Adams’ Rill – A Lost Sydenham Stream

The high ground of Sydenham Hill forms the watershed between the Pool and the Effra, known locally as Ambrook River, there are numerous springs on both sides of the fluvial divide; Running Past will be following those heading broadly east south east towards the Pool.  The first of these posts has a source around 500 metres from the edge of the Pool’s catchment on the small protuberance of the appropriately named Peak Hill.

Some maps mark a small pond in what would be the playground of St Bartholomew’s Primary School, although it has never been obvious on current or past Ordnance Survey maps, present day satellite views of the area or from the road.  However, that area would seem to have been the roughly the source of the stream.

The first obvious hint of stream is a dip in road as Sydenham Park Road (above) bends sharply to the north east close to a turning to The Peak and the likely original source.  The original flow would have taken the nascent stream through what are now gardens before emerging into a clear dip in Silverdale around Paddock Close.

The gap between the two roads is little more than 120 metres, but what lies betwixt the two will have changed the stream’s flow – firstly the short-lived Croydon Canal (opened in 1809) and then its successor the London and Croydon Railway will have blocked the passage.  Unlike some of the other streams coming off Sydenham Hill to the north of this, it seems likely that the flow continued under the railway as a series of ‘water features’ continued along the stream’s route when the Ordnance Survey surveyors visited in 1863, see above (1).

After a line that takes in some garages the hint of a shallow valley appears in the green flagged Mayow Park, particularly at the southern end facing onto Mayow Road.  The Park itself dates from 1875 and was created by public subscriptions from the great and the good in the area – particularly Mayow Wynell Adams.  It has a rather grand drinking fountain remembering the Reverend W Taylor Jones – another of the benefactors.

Sydenham and Forest Hill Recreation Ground was part of a Victorian movement of trying to allow the ‘less fortunate’ to take the air.  As was noted above, the 1863, post canal and railway, Ordnance Survey map suggests the stream was still flowing at the time the surveyors visited so the culverting was probably when the Park was created.

The stream crosses Mayow Road (see above – (2)) in a very clear dip where water often collects after rain and then heads off down Adamsrill Road in an obvious  valley, initially, at least, with paths to back gardens on the right being upwards as is the incline on Niederwald Road.  As the ‘rill’ in the street name is one of a myriad of names for a stream and the Adams prefix will have related to the local benefactor Mayow Wynell Adams, it is not unreasonable to call the stream Adams’ Rill.

The geographical pedant may dispute the appropriateness of calling it a ‘rill’ though as in relation to ‘hillslope geomorphology, a rill is a shallow channel (no more than a few tens of centimetres deep) cut into soil by the erosive action of flowing water.’  The size of the small valley as the stream heads down Adamsrill Road is considerably deeper than this.

As Adams’ Rill continues down the eponymous street, the locally listed gas holders Bell Green dominate the view.  The gas works have been there since the 1850s, it ceased to be operational  as a gas works in 1967 although it was not until 1995 that the first retail unit, Savacentre (now Sainsburys) opened on the site.  Other than the gas holders the only remaining  part of  Bell Green’s gas producing past is the works social club, now called the Livesey Memorial Hall (below).

 The exact route the stream took to the River Pool is not clear – the gas works obliterated the contour lines.  However, on modern 1:25,000 maps there is an upward pointing contour line to the north east of the gas works (now a retail park) site, it contains a small pond – often complete with fishing heron.  It is just possible that the the pond is the last remnant of Adams’ Rill and that the stream is still just flowing.  The confluence would have been roughly at the location below – although as the current river landscape was constructed in the mid-1990s after the Pool was taken out of its concrete casing under the gasworks, it is doubtful that it ever looked like this when Adams’ Rill was flowing. 

 

Notes

  1. From National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
  2. Source – eBay – September 2017
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From Russia to Rushey Green and Back – Eugenia Bouvier, a Lewisham Suffragette

This week marks the centenary of the Royal Assent of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave some women the right to vote (it would be another decade before voting equality with men was to be achieved). It is worth reflecting on, and celebrating, the life of a woman who made Lewisham her home and was actively involved with the struggle – Eugenia Bouvier, usually known as Jeannie.

She was a Russian émigré who was born, Eugenia Anna Weber in 1865.  Little seems to be known about her early years but she married the Italian born Paul Emile Bouvier in St Petersburg in August 1888 

They settled in Catford, just off Stanstead Road, at 21 Ravensbourne Road – they were there when the census enumerators called in 1891 – he was a French teacher, initially at King’s College, London and then at the nearby St Dunstan’s College in Catford.  They were well enough off to be able to afford a servant – a 20 year old, Alice Whiffin.  They remained there for the rest of the decade as, somewhat ironically, given later events, Paul appeared on the electoral register there until 1899. They had a daughter, Irene Eugenie, in 1893 whilst living there.

There is no mention of them in the 1901 census, although given the struggles that officialdom seemed to have struggled with both her names they may just be hidden in spelling errors and poor handwriting.  It is known that at some point Jeannie was living at 32 Mount Pleasant Road (1).  She was widowed in 1904 when Paul died, aged just 46.

