Category Archives: Lewisham History

Porcupine Stream – A River Pool Tributary

There are a number of streams (or former streams) that we have already covered that rise in the high ground that stretches from the borders of Croydon to the borders of New Cross – in the past covered by woodland known as the Great North Wood. Running Past has covered (and named) several of these including Penge Stream, Adams’ Rill, Wells Park Stream and the River Willmore.

We now turn our attention to another group of streams whose sources are very close to another covered – Pissarro’s Stream.  It doesn’t seem to have a name that has survived, but for the purposes of identification has been called Porcupine Stream here – the reasons for this became clear in John Rocque’s map of the 1740s (above), we’ll return to the farm later.  The map suggests around four sources – some of which are above Charleville Circus and others currently within Crystal Palace Park.  It is this latter group that we turn our attention to first.

More than perhaps any small section of south east London, the moving of the Crystal Palace to the top of Anerley Hill in 1854 saw massive changes to the levels of land, obliterating former contour lines and altering flows of streams.  Streams were ‘stolen’ to help provide the water for the large array of fountains and cascades within the Park, although with the help of Brunel, two enormous water towers recycle water from the large reservoirs in the middle of the Park which provided the bulk of the water.

Despite the changes to the landscape, a small valley is visible high up in the northern corner of the Park and point to a former stream that would have fed what is now the small lake in front of the decaying Concert Bowl, sometimes referred to as the ‘rusty laptop’. There is  a small flow behind the Concert Bowl which follows the course the stream would have followed to fill the one of the many reservoirs that were created in the Park, which is now referred to as the Fishermen’s Lake.  Whether it now contains water diverted from the original stream’s course is unclear.

Before moving on, the Concert Bowl used to be a significant venue for the summer outdoor festivals – it was a stage that once saw the likes of Pink Floyd,  Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and The Cure perform. As the 1863 surveyed Ordinances Survey map shows, in the years after the opening of the Park that corner was home to quieter activities – an archery range and the English Landscape Garden.

Any flow beyond the Fisherman’s Lake would have been into the now lost North Basin (see Ordnance Survey map above).  There used to be an implication in a now deleted on-line Environment Agency document that any excess water was diverted to the eastern end of the Park seemingly to join the stream coming down from above Charleville Circus and Ordnance Survey map contours suggest that this was probably the original route anyway. 

We have ‘visited’ Charleville Circus before, as the source of Pissarro’s Stream is just to the east of it.  To the north-west of the Circus, in the apex of Westwood Hill and Crystal Palace Park Road – currently home to an imposing 1930s mansion block, Torrington Court, are the other sources of Porcupine Stream. While Rocque’s map suggested three or four sources, the upward pointing contour lines of fluvial erosion only highlight one of these.  The route above Charleville Circus is through private gardens, but a fluvially eroded depression is just about visible from the main road.   Very briefly, possibly coincidentally, the route across the Circus was coterminous with a boundary which helpfully still has a pair of Lewisham Parish boundary markers in the south east and south west quadrants.

The boundary veers off the the north just south of Charleville Circus, briefly following Pissarro’s Stream.  Porcupine Stream, though, ‘ploughs’ a small furrow – visible clearly on Border Crescent,  and on Ordnance Survey maps, flowing parallel to Crystal Palace Park Road.

While contours suggest a deepening of the small valley down the hill, the on ground reality is slightly different with the dip only just perceptible on Sydenham Avenue and on Lawrie Park Road at the rear of another elegant 1930s block, Park Court designed by by Frederik Gibberd,.  The route followed, as the Environment Agency surface water flood risk map shows (above), is broadly along the appropriately named Springfield Road.

Considerably below the surface, the stream broadly follows the route on another line marked on maps – that of one of several railway tunnels through Sydenham Hill – this one carrying the railway between Sydenham Hill and Penge East stations.

Just below Springfield Road, the stream would have met the Croydon Canal, later to be, London and Croydon Railway– it isn’t clear whether the stream was used to feed the canal or not, some were, some weren’t.  On the other side of the railway contours would indicate a flow just off Station Road in Bredhurst Close – however, it, and it is a large ‘IF’, the stream is still flowing culverted it may have been moved a few metres to the south as there is always the sound of rushing water below a manhole cover close to the junction of Crampton and Station Roads (it could, of course, be just a very active sewer…).   before a confluence with the branch coming from the Park close to the elegant Penge East station.

