Tag Archives: Chiesmans

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 6 – Following the Quaggy

During the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown Running Past followed the long, thin boundary of Victorian Lee before it was subsumed into Lewisham in 1900, aided only by a 1893 Second Edition Ordnance Survey map. This has been in stages, from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the second part took us through Grove Park, crossing the never built Ringway; we then passed through Marvels and Elmstead Woods and a Borough of Deptford Cemetery; the fourth part took us through Chinbrook Meadows appropriately following Border Ditch; and the last part followed the hidden stream Hither Green Ditch more or less parallel to Verdant Lane and Manor Lane.

We left the boundary at the confluence of Hither Green Ditch with the Quaggy to which we will return, following the red dots on the map.

The confluence has actually moved – in 1893 it was more or less where 49 Longhurst Road is now located; it is now around 40 metres away on a sharp corner between between Manor Park and Leahurst Road (pictured below).

In 1893 this was still, just, the land of Lee Manor Farm, although this would change dramatically over the next decade. As was the case when we followed the boundary along Hither Green Ditch, the Quaggy not only was the Lee – Lewisham boundary it was one between two farms. On the west was North Park Farm (the top of the map below) and on the east Lee Manor Farm – the sale of the former to Cameron Corbett who created what is known as the Corbett Estate and the latter by the Northbrooks in a more piecemeal fashion was to shape the urban landscape.

The boundary was within the flood plain, with the Quaggy meandering along the boundary of the farm, the Lee – Lewisham boundary of 1893. While this was acceptable in farmland it wasn’t in relation to the smaller suburban housing about to be developed the east of the railway. Memories of the devastating floods of 1878 will still have been prominent – the theory about dealing with such floods, which prevailed until the end of the following century, was to deepen and straighten the river, moving the water on as quickly as possible – this is clear from the photograph below. This approach also made development easier as had been seen with the development of Lampmead Road following the sale of Lee House in the 1880s.

Like the previous sections, the boundary is being followed on foot, the footwear of choice has changed though because while the rest of the route has been run, this section, apart from a 300 metre covered section in central Lewisham, is by walking along the river bed so waders became the footwear of choice.

The river and boundary continue to diverge for a little, the 1893 flow of the Quaggy and consequently the boundary meandered along what is now broadly Longhurst Road. It was never any more than 50 metres away from the river’s current, very straight, deep, engineered course. The convergence of the 19th boundary and the Quaggy more or less where the 21st century bridge from the the entrance from Longhurst Road into Manor Park is now situated – just above the start line for the annual (in non-COVID-19 years) Quaggy Duck Race.

While the Quaggy and Lee – Lewisham boundary are now coterminous and the meanders are broadly similar in 2020 to 1893, much changed in the intervening period. The Quaggy was straightened and channelised through what until the 1960s was the last bit of farming in Lee – a piggery. The open space, Manor Park, was created in the mid-1960s with meanders restored to something very close to those that existed in 1893 in 2007.

At the exit of the Park, there is a bridge, it is a long-standing crossing of the Quaggy, part of an ancient path known as Hocum Pocum Lane which ran from St Mary’s Church in Lewisham to Lee High Road. Despite the work done further upstream to deepen and straighten the course it flooded badly here in 1968.

Beyond Manor Park, the river and 1893 boundary squeezes between the Victorian housing of Weardale Road and Eastdown Park. The land for the latter land had already been developed by 1893, Eastdown Park on land that had been cultivated by the market gardens of Lewisham Nursery, run by Messrs Willmott and Chaundy, until 1860.

Beyond the river’s first meander is the garden of 45 Eastdown Park, possibly very briefly home to the Ginger Baker, his father was there just before the Cream drummer was born in 1939.  A hundred metres or so further on another there is another building with a musical history – the Rose of Lee, now Dirty South, which saw the first public performance by Kate Bush.

We have already mentioned serious flooding that occurred in the spring of 1878 in relation to straightening the Quaggy upstream.  However, while the meanders and boundary of Lewisham and Lee hadn’t changed since then, the depth of the watercourse had.  It is at least half a metre lower than in the prictue showing the partial destruction of the bridge in Eastdown Park.  So whilst it is a pleasant wander down the river there is little to see beyond boundary walls and banks for much of this stretch.

In 1893 on the opposite side of the Eastdown Park bridge was a Baptist Chapel, this was largely destroyed during World War 2 and the site is a vacant garage, last home to Penfold’s.

