Category Archives: Lewisham History

A Single to Sydney – Transportation and the Two Lewishams

Lewisham has a namesake in the south western Sydney suburbs named after its south east London equivalent.  The New South Wales Lewisham, was given the name in 1834 from the estate of Jacob Josephson, which was sold after his death by his son, Joshua, in the 1850s for development.

The ‘other’ Lewisham in the 1930s (on a Wikipedia Creative Commons)

Jacob was transported for 14 years in May 1818 for having forged £1 notes in his possession.  His son Joshua and his mother made the same journey to New South Wales in 1820.   Jacob had been on the run before his arrest and running up considerable bank debts and absconding with church silver whilst working as a clerk to a parish church.  He seems to have never been charged with the theft as his punishment could have been considerably greater.  Once in Australia he set himself up in his former trade as a silversmith but again got into considerable debt and ended up in a debtors’ prison.

Once out of prison he seems to have made a large amount of money as a publican in several locations in New South Wales, it would be appear that part of this money was used to buy land, including what was to become Lewisham.

So where does the link to south east London come from?  Sadly, it isn’t clear, the church that Jacob Josephson was clerk to and ran away with the silver from was in Bethnal Green. The offence for which he was transported was tried in Oxford and at the time of the offence was living just north of Oxford.

The land in the area had been ‘granted’ by the first Governor, Arthur Phillip (who had been educated at what is now Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College) by around 1809. This was a decade or so before Josephson arrived in the colony, so one possibility might have been that an earlier owner had a link to south east London.  Sadly, nothing is obvious though – the two largest parts of the Lewisham estate were ‘granted’ to an the emancipated convicts, George Gambling, who had been convicted in Hampshire in 1797, and to John White from County Fermanagh, So, sadly, it remains something of a mystery where the link to Lewisham.

Transportation began to be used as a punishment in the early 18th century – Running Past has covered it before in relation to the Scottish Political Martyrs remembered at Nunhead Cemetery – see below.

It continued until 1857 when it was replaced by the slightly more enlightened penal servitude, which those who have been reading the blog for a while may recall was the punishment meted out to the Deptford anarchist and Post Office bomber Rolla Richards.

The Old Bailey’s on-line archives offer a fascinating insight into crime and punishments – by modern standards many of the sentences seem incredibly harsh – transportation for ten years for burglary without any aggravating factors would perhaps warrant a custodial term of 2 years now. Some of the theft cases that saw the perpetrators Australia bound may only have seen community orders.

 

The cases below all have a Lewisham (south east London) link in either the crime and/or the residence of the perpetrator, sadly with all of them it isn’t clear what became of them once they reached the Antipodes.

James Moore – Theft of Flutes from Colfe’s School

Moore was convicted of ‘burglariously breaking and entering’  the home of  Joseph Prendergast, at Lewisham, who then head of Colfe’s School off Lewisham Road, his will was to enable the founding of the Prendergast School. He and an accomplice stole two flutes, with a value of £5 and £3 and a hat valued at 2/6d (13p). Moore was transported for 15 years in 1837.

Colfe’s School from the 19th Century on a Creative Commons via https://archive.org/stream/proceedingsoflew02lewi#page/74/mode/2up

William Skilton – Bigamy

Skilton (Skelton) was convicted of bigamy in 1837; he had married Mary Ann Wyld in Newington in 1820, Anne Sarah Wilkinson in Islington in 1826 and finally Esther Pink at St Mary’s, Lewisham  (below) in 1829.  On arrest he was reported as having said “What if I have had three wives, two of them turned out bad ones, and now I have got a third I suppose you won’t let me keep her.”  Skilton was sentenced to seven years for each offence – seemingly to run consecutively.

 

George Baker, George Bassett & John Grant – Burglary

The three men were convicted of ‘burglariously breaking and entering’ the home and business of a Lewisham grocer, taking coins and notes of almost £100 along with various goods of some considerable value one night in February 1844. The trio then went on a drinking spree taking in Deptford and Poplar, before heading to the brothels and bars of the Strand area.  Baker, Bassett and Grant were sentenced for 10 years transportation.

 

Samuel Ewins – Robbery

Ewins was indicted for a robbery, with violence on Loampit Vale, close to the former Hope Tavern, stealing from a 15 year old a watch and chain, value £14 along with around 6/2d (31p) in cash.  He was transported for 10 years in 1853.

 

Henry Pickett – Burglary

Henry Pickett was found guilty of ‘burglariously breaking and entering’ and stealing two coats, a cap and a pair of boots from George Selby of Ravensbourne Park in Catford.  Based on the 1851 census, George Selby was a solicitor who lived on a farm which appears to have been managed by one of his sons.  Ravensbourne Park was to become an extremely desirable location with the arrival of the railway at Catford Bridge six years later, but already had a small number of large houses in the early 1850s.  The postcard below (eBay April 2016) was from a few decades later, but the look of the area, other than the station, would have been little different.  Pickett was apprehended after his accomplice tried to sell some of the goods in Deptford.

