What is currently known as the Broadway Theatre is arguably one of Lewisham’s finest 20th century buildings both inside and out. It dates from the early 1930s and used to be next to a gothic 1870s Town Hall – pictured together below.
When the Town Hall was first built there appear to have been lawns backing onto what was then called Springfield Park Crescent (now called Catford Broadway) . The Town Hall was gradually extended into the lawns around the turn of the 20th century. The rest of the curved site seems to be been enclosed for use as a council depot. At the eastern end of the Crescent, facing onto Rushey Green and the Black Horse and Harrow (now Ninth Life) was a fire station, presumably the small building behind the tram below.
After the fire station closed, the site’s owners, Lewisham Parochial Trustees, sold it to the Borough Council for around £1,300 in 1919. Originally, it was planned to build a war memorial there, but clearly plans changed, as that was built facing Lewisham Hospital (1).
Without a clear use identified, the site seems to have been used as something of a dump (2), so there will have been a degree of relief in Catford when in 1925 plans were announced for an alternative use for the site – the development of a new extension to the Town Hall, a concert hall and shops. An Act of Parliament was required for the development, part of a wider London County Council Bill, which presumably received Royal Assent in 1926. Part of the logic was the lack of a large hall, other than cinemas, in the old Borough of Lewisham (3).
The architects for the development were Bradshaw Gass and Hope of Bolton, who were selected after a competition which saw 71 entries (4). The Town Hall extension for the Borough of Lewisham was unusual for them in that most of their work was in the North-West. They are still based in Bolton but work such as this brought them to a much wider attention winning several other commissions to build town halls before World War 2.
The building work was put out to tender in 1930 and 27 bids were received, with G E Wallis and Sons one of £126,944 being successful (5). They were a firm with roots in Maidstone that had been in existence since 1860, although were central London based in Old Cavendish Street by that stage. The firm still exists as Wallis. Work was overseen by Alderman A Rennie who was Chair of the Town Hall Extension Committee (6), he was a longstanding councillor who was a member of the Municipal Reform Party (7) – the name the Conservative used in London local elections in that era.
The ‘Town Hall Extension’ was officially opened on 22 June, 1932 by the Duke of York, who became King George VI just over four years later.
Despite the Borough Council having built the Hall, it appears that they had no powers to organise or promote events in its early days, although this changed after World War 2. For the community and church groups, at least, there is a surviving register kept from April 1934 of those who had booked, the rooms used, whether this included the now listed organ. The first entry was for the London Advent Mission who booked the main hall between 6 and 10 on Sunday 1 April at a cost £10 10s which they had paid on the Friday before. There was an arrear brought forward of £4 14s from 1933/34 from Crystal Palace Speedway Supporters Motor Club.
The photograph below shows bookings from later that financial year in February 1935 – there were auctions, lectures, Lewisham Musical Association competitions, a boxing tournament and the Advent Mission were back, this time using the small hall. There were also orchestral concerts and weekly dances held.
There was a lot of comedy there in the 1980s and 1990s – with Alan Davies, Paul Merton and Eddie Izzard all appearing, along with several plays, including Catford Upon Avon Shakespeare Festivals in 2016 and 2017. It probably isn’t the best venue for staging plays though as the backstage area is tiny.
Despite the lack of space, most years the theatre has a pantomime – oh not they didn’t ….. oh, yes they did! One of the corridors behind the scenes has stunning photographs of many of the performances, some of which I vaguely remembered. You can book now for the 2023 pantomime (or could when the post was published in spring 2023).
The renaming to the Broadway was in 2002, 70 years after the opening by the Duke of York, by his daughter Queen Elizabeth II. There was a major refurbishment in which was completed in the spring of 2023 to allow better backstage access to enable it to meet concert promoters requirements along with making it much more accessible front of house.
Events are now beginning to be listed there, so do sign up for their mailing list and go and see performances there! When you do go, get there early, have a wander round, look out for some of the lovely details, like the glazing on the stairs above in the bar and the wrought iron work details on some other stairs (pictured below), and keep an eye open for posters and photographs of past performances – some real trips down memory lane are to be had!
