Tag Archives: Cedar House

36 Old Road – A Story of Buses, Toffee, Crash Repairs and the Lord Mayors Show

Next to the Old Road entrance to Manor House Gardens, more or less opposite Bankwell Road, is a nondescript gateway; currently it is to a building site where work has been paused for a couple of years. Before that, for 25 years or so, it had been home to the crash repair workshop of Penfolds Vauxhall dealership. It is a site with a varied history which will be explored here.

The site had been part of the estate of one of the large country houses of Lee, Cedar House, which was on what is now the north western corner of Aislibie Road. It originally had an estate that the covered the western side of Aislibie Road, down to the Quaggy. James Halliburton Young, had lived there from 1841, perhaps a few years earlier, probably until his death in Ceylon in 1883; he had largely merged the estate with that of the neighbouring Lee House. Apart from the area around the Cedar House itself, the rest of the combined estate was sold for development in the 1880s.

The rump of the estate of Cedar House was itself sold for development in the early 1890s, while the House was still standing in the 1891 census, but marked as unoccupied. The houses on the eastern side of northern end of Aislibie Road and the southern side of the eastern end of Old Road were built by a Surbiton based builder. There remained a small area behind it which was used by a variety of industrial uses – it is shown below as the grey area to the south of Old Road (on a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland)

The first occupants appear to have been Thomas Tilling’s bus company, they seem to have moved into 36 Old Road soon after Cedar House had been sold. This was around 1901, or perhaps slightly before, when the use was listed as omnibus stables in Kelly’s Directory.

Thomas Tilling was a large pre-nationalisation bus company which had its roots in horse drawn carriages in the 1850s.  Within a few years of moving to Old Road they had 7000 horses in around 500 stables, of which Old Road was just one. In the Lewisham, Lee and Blackheath area they had bases in

  • Grotes Place, Shooters Hill Road and Tranquil Vale in Blackheath;
  • The Salisbury Yard in Lewisham; and
  • Brandram Road, Carsten Mews, Lee Road, Lee Green as well as Old Road in Lee.

Source – eBay November 2018

They expanded into motor buses from 1904, which rapidly replaced horse drawn transport; horses only lasted another 10 years, when the remaining ones on a route from Honor Oak to Peckham were conscripted. Many of sites used by the firm were sold or relinquished as the need for stables disappeared. The Shooters Hill Road site has been given up by 1914 (1).

Old Road was retained though, changing from a stables to a small coach works. The other main local site at the time was Salisbury Yard, behind the Sailsbury pub on the High Street which was the main local garage until Tillings took over Catford Bus Garage in 1920. Salisbury Yard, became a bus factory, known as Obelisk Works. Tillings stayed in Old Road until the late 1920s. The remains of the stables though were visible until the housing started to be developed around 2015, they are pictured to the right in the Planning Application for the site.

After Tillings moved out the new occupants from 1929 were J Whitehouse and Co, who were Confectionery Contractors. Sadly, little is known about the company, they certainly weren’t a well known brand and presumably made either for others or loose, unbranded chocolates and sweets.

One local memory of the factory was of a neighbour in Aislibie Road, when the former neighbour was a child they recalled being given free toffee through a now bricked up doorway.

Whitehouse and Co remained in Old Road for almost 30 years, they were still listed in the 1948 Kelly’s Directory, but had gone the following year.  The reasons for their departure aren’t certain. However, like all sweet manufacturers they are likely to have struggled during and after World War 2. Sweets and chocolates were rationed, with allowances varying between 16oz (454g) and 8oz (227g) per month from 1942 during the war, and 12oz (340g) after 1945.

The site seems to have been empty for several years but was then taken over by John Edgington and Co Marquee Manufacturers. Unlike their predecessor, it is a company that has a well documented history. The roots of the company go back to the early 19th century – there were three linked companies all carrying out a similar business in relation to marquees, tents, flags and related products. It started with two brothers Benjamin and Thomas who set up a partnership around 1805; the partnership was dissolved in 1823 but the trade continued in two separate companies.

John Farncombe Edgington was the second son of Thomas, his older brother, also Thomas started his own, business which John assisted with.  John was born in February 1817, his father had been working in Tooley Street in the canvas trade since 1805. By 1832 Thomas’ business was operating from 108 Old Kent Road – a location where the firm traded from until the Bricklayers Arms flyover was built in the late 1960s.

Business grew rapidly with the opening of railways and the use of tarpaulins on trucks. They had high profile clients for their tents in the the shape of Dr. David Livingstone’s first expedition.

Thomas (Jnr) died of an unintentional poisoning in 1852 and his father five years later. This led to John taking control of and merging both the businesses by 1862. John Edgington only lived for another 8 years, he died of pneumonia and exhaustion in 1870. The name though was to live on for another century. The firm was run subsequently by the Hilton family, who were business partners of John Edgington – they supplied Scott’s ill fated expedition to the Antarctic.

From the late 19th century there was a rather macabre part to their business – suppliers of the rope used hangmen. Adverts for their camping equipment appeared in the trade press, including this one in the 1929 British Industries Fair catalogue (via Grace’s Guide on a Creative Commons).

