Tag Archives: Boone’s Almshouses

The Post Christmas Blitz on Lee Part 2 – 29 December 1940

In the first part of this post we looked at the post-Christmas Luftwaffe attacks on 27 December 1940 on Lee which saw numerous bombs dropped and homes destroyed on Aislibie Road, the misspelled road, named after Benjamin Aislabie – slave owner, awful cricketer and tenant of Lee Place.

While there was a lull the following evening, it seems that the Luftwaffe were just gearing up for an even bigger raid on 29 December, the aim of which seems to have been to put the fire services under a level of pressure that they would be unable to cope with and see London burning.

The attacks were much more concentrated in a small number of streets between Lee High Road and and Manor House Gardens. Most were incendiaries, and along with a few high explosive bombs, were dropped in a few minutes around 8:15 pm.

As we found with the post on the first night of the Blitz, it is worth remembering that not every incident was reported to the Air Raid Precautions (ARP), some being just reported to the Fire Brigade but others never going through official channels. One of the pages of incidents for the night of 29/30 December 1940 is show below.

The first attacks of the night in Lee started at around 7:25 pm in Blessingham Road, when a high explosive bomb hit the back garden of number 38. Elsewhere on the street another high explosive bomb injured two people. The street was to be decimated by a series of V-1 flying bombs later in the war and was developed, initially as prefabs, and in the early 1960s, as the Mercator Estate.

Fifty minutes later, Lee was on fire, the ARP logs note several dozen incendiaries being dropped at the same time, so we’ll look at the attack on a street by street basis. Aislibie Road (pictured below) which had suffered badly two nights before, was again hit. It was different houses this evening with 5, 13, 26, 30 and 39 all being bombed with roofs and upper floors damaged by the incendiary bombs, none were destroyed though.

Parallel to Aislibie Road, and the location of a devastating V-1 flying bomb three and a half years later, is Lenham Road which saw 5, 7, 10 and 28 all hit by incendiaries. The fires were successfully dealt with by local ARP and Fire Wardens.

Incendiary bombs rained down on neighbouring Brightfield Road with 32, 34, 42, 43, 49, 63 and 83 all hit by them (some are pictured below) – the fires were put out by wardens and the inhabitants, but many of the roofs were damaged.

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, the roof and upper floors of 24 Lampmead Road were damaged, as was 4 Hedgley Street. Taunton Road saw at least two attacks – number 60 was slightly damaged and 2 Thornhill Cottages saw its roof damamged. Thornhill Cottages was a terrace at the eastern end of Taunton Road between Burnt Ash Road and Hedgley Street seemingly on the present Sainsbury’s site.

At the opposite end of Manor House Gardens, 2, 44 and 61 Old Road plus Pentland House (pictured below) were all hit but Fire Wardens managed to deal with all four fires.

A little further along Lee High Road, number 345 was hit by another incendiary; ironically it had been a fire station up until 1906 when the one on Eltham Road opened, it is now a solicitors. The roof seems to have been damaged, and assuming that there was no damage on other occasions during the war, a central turret there was destroyed (there is a pre-damage photograph in the post on the fire station).

There was an explosive and incendiary combination dropped on Dacre Park at the same time and there were ‘several .. casualties in the road’ as a result.

Around fifteen minutes later at 8:30, a high explosive bomb hit Lee High Road between Old Road and Lochaber Road – there 5 casualties, including an ARP warden, with shrapnel damage to almshouses’ boundary wall that is still visible (along with a fading direction sign to an air raid shelter). The ARP warden was Henry Cottell of 41 Manor Lane Terrace who was to die later that evening in Lewisham Hospital – it was a house that seems to have been lost to the construction of Wolfram Close. Henry left behind two adult daughters and his wife Ann, who were there when the 1939 Register was collected.

Also at 8:30, Chiesman’s store repository at 87 Old Road was hit by a high explosive and incendiary combination – the ARP log noted that the repository was on fire. We’ll return to this incident later in the post.