23 July 1919 – Lewisham Borough News
07 May 1930 – Lewisham Borough News
30 December 1925 – Lewisham Borough News
The Times June 23, 1932
11 April 1930 – Forest Hill & Sydenham Examiner
South London Observer 14 April 1944
The photographs of the theatre under construction, the Town Hall with the tram terminus and the Hippodrome are all part of the collections of Lewisham Archives, they are used with permission and remain their copyright
The photo of the register and accounts is part of the collection of the theatre, it is used with permission and remains their copyright
The night time picture is on a creative commons – source
And finally, a massive thank you to Carmel O’Connor from the theatre for the behind the scenes tour and Rhoda Idoniboye from Lewisham Council for the invitation – it was an absolutely wonderful evening!
There have been several posts on Running Past about the evolution of public buildings around Lee – the two telephone exchanges, the trio of fire stations and most recently the municipal offices off what is now Woodyates Road. Next door to the latter, albeit constructed a little later was the Lee Sorting Office.
From around 1888, perhaps a little earlier, the Sorting Office was based on Lee High Road on the corner of what is now Lampmead Road (originally it was a dog leg of Lenham Road) – it is now home to a firm of solicitors, after being the offices of a realtively long standing business, Homesales, who were also in Market Terrace.
In the 1881 census, what was then 1 Sussex Terrace, was a grocer’s run by Nathaniel Short – he was from Greenwich and had four young children, with wife Elizabeth from Gravesend. They can have been there no more than a year as their youngest daughter was born in Lewisham, rather than Lee and the older children all were born in Bexleyheath.
Little had changed by the 1884 Kelly’s Directory, but by1888 the address was now 226 High Road, and Short had added a Post Office to the Grocery business. Out at the back there were some buildings used as a sorting office.
Where sorting had been done before isn’t immediately clear – there were several other local post offices, including one already covered at 10 Burnt Ash Road (now part of the Sainsbury’s site) run by Martin Martin. There was another in the row of shops between Brandram Road and Boone Street.
There was a high turnover of grocers and Postmasters, the Shorts moved on to Enfield by around 1888 – they were in Enfield in the 1891 census, making a circuitous trip via Australia to get there. William James Francis took over from the Shorts; Abraham Culverhouse was in charge when the census enumerators called again in 1891 and Roberts & Co were running the Post Office and grocers by 1896. There was no mention of a post office by 1900 when A M Curtis was there and it was not listed in the 1901 census and just being a grocer in 1904 when George Iliffe was there.
With a burgeoning population, continuing to run a sorting office from some small outbuildings behind a grocery shop was not really sustainable. Lewisham already had one – located in what is now the shopping centre and had gone out to tender in 1895 (1). Lee’s sorting office was put out to tender three years later. It was a site next to what were originally Lee Parish Offices, on what was then Woodstock Road. It became Woodyates Road after the development of the Woodstock Estate.
The Architect was Jasper Wager; a man from Bridgnorth in Shropshire, he had been working for Her Majesty’s Office of Works since 1877, they were responsible for a lot of public building work at this stage. The sorting office at Lee seems to have been one of the earliest projects that he was specifically responsible for. He was probably living locally at the time it was built – in the 1901 he is listed as living next to Greenwich Park in Vanbrugh Hill.
It is a striking building; the Local Listing describes it as ‘(a) single storey red brick Queen Anne Revival building (with) near symmetrical elevation onto Woodyates Road with stone mullioned and transomed window. Stone surround to centrally placed entrance door with stylised gablet with casement windows above.’
There is some lovely detail on it – particularly the stone sign Postmen’s Office over the main door (the newer brickwork to the side was the site of the postbox).
Looking at the 1911 census, around 35 men were listed as ‘postmen’ (no women) in Lee. Some obviously may have been based at other Sorting Offices. Unsurprisingly, they were concentrated in the smaller houses of the area, but in relative terms they were well paid, as shared households were rare, other than around half a dozen in their teens. The road with the most was Taunton Road – which was home to Edward Greenwood (131), Philip Cox (56), Arthur Fincham (47), Arthur Goodwin (69), Charles Wood and lodger William Hedge (99), plus two other lodgers William Pescott (72) and Bertie Ridgewell (64). Roads like Lenham, Lochaber and the small houses of Lee New Town also had significant numbers.
While this wasn’t the case in either the 1901 or 1911 Censuses, some staff lived on site by the time World War Two broke out – in the 1939 Register there was postman Edward Wood and Ernest Rawlings who worked as a Post Office cleaner.
