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The Woodstock Estate – The 1930s Homes of Woodyates & Pitfold Roads in Lee

The area to the west of Lee station had been developed in the decades following the arrival of the railway – Lee station opened in 1866.   Most of the Lee Manor Conservation Area was built soon after and the area beyond it filled over the next few decades – much of it by the local builders W. J. Scudamore. The maps below from 1863, 1898 and 1914 show the gradual development clearly (1).

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The area to the south and east remained farmland though – with farms already covered in the blog such as Burnt Ash and Horn Park farms surviving until the 1920s and 1930s respectively.  These were the days before the arrival of the South Circular with St Mildred’s Road ending as a T junction at Burnt Ash Hill.

Grant funding was made available in 1933 for the dual carriageway of Westhorne Avenue to link up with the section from Well Hall Road to Eltham Road  that had been completed in 1930.  However, it is clear that preparations for Westhorne Avenue had been on the go for a few years before that, as developments were being drawn up either side which backed onto the new road.  On the northern side was a development originally known as the Woodstock Estate – now referred to as Woodyates and Pitfold Roads.

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Woodstock Road was the original name of what is now Woodyates Road; however it was merely a short lane to the Board of Works Depot (above) and to a Post Office Sorting Office (below), the former it was taken over by the new borough of Lewisham after local government re-organisation in 1899.  Before looking at the Woodstock Estate it is worth pausing briefly at this end of the street.

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Both the Sorting Office and the Council Depot have relatively imposing facades and are locally listed.  They are now in residential use as part of Jasmine Court and have been sympathetically converted into houses with new homes which are in keeping with the old, added on the former yards

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On the opposite side of Woodyates Road, the original street name is retained through a block of 1930s flats (see above) with a few nods towards Art Deco, Woodstock Court, which wraps around the junction with Burnt Ash Hill with shops on the main road.

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The Woodstock Estate itself was advertised for sale in the 1931 Lewisham Council Handbook (2), and no doubt other places too; prior to development it had been allotments and a nursery as the map below shows (3).  It had probably originally been part of Lee Green Farm and is likely that it was the location that the parachutist Robert Cocking met his death.

Woodstock1

The houses offered much subtle variety in style with the house in the architect’s impression having proved hard to find, the nearest seemed to be the top of the trio pictured.  They have been much altered since they were built with lots of extensions upwards and outwards.  Those that have remained close to the way they were built are now close to 1000 times more expensive than when they were initially advertised.  Sales of 3 bedroom houses in early 2017 were £585,000 and £600,000 with a garage in Woodyates and Pitfold Roads respectively.  While the development was next to the about to be built South Circular, unlike the earlier developments along St Mildred’s Road, there was no frontage onto it – the development backed onto it with generally quite large gardens from Pitfold Road.

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Some of the original green of the allotments were retained as part of the development (see bottom photograph above) which was certainly grander than the Scudamore developed homes of Holme Lacey Road from a similar era.  A small gated green area remains at the south eastern corner of the development.  In the middle of the estate a limited amount of allotments were retained too, although this too succumbed to development in the end.  It is now home to a church which, on a cursory glance, appears to offer grim consequences for the non-believer (4).

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As for the developers, G H Builders, they seem to have been a medium sized builders in the south east, building homes in Carshalton and Banstead in 1930; however an on-line newspaper search gleaned little more information.

 

The agents W & H Elliotts were based at the same address as the developers.  Again, little was to be found of them in on line newspaper and other searches other than a similar development to the Woodstock Estate in Edgware in 1933 (5).  The company may still be in existence, a private company incorporated in 1931 from the same era still exists.