Her home in Mount Pleasant Road (immediately to the left of the house shown below) was badly damaged during the Blitz, along with several neighbouring properties which were largely destroyed. The site had been cleared by the time the Ordnance Survey surveyed the area in 1949 and had flats on it built soon after.

Like the two other suffragettes that Running Past has covered, May Billinghurst and Emily Davison, Jeannie was actively involved in direct action and was arrested twice due in the struggle.  She was known to have interrupted a meeting in Reading in January 1908 being addressed by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Augustine Birrell, she and others shouted ‘Votes for Women’ at regular intervals.

In February the same year she was arrested as part of the ‘pantechnicon incident’ when a hired lorry was used as a ‘Trojan Horse’ in an unsuccessful attempt to enter the House of Commons.  There were scuffles with the police, mainly in an attempt to resist arrest, and lots of arrests including Jeannie.

There were 50 suffragettes arrested and they appeared Westminster Police Court – the press noted that the ‘ wily leaders escap(ed) arrest.’

The defendants, including Jeannie, were described as mostly being ‘ladies of refinement and education’ and charged with ‘disorderly conduct.’ The sentence was to find a surety of £20 or 6 weeks in jail (2)

There were further incidents later in 1908 where Jeannie is reported as peacefully disrupting meetings and receptions attended by the Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers.

In July 1909 she was arrested again in a ‘raid’ on the House of Commons – Jeannie threw a stone through the window of the Privy Council Offices, she was one of the first militants to adopt the tactic of window-breaking and was arrested and charged with criminal damage.  Jeannie said that the action was to show “what we thought of the Prime Minister in refusing these ladies admission to the House of Commons.”

She appeared at Bow Street Magistrates Court in front of London’s Chief Stipendiary Magistrate – Albert de Rutzen.  He compared her to ‘hooligan boys in the street’; she compared her actions with men who had used similar methods protesting against the Reform Act.  She demanded to be considered as a political prisoner; he regarded her as a common criminal.  He was the magistrate; she was the prisoner and was fined £5 plus 2/6d damages or a sentence of a month at Holloway – she didn’t pay the fine (3).

Like many suffragettes sentenced to imprisonment she went on hunger strike and was released early, after just 10 days in Holloway (4).

She was secretary of the Lewisham Women’s Social and Political Union for several years – regularly chairing meetings – including  at a ‘rowdy meeting at Blackheath’ Concert Halls in October 1909 when medical students broke up seating and let of stink bombs and fireworks – leading to the police being called (5) as well as meetings in New Cross in May (6) and November 1908 (7).  She was a regular speaker for the Women’s Social and Political Union both locally – including street meetings like this in Catford (8).

She is known to have spoken at a meeting on Blackheath, presumably at Whitefield’s Mount, in September 1909 and in 1912 was present at the opening of new WSPU offices in Lewis Grove in Lewisham where a crowd of around three thousand became hostile throwing eggs (9).

She went well beyond her local area and was a regular speaker in favour of women’s suffrage elsewhere in the country – including a meeting with Annie Kenney where a firecracker was let off inside the meeting (10).   She gave a provocative speech in  Lewisham market in early 1913 (11)

the life of men will be made so miserable that they will rush to the Prime Minsiter and beseech him to give the vote to women…men would cry for mercy … militancy had brought the women’s question to the forefront of politics

She was ‘followed by 200’ mainly men and had to be escorted to the tram by police amidst a ‘good deal of jeering (12).’

The last definitive political involvement was work in the East End with Sylvia Pankhurst speaking at conferences opposing conscription in 1915 and 1916.  Pankhurst described her as a ‘brave, persistent Russian.’ In addition to be an asset to the work of Sylvia Pankhurst in her own right, she proved useful in being able to translate and interpret for the Russian emigres in the East End.

She returned to post-revolutionary Russia in 1921, proud that her family wealth had been seized after the Revolution, suggesting that the wealth ‘ought to have taken.. from me years ago, and from all of us who lived on the backs of the people’.

She remained there until her death in 1933 (13), working for at least some of this time at the Comintern in Moscow.

Notes

  1. Iris Dove (1988) Yours In The Cause – Suffragettes in Lewisham, Greenwich & Woolwich p5
  2. 13 February 1908 – Sheffield Independent
  3. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Feb 17, 1909; pg. 10; Issue 38885
  4. 12 July 1909 – Yorkshire Evening Post
  5. Kentish Mercury 15 October 1909
  6. Kentish Mercury 08 May 1908
  7. Kentish Mercury 20 November 1908
  8. Woolwich Gazette 11 June 1909
  9. Dove op cit p7
  10. Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser 06 November 1909
  11. Lewisham Borough News 7 February 1913
  12. ibid
  13. Dove op cit p7

WPSU Banner Photo Credit – this is part of the collection of the Museum of London, as is the photograph who allow its use for non-commercial research such as this.

For more detail on Eugenia’s life after Lewisham an excellent starting point is ‘From Russia to East London — and back again: Eugeníe Bouvier (1865-1933), suffragette and socialist.

