.  The development is somewhere that Running Past, has visited before when following the prime meridian as there is an elegant pergola at zero degrees within the grounds.

Notes

  1. Edwyn and Josephine Birchenough (1968) Two Lee Houses – Dacre House and Lee House pp39-40
  2. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p423
  3. The Times (London), May 23, 1896

Credits

  • The black and white photos of Hurst Lodge and the Decca entrance are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright.
  • The photgraph of the Pickford horse-drawn vehicle is from Pickford’s website
  • The rocking horse photograph comes from eBay, August 2019
  • Census, electoral register and related data comes via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The Kelly’s Directory information comes from a mixture of Lewisham and Southwark archives.
  • The Ordnance Survey map is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-Commercial Licence
  • The 1939 aerial photograph is via the fantastic Britain from Above, its use is allowed in non-commercial blogs such as Running Past, it remains their copyright

Elmwood & the Catford Constitutional Club

Elmwood is a former farm house in the centre of Catford, only really visible from the side in Thomas’ Lane, although it is better known from the sign at the front on Catford Road which beckons the passer-by down an alley between shops.  The legend on the sign is now (September 2019) ‘Catford Constitutional Club.’

It is a building that dates from 1736, Cherry and Pesvner briefly describe it (1) as

a three bay house that was added to over the years. It is hidden by a mid-19th century extension with ironwork. The core of the old building can be seen, but is partly hidden by 20th century extensions.

Elmwood from the 1950s

Elmwood was built by Nelgarde Doggett who gave his name to the neighbouring Nelgarde and Doggett Roads. It was marked  on John Rocque’s 1746 map of the ‘Country Near Ten Miles Round’ London.

It is clearly shown on the Ordnance Survey map from 1863, below, there were a series of water features  (some relating to the former adjacent Manor House)- these were fed by a stream seemingly called Springfield which looks as though it flowed alongside Bromley Road.  The diverted flow into the Ravensbourne would have been around where the slight dog-leg in Doggett Road now is, with a confluence with the Ravensbourne opposite Bournville Road. The stream seems to have been completely culverted when roads like Doggett and Nelgarde Roads were built.

By the time the map was drawn Elmwood was no longer a farm.  When the census enumerators had called in 1861 it was home to George Deane, a publisher and printer, along with his family and three servants.  Deane was possibly attacted by  the railway that had come to Catford Bridge in 1857; Catford Station was not marked as it didn’t open until 1892.  Census records for Elmwood for 1841 and 1851 proved difficult to find it was not listed in any obvious form, despite trawling through every farm related census record in the area.

By 1871 it was home to West Indies Merchant, William Houston and his wife Mary, their young family, Mary’s mother and four servants.  Two generations earlier and this was a trade that would have had clear links with slavery as we found with Lee’s Manor House, but while emancipated and free in name, local plantation owners still wielded vast amounts of power and with shifts in the markets led to massive unemployment, low wages and high levels of poverty in the islands.

It was still a private residence in 1881 – home to the Harris family – William a timber merchant, Constance, their two adult children and 4 servants – including a butler. According to electoral registers they were there from around 1879 to 1883 when William Jenkins moved in.

The timing as to when it became the Conservative and Unionist Club isn’t entirely clear and information slightly contradictory. The 1891 census showed it as home to the widowed Mary/Annie Howcroft and her family. However, two years earlier there was a press notice saying that the Conservative club which was already in residence was looking to buy the lease (2).  Maybe, at that point the rambling house was being shared.

Whatever the arrangement was at that point, it was certainly the Conservative and (sometimes) Constitutional Club throughout the 20th century – the Pusey/Puzeys were there from at least 1897 and in the 1901 census were listed as Club Steward and Stewardess – their live-in household oddly included a 15 year old William Hales who was listed in the census as a ‘page.’