Notes

  1. The maps are on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland from 1863, 1898 and 1914
  2. This image was copied from somewhere on social media in mid-2017, I thought that it was the excellent cornucopia of all things London local government – LCC Municipal – mainly to be found on Twitter, but I was mistaken – so if you posted it do tell me so that I can properly credit you!
  3. On a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland
  4. Some cropping happened with this photograph ….. the warning is for an electricity sub station
  5. Hendon & Finchley Times 24 March 1933

 

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The Hither Green Rail Crash

Bonfire night was a Sunday in 1967, and, perhaps, a few fireworks were still going off in the streets between Grove Park and Hither Green marshalling yard as the twelve coach 19.43 from Hastings to Charing Cross passed the Hither Green signal box at 21.14 at about 70 mph with clear signals to pass through on the “Up Fast Line.”

The train was pretty much full, particularly at the front of the train as some of the intermediate stations had ‘short’ platforms.  The train was busy enough for standing in the 1st class corridor on the fourth coach.

Close to the sidings north of Grove Park, the third carriage seems to have struck a ‘small wedge shaped piece of steel that had broken away from the end of a running rail and became derailed.’ It didn’t immediately come off the track but when the coach struck some points close to St Mildred’s Road bridge (next to where Bestway is now – see photographs above), the third coach, the one ahead of it, and all the coaches behind it became completely derailed, and the second to the fifth coaches to turn over onto their sides.  The first coach ran on stopping just short of Hither Green station.

The coaches two to five had their sides torn off, this included the fourth coach where there were large numbers standing, there was other extensive damage to several coaches – notably coach two, whose roof was ripped off.

The emergency services arrived within minutes of the accident and must have witnessed utter devastation..  There were 49 fatalities and 78 people injured – the sixth highest number of deaths in a single rail accident in Britain.

Amongst those injured was a young Robin Gibb from the Bee Gees who was treated at Hither Green Hospital.  He had been in the first class seats in the fourth carriage but only suffered from bruising and minor cuts from broken glass – he had been lucky – many of the deaths were those standing in the corridor to his carriage.

Local emergency services reacted quickly- all six operating theatres at Lewisham Hospital were staffed up quickly to deal with the worst casualties, with the less severe injuries, like Robin Gibb, going to Hither Green. Thirty fire brigade appliances from stations all over south London attended with cutting gear, with fire-fighters and ambulance staff coming into work on days off.  Local people tried to help too – Lewisham Hospital was inundated with offers from south east Londoners of blood donations and offers to transport the walking wounded to Lewisham and Hither Green hospitals; local houses became first aid stations and blankets were provided from houses in the neighbouring streets (1).  In a Parliamentary debate the following lunchtime, the Minister of Transport, Barbara Castle, noted

…. Sir Stanley Raymond, the Chairman of the (British Railways) Board, was on the scene of the accident as quickly as he could be. He has informed me that the selflessness shown not only by members of the emergency services, but by ordinary members of the public, including a number of teenagers, was unparalleled in his experience since the days of the blitz.

HG Rail1

The picture the next day was of carnage, as the photographs from The Times show – the first (above) shows the extent of the damage to carriages (2); the second from close to the bridge on St Mildred’s Road shows carriages toppled down the embankment parallel Springbank Road (3) – the rendered white Corbett houses are a giveaway in terms of the location.

HG Rail2

There is also video footage from British Pathé News both from the immediate aftermath and the days after the crash.

An enquiry was opened soon after and the cause was quickly found, the driver and guard were exonerated, and the findings reported upon in the press before the end of the month, with the final detailed report being published in 1968.

HG Rail4

The cause was found to be a fractured joint, the joint itself was new but the ballast underneath it had been had been inadequately built up when a wooden sleeper had replaced a concrete one in June 1967 – the inquiry concluded

I have no doubt that the fracture was caused by the excessive “working” of the joint resulting from its unsatisfactory support condition (pictured below)

HG Rail3

There is a list at the end of the post of the names of the  victims; they ought to be remembered.  While there is a small brass memorial to one of the victims Dianna Williams high on the wall of the newspaper kiosk close to the ticket office – this feels inadequate; there should be a more prominent memorial to the dead at Hither Green, perhaps at the bridge on St Mildred’s Road.  Contact me if you have any ideas about this.