Like much of the post war development of the eastern side of Burnt Ash Road, the partial redevelopment of the site for housing in the mid-1990s related to the ending of Crown Estate leases. It had been the same with shops on Burnt Ash and Eltham Roads that made way for the Leegate Centre and the housing that was demolished for Leybridge Court and most of the nurseries. The Sorting Office closed in 1993 with sorting and deliveries on the Lewisham side of Lee being transferred to Endgate Street and, presumably, on the Greenwich side to Court Yard in Eltham.
The site for both the Municipal Depot and the Sorting Office was bought by Developer Gengis Kemal. The main depot building fronting onto Woodyates Road along with its stables in the north west corner along with the Sorting Office were all retained and converted. There was sympathetic infill to the rest of the site. The site is now known as Jasmin Court – it was originally to be called Jasmine after the daughter of the developer – the sign at the entrance to the former yard refers to it as this. However, it appears to have been incorrectly had an ‘e’ removed by Lewisham so Jasmin is what it is officially known as. It follows in the footsteps of a trio of misspelled Lee street names going back over a century – Holme Lacey Road, Aislibie Road and Wolfram Close (3).
London Evening Standard 5 July 1895
Kentish Mercury 12 August 1898
Before someone else notes this, the irony of this is not lost on a writer with poor proof reading skills
Census and related information is via Find My Past (subscription required)
Kelly’s Directory data comes from Southwark Archives
The Ordnance Survey map is part of the collection of the National Library of Scotland and is used on a non-commercial licence
I am indebted to George Willis who lives in Jasmin Court (the 1990s development that the offices and stables are now part of) who has researched the site – although most of the research for this post was in parallel so any errors are obviously mine. Thank you also to Darryl from the excellent 853 news blog for putting us in touch – if you don’t follow 853 you are missing out!
There are a small number of very attractive 1930s Art Deco buildings in and around Lee; Running Past has covered a couple of them in passing – Dowson Court on Belmont Grove and Woodstock Court on the corner of Burnt Ash Hill and Woodyates Road. We turn our attention to, perhaps the most impressive of them, Lee Court on Lee High Road.
It seems that Patterson Edwards saw the housing development potential of the edge of the site and sold off a narrow sliver of land, in the same way that previous owners of Lee Lodge had cashed in on land for Manor Park Parade (to the right of the postcard below) a couple of decades earlier.
It is not clear who built or designed the flats, but by the early 1930s there was an elegant four storey Art Deco mansion block of 48 flats with a small estate office at the western end. There are six sections, each with its own stairwell and originally all the flats had Crittall steel framed windows – a small number of which seem to remain. Buildings of this type and age are a rarity in Lewisham, and while the current freeholders have neglected the exterior a little, it should have been locally listed years ago; this finally happened in 2020, although as we will see later this tardiness will have a long term impact.
The 1939 Register was collected a few years after building was finished and gives some idea as to who was living there. Looking at flats 1-24 it is striking that there were no children; while with evacuation a month before the Register was collected, few were to be expected, in most of the other locations that Running Past has used the 1939 Register for, a few remained. This was certainly the case at Verdant Lane estate, which was built at around the same time.
The reason is probably that relatively young professionals predominated – there were few manual workers with caretaker George Lester at Flat 1 and the lodgers with the Harlands at 22 – a driver and a packer for a chemist being the exceptions. Unlike a lot of the other locations a lot of the women worked – Ethel Harland was a model, there were a trio of typists at Flat 5 and a couple of clerks. The jobs of the men included draughtsman, pub landlord, research physicist and several clerks. There were no ‘Heavy work’ suffixes which would have offered extra rations.
Households were small, the Harlands with 4 was the biggest, most though were single people and couples though. There were a surprising number of single person redacted households. It is not clear why, all were probably relatively young though.
While it is now locally listed, as the application was made before that local listing came into force it might as well not be. Although as was the case with the now demolished gas holders at Bell Green, local listing often counts for very little.
The financial benefits of the development will pass to the freeholders of the block, Grandpex Company Ltd. They seem to have bought, through mortgages, the freeholds of around 21 blocks bought at various stages since the early 1950s. The charge on Lee Court dates from late 1998.
Lewisham needs extra homes and building additional storeys on existing blocks is often a good way of doing this – the rather unattractive block of shops in the south western quadrant of Lee Green was probably enhanced by this. It is not that different to the hundreds of loft conversions in the area. However, this is probably not the block to do it to. However, in the context of there being no local listing at the time the application was made there was probably little that either Planning Officers or the Planning Committee could do other than approve the application.