The need for a ‘page’ continued in 1911 when the Beresfords were running the club – it was then Herbert Booker. As World War 2 broke out 1939, the Club Steward was William Adams, born in 1907, his wife Ivy born in 1911 one person redacted (probably a daughter Beryl who was born in the summer of 1939) and Henry Webb a Post Office Stores keeper – Ivy’s brother.  The picture of the interior of the club above is from the early 1950s.

The last licensees of the Conservative Club moved out towards the end of the 20th century – perhaps SE6 ran out of drinking Tories – and by 2008 paint was peeling, Elmwood was fenced off, and the alley was used for in-the-know parking.

Pub Company Antic London took over the building in 2013, having previously run the Catford Bridge Tavern and have breathed some fresh life into the decaying building in their inimitable, slightly quirky way – renaming it the Catford Constitutional Club .   While it appeared for a while that Elmwood may be under threat from redevelopment, Lewisham Council have made it clear that they want to see the core retained in future development.

 

However, in mid-August 2019 further structural surveys were undertaken which found

  • The roof in the Georgian section of the building (presumably that with a worsening kink visible from Thomas’ Lane) was in a ‘very dangerous condition and sections of it are at risk of falling down;’
  • Parts of the inside of the building were identified as ‘an immediate fire safety risk;’
  • There were risks of falling tiles from other parts of the building.

On the basis of these quite serious risks to public safety Lewisham Council decided to ‘close the building’ to enable works to be carried out to make it safe.  Antic’s tenancy was ended as part of the same process, it is the end of an era and the building enters another period of uncertainty.

Notes

  1. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p427
  2. Kentish Mercury 10 May 1889

Credits

  • The black and white photos of Elmwood are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright.
  • Census, shipping and related data comes via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The Ordnance Survey map is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-Commercial Licence
  • John Rocque’s 1746 map is on a Creative Commons via Wikipedia

Evacuation – From Catford to the Surrey Countryside

Large numbers of children were evacuated from London and other major towns and cities just before the declaration of war in September 1939. This post tells the story of one group from some schools on the Catford/Hither Green borders.

The bombing of the Basque town of Guernica in Spain by planes of the German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War in 1937 made British politicians expect an aerial onslaught on London within days of any war breaking out with Germany with likely large scale damage. In trying to mitigate the impact of this, a lot of the focus went on air defences,  but a big chunk involved  planning for the evacuation children and some mothers with infants from London and  other British cities and towns felt to be at risk.

The massive logistical plans for evacuation were put into practice on 1 September 1939 – the day Poland was invaded by Germany and a couple of days before war with Germany was declared. Thousands of people were involved and included teachers, local authority officials, railway staff, and 17,000 members of the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS). One of these seems to have been Olive Llewhellin, twenty five years before she was a militant suffragette living in Lee.

Over the course of three days, 1.5 million people were evacuated. Evacuation was initially voluntary, but a combination of the closure of many urban schools and a fear that bombing would start almost as soon as war was declared persuaded large numbers to allow their children to live with and be cared for by strangers. The taking in of evacuees was compulsory if the household had room.

There were a trio of schools be located by the Brownhill Road entrance to Mountsfield ParkCatford Central Boys School, Brownhill Road Boys School which was split into infants and juniors. The site is now a mixture of housing and a petrol station, the schools having been demolished in the early 1990s.

The parents will have been given a list of things that the children should take with them when evacuated. These items included a ‘gas mask in case (which had already been issued), a change of underclothes, night clothes, plimsolls (or slippers), spare stockings or socks, toothbrush, comb, towel, soap, face cloth, handkerchiefs and a warm coat.’   These were things that in the poor areas of London, such as Hither Green that many families struggled to provide.

The Senior Boys snaked down Brownhill Road to Catford Station on Saturday 2 September with the Juniors making the same journey on the Monday. Their the initial destination was Ashford in Kent where they were taken to a school or theatre to await being billeted.  The quality of the accommodation and how well the children were looked after was understandably hit and miss.

Schooling in Ashford was limited, with teaching resources in short supply – it included the use of a Salvation Army Hall, heated with a stove that belched out fumes requiring the building to be periodically evacuated to allow the smoke to disperse.

