Tag Archives: Belmont Hill

Belmont – The House That Named The Hill

Belmont Hill used to be known by a variety of names including Lewisham Lane and Butt Lane (see map below (1)). The present name is taken from a large house that used to be where the elegant Edwardian housing of Caterham and Boyne Roads are now situated.

The house was built for George Ledwell Taylor around 1830. When it was built, ‘Belmont,’ which was on a distinct rise, will have offered fine, uninterrupted views towards London and, a little nearer, in the direction of the Royal Dockyards at Deptford. This was, perhaps, deliberate – he had been appointed Surveyor of Buildings to the Naval Department in 1827; his work estate included Deptford.  It was one of the larger houses in the district – with only the Cedars surpassing it as the 1863, surveyed map below shows (2). One of the Quaggy’s tributaries, Upper Kid Brook was at the foot of the slope, and, not to be undone the neighbours, like the Brandrams at the Cedars almost next door, he too interrupted the flow to create a small lake – at the top of what is now Cressingham Road – marked below (3).

It wasn’t Taylor’s first home in Blackheath – he had designed a quartet of villas on what is now Lee Terrace, almost opposite the church. He lived in one of them for a while – two of the houses were later demolished to make way for William Webster’s massive Wyberton House – indirectly the proceeds of being one of Joseph Bazalgette’s main contractors.

Taylor was made redundant in a series of public expenditure cuts by the Admiralty in 1837. He went into private architectural practice and may well have moved on from Lee soon after. Certainly, he doesn’t seem to have appeared in censuses at Belmont.

When the census enumerators called in both 1851 and 1861 Belmont was home to the Soames family. Frederic was listed as head of household and referred to as a ship owner, he was away from home in the New Forest in 1861.  While listed as a ‘ship owner’ he seems to have been linked to Gilstrap Soames, who were a family of brewers and maltsters.  They had moved from Lee before the 1871 census and were to take over the Wrexham Brewery in 1879; the family were major creditors when it went into liquidation and renamed it as Soames Brewery.  The new company also got into financial difficulties in the 1930s and merged to form the Border Brewery.  The occupants in 1871 were George Barnes Williams, an Architect and his wife Helen (wrongly referred to as Ellen).

The long term occupants of Belmont were the Wainewright family, John (Senior) was referred to as Taxing Master of the High Court of Chancery – a role which seems to have been effectively a High Court judge specialising in costs; it is a role that they seem to be now referred to as Senior Cost Judge.

Each census they seemed to add more servants – by 1891 there were 12, albeit several looking after the elderly John (Senior) who was then 85.  He died in 1893, with his wife, Anne, passing on in 1897. The house didn’t last long after their deaths; the view that no doubt attracted Taylor had been broken by the railway and on the opposite side of the Upper Kid Brook was overlooked by Granville Park (home to the Billinghursts and Smiles households).

The city was expanding, Lewisham (Lee had been lost to local government reorganisation in 1899) and Belmont Hill, close to the station would have been a desirable location. The builders were H & J Taylor, who were the main developer of the larger, both in terms of numbers and size, development of Park Langley estate in Beckenham.  H & J Taylor seem to have been brothers Henry Thomas and John.  The latter had a son who was named John Belmont Taylor, presumably after the estate.  John Belmont and Henry Thomas Taylor were to move into partnership in the late 1920s and lived at Campshill House on Hither Green Lane.

The architect both at Belmont Hill and Park Langley was Reginald C Fry who won the Ideal House Competition, part of the Ideal Home Show for one of the homes in Beckenham in 1911. He appears to have used the Belmont Hill in his entry for the following year’s competition, but without the same success.  Fry lived for a while with his parents in a large house on Belmont Hill, The Elms, which seems to have been between The Cedars and Belmont; he was listed there in the 1901 census.

The area is rightly a conservation area – Lewisham’s Area Appraisal describes the homes as ‘eclectic, exuberant, typically Edwardian houses,’ although the next sentence suggests streets that are ‘characterised by modest terraced and semi-detached two storey villas of largely similar plan and size.’ There are hints of a myriad of architectural styles in the houses – the tiles in the porches are certainly worth pausing to look at.

The entrance into the estate from Belmont Hill is marked by impressive polygonal corner ‘towers’ with weather vanes on the houses on either side of this top end of Boyne Road, the one on the westerly side is particularly well preserved and detailed – the DKF initial remains a mystery though. The house at the junction of Belmont Hill and Lockmead Road, has an “angled, double, two storey bow window surmounted by a ‘bell turret’.”

 

The remnants of the views westwards that no doubt had attracted George Ledwell Taylor still existed in part until early into the current millennium, the once impressive vista is no more though, blocked by the ugly bulk of the police station and the new high rise developments of Lewisham Gateway.

Notes

  1. Source – Wikipedia on a Creative Commons
  2. National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
  3. National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons

Census & related information come via Find My Past

Ghost Signs – Charles Holdaway, a Lewisham Painter

This very well preserved ghost sign, next to the bowling alley on Belmont Hill in Lewisham was uncovered in early 2014, the previous advertising hoarding having been removed. Despite my expectation that it would be re-covered with a more modern advertising display, aimed at almost constant stream of drivers and bus passengers stopped at the traffic lights, it still there (mid 2017).

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The C Holdaway was probably Charles Parneth Holdaway, although as it was almost certainly a family business, by the time the sign was written it may have been his son who was also Charles.

Graining was something common in the 19th and early 20th century – it was essentially either creating a wood grain effect on a non-wood surface or imitating hard, expensive woods by applying a thin layer of paint onto soft woods such as pine to mimic hardwoods such as mahogany.

The exact vintage of the sign is not completely clear, although it is certainly some time before 1912, as around halfway down on the left hand side there is an old street name, Granville Mews, painted over the advertisement. This name was replaced with its present name, Myron Place, in 1912.

Charles, senior, was born at Woodford in Essex in 1845. This predated the arrival of the railway there by a decade, so it is likely to have been largely rural in character. He had clearly moved away from the area by his early 20s, as he had married to Maria who was from Pimilco, and they had a son, Charles junior, was born in Brixton in 1868.

By the 1881 census they were living at 36 Molesworth Street, although given the birthplace and years of the other children, they had spent at least 5 years in Stratford en route from Brixton.

There was probably originally an address for the business on the sign, but this was undoubtedly lower down the wall and is now covered by several layers of paint. While this could have been Molesworth Street, it is much more likely to have been a little further up the road towards Blackheath at 27 Belmont Hill, where the family was living in 1891. Belmont Hill was the location given in the various adverts that appeared for the firm in the short-lived Blackheath Gazette in the early 1890s, a November 1892 edition included

C. Holdaway, Plumber and Painter, 3, Belmont Hill, Lee. Special attention given to Sanitary Work, Estimates for General Repairs, Contractor under the London Provincial Sanitary Company ….

Although as other editions had 0, 4 and 27, it may just have been typesetting of pre-computer Guardian levels of accuracy.

By the 1901 (and in the 1911 census) they had moved to the other side of, what would then have been known as Lee Bridge, at 33 Lewis Grove where they had a shop front. Charles, senior, was still listed as working at 68 in 1911.

Charles, junior, was at least in the same ‘trade’, working at a ‘paper hanger’ in 1901, probably in the family business. He lived close by at 59 Cressingham Road. He is listed for the same trade in 1911, but three doors away from where he was living in 1881, at 30 Molesworth Street.