Tag Archives: Catford

The Catford Studios – South London’s Walk-on Part in Silent Films

Strangely in the early days of the British Film industry one of the main studios was in Catford – the former home of the Forster Family, The Hall (or Southend Hall) at Southend – the Hall is to the left hand middle of the postcard (via eBay April 2016).

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As the 1919 Ordnance Survey map below (on a creative commons from the National Library of Scotland) surveyed in 1914 shows, it was still a largely rural area.southend-1919

 

The Hall was leased by the Henry William Forster M.P to the Britannia Film Company in August 1914, despite its name, the company seems to have been Italian owned by the Marquis Guido Serra di Cassano and was generally known as Windsor Films.

It was a daylight studio (see picture below – copyright details here) which sought to make use of natural light, it was built in the grounds of the Hall and was about 5000 square feet with the house being used for processing and administration.

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The building to the right is what is now the church hall of St John’s Church, the hall was built in 1824 and the former chapel for the hamlet of Southend as well as for the Forster family. It was replaced as a church by the current adjacent buildings in 1928.

The studios saw the production of the 1916 silent movies ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ and an adaptation of an Edgar Wallace novel, ‘The Man Who Bought London’ were both made there in the early days.

The ownership is slightly confused after then – while one of the main histories of the British Film Industry of the period has Marquis Guido Serra di Cassano owning until after World War 1, documents at the Lewisham archives suggest that he surrendered the lease to the Forsters in late 1917.

Whatever happened it is clear that an Anglo Italian Producer and Director, Arrigo Bocchi used it as a base for several feature films and shorts– including the 1919 silent movie, ‘The Polar Star’ – some of the films were based on the romantic novels of Elinor Glyn who was popular at the time.

kenelm_foss_vanity_fair_17_dec_1913One of the actors that Bocchi worked with was the Croydon born Kenelm Foss (left, on Creative Commons), Foss took control of the studios after agreeing a purchase from Serra for £23,000, and seems to have taken possession of the studios after a down payment of £2,300 in 1919.

The balance was not forthcoming though and in early 1920, the Catford Studio was bought by Walter West’s firm BroadWest who were based in Walthamstow.  Catford was effectively a secondary studio for the firm.  It is not clear which films were made in Catford and which in Walthamstow, but they may have included ‘The Loudwater Mystery’ (1921), ‘Was She Justified?’ (1922) and ‘When Greek Meets Greek’ (1922).  The Studios didn’t last long with the new owners though – with West moving his operations to Kew in 1922– seemingly as a cost saving measure.

Sadly none of the films made at the studios seem to have survived nor have any posters for them, certainly none seem to have been converted into any available digital format – some were on YouTube a few months ago but the account seems to have been taken down.

As for the house, it was demolished after World War 2 and Whitefoot Lane was straightened – it was replaced by post war former council flats, Langthorne Court, which are now managed by Phoenix Housing, who are based on the neighbouring site of the former Green Man pub.

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Henry Woodham & Sons and the Catford Steamrollers

The name of Henry Woodham came up a while ago in relation to the short-lived velodrome in Sportsbank Street in  Catford, Woodham unsuccessfully attempted to build next to it in 1897 and may have been the developer who bought the stadium in 1900 and built in surrounding streets early 20th century.

The firm was much better known as a highways contractor and latterly also as a plant hire company, and local memories focus very much of the impressive looking steam rollers that the firm used, including the Ruston Hornsby roller below (on a Creative Commons via the Tractor and Construction Plant Wiki)

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The firm was based at a plot of land at 121 to 139 Sangley Road, almost opposite the Roman Catholic Church of Holy Cross, next to one of the alleys between Sangley and Engleheart Roads.

The yard would have originally been part of Cockshed Farm – it is midway between the Farm and Sangley Lodge on the 1893 OS map below (on a creative commons via National Library of Scotland)

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The highlighted yard is more obvious in the 1930s map of the same area – also on a creative commons via National Library of Scotland.