The expected air attacks on London didn’t materialise as soon as expected and there was a drift of children back to their parents, the return journeys were against the advice of the Government as the poster shows. The children from Catford Central and Brownhill Road were no different in this respect with around a half of the children having returned to south east London- a temporary school was set up for them.

Germany invaded Holland and Belgium in May 1940 and it was no longer felt that Ashford was safe so the children from the Catford/Hither Green border were moved to Sayers Croft near Ewhurst in Surrey later that month.

In April 1939 the National Camps Corporation was set up through the Camps Act to fund and construct camps that in peace-time would be used as educational holiday centres for children during but in war-time for evacuees. Eight of these were built, including Sayers Croft – it cost £25,968 and was designed to accommodate

348 children in six dormitories, together with a hall, a very large dining room with kitchens attached, 4 classrooms, a hospital block for 7 patients and quarters for camp staff, the camp superintendent, and the Headmaster

Things were difficult for teachers too – there were no school holidays and children had to be looked after at the weekends. While there was some help from locals in Ewhurst, the teachers worked 11 days a fortnight with no holidays.  Lessons were fairly standard fayre for the era but in craft the lessons included boot repairs – important in a period when clothing was rationed and a being able to make do and mend was vital.  When the weather allowed it, lessons were taught outside – reminiscent of the McMillan sisters’ theories on early years teaching, Rachel and Margaret lived at the opposite end of Mountsfield Park for a while.

As was the case in the park next to the school, Mountsfield Park, some of the land belonging to the camp was turned into allotments as the children from Catford were encouraged to ‘dig for victory’.

There were a couple of murals (155 cm²) painted in 1942 of activities at the camp – one showing summer lessons and pursuits and the one pictured for the winter.

The children went to the pictures in nearby Cranleigh and some films were shown in the hall, the staff did pantamines at Christmas. Unlike those chidlren who were evacuated well away from London, the children from Catford, still being relatively close to home, had monthly visits from their parents on the last Sunday of the month.

As we saw with the post on the bombing of Sandhurst Road School many of the children who had been initially evacuated from London during the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, returned to the capital after the end of the bombing in May 1941. Some of the children then back at Brownhill Road were shot at during the same raid in which Sandhurst Road was bombed .

There was a further wave of evacuations from Lewisham and elsewhere when the V-1 rockets started hitting the area in June 1944 – including on the second day of attacks a hit on Lewisham Hill and included in the following days attacks on Lenham Road, Lewisham High Street, Fernbrook Road and the area around Hither Green Station.   Some children remained away from their homes throughout the war.

After the end of the War, Sayers Croft was intitally used to rehabilitate a group of Dutch children following the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, but then went back tot its secondary purpose as an educational holiday centres. It was transferred to the Greater London Council and eventually to the Sayers Croft Trust, an educational and environmental charity.

As for the School, maybe more on that another day but it continued until the late 1980s, when it was demolished for housing and a petrol station.

Notes and Thanks

  • The postcard of the camp is undated and comes from eBay in November 2016
  • The two posters come from the Imperial War Museum archives and are used here on a non-commercial licence, they remain the copyright of the IWM.
  • The photograph of the evacuees comes from the collection of Olive Llewhellin, a suffragette who had lived in Lee, but in 1939 was living in Poole – the picture is owned by Ruth Knapton – Olive’s adopted niece and is used with her permission but remains her copyright.
  • The school photograph is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission but remains their copyright.
  • The external teaching photograph is from the Sayers Croft Trust website, and the mural from their Twitter feed.
  • There is a lot more on Sayers Croft in a booklet produced, probably in the early 1990s but is available on line – via the University of Greenwich Memories of War site – the photograph of the children outside the block come from this booklet.