One of the ARP Fire wardens for that part of Lee that night was Phyllis Noble (later Willmott), who lived at 49 Lampmead Road with her parents and grandparents. In the aftermath of the incendiaries being dropped, she and her brothers, who were also ARP Wardens, grabbed stirrup pumps, buckets and sandbags. ‘Incendiaries seemed to be everywhere, but so too were numerous fire watchers like ourselves.’ (1)

The first fire they dealt with was at the almshouses that stood at the corner Lampmead and Lee High Roads (pictured above) where a room had caught fire. They put out that and another in the neighbouring Methodist church, now the New Testament Church of God. Phyllis and her brothers spent the next few hours putting out fires in locations that didn’t even get a mention in the ARP log chasing ‘up and down stairs in the tall Victorian houses in the High Road.’ They reached Old Road and Chiesman’s Store depository by around midnight (2)

“As the red glow in the sky told us, there were still plenty of fires raging, including one in the furniture depository nearby. We went along to see if there was anything we could do there; giant tongues of red and gold flames were shooting skywards from the glowing building and clearly this was not work for us, in any case the firemen had already arrived.”

Had the Fire Brigade arrived earlier they may have been able to save 87 Old Road but it was largely destroyed.

Lee was probably only a stopping off place for the Luftwaffe as they headed towards the centre of the city. Later in the evening incendiaries rained down on central London in what was described as the Second Great Fire of London, the iconic picture of St Paul’s Cathedral amidst the smoke was from that night as 160 died and hundreds of buildings were destroyed in the capital.

Notes

  1. Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming of Age in Wartime p50
  2. ibid

Credits

  • Most of the information for this post comes from the Lewisham ARP Log – it is a fascinating document, which is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives. It isn’t a complete record – some incidents were reported to the Fire Brigade rather than the APR and some incendiaries were dealt with by residents or Fire Wardens without ever reaching the ARP service – this is particularly the case on busy nights such as this.
  • The photograph of St Paul’s is via a Wikipedia Commons
  • The photograph of the Boone’s Almshouses and the page of the ARP Log are both from the collection of Lewisham Archives, both are used with permission and remain their copyright.

The Almshouses of Lee Part 2

A few months ago Running Past covered the two Boone’s Chapels on Lee High Road, both chapels had almshouses attached to them and in a recent post last week we looked at the almshouses themselves. Behind the Grade I listed Boone’s Chapel, set back from Lee High Road, are the best known some of the best known almshouses in South East London, Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses.

Like much of the area around Old Road, the land currently used by the Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses on Brandram Road, has its roots in the piecemeal sell off of the land that was once belonged to Lee Place in 1824. Several of the plots were bought by the Worshipful Company of the Merchant Taylors’ for almshouses.

The Company was one of the livery companies of the City of London; as the name implies it was first an association of tailors, but this connection had virtually ended by the close of the 17th century and it had become a philanthropic and social association.

The almshouses built in 1826 were the third generation of almshouses – the first had been built next door to Merchant Taylors’ Hall in Threadneedle Street, and dated from the mid 14th century. The second edition was close to Tower Hill on land occupied by the railway into Fenchurch Street and DLR into Tower Hill.

The 1826 almshouses were designed by William Jupp, the Younger, who was the architect and surveyor to the Merchant Taylors’ Company. His uncle was Richard Jupp, who designed Lee Manor House.

The 34 almshouses, two behind each door, are Grade II listed and described by Cherry and Pevsner (1) as:

Large, on three sides of an open quadrangle, stock brick, sparsely classical, with a central feature emphasised by a pediment and cupola.

The almshouses have a walled garden with a lawn sloping down to a small dip which once contained the original course of Mid Kid Brook which was dammed around the border with Brandram Road to form a boating lake – latterly known as the Mirror of Lee. It is surrounded by mature trees and shrubs which make photography difficult.  The impressive gatehouse (pictured below) was added in the 1850s.

Having looked at the Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses, we return to the Boone’s almshouses, as was noted in the previous post, the second version of them was replaced in 1963 in Belmont Park and known as Christopher Boone’s Almshouses. The area around there had been devastated by a pair of V-1 flying bombs, and the land to the north and east was covered with a large concentration of prefab bungalows. A slightly larger area was cleared for what became the Mercator Estate, which included an old people’s home. The almshouses site saw demolition of Victorian houses, which had suffered some damage in the Blitz. They are pictured in the bottom right hand corner of the aerial photograph from 1939 (just above the Patterson Edwards factory).

The number of almshouses increased from the 12 on Lee High Road to 29 one-bedroom houses and bungalows along with two staff units, originally for a matron and a gardener. The selection criteria for residents were less onerous than those of Trinity Hospital in Greenwich, requiring applicants to have lived for at least five years in the Borough of Lewisham or Greenwich; preference was given though to applicants from the former parish of Lee.  

The high walled development had an attractive gatehouse and, from the outside at least, looked a pleasant development. However, unlike the other variants of the Merchant Taylors’ managed almshouses in Lee, their life was a relatively short one – the relatively steeply sloping site proved to be a struggle for an ageing population with increasing mobility issues and letting the almshouses became problematic.

Plans were submitted in 2010 for the demolition of the 1963 site to be replaced by a much denser development – the 29 homes have become 62, with 32 being returned to The Merchant Taylors’ Boone’s Charity (the two charities merged in 2010). The remainder were sold to cross subsidise the re-provision of ‘state-of-the-art, fully-accessible and fully-adaptable almshouses;’ since 2010 there has been little grant funding for social housing and sales were, at the time, the only way to make this type of development ‘work’ financially.

To qualify for a home there the allocations criteria you would need to be …

• a peaceful, considerate person committted to getting on well with your neighbours
• in need of high quality housing in Lewisham
• aged at least 57
• capable of independent living; and
• can’t afford to buy

So what of the 1826 version? The residents were relocated to the new Blessington Road site with the Grade II listed buildings struggling to cope with those with reduced mobility who may require wheelchairs or motorised buggies. They currently stand empty and from the Brandram Road side look rather dilapidated; they are occupied by property guardians – with a notice on the listed entrance. Planning permission was granted in 2010 to build 5 houses, either side of the the southern most block, immediately behind Boone’s Chapel. In 2015 further permission was granted to reduce the number of almshouses – largely by knocking the ‘pairs’ behind each front door together. Both of these Planning Permissions will have lapsed at the time of writing in spring 2020, with no new permissions having been sought. The intention though presumably remains the refurbishment and sale of the Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses on a long leasehold basis – part of the cross subsidisation of the ‘state of the art’ version.

Notes

  1. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p426

 

Credits

  • The 1939 aerial photograph is via the fantastic Britain from Above, its use is allowed in non-commercial blogs such as Running Past, it remains their copyright
  • The photograph of the 1963 scheme is via Google Streetview

The Almshouses of Lee – The Boone’s Almshouses

A while ago Running Past looked at the two Boone’s Chapels on Lee High Road. Both remain, but the better known one is a Grade I building opposite the western end of Old Road.
Both had almshouses attached to them, with the second chapel being built when the original almshouses were re-provided close to what is now the junction of Lampmead and Lee High Roads.
Christopher Boone was a wool merchant who lived at Lee Place which was located in the area currently bordered by Bankwell Road, Old Road and Lee High Road’s Market Terrace. The site for the almshouses on Lee High Road between Boone’s Chapel and Brandram Road was given to Masters and Wardens of the Merchant Taylors’ Company in a deed of 1683. They were known as Boone’s Almshouses and predated the beautiful ones behind, known as Merchant Taylors Almshouses by 140 years.
He built his four almshouses for the poor here on the north side of Lee High Road, three shared by 6 residents, the fourth a school for 12 poor children of the parish.
In order to qualify for a place, prospective residents had to undergo a number of religious tests, which included reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed and the Ten Commandments by heart. Any failure to do so within 2 months could lead to expulsion, and the residents were expected to attend chapel services. There were many similarities with rules applied to residents of Trinity Hospital in Greenwich, which was partially funded by the College Farms in Lee and Lewisham.
In the 1871 census, the almshouses were all shared between in No 1, there was a couple and a seemingly unrelated widower; No 2 was home to 3 single women and at No 3 was a husband and wife, along with a 70 year old servant Alice Simms. There was a separate household which wasn’t numbered, this may have meant that the school was no more – this was another couple with a servant who was 70. Whilst the servants were listed, they were probably providing some form of care to other residents either in their almshouse or more generally in the scheme.
Most were local and had been born in Lee or neighbouring parishes. Given the changes in the area that the railways had brought, this is perhaps surprising but no doubt reflected an allocations policy that gave preference to those with some form of local connection.
All were good ages for the era – all 69 or older and with an average age of 75.
It isn’t clear what led to the decision to move the almshouses; the homes were 250 years old and maybe hadn’t stood the test of time. The new almshouses were 250 metres up Lee High Road on land that had been part of the estate of the late Georgian Lee House. The estate was bounded by Lee High Road, the Quaggy, what is now Aislibie Road and Old Road.
The owner, James Halliburton Young, who lived at Cedar House next door originally seems to have tried to sell the estate as a single lot in the early 1870s. However, this seem to have failed and instead he sold off a narrow tract of land along Lee High Road in several lots, while at least two were for housing but the two plots nearest to Lee Green were allocated to the Bible Christian Chapel and Boone’s Chapel and Almshouses.
The only sign of the first incarnation of the Boone’s Almshouses is the very weathered looking red brick wall that replaced them – eroded both by the elements and World War Two shrapnel.
The second version of the almshouses were designed by the same architect as the chapel, Edward Blakeway I’Anson and in a similar Gothic style (1).
1881 was the first census after move to what is now the corner of Lampmead – a local connection still seemed important, in an age where migration due to the railways was common, most were from no further than Kent. Two of the occupants were the same as a decade before of the corner of Brandram Road – including Alice Sims who at 80 was still carrying out the duties as a servant.  Unlike a decade earlier no one was sharing their home, five of the almshouses were home to couples.
When the 1939 Register was compiled, of the 12 almshouses. three were empty. The occupants were all single people with six women three men the oldest 93, with a care; the youngest 60 with an average just shy of 79 with no couples.
As we saw when we looked at the two Boone’s Chapels, the congregation on the second version of the chapel dispersed in the early 1950s. The almshouses lasted slightly longer as a going concern but they too were replaced at Belmont Park in 1963, something we’ll return to in the next post.
However, this isn’t the end of the story. The almshouses, along with the church, were acquired around 1975 by was was to become the ‘Assemblies of God Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.’ While the almshouses were locally listed in 2012, sadly, this didn’t offer them much protection (as was the case with the gas holders at Bell Green) and the church demolished them without planning permission, seemingly to provide extra car parking for worshippers. One almshouse does remain though; it is not immediately recognisable, with its red brick painted ‘brilliant’ white. The inappropriate look pails into insignificance when compared with the painting of the formerly elegant Kentish ragstone church next door a very bright grey and cream by the Lee New Testament Church of God (just visible above).
In the final instalment of Lee’s almshouses we’ll look at both the Merchant Taylor’s Almshouses of 1826 and their 20th and 21st century replacements.
Notes
  1. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p426

Credits

  1. The census and related information comes from Find My Past (subscription required)
  2. The black and white photograph of the 1875 variant of the almshouse is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission
  3. The photograph of the original Boone’s Chapel and almshouses is from The Proceedings of the Lewisham Antiquarian Society 1908 on a Creative Commons
  4. The photograph of the almshouses being demolished is via the Newsshopper, 24 February 2014