The rushing water has never been regularly heard from other manhole covers in the area and contour lines imply a route under the current railway close to Penge East in the direction of Parish Lane.

What is now Parish Lane was once home to Porcupine Farm – it was active from the mid-18th century in Rocque’s map (see above), probably earlier, until 1851; it is listed in a directory with William Wrenn being the farmer, published that year.  It is possible that the farm had been first leased by Wrenn’s father in 1800 – there is evidence of a lease in Penge to another William Wrenn in 1800.

It has also been suggested that it may have also been a pub.  However, the farm wasn’t mentioned in the 1851 census and while William Wrenn was probably still farming it, he was listed as farming 100 acres with 4 labourers but living on the main Beckenham Road.  The farm buildings were still there, but weren’t mentioned by name in the 1863 surveyed Ordnance Survey map.  Without the farm it was referred to as Porcupine Meadow and was sold by the Duke of Westminster to the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes.  The idea behind the scheme was to build workers cottages close to stations.

164 small semi-detached houses were built on Porcupine Meadow between 1866 and 1870; the financing of the scheme was based on

…working men are prepared to pay down a deposit of £10 and enter into the necessary arrangements for securing the absolute ownership of a cottage and garden at the end of 12 or 13 years by paying a weekly sum which would cover all expenses and yield a liberal rate of interest for the investment in the meantime.

Back to the stream – in would have flowed down Parish Lane, to a confluence with Penge Stream somewhere around the Green Lane junction with Parish Lane before joining the Willmore ahead of its confluence with the Pool.

Picture & Map Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey map is on a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland 
  • John Rocque’s map was a screen shot from years ago, I can no longer find the original source to properly credit it
  • the postcard of the Crystal Palace was via eBay in April 2019
  • the photograph of Penge East station is from Wikipedia on a Creative Commons

1851 census data comes via Find My Past

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The Hither Green Station V-1 Rocket Attack

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

Another was on the opposite site of the railway to Fernbrook Road around the junction of Springbank Road and Nightingale Grove, very close to the station at 6:18 on the evening of 29 July 1944. The photograph that is part of the Imperial War Museum collection (produced here on a Creative Commons) shows the devastation all too clearly.

The V-1 would have exploded on impact and a blast wave rippled out from the impact point, effectively creating a vacuum in the centre – the combined impact was to both push and pull buildings leading to large numbers of collapses.  The impact was often spread over quite a wide area with total destruction in the centre with much less damage on the outside.  There were memories from someone living at the edge of this attack of gardens ‘full of bits of shattered china and pottery from the houses affected by the bomb blast’ many years later.  The map below  produced by the London County Council during the war (1) shows this well – the darker the hand-colouring, the greater the damage.

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

The worst destruction was in Maythorne Cottages and northern end of Springbank Road along with the adjacent ends of Ardmere and Beacon Roads, where, as the photograph shows, there was almost complete destruction.   Although a degree of caution needs to be used with the maps as a few properties that show as destroyed were able to be repaired – notably the former off licence on the corner of Ardmere Road – covered in an earlier post on the street.

There was damage too along  Nightingale Grove from opposite Maythorne to Brightside Road at the southern end. At this end were purpose-built maisonettes and, which seemed to have been built as ‘railway workers cottages’.  There was considerable damage, with the upstairs maisonettes having to be largely rebuilt.

Many of the houses destroyed were homes to some of the poorer residents of Hither Green, as was covered in the post on Ardmere Road.  Given the scale of destruction it is unsurprising that there were deaths in the attack, the casualties seem to have all been at Hither Green Station:

  • Emily (25) and Jean (1) Chapman – a mother and daughter from Walworth;
  • Violet Kyle (25) of 11 Morley Road, who died in the Miller Hospital in Greenwich;
  • Gerald Hill (17) of 278 Brownhill Road, who was in the Home Guard; and
  • William Pontin (38) of Weybridge.

