Category Archives: Listed Lewisham

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

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Pentland House – One of the Country Houses of Lee

The area around Old Road in Lee was one of the three original parts of Lee – a three centred village, the other concentrations being around the original St Margaret’s Church and Lee Green. Old Road at various stages was ‘home’ to some of the largest houses in the district, the first two of which were at least partially funded through slavery – Lee Place, the Manor House, The Firs, Cedar House (which was at the top of what is now Aislabie Road) and Lee House  (roughly where the Lee Centre is now).  The final one that still remains is Pentland House, known for a while in the second half of the 19th century as Foclallt House – shown  in the mid 1860s surveyed Ordnance Survey map below (1).

It is a Grade II listed building which was built at the end of the 17th century, probably by a John Smith on land bought from the Boones of Lee Place – on the opposite side of Lee Road. It predated the adjacent Manor House by about a decade and is probably the oldest inhabited building in Lewisham.

It seems that the house stayed in the ownership of the Smith family for about 170 years – the commonness of the name though, may have hidden some elements of the past.  Around 100 years after the house was built its occupant was Matthew Smith, who became Mayor of the Tower of London in 1793

It seems that Matthew Smith moved out at the beginning of the century, and let the house, initially to Sir Thomas Baring whilst his father, Sir Francis, lived next door at the Manor House.  Pentland House was then home to a ladies boarding school which taught ‘French language and manners’.  It was run by William Grimani who was probably a Hugenot refugee.  He was one of the signatories of the Lee Petition in 1814 – one of part of a campaign begun to insert a clause in the treaty with France to make France abolish their slave trade, which had been reintroduced by Napoleon.

Matthew Smith died in 1812 and his son, also Matthew, inherited the house; he was a navy Captain with a less than distinguished record – his vessel was sunk after hitting a rock and he was court martialled and dismissed from the service in relation to an incident in 1794.   While he appealed and was re-instated, he never commanded a ship again.

Matthew Smith did not extent the lease of Pentland House to Grimani beyond 1822 moving in himself and making major alterations.  The building was extended to the east, almost to the boundary with the Manor House, probably adding the Doric porch at around the same time.  It seems that rather than repairing the external brickwork on original house, the entire structure was rendered.

Lee Place was demolished and sold after its last tenant Benjamin Aislabie moved out in 1824, Smith bought one of the lots, the land opposite – now surrounded by the newer part of Old Road,  Market Terrace on Lee High Road and the western side of Bankwell Road. It had been used as a kitchen garden but seems to have been converted into an orchard (as the Ordnance Survey map above shows).

Matthew Smith appears to have moved to Richmond before his death and let Pentland House to another naval family Admiral Sir George Martin, whose wife, Ann, was sister of Rev. George Lock, then Rector of Lee.  The couple were there, along with two servants, when the census enumerators first visited Lee in 1841. Ann died a year later and it seems that Sir George moved to central London – he died in Berkeley Square in 1847.

When Matthew Smith died in 1844, he left the house to his nephew Colonel Bellingham J. Smith.  He was still there in the 1851 census where he was described as a ‘fund holder’, aged 60 – the other occupants were his wife Priscilla and four servants.

While Bellingham Smith sold up in 1856, it was another Smith that bought the house – the unrelated John T Smith, a retired Colonial Marine Engineer who lived there with his wife Maria Sarah with 10 children living at home in 1861 and 6 in 1871.  It was a family that had moved around the Empire a lot with children born in India, the East Indies and South Africa before arriving in Lee where one of their children was born in 1859.  Living in one of the larger houses in the area they clearly had standards to maintain – there were 9 servants in 1861, a complement that had grown by 2 in 1871.

It seems to have been John Smith that changed its name to Foclallt House, it is referred to as this in electoral registers in the 1860s.  Where this name came from isn’t clear though; it is a Welsh word although the only definitive reference elsewhere is to a farm of that name near Tregarron.

The house was sold on to Robert Whyte in the early 1870s; the Whytes were already in Lee in the 1860s, living at 126 Lee Park in 186.  Robert Whyte’s father was described as a Colonial Merchant.  By the time Robert (snr) died in 1869 the family was living further down Lee Road at 20.  Where Robert was listed as the head of household in 1871.  During the 1870s they moved to Old Road, returning the Pentland to the House name.