Many of those involved in the emergency response were to suffer considerably in the aftermath at a time when post-trauma counselling was rare.  Several stories of this have come up in response to the blog – such as an engine driver based at Hither Green who helped with recovery work and had nightmares for years as a result of the horrors he encountered. He had to take early retirement from a job he loved because of his anxiety due to disturbed sleep. Other staff at Hither Green station too were traumatised by the events.

The site today shows nothing of the disaster – neither on the railway itself nor on the bridge over St Mildred’s Road.  But if you are travelling under the bridge or passing from Grove Park to Hither Green on the train, do reflect on those whose lives were cut short that night:

  • Rose Margaret Ashlee (36)  Crowborough
  •  Elizabeth Tamara Ashmore (20)  Bordon
  •  Howard L. Austin (17)  Etchingham
  •  Janet E. Bartlett (18)  Hastings
  •  Jennifer Ann Bohane (26)  Wadhurst
  •  Jacqueline Branch (16)  Hurst Green
  •  Gay E. Breeds (17) Addington
  •  Judith M. Breeds (21) Addington
  •  Dorothy V. Cannon (57)  Hampton
  •  Kathleen Charlton (73)  Chiswick
  •  Veronica B. Chevallier (34)  St John’s Wood
  •  Eric G. Coveney (64)  South Tottenham
  •  Terence D. Cronk (19)  Wateringbury
  •  Edith Olive May Dutch (65)  Fulham
  •  Eric H. O. Fletton (64)  Buckhurst Hill
  •  Rev. Harold Theodore Gibso Forster (51)  Harrow
  •  Julia H. Hardwick (28)  Tunbridge Wells
  •  Marion Gay Hardwick (23)  Tunbridge Wells
  •  Charles Haycraft (23)  Wadhurst
  •  Jacqueline A.  Hazard (20)  Nottingham
  •  Gillian Mary Heppenstall (29)  Mark Cross, Sussex
  •  Ella Gladys Kemp (40)  Cartsfield
  •  Bernard John Lavender (44)  Wembley
  •  Irene E. Lavender (44)  Wembley
  •  Mark Clifton Lavers (20)  Burwash
  •  Betty Lewis (26)  Hastings
  •  Ann E. Lingham (19)  Streatham S.W.
  •  Juliet W. Mcpherson-Heard (20)  Mill Hill
  •  George Alfred Meyers (26)  Neasdon
  •  Dianne Sandra Reed (22)  Enfield
  •  Susan Anne Ritson (21)  Maidenhead
  •  Ruby Hazel H.  Rolls (48)  Tottenham
  •  Hugh P. Roots (19)  Rolvenden, Kent
  •  Geoffrey Sellings (19) Hastings
  •  Michael Smith (2)  Bloomsbury
  •  Wendy  Smith (38)  Bloomsbury
  •  Richard Spencer (21) Abbey Wood
  •  Rosemary Stewart (22)  Upper Holloway
  •  William D. Thomson (28) Hastings
  •  Alison Winifred Treacher (23)  Steyning
  •  Christopher Ian Turner (31)  Cross-In-Hand
  •  James Gordon Melville Turner (60)  Staplecross, Sussesx
  •  Lindsay Margaret Ward (19)  Bexhill-On-Sea
  •  Joyce Watson (48)  Putney
  •  Harold Arthur White (75)  Chiswick
  •  Walter H. Whittard (64)  South Kensington
  •  Dianna Williams (19)  Rye
  •  Mabel Lillian Daisy Williams (69)  Hampstead Aven
  •  Catherine Yeo (20) Wadhurst

 

Notes

  1. The Times (London, England), Monday, Nov 06, 1967; pg. 8; Issue 57091
  2. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Nov 07, 1967; pg. 8; Issue 57092.
  3. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Nov 07, 1967; pg. 2; Issue 57092.