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There are fond local memories of the yard – there were several recollections on a recent Facebook page, including those who remembered the yard as children and would “always sit upstairs on the bus so that we could ‘look over the wall’ to see those wonderful machines as there was a bus stop outside.”

Several of the steam rollers have been preserved by enthusiasts, including the one below (on a Wikipedia Creative Commons) at Bredgar and Woshill Railway, near Sittingbourne. It was bought new by Henry Woodham & Sons in 1922, it still has a company plaque and was used on road repairs until the 1950s.

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So who were Henry Woodham and Sons?  Henry had been born in Elmers End in 1857, into a labouring family.  He moved around a fair amount as a young man – he was in Camberwell in the 1870s, marrying Maria and arrived in Catford by 1879 – his elder son, Henry George, was born there in 1879.  Henry (senior) was employing 11 as a road and sewage contractor living at 25 Brownhill Road in the 1881 census.

He was still living in Brownhill Road in 1901 (Sydney Villa) and 1911 when all five adult children were living at 182 Brownhill Road, including the ‘Sons’ Henry George and Reginald (born in 1881).

Henry Senior had retired by 1911, but was still living in Brownhill Road (102) with a housekeeper.  He subsequently moved to Bromley where he died in 1928.

By 1911 the business was being run by Henry George and Reginald, the former was living at 11 Ardoch Road with two children, including a Henry Ernest Clifford born in 1905.  Reginald who was living at 168 George Lane.

Reginald had retired and was living in Sevenoaks by the time the 1939 Register was drawn up – dying in neighbouring Tonbridge in 1956. Neither of Reginald’s sons went into the family business – Reginald (1904) worked as an engineer for Woking Council in 1939, with Gerald dying early in 1925, when only 17.

Henry George seems to have tried to expand the business into Devon between the wars.  But returned to returned to south east London, before his death in Bromley in 1961.  His son, Henry Ernest Clifford was listed as a Public Works Company Director in 1939, at 72 Arran Road, but maybe the business wasn’t doing quite so well – he was sharing with an unrelated father and son. He died in south east Surrey in early 1969.

By this time the business was gone, liquidated in 1965 – the registered office was in Bickley at that time, although the business was still carried out in Catford.

As for the yard, after Woodham and Sons went into liquidation, it seems to have been home to demolition firms, initially Sid Bishop Demolition, latterly Harris.   Like the former grandstand of the velodrome the small plot eventually succumbed to the developers.

The housing seems to have taken the name of the last users of the site and is known as Harris Lodge – a mixture of flats and bungalows. img_2819

And finally, another of the impressive steamrollers that plied their trade out of Sangley Road (although was later sold to A J Ward), the Excelsior – via a creative commons from Grace’s Guide.

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Note

All the census and related data comes from Find My Past

 

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Dog Field, Perry Hill – A Long Lost Catford Midget Car and Greyhound ‘Stadium’

Running Past has covered several long gone sports stadia in Catford – notably The Mount, where Charlton played for a season (and Catford Southend somewhat longer) and the velodrome in what is now Sportsbank Street.

In addition to this, there seems to have been a short-lived ‘stadium’ in Perry Hill that was home to the racing of both greyhounds and midget cars (not at the same time) in the early 1930s.  It shouldn’t be confused with the main Catford greyhound stadium, whose entrance was in Adenmore Road.  While it was referred to as ‘Perry Hill Stadium’ this implies something somewhat more grand than it actually was.  Given various references to Rubens Street iit may have been a ground-share with Forest Hill Cricket Club – what is now home to Catford and Cyphers Cricket Club.

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There is another possibility though, those with long memories of Perry Hill suggested in a Facebook discussion of this post, an area adjacent to it, next to the river as being Dog Field.

This was home for a while to London Irish RFU (there is now a post on their stay in Perry Hill here), although not mentioned in their on-line history, and is shown on an Ordnance Survey 25 inch map surveyed in 1913, but not published for another couple of decades. By this stage, London Irish RFC had ended their early itinerant history and had found a base in Sunbury on Thames in 1931.