Whyte, according to F W Hart, the Victorian historian of Lee,  ‘modernised the interior and improved the whole for domestic and personal convenience, so as to render it available for the requirements of the present age.’  By 1881 he had married Ruth (nee Jay) and they already had 4 children and 6 live-in servants, he was listed as a ‘General Merchant’ in the census. In 1891 there were more children and more servants.  Whyte and his extended family remained at Pentland House until around 1911 – they were listed there in that year’s Kelly’s Directory.  In 1912 there was no mention of the house but in 1913 it was listed as ‘Hostel (Goldmsiths College) for Women attending the Training Department at the College.’

There were occasional adverts for staff in The Times – in 1926 there was an advertisement for a kitchen maid and housemaid offering  ‘wages £26 : good holidays and outings :  might suit sisters’ (2) and a decade later ‘a lady to assist the Housekeeper’ (3).

The house remained a student hall into the 21st century when it seems to have been sold by Goldsmiths.  It then went through a variant to the hall – basic bedsits with shared cooking facilities before being refurbished around 2016 to effectively become a backpackers hostel – with prices starting from as little as £16.20 (September 2018) a night in a shared dormitory, with breakfast for a further £3.  At the time of writing there were very mixed reviews on Trip Advisor and regular complaints about noise from neighbours, particularly in Manor Lane Terrace and Manor Lane.

Notes

  1. The map is via the National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
  2. The Times (London, England), Friday, Mar 26, 1926; pg. 3; Issue 44230
  3. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Sep 16, 1936; pg. 3; Issue 47481

Census and related data is via Find My Past

Kelly’s Directory information is via Lewisham Archives

William Webster – A Victorian Building & Civil Engineering Contractor

One of the larger houses on Lee Terrace is Wyberton House, it was home to one of a major building and civil engineering contractors of late Victorian London, William Webster whose firm was one of the main ones used by Joseph Bazalgette.  He lived close to St Margaret’s Church, for the last couple of decades of his life.  Amongst the firm’s work were three of my favourite south east London buildings – all of which have some exquisite detail:

  • Crossness Pumping Station
  • Hither Green Cemetery’s Non-Conformist chapel
  • Blackheath Concert Halls

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William Webster was born at Wyberton, a small village near Boston in Lincolnshire, probably in 1822 based on census and birth record data.  After an apprenticeship with a local builder, he set up his own business restoring churches – amongst his early work was restoring the partially 9th Century church of St Peter & St Paul, Algakirk (pictured below via Wikipedia Creative Commons) with the renowned architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott, work which was completed in 1851.

algarkirk_church_-_geograph-org-uk_-_2500

 

He gradually took on larger work further south, including asylums in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire in the latter part of the 1850s.  He moved to 1 Grove Place in Lee (now Belmont Grove) around 1860 – he, his wife, mother, three children and two servants were there in the 1861 census.

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He won several contracts for projects led by Sir Joseph Bazalgette including several of the northern Thames Embankments to allow for the construction of the Circle Line and sewer system, and several sewage pumping stations – notably Crossness in Thamesmead.   Opened in 1865, the building is impressive from the outside, built in a Romanesque style, but once inside it becomes clear why it is often referred to as ‘Cathedral on the Marshes’  – it has magnificent cast iron work, that has been painstakingly restored and is well worth a visit.  Webster’s name is cast into some of this.

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The Dissenters Chapel at Hither Green Cemetery dates from a decade later, opening in 1873, when it was referred to as Lee Cemetery.  The Gothic building has some stunning detail – including some wonderful gargoyles in the small spire.  It suffered from World War 2 bomb damage and has been boarded up and allowed to decay since.  Its neglect gives it a slightly eerie feel, and, perhaps, adds to its beauty.