While his accomplice was sent to prison for two years, Pickett was sentenced to be transported for 10 years.  However, he never made to long voyage to Botany Bay as he seems to have ended up with a lesser prison sentence and was released from Portsmouth prison in 1855.

 

Notes

Thank you to the ever helpful Julian Watson for being able to rule out the theft of the silver being from St Mary’s, Lewisham and pinpointing it to Bethnal Green.  Thank you also to Aleem Aleemullah, Local Studies Librarian at Inner West Council (which includes the ‘other’ Lewisham) in the Sydney suburbs who was very helpful in providing some Antipodean local knowledge and getting me a little further along what proved to be a dead-end in trying to work out the link Jacob Josephson or his estate had to south London’s Lewisham.

The 1851 census data comes via Find My Past.

 

The Fernbrook Road Doodlebug Attack

In Fernbrook Road, opposite the railway embankment for platform 6 at Hither Green station, there is a row of bungalows which were built by Lewisham Borough Council sometime after the Second World War.  They look slightly out of place in an area of Victorian terraces, like lots of other small sites in south east London – they were not there because of any defect of the original properties but because of bomb or rocket damage. Fernbrook Road was hit by a V-1 rocket, better known as a Doodlebug, on 23 June 1944 – which destroyed several houses and caused serious damage to others.

V-1 attacks had started on 13 June 1944 – a week after the D Day landings – and were to go on until October 1944 when the last V-1 site in range of Britain was captured, although there were a small number of later air launched attacks.

As was noted in a post a couple of years ago on the attack on Lewisham town centre, there appear to have been some attempts to use double agents to persuade the Germans that the V-1s were over-shooting their targets and landing to the north west of London, this may explain the reasons for the volume of V-1 rockets that hit South London. The old boroughs of Croydon (171), Wandsworth (122), Lewisham (115) and Woolwich (77) were the 4 locations hit the most. The Cities of London and Westminster only received 17 and 29 attacks respectively.

The V-1 exploded on impact and a blast wave rippled out from the impact point, effectively creating a vacuum in the centre – the combined impact was to both push and pull buildings leading to large numbers of collapses.  The Impact was often spread over quite a wide area with total destruction in the centre with much less damage on the outside.

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

The map above (1) shows the damage surveyed by the London County Council, the circle to the north east of the railway shows the location of the Fernbrook Road V-1 (the adjacent one, in Nightingale Grove will be covered in a later post).  The terrace of homes it hit was probably built by W J Scudamore and Sons – certainly the houses either side of those destroyed have the same square bays and details to others locally.

The extent of the devastation is clear – destroying or damaging beyond repair the immediate area but causing significant damage to the shops on Staplehurst Road and the houses behind, on Leahurst Road, along with some blast damage to the Station Hotel.  Not showing on the map, there was also some damage to the Dartford Loop line (2).

There were 22 injuries (3) and two deaths in the attack on Fernbrook Road – Marjorie Annie Lewis and her father, George Samuel Atkins at 22 Fernbrook Road.  Marjorie was 29 and listed as a Clerk in the 1939 Register, George was a Butchers Office Manager in 1939.  George would have been survived by his wife Lily – a Lily Atkins of the right age remained in Lewisham until her death in 1959.

Marjorie had married Francis Lewis who was a Railway Porter after war broke out.  Francis was living further down Fernbrook Road at 64a in 1939 with his parents and sister.   It isn’t clear whether Francis had moved into 22 after their marriage or Marjorie was just visiting her parents at the time of the attack.

They weren’t the only World War Two civilian deaths in Fernbrook Road – Joyce Jones of 100 was to die a month later at Lewisham Hospital probably a victim of a later V-1 which hit there on 26 July 1944 and Henry Munyard from 106 who died in an attack on the London Power Station, along with eight of his work mates on 11 July 1944.

The Blitz, the ‘Dooblebugs’ and the later V2 rocket attacks had destroyed thousands of homes in south east London, leaving considerable numbers homeless. One of the responses was the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act 1944, which planned to deliver 300,000 prefabricated homes over 10 years, within a budget of £150 million. The temporary homes were designed to be quickly put up and last 10 years while more permanent solutions were found. Only half of that number was ever delivered due to a combination of costs being greater than expected and higher than traditional brick homes, and public expenditure cuts after 1947.

The old Borough of Lewisham put up 1,610 prefabs by 1948 and a further 1,088 by 1955. Many went up on parks and open spaces  – the most obvious location for this was on the edge of Forster Memorial Park, the Excalibur Estate (see picture above – taken in 2014), which Running Past covered in one its earliest posts; but there were there were several dozen around the edge of Hillyfields, where they remained until the 1960s, along with several locations on Blackheath (source Britain from Above on a Creative Commons).

Many bombsites were cleared too, including on Boone Street in Lee.  Fernbrook Road was another of these sites.