Census and related data via Find My Past

Pound’s Pubs

Running Past has covered several pubs that, for a variety of reasons, have been consigned to history – such as The Northover on the edge of the Downham Estate, the Plough and the Roebuck in Lewisham town centre, and Lee High Road’s Woodman and Prince Arthur.  This post is somewhat different in that it covers a quartet of fine looking Victorian boozers that are still pulling pints for the residents of the southern part of Lee  and Grove Park – the Crown, the Summerfield, the Northbrook and the Baring Hall at Grove Park.  All are the work of one man – John Pound.
As was covered in a previous post, Pound is, perhaps, better known as one of the major Victorian developers of Lee and Grove Park, along with some streets in Blackheath.    It is clear that like James Watt a generation later, he understood that, in addition to building homes, money could be made from leisure activities built adjacent to the housing.  For the non-conformist Watt though pubs would have been an anathema, he built cinemas and skating rinks instead.

Pound was born in Blackheath in 1827. He was the son of publicans, Thomas and Sarah, who ran the Three Tuns pub  (now O’Neill’s), above, in Tranquil Vale in Blackheath from 1824 (1).  In the 1851 census he was living at the pub and listed by the enumerators as a joiner, as was his younger brother Richard. His older brother William took over the tenancy in 1853 on his father’s death (2) and seems to have stayed there until his own death in 1878. The current building post-dates the Pounds as it was rebuilt around 1885 (3).

(from information board at Lee Green)

He married into the pub trade – his wife, Rose, was daughter of Caroline  Morton who ran the (Old) Tiger’s Head at Lee Green above for over 2 decades in the mid 19th century, initially with her husband Charles, but for most of the time on her own after being widowed in 1844.

John Pound was already a well established developer, living in Lee, by the time he built his first pub, the Lord Northbrook (above) in 1866 – named after the Lord of the Manor, and at the time the major landowner of the area.  The family wealth as was covered in a post on Lee’s Manor House, was at least partially derived from slavery. The Northbrook is situated on the corner of Southbrook Road (Southbrook is a reference to part of the village of Micheldever, close to the Northbrook’s Hampshire house at Stratton Park).

Pound whilst the first landlord, didn’t live on site, although his home was only a few doors away – roughly where Bellamys Citroen garage is currently sited.  There were some grumbling by the licencing magistrates about him not living on-site when the licence was considered in 1866 – the pub was described as being part of a ‘flourishing neighbourhood’ (4).  By the following August Arthur Bowker had become the licensee.

The Summerfield (formerly Tavern), above, was named after the street which it stands on the corner of what is now Baring Road.  Summerfield, as the name suggests, was a field pre-development – it may have originally been part of the land used by the Butterfield Dairy on the next street – originally Butterfield Street now Waite Davies Road.

It is not absolutely certain that Pound built the Summerfield Tavern, although there is strong very strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that he did.  He almost certainly developed the neighbouring Summerfield Street along with the terrace to the south of the pub on Baring Road.  There were also mentions in the press describing the area to the south of the about to be built school on the then Bromley Road as ‘Pound’s Estate.’ The first licencee was his younger brother Richard from September 1870 with his sister-in-law Ann taking on the tenancy in 1874 after the death of her husband.  She probably stayed there until around 1879/80 when landlord became a C Harding (5).


The Crown (initially Hotel now Tavern) is located on what is now called Burnt Ash Hill, south of the South Circular, close to Winn Road.  The link here to Pound is less certain but it is a pub generally attributed to him – if nothing more as the builder.

Unlike the other pubs covered, the land seems to have been in Crown ownership – a remnant of the former hunting lodges of Eltham Palace, covered in relation to Lee Green and Horn Park Farms.  Neighbouring land had been used by Pound as brickfield from the 1850s until 1874 when the lease was sold (6).  At this point there was already a beer house on the site – a licence to sell beer but not wine and spirits (this is explored more in the post on the New Tiger’s Head).  There were references to the Crown Beer House from 1872 (7).

The land seems to have been bought at the auction in 1874, or soon after, by William Winn.  The current building was completed in 1878 and was a granted a full licence in the September session at the Green Man to the then licensee – James Playford (8).  Winn was almost certainly the developer of the pub, and also developed the original houses in Corona, Guibal and Winn Road (see note from Pat below) and Pound probably the buider.

 

The Baring Hall (above) was due to open around 1880 and Pound had applied for a licence on that basis, but it didn’t open until the autumn of the following year (9). Like the other pubs built by Pound, it is a lovely building, opposite Grove Park station. It was designed by local architect Ernest Newton who was also behind the listed Lochaber Hall, the original Church of the Good Shepherd and St Swithun’s Church on Hither Green Lane.

Pound was to remain the landlord until 1886 (10) when it was transferred to William Basnett, who was already involved with running the business – he was mentioned in relation to a theft case from the Baring Hall in 1883 (11).

The Baring Hall suffered a fire in the early 2000s and survived planning applications to demolish it in 2011 and 2012. The building is locally listed although English Heritage declined to give it a national listing and the degree of protection that goes with it in 2011, although was given the status Asset of Community Value (ACV) for 5 years from 2013. It was eventually re-opened as a pub by Antic in December 2014.  At the time of writing (January 2018), there is a campaign to extend the life of the ACV to ensure that it remains a pub.

