Tag Archives: ARP Wardens

Leybridge Court – ‘Tudor House’ to Social Housing

Leybridge Court is an attractive social housing estate centring around three 11-storey blocks a few metres away from the boundary of Lewisham with Greenwich.  The site has an interesting history that this post will explore.

The land was once part of the estate of Eltham Palace which we have covered in relation to the farms that cultivated the area – Horn Park and Lee Green Farms, the former lasted up until the 1930s.  The farmhouse of the latter, unsurprisingly, was at Lee Green in the south eastern quadrant where the Leegate Centre is currently situated and is pictured below.

The farmhouse moved to the current site of Leybridge Court in the 1840s, with the then farmer William Morris(s) purchasing land from the Crown presumably on a 99-year lease.  He built a very large new home called Tudor House and seems to have also built some speculative housing on the same site – either side of the current Cambridge Drive (1).

Little changed until the mid-1860s – the Ordnance Survey map of 1867, shows the houses that Morris built but nothing else around the Lee Green toll house.  The feel though would have still been rural.  The change in the next four or five years was dramatic with new housing laid out along Eltham Road, almost up to what is now Sutcliffe Park.  As the local MP remarked in 1871, ‘in a short period a town has sprung up in the neighbourhood.’ (2)

As we saw in a post on St Peter’s, the church that in various forms has served the area, around 160 large houses were built along Eltham Road, Cambridge Road (now Drive), on what is now Courtlands Avenue along with Weigall, Osberton and Leyland Roads. The houses were small compared with Tudor House, while no photographs seem to survive of Tudor House, a picture of the neighbouring Rothsay, a few doors closer to Leyland Road, does.

Source e Bay February 2021

By 1871 Tudor House and those to the east had been built for well over 20 years, to the east they had been joined by others following the demise of Lee Green Farm in the 1860s. All were covered in the census and all were single family dwellings generally with several servants – Tudor House was home to shipowner Joseph Pegg, some adult children and a modest two servants. One of the houses was used as the vicarage for St Peter’s, the Vicar was Leonard McDonald James, the others included in ship broker, a silk broker, a ship builder.

By 1911 not that much had changed, the houses were still inhabited by wealthy single households with servants – the Tudor House was home to a Swiss engineer with a couple of servants. Fairfield, next door was home three generations of Watkins who had three live-in servants including a Between Maid. It was the family’s 4th census there – the wealth having come from ship ownership.  Others in the group of houses included company director and a doctor.

Much had changed by the time World War Two broke out, while most of the houses still seemed to be occupied in the 1939 Register, virtually all were subdivided into flats (often with some parts of the house empty). The inhabitants were a mixture of manual, clerical and shops workers and the retired, often there were lodgers too. The exception was Tudor House where there were three people rattling around in it – a retired couple, an engineer and millinery buyer, along with a lodger.

The Bomb Sight website, notes that Tudor House was hit during the Blitz, although there is no obvious record of it in the local APR Log. By the time the area was visited by surveyors putting together the LCC Bomb Damage maps the site had been cleared and no significant bomb damage was noted (3). Similarly, when Ordnance Survey visited in 1948, cartographers though noted a gap with some earthworks where the Tudor House once stood. was though.

The reality is that this was a crater that provided a playground for those growing up in neighbouring streets, such as Osberton Road during and after the war. The site wasn’t just a playground during the war, it was part of the dig for victory allotments as the 1948 map above shows.

The old Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham approved the construction of the estate in 1958 and the contract was awarded to Costain, with work completed in 1960, this will have included demolishing the remaining houses on the site.  Costain was a firm with roots in Merseyside who had expanded into the south east in the 1930s.  At the time they  built Leybridge Court, public sector housing was only a small part of their work but they were to become a significant player in the 1960s.  Costain continue today as a civil engineering contractor. 

The estate centres around a trio of 11 storey blocks, each with 44 flats.  At the rear of the estate are much smaller, low rise, maisonette blocks.

The blocks were seemingly quite popular, based on one Facebook thread at least.  Unlike most tower blocks they weren’t given names, just referred to by the numbers within them.  However, they did tend to be known by a distinguishing feature – the colour of the doors and railings on the balconies – green (nearest to Lee Green), blue (close to Cambridge Drive) and red at the back of the estate. 