One of the families who lived in the five prefabs in Fernbrook Road was the Beech family, they had lived there before the V-1 rocket attack.   The attack was recalled by Margaret (see comments below) who had been evacuated to Wales the week before the attack.  Her mother and older sister were in a Morrison shelter when the rocket hit three doors away and miraculously they survived.  They moved to relatives in Mottingham for the remainder of the war, returning to Fernbrook Road when the prefabs were built.

Unlike the prefabs of Excalibur, those in Fernbrook Road were relatively quickly replaced with bungalows, and a couple of houses at the southern end, probably in the late 1950s with a pair of semis at the far end of the new bungalows.

Notes

  1. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 – permission has been given by the copyright owners of the map, the London Metropolitan Archives to use the image here
  2. Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: the Forgotten Hamlet : Including the Corbett Estate’ p64
  3. ibid

The marriage and 1939 Register data comes via Find My Past, the details of the deaths are via the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Literary Lewisham – Graham Swift’s Last Orders

Running Past occasionally covers some of the writers that have formed part of the Lewisham’s literary heritage.  This has included some with clear links such as CS ForesterDavid Lodge and Robert Browning, plus a few where the links are a little more tenuous – including Thomas Dermody – a Lewisham resident only in is his dying days and burial at St Mary’s Church.

Graham Swift was born in Lewisham, and, if my memory has served me correctly, in a nursing home on Woolstone Road; this was based on an information board that used to be at Kirkdale Bookshop.  Certainly, Swift was born on the borders of Catford and Sydenham.

There are South London settings to many of his novels – his debut novel, the wonderful ‘The Sweet Shop Owner’ featured both Upper Sydenham (perhaps then home to his maternal grandparents) and Wandsworth; ‘Shuttlecock’ was set around Clapham Common and Greenwich Park featured in the brilliant ‘Waterland.’

His father was Lionel Allen Stanley Swift who was born in 1922; in the 1939 Register he is listed as living at 176 Fairlawn Park  – wrongly transcribed as Fareham Park – the house is still there, although did suffer damage following a V-1 rocket attack at the junction of Fairlawn Park and Sydenham Road. Swift’s paternal grandfather was listed as a ‘clothiers warehouseman and his grandmother doing ‘unpaid domestic duties’. There was another household member, presumably an aunt or uncle whose details are redacted.  They weren’t sharing, so it was a step up from some on the street.

His mother was living at 29 Burghill Road in 1939, his maternal grandfather an engineer/tester for a typewriter manufacturer, Swift’s maternal grandmother like the paternal one doing ‘unpaid domestic duties’. It was a house that they seem to be shared though with the Weiners – a mother and son, the latter a grocer’s assistant. The house was built a little later than many of the original homes on the street, and like Fairlawn Park suffered damage from a V-1 rocket which hit the junction of Burghill Road and Sunnydene Street.

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Swift’s parents were married in Lewisham in the second quarter of 1943 and Graham Swift was born into rationing in 1949. It was

a lower-middle-class postwar family in a time of austerity and retrenchment, with no one in the family who was in any way artistic or a potential mentor to a budding writer

The family moved a few miles to the south to Croydon in his early years, right on the edge of the city.  He was a scholarship boy at Dulwich College before heading to the spires of Cambridge via another scholarship.

His best known novel is Last Orders, it won him the Booker Prize – it is a gentle, moving road trip of four Bermondsey friends, carrying out the last wishes of their fellow drinker and mate for a scattering of the ashes in the sea at Margate. The novel subtly and poignantly tells their sometimes intertwined histories which ‘skeletons’ gradually emerge from.

The lives were spent mainly within a few streets of each other; the location could have been anywhere in south London, indeed anyone can put their own mental images of the places and it would work – mine was of Jamaica Road just east of the tube station.  It is a beautifully told story, perfectly-paced but not the perfect novel.   Swift has remarked “I don’t research; it’s a great destroyer of the imagination.”

There perhaps lies the reason for the slight imperfection, while the lack of research wasn’t important in terms of the location, I suspect that he missed a little of the linguistic nuances of that part of south east London spending a few hours in Manzes pie and mash shop on Tower Bridge Road and an evening or two in the local pubs might have ‘solved’.

The film of the book was equally good, filmed around Bellenden Road in Peckham in the early stages of its gentrification; it featured Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Michael Caine, Ray Winstone, David Hemmings and Tom Courtenay – poster above on Creative Commons via Wikipedia.

 

Notes

Details of V-1 damage from Lawrence Ward (2015) ‘The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945’

Census and 1939 Register data from Find My Past.

Following the Quaggy – Chinbrook Meadows to Eltham Bridge

In previous posts, Running Past has followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom and then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley and through the golf courses of Sundridge Park and on to Chinbrook Meadows.