Picture and Other Credits
The postcard of Manor Park Parade is via eBay in December 2019
The photograph of Hurst Lodge, is from the collection of Lewisham Achives it is used with their permission and remains their copyright
The area bordering Manor House Gardens has a rich and interesting history which Running Past has written numerous posts about. This post was written to ‘accompany’ a walk organised as part of the 2019 Manor House Gardens Festival, it can be used to independently to walk the route (it’s a circuit of around a mile, which can be found here) or as virtual tour of the area. The ‘walk’ is divided into sections which relate to the planned stopping points – each of which is full of links to other posts in the blog which will have more detailed information.
Before it was enveloped by the city Lee was a village, a village with three centres – Lee Green, the area around St Margaret’s Church and Old Road, as John Rocque’s map from 1746 shows.
Lee remained largely rural until mid-19th century until the coming of the railways – Blackheath & Lewisham stations opened in 1849, Lee in 1866 and Hither Green not until mid-1890s (it was just a junction before that).
The mid-1860s Ordnance Survey map above shows how little development there was beyond Lee Green and to the south of Old Road; farms remained until the 1920s and 1930s, such as Burnt Ash and Horn Park.
The Manor House
Old Road was once home to a series of large houses, starting from the eastern end these were Lee House, The Cedars, Lee Place, the Manor House, Pentland House and The Firs – geography played an important part, it is on a small hill which would have offered impressive views to the east and south but were high enough to protect from flooding from the Quaggy and the now diverted Mid Kid Brook, which used to flow down Lee High Road.
The first of the country houses was Lee Place; Its building was the result of the death of Lord of the Manor, Brian Annesley who had a moated farm probably where St Margaret’s Lee School is now situated. His later years are believed to at least partially inspired Shakespeare to write King Lear – there was happier ending than in the play though. The estate split up on his death.
Lee Place (above) probably built by/for George Thompson – had links to the slave trade but is better known as a soldier and MP during the Commonwealth brother of Maurice who lived at Lee Farm. It was the home to the Boone family (it was their family chapel) for several generations but was let out from the mid-18th century. Its last tenant was Benjamin Aislabie.
The estate was sold in 1824 as still has an impact on the current landscape as it was broken up into relatively small lots which were developed at different times. It allowed too the straightening of Lee High Road – the straightened bit was known as New Road for several decades
The Manor House
Lee Farm was previously on the site, which moved to what is now the junction of Baring and St Mildred’s Roads in 1727 and became Burnt Ash Farm. The former farm was bought initially by the slave trading brother of George Thomson, Maurice and then by William Coleman who sought to re-create the lands of the old Manor for his nephew,Thomas Lucas, both were ‘merchants’ with strong links to the slave trade.
The Grade II listed Manor House was built on the site of the farm in 1770 by Richard Jupp for Lucas. It was bought by Sir Francis Baring in early 19th century, whose family wealth also had its origins in the slave trade – used it as their near London base – the merchant on the maroon plaque is depressingly vague. The Northbrooks let in out during much of the 19th century
Pentland House was built in early 1790s and is probably the oldest residential building in Lewisham – it is a close run thing with St Mary’s Vicarage though! It has been added to considerably and rendered in the early 19th century when extended.
It was home to the rich, but not that significant Smith family, who sold to some more Smiths, who sold to some more Smiths (albeit with a prefix) – it became a Goldsmiths’ College hall in 1913 which stayed until the early 2000s. It is currently a largely backpackers hostel.
Flats & Houses Opposite
The houses and flats opposite are a bit less grand – Bankwell Road & adjoining bits of Old Road – completed in 1908, possibly by James Watt – it was the central of three plots of land bounded by Lee High Road and Old Road – as the 1890s Ordnance Survey maps below shows.
The eastern of the plots are Arts & Crafts style flats which are a bit out of kilter with rest of area. The land they were built on had been part of Lee Place – the house itself was on this part. The land was bought as an orchard and kitchen garden for Pentland House with the flats & Market Terrace on Lee High Road built in the mid-1930s.
Before moving on worth reflecting on the library, the park and indirectly the rest of the current urban landscape was paid for by the slave labour in the plantations of the Caribbean owned or traded by those that lived here and over the road.
On the way to Lochaber Hall at the first house on Manor Lane Terrace look at the wall – the remains of a sign pointing towards air raid shelters in Manor House Gardens (more on that later).
Lochaber Hall, the Firs, Holy Trinity
If think Lochaber Hall looks like a church hall you’d be right, it was originally church hall for Holy Trinity in Glenton Road (pictured below). The church was destroyed in the Blitz and is now Callaghan Close (almost opposite the Telephone Exchange) and named after the 1970s Prime Minister who lived in Blackheath.
The Hall was designed by Ernest Newton, a locally renowned architect and President of RIBA, he also designed St Swithuns, the original Church of Good Shepherd and Baring Hall at Grove Park. Slightly surprisingly it is Grade II listed. Immediately after World War Two it was used as a hall for the Church of the Good Shepherd as that church was largely destroyed in a fire & the congregation was using the adjacent hall as the church.
The Firs Estate
The Firs was another of the large country houses of Lee, it was a large red-brick house which was a built around 1700 as the ‘town’ residence for the Papillion’s, a prominent Huguenot banking family – it stayed in the family’s ownership for a century. The last owner from the mid-1860s was John Wingfield Larkin, a member of a wealthy Kent family who had been a merchant in Egypt and British consul in Alexandria between 1838 and 1841. The family sold up on his death as the city encroached in 1893.
It was developed as Murillo, Old, Rembrandt & Lochaber Roads by the end of 19th century. It is not certain who the builder/developer was – although is a stained glass for Siderys on Murillo Road – who were prominent builders in the area.
The houses on the corner of Manor Lane Terrace and Abernethy were largely destroyed on the 1st night of the blitz. 27 Murillo Road was home to one of the more prominent Lewisham suffragettes – Caroline Townsend.
Lee Manor Farm
This was originally at the Manor House, moved to what is now the junction of St Mildred’s Road and was renamed Burnt Ash Farm in 1727; that farm was split in the early 19th century and new farm buildings constructed opposite The Firs (close to the current junction of Manor Lane Terrace and Manor Lane). It didn’t stay the farm house that long and we’ll return to it at our next stop.
Junction of Manor Lane Terrace & Kellerton Road
Manor Park Estate
We are in the land of W J Scudamore here and along with John Pound are probably the two firms of builders that most influenced the area – buying land from the Northbrooks. W J Scudamore were based on Manor Lane (corner of Handen Road) then Lee High Road (part of Sainsbury’s site) and latterly on Holme Lacey Road in Lee and active in Lee, Hither Green and later elsewhere from the 1890s until the 1930s.
The Manor Park Estate (as the roads around here were originally referred to as) was built for a mixture of rent and sale – sale prices were £265 or£275 for the bigger ones – it was 1906…!
They definitely also built
Shops on Manor Lane (eastern side)
Some of St Mildred’s Road
Holme Lacey & Dalinger Roads
Several small sections of Leahurst, Longhurst and Fernbrook Roads
Probably lots of others too
On the site of the last location of the Lee Manor Farm (pictured below) – the land farmed was to the south of here. The farmhouse seems to have been sold with the land for the Manor Park Estate and became a home for the Scudamore family who remained there until 1961.
The site was redeveloped in the 1960s or early 1970s, it isn’t clear whether this was by Scudamores, as they went into liquidation in 1966. It is presumably named after the last occupant of the Manor House – Henry Wolffram from Stuttgart who ran a ‘crammer’ school for would-be army officers – the spelling of his name is incorrect though – the cul de sac as one ‘F’ the name two ‘Fs’.
The council estate behind Cordwell Road – is named after one of the last farmers of the farm.
It contains a rather impressive Ice House which was used as an air raid shelter in World War Two; there were a couple of other ones too, the outline of one of them was visible in the parched grass in the hot weather of 2018.
The Gardens have been ‘listed’ since 1987 and underwent a major refurbishment in 2000. The small lake has been part of grounds for most of its post agricultural life. The River Quaggy flows through the Gardens, it used to be at a higher level but the bed was excavated partially to reduce flooding – probably in the 1880s.
Behind the library, there are two little bits of Catford – foundation stones for the now demolished St Laurence Church and the original Town Hall.
Lenham Road/Lammead Road Corner
If we were standing here in the 1870s we would be in or next to the River Quaggy as there was a meander that originally came up to this point. It was straightened in 1880s both to allow development but possibly too as flood prevention measure – there were really bad floods in 1878.