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As the original access was a track from Rubens Street, this may have explained the address of the ‘Stadium’. Greyhound racing would have required some form of pavilion, which was presumably still there from the days of London Irish or the adjacent cricket club could have been used. Crucially, it would make more sense as midget car racing would have churned up the outfield of a cricket field.

The company seems to have been set up for greyhound racing – the track was initially an unlicensed one (1) – one of the Directors, a Herbert Leonard Blann was prosecuted by the RSPCA for using live rabbits fixed to a ball for the greyhounds to chase  in late 1933 (2). While it joined the British Greyhound Tracks Control Society (BGTCS), a short-lived rival to the bigger National Greyhound Racing Club (NGRC), that folded in 1935.

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The 1934 Betting Act tightened up licensing and all owners had to apply to the London County Council for a £90 licence which allowed for 104 meetings a year with betting along with a further four without it.  Presumably they were successful as there are reports of racing in October 1935, although there was further trouble with the law as the Company was fined £25 and Hubert Blann £5 for permitting betting at Sunday meetings om August 1935 (3).

Midget car racing was introduced at Perry Hill in June 1935, it was a young sport which became big in the USA and Australia, but seemingly much less so in Britain although there were tracks in the 1930s at Crystal Palace, Lea Bridge, Greenford and Dagenham.  There were attempts in 1948 to get the sport to take off with a ‘tour’ of American cars at Stamford Bridge (British Pathé video below) as well as at Charlton’s Valley and Walthamstow greyhound stadium,  but it never seems to have taken off as major sport here.

While Herbert Blann was almost certainly involved in the races at Perry Hill, there have been suggestions that one of the other promoters was Kaye Don.  Don had been a massive name in 1930s motor sport both on land and water; he had set the record on Lake Garda in February 1932 at 177.387 km/h (110.2 mph).

Don’s fall from grace though had been spectacular – he was convicted of the manslaughter of Francis Tayler, a MG mechanic, while testing a car on the Isle of Man in 1934 – the car had no lights, number plates or insurance, yet it was driven on open public roads at 10:00 pm – it was involved in an accident from which Frankie Tayler subsequently died. Don was sentenced to four months in prison.

Don was injured himself in the crash and it seems that he didn’t race again, and was out of prison by the time the races happened at Perry Hill.  Based on Blann’s flouting of the law – maybe a partner like Don would have appealed.

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The first racing on the 250 m long course seems to have been on 8 June 1935.  Little is known other that there seem to have been around three events and one of the drivers to feature was Jean Reville (see above – picture source) who enjoyed several victories in the three meetings; Reville was probably the leading light in the nascent sport – but he was to emigrate to Australia later that year.

The racing on four wheels and four legs didn’t last long though; Perry Hill Stadium Ltd was in liquidation before the end of 1935 – the action was brought by a creditor, Charles John Hull, who was the long-term licensee of the Osborne Arms in Deptford.

With hindsight it was probably a doomed venture – both sports had local competition, midget car racing was run at an established speedway track at Crystal Palace and greyhound racing in Catford – both of which had much better public transport links.  The owners of the Catford Stadium had tried midget car racing without success in 1934, so perhaps that should have been a warning.

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If the location was the cricket ground, the sport that predated the venture still continues – one of the parts of the club that now plays there – Catford and Cyphers – used to be based at Pennerley Road, the pavilion remains there but the ground has been lost to development.  Oddly, it too tried speedway once in 1932, although the details of it are ‘sketchy.

If Dog Field was the old London Irish ground, part of it was built on with the eastern edge of Datchet Road – the rest remains as open space – appropriately still used for dogs – the main users being dog walkers and their hounds.