We left the Quaggy in a concrete channel coming out of Chinbrook Meadows.  A small weir lowers the level of the river bed as it exits the park, it is not to provide a more natural bed though, the notched river bed gives way to a flat one but it is still concrete – attempting to quickly move the water on, as was de-rigour in the 1960s.  The river isn’t completely barren at this point – some small plants are clinging onto an existence but struggling to put down any roots.

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It is in a clear valley as it crosses Chinbrook Road, with climbs up to both Grove Park Station and the Grove Park and Chinbrook housing estates (both covered by the excellent Municipal Dreams blog).  But that is about as natural as it gets – while the shape of the banks and the bed change the concrete seems to remain as the Green Chain Path follows its eastern bank, it is a path that it marked on early Ordnance Survey maps (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland)

 

OS Claypit.png

The path emerges out onto what used to be called Claypit Lane but is now called Marvels Lane.  The road is bridged and heads towards the entrance to some playing fields – this isn’t how it has always been though.  As the Ordnance Survey map above from the 1890s shows, there used to be a small pool and a distinct meander at this point – taking  the Quaggy in front of the former agricultural workers cottages – Sydenham Cottages (below) – presumably for Claypit Farm (just off map, although no longer marked by the 1890s).

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There was serious flooding there – notably in 1968 – which seems to have led the channelisation and straightening of the river.  The Quaggy encased in concrete is now more or less devoid of life at this point.  Its former meander is now the Sydenham Cottages nature reserve which despite its river bank location has almost no trace of wetland habitat remaining.

The straight channel is slightly disturbed opposite the nature reserve with a concrete access ramp (see above left photograph) – this has led to some fluvial deposits in the slowest moving bits of the river.  Plants have colonised the sediments, but it is a precarious existence, without deep roots, they could be lost to the next high flow.

Opposite the nature reserve, and clearly visible from it is the outflow, just above the river level, one of the tributary streams joins the Quaggy, Grove Park Ditch – which rises in Marvels Wood and has an attractive 400 metres through woodland and park edge before being forcibly submerged around the edge of the Chinbrook Estate and then the playing fields of the former Fairy Hall – which gave its name to another stream in the Quaggy catchment, Fairy Hall Flow.

The river is followed by the Green Chain Path for another hundred metres or so before the path veers off to the right towards Mottingham Lane and the last home of WG Grace.  For those following the river as a walk this is the way to head and then re-join the Quaggy near at the junction with Winns Avenue.

For most of the 20th Century the former over spill Greenwich Union Workhouse, Grove Park Hospital, dominated the area – its land went up to the banks of the Quaggy – the slight valley is clear from the postcard below (source eBay November 2016).

grove park 1914

The location both as a workhouse and in its early days as a hospital, led to its under use as it away from the urban area.  It spent time as a military barracks and hospital during World War 1 ( see post card below – eBay May 2016) but was a TB and chest hospital for most of its ‘life’, although latterly became a mental health institution – the development of care in the community and associated hospital closure programme meant that its days were numbered.  It closed in 1994 and is now a mixture of a private health club and housing.

grove PArk 1915

There used to be a second meander, in what were the grounds of Grove Park Hospital but that too was removed presumably at the same time as that of Sydenham Cottages.  The meander is easy to see on the ground, next to the former hospital is a private leisure centre through whose ground there is access to a scrubby field that gently slopes down to the river, the path to it, which traverses a broken down bit of chain link fencing, is easy to miss though.  The former meander is a jungle of brambles which proved something of an obstacle to the bare-legged urban explorer.  A little further along the path that loops around the unkempt grass, the Quaggy is reachable and seems almost back to its semi-rural state last seen on Tong Farm, several miles back upstream.  It is but a brief interlude though – the Wates developed houses on the former Melrose Farm soon appear on the western bank and the river is left to flow behind the gardens of Westdene Avenue and Jevington Way.

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On the eastern bank is Hadlow College, which was once the site of a large Victorian house, Mottingham Hall.  For a while, the site was the Macintyre Nature Reserve – part of an organisation that provided support for people with mental health disabilities, it then became an outpost of Phoebes Garden Centre, before being taking on by Hadlow College.  Contours would suggest that there may have been at least one stream joining the Quaggy in this area.

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The Quaggy emerges into the public gaze by the side of the entrance to the College, still with natural banks, although one is lost as it hugs the side of Mottingham Lane before flowing through a shiny new screen to prevent blockages in a section under the Lane.  The opposite side of the road is then meandered against, with the fields of Mottingham Riding School on the other side, before a confluence with one of the Quaggy’s larger tributaries, the Little Quaggy close to the Sidcup by-pass (below, right.)

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In several Facebook threads there are memories of playing in the river in this area, catching sticklebacks and taking them home in jam jars, going through the underground sections of the river both under Mottingham Lane and the braver ones under the A20. Others used to play ‘Quaggy jumping’ in this area near the now closed Dutch House pub. ‘It was always a triumph when you reached the other side without getting wet shoes, good days.’