 

In Search of the Greenwich Park Branch – Part 2 –  Blackheath Hill to Nunhead

In the first post on the Greenwich Park Branch we left train approaching the long gone Blackheath Hill station, having  squeezed between the backstreets of Greenwich, as we attempted to follow the remains of the branch line from Greenwich Park.

Before getting our virtual ticket to travel to Nunhead it is worth recalling a little of the line’s history – the railway was a relatively short lived one, built by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway from and existing junction at Nunhead to Greenwich Park. Most of the line opened in 1871 (apart from Brockley Lane station which opened in 1872) but didn’t reach Greenwich Park until 1888.  The line was never a financial success, journeys into central London much slower than from Greenwich and changes often being needed at Nunhead.  The line closed in early 1917 due war time financial savings.  It never fully re-opened, with the section to the north east of Brookmill Park being largely abandoned and the remaining section eventually incorporated into the Dartford to Victoria line.

Blackheath Hill (top photo below) was the initial terminus for the line when it opened in 1871 as the London Chatham and Dover Railway struggled to fund the development of the route through the already densely built Greenwich.  After the station closed it became a light engineering works with the tunnel under Blackheath Hill to the station was also used as a factory.

A wall bars the way from Blackheath Hill to the recent infill of Robinscroft Mews (bottom left), it is gated at the Sparta Street end preventing any peeking for unlikely remaining signs of Blackheath Hill Station.

A fascinating recent find at the Greenwich Heritage Centre (see picture credits below) shows plans from the Greenwich Board of Works from 1870 for the next section of the route as it dropped down towards the Ravensbourne.

The railway was in a cutting as it crossed Lewisham Road, but any sign of it in this area to the east of Lewisham Road has been completely obliterated by the 1960s redevelopment of the area through the Orchard and neighbouring estates.  Its route would taken it through Melba Way, touching Morden Mount School and then emerging out onto an embankment to smooth out the dip containing the Ravensbourne.  The upper photo below (see credits below) shows the remains of the bridge over Coldbath Street – along with the current view from a similar location.

The only remains of the time when the Greenwich Branch passed through would be a rather grand looking former pub, the Ravensbourne Arms – which closed its doors as a pub in 2013, on the corner of Silk Mills Pat and Russett Way.  It shouldn’t be confused with the also closed pub opposite St Mary’s Church in Lewisham which was known for most of its life as the Coach and Horses.

The railway would have the crossed the northern end of the platform of the Elverson Road DLR station before passing through Brookmill Park – still on an embankment.  The former railway’s lofty perch is still there through the park and on the opposite side of Brookmill Park in the Brookmill Nature Reserve.

After the tracks were removed in 1929, the land was largely abandoned for 50 years by British Rail, presumably used as an informal play area.  The freehold was bought in 1979 by Lewisham Council and with input from several local groups created the Council’s first nature reserve.  There is a rich varied flora within the reserve.

Beyond the nature reserve, the main line into London Bridge was crossed close to St Johns and the Greenwich Park Branch line headed towards the next station Lewisham Road, the name presumably a shortened version of Lewisham Way’s previous name – Lewisham High Road. Unlike the previous two stations, Lewisham Road is still there – at street level at least the building remains, it is ‘home’ to a salvage and second hand shop – Aladdin’s Cave – whose roof is covered with tarpaulins so may not necessarily be in a great state.

The railway is visible at this point too, crossing again Lewisham Way in a deep cutting, the south western side of the bridge is home to a micro library in a listed phone box – visited in the early days of Running Past.

With a railway visible there is little detective work to be done from here on – the penultimate stopping place is Brockley Lane station – there are two clear signs of the former station – the stationmaster’s house and a gate to some steps up to the platform – below (source eBay April 2016)

The route to Nunhead is largely flanked by Drakefell Road to the north and St Asaph’s Road to the south, occasional glimpses of the railway, deep in a cutting are visible via the roads and paths that bridge it.  