Emily (nee Keleher) was living in Huntsman Street in Walworth when war broke out, and at the time was listed as a Solder Machine Hand.  The Bermondsey born Emily married James Chapman in 1940, although they were probably living together in 1939 with James’ parents.  Jean was just 22 months old when she died.

Violet was from Lewisham although when the 1939 Register was drawn up was living in a shared house in Circus Street in Greenwich.

Gerald had been born in Lewisham in 1927; at the time the 1939 Register was drawn up he would have been around 12 and was not listed locally as he had presumably been evacuated in September 1939.  Assuming that he was still living at home, his parents will have moved during the war as 278 Brownhill Road was vacant when the Register was compiled.  William Pontin appears to have been working as a brewer’s clerk at the outbreak of war in 1939 and was a lodger in a cottage in Weybridge.  The reason for his visit to Lewisham was probably to visit family – a William Pontin of the right age was born in Lewisham and in 1911 was living in Hedgley Street – where his younger brother Ernest still lived in 1939.

A further 17 people were reported as injured as a result of the attack (2).

There were initial reports of the tracks being blocked by debris at the station, although by the following day local lines were running and by 31 July the track was back to full operations.

The post-war rebuilding was a little more piecemeal than in some of the other sites with V-1 rocket damage locally.  One of the early responses was to clear the site and erect prefab bungalows; what is perhaps surprising is that only 9 were built given the area covered and level of destruction.  Those at the southern end of Springbank Road were replaced in the late 1950s or early 1960s by permanent bungalows built by the Borough of Lewisham.

Beaver Housing Society, which seems to have been formed in the 1920s, appear to have owned the houses at the eastern end of Ardmere Road – they rebuilt some of them in the mid-1950s and added a terrace of red-brick houses on the corner of Nightingale Grove.

Both are resplendent with the blue glazed ‘Beaver’ panel, sadly, this is all that remains of Beaver – they were taken over by L&Q in the early 2000s.

The block surrounded by Maythorne, Springbank and the railway was used for offices and related yards. The one on the corner of Maythorne – still survives, home to the building contractors P J Harte.  The opposite corner went through a greater variety of uses – it was last a nursery which closed in the mid-2000s.  It was boarded up by 2012 (see below from StreetView) and new houses completed by the summer of 2017.

The remaining houses were repaired – the differences in the brickwork are obvious in several locations on Nightingale Grove.

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

The Ordnance Survey map is on a Creative commons via the National Library of Scotland.

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

 

 

https://maps.nls.uk/view/102908716

Passfields – Listed Lewisham Social Housing

One of the most attractive (from the outside at least) flatted social housing estates in Lewisham is the Passfields Estate on Bromley Road – along with the some of the remaining homes on the nearby Excalibur Estate, it is one of only two listed council estates in Lewisham.

After World War 2 with some sites, as we have seen in earlier posts, housing was developed soon after the war to try to ameliorate the homelessness and destruction of homes as a result of the V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks and the Blitz.  Such estates included Heather Grove on Hither Green Lane and Lewisham Hill, The post-war brick shortages and the need for new housing quickly meant that other sites – such as the parkland of Forster Memorial Park and Hillyfields, along with some smaller sites whether there had been large scale rocket destruction, such as Lenham Road and what is now the Mercator Estate became home to prefabs. Passfields was one of the former group.

It had been farmland until after World War One; the 1916 published Ordnance Survey map shows the small Whtehouse Farm still there (just down from the junction between Bromley and Bellingham Roads) with several fields behind, although on the front was one of a series of sports grounds that faced onto Bromley Road.  The probable home for a while to Catford Southend, and certainly home to Waygood Athletic afterwards, was a little higher up beyond Park House (which remains in a much modified form as the Territorial Army Centre.)

By the outbreak of the Second World War, while the farm buildings remained, Whitehouse Farm was no more – its land had been sold and the private sector homes of Conisborough Crescent Woodham, Arkindale, Bosbury and Carstairs Roads, along with Daneswood Avenue had all been built.

The Passfields estate was designed for the Borough of Lewisham as council housing in 1949-50 by J B Shaw of Fry, Drew and Partners. There are a 101 homes – a mixture of flats, bedsits and maisonettes – the presence of the latter was unusual at the time. Similarly the balconies that were an important feature in the design were more of a rarity up to that point.