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Any feelings of ‘rus in urbe’ are soon lost after crossing the A20, while edged by grass and trees on initially scrubland and then a series of sports grounds, the concrete bed and banks return in their bleakest form anywhere on the river, any remaining sticklebacks would be hard pressed to find food.  The concrete course is almost as straight as a Roman road as it bypasses playing fields including the new home of Greenwich Borough FC, whose previous permanent ground, Harrow Meadow, adjacent to the Quaggy in Sutcliffe Park was lost to developers in 2009 – and they had a nomadic existence for a few years.  On the opposite bank, until the early 1930s, would have been the Middle Park Farm – like Horn Park Farm it was originally site one of the Eltham Palace’s hunting parks.

The river then squeezes between back gardens and is bridged the South Circular – on the south side it is shielded by a wall of a height that makes visibility of the flow impossible; on the northern side while the parapet was lower the overhanging shrub on both sides of the river meant that the flow was still invisible. It emerges back into the open at Eltham Bridge.  This is an area that is still subject to flooding – over 20 houses were flooded around Christmas 2013.  Before leaving the Quaggy there for another day a stop at the Bridge is worth making; it has an old London County Council sign with a wide variety of rules relating to bridges it controlled up until 1965.  Mooring a vessel at Eltham Bridge would be quite challenging though …..

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Wood Burning, Farming & Dairy Crest – The Story of Burnt Ash Farm

Burnt Ash Farm, stood at what is now a busy road junction – that of Baring Road and St Mildred’s Road.  The site has an interesting history – it moved from medieval settlement to being a farm, to a dairy in the 1920s, being taken over by United Dairies, before being sold to Dairy Crest in the 1990s.  It survived attempts to turn it into a Big Yellow Storage facility before being developed for social housing around 2013.

The farm wasn’t always on Baring Road, until the beginning of the 20th century it was known as Burnt Ash Lane (it still is on the Bromley side of the border) – the Barings (Northbrooks) were the local landowners who owned the Manor House and whose wealth had its roots in slavery.  It wasn’t always in that location either, it was originally located in Old Road, Lee, almost certainly situated at what is now the Lee Manor House and was known as Lee Farm; it seems to have moved around 1727 (1).  It was farmed by Thomas Butler, who is buried at St Margaret’s Lee, having died in 1733.

It was a substantial farm at this stage, its land running from around what is now Lee High Road to the current Grove Park (2).  The farm seems to have been split after Thomas Butler’s death between two of his sons with the dividing line being drawn around St Mildred’s Road (3) – Matthew who stayed at Burnt Ash Farm and James who set up a new farm, Lee Manor Farm, around the junction of Manor Lane and Manor Lane Terrace (4).   Running Past will return to Lee Manor Farm in the future.

The farm buildings at Burnt Ash were clearly marked on John Roque’s 1746 map (on a Creative Commons via Wikipedia).

It wasn’t the first settlement to have been found on the Burnt Ash site, during archaeological investigation works in 2012 on the site was found to have had a

series of pits, postholes and ditches indicating that people were living and probably working on the site in the 12th century. The majority of the finds are shards of pottery from serving and cooking vessels that were manufactured in Surrey. This indicates that trade routes may be focussed to the southwest rather than the City of London.

Whether this early settlement was abandoned soon after this, or perhaps as a result of the Black Death is unclear – an early incarnation of Hither Green, Rumbergh, disappeared at this point.  Certainly woodland covered the area from the 14th century until the early 18th century.

The name, Burnt Ash, comes from coppicing of wood for charcoal manufacture and was first mentioned in Assize Rents in 1384 and in a 1607 description of Lee Farm, with a section of Woodland called Crabland Spring. Certainly by the time Rocque surveyed the area, the woodland was gone.

Returning to Burnt Ash Farm, the farm was further subdivided in the early part of the 19th century (5), presumably after the Barings bought both the Manor House and the land portfolio that had been put together for and by Thomas Lucas.  The history of the farm during the first half of the century seems a little sketchy – but it was still a substantial operation of 367 acres in the 1839 tithe schedule, when the farmer was Richard Norman.

While the location of most of the fields is unclear, Josephine Birchenough with John King identified the locations of some of the fields – Grass Buntins was broadly where Northbrook Park now is (6), Red Robin was on the western side of Baring Road (7); Ivory Down and Buntins were roughly where the Hither Green Cemetery is now (8).  Ivory Down lives on in a road name on the Downham estate.

Norman had certainly been at the farm for at least a couple of years before the Tithe schedule was compiled, as he had been the farmer when the ‘unfortunate Mr Cocking’ was to become the first parachute death when his own design failed to work and he hurtled to his death on the farm – the sad story was covered in Running Past a couple of years ago.

Richard Norman was move on from the farm in 1844 – there was a farm sale of some of the livestock and equipment – oddly advertised as ‘Live and dead farming stock’ (9).