Nunhead Station was the terminus for the line and often required passengers to change train to head into Victoria or St Pauls (now Blackfriars).  In addition to the main line from Catford Bridge and Crofton Park, there was also a line to the Crystal Palace High Level Station (a route that Running Past will no doubt follow one day).  At this stage, when the Greenwich Park Branch Line  was functioning, the station was in a slightly different location – closer to the Lewisham side of the bridge, where Bonita Mews and a plant hire yard are now located (the bottom two photographs below) although there is nothing left of the former location of the station..

Looking back, the decision making relating to the route seemed strange in that it skirted Lewisham and by the time it reached Greenwich Park the neighbouring Greenwich station was already well established and most of the other stations also had rivals from other operators.    Combine this with a circuitous route into central London, often requiring a change it is of little surprise that the line didn’t survive.

Picture and Map Credits

 

Following the Quaggy – Lee Green to Hocum Pocum Lane

We left the Quaggy close to Lee Green with a Lewisham Natureman stag ‘grazing’ by the outflow of Mid Kid Brook, before that Running Past has followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom; then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley, through the golf courses of Sundridge Park and on to Chinbrook Meadows; through the concrete and countryside of Mottingham; and latterly through the playing fields and parkland of Sutcliffe Park and the Lee/Blackheath borders.

The river changes here; gone now are the almost bucolic feel of the river through the playing fields and parkland in the section of the river from Sutcliffe Park to Lee Green. The Quaggy is now very much an urban river, with building up to the banks and the route downstream for the fluvial flâneur often parallel with the river only visible on bridges.

Riverside pubs have been conspicuous by their absence so far, but are a much more regular feature as we follow the last mile or so of the course.  The Old Tiger’s Head, 50 metres or so away from the river, was the base for the mid 1840s horse racing of the Lee Races. Lee Green was still rural then, complete with a green, a windmill and a farm – Lee Green Farm. The pub was very different then, being rebuilt in the 1890s, as the picture above from an information board at Lee Green shows.
The Quaggy squeezes between some 1990s flats and a plot of land that was Victorian housing and will presumably be returned to housing again; it was latterly the showroom of Penfolds Vauxhall dealers, after they moved from the former Lee Picture Palace on the corner of Bankwell Road.  The river, for a short period, is again banked and bedded in concrete – little is able to grow but that didn’t stop a few optimistic sticklebacks from attempting to eke out an existence in a hostile environment (below, top left) when I did the research for the post.

The Quaggy emerges out into the open at what used to be called Lee Green Bridge and the first proper riverside pub, the Duke of Edinburgh, still serving and with a pleasant garden at the rear.  The pub dates from around 1871 when the landlord, a Mr W Baker, took over licence of the Black Horse, which was a short-lived ‘beer house’ that may have been on the same site (1)

The river forms the rear boundary between homes in Lampmead and Brightfield Roads – the former named after a field. The course wasn’t always thus, the Quaggy originally took a course further to the north touching the southern end of what is now Lenham Road.  The differences are clear between the 1863 (top map below) and 1893 visits of the Ordnance Survey Cartographers (maps on a Creative Commons via National Library of Scotland). The effective development of Lampmead required the straightening of the river, following what was previously a path behind the houses of Robertson Street, which was to become Brightfield Road at around the same time.  The curved building (above, top right and bottom) hugs the banks of the river.
The Quaggy is bridged by the dog-leg of Brightfield Road before tumbling down into Manor House Gardens.  The Gardens are one of Lewisham’s flagship parks and were the grounds to a large house built and maintained from the proceeds of slavery until bought by the London County Council as a library and park in 1902.