The builders were Ove Arup and Partners, now better known as engineers.  The block behind Bromley Road is slightly curved, reflecting the constraints of the site – at the time this was innovative in large blocks.

Importance too was placed on the landscaping – both in terms of the areas between the blocks at right angles to Bromley Road and in the centre of the estate.  It was an estate that received recognition at the time winning an award at the Festival of Britain. More recently it was given Grade 2 listing in 1998.

Cherry and Pevsner waxed lyrically about the estate in ‘Buildings of England’ (1)

Passfields …is one of the most interesting groups of flats to be built immediately after the Second World War in London…..Curved five-storeyed range, a shorter projecting wing again ‘breaking’ at right angles and returning with the former direction.  To the SW three-storeyed blocks….. Extremely good minor details, such as light fittings and lamp standards.

Like all the council homes in this part of Lewisham it was transferred to the community gateway, resident controlled, housing association, Phoenix in 2007.  Phoenix obtained Planning Permission for refurbishment work to the estate in 2011 which was completed a few years later. Most of the homes remain in social ownership – Land Registry data suggests that around a quarter of the homes had been sold under Right to Buy by the end of March 2019.

 

Notes

  1. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p428

Land Registry data on the sales comes via Nimbus Maps

Picture Credit

The Ordnance Survey map is on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland

The Mercator Estate – 1850s suburbia & 1960s Redevelopment

As Running Past has covered before, the area close to Lewisham town centre began to be developed with the arrival of the railway in 1849 as early Victorian suburbia – houses for the wealthy with sufficient space for servants.  One of these areas included Blessington and Mercator (initially Marlborough) Roads.  The houses were probably  built in the 1850s – they appear in 1861 census but not a decade earlier.

The Birts were at no 10 Blessington Road (probably just below the ‘A’ on the map) in 1861, Daniel a lawyer and Amelia both were in their 40s, had 6 children and 3 servants along with several visitors staying when the census enumerators called.  ‘Standards’ had fallen slightly by 1871 as there were only two servants there.  The Birts had moved on by 1881 – but ‘Stock and Share Dealer’ Francis Snoad, wife Annie and young daughter had returned the live-in servant complement to 3 – two housemaids and a cook.  The Powers, Samuel a 67 year old Mineral Merchant, his wife Rebecca and three adult children lived at no 10 in 1891 – their needs were simper – a cook and a housemaid sufficed.

In 1901 the Scriven’s lived there – William was a Brewery Manager – perhaps a slightly lower ‘class’ of resident than their predecessors, with his wife Elizabeth, two teenage children and the same servant type and numbers as their predecessors.  By 1911 the house appears to be being used as a school, there were 2 caretakers for number 10 which appears to have been the main school building but the schoolmaster was at 14, an Arthur Mason.

By the 1939 Register was complied virtually all the houses on the street had been subdivided – 10 was home to the Liffens, James was a heating engineer, the Orrs – William was a Clerical Officer for the Admiralty and the Garnetts a larger family which included 3 adult children including a Clerical Officer for the Admiralty and a ‘Hot Water Fitter.’   Unsurprisingly, there was not a servant in sight.

The area was captured on film from above in February 1939 – Mercator and Blessington Roads are in the bottom right hand corner.

The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps suggest 3 V1 rockets were dropped in the area, although Lewisham records only record two – the latter is probably correct as the most easterly of the trio marked doesn’t seem to have damage consistent with a V1.  Emma (80) and Henry (66) Nieass died on 8 July 1944 at 49 Blessington Road. There were 10 deaths on 29 June 1944 (sometime reported as being the following day) in attack that destroyed most of the houses in Mercator Road – Dorothy Clayton (40), died at number 6; Constance Bunyan (58), Ethel Castlehow (55) and Jospeh Dale (60) all died at number 8, probably in different flats; Dorothy Moir (42) perished at 10 Mercator; the victims at 12 were Robert Goodwin (67), Rhona Holmes (40), Sidney (77) and Ann (70) Mote; the youngest victim was Muriel Green, aged just 3, who lived at 14 Mercator.