It isn’t clear who was farming there in the 1851 census as records are a little confused, however, by 1861 census two farmers are listed at the start of Burnt Ash Lane in the census records – the Adams and the Uptons.  Thomas Adams, born in 1806 was listed as a ‘farmer of Farmer of 72 Acres employing 3 Men’ (the acreage is probably incorrectly recorded – it may have been 272) and his family including Edward (1837) who was also working on the farm.  The three employed may have included some of the Uptons – this included John who was 69 ‘Farmer No Occupation at Place’ and his son Stephen 45 who was listed as a farmer and dairyman.  The Upton left during the 1860s – they were to move onto Durham Farm at Grove Park – where they stayed until at least 1901.

The Adams too moved on soon after the census, as by the mid-1860s Zephaniah Seal seemed to be the tenant farmer as there were several cases involving the theft of a horse, embezzlement and theft of hay in the mid-1860s when he was listed as farmer or master. Seal’s father, John, had earlier been a dairyman on the farm.  Seal had been previously living with his parents in Lee Church Street.

William Winn certainly acted as bailiff or manager for the Seals for a while, he was in the area and possibly at the Farm from around 1850 as his younger children were born around Lee – he was mentioned in one of the court cases and died at the Farm in 1863.  He may have inspired the street name Winn’s Road – although the local resource on the derivations of Lewisham street names is silent on this (10). The farm and the newly built Lee station are shown on the map below published in 1870 (on Creative Commons from National Library of Scotland).

Zephaniah Seal’s brother, Charles Frederick (1827) was listed as the farmer in the 1871 census with William Warwick living in a cottage on the farm – there is no trace of Charles after that, although Zephaniah was back at Lee Church Street in the 1880s on electoral registers.

Charles Seal had moved on by 1874, at the latest – another Adams family were farming Burnt Ash Farm, Thomas who hailed from Leighton Buzzard, one of his children were born on the Farm in 1874. The farm was listed in the census as 274 acres and employing six men and two boys.

It is not clear how long the Adams Family stayed but by 1893, there were two registered cow houses at the farm – one run by Cordwell and Sons the other by W. H. Carter – the farm was still owned by the Northbrooks. By the early 20th century the farm was being run and probably owned by the Edwards family –  Public Health Reports listed them having 56 cows Burnt Ash Farm – they were being farmed as a joint operation with a few other local farms including College Farm – covered before in the blog.   Edwards and Sons were a relatively large scale dairy enterprise with 60 shops around SE London. Some of the fields still farmed at that stage are in the postcard below (eBay November 2016).

The Edwards tenure seems to have lasted until Burnt Ash Farm closed in the 1920s and their shop operation appears to have been taken over by United Dairies.  What happened the Farm is a little sketchy after that – the buildings seem to have been retained (they were still showing on a 1946 published Ordnance Survey map) and it was controlled by the Milk Marketing Board, probably still as a dairy.  However, during the 1950s, the milk depot was largely re-built (although a couple of the farm buildings were retained (11)) and was initially operated by United Dairies – at its peak they ran 54 rounds with milk floats going out on their rounds by 6:30, returning by early afternoon. It served a large area of south London with deliveries going as far as Waterloo Bridge, Sydenham, Bromley and Woolwich.  The milk float below is typical of United Dairies, although not specific to Lee (12).  United Dairies merged with Cow and Gate to become Unigate in 1959.

In a contracting sector there was some rationalisation and the depot was sold to and run by Dairy Crest from 1989 until its closure in September 2000. By that stage only 25 rounds were still in place when the milk float, like this one below (13) pulled out of Baring Road for the last time.

After the closure the site was demolished in 2001 and there were attempts by the Big Yellow Self Storage Company to build a warehouse on the site.   There was long running opposition to proposals which were finally defeated at Lewisham’s Planning Committee in 2006. In the end Big Yellow built on a site at the Land of Leather/Cliftons Roundabout a mile further along the road.

The site was eventually purchased by developers who developed the site on behalf of a housing association with work finished in late 2013.  It is one of the more attractive recent housing developments in the area, although the duck egg blue glazed balcony panels on will probably make it quite easy to date for future architectural historians.

A postscript to the post

One of the people who made the housing association scheme happen was my friend Martyn Brindley, Martyn was a lovely man with a great commitment to high quality social housing which both looked good and worked well for the residents.  Sadly, Martyn died a few weeks after I wrote this post – hopefully this scheme and several others in the area will be fitting and lasting tributes to him.

Notes

  1. Josephine Birchenough (1981) Some Farms and Fields in Lee p4
  2. ibid p 4
  3. ibid p6
  4. ibid p6
  5. ibid p10
  6. ibid p35
  7. ibid p25
  8. ibid p23
  9. West Kent Guardian 21 September 1844 – via Find My Past
  10. Joan Read (1990) Lewisham Street Names and Their Origins
  11. Read, op cit, p11
  12. Both pictures of milk floats are copyright of and published with kind permission of a specialist milk floats site – Milk Float Corner
  13. ibid

Census and related data comes via Find My Past 

 

 

The Plough – A Former Lewisham Pub

The Plough, which was for a while the ‘Plough Railway Tavern’ and latterly ‘Pitchers Bar and Diner’ was an old pub whose original name goes back to the area’s rural past.  It was almost certainly marked in John Rocques map of 1745 (below on a Creative Commons), adjacent to the marked ‘wooden bridge’ – Lewisham Lane is now referred to as Belmont Hill.