In 2000 the then Labour Government set the Decent Homes Standard which sought to ensure that public sector homes were in a reasonable state of repair, had effective heating systems and ‘reasonably modern’ facilities and services – in the main this related to kitchens and bathrooms.  There wasn’t sufficient money for local authorities to do this work all themselves. So, in some locations, councils looked to transfer stock to other organisations who weren’t subject to the same borrowing restrictions as they were.  In Lewisham, this led to large areas of stock being transferred to housing associations – Phoenix was set up to improve and manage the homes in Downham and Bellingham.  With Leybridge Court and the Newstead Estate (often referred to as the Redbrick Estate), Lewisham with input from residents, undertook a competitive process and in the end selected Broomleigh (now known as Clarion) to refurbish and manage the estates.

Work was underway to the outside of the estate when the Google Streetview car passed by in 2012, the internal works were probably completed earlier.  The exteriors look much more modern and have changed from brick to what looks like a white render – they have become a landmark, clear from many of the higher points of south east London.  One thing remains though the colour of the  entrances is still red, green and blue – something, no doubt, that residents will have insisted upon. 

The improvements on the estate were at least partially paid for by the use of land on the corner of Cambridge Drive for new homes for sale on a shared ownership basis.

Today, the estate, from the outside at least, seems well maintained and cared for – how social housing should be. 

If you live(d) or work(ed) at Leybridge Court estate, tell us your memories of your time there.  Post them below (you can use your Facebook or Twitter login – or via Facebook (if you found the post via here) – if it is you first comment ‘here’, you will have to wait for it to be ‘moderated’.  I will update the post with comments.  Try not to post anything libellous about others though.

Notes

  1. Neil Rhind (1987) Blackheath and Its Environs Volume 2, p34
  2. Kentish Mercury 15 July 1871
  3. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 p116

Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey map is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence
  • The picture of the original Lee Green Farm is from information board at Lee Green
  • The black and white photograph of the estate being built is from the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission and remains their copyright

Preparations for World War Two – ARP Wardens, Sirens and Black Outs

As part of the 80th anniversary of World War 2 breaking out, Running Past has been looking at some of the preparations for war on the ‘Home Front.’ So far, this has included Lewisham children being evacuated to Kent then Surrey and the variety of shelters used to one of the key elements try to keep the civilian population safe during air raids. We return now to the Civil Defence services set up to try to keep the civilian population that remained in London and other urban centres as safe as possible from the air attacks that were expected soon after war broke out.  This post looks in particular the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) service.

Like the building of shelters, the roots go back to the interwar period. The ARP Department of the Home Office was set up in 1935 (1),  although appeals for volunteers were not made until 1937 – the approach was based on studying the impact of fascist bombing of Republican areas of Spain and the measures that were employed on the ground there (2). A second appeal for volunteers was made in March 1938 (3).

In the months before war broke out, it was agreed to pay full time ARP personnel £3 per week, although only £2 for women, with recruitment posters stressing the desire for ‘responsible men.’ Later in the year payments for some part time personnel were agreed (4).

Some of the early work that ARP wardens had to contend with was enforcing the blackout that was introduced on 1 September 1939 and lasted until April 1945 (5). Shop windows were darkened from 6:00 pm as were houses – requiring heavy curtains or blankets to ensure that no light escaped. Streets in almost darkness were dangerous with a large increase in injuries – 20% of the population reported as having suffered blackout related injuries in the first 4 months that they were in operation.

Road deaths increased around 40% when compared with pre-war fatalities. Regular readers will recall that a few years earlier Lewisham streets were noted as being some of the most dangerous in London.

Source ebay March 2016

Their control centre was in the basement of the old Town Hall in Catford (above) and, after January 1940, was funded through the rates, a predecessor of Council Tax (6). Every bombing, incendiary and related incident was phoned through to the ARP control centre who effectively acted as an emergency call centre.  They would find out about injuries, deaths, those trapped or missing, any fires that couldn’t be controlled locally (7) and look to send emergency services to assist.  On nights where there was heavy bombardment or large numbers of incendiary devices dropped these were not always available, as we saw with the fire that destroyed the original Church of the Good Shepherd in Lee, below.

Below is one small part of the Lewisham ARP log for the period between Christmas and New Year in 1940, while there had been a lull on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, hundreds of high explosives and incendiary bombs were dropped over the next few days, many around Lee. We’ll explore these attacks in much more detail in later posts.

At the level below the control centre, Individual wardens were based at schools and some purpose built concrete ‘pillboxes’ (8) around the community. They each served a population of 2 to 3,000, typically with a complement of six wardens, mainly part time (9).