Source – eBay Feb 2016

The Quaggy seems to have originally fed the small lake although is now at a much lower level.  It is bridged a couple of times within the park, both having been the venues for generations of Pooh Sticks, no doubt played before the game was named in the 1920s by A A Milne.
The river has natural earth banks topped with a dense tree canopy throughout its 400 metres or so through the park, during the summer the river is heavily shaded.  The steep banks make the river relatively inaccessible through the park.
Flowing out of Manor House Gardens, the river crosses Manor Lane, an old farm track and again forms a boundary – between the WJ Scudamore homes of Thornwood Road, a Lewisham Council sheltered scheme off Manor Lane and later more Scudamore homes on Manor Park.  This was a largely rural area until Hither Green station was build in the 1890s, there was a junction there from the 1860s, as the 1870 map below  on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland) shows. This part of Lee was still used for market gardening, mainly run from Manor Farm, until the Scudamores built homes of what was marketed as the Manor Park Estate..
Over the other side of Manor Park the river turns almost 90 degrees, to flow between more gardens, between Manor Park and Longhurst Road, briefly visible by peering around a bridge on one side of Staplehurst Road – close to the shops posted about earlier in 2017.  Just before the bridge the river is joined by one of its tributaries, Hither Green Ditch (Quaggy Hither Green).
The river continues northwards, squeezing between the gardens of Manor Park (the street) and the northern end of Longhurst Road before opening out into Manor Park (the park rather than the street).  The park’s rejuvenation has been covered before in Running Past, the former small pig farm has gone from one of Lewisham’s worst bits of open space to one of its best.  The Park has become a community hub – centred around the Arts Cafe.  The river itself is used much more – including the annual Quaggy Duck Race and the Float Your Boats event in June 2017, pictured below.
The Quaggy itself while having a ‘natural’ feel at the end of the back gardens of Leahurst Road, was concrete encased and hidden from the park on  the opposite bank.   Flooding used to be common in this area – in the mid-1960s, the then MP for the area Chris Chataway described residents as living ‘in fear of this wretched stream.
At the edge of the Park, there is a bridge – while the structure is a new one, the crossing an old one – it was the final section of Hocum Pocum Lane – an ancient path from Lee High Road to St Mary’s Church, and possibly beyond.
We’ll leave the Quaggy here for its final section to its confluence with the Ravensbourne in Lewisham.
Notes
  1. Ken White (1992) ‘The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham’ Part 6a, p134

James Elroy Flecker & the College Park Estate

There are several poets with a link to Lewisham – Running Past has already covered Thomas Dermody and Robert Browning, and will no doubt return to Ernest Dowson and, perhaps David Jones and Spike Milligan.  Another on that illustrious list is James Elroy Flecker, like Dermody, his link with the Borough was a fleeting one, although unlike Dermody it was at the beginning rather than end of his life.

Flecker was born at 9 Gilmore Road (above) on 5 November 1884.  His family’s time in Lewisham was limited though, in the spring of 1881 when the census enumerators called, his father, William Herman Flecker, was teaching at New College in Eastbourne.  However by the summer of the same year he married Sarah Ducat, a musician who was daughter of Polish emigres and lived in New Cross.  By 1888, at the latest, the Fleckers had moved on – James’ sister was born in Cheltenham in 1888 – William was teaching at Dean’s Close School.

His father may have continued teaching whilst in Lewisham; although there seems to be no record of where he taught.  It is certain though that he entered the church by the time James was born.  William was a curate, not at the church that they would have been able to see from the front of the house, St Mark’s on Clarendon Road, but at Holy Trinity on Glenton Road, where James was baptised.  It was a church was lost in World War Two and was covered a while ago in Running Past – see below (source Wikipedia Commons – originally from Illustrated London News)

Before looking at the life and career of James Elroy Flecker, it is worth pausing in Gilmore Road. The house had been developed in the late 1860s or early 1870s as part of the College Park estate on the land of a farm, College Farm, owned by the Mercer’s Company.  This should not be confused with the eponymous farm in Lee, although the land for that was also owned by the Mercers Company, which was covered by Running Past earlier in 2017.