Unlike many of the pubs to the north and west Pound’s quartet have not succumbed to either the bulldozer or the developer, and from the outside at least, remain thriving, welcoming splendid looking pubs.  In part, their longevity relates to the relative lack of competition that each of them has and has had in the past particularly those in Lee.   – something at least partially controlled by one of the big landowners of the area – Lord Northbrook – whose family name remains in two of them – the Northbrook and the Baring Hall.

Notes

  1. Neil Rhind (1983) Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 2 p364
  2. Ibid
  3. Ken White (1992) The Public Houses of Lee & Lewisham p243
  4. Kentish Mercury 28 September 1866
  5. White op cit p240
  6. Kentish Mercury 30 May 1874
  7. Kentish Mercury 20 July 1872
  8. Kentish Independent 5 October 1878
  9. Kentish Independent 27 August 1881
  10. Kentish Mercury 12 November 1886
  11. Woolwich Gazette 14 September 1883

Thank to Pat Chappelle, see comment below, for correcting me on The Crown and adding some interesting details on William Winn.

Pound Land – The Homes of John Pound, Victorian Builder & Brick Maker of Lee, Blackheath & Grove Park

Running Past has covered several of the builders who made a substantial mark on the landscape of Lee and Hither Green – W J Scudamore who built large swathes of the Lee from the 1890s to the 1930s, Cameron Corbett of the eponymous estate and others such as W H Elliotts who built Woodyates and Pitfold Roads.  A little earlier than all of these was John Pound who was prolific in Burnt Ash Hill and Roads and what is now Baring Road before moving on to be a prominent developer of Grove Park.
Pound was born in Blackheath in 1827. He was the son of publicans, Thomas and Sarah, who ran the Three Tuns pub  (now O’Neill’s) in Tranquil Vale in Blackheath from 1824 (1).  In the 1851 census he was living at the pub and listed by the enumerators as a joiner, as was his younger brother Richard. His elder brother William took over the tenancy in 1853 on his father’s death (2) and seems to have stayed there until his own death in 1878.
The current building dates from after the Pounds, as it was rebuilt in the 1880s.  It was the ‘principal village pub’ during the 19th century used by ordinary working people and shopkeepers.  There was a riot there in 1877 with a battle between police and some locals – with as many as 120 involved at Ken point.  Oddly this didn’t prevent the licence being renewed ‘because it was an essential part of ordinary working life in the Village, with its slate clubs, dining room and livery stables.’
In 1851 John Pound seems to have made his first foray into development – being responsible for the building of shops at 13 to 21 Montpelier Vale (below).  It seems that he wasn’t the builder though, that appears to have been the established Blackheath builders, Couchman and Co (3).
Pound’s first known development as a builder was in the mid 1850s with the large villas of 89 to 95 Shooters Hill Road (4), as the same style continues eastwards he may have been responsible for up to 113 too.
John Pound’s life away from building was changing too, he married Rose Morton in 1854.  Rose too was imbued in the pub business – her parents ran the Old Tiger’s Head at Lee Green.  By the time the census enumerators visited their home in Burnt Ash Lane in 1861 they had two daughters.  More importantly in terms of the development of Lee and surrounding areas he was listed as a ‘builder employing 50 men and 10 boys.’
Some of the earliest homes that John Pound built in Lee were some houses in the south eastern quadrant of Lee Green which were developed around 1860, Orchard Terrace on Eltham Road (now the Leegate Centre) and Crown Terrace on Burnt Ash Lane (now Road) which was roughly where Sainsburys is now.
 