Most of housing on Lenham, Lampmead (and Aislibie that will walk up) Roads dates from late 1880s when Lee House (more on that later) was demolished and the land sold for development. It was slightly different on the other side of the river – Robertson Street, now Brightfield Road probably dates from the late 1850s or early 1860s.
The houses at the corner are very different – early 1960s council housing as opposed to late Victorian. This was because early in the morning of 22 June 1944 a V-1 flying bomb hit the corner, killing 6. There was a lot of Blitz damage on Lenham Road as well as on Aislibie Road where there are several bits of infill council housing from the late 1950s or early 1960s.
49 Lampmead (above) was home to Phyllis Noble who was to become Phyllis Willmott and wrote a 3 part autobiography about growing up in Lee in the 1920s and 30s – this has been covered a few times – including in relation to the Sunday Constitutional and children’s play.
Almsot opposite, at the junction with Aislibie Road in 2016 a house had Blitz type damage as a result of badly executed building work.
Lee House & Centre
This was originally the site of Lee House, a medieval mansion that was rebuilt in the 1820s probably partially as a result of the re-alignment of Old Road, it is pictured below. However, by the 1880s it no longer met the needs of the wealthy Victorian gent as city encroached with the railways.
Lee Centre was built on the site in the 1880s – initially it was home to a few clubs, including a chess club. But it was never developed uses that befitted its impressive architecture by World War 2 it had effectively become used for storage and nurse appointments; it was used for education from 1970s and more recently by various charities.
Next door was built as St Margaret’s Parish Rooms, long before Kingswood Halls were built; it was also home to school for many years before becoming offices and warehouses for stationery supplier and then a toy merchant. It has been a nursery for the last decade or so.
In a former incarnation this was home to the teetotal Lee Working Men’s Institution, it was taken over as a depot for the Lewisham Department Store, Chiesmans who rebuilt it around 1914 – it was almost completely destroyed in during the Blitz before being rebuilt on same footprint for Chiesmans in mid 1950s. After some slightly less than legitimate activities it is slowly being converted into flats.
Was situated on what is now the opposite corner of Aislbie Road, it was another large house – the estate was broken up and mostly sold at the same time as Lee House. The house itself remained until the 1890s before being sold for development – hence the housing at the north-western corner of Aislibie Road is different to the rest of the street. The street itself was named after, although spelled incorrectly, the slave owner and terrible cricketer Benjamin Aislabie – the last tenant of Lee Place.
Manor House Gardens (Old Road entrance)
This is next door to 36 Old Road, this was part of the estate of The Cedars. Post development the site was used for many years as stables for Thomas Tilling’s horse drawn buses and then as a workshop by the firm afterwards. It went through several uses afterwards – the sweet makers Whitehouse and Co from 1929; John Edgington and Co Marquee Manufacturers who latterly made floats for the Lord Mayors Show were there from 1949 (including some of those below) and then Penfolds used it as a crash repair workshop from the late 1980s until around 2010. Development into flats started a few years later but has been paused for a couple of years.
John Rocque’s 18th century map is from the information board at Lee Green
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 V-1 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 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.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p428
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 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.
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 H 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Times (London, England), Saturday, Jan 18, 1890; pg. 16; Issue 32912
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.
The first tenant of the Barings seems to have been Frederick Perkins, whom F H 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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sir Francis had ‘interests’ as at least a lender at the Bogue Estate in Montego Bay in Jamaica from 1792. But he was more than that, in the detailed records of sales and related from the estate from 1792 to 1808, Sir Francis is listed in the ownership – Bogue is described as the ‘property of the heirs of Richard Atkinson Esq deceased and Messrs Baring and Clayton.’ The transactions included ‘hire of enslaved people’ in 1795 and 1796. In 1800, at around the time of the purchase of the Manor House there were 215 men, women and children enslaved on the estate.
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 seemed odd that it is a family deemed worthy of a Lewisham maroon plaque without mention of what the ‘merchant’ refers to. This was finally recognised in June 2020, when, after pressure, Lewisham Council covered it up, pending a broader discussion about its future. The context of this was a series of Black Lives Matter protests across the country and in Bristol the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and dragged into the harbour.
The next 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.
From information board at Lee Green
Josephine Birchenough & John King (1981)Some Farms and Fields in Lee p3
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.
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.
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).