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

There were other bombing related deaths on the estate too – the Allens, Mary and Edwin, both in their 70s, died at 45 Blessington on 8 September 1940, the second night of the Blitz. Also killed in the same house that night was Alberta Hayward (31).

In the period after the war much of the area was cleared and over 80 prefabs were built either side of Mercator Road and on the higher parts of Blessingham Road.  They will have been one of the bigger concentrations in the area after the Excalibur Estate, Hollyhedge Bungalows and Hillyfields.

The approval for the construction of the 14 storey, 51 flat, Rawlinson House was given by the old Borough of Lewisham in 1964; so it is reasonable to assume that the rest of the estate was approved at around the same time.  The contractors who built Rawlinson House (and probably the rest of the estate) were Tersons.  They were a housing subsidiary of the major infrastructure contractor Balfour Beatty who specialised in tower block from at least the mid-1950s, when they were building police flats around their north west London base.  Other similar building work included parts of the Stockwell Park estate.  The redevelopment included not only the sites used for prefabs but also included the demolition on houses untouched by the war along Lee High Road as well as some badly damaged by still standing houses elsewhere on the estate.

The estate is a mixture of a terraces of houses facing onto Belmont Park at a raised level above Lee High Road (14/18 of these had been sold under Right to Buy by mid-2019) along with another 8 houses north of Saxton Close – again ¾ have been sold.   There are a series of maisonette blocks, such as Chesney, Ericson and Clavering Houses, fronting onto Mercator Road and Blessington Road; along with the single tower of Rawlinson House.  While some of the flats and maisonettes have been sold – the majority still seemed to be owned by the Council.

Like many of the estate of the era, the estate included several garage areas.  These were designed to keep cars off estate roads and presumably allow the continuation of play in streets.  As the levels of car ownership increased the estate roads became clogged with cars and as the average size of cars increased the garages became redundant.  Lewisham used a couple of sites on the Mercator as a pilot for developing new homes in an era of very low grant funding for social housing so new homes for rent had to be cross subsided by sales.  The rental part, Atlas Mews, is behind the houses on Belmont Park, the sale element at the Marischal Road end which also included an unused community centre. It was the first new council housing in Lewisham for 30 years.

It is a model that has continued elsewhere in the area – with a site off Lee Church Street about to be finished as new homes for rent (as of spring 2019) with a nearby site between St Margaret’s Passage and Dacre Park under construction for sale.

 

Credits

Land Registry data on the sales comes via Nimbus Maps

The bomb damage map is from –  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.

The Ordnance Survey maps are on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland – the top is from 1863, the lower map is from 1950

Census, 1939 Register  and related data comes via Find my Past

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.

 

Children’s Play in Lee Between the Wars

A while ago Running Past delved into the first volume of the autobiography of Phyllis Willmott who grew up in Lampmead Road in Lee, looking at the Sunday Constitutional that she and her siblings went on with the adult male members of her extended family. We return to ‘Growing Up in a London Village,’ to explore her recollections of play around 90 years ago.

Memoirs like this from the period are rare, as Willmott herself noted ‘(Working class) families seldom write letters; they do no keep diaries or publish books;’ traditions were oral (1).

The house at 49 Lampmead Road was overcrowded by modern standards, although as noted in the posts on Ardmere Road, for working class families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the area, this was not uncommon. It was rented by Phyllis grandparents who had the large front bedroom as well two uncles and a cousin who shared the rear living room. Phyllis mother and father, Harriet and Alec, shared the smaller second floor bedroom – with Phyllis and her brother and sister top to tail in a single bed (2). Unsurprisingly, unless weather prevented it, play was usually outside (or at least that’s what her memories were…)

Skipping games with old clothes lines were common and could often become the entire focus of play for weeks on end to the exclusion of almost everything else, but would then be quickly abandoned (3). Hopscotch would be marked out on the pavement, which was the venue for marbles too. There would be paper chases up and down Lampmead Road and into the road itself with cars a rarity (4).

Seasonal ‘standards’ included conkers in the autumn and a season later, winter warmer. The latter involved keeping lit rags smouldering in a pierced cocoa can (5) – it isn’t clear whether the children were able to purloin any methylated spirit or other accelerant to aid the burning.