Notes

  1. “The Training of Greyhounds.” Times [London, England] 30 Dec. 1933: 7.
  2. “Fine for Cruelty to Rabbits.” Times [London, England] 5 Jan. 1934: 14.
  3. Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligence 22 October 1935

 

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Catford’s Long Lost Velodrome

Catford was home to several sports stadia which have been lost over the years, including the greyhound stadium and The Mount, home to Charlton for a season, both of which have been covered before in Running Past.  Another very short-lived one was a cycling and athletics track on a site close to Brownhill Road, now taken up by Elmer Road and Sportsbank Street. It was the track home to Catford Cycling Club and Blackheath Harriers between 1895 and 1900.

Running Past has covered the early history of Blackheath (now and Bromley) Harriers on the Heath; Catford Cycling Club’s origins are little later, not being formed until 1886 – but within a decade or so it had become ‘probably the foremost track racing club in Britain’, according to its official history at least.

In the early 1890s, while the area around Rushey Green was beginning to be developed and from the 1893 Ordnance Survey map, building had reached a nascent Laleham Road but no further east – the big development of this area was to start a couple of year later by the sale of North Park farm  to form the Corbett Estate – on the eastern edge of the map.  The track was not there long enough to trouble the cartographers but was in the field to the north west of Cockshed Farm.

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Some of the early track meetings of the Catford Cycling club were held at Paddington Recreation Ground  – which had opened in the early 1880s, adding the cycling track in 1888. By 1889, the club was getting large numbers of entries for their main race day, the programme for which went on for 7 hours (1)  – their open mile novice handicap in that year attracted 143 entries (2) and 464 in total (3).  Racing was to continue the following year with meetings in July (4) and August (5).

By 1892 the club was getting crowds of 7,000 at Paddington Rec. (6) and holding international meetings with Dutch cyclists  there in torrential rain (as pictured below) (7)) in the home fixture, along with a return one in less inclement conditions in the Netherlands (8)

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By 1893 Catford Cycling Club  races were being held at the Herne Hill Velodrome which had opened a couple of years earlier, and with as many as 13,000 watching (9) thoughts seemed to turn to trying to get an equivalent closer to home.  The races at Herne Hill may well have had the ‘furiously’ riding George Lacy Hillier, officiating at them. – Running Past covered his career a few months ago,

During 1894 funding was secured to obtain both the land and construct at Catford ‘the largest track in Europe, the surface was of special cement designed to give a perfectly smooth running plane whilst allowing the newly invented pneumatic tyres perfect adhesion.’  It had with seating for 1,000 spectators, plus standing room for many thousands more.

Building was well underway by November 1894 (10) and almost complete by January 1895 (11).  The prospectus for it described it as ‘a new sports resort’ with Blackheath Harriers to make it their headquarters.  The opening ceremony was planned for May 4 1895 (12), although this ended up being delayed a couple of weeks (13).

The new stadium was opened by Lord Kinnaird, President of the Football Association, on May 18 (14) with a full programme in rather rainy conditions with 10,000 spectators – the races included a victory for  Birmingham’s F W Chinn in the Quarter Mile scratch race – see below (15).

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There were a couple of line drawings of the new track and the inaugural meeting in the Picture Post, with what was presumably meant to be Crystal Palace in the background (16).

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Records fell that summer as the track lived up to its expectations in terms of speed – CF Barden broke every record from 2 to 10 miles in late June (17); FW Weatherly beat the British quarter-mile flying start quarter mile a month later (18) and in September, AP Marples took over seven seconds off the licensed amateur mile record to finish in 1:56:40 (19).

Successful racing continued into 1896, when the Easter Monday meeting in early April saw crowds of 10,000 and with WH Bardsley of the Polytechnic Cycling Club, pictured on the far left,  taking the 1st place in the 10 mile scratch race (20).  There were at least two other race days in May one of which an attendances of over 15,000 (21) and the other an international against a Danish team (22).  JW Stocks beat many of the records set by CF Barden in early June (23) – it was the first of several British and World record set on the track that summer.

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picture via e bay Feb 2016

The opening meeting of the 1897 season saw crowds of only half the number of 1896 at just 5,000 (24), although numbers in races later in the season increased, with a peak of 10,000 in May (25).  Worrying signs were on the horizon that winter as a Catford builder, Henry Woodham, sought to lay out a street (Elmer Street, later Road) parallel to Brownhill Road, hard up against the track – while he was initially unsuccessful but it was a sign of things to come (26).

Racing continued as normal in 1898, although attendances were well down on previous years – the Whit weekend meeting attracted only 6,000 (27) compared with 15,000 24 months earlier. There were fewer race reports during the year, with some races being cancelled.  The 1899 season started with ‘disappointing’ crowds despite ‘delightful weather’ (28) and the paucity of press coverage continued.

Just 2,500 were there to see the opening fixture on Easter Monday in the new century (29) and while the annual 50 mile race was to happen in September it was to be its last at the track (30).  It was sold to a speculative builder for £7,500 (31), the reporter seemed to think that Catford was in south west London though.  In reality, the offer of a large amount of money from a developer in the context of falling gates was probably an offer too good to refuse for the owners.  When the builder was Henry Woodham or not is unclear – but he certainly developed houses in the area at around the time the stadium was sold an was based at 132 Brownhill Road.

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Oddly, the grandstand remained – used for warehousing until the 1990s, when it too succumbed to development – the modern houses below are where the stand once stood. The street name, with its hints of a brief record breaking past, is all that remains.

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Notes

  1. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, May 25, 1889; pg. 326; Issue 1460.
  2. Daily News (London, England), Monday, May 20, 1889; Issue 13453
  3. Berrow’s Worcester Journal (Worcester, England), Saturday, May 25, 1889; pg. 4; Issue 10206. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.
  4. Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Thursday, July 17, 1890; Issue 6603
  5. The Morning Post (London, England), Wednesday, August 20, 1890; pg. 3; Issue 36873
  6. Daily News (London, England), Monday, May 16, 1892; Issue 14389.
  7. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, September 03, 1892; pg. 151; Issue 1631
  8. Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Monday, August 15, 1892; Issue 10655.
  9. The Yorkshire Herald, and The York Herald (York, England), Monday, May 08, 1893; pg. 8; Issue 13081. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II
  10. Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Wednesday, November 14, 1894; Issue 11359
  11. The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), Monday, January 21, 1895; Issue 9306.
  12. The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), Wednesday, March 6, 1895; Issue 9344
  13. The Morning Post (London, England), Monday, May 20, 1895; pg. 2; Issue 38359
  14. Daily News (London, England), Monday, May 20, 1895; Issue 15331
  15. The Standard (London, England), Monday, May 20, 1895; pg. 2; Issue 22115
  16. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, May 25, 1895; pg. 327
  17. The Standard (London, England), Friday, June 28, 1895; pg. 8; Issue 22149
  18. Berrow’s Worcester Journal (Worcester, England), Saturday, July 27, 1895; pg. 6; Issue 10527.
  19. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Thursday, September 19, 1895; pg. 8; Issue 12788.
  20. The Morning Post (London, England), Tuesday, April 07, 1896; pg. 3; Issue 38636. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900.
  21. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, May 09, 1896; pg. 296; Issue 1824
  22. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, May 30, 1896; pg. 345; Issue 1827.
  23. The Morning Post (London, England), Tuesday, June 02, 1896; pg. 5; Issue 38684
  24. The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, April 17, 1897; pg. 3; Issue 38958.
  25. Reynolds’s Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, May 2, 1897; Issue 2438.
  26. Daily News (London, England), Thursday, October 21, 1897; Issue 16090.
  27. The Standard (London, England), Monday, May 09, 1898; pg. 2; Issue 23045
  28. The Standard (London, England), Monday, May 08, 1899; pg. 2; Issue 23357
  29. The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, April 14, 1900; pg. 6; Issue 39894
  30. Reynolds’s Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, September 9, 1900; Issue 2613.
  31. Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Tuesday, November 20, 1900; Issue 16505.

 

 

 

Too Young to Go to War but Old Enough to be Executed

There is a poignant memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield, it remembers the 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers executed for ‘cowardice and desertion’ during the First World War. It is the first statue at the arboretum to get the morning sun.

