Tag Archives: Belmont

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 7- Lewisham to Blackheath

During the first 2020 Coronavirus lockdown Running Past followed the long thin boundary of Victorian Lee before it was subsumed into Lewisham, aided only by a Second Edition Ordnance Survey map. This was in stages, from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the next through Grove Park; then on through Marvels and Elmstead Woods and a Borough of Deptford Cemetery; the circuit skirted Chinbrook Meadows and followed the appropriately named stream Border Ditch; then another Ditch, Hither Green Ditch, more or less parallel to Verdant Lane and Manor Lane before following the Quaggy from Longhurst Road into Lewisham.

We’d left the 1893 boundary by St Stephens Church in Lewisham where the Quaggy is, or more likely was joined by Upper Kid Brook. When the stream was followed a few years back from its source around Hervey Road, on the lower slopes of Shooters Hill, there seemed no obvious evidence of flows coming into the Quaggy. The position was different in 1893 though, as we shall see.

The view looking towards St Stephens from what was captured in a postcard from slightly, although not much later; at the stage there were two confluences of the Quaggy and the Ravensbourne, the pictured Lewisham Bridge (an area a little later known as the Obelisk) and Plough Bridge by the former eponymous pub.

Even though Upper Kid Brook has disappeared from view, the course of the boundary and river is obvious from the valley. The valley though is not the shape that it had been until the 1840s as the North Kent Line, which opened in 1849 effectively stole the valley, deepening it in places.

There used to be a boundary marker on the curb on the northern side of St Stephen’s Grove, but it seems to have been lost at some stage. There is a slight dip in Lockmead Road, the remains of the fluvial erosion from the Brook, before the boundary hugs the rear fences of Cressingham Road, a boundary in terms of land ownership too. The Lee-Lewisham border comes out into 2020 public space in a relatively new development at the top of Cressingham Road. Looking towards the Brook and boundary from the railway underpass is a variation on a recurring theme from the circuit of Lee – a Lewisham Natureman stag.

In 1893, on the site of the new housing, was a small lake, the Brook was dammed to create it. The lake was at the end of the grounds of one of the large houses of Lee, Belmont, which gave its name to the Hill. it is mapped below. The house was built for the architect George Ledwell Taylor around 1830, when there would have been clear views to the dockyards of Deptford, where he worked for the Navy.

With the city encroaching and the railway passing, the large house ceased to be as desirable and was sold for the development of what turned out to be some of the most elegant Edwardian housing in Lewisham.

The Brook, and the Lewisham – Lee boundary drifted slightly to the north after he grounds of Belmont. By 1893 this was on the northern side of the railway around the end of what is now Belmont Grove. The railway is in a cutting within the valley, the pre-1849 level Brook and boundary would have been roughly at current road levels.

The railway had split the grounds of another of the large mansions of Lee, the Cedars – home in 1893 at to Ellen Penn, the widow of John Penn the eminent marine engineer. The northern portion of grounds had been laid out in the late 18th century for the then owner, Samuel Brandram, by the architect George Gwilt (1), who dammed Upper Kid Brook to form a pair of ornamental lakes, big enough for boating. Brandram was a paint and chemicals manufacturer and merchant whose large business was based in Rotherhithe.

The lakes were filled in by the next owners, Penfold’s whose carting business was to fill them with rubbish before selling the site on for housing development in the 1980s, now known as St Joseph’s Vale.

The boundary and Brook crossed Love Lane, now Heath Lane – part of an ancient path from Lee High Road to the Heath. In 1893, this area was still fields, with several boundary markers indicating on the ground the now hidden Brook. It wasn’t fields for long – within around 200 metres the fields turned to railway sidings, which extended another 600 metres up to the station, including the current car park.

The hidden street and boundary largely skirted the sidings – cutting across the late 1970s council housing of Nesbit Close and around the top of the current Perks Close. The Nesbit is E Nesbit who lived in various Lewisham locations, including a Blackheath home around half a mile away. Perks, of course, is a reference to Stationmaster of the Railway Children, played by Bernard Cribbins.

The boundary followed the edge of what is now Baizdon Road and then what is and was Collins Street. The former was named after a Blackheath miller, the latter after two mid 19th century Lee residents – Ann and Julia Collins (2). At the far end of Collins Street a boundary marker remains on a wall – the fence next to it seems to be the actual location of the Lee – Lewisham boundary.

The boundary continues following the building line to Blackheath Village; there was a three way boundary here Lee – Lewisham – Charlton. We’ll stop the circuit for now at a boundary marker, a replacement for one from 1903, when it would have been a Greenwich – Lewisham one.

Notes

  1. Neil Rhind (forthcoming) Blackheath and Its Environs Volume 3
  2. Joan Read (1990) Lewisham Street Names and Their Origins In the corner of the latter into the centre of Blackheath. – the area

The 1893 map which is used twice is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence.

The Postcards are via eBay from 2016

This, and the rest of the series of posts on the Lee boundary, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.

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