Both sides of the river and boundary into Lewisham were lined with housing in 1893; on the Lee (High Road) side a few remain, 152 was once home to William Sidery (pictured top) part of a multi generational Lee building firm.  Grove Cottage next to the Ambulance Station dates back to 1835 and 96 is the last remaining section of Lee Place (not to be confused with the eponymous mansion off Old Road) which was built in 1813 (lower picture) (1).

The remaining houses were largely lost to Fry’s garage and showrooms, which themsleves were replaced by a large Lidl and topped by an even larger block of flats this century.

On the opposite side of the river in Lewisham in 1893 was the well established College Park estate, briefly home to the poet James Elroy Flecker.

Behind the housing the river retains a pleasant almost rural feeling idlyll – it has probably changed very little in the 127 years since the Ordnance survey map being followed was surveyed.  

Beyond Clarendon Rise bridge, on the Lee side, was the Sultan in 1893 (pictured from early in the 20th century below), replaced in the last decade by Nandos; on the Lewisham side of the bridge is now the beautiful Hindu temple although that was a yard in 1893. Penfold’s moved into the site adjacent to both, known as Clarendon Yard around 1904.

The river disappears under what was referred to as Lee Bridge in 1893 for around 300 metres.  Alas, dear reader, this part was done at street level. 

The raised area above the river was an established shopping parade in 1896 with a tea dealer (83), a pair of boot makers (75 & 81), a wool shop (79), a confectioners with an architect and auctioneers above (77), Singer’s sewing machines (73), a stationers (71), a series of household goods shopsunder George Stroud’s ownership (65-69), a chemist (63), a florist (61) and the mainstay of that part of Lewisham high Street for generations – Chiesman’s Department Store (pictured a few years into the 20th century). 

Much has changed now, rather than Chiesmans dominating the street scene it is a massive and not particularly attractive police station. 

On the side of the police station is memorial that celebrates the contribution of Asquith Gibbes to Lewisham and, in the context of of the Black Lives Matter protests of earlier in lockdown, seems an important place to pause. Such memorials to members of London’s Black community remain a rarity, although just inside the Lee border is the Desmond Tutu Peace Garden, Tutu was a curate in Grove Park.

Asquith Gibbes was born in Grenada, and arrived in Britain in the late 1950s, working in Lewisham for 40 years fighting racial inequalities in education, policing and housing. There is a fuller biography of him as part of the brief for the memorial – two examples of his work have national significance. He chaired Millwall Anti-Racist Trust and instigated the ‘Kick it Out’ programme at Millwall Football Club in 1993, a campaign that was adopted nationally. Asquith was also part of very significant work with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office on reforming ‘stop and search’ rules.

Returning to the Lee – Lewisham boundary of 1893, the Quaggy re-emerges just beyond the shops of 1893 and the police station. The boundary though takes a sharp turn to the east (right) by St Stephen’s church, at what is/was the confluence of the Quaggy and Upper Kid Brook, following the latter towards Blackheath. We’ll cover that part of the boundary at our next visit.

Picture Credits

  • The picture of Chiesmans shop in Lewisham is via e Bay in June 2016
  • The photographs of 1968 floods, the destroyed bridge in Eastdown Park and the map of Lee Manor Farm are from the collection of Lewisham Archives and remain their copyright, but are used with their permission
  • The Ordnance Survey map of 1893 is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence
  • The photograph of the Sultan is used with the permission of Robert Crawford, the great grandson of the Craddocks, licensees there in the 1920s, it remains his family’s copyright.

Note

1 Lewisham Leisure (1990) ‘From the Tiger to the Clocktower’

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.

87 Old Road – From Lee Working Men’s Institution to Chiesmans & Flats

A while ago Running Past covered the Lee Centre – originally a hall and meeting place built in the late 1880s originally known as the Lee Institute ‘For the use and benefit of the men and lads of Lee.’   There was similar organisation and building less than 50 metres away when it was built – it was known as Lee Working Men’s Institution.   The building and its successor, which was a warehouse for Chiesmans store, have an interesting history.

With the words  ‘working men’ is in the name one could be forgiven for thinking that Lee Working Men’s Institution was, perhaps, akin to a working men’s club – somewhere for the working class of Lee to meet.  It was nothing of the sort; it was very much the preserve of the wealthy of the parish – although this wasn’t how they saw themselves.