 

Mountsfield – the Park, the House & the Butterflies

Hither Green Lane largely follows a ridge that is the watershed between the Ravensbourne and the Quaggy, it once offered fine views to the east towards Shooters Hill and to the west along the Ravensbourne and Pool valleys and Forest Hill, once part of the Great North Wood. These vistas were no doubt the reason behind the location of several large houses, that were homes to the wealthy – including Campshill House, Laurel Cottage, Oak Cottage, Wilderness House, Hither Green Lodge, and Mount Pleasant. Perched around the highest point on the ridge was Mountsfield – this post tells the story of the house, its occupants and the Park that came after.
The land for Mountsfield seems to have been bought around 1845 by Henry Stainton of Springfield House (1). Springfield was at what is now the junction of Rushey Green and Hawstead Road, next to the almshouses, it was named after a stream that ran alongside the main road (2).Henry Stainton was a wealthy iron merchant and the land and house that was built on it seem to have been bought for his son, Henry Tibbats Stainton as a wedding present when he married Jane Isabel Dunn (also from an iron and steel family) at Sheffield Cathedral in 1846. Henry Tibbats Stainton was born in August 1822 and baptised in the City of London church  St Benet, Paul’s Wharf.  But the family seem to have moved to Lewisham soon after. He was educated at home before going to King’s College, London before working for his father as an iron merchant.
The house seems to have been finished in 1847 (3), with the wide main drive sweeping slightly round from the current entrance in George Lane (above). The footprint and size suggest something rather grand, sadly though, no pictures seem to survive of it other than photos of bits of walls. The house was badly built, and had to be demolished in 1905 (4) – we’ll return to that later. A stable block remained until 1969, when it was largely destroyed by fire and that, along with some other outbuildings, were demolished in 1981 (5).

The outbuildings (partly shown above), latterly used as a cafe, were home to Henry Tibbats Stainton’s museum relating to his interest in entomology. Henry Tibbats Stainton had developed an interest in moths and butterflies around 1840 and by the time he moved to Mountsfield was a recognised authority on them.

The preface to ‘Stainton’s Handbook of Butterflies and Moths’ was penned at Mountsfield in February 1857. However, his references to Lewisham, Hither Green and Catford are disappointingly few and far between in the first volume.

He spotted Cosmidæ Euperia Fulvago, a moth that is ‘pale ocherous, faintly tinged with grey with darker centre’ spotted in Lewisham in 1846 (6). I have a mental ‘picture’ of Stainton wandering through the fields of North Park Farm or a little further afield to the meadows of Burnt Ash Farm. I hope that when he noted that ‘In lanes we find in addition to these, several species of Hipparchia, and perhaps the Fritlillaries, Hair Streaks and Skippers,’ (7) that this included the still rural Hither Green Lane and the farm track that became Verdant Lane. If there were sightings here they would have been included in ‘common everywhere’ category, frequently used by Stainton.
There seem to have been relatively local wanderings with mentions of Trochillium Incheumoniforme – a tiny moth was once observed at Charlton sand-pit, probably Gilbert’s Pit (8). He spotted several rare species in West Wickham Woods including Lophopteryx Carmelita (picutred), a reddish brown moth (9) and another moth Limacodes Testudo (10).

Stainton died from stomach cancer in December 1892 at Mountsfield, and was buried in the family vault at St Mary’s, Lewisham. An obituary described him as ‘a genial and generous friend and a painstaking industrious worker….(who took a) truly biological approach to taxonomy’.

By the time Henry Tibbats Stainton died, the city was encroaching on Mountsfield; the streets below to the west built on the former Mount Pleasant had been laid out and much of the housing built.

It would appear that Jane Stainton at least contemplated selling up soon after her husband’s death. She appointed a surveyor to act for her, as was noted in the enquiry in relation to building a Fever Hospital next door on the land belonging to Wilderness House and Hither Green Lodge. The surveyor suggested that the building of the Fever Hospital would lead to land of the Mountsfield estate, then valued at £500 – £600 an acre, being reduced to as little as £150 an acre (11).