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The large amount of work that the firm was obtaining allowed Webster to build a home to match his, presumably very large income.  He bought two adjacent smaller houses, 7 and 9 Lee Terrace, part of what are sometimes referred to as the Lee Grove Group which he then demolished and replaced with the massive 15 bedroom Wyberton House which was completed in 1869.  An estate agent’s description is in a cutting below, but its listing text describes it as

Stone fronted with polished granite decorations, other sides stock brick. Slate roof concealed by parapet. Slightly irregular building of 3 storeys ; 7 windows. Panelled parapet.  Cornice of alternate paterae and brackets. End windows set back. End quoins. Windows have cambered architraves with keystones and stops. First floor windows have cornices and brackets and window over porch has pediment on brackets. Porch has granite columns, fretted balcony and 4 steps. Three-light canted bays either side, the right side window with glass removed for chapel use.

The wealth also allowed a large number of servants – this grew from  two in the 1861 census to six in the subsequent  three – it wasn’t a house where servants would get any long service awards though, none of them appeared in more than one set of enumerator records.

William Webster died in 1888 and was despite his building the dissenters’ chapel at Hither Green Cemetery, he was interred at St. Margaret’s, Lee just over the road from where he lived.

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Oddly for what was such a large company, it seemed to have disappeared almost without a trace – it certainly traded after William’s death, seemingly taken over by his eldest son, also William, who was listed as a contractor in the 1891 census.  Blackheath Concert Halls built in 1896, was constructed his stewardship.  However, it seems that the firm was sold up or folded soon after – by the 1901 census William was listed as a ‘Scientist, Living on Own Means’  – William was to die during the next decade, probably in 1904.

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As for Wyberton House – after William Webster’s (senior) death, several attempts were made to sell the property during 1890 but to no avail (1), and William (junior) was living there with his family when the census enumerators called in 1891. William moved on to slightly less grand surroundings, in 1901 he was at the now demolished 50 Lee Park (a few doors up from the bombed Christ Church) add link.  It seems that there were few takers for the mansion his father had built as it was often empty.

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The House eventually found a long term use in 1906 when Knightsville College for Girls, moved from their previous home in what is now called Lewisham Way.  The College, run by Alton (or Altro) Knight had around 75 boarders in its previous location.  After the First Word War, the building was taken over by St Joseph’s Academy and it remained in their use until the early 1990s – amongst the pupils that would have passed through its doors were the author David Lodge, the sprinter John Regis and the footballer Jlloyd Samuel.  The house was converted into substantial flats after its use by St Joseph’s finished.

Notes

  1. The Times (London, England), Saturday, Jan 18, 1890; pg. 16; Issue 32912

Census and related information comes from Find My Past.

 

Lee Manor House – The Years Before the Library

Last week’s post looked at the early days of the Manor House, particularly its links to the slave trade.

While the ownership of the house remained in the Baring Family until the House became a library, it wasn’t their residence for much of the final century of their ownership. They had bought Stratton Park in Hampshire in 1801 – the estate included the village of Micheldever, hence the link to the Lee street name.

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The first tenant of the Barings seems to have been Frederick Perkins, whom FW Hart describes as an ‘opulent brewer’. Frederick Perkins father, John, had been Chief Clerk to the owner of the Anchor Brewery, Henry Thrale. The brewery was put up for auction in 1781 when Thrale died and bought for £135,000 by Robert Barclay, of the banking family, who seems to have seen the brewery as an investment and needed some industry knowledge. So he kept Perkins on, making him a partner. John Perkins died in a freak accident at Brighton Racecourse – being kicked in the head by a horse in 1812.

His son, Frederick Perkins, was born in 1777, he and his brother Henry were each given half of the eighth share in the brewery sometime around1805, Frederick seems not to have taken much interest in the brewery, seemingly being content to live off the income from his valuable share. He spent large amounts of money collecting books. When he moved out of the Manor House in the 1830s, the brewery was producing around 330,000 barrels a year – it was probably the biggest brewery in London.

As for the brewery, it continued on the South Bank, close to the current Globe Theatre, as Barclay Perkins, until 1955 when it merged with rival London brewer Courage.  Courage rationalised their operations, demolished the buildings and sold the site in the early 1970s.

The Barings returned to the Manor House at the end of Perkins’ lease, the House being used by Sir Francis Thornhill Baring, the 1st Baron Northbrook (from 1866), who was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1839 to 1841 – possibly whilst he was using Lee as a close-to-London base. He was the grandson of the original Sir Francis. Francis’ father would have still owned the house at that stage, it didn’t pass onto Sir Francis Thornhill Baring until 1848 when his father died.

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From information board next to Boone’s Chapel

How long Sir Francis stayed at the Manor House is unclear, he may have moved back to Stratton Park when his father died. Whenever he moved out though, it is worth looking at the final two occupants as they are both interesting in their own right. The penultimate occupants were the Farnalls who seemed to have moved there at some stage in the late 1850s. Harry (Henry) had been born in Clifton in Gloucestershire he has been described as

an example of that extraordinary Victorian ideal, the gentleman civil servant defending the patrician notion of a generous, caring state in the absence of any very firm evidence that the state was routinely either of those things.

He seems to have come from a military family and had a privileged education taking him to Downing College Cambridge, via Brasenose College Oxford and Charterhouse.

His married soon after leaving Cambridge, although by the time he had moved to Lee he was in a second marriage; his new wife, Rhoda, came from Sandford, near Weston Super Mare. Before arriving in Lee, they lived in Sandal Magna, now part of Wakefield in Yorkshire, where the three children living at home in later censuses were all born.

Farnall was a Local Government Board inspector, there are several reports written by him or mentioning him, including poor law in South Wales (presumably before he moved to Yorkshire) and health reports on the North West, where he was a Poor Law Insepctor – this included being sent by Parliament to report on the Lancashire Cotton Famine.  The family’s arrival in Lee presumably coincided with him becoming the Metropolitan Inspector for the Poor Law Board.

Along with Florence Nightingale Farnall instituted the first enquiries into the quality of nursing in workhouse infirmaries, having previously been criticised for his ‘blindness’ to this;  he was also later criticised for his ‘light inspection’ of the notorious Bethanl Green Workhouse.

He had a sudden fall from grace after falling out with Gathorne Hardy, later Lord Cranbrook, who was President of the Poor Law Board, and he was ‘transferred unceremoniously to Grantham’ where he was responsible for more mundane elements of public health. The family remained in Lee though.

Harry Farnell was also heavily involved in the 3rd Company of the Kent Volunteer Rifles; they were set up in 1859 and were to become part of the Territorial Army in the 20th century. He was made Captain in November 1859 and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1863. He received a sliver bugle from ladies of Blackheath and Lee to recognise his work in 1860 in front of the Manor House.

The family moved to Wingfield House which was attached to The Firs (covered before in the blog) between 1871 and 1881 – probably around the time of his retirement and/or the end of a lease. Harry died in 1883, the rest of the family seem to have remained at Wingfield House until it, along with The Firs, was demolished in the early 1890s to make way for the new housing on Old, Abernethy and Lochaber Roads. The family moved out of the area – by the 1901 census his widow Rhoda is listed as living in Chelsea.

By 1881 the Manor House was home to the Military ‘crammer’ School run by Henry Wolffram which was designed to prepare young men for the entrance examinations for the Army. The 1881 census lists 21 pupils along with a resident tutor, a housekeeper and a cook. Henry Wolffram was born in Stuttgart in Germany had been in Britain for a while. He had married Anne from Surrey and in the 1871 census he was running some sort of education establishment in Greenwich – it had two Swiss boarders. There is a small photo of the school in front of a now demolished extension of the House in 1884.

Wolffram’s name is remembered by a small cul-de-sac off Manor Lane Terrace, located roughtly where the final home of Manor Farm was. As with Aislibie Road, the spelling is incorrect and is given as ‘Wolfram’.

Source - EBay Feb 2016

Source – EBay Feb 2016

Earl of Northbrook sold the Manor House and estate to the London County Council for £8,835 in 1898, worth a little more now given the increase in London land values. The previous tenants had left it in a poor state of repair, the LCC describing the House and Gardens as being in a ‘somewhat neglected condition’ . The House became a Library and the gardens a public Park opening in May 1902.

Source EBay Feb 2016

Source EBay Feb 2016

The House itself is listed, along with the wall forming the boundary with Pentland House to the west, the entrance gate posts and the telephone kiosk in front.

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Finally, it is important to remember the history covered in the first part of the story of the Manor House – it is worth repeating the final paragraph of that post;

If you are a current Lee, Hither Green or Lewisham resident, next time you use the park, the library or just walk or travel past and admire Richard Jupp’s fantastic architecture, please at least pause to remember the ‘dark heritage’, to remember the lives of those transported 5,000 miles from New Calabar to injustice and misery in the Leeward Islands, and to remember that it was the enforced and unpaid toil of slaves that largely paid for what you are looking at. If you live somewhere else, something similar may well apply to your local ‘country house’ too.

Note

All the census and related data came via Find My Past 

 

Slavery and the Manor House

The Manor House in Lee is an impressive building, rightly listed, but amidst the grandeur and beauty it has financial foundations that lie very firmly in slavery – it is a prime example of what has been referred to as ‘dark heritage’

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The House was built for Thomas Lucas around 1770, he had lived in Lee for a while, renting Lee Place (on the opposite side of Old Road) from the Boones – it is a ‘country house’ that Running Past ‘visited’ a while ago.

But to understand the history of the Manor House, we need to go back a generation.  It certainly wasn’t the first building on the site – John Roques map of 1746 (1) a quarter of a century before the Manor House was built shows a lot of properties around where it is now located.  It was probably the location of Lee Farm, although there is some uncertainty about this.  Lee Farm seems to have moved around 1745 to become Burnt Ash Farm and the vacated buildings were bought by William Coleman, Thomas Lucas’ uncle, who sought to re-create the old Manor of Lee for his nephew (2)  which had been broken up after the death of Brian Annesley – covered earlier in Running Past.

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Coleman was the agent for a number of Leeward Islands plantation owners, notably the Pinneys of Bristol who were who were at that time probably the wealthiest plantation owners in St. Kitts and Nevis. He also jointly owned a plantation in Antigua with his nephew – Roundhill which had 150 slaves.

Thomas Lucas was born around 1720, possibly in the West Country.  He was Treasurer (1764-74) and later President (1774-84) of Guys Hospital and has been described as ‘a wealthy merchant’, much of his wealth came from  joint ‘business interests’ with his uncle in St Kitts in the Leeward Islands, along with the Roundhill plantation with 150 slaves in Antigua.  In his own right, Lucas probably owned land at Barbados Bay in Tobago – which almost inevitably would have had direct or indirect links to slavery.

A Thomas Lucas of this era part owned a number of ships directly involved in taking slaves to the West Indies – while there  is nothing definitive linking him to Lee, there cannot have been many of that name, with sufficient wealth to own a share in a large ship, who had  links to the West Country and who were involved in the slave trade at that time.  One of these ships was the ‘Africa’, jointly owned by a Thomas Lucas and seven others.  It left Bristol in 1774 and its captain purchased slaves at New Calabar (in what is now Nigeria) and then proceeded to St Vincent for instructions on their sale in 1775.  The net proceeds were a staggering £5442, millions at today’s prices.

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Manor House was designed by Richard Jupp, a well-known 18th century architect and surveyor, employed for much of his career by the East India Company.  The Manor House is one of a trio of relatively well known south London properties that he designed – the others being the Sevendroog Castle and the entrance and wings to Guys Hospital (1774-77), presumably as a direct result of his work for Lucas  at the Manor House.

Lucas died in 1784 and what happened next in terms of ownership and occupancy is a little confused with some contradictory evidence, although some elements of this ‘confusion’  may relate to the author’s poor understanding of 18th and early 19th century legal jargon.  It seems that the former Lady Lucas let the house to the Call family, Sir John in 1792 on a 61 year lease.  However, he seems to have moved out before his death in Westminster in 1801 – there is an impressive pyramidical family tomb in the old St Margaret’s churchyard.

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Lucas wife, who later married John Julius Angerstein (someone else who had made money from slavery) and appears to have sold the estate in the 1790s; there is a report of a sale in August 1796 at Garraway’s Coffee-House.  However, to confuse matters there is also the granting of a lease to Sir Francis Baring by the executors of Thomas Lucas in 1797. There are also frequent reports of a sale by a Sir Joseph Paice of the Manor House to Sir Francis Baring for £20,000 in 1796.  This may be the same sale as that by former Elizabeth Lucas, in that the House might have been due to pass to him after her death – there is a mention of him as the reversionary legatee which might point to this. Whatever the chain of events was, the net result was that around the end of the 18th or early in 19th centuries the Manor House became the London home of the Barings – this was certainly by 1801 as John Baring, the 3rd son of Sir Thomas was born there.

Before moving onto the Barings, it is worth touching on Sir Joseph Paice.  He would certainly have known Thomas Lucas as Paice was also trustee at Guys.  While there were no direct links to slavery, the Paice family had ‘trading links’ with Jamaica for produce and crops inevitably produced by slave labour.  Paice was also a childhood friend of Francis Baring – growing up in the same part of Devon, and was to help with the setting up of Barings Bank.

Despite their purchase of Stratton Park in Hampshire in 1801, it seems that the Barings remained at the Manor House, using it as their London base.  Sir Francis died there in 1810 and Sir Thomas lived there for a few years after that, although the family was to own the House for almost another century.

The links of the Barings early wealth to slavery is relatively well known and well documented;  the whole family of that era and before seem to be imbued in the trade.    The graphics below come from the University College, London Legacies of Slave Ownership database – the maroon plaque from the Manor House.
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While Sir Francis is said to have made his fortune before the age of 16 based on slavery. While his son Thomas Baring is known to have eventually opposed slavery, unlike his near neighbour Benjamin Aislabie – whose murky past Running Past covered a while ago – his home and lifestyle at the Manor House and Stratton Park were under-pinned by past links to slavery.

Given this past it seems odd that it is a family deemed worthy of a Lewisham maroon plaque without mention of what the ‘merchant’ refers to.   Next week’s post will look at the latter years of the House in private ownership, when the Barings retained ownership but rented the House out.

If you are a current Lee, Hither Green or Lewisham resident, next time you use the park, the library or just walk or travel past and admire Richard Jupp’s fantastic architecture, please at least pause to remember the ‘dark heritage’, to remember the lives of those transported 5,000 miles from New Calabar to injustice and misery in the Leeward Islands, and to remember that it was the enforced and unpaid toil of slaves that largely paid for what you are looking at.  If you live somewhere else, something similar may well apply to your local ‘country house’ too.

Notes

  1. From information board at Lee Green
  2. Josephine Birchenough &  John King (1981)Some Farms and Fields in Lee p3

Gilmore Road Telephone Exchange & the Architect in a Dressing Grown

One of the more elegant Edwardian buildings in Lewisham is tucked away in a side-street cut-through off Lee High Road; it is now relatively up market private housing, but was designed and built as a telephone exchange in 1909.

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The architect was Leonard Stokes; Stokes was brought up a Catholic and was initially articled to a firm who undertook work primarily for the Catholic Church and he continued in this line of work once he opened his own practice – his work including Holy Ghost Church, Balham, and the English Martyrs School in Walworth.

He became involved in the design of telephone exchanges following his marriage to Edith Gaine, the daughter of the General Manager of the National Telephone Company.  From 1898 until 1911, when the company was taken over by the Post Office, Stokes designed twenty telephone exchanges, including the one in Gilmore Road.

Stokes was well respected amongst fellow architects and became RIBA President in 1910.  It was customary for the retiring President to have their portrait painted in evening dress with their medals.  However, for reasons that are unclear, Stokes was painted in an old Jaeger dressing gown. The RIBA asked the artist, William Orpen, and Stokes to change the painting but both refused and instead of being hung in a prominent position at Portland Place, it was displayed outside the gents’ toilets.

(c) The Royal Institute of British Architects; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation (see notes at end on usage rights)

Gilmore Road is a Grade II listed building, the listing text describing it as

Early C20 probably by Leonard Stokes.  3 storeys, 4 windows. Top storey appears to be a later addition in multi-coloured stock brick with stone coped parapet and gauged brick arches to flush frame hinged windows with glazing bars. These rest on stone coping of original parapet.  2 lower floors of multi-coloured stock brick with red brick dressings, i.e. gauged brick window arches, window jambs, panels of banding between first and ground floor windows; and angles of building. Flat, stone pilasters within angles rest on stone-coped plinth and rise through moulded stone cornice and stone-coped red brick parapet to end in small capitals. Flush framed sash windows with glazing bars. 1-storey,  1-bay left entrance extension banded in red brick. Seven steps, with stone coped and banded side wall, to 5-panel door under gauged red brick arch. Similar 3-bay rear extension without pilasters or cornice.

The growth in telephone usage between the wars seems to have made the small exchange at Gilmore Road insufficient for local needs.  By 1938 the Post Office had bought the freehold to Victorian houses on the corner of Lee High Road and Glenton Road, with a view to building a new exchange.  World War 2 delayed the building, with the new exchange opening in 1947; it isn’t clear whether Glenton Road and Gilmore Road were ever a joint operation.

The building was later used by Nesor, a dental equipment supplier, and the now defunct British branch of the International Primate Protection League, before being recently converted into flats. At the time of writing it was still possible to view the estate agent details of the penthouse flat (sold at around £925K) and one of the other flats was available as a film location.

The telephone box within the curtilage is also listed; it is a Giles Gilbert Scott K6 that has now been painted grey and has the ‘Telephone Exchange’ lettering at the top. It is closer to the silver for urban boxes that Gilbert Scott originally intended.

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Painting Credit

The picture of Stokes is copyright of the RIBA, it was made available via the BBC’s Your Paintings Project, which in turn allows reproduction in non-commercial research – this includes blogs (page explaining this was here until mid-July 2015, but now broken link).

 

Lochaber Hall – the Church Hall without a Church

Lochaber Hall is a rather nondescript looking building, easy to ignore as one goes past, squeezed in between Edwardian and late Victorian housing; but on election days, like thousands of other halls, community centres, schools and other buildings it takes on great importance – it is a Polling Station.
 It looks like a church hall because that is exactly what is was; it was built in 1910 as the church hall for Holy Trinity in Glenton Road – quarter of a mile away on the other side of Lee High Road.  The Hall was built on some of the last bits of farming in the area – Manor Nursery, the nursery had been built as kitchen gardens around 1800 by the then owner of the Manor House,  Sir Francis Baring, its collection of fruit trees was described in 1882 as ‘one of the best on this side of London’. Some of its boundary walls predate its current usage.
 Its architect was Ernest Newton, who was to become President of the RIBA a few years later; he mainly focused on the more exclusive private homes in Bickley, Bromley and Chislehurst.  He was associated with Art Workers Guild, which, with links to William Morris, promoted the ‘unity of all the arts’, denying the distinction between fine and applied art, such as architecture.  Newton’s obituary in the February 1922 Architect’s Journal described him in glowing terms

“His eminence as an architect of unexcelled skill in a class of work that constitutes England’s chief or sole claim to supremacy – the capture and apt embodiment of the very spirit of the home…”

Lochaber Hall was given Grade II listing in 1973, its listing text describes it as a

One storey building with gable end to road.  Multi-coloured stock brick. Wide, fairly high pitched, slated roof  with overhanging eaves at sides and brick dentil cornice in gable.  Also in gable large, four-light, square-headed window with brick arch in 2 planes and flanking brick pilasters. Angles of building emphasised by gabled buttresses breaking roof line. 5 side bays defined by buttresses with sloping step just below eaves. Projecting ground floor, with brick-quoined  centre, has recessed porches at outer corners, with overhang resting on stout Doric columns.

Holy Trinity was bombed during WW2, it was covered here a few weeks ago in the blog and the only obvious link is now a dedication stone at the front of the Hall.
Other than its occasional use as a polling station, it is a well-used community resource with two halls.  The smaller of the two is in extension at the back, the Jack Poole Annexe, is in memory of a former ‘caretaker’ of the Hall.  Jack was a genuinely community spirited man, looking after the Hall but reporting any dumped rubbish, street lights out and the like – he badgered Lewisham Council until the problem was sorted out.
 Jack used to live in my street and if he was still alive would have almost certainly have had a Labour Party poster displayed in his window – he always did whatever the election  and he sometimes had ‘committee rooms’ there.  I’ll undoubtedly think of him as I pass his house, it is still his in my mind, on my way to cast my vote.