In summer holidays the children of Lampmead, Brightfield and neighbouring streets would have a ‘fair’ against the wall of the end house which faced Brightfield Road (below); the house was occupied by the irritable Mrs French. They sold sweets made by mothers, posies of flowers from gardens, swapped possessions they no longer wanted – dolls clothes, toy soldiers and the like. It lasted about a week (6).

The wall was used for other games too – one involved cigarette cards being were propped up against it, others would attempt knock the cards down by flicking their own cards at them. Any card(s) knocked down were the spoils of victory for the flicker, but all cards standing would mean the loss of the the flicked card. Spirits rose and fell with the winning and loss of cards. (7)

Ball games were played against that long flank wall to the terrace too, it had enough length to support up to 4 games at once. The reverberations no doubt drove Mrs French to despair – often shooing the children away (8).

There were a couple of dozen children of a primary school age that played out in the street (9) so perhaps Mrs French’s interventions were not surprising. Street play was safe though, unlike now, cars were a rarity in the neighbourhood apart from those on Lee High Road. Much of the rest of traffic on the streets was horse drawn or the hand pulled barrow of the type that her father used for building work. The streets ‘belonged’ to the children and other pedestrians (10).

While the back garden was very much her grandfather’s domain, the children were allowed to play there too – a favourite was racing snails found in the lilac along the wooden benches he had made. The only condition was that he made Phyllis and her siblings clear up the trails from the seats. (11)

Source EBay Feb 2016 Source eBay Feb 2016

The children seemed to have a lot of freedom to wander from an early age and a frequent destination was Manor House Gardens, which had only been open for 25 years when Phyllis made her first forays there. There was then a shop in the park, the Old Road end of the cafe which sold sweets, tea and cakes. Next to it was a covered shelter (now part of the cafe, behind what is now the outside seating) – often where they ended up when weather was poor (12). The playground at Mountsfield Park was preferred to that in Manor House Gardens (it isn’t clear what existed in Manor House Gardens at that stage – large scale maps only note the tennis courts in front of the Manor House & where the football ‘cage’ currently is.)  However, there were gangs from neighbouring areas at Mountsfield Park so it was less popular (13).

As the children got older they were allowed to venture further afield, literally to a field – next to the Little Quaggy in Mottingham – ‘camping’ by the still clear stream – fishing and paddling there and on spring trips out there, jam jars would be filled with frogspawn (14). The Sidcup by-pass had just been built, and then it was home to Express Dairy cattle, now it is riding school land with lorries thundering past.

And finally… when her Dad was in work, trips to the Imperial Picture Palace were made on Saturday mornings, it was opposite where her grandmother had grown up near Lee Green (15).

Notes

  1. Phyllis Willmott (1979) Growing Up in a London Village p6
  2. ibid p12
  3. ibid p35
  4. ibid p36
  5. ibid p36
  6. ibid p37
  7. ibid p37
  8. ibid p37
  9. ibid p31
  10. ibid p177
  11. ibid p60
  12. ibid p106
  13. ibid p109
  14. ibid p110
  15. ibid p118

 

(Probably) Lewisham’s Most Beautiful Building and its Past

4a Clarendon Rise is currently home to London Sivan Kovil, a Hindu Temple – it is arguably Lewisham’s most beautiful building and the starting point for the almost certainly most stunning parade in the borough – the Chariot Festival, held each September for the last few years. The site has an interesting past and wasn’t always this attractive.

Clarendon Rise used to be known as Clarendon Road and is one of the main roads that go through what used to be referred to as the College Park Estate, based on the land that once belonged to College Farm. Clarendon Road/Rise bridged the Quaggy, which was one boundary of the farm, to Lee High Road, with The Sultan (now Nando’s) sitting on the far bank.

What is now 4a stood opposite to the Sultan. The site was showing as empty when the Ordnance Survey cartographers visited in the mid 1890s as the top map shows. However, the reality is a little more confused than this and it seems likely that the site was in least partly occupied by a firm of boot makers, E Cooney and Sons from at least the 1891 census. Edward Cooney, was the ‘E Cooney’ a boot maker – the only son listed in 1891 and 1901 was William, listed as a shoe seller in 1901. The business and family was still there until around 1910, but there was no sign of them afterwards, in Lewisham, or anywhere else for that matter.