The statue is of a frightened young British soldier blindfolded and tied to a stake ready to be shot by a firing squad and is surrounded by a semicircle of stakes on which are listed the names of every soldier executed in this manner. The blindfolded soldier was modelled on Herbert Burden from Catford.
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Source Wikimedia Commons
Burden should never have been there – to sign up he should have been 18 but couldn’t be send abroad until 19, he was just 17 when court martialled and was one of the youngest shot. The recruiting sergeants turned a blind eye to under age recruits, they were incentivised to do so being paid by the recruit, and in any case most would not have had birth certificates to prove whether the would-be soldier was old enough.

According to the 1911 Census, Herbert Burden lived at 8 Doggett Road in Catford – almost opposite to the main entrance to Catford Bridge station, and was the child of Arthur and Charlotte Burden; his father was a cricket field groundsman who had been born in St Breward in Cornwall, his mother was from Westminster. At the time of the census, Herbert was the third oldest of the four children at Doggett Road – although two older brothers had left the family home since 1901 (when they lived next door at number 10)
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From the notes of his ‘trial’ it is clear that he had first signed up with the Royal West Kent Regiment in 1913, aged just 15. He joined the Northumberland Fusiliers in May 1914 overstating his age by 2 years; he deserted and joined the East Surrey Regiment in November 1914 then, three weeks later, deserted again and rejoined the Northumberland Fusiliers.

All this should surely have raised questions within the army about his state of mind, if not his age, but he was sent to France in March 1915 once he reached his ‘army’ age of 19 and by June he was posted close to Ypres.

Herbert was warned that he would be required for a working party on 26 June 1915 which according to a transcript of the case was

ordered to proceed to the trenches occupied by 9th Brigade near Hooge. The party was to remain there for 2 days and took their rations for that period with them. Their duty was to dig at night in the vicinity of the firing line etc. The duty was liable to the usual dangers to be met with in the vicinity of the line of trenches.

Burden went missing and was arrested two days later amongst the Royal West Kent Regiment lines and tried on 2 July.  His defence was that “I went to see a friend of mine in the Royal West Kent Regiment ….as I heard he had lost a brother I wanted to enquire if it was true or not.”

The absences caused by switching between regiments were alluded to at the Court Martial, and Burden was described as being “of inferior physique, reported as untrustworthy” and had been sick.

His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Clement Yatman noted at the trial that discipline in the battalion was good, thus inferring that an execution was not needed to make an example to Burden’s comrades. But despite this, the death penalty was called for and carried out on 21 July 1915. 3832 Private H. Burden was just 17 years and 121 days old when he faced the firing squad at 4:00 am.

It has been suggested that the killing may have been carried out, rather than commuted as was often the case, to frighten soldiers who were about to be “pitched into yet another futile and bloody assault on Hooge. Was Burden therefore executed in order to intimidate men who might possibly desert during the battle? If so, then his death reflects ill on the purported confidence British military commanders had in their men. If not, then it is difficult to gauge what other imperative, however justified, was served by killing the youngster.”

It is certainly difficult looking back at the case almost 100 years on, to come to a different conclusion as to what useful purpose the execution of a frightened young man of ‘inferior physique’ who had been sick would have served other than to strike fear into the older, more robust comrades in arms.

While not appearing on the memorials in Brockely & Ladywell Cemetery, he probably ought to be, he is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres and at his local church in Catford – St Laurence.
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© Andrew Black under Creative commons via Flickr

Listed Lewisham – The Excalibur Estate

The Blitz had destroyed thousands of homes in south east London, leaving considerable numbers homeless. One of the responses was the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act 1944, which planned to deliver 300,000 prefabricated homes over 10 years, within a budget of £150m. The temporary homes were designed to be quickly put up and last 10 years while more permanent solutions were found. Only half of that number was ever delivered due to a combination of costs being greater than expected and higher than traditional brick homes, and pubic expenditure cuts after 1947.

The old Borough of Lewisham put up 1,610 prefabs by 1948 and a further 1,088 by 1955. While many went on quickly cleared bombsites, parks and open spaces were often used. The sites used for ‘prefabs’ included locations on Blackheath, including Wat Tyler Road, and on the Greenwich Borough side of the ‘Heath, St Germans Place as well as on the open space on Pond Road. A little further away, there were several dozen around the edge of Hillyfields, where they remained until the 1960s.

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The biggest concentration solely in Lewisham was on the edge of Forster Memorial Park, the Excalibur Estate, which was one of the early developments; the 187 two bedroom bungalows were built in 1945-46. The Excalibur homes used the Uni-Seco model which is flat roofed with a timber frame with asbestos within the walls. The Uni-Seco homes average cost was around £1,131 – considerably more than the £500 a home assumptions in the 1944 Act.

Like many of the prefabs it was built by Italian and German prisoners of war from Rommel’s North Africa campaign.

The estate also contains a prefab church, St Mark’s.

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The number of prefab homes from the immediate post-war period is declining rapidly as sites are redeveloped, while Excalibur largely remains, its end is nigh. The homes have outlasted their lives by some margin but would be very expensive to bring up to current standards. Demolition has already started on the eastern side of the estate and other homes have been decanted ready for clearance. New homes were due to start being built at the beginning of 2014, but there now appears to be a large degree of uncertainty as to both the detail of the plans and the timescales.

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The estate is an important piece of 20th Century history and six of the homes have been listed. It is also for three weeks only, home to a ‘pop-up museum’ in one of the empty bungalows.

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As well as providing the opportunity to see what the homes are like inside there are photos of life on the estate as well as prefabs elsewhere in the country.

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There was an even larger prefab development at Grove Park on the borders between the then Borough of Lewisham and Chislehurst and Sidcup Urban District Council with 210 homes on the playing fields at the corner of Marvels Lane and Grove Park Road. These lasted into the early 1960s but there seem to be no remaining photos of them – if anyone can locate any of them let me know and I will pass them on to a local historian.

When Charlton Came to Catford

Mountsfield Park in Catford offers some good views across the Ravensbourne valley and, except on People’s Day, is a quiet location. So it is not the most obvious place to expect a 50,000 spectator stadium to be found, but tucked away in the south west corner of it used to be The Mount – home to the Catford Southend and, for a solitary season, Charlton Athletic, who were finding the 75,000 capacity Valley difficult to fill.

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The outline of the ground is clear to see, once you know it is there; a levelled playing area with a bank at one end carved out of the hill and the climb up to the pitch level at the Laleham Road end.

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This steep slope up to the pitch proved to be the ground’s almost literal downfall; the Laleham Road end was presumably just into loose earth and the clays from carving the pitch into the slope. There were concrete pylons supporting the terraces there but the 1923/24 season was rather like the 2013/14 season, phenomenally wet and things began to slide towards Laleham Road.

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Part of the plan in moving to The Mount was to merge with Catford Southend and Charlton played in the colours of ‘the Kittens‘ – light and dark blue vertical stripes although the League had blocked the merger before the season had even started.

Charlton’s campaign that season at kicked off with a 3-1 victory against Aberdare Athletic in the old League Division Three, South, but it was still at The Valley as The Mount was not ready until the 0-0 draw with Northampton on 22 December. The season as a whole brought only moderate success on the field – there was a home defeat to Millwall, although a Boxing Day victory over QPR – against whom they had lost on Christmas Day at Loftus Road. Attendances dropped off badly during the season such that by the end of the season, Charlton’s third team, who were still based at The Valley, were drawing bigger crowds than the first team in Catford leading to heavy financial losses. The season and the brief sojourn at The Mount was signed off with a 1-2 defeat to Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic and 14th position in the league.

As for Catford Southend, playing in the Kent League, they continued until 1926/27 when they failed to meet their financial obligations and were initially suspended from the League before being wound up later that season.

The Mount was finally demolished in the 1950s and there is more about it at the excellent Derelict London website

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