One of the ARP posts in Lee was at what was then Hedgley Street School, pictured above (it was later Northbrook and currently Trinity Lewisham School) on the corner of Taunton Road. Running Past has covered the Noble family, who started the war at 49 Lampmead Road, a number of times before, including in relation to 1920’s play and the ‘Sunday Constitutional.’ Several of the family members worked for the ARP – Phyllis was briefly a warden with a navy battledress and steel helmet with a large white ‘W’ on the front (10). Her brother Joe and a cousin, who also lived at 49 Lampmead Road, worked as messengers based at the School – while in theory there were telephone links to Catford, cycle and motor cycle based messengers were used too in case lines came down.

The school was hit while Phyllis’ younger brother, Joe, was working there and partially destroyed. He was to be the only one injured – a bruised ankle from a falling fireplace (11). The ARP post presumably moved to an undamaged part of the evacuated school.

On the ground, the local ARP wardens would deal with whatever was needed, this ranged from providing first aid to those injured in incidents, directing people to shelters and help in getting the dead and injured out of bombed premises, this was both for hits on houses as well as the larger scale destruction of incidents like the attack on Sandhurst Road School in early 1943.

In front of St Stephens Church in Lewisham is a tall metal post with what looks like a pair of speakers attached to the top. It is easy to miss, particularly when the adjacent trees alongside the Quaggy are in leaf. It seems to be Lewisham’s last remaining air raid warning siren – one of around 25 around the then Boroughs of Deptford and Lewisham (12).

Once the warning sounded ARP wardens ensured that residents took cover in one of the air raid shelters; they sounded on over 1200 occasions during the war. Other locations seem to have included a former police station on Catford Hill, Catford Police Station on Bromley Road and Sandhurst Road School. The survival of the Lewisham one probably relates to its location next to the Quaggy and has a residual use as a flood warning siren.

The chilling sound of the air raid warning siren and, at the end, the all clear sound is on the YouTube video.

Finally, it is worth remembering that many ARP wardens lost their lives during the war; across London around 300 perished (13).  Those that died serving their community in Lewisham included (14):

  • Albert Brown (64) of 1 Eliot Hill was Injured at 14 Montpelier Vale on 8 March 1945 in the aftermath of the V-2 attack on Blackheath and died later the same day at Lewisham Hospital (pictured below);
  • Henry Cottell (52) was a Senior Air Raid Warden of 41 Manor Lane Terrace was injured at Lee High Road on 29/12/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
  • Barbara Fleming (16) of 20 Farmfield Road in Bellingham was injured on 16/04/1941 at Warden’s Post, Ashgrove Road; died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
  •  Douglas Hardisty (44) ; of 70 Vancouver Road in Forest Hill who was a Captain in the  Home Guard as well as being an ARP Warden was Injured 21 March 1944, at corner of Vancouver Road and Kilmorie Road; he died at Lewisham Hospital;
  • Kenneth Smith (33) of 251 Burnt Ash Hill was injured at Methodist Chapel, Burnt Ash Hill on 13/10/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital; and
  • Marjorie Wickens (19) of 7 Taunton Road died at the Albion Way Shelter on 11 September 1940.


Running Past will return to the fire watchers, the expanded fire service and other elements of the in later posts on World War Two.

Notes

  1. Mike Brown (1999) Put That Light Out! Britain’s Civil Defence Services at War 1939-45 -Stroud, Sutton Publishing p2
  2. ibid p3
  3. ibid p5
  4. ibid p7
  5. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 – 1945 p12
  6. ibid p28
  7. ibid p28
  8. ibid p27
  9. ibid p27
  10. Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming Of Age in Wartime – London, Peter Owen, p42
  11. ibid p45
  12. Blake, op cit, p41
  13. ibid p29
  14. These are based on records from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

Picture Credits

  • The recruitment poster comes from the collection of the Imperial War Museum and is used on a Non-Commercial Licence.;
  • The photograph of Hedgley Street School & the ruins of the Good Shepherd come from a booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p16 and it used with the church’s permission;
  • The picture of Sandhurst Road School is via The Newsshopper;
  • The postcard of the Town Hall is from eBay in March 2016;
  • The ARP Log is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their consent and remains their copyright;
  • The photograph of Blackheath is of an unknown source, although given its age is probably a government one and would thus be out of copyright; and
  • The ARP helmet is via Wikipedia and is on a Creative Commons.