The next occupant of the site seems to have been a furniture dealer, Arthur Vincent Humm. Arthur was a Lewisham man, born in 1883 he’d spent some time in the Hussars, in 1911 he was listed as a cabinet maker working in his father’s furniture business at 89 Lee High Road, the family home where he had grown up. Arthur was at what was then 2 from around 1919 to at least 1928, possibly longer – there are no Kelly’s Directories for this area between 1928 and 1941 available at Lewisham Archives.

By 1941, the Road had become a Rise and the occupants of the site were a well known Lee name – Penfolds Motor Engineers. Presumably, this was before they moved to Lee Green. They were to stay at Clarendon Rise for another decade, at some stage in the not too distant future Running Past will cover Penfolds.  The site buildings at that stage are shown in the bottom map (above).

A trio of firms were there in the 1950s – Falcon Painting Works, the motor engineers, Premier Diesel Engineering Works, and Falconers Transport motor haulage contractors. Sadly, nothing more is sadly known about any of these firms, the same can be said about their successors Bylay Heliot Equipment Co, who were Machine Tool makers who occupied 4a until 1967.  There was an unsuccessful plan to build a service station, restaurant and multi-storey garage prior to Bylay Heliot moving out.

No one was listed in Kelly’s for a decade, then it was briefly home to the heating engineers Fry Pollard, who moved on at around the time that they were acquired by Norden Heating.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s 4a was the home to Glass Structural Services and Structural Roof Services. The site was bought in 1994 as a Hindu temple and remained in what were the existing warehouse structures which were still there in 2008 when StreetView (above) first passed by.  By the next time the Streetview car passed demolition of the main building was in progress in 2009 when the foundation stone was laid. At the centre of the front is a gopuram – an ornate, tapering oblong tower (see top picture) with richly decorated doors at its base – this a smaller version of a traditional Hindu design. Of the previous building, only the wall facing the Quaggy was retained, although that was much altered.

Clarendon Rise and the temple are well worth a visit in mid September each year when the annual chariot festival takes place – pictured below.

The arrival of the temple has seen a significant change in shopping on a Lee High Road with an influx of shops serving the worshipers at the Hindu Temple – including those selling saris and jewelry.

Notes and Credits

The Ordnance Survey maps published in 1897, 1916 and 1950 are on a creative from the National Library of Scotland

Census and related data is via Find My Past

Kelly’s Directory information is via Lewisham Archives

Lewisham’s 500 Year Belgian Connection

A while ago Running Past looked at the links of Lewisham to its namesake suburb of Sydney, both in the name and through transportation.  Another international link, of much longer standing, is to Belgium, more particularly the Flanders city of Ghent as the land that forms much of the current Borough was under the control of the Ghent Abbey of St Peters for several centuries.  For the sake of historical accuracy, Flanders was a self governed part of France – the County of Flanders – during the period referred we’ll look at.

The links have their origins in the late 9th century when Elfrida, or Ælfthryth  (other variants are available), born in 877 and was the youngest daughter of King Alfred  married Baldwin II, the Count or Margrave of Flanders in the 890s.

In Alfred the Great’s will he left large amounts of land in Lewisham, Greenwich and surrounding areas to Elfrida.  Baldwin died in 919 and was buried in the Abbey of St Peter in Ghent in Belgium; later the same year Elfrida gave her inheritance of “Lieuesham, Grenewic and Uulwic, with the meadows, pastures and woods” to the Abbey of St Peter for the welfare of her husband, sons and herself – and at various stages all of them were buried there  – Elfrida in 929.

The Abbey (pictured below on a Creative Commons) had been founded in the late 7th century and lasted as a monastic building until the end of the 18th century.

The holding of the land in Lewisham was confirmed by King Edgar the Peaceful in 964 after a request from Archbishop Dunstan who had been sheltered at the Abbey

“I, Edgar, King and Chief of the English, buy divine assistance, renouncing ever low and transitory thing as dross, make known to all that I have granted to God and St Peter, and to the Society of the Church of Gand (Ghent), a certain extent of land in a place with the rustics from ancient custom have denominated Lieuesham, with all its appurtenances, viz., Greenwich, Woolwich, Mottingham and Coomb.’

The Lewisham land was captured by one of the many Viking attacks in 1006 – despite the fortifications such as  Faesten Dic (pictured below on a Geograph Creative Commons) part of which remains in Joydens Wood on the Bexley Dartford Borders). Edward the Confessor promised to restore Lewisham to The Abbey of St Peter, but was not able to do so until he became King in 1042.  In 1044 a charter was given to the Abbot of Ghent confirming the rights granted in 964 along with a slightly wider area and rights to hold court.

The power was retained after the Norman invasion as William’s wife Mathilda was a descendant of Elfrida. The Domesday Book describes Lewisham in 1086 – the image is via Open Domesday.

Fortunately, Open Domesday translates the Medieval Latin  this into modern English – the key points about Lewisham were

  • Total population: 62 households (which was very large) made up of (households): 50 villagers. 9 smallholders, 3 slaves;
  • Total tax assessed: 2 geld units (which was quite small given the size);
  • Value: Value to lord in 1066 £16, 1070 £12 and 1086 £30;
  • Plough land: 14 plough lands. 2 lord’s plough teams. 17 men’s plough teams;
  • Other resources: 30 acres of meadow 30 acres, along with woodland supporting 50 pigs, 11 mills – value£ 8 6s; and
  • Lord in 1066 & 1086 & Tenant in Chief 1086: Abbey of Ghent (Saint-Pierre)

The Abbey of Ghent was also noted as Tenant in Chief – this denoted holding land directly from the king, rather than another nobleman, it denoted great honour, but also carried the responsibility of for providing knights and soldiers for the king’s feudal army.

The rights were extended slightly during the reign of Henry I (1100-1135) to include sole right of hunting and the right to establish a market in Greenwich, although by this stage the local possessions other than Lewisham and Greenwich seem to have been transferred to others.

During the reign of Henry I there was another invasion, rather than being from the east of the North Sea and a late Viking incursion, it was from the east of the Quaggy and the Manor of Lee.    The Lord of the Manor, Robert de Baunton seized Lewisham and Greenwich. There were a series of Papal decrees, decisions by Henry I and threats of excommunication heading towards Lee  which stressed the rights of the Abbot of St Peter’s in Ghent.

It appears then that a lease was granted to Robert de Baunton for Lewisham and Greenwich for the sum of £25 a year.  The charter for this was held in a Devon country house but this was then destroyed in a fire and there was a subsequent case two generations later that was due to be heard before King John (1199 to 1216).  It the end it was settled out of court for a payment by the Abbot to the Lord of the Manor of Lee.

The rights of the Abbot were confirmed by Henry III (1216-1272).  It appears that the land was subdivided by the Abbot into a number of Manors – Bankers, Brockley, Catford, Bellingham, Shraffolt and Sydenham – more on them at some stage in the future though.

During the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453) various monarchs seized ‘alien Priories’ and then returned them during lulls in the fighting.  However, the seizure became a permanent one in 1414 when Henry V (pictured via Creative Commons) permanently seized all this land. So ended Belgian control of Lewisham after almost 500 years. Lewisham was only to remain in Crown ownership for a year before being transferred to the newly established Sheen Priory in 1415, the year of Agincourt.

More recently, there were links to Belgium during the First World War; Deptford was initially home to some Belgian refugees in the early stages of the War – their arrival provoked anti-German attacks there. More importantly, hundreds of young men from Lewisham served in Belgium during the War, with many never returning. Forty two young men from Lewisham, along with another 7 from the New South Wales namesake, are remembered on the Menin Gate in Ypres (pictured below on a Creative Commons).

The young men from Lewisham remembered there include

  • Arthur Lee of 26 Ardmere Road (pictured) who died on 27 October 1914 serving with King’s Royal Rifle Corps, aged just 20;
  • Albert Sims of 322 Hither Green Lane who died on 16 June 1915 serving with the Honourable Artillery Company aged only 19
  • Frederick Robus of 19 Elthruda Road who died on 16 August 1917 serving with the London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) aged just 21;

 

The final street on the list takes us almost full circle back to the original Belgian link – Elthruda is one of the variants of Elfrida who gave the Lewisham to the Abbey of St Peters in Ghent.