In October 1976 the firm indirectly reformed the single company set up by Thomas and Benjamin in 1805. Benjamin’s firm had been bought out by the camping firm Black’s to form Black and Edgington in 1967. The successor of Thomas, John Edgington and Co merged with Black and Edgington in 1976.

The partial move to Old Road was around 1955; the site seems to have been empty since 1949 (there are no entries in the Kelly’s Directories for the intervening years. ) In the early years it was listed as “John Edgington and Co Marquee Manufacturers”, presumably carrying out some part of the core business. Oddly, they weren’t mentioned in 1960 and when the listing reappeared in 1965 it was listed as a workshop for John Edgington (Exhibitions) Ltd. Their work included making floats for the Lord Mayors Shows. The footage from 1980 may well include floats constructed in Old Road.

The exhibitions section had been set up in 1851, a centenary was celebrated in 1951, oddly with a horse brass (source eBay September 2018).

Edgington’s remained in Old Road until the late 1980s when, Penfolds Motors who had sold their site at Lee Green to Sainsburys, bought a series of sites in the area – including this one for crash repairs, and, 100 metres away a showroom on the corner of Bankwell Road and Lee High Road.  Running Past will return to Penfolds at some point in the future, but if the pause button is ever taken off the housing development, this is what it will look like (Source – Planning Application).

Note

  1. Neil Rhind (1983) Blackheath Village and its Environs , Volume 2 p 401

Census and related data come via Find My Past

Kelly’s Directorys were accessed via the always helpful Lewisham Archives

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Lee House to Lee Centre – the Story of a Small Part of Lee

The Lee Centre is an elegant late Victorian building at the junction of Aislibie and Old Roads in Lee. It is currently used by a couple of voluntary sector organisations. Both the building, and its predecessors on the site, have interesting stories – this blog post outlines the history. 

The site was for centuries ‘home’ to Lee House, a medieval mansion that was probably the last building showing on the bend of the main road on the southern side of John Rocque’s map from the 1740s (see below (1)). This was, of course, before Lee High Road was straightened following the breakup of the estate of Lee Place in 1824. At that point Old Road was given its current layout.

The original Lee House was probably a Tudor mansion and was known to have rush and clay partition walls (2).   Relatively little is known about the early history of the House although it was to become one with Republican links – it was home to the family of one of the Regicides of Charles I (3) and then owned by the slave owner and trader, Maurice Thomson.  Running Past has already covered Thomson and his brother George who may have built Lee Place and who also had clear links to slavery.

In the early 18th century the House was owned by the Lewin family (4), then home to the Huguenot Jamineau family (5) and later to City merchant and Alderman Sir George Champion (6). Champion’s daughter Mary was to marry Sir Thomas Fludyer in 1742 who inherited the house (7), presumably on George Champion’s death in 1754.

Sir Thomas Fludyer was brother of Samuel who lived at Dacre House, more on him at some stage in the future. Thomas was elected as MP for Great Bedwin in 1767, a seat that he swapped for his brother’s Chippenham seat on the latter’s death in 1768 (8). He died the following year in Hackney although his body was buried in Lee (9). Lee House was left to his daughter, Mary, better known by her married title, Lady Dacre.  She was to live at the eponymous House, further up the hill towards St Margaret’s Church. Her time in Lee will be considered in more details in a future post on Dacre House.  The House was sold on by the early 1770s to Henry Pelham (10).

Pelham was the nephew of two Prime Ministers – his namesake who died in office in 1754, as well as the Duke of Newcastle.  Lee’s Henry Pelham had been briefly an MP, but by the time he moved to Lee was Commissioner of Customs in 1758, a role he continued in until the 1788 retiring on a pension of £761 (worth around £1.4m at 2018 values). Henry Pelham died in 1803.

Around 1807 (11) the House was bought by the banker and MP for Taunton, William Morland; he died in 1815 with his wife remained at the house until her own death in 1826. The House was then inherited by their grandson Sir Francis Bernard Morland.

Sir Francis demolished the old house within a year or two, along with a neighbouring house on Lee High Road which had previously been home to Alexander Rowland, the barber who popularised the use of Macassar Oil, who had died there in 1823. As F W Hart noted, many of the older houses in Lee had been considerably extended over the years (as we have seen with Pentland House) but done in a way that didn’t meet the aspirations of the wealthy early Victorian Kent country gentleman. The realignment of the road provided the ability to design a home with a sweeping drive and gatehouse so gave added impetus for change.

Like its predecessor, no images of the House seem to exist, but from late 19th century Ordnance Survey maps at least, it appeared quite grand with a gatehouse (12) – Lee House is the unnamed large house below the right ‘E.’

While Sir Francis Morland lived on to the ripe old age of 86,  he moved on relatively quickly, as the occupant of the eight acre estate for much of the 1830s and 1840s were the Stuarts – William Forbes Stuart, a Scottish  ‘merchant,’ and his wife Hannah.  In 1841 they were living there with two grown up daughters a relative and eight live-in servants.  The Stuarts (incorrectly spelled Stewart) were still there in the 1851 census; while their children had moved on, they had a retinue of 14 servants, including a pair of lodge keepers.