It was situated on the road out of Lewisham towards Greenwich , latterly Lewisham Road, adjacent to the railway embankment for the line coming in from Blackheath.  For much of its life it was next to a bridge over the Quaggy, shortly before its confluence with the Ravensbourne.  The Quaggy was moved slightly further south  during the 20th century and is now undergoing a further course change.

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

When Rocque surveyed the area in the 1740s, the pub seems to have been in its second incarnation (2).  It was a weather boarded house which sold ‘Marsden’s Entire and Fine Ale’ – sadly this is a brewery whose history seems to be lost, it certainly isn’t related to Marston’s who were 20 years off being founded.  When sketched in 1814. It was owned by one of the area’s larger landowners – the Earl of Dartmouth (3) – (source on a Creative Commons).

There was a further sketch of the Plough drawn around 1847, just before the railway arrived in Lewisham, which was re-interpreted in the 1940s by Ken Stirling in 1948 (See painting credit below for more detail of source and copyright).  The licensees then were the Griggs, initially William and then his widow, Martha (4).

The Plough was pulled down and rebuilt around 1850 as part of the building of the railway, which had opened the previous year – the South Eastern Railway owned the pub, which still offered stabling and a carriage lodge (5).  The 1897 Ordnance Survey shows the location, including the bridge over the Quaggy taking the pub’s name (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland)

The first licensee of the rebuilt pub was William Morris (6), while I had hoped for a link to the eponymous farmer of Lee Green Farm and latterly College Farm, this seems not to have been the case.  This Morris was born in 1813 in Cobham, there were seven children at home when the census enumerators called several of which were working in the pub – including a 15 year old, this would be frowned upon these days. There were a couple of servants and three visitors, presumably paying guests.

Like many pubs it went through a steady flow of licencees, the Morrises had moved on by 1861 when the Hasler’s were there – they, in turn, had moved to Camberwell’s ‘The Queen’ by 1871 to be replaced by Thomas Jeans – plus family and six staff members living in; and so it continued throughout the rest of the 19th and early 20th centuries landlords (they all seemed to be men) came and went every few years.

Around this time, the pub featured in the acquittal of Edmund Pook, the man accused of the ‘Eltham Murder’ in 1871, as he was seen on the bridge over the Quaggy by a witness walking home from The Plough.

The Plough was renamed it the Plough Railway Tavern for a while around the turn of the century, but had returned to its former name by 1911 (7).

The first half of the 20th century saw a change to steady succession of publicans in the form of Joseph Emptage.  Emptage was born in Rotherhithe in 1872, in 1891 he was working for his father as a fishmongers assistant; but by 1901 he was already the landlord of a Battersea pub, the Duke of Edinburgh; in 1911 he was listed as a licensed victualler living in a flat in Crofton Park – presumably away from the pub he ran- probably either the Duke of Edinburgh or the Prince of Wales in Walpole Road Deptford. Although by 1921 he was certainly at the Plough.

Emptage was still at the Plough when the 1939 Register was compiled-  there were several staff ‘living in’ including a Head Bar/Cellar Man, Stanley Grimes; a pot barman,  a bar maid, Helen Matthews and a house maid, Ivy Greg.  Joseph  Emptage died in 1949 and was buried at Ladywell Cemetery.

In the 1970s the pub was run by Jean and Bob Hurley, a Facebook thread on The Plough described it as ‘a great old fashioned pub in those days.’ It seems to have had a saloon and snug bar and some fondly remembered spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve – including dancing on the padded seats that were at the back of the pub.

The pub seems to have been refurbished around 1984 which included the odd addition of a single lane bowling alley.  A new landlord arrived around the time of the renovations, Roger, who is fondly remembered by several along with a South African chef and a Dutch barman.  The pub seems to have attracted quite a young ‘crowd’ – with suggestions that it was an ‘underage drinking heaven;’ ‘the ultimate location for us teenagers back in the late 80s.’  Unsurprisingly there were several recollections of first drinks there and great memories too of Italia ’90 World Cup there.

Latterly the pub became Pitchers Bar and Diner, a ‘sports bar’ with wall-to-wall Sky Sports. It was a bleak, unwelcoming pub – I met up there a couple of times with a friend in its later years to watch football as it was close to buses for both of us.  In the end the cheap, badly kept beer and football, couldn’t hide the dismal, slightly intimidating atmosphere and grim, grubby environment and we moved on.   I don’t remember seeing any evidence of the food implied by the ‘Diner’ sign on the front, but based on the rest of the customer experience, I would have been reluctant to sample.