In reality, Jane Stainton didn’t sell up and remained at Mountsfield until her death in 1898. There appear to have been some legal complexities in relation to what happened following Jane Stainton’s death without a will, which appear to have related to interests in both Scotland and England. The estate was put up for auction in 1900 as a result of a legal case McLaren v Stainton, although presumably wasn’t sold (12).

The following year, the London County Council (LCC) Schools Board purchased 14 acres for a school on Brownhill Road. It was noted at the same time that the LCC was looking to buy the rest of the estate for a park given the lack of one in the area (13).

The purchase of six acres for the park wasn’t completed by the LCC until 1904 though, with half funding coming the old Borough of Lewisham (14). The Park was opened in August 1905, and was soon extended as the LCC decided that they only needed half of the land that they had set aside for the school and the remaining 7 acres was returned to parkland – presumably land close to Brownhill Road (15). This would have addressed concerns expressed by the Hither Green and Catford Ratepyers Association about the lack of an entrance from Brownhill Road in the original plans (16).

As was the pattern with Lee Manor House and Manor House Gardens, the intention was to create a library as well as a Park. Sadly, the quality of the building of Mountsfield was so poor that when the LCC surveyors inspected the house a decision was made to demolish it (17).

The original Park, did not include the south western quadrant which was used initially by Lewisham Montrose and then by Catford Southend, affectionately known as ‘The Kittens’ from 1909  who played to a good non-league standard. In the early 1920s there were plans to merge The Kittens with Charlton Athletic who played part of the 1922/23 season at The Mount, which probably had a 25,000 capacity. The merger didn’t happen, Charlton returned to The Valley, and Catford Southend went into a rapid downward spiral – with their records for the 1926/27 season being expunged and seemingly ending in liquidation. The embankment for the terracing in the south west corner of the ground still remains (see below). Some parts of the physical structure of the ground seem to have remained until the 1950s, but the pitch was subsumed back into the Park.


At around the same time some former allotment land was purchased from Trinity College in Greenwich bringing the total size of the park to around 28 acres (18). It seems that around the time that the Park was created seven houses were built along the George Lane side of the Park to the corner of Stainton Road. These were short lived as they were destroyed, beyond the level of repair in the Blitz (19), and by 1949 the land had been subsumed back into the Park.

After the closure of the school on Brownhill Road, latterly Catford Boys, in the early 1990s, the playing fields were reunited with the rest of the Park.

The Park has been public open space for the citizens of Catford, Hither Green and elsewhere for over a century, although during World War Two much of the Park was turned over the allotments. It has an active Friends Group, a lovely community garden, a cafe, a parkrun and it is home to the now biennial Lewisham Peoples Day – 2020 will be the 35th edition. While the Victorian views towards Shooters Hill have been lost, the urban views up and down the Ravensbourne Valley and towards Forest Hill while now urban, remain almost as impressive as when Henry Tibbats Stainton moved in during the 1840s.

Notes

  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) Hither Green – The Forgotten Hamlet p34
  2. Leland Duncan (1908) History of the Borough of Lewisham p157
  3. Smith op cit p 34
  4. ibid p34
  5. ibid p34
  6. Henry Tibbats Stainton (1857) Stainton’s Handbook of Butterflies and Moths’ p257
  7. ibid p11
  8. ibid p104
  9. ibid p124
  10. ibid p124
  11. Kentish Mercury, 2 June 1893
  12. Kentish Mercury, 6 July 1900
  13. Kentish Mercury, 29 November 1901
  14. Kentish Mercury, 4 March 1904
  15. Smith, op cit, p59
  16. Kentish Mercury, 1 July 1904
  17. Smith, op cit, p34
  18. ibid p 59
  19. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps p129
Census, marriage and related information comes via Find My Past
Picture Credits
  • The drawing of Lophopteryx Carmelita is a part of a picture via Wikipedia and is on a Creative Commons
  • The Ordnance Survey map from 1867 is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence
  • The black and white photograph of the gardens and outhouses and that of Catford Southend are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission.