Tag Archives: Carston Mews

‘Reed’s Corner’ – The Eltham Road Shops Before the Leegate – Part 2 – Reeds Drapers

In the previous post on this parade we looked at the origins of Eastbourne and Orchard Terraces, which were to become 2-34 Eltham Road, seeing the change from rural Lee Green from Lee Green Farm to a shopping parade for what was then suburban London.  We left the parade in 1905 and will return return to those shops, but first we will turn our attention to the dominant name on this south east quadrant of Lee Green – Reeds.  It was so dominant that this part of Lee Green was referred to as ‘Reed’s Corner.’

The ‘Reed’ initially referred to C H Reed & Co and the C H Reed was Charles Henry Reed who moved Lee Green in 1866. Their ‘empire’ came to dominate the Eltham Road shops (and some of those around the corner in Burnt Ash Road) often taking over empty shops when they became vacant. 

Charles had been born in 1839 in North Cornwall, his wife Maria (probably nee Nichols), also came from Cornwall. Their starting point on the parade seems to have been 20 & 22 Eltham Road, then 2 and 3 Eastbourne Terrace, certainly that was the case in the 1871 census. 

Charles was noted as having 10 Assistants and 6 Apprentices in 1871, as was to be the pattern for decades to come most of these lived on site, along with a cook and a housemaid.

A decade later the business had expanded into what is now 18 Eltham Road as the Galloways moved further along the parade and eastwards, Charles had taken over 24 and 26 – a total of 5 shop fronts.  While listed as a drapers, it was making and selling furniture and some clothes too.  The extended business required a lot more staff and the upper floors of the parade were effectively turned into a hostel – while most of the trades of those listed in the census were drapery related – there were two cabinet makers, two dressmakers, a mantle maker and a furniture sales apprentice, along with several dealing with deliveries.  Most were under 30 and the majority men.

No longer there in 1881 though was Charles’ wife, Maria, she was living in Forest Hill with Charles William, born in 1873, sometimes referred to as William, along with a daughter Maria (seemingly later referred to as Beatrice, 1875) and Ernest (1881). Whether they were separated or not it wasn’t clear.

Reeds were regualr advertisers in the local press and as the cutting below from 1887 expanded into supplying carpets and other floor coverings for the wealthy folks in the large houses of Lee.

By 1891 the empire had taken on its sixth shop, when Jemima Dadley moved on from 16 Eltham Road.  The shop was opened as an ironmonger’s, a business type that had been absent for 20 years on the parade (and round the corner in Burnt Ash Road). Charles was still listed as living at Eltham Road. The drapery and associated trades hostel over the shop had expanded – there were now 56 people living above the shops. The postcard below is probably from around this era, with Reeds on the far left.

The business extended into Burnt Ash Road by the mid-1890s, moving the furnishing part of the business there.  Charles died in 1895 although this son Charles William continued to run the shops for another decade until selling up to Griffiths and Co around 1905 (their name is on the postcard below). 

While it may have initially been ‘round the corner’  at some stage around this point there had been a ‘knocking through’ from Eltham Road into Burnt Ash Road – whilst the 1893 surveyed map below, shows them as separate, this was not the case by 1914 (second map) or indeed after World War Two (final map).

The Griffith was John Griffith, born in Aberdaron around 1859 in the far north west tip of Wales. He was married to Rosina and seemed to have arrived via Reigate where their daughter was born in 1902. They continued the Reed approach to housing staff over the shops – in 1911 there were 27 with 6 live-in servants.

The number of shop fronts that Griffith & Co used declined though with 32 reverting to other trades from 1911.

They also seem to have moved out of 18-26 as there is an interesting photograph of the shop from World War 1 with the shutters down, the Griffith name still there, and soldiers billeted in the rooms above the shops.  Presumably, the army had requisitioned what was probably an empty building, in the same way as they had for the Ravensbourne Athletic clubhouse (now part of Ravens Way) a few hundred metres further up Eltham Road. Griffith & Co seemed to have focussed the business on the shops on the other side of Carston Mews (the bit that refers to Thomas Tilling at the right of the photograph).

By 1916 though the Reed name was back as Charles’ son William Reed was running the business. Like John Griffith, he was only using 14-16 Eltham Road off the right of the photo (along with the Burnt Ash Road shop fronts).  18 – 26 to the east of Carsten Mews were empty until at least 1920.  The building seems to have been converted back into individual shops to be let as single businesses – this is clear from the Ordnance Survey maps above for 1914 and 1948.

There was another name change around 1925.  William died in 1924 and the shop was then known as Reeds (Lee). 

The new Reed was William’s brother Ernest, who in the 1939 Register, was living just around the corner in Leyland Road.  By this time there had been an expansion into 12, next to an existing shop.  They may well also have extended the showrooms for the shop upwards as unlike most of the rest of the parade there was no private renting above the shops.

The Reed name was there until the bulldozers moved in – still listed in the 1965 Kelly’s Directory.  Ernest died in 1966 in Lewisham.  The family name had been there for almost all of the 100 years that the parade was there.  

In the next post we’ll return to the rest of the shops in the parade to see how they fared after 1905 until the end of the parade in the 1960s.

Notes & Credits

  • The ‘story’ of the parade has been pieced together using census data from 1871 and Kelly’s Directories, generally looking at every 5th year from the early 1880s
  • All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The Kelly’s Directory data was accessed via Southwark and Lewisham Archives
  • The black and white postcards and photographs of the parade are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright
  • The Ordnance Survey maps are on a non Commerical Licence from the National Library of Scotland (1897, 1914 and 1948)
  • The press cutting is from the Woolwich Gazette 4 March 1887

William Morris – A Farmer from Lee Green Farm

It is easy to forget that Lee Green was once a village green – large enough for cricket matches – with a windmill and a village pub.  Unsurprisingly, there were farms too – over time, the blog will probably cover most of the former farms in the area. The starting point though will be a farm next to the green – the imaginatively named Lee Green Farm.

The location of the farmhouse was roughly where the decaying remains of the Leegate Centre are now located.  Its age is uncertain, oddly it wasn’t covered in Josephine Birchenough’s fascinating booklet ‘Some Lee Farms and Fields’. However, the information board at Lee Green suggest dates it around the mid to late 17th century, there were certainly buildings there in John Roque’s 1740s map (1).

image

The land was owned by the Crown, probably as part of the extensive lands held through Eltham Palace, and the first on-line reference to the farm was a lease granted to William Morris in 1838 of both Lee Green Farm and the neighbouring Horn Park Farm.

Lee Green Farm (see picture below (2)) was 131 acres in size, according to tithe records, and was a mixture of arable and pasture but it was just a small part of the land that William Morris (sometimes spelled Morriss) farmed.  As early as 1815 he was leasing much of the current Cator Estate (3) and his 9th (ninth) child was born in Kidbrooke.   The land was largely rich pasture that he used for dairy cattle – important in terms of proximity to London, prior to the development of the railways.

image

By the 1830s he had relinquished much of this Cator estate interest, Kidbrooke tithe records for 1850 had his interest at just 7 acres.   Some of this was to allow development – such as a field where 97-115 Lee Road now stands (4).

The 1838 lease of Lee Green Farm was presumably a continuation of a previous one, certainly he was farming in Lee in 1820 as there was a case as the Old Bailey involving the theft of two cows and an attempt to sell them to a farmer in Mile End – William Smith was found guilty and hanged. The timings of his move to Lee are confirmed with the birth of his 11th child there the same year.

What is clear though is that William Morris had interest in a lot of land around Lee Green other than the Farm, F H Hart noted that at this time he and ‘Farmer Giles’ from Burnt Ash Farm leased most of the land in the area.  Morris’ land included

William Morris(or Morriss, the spelling of the surname varies) was from Banstead, Surrey was the son of Samuel and Sophia Morriss, and was baptised on May 29 1780. By 1804 he had married Elizabeth Walker and they had their first child Sophia and they were living on Blackheath Hill – presumably close to the Green Man Hotel.  At that stage he was described as a ‘milkman’ or ‘cowkeeper’ – possibly having a small amount of land (as was the case with Clark’s of Summerfield Street).

MorrisGrave

Elizabeth died in 1829 and was buried in the old St Margaret Lee Churchyard (see middle vault above).  William Morris remarried in early 1832, Susannah gave birth to the first of six children for the new family at Horn Park and seem to have made that their home rather than Lee Green – their youngest child was baptised in Eltham, rather than St Margaret’s Lee.

The farm buildings moved slightly to the east in the 1840s to what was to become known as Tudor House (roughly where the Leybridge Court estate is now).  This was presumably under the stewardship of Morris, who also built a few speculative homes adjacent to it (6).

One of the frustrating elements of writing this and other posts about the history of the area is that written history tends to focus on the rich and influential in society.  Nothing is known about the farm labourers on Morris’ land, other than there were a number of tied cottages, whether Morris was a good employer, his rates of pay and so on.  The only references to the rural working classes in Lee tend to relate to crime, and as we have seen with the case of the theft of cattle in 1820 and its draconian punishment, and when there were calls on poor law relief – such as in the bitterly cold winter of 1814 – referred to in the post on Benjamin Aislabie.

There were some attempts to redress this by William Cobbett in the 1820s.  Cobbett was a late Georgian and early Victorian radical, the son of an agricultural labourer from Surrey, he opposed to the Corn Laws who undertook a series of ‘Rural Rides’ to look at the condition of farming in the 1820s.  In addition to the Corn Laws, his ‘rides’ were against a backdrop of the Enclosure Acts of the early part of the century, where the rich landowners took ownership of what hitherto had been common land.  While there seems to have been little common land in Lee, the Acts had a major impact elsewhere in Lewisham – particularly in Sydenham.

Cobbett visited farms, talked to farmers and labourers on his horseback rides; he did not visit Lee, so it is difficult to judge on conditions locally but he did note in terms of land close to Dartford “Here dwell vanity and poverty.”

It is certainly difficult to generalise based on Cobbett’s observations and whether there was this “poverty” in Lee is unclear but elsewhere in the south-east when describing farming poverty he noted that

The labourers seem miserably poor. Their dwellings are little better than pig-beds, and their looks indicate that their food is not nearly equal to that of a pig. Their wretched hovels are stuck upon little bits of ground on the road side, where the space has been wider than the road demanded.

We will return to William Morris in his final days at College Farm where he was to pass away in 1851, by then Lee Green Farm was being run by his son Richard, three of his sisters Eleanor, Rebecca and Mary were living there too – the farm was listed as 302 acres and employed 20. Richard was still at the farm in 1861 although the acreage was much reduced, just 114 acres were being farmed.  He moved to Days Lane Farm in Blackfen around 1868 (see comment below), he clearly had some interest in land in Lee after he left as he was on Electoral REgisters into the 1870s. Beyond 1861 there seem to be no mentions of the farm, through on-line sources at least, – maybe it became unviable as land was lost to development.

The original site of the farm was redeveloped in the 1860s as housing called Carston Mews, although the name lived on it Carston Close, just to the south.  Carston Mews itself was demolished to make way for Leegate shopping centre in the 1960s. The centre has been in decline since Sainsbury’s opened to the west of Burnt Ash Road, something compounded by an increasing amount of empty office space above the centre.  There are plans to redevelop the centre going through the planning process at the time of writing (January 2016).

image

Notes

  1. Map from information board at Lee Green
  2. ibid
  3. Neil Rhind p34
  4. ibid p162
  5. Josephine Birchenough with John King (1981) Some Farms and Fields in Lee p28
  6. Rhind op cit p34

All the census and related data came via Find My Past 

I am indebted to Mike for providing most of the family information via a fascinating comment (see below, you may need to click on the title first if you can see another post below this one) – the post was substantially updated in June 2016 as a result of this.