The outside was uninviting too – at the front changes in road layouts had left it well back from the road, with an odd mish-mash of concrete, tarmac and a wall and a sad looking tree – there was apparently what could be loosely described as a garden at the back although I never ventured out there (it had been used to keep a pony in during the 1970s), but it seems to have been as inviting as the rest of the pub.

Pitchers closed down around 2007 and was left empty, a forlorn looking shell, for a while until the wrecking ball caught up with it – a sad end to what was no doubt once a good boozer (Picture ©Stephen Craven on Creative Commons).  The site was ‘lost’ to the Lewisham Town Centre redevelopment – an access road to the station roughly marks where it once stood.

Notes

  1. Leland Duncan (1908) History of the Borough of Lewisham p96
  2. No doubt the detail of this would be in Part 3 of Ken White (1992) The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham – sadly, I haven’t yet been able to find a copy of this.
  3. White, op cit, volume 6B p203
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid
  7. Ibid, p204

Census and related data comes via Find My Past 

Painting Credit

The painting is by Ken Stirling and dates from 1948, and is presumably a modern interpretation of the one from the 1840s; it is owned and the copyright is held by Lewisham Archives, and is made available, through the Art UK website.  Usage for non-commercial research such as this is allowed under the site’s terms.

 

The Lewisham Hill V-1 & the Post War Re-Building

Lewisham Hill was an old route up to the Heath from the Ravensbourne valley and was captured below as a print around 1810 (source on a Creative Commons), the only currently recognisable features being St Mary’s Church in the middle distance and the hills of Forest Hill and Sydenham which provide the background.

With the coming of the South Eastern railway in 1849 large, desirable houses for the wealthy of Victorian London were built up the hill towards the Heath.   Looking at a sample of the houses in the 1871 census, all were single household properties, all with several servants – a pattern largely repeated in 1901.  An Edwardian postcard (source eBay Nov 2106) ‘paints’ the street scene of a well to do street.

By the outbreak of World War Two, while the buildings were the same, most of the houses had either been divided into flats or were home to several households – the wealthy seem to have largely moved-on.  Lewisham Hill was the site of one of the bigger single losses of life in Lewisham through a V-1 rocket, better known as doodlebugs; one hit Lewisham Hill on 17 June 1944 – thirteen died as a result of the attack.  The V-1 attacks had started four days before on 13 June 1944 – a week after the D Day landings – and were to go on until October 1944 when the last V-1 site in range of Britain was captured, although there were a small number of later air launched attacks.

As was noted in a post a couple of years ago on the attack on Lewisham town centre, there appear to have been some attempts to use double agents to persuade the Germans that the V-1s were over-shooting their targets and landing to the north west of London, this may explain the reasons for the volume of V-1s that hit South London. The old boroughs of Croydon (171), Wandsworth (122), Lewisham (115) and Woolwich (77) were the 4 locations hit the most. The City of London and Westminster only received 17 and 29 attacks respectively.

The scale of the devastation is clear towards the top of an aerial photo taken during July 1944 by Stanley Devon an official photographer with the RAF (source Imperial War Museum on a Creative Commons).  In the foreground is a site cleared from another V-1 attack 9 days later at the bottom of Granville Park.

Of the 13 who died, eight were living at 25 Lewisham Hill – including a couple, Doris and Albert Pilgrim and their two young sons.  None of the thirteen were living in the homes that they died in when the 1939 Register was compiled, although Minnie (73) and Samuel (75) Rowe and their daughter, Maud (48) were probably relatives of Henry and Edna Rowe who were there in 1939.  Ernest Kinnear, who died at 21, was a retired compositor who had lived three doors away at 15 with his wife Alice in 1939.  The rest had lived elsewhere, including Cicely Rackstraw who was living in Battle in Sussex and was still a student in 1939.

The site was one of the earlier ones developed by the Borough of Lewisham after the Second World War, Running Past covered another  development from those years – what was formerly known as the Heather Green Estate during 2016.  A larger area than the initial bomb site was cleared, including several other houses lower down the hill where damage had been limited (1).  By the time site was photographed again in 1949 (see above – source – Britain from Above on a Creative Commons), building work seems to have been near completion – the new Lewisham Hill Estate is 3/4 way up on right edge of the photograph.  Amongst the other interesting features in the photograph are prefabs at Holly Hedge Terrace (top right), the Lewisham Anchor Brewery (now the site of Tesco), and in front of it Elliott Brothers (London) Ltd Century Works (next to the railway).

From the outside, at least, the estate seems to have stood the test of time quite well as a comparison of the soon after building (2) photograph and the 2017 one show – it has been refurbished with the pitched roofs added, these weren’t possible immediately after the war due to restrictions with building materials.

As for the view from near the top of the Hill, well, it has changed quite a lot since 1810 …..

Notes

  1. Lawrence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945
  2. The immediate post war picture has appeared several times on social media without credits – I am more than happy to add credits or delete from the post, if preferred, if you are the owner of the image.

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past