 

The College Farm house, above (on a creative commons), was roughly at the corner of Lewisham High Street and Albion Way – it is probably one of the buildings set back from the road marked on the map on the opposite side of the road to Avenue Road (lost to the Shopping Centre).  The fields (all numbered on the map – on a creative commons via the National Library of Scotland) are now covered by Clarendon Rise (formerly Road), Bonfield Road, Albion Way (formerly Road) and, of course, the road with the elegant villa that was briefly home to the Fleckers – Gilmore Road. The development was ‘one of the most significant additions to the number of middle class houses in Lewisham during that building boom.’

Returning to James Elroy Flecker ….While he was born Herman Elroy, he became known as James Elroy; he was the eldest of four children born to William and Sarah Flecker, he had a well to do education, initially attending his father’s school before moving to Uppingham and then Trinity College, Oxford. After teaching for a while he entered the Consular service – being sent to Constantinople in 1910.  He became ill there from consumption which was to blight the rest of his life.  He had met Helle Skiadaressi on his first posting and they married in what is now Izmir in Turkey.  He had a series of postings around the Middle East interspersed by illness before moving to Switzerland for the final 18 months of his life on the advice of doctors. He died there in January 1915.

220px-james_elroy_flecker_at_cambridgeFlecker (left, via Creative Commons) He had begun to write poetry whilst at Uppingham , the rhythm and language have been described as ‘Tennysonian’ although much of his early work was adaptions of Greek and Roman poets.  His first book of poems, ‘Bridge of Fire’, was published around the time he left Oxford in 1907.  He continued to adapt the work of Parnassian School – including work by Goethe and Baudelaire – it was a reaction to the sentimentality of their Romantic predecessors. His death was described in the 1920s as “unquestionably the greatest premature loss that English literature has suffered since the death of Keats”.

Any post on a poet, needs some poetry – while most of his work to a 21st century audience is, perhaps, not that accessible, there are a several poems with a London theme that still seem to resonate, even if the trams he wrote about are long gone.  The first a tale of cross river love, the second the first few stanzas of a poem seemingly about nights out in the city:

Ballad Of The Londoner

Evening falls on the smoky walls,

And the railings drip with rain,

And I will cross the old river

To see my girl again.

 

The great and solemn-gliding tram,

Love’s still-mysterious car,

Has many a light of gold and white,

And a single dark red star.

 

I know a garden in a street

Which no one ever knew;

I know a rose beyond the Thames,

Where flowers are pale and few.

 

The Ballad of Hampstead Heath

From Heaven’s Gate to Hampstead Heath

Young Bacchus and his crew

Came tumbling down, and o’er the town

Their bursting trumpets blew.

 

The silver night was wildly bright,

And madly shone the Moon

To hear a song so clear and strong,

With such a lovely tune

 

From London’s houses, huts and flats,

Came busmen, snobs, and Earls,

And ugly men in bowler hats

With charming little girls…..

Beyond the poetry, Flecker had, from his Oxford days, the reputation of the being a good speaker, a raconteur and was capable of what might now be referred to as ‘sound bites’ – two of which include

“What is life without jam?”

“The poet’s business is not to save the soul of man but to make it worth saving.”

Note

Census and related data comes via Find My Past 

 

Following the Quaggy – Chinbrook Meadows to Eltham Bridge

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

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

image

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

 

OS Claypit.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

grove park 1914

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

grove PArk 1915

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Original Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee – ‘Lost’ in the Blitz

Historically, the Parish Church of St Margaret,  Lee was relatively small one serving three small population centres – the area around the church itself on what is now called Lee Terrace, around Lee Green and the large houses of Old Road such as Lee Place, the Manor House, The Firs and Pentland House.

The coming of the railways saw the population grow and the ecclesiastical parish of St Margaret was divided several times to form the parishes of Christ Church (Lee Park) in 1854, Holy Trinity (Glenton Road) in 1863 and St Mildred’s on the eponymous Road in 1872.  The first two of these have already been ‘visited’ by Running Past and were both lost as a result of World War Two bombs – the churches were partially destroyed, later demolished and not replaced – their parishes being subsumed back into that of St Margaret.

The fourth subdivision was the creation of The Church of the Good Shepherd in 1881 (see above – source eBay October 2016). Much of the initial funding apparently came from Lord Northbrook, still owner of the Manor House at that point but hadn’t lived there for some time.  Initially it was to be a chapel of ease rather than a parish in its own right, the Rector of St Margaret’s, Reverend F H Law announced at the beginning of 1881

The Chapel-of-Ease, then, to the Parish Church, which I purpose calling ‘The Church of the Good Shepherd,’ is to hold 550 persons, all the Sittings are to be unappropriated, so that the poor cannot be crowded out from what is more especially their own Church; and I have sufficient faith and confidence in those who will worship there, to believe that by their offerings, sufficient will be contributed, not only to provide for all necessary expenses of the Services, but also for the maintenance of at least one of the Clergy who will be especially in charge of it.

The church was designed by Ernest Newton; Newton has been featured in some detail in Running Past, in an earlier post on another local building that he designed, Lochaber Hall – formerly the church hall of Holy Trinity, Glenton Park.  Locally, he also designed the Baring Hall pub as well as St Swithun’s Church on Hither Green Lane.  Like St Swithun’s, the builders were the largely ecclesiastical Croydon firm Maides and Harper, they have been described as ‘first-class building firm’ with a reputation for high quality workmanship (photo below – source eBay September 2016).

Local Victorian historian F H Hart (who was a sidesman at St Margaret’s at the time of the consecration) described the church as a

plain, substantial structure of red brick, with tiled roof, and neat bell turret. The interior of the church has a remarkably open appearance, and light is admitted by four large semi-circular windows.

He suggested that the ‘fittings’ for the Church of the Good Shepherd church are very plain but substantial – money for them had been raised through a special offertory at St Margaret’s.

Hart also noted that in the months after the consecration that attendance at the services ‘is most encouraging, as are also the offertories.’

The church was largely ‘lost’ during  the Blitz in 1941 when it was hit by an incendiary bomb, possibly in error as that night the Luftwaffe were targeting the docks, however as the then vicar, the Reverend J B Phillips, sadly noted (1)

‘Consequently every fire-fighting appliance was directed to save our vital food supplies.  No water pump could be spared to save a building, however beloved, and it was poignant indeed for us to stand helplessly by and see the church blaze into ruins.’

While the building was damaged beyond repair the parish continued to function using the parish hall that had been built in 1892 (2), there were donations from other parishes of an altar cross, candlesticks, pews, pulpits, a font and altar frontals (3).  Some of these probably came from other churches lost in the Blitz.

 

For a while, the parish used the church hall of Holy Trinity in Manor Lane Terrace (now known as Lochaber Hall), see below, for Sunday Schools as well as providing a hall for other activities (4).

For many local churches and chapels destroyed during the war, the destruction of the physical place of worship saw the end of the parish or church community; in addition to losses of Christ Church and Holy Trinity, the Methodist church on Hither Green Lane and the Baptist chapel at the corner of Eastdown Park and Lee High Road were lost.  This was not the case with the Good Shepherd, but the parishioners had to be patient; due to post war shortages of building materials and the priority given to housing, it meant that it was to be seventeen years before it was possible to rebuild the church.

The new church was completed and re-consecrated in 1957 and in its rebuilding it was able to use foundations and some portions of the old walls, varying in height from a few brick courses up to some 2 to 3 metres on all the walls, apart from that facing Handen Road. This probably explains the more than cursory nod to the original designs of Ernest Newton, although perhaps had more work been done to the Victorian foundations there wouldn’t have been the problems with subsidence that beset the church around the Millennium.

 

 

Notes

  1. Booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p11
  2. ibid p8
  3. ibid p12
  4. ibid p12

Thank you to the Reverend Shepherd of the Church of the Good Shepherd and Lewisham Archives for allowing me use the photographs of the bomb damage and temporary church (the three black and white photographs in the middle of the post) – they were part of the booklet noted above.