In the mid to late 1860s he was developing another street in Blackheath – the initially tenanted large houses in St Johns Park, west of Strathenden Road (5); the houses on the northern side of the road remain (see below).
Probably during the 1860s, possibly earlier, Pound opened or took over a brickworks with clay pits surrounding it, around the current location of Kimbolton Close.  It was certainly there and well established in 1867 when the Ordnance Survey cartographers surveyed the area (see below on a creative commons via the National Library of Scotland).
There was a clay crushing machine on site and on the opposite side of Burnt Ash Hill, roughly where Woodstock Court is currently located (6).  The brickworks were managed by Edgar Drewett who lived next to them in the 1866 (7).  There was another brickworks owned by Pound and run by Drewett on what is now the corner of Winns Road and Burnt Ash Hill.  Oddly,  Drewett was photographer by trade who came from Guildford, he had moved to Burnt Ash in the mid-1860s, and then on to Marvels Lane in 1871.  He had returned to his former trade and hometown by 1881.
His development continued along what is now Baring Road towards Grove Park and more or less parallel along Burnt Ash Hill during the late 1860s and early 1870s.
By 1870 the houses on the eastern side of Burnt Ash Road close to Lee Green, had been built ‘many of them were the work of Blackheath-born builder John Pound (8). He went on to build a lot of houses around Lee Station and further south along Burnt Ash Hill (9). The exact houses aren’t totally clear, the photographs are likely to include some by Pound.
Pound himself moved to one of the houses his firm had built – in the 1871 census Pound was living at Stratton Villa on Burnt Ash Road – the seems to have on the western side, close to the brickworks. Rose though wasn’t there, she had died in 1865.
Around the same time Pound probably built Summerfield Street (pictured below), certainly he had having to get council approval to lay sewers there in late 1871 (10). As has already been noted in relation to what is now Waite Davies Road (originally Butterfield Street), these were quickly to become houses in multiple occupation with many of the occupants working in Pound’s brickfields and labouring – the children of those homes were the
‘roughest element of children to be taught and brought into a satisfactory state of discipline.’
These homes would have been atypical in terms of what Pound built, all the others were large houses aimed at the wealthy middle class of Victorian society seeking what was then suburban living.  Like Cameron Corbett a generation later, he probably realised that he needed a housed local workforce for his enterprises.  Oddly, unlike most of his firm’s housing output, away from Blackheath, which has been lost to 20th century redevelopment, these are homes that have stood the test of time.
He certainly built what was known as St Mildred’s Terrace (top below), a mixture of shops and homes extending from the southwards from the corner of Summerfield Street. As will be covered in a later post on his pubs, it is almost certain that he was responsible for building the Summerfield, assuming that is the case, the adjacent shops continue the pattern and would have been built by him too.
   
In the early 1870s he advertised regularly in The Times both for rented properties and bespoke houses.  Presumably he felt that he was so well known in the area that he didn’t even need to put his address (11).  The estate office, collecting the rent was at 7 Burnt Ash Hill, opposite what is now Holme Lacey Road.
His development continued apace further south after Grove Park Station opened in 1871 with Pound taking advantage of this in purchasing Grove Park Farm in 1873.  Pound also seems have moved the base for his building operations from Southbrook Road – presumably what is now Southbrook Mews to Grove Park.  He moved from there in 1878, perhaps the nearby brick field had come to the end of its life and he seems to have had a large sale before moving on – presumably to a base nearer Grove Park where most of his building work was then happening (12).

Pound was able to find a use for the brickfields after their primary purpose had ended.  The Parish paid him £30 a year for their use as a ‘mud shoot’ effectively as  dumping ground for mud, manure and the like from Lee’s roads (13). The land around Woodstock Court and Kimbolton Close may be particualry fertile as a result!

 Pound too moved to Grove Park by 1881, he was living at Saville House, Bromley Road (now Baring Road) – ‘a splendid house in two acres of land’ when the census enumerators called.  He was listed as Builder and Brickmaker employing 50 men.
John Pound was responsible for much of the late 19th century development of Grove Park, it was a ‘small selected estate of large villas for the middle class.’   While there are still a few Pound homes in Lee, little or any of his work survived the post-World War Two re-development in Grove Park, the only house from that era that seems to remain is one large, much altered villa in Somertrees Avenue.

 

Mentions of Pound from the early 1880 onwards seem fewer and further between, whether he had run into financial problems, ill health or there were fewer development opportunities isn’t clear. There were more mentions of selling land that he had bought to smaller developers such as in East Greenwich and Blackheath in 1881 (14) and on Furzefield and Hassendean Roads in Charlton (15) which were then known as the Dean’s Common Estate.

His elder daughter, Catherine, had married Austin Budden in 1875 he was a ‘gentleman’ according to the 1881 census and they lived in a large house in Higham in Kent – Gads Hill Place – which had been home to Charles Dickens.  Budden initially rented the house from Dicken’s son.  It seems that John Pound moved to Gads Hill Place around 1884 (16). Whether he continued to run the business from Higham or someone else ran it for him, isn’t clear but he certainly got into financial difficulties and was declared bankrupt in 1895 (17).  Pound died the following year at Gads Hill Pace

In the next post we will stay with John Pound and look at the pubs that he built in the area. 

Notes
1 Neil Rhind (1983) Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 2 p364
2 ibid
3 Neil Rhind (1976) Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 1 p35
4 Rhind, 1983, op cit p396
5 ibid pp364-5
6 Godfrey Edition Ordnance Survey Maps – Lee & Hither Green 1870
7 ibid
8 ibid
9 ibid
10 Kentish Independent 16 December 1871
11 The Times (London, England), Saturday,  Jan 08, 1870; pg. 14; Issue 2664
12 Kentish Mercury 05 October 1878
13 Kentish Independent 22 January 1887
14 Kentish Mercury 05 November 1881
15 Kentish Mercury 02 January 1885
16 Kentish Mercury 12 June 1896
17 Kentish Mercury 19 April 1895
Census and related information comes from Find My Past.

The Bombing of Sandhurst Road School

Perhaps the most depressing and bleak of Lewisham’s World War Two memorials can be found in Hither Green Cemetery on Verdant Lane – it is to the 38 children and 6 teachers who perished in a daytime bombing of Sandhurst Road School on 20 January 1943.

The school between Minard and Ardgowan Roads had been opened in 1904 – midway through the development of the Corbett Estate – it was not that dissimilar to many of the era, including the one on Eltham’s equivalent Corbett Estate.  The opening ceremony was performed by the Chairman of the London County Council (LCC), J Williams Benn – grandfather of the late Labour politician Tony Benn. The LCC had just taken over responsibility for London’s Schools including those in Lewisham, from the London School Board.

While many children had been evacuated from London during the Blitz of 1940 and 1941 most had returned to the capital.  It was to be another 18 months before V-1 rockets started hitting south London.  There were though a few sporadic attacks designed to terrorise the civilian population in the intervening period – often in relation for Allied bombing raids on German cities – these became more organised towards the end of 1943 with Operation Steinbock.

The facts as to what happened are quite simple; it was lunchtime at Sandhurst Road School on 20 January 1943.  A group of 28 Focke-Wulf 190 Fighter-Bombers, escorted by Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters (totalling about 60 planes), had taken off at around noon in occupied northern France and had evaded air defences and one of them was able to fly low over Catford and Downham. One of the  Focke-Wulfs was seen over Downham Way spraying bullets towards those on the ground; soon after it flew over Ardogowan Road, just above the roofs of the Corbett Estate, it was carrying a single 500 kg bomb.

At just before 12:30 the plane flew over Sandhurst Road School, there were reports that the plane looped around the school with the pilot waving to children in the playground.  On the ground the bell for lunch had just gone – a few children heard a distant air raid warning siren.  Some pupils made their way to the air raid shelter – oddly a bricked up classroom on the second floor.  The sound of the plane was heard and a few outside realised that it had black crosses of the Luftwaffe.

The bomb was dropped and the children in the air raid shelter were

transformed from neatly dressed school girls into ghastly frightening creatures, covered all over in dust which was choking us too and some of us bleeding from cuts …somehow, there was no panic — just bewilderment. Choking, bleeding and with tears streaming down our faces, we made our way out of the shelter, over girders, plaster, bricks, wood, glass ….. through the debris … there was a huge smouldering gap below us were the bodies of those children (who had been queuing up for lunch), some dead, some dying, some in terrible pain.

Initially even some of the children started to try to help with the rescue effort before emergency services arrived on the scene, but by the evening

it seemed that every available man in the locality was there, digging, some with their bare hands, as was my brother, frantically searching for loved ones, hearts and hands torn. Boys in the services home on leave, digging, searching, all through the night. The Red Cross, the women in the church hall just across the road making tea, tending those brought into the hut, even the vicar in his shirt sleeves had been there since the search had begun. All with one motive, even if it meant constant danger from falling rubble — to get those little mites out.

Sandhurst School1

© IWM. Original Source– Non-commercial reproduction allowed

Despite the claims of the pilot waving at children there is some debate as to whether the pilot realised that it was a school – his report on the raid noted that the large building destroyed was block of flats.  However, other local schools though seem to have been attacked by machine gun in the raid, not necessarily by the same plane though, including at the nearby Catford Boys School and at Prendergast (then on Rushey Green) and a little further away on Ilderton Road, off the Old Kent Road.

Sandhurst School 2

Source News Shopper

In addition to the attack on Sandhurst Road School and the indiscriminate machine-gunning of civilians, which killed six and injured fourteen, there were several other local bombings in the same raid – the recorded ones are serious damage to several houses in Woodlands Street, off Hither Green Lane; Woodham’s Yard on Sangley Road (covered in happier times in Running Past in 2017) took a direct hit with six perishing and 14 injured; and four houses were demolished in Glenfarg Road (1).

Most of the victims, 31 children and one of the teachers, Harriet Langdon, were buried together at Hither Green Cemetery in a civilian war dead plot a week later after a memorial service at St Andrew’s Church on Torridon Road.   The photograph of the crowded cemetery from the Illustrated London News, below (2), with the small coffins is perhaps the most poignant one relating to the bombing, much more so than those of the destruction to the school.

Equally moving was a description within one of the press reports from the Daily Herald (3) of one brief encounter with a 14 year old at the cemetery

“Children walked past the grave – snowdrops narcissi, anemones drifted over the silver name plates.

A girl twitched my coat.  She said “Can you see Rodney’s names down there?  I’ve brought violets for him. They’re the first from the garden.

She was June Jarrett.

When the school at Lewisham was hit, she spent hours searching in the debris for Rodney, her six-year-old brother.

Now with violets in her hand she sought him again.”

Unsurprisingly, most of the victims lived relatively close by, within a mile and a half or so of the school; there were still some who lived some distance away – their parents perhaps moving after the child had been admitted to the school. As has been noted in other posts on World War 2 bomb and rocket damage, despite the war there was still a lot of movement between homes in an area where the private rented sector was large and security of tenure limited, but obviously too because of damage to homes in the Blitz.  The biggest concentration was around  South Park Crescent where 5 of the victims lived.

The orange ‘pin’ marks the school, blue pins children, purple the homes of two siblings and red, the homes of the teachers who died (one is off map in Surrey).  The data came from the CWGC website.

There don’t seem to be any equivalent daytime attacks on Berlin schools by the RAF, although attacks tended to be at night time to avoid the German air defences.  There were in total just over 67,000 British civilian deaths during the war – a figure dwarfed by the numbers of ordinary Germans who died – estimates vary from 1.5 to 3 million, including thousands in the Charlottenburg area that Lewisham is now twinned with.  But it seems that this Terrorangriff, terror-raid, may have been a reprisal, demanded by Hitler, for a RAF bombing of Berlin on 17 January 1943.

That so many bombers got through the air defences without adequate warning and allowing such a catastrophic loss of young life to occur seems like an abject failure.  The Air Minister’s explanation was it was initially thought that the raid was heading for the south coast and it was policy not to send warnings to London unless it was certain that the raid was heading that way. Otherwise the Germans could have easily sent Londoners scurrying into shelters every few hours by sending planes over Kent.  It appears that of the 60 planes, it was a smaller group of around 12 that peeled off towards London which was initially missed and as a result warnings were late (4).

The school was rebuilt after the war and remains – there is a memorial garden of remembrance to the victims and a stained glass window.

There are several contemporary videos that include footage showing the devastation of the school, including this one.

There are some memories of a survivors of the attack in a documentary made to mark the anniversary of the start on World War 2.

Finally, it is worth remembering the names of those who died at the school

The children

  • Malcolm Britton Alexander (11)
  • Brenda Jean Allford (5)
  • Lorina Elizabeth Allford (7)
  • Olive Hilda Asbury (12)
  • Joan Elizabeth Baker (12)
  • Betty Ellen Barley (15)
  • Dennis Handford Barnard (10)
  • Ronald Edward Barnard (9)
  • Anne Rosemary Biddle (5)
  • Judith Maud Biddle (5)
  • Kathleen Myrtle Brazier (13)
  • Donald Victor Brewer (10)
  • Joyce Agnes Brocklebank (11)
  • Pauline Feo Carpenter (4)
  • Margaret Kathleen Grace Chivrall (12)
  • Pamela Mary Joyce Cooper (15)
  • Winifred Mary Cornell (13)
  • Eunice Joan Davies (9)
  • Pauline Mary Davies (7)
  • Joan Margaret Day (12)
  • Olive Annie Margaret Deavin (15)
  • Anthony Drummond (9)
  • Janet Mary Dutnall (5)
  • Richard George Fagan (9)
  • Cyril Arthur Glennon (6)
  • Norman Frederick Greenstreet (8)
  • Norah Marie Harrison (9)
  • Sylvia May Ellen Head (12)
  • Iris May Hobbs (15)
  • Rodney Charles Ash Jarrett (6)
  • John Edward Jones (10)
  • Doreen Alice Lay (6)
  • Mary Rosina O’rourke (15)
  • Evelyn Joyce Scholes (11)
  • Pamela Eileen Silmon (10)
  • Clive Derek Tennant (8)
  • Doreen Thorne (12)
  • Edna Towers (12)

And the teachers

  • Ethel Jessie Betts (53)
  • Virginia Mary Carr (38)
  • Mary Frances Jukes (38)
  • Gladys Maud Knowelden (51)
  • Harriet Irene Langdon (40)
  • Constance May Taylor (58)

 

Notes

  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) Hither Green – The Forgotten Hamlet pp63-64
  2. Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, February 06, 1943; pg. 159; Issue 5416
  3. Daily Herald 28 January 1943
  4. Hull Daily Mail 27 January 1943

 

 

A Faded Sydenham Ghost Sign of a Fine Sign Writer

Knighton Park Road in Sydenham is a street of small late Victorian three bedroom houses, typical of its era.  Apart from a few cars that use it as a cut through to try to avoid the traffic lights at the junction of Sydenham Road and Kent House Road, it’s very quiet once you get away from the internal combustion noise of the main road.

It isn’t an obvious location for looking for advertising ‘ghost signs’, like their modern billboard counterparts, they tended to be on main roads, in prominent locations, but this wasn’t an ordinary ghost sign – on the corner with Hillmore Grove there was a fading ochre painted advertising sign relating to ‘H Price.’

Henry Price lived and worked from 39 Knighton Park Road from before just World War Two to around his death in 1973; he painted signs and advertising boards as well as cars, vans and trucks.  His handiwork was on the corner of the house he used to live in.

The sign was striking, but much more impressive are the signs that he painted on the sides of vans, often those for a variety of stationery firms.  The stunning one below on a 20 cwt Morrison-Electricar has been shared by his grandson through Geograph  on a creative commons, but there are several others which have been scanned as part of a set on Flickr.

Sadly the sign is no more – I had waited for the perfect photograph opportunity on the north facing wall, hoping for the adjacent tree to be covered with spring blossom and combined with a lack of vans, trucks or cars before writing this post.  That perfect opportunity sadly never arose and, alas dear reader, the sign is gone – the house has been extended upwards and outwards and the outside render along with its ochre sign has been replaced.

This is no criticism of the owner or developer, signs like this are generally not protected, although their value is beginning to be recognised in some boroughs and local listing has given to a few signs in Hackney.

imageThere are better examples in Lewisham that tell more of the history of trades and shopping such as those to the family of outfitters John Campion in Catford and the painters and grainers C Holdaway & Son at the bottom of Belmont Hill that perhaps are more worthy of protection.

 

 

As the locations are being recorded and photographed on websites such as Ghostsigns, vast numbers probably don’t need to be protected.  In any case those that have survived generally only remain by chance – their location has protected them as in the case of the Campion one, or they have been hidden behind more modern advertising hoardings such as the Holdaway sign.  In any case, the signs were not designed to last that long and left to the elements will rapidly fade – the Wittals sign on the corner of Bankwell Road and Lee High Road was clear when it first emerged from behind a hoarding around 2005 but is now barely visible.  In any case, it is often the story ‘behind’ the sign that is more interesting than the sign itself – helping tell stories of lost trades, 19th century migration into the city and shopping patterns that have changed.

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The Cade Rebellion & South East London

Cade Road on Blackheath is a small one way lane, skirting the edge of the escarpment, without houses, but always full of cars – attracted by the absence of parking restrictions.  The name relates to a rebellion in 1450 where Kentish rebels, led by Jack Cade, camped on the Heath twice before marching on London.

Jack Cade was the leader of a popular revolt against the almost bankrupt government of Henry VI in 1450. The backdrop was the near end of the Hundred Years War which was seeing defeats for British Forces, the loss of British Territory in France and occasional forays of French soldiers into Kent.

Distrust of the Crown came to a head with a corruption scandal and the murder of the Duke of Suffolk for which the people of Kent were blamed.  There was an earlier uprising in Kent at the beginning of 1450 but this had been quickly put down.  However, the rebels didn’t disappear and became more organised in the county in the late spring; Cade had emerged as the leader by early June.  Little is known of Cade, who sometimes adopted the name Mortimer – suggesting a linkage to one of Henry’s rivals for the throne – the Duke of York.

By 11 June 1450 the rebels were camped on the Heath – with suggestions that they may have numbered as many as 20,000.  Initially Henry VI didn’t confront them, sending a series of messengers, who seem to have been presented with a series of demands.  Sometimes referred to as ‘The Blackheath Petition,’ but more generally known as ‘The Complaint of the Poor Commons of Kent’, the demands included inquiries into corruption and to ‘punish evil ministers and procure a redress for grievance.’

Shakespeare depicts the scene on Blackheath in Henry VI Part 2 (Act 4 Scene 2) with a degree of artistic licence, but the offer of a truce seemed to have happened through two messengers.

Sir Humphrey Stafford

Rebellious hinds, the filth and scum of Kent,

Mark’d for the gallows, lay your weapons down;

Home to your cottages, forsake this groom:

The king is merciful, if you revolt.

William Stafford

But angry, wrathful and inclin’d to blood,

If you go forward.  Therefore yield or die.

When the offer was refused, the King sent a large force to put down the rebellion.  The rebels may have been tipped off as by the time the Royal forces reached the Heath, the rebels had gone.   Cade’s men were followed into Kent by a small part of the Royal forces; knowing the territory better the rebels ambushed the Royal forces just to the south of Sevenoaks, close to Knole at Solefields, they defeated the Royal forces killing the leader, Sir Humphrey Stafford – Shakespeare’s speaker in the scene above.

Cade returned to the Heath towards the end of June and then marched on London in early July.  This was depicted in a recently listed mosaic mural (see above) on the former Southwark Town Hall. The scene was also portrayed by Shakespeare  in Henry VI Part 2 (Act 4 Scene 6)

Come, then, let’s go fight with them; but first, go and set London bridge on fire; and, if you can, burn down the Tower too. Come, let’s away.

The rebels seemed to be in control of the city for several days, executing several,including the Lord Chancellor – Baron Saye and Sele – the then occupant of the forerunner of Knole House.  He is pictured below, being brought to Cade (Creative Commons via Wikipedia) . There was much looting and the citizens of the City appear to have turned against the rebels and, on 9 July, after the rebels had spent the night outside the city, they were defeated on London Bridge.

Pardons were issued to the rebels, but the one to Cade himself was quickly revoked and he fled the City.  There is a suggestion that he briefly hid on the island in the mill pond that was later to become Peter Pan’s Pool – sadly, it is almost certainly apocryphal.

If it happened at all, the sojourn in Southend was a short one; Cade fled further south, but was eventually caught and seriously wounded in Lewes.  He died on the journey back to London but his death wasn’t enough to prevent him being subject to the fate that was de rigour for traitors of the era and he was hanged, drawn and quartered.

In addition to the road on the Heath and the ‘island’, Cade’s name is lives on in a couple of other locations – there is a cavern named after him the on the Heath, and apparently he is the ‘Jack’ in the Brockley Jack pub and theatre.  Sadly, there seems to be no more credible evidence of him visiting the cavern and drinking in Brockley as there was of a stay in Southend village.

Forty years later rebels from Cornwall had pinned hopes on the Men of Kent still being rebellious, but the next generation failed to support the Cornish rebellion which was crushed at the Battle of Deptford Bridge – covered in the very first post on Running Past.