The Stuarts seem to have sold up in the 1850s and moved to Brighton.  The purchaser was James Halliburton Young, a Justice of the Peace. he probably never lived there but he certainly added some of the land of Lee House to his estate at Cedar House which was situated on what is now the opposite side of Aislibie Road, and no doubt will be covered at some stage in Running Past.  It is the collection of buildings between Lee House and Manor House on the Ordnance Survey map above.

It isn’t clear who was at Lee House in 1861; it may well have been empty when the census enumerators called. In the 1871 Lee House was home to James and Anne Dale – it was clearly a time before contraception – there were 13 surviving children between 18 and just born living at the House along with 3 live-in servants.

By 1881, while the Youngs were still next door, there was no mention of the House in the census, part of the site had already been sold off – the census lists St Margaret’s Home whose inhabitants included a curate.  By the late 1880s, the house had been demolished and what is now Lee Centre at least had its foundation stone, with the grounds sold for the housing of Aislibie and Lenham Roads.

Part of the land was bought by the widow of George Barnes Williams, Helen, ‘For the use and benefit of the men and lads of Lee.’  The building is now known as the Lee Centre.

George Barnes Williams is a name that has already had a passing reference in Running Past in that he was living at ‘Belmont’ (The House that Named the Hill) when the census enumerators called in 1871. He was an architect and surveyor, with a business based in Westminster.  He was best known for his input into the refurbishment of the Mercers Hall between 1877 and 1881.

In 1881 he and his wife Helen were living at 14 Brandram Road. George died in 1887.  In addition to what is now the Lee Centre, it appears that Helen paid for a window at St Margaret’s Lee in his memory.  Helen seems to have lived on at Brandram Road until her own death in 1894.

From the outset there was a chess club based there, which was to be a feature at the Institute for at least 30 years, meeting initially on Monday and Thursday evenings (13).   In addition to chess, there seems to have been a football team based there for a while (14), and an athletic club was based there in 1892 which met on Tuesday and Thursday evenings (15).  How long the football and athletics clubs lasted is not clear, as there was only one mention for each in the local press. In its early days of operation the building was also used by Lee Dispensary – it was listed in the Kelly’s Directories there between 1895 and 1900.  Certainly, when it was first considered by planners in 1888, the application from Helen Williams, was in relation to setting up a Cottage Hospital (16) so this may have been a relic of the original application.

While initially it seems that the Institute was an independent one, by 1927 it had come under the wing of St Margaret’s Church whose parish rooms were then next door.  The building was still home to the Chess Club which lasted there until 1930; the 1937 Kelly’s saw a solitary mention of St Margaret’s 1st Lee Scouts being based there.

While the Scout group only appeared once in Kelly’s Directory, it seems to have been a feature there until the early 1960s, before the group moved to the then newly acquired Kingswood Halls. The building continued to be used to store camping and other equipment for Scout and Guides until at least 1960.

The building was also used for storage by a father and son painting firm, Charles and Gordon Payne, in the late 1950s and 1960s, perhaps earlier. They lived in Dacre Park as war broke out in 1939 and continued to use a hand cart to transport materials around Lee into the 1960s when motorised transport had become the norm.

The Working Men and Lads suffix lasted until 1953, by which time the building was just known as St Margaret’s Lee, Church Institute – a name which lasted in Kelly’s until 1980 by which time it was referred to as the Lee Centre.  The mosaic above the door probably dates from around then – it certainly wasn’t there in 1979 when photographed.

By this stage, the building was being used Goldsmiths College as a Community Education Centre, as part of their Department of Adult Studies. This had started in 1973 and continued until around 1991, the activities run from there included several reminiscence projects during the 1980s.  The building was also used for some Lewisham Council run Adult Education courses up until around the mid-1990s.

In the more recent past it has been home to several voluntary sector groups – notably the Arts Network whose work was aimed at people with enduring mental health support needs and sought to provide ‘a supportive welcoming space for participants to explore their creativity.’ It often opened its doors to the public as part of Lee Green Open Studios, with the upper floor providing a pleasant airy space for displaying art. The project has now moved on to the Leegate Centre.

At the time of writing (late 2018) the building was being used by Ubuntu, a Black social history project and Family Health Isis, a mental health project.

It is a lovely building, although, oddly, neither Listed nationally by English Heritage or locally by Lewisham – it is certainly at least as worthy as the Grade II listed Lochaber Hall a couple of hundred metres away.

Notes

  1. Map from information board at Lee Green
  2. Edwin and Josephine Birchenough (1968) Two Old Houses of Lee – Dacre House and Lee House p68
  3. ibid p68
  4. ibid p71
  5. ibid p72
  6. ibid p73
  7. ibid p78
  8. ibid p78
  9. ibid p79
  10. ibid p94
  11. ibid p97
  12. The map is on a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland
  13. Kentish Mercury 18 October 1895
  14. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper 15 January 1899
  15. Kentish Mercury 25 March 1892
  16. Kentish Mercury 17 August 1888

Census and related data comes via Find My Past

Kelly’s Directorys were accessed via the always helpful Lewisham Archives