The original venue for the Institute was in Boone Street, numberless, but between 9 and 11 in the 1870 Kelly’s Directory, its likely location is shown below.   It opened its doors in September 1854 – to a packed room, with a number outside, its chairman, a Mr Bennett of Blackheath suggested that members should ‘recognise no class – the corded jacket should have as much respect as the black coat.’  It was seen as a means of sharing knowledge through lectures and the printed word – a lending and reference library and reading room books and newspapers (1).  Unlike equivalent halls elsewhere, there was to be no popular entertainment – musical hall type acts or the like.

The original plan was for members to deliver lectures on their trades so that others could learn from them (2).  In practice though most of the lectures seem to have been given by Dr William Carr, the local GP – who gave talks on subjects ranging from ‘Low Prices and How to Profit from Them’ (3) to ‘Life in Russia’ (4).  A recurring theme though was poverty, drunkenness and overcrowding amongst the poor in the neighbourhood – Carr lecturing on this in 1864 and ‘gave great satisfaction’ to a ‘large attendance’ (in the small hall) (5); it was a subject that he returned to in 1871 (6).

Other lectures in 1868 were noted to include the dwellings of the poor, Trades Unions (7).

The Institution was home to a variety of other meetings, including Deptford and Greenwich Unemployment Relief Fund in 1866 (8) as well as the Lee and Blackheath Horticultural Society.  A frequent speaker there was  also Dr Carr, who on  New Year’s Eve 1868 gave the 3rd in a series of, no doubt, riveting lectures on ‘The food of plants and the sources from whence it is derived: the absorption and circulation of fluids and respiration.’ There is no report as to the numbers attending and the impact that it had on the trade of the neighbouring pubs, notably the Woodman (9).

By 1866 they had started to look for larger premises than their small room in Boone Street and were looking at a site around the junction of what is now Kinsgwood Place and Dacre Park – ‘the very centre of Lee’ (10).  By this stage they had around 500 members and included a temperance society ‘which found a home within their walls’ as they recognised that ‘their great rival’ was the public house (11).  This temperance society seems to have become part of the national Band of Hope by 1871 (12).

By 1868 the land had been bought and there was a fund of £400 that had been put aside for the building work (13), which was added to later that year by a bazaar which was held in the grounds of Blackheath College (now Blackheath Hospital) in Lee Terrace and took over £400 on the first of 3 days (14). The Institution ran ‘benefit clubs’ for the poor along with a ‘coal club’ too (15).

The move from Boone Street took until 1877 to happen though – there seem to have been problems with the site on Dacre Park and then issues with permissions from the local Board of Works, these delays seem to have cost the Institution as, by 1875, despite the regular fetes and bazaars they had only £600 in the bank towards the likely costs of £1100.  A contract was signed though with Messrs Gates of Lee and Eltham to build on a new site in Old Road, on what is now behind shops on Lee High Road (16).

It took another two years for the Institute to open in October 1877 – it was described as

comprising a library and reading room on the ground floor, with club and committee rooms above and in (the) rear a hall, well lighted, with seats for 400 persons; there is a library of 800 volumes and the reading room is well supplied with daily and weekly newspapers and periodicals.

Similar fayre continued in the new home for the Institution, although without the inimitable Dr Carr who died in 1877.  This included a winter series of ‘penny readings’ where members recited poems, gave readings and sang relatively serious songs, ending with the National Anthem (17) .  With a larger venue, classical chamber music began to be offered to the locals of Lee (18) – although sometimes with ‘moderate’ audiences (19) and also it became a venue for amateur dramatics (20) The Horticultural Society continued to meet there and put up a lean to enable the growing of peaches (20).

The move seemed to be a success with 1000 members reported in 1880, with popular life assurance and sickness benefit schemes, the coal club continued and the Lewisham, Lee and Blackheath Buidling Society, formed in 1877, was based there. There was still a debt on the building but this was being paid off (22).  In some ways the Institution was becoming the very model of self-help suggested by the eminent Granville Park resident Samuel Smiles.

Political meetings started to happen by the mid-1880s in a way that would have been perhaps frowned upon by those who set up the Institute, with meetings in opposition to what became the Local Government act of 1884 which would have impacted on the power of many of the leading lights of the Institute, Liberal Party hosting held there during the 1885 General Election (23) as did the sitting Conservative MP, Viscount Lewisham (24)

Children’s entertainment had been added to the repertoire of the Institute by 1885 including the dissolving view entertainment – a form of magic lantern (26).  Around the same time quadrille classes started to be offered – perhaps the salsa of its day (27).

It is clear that there were issues with the structure from an early stage – it was noted in an unrelated newspaper report that the building had suffered from structural problems, leading to a decision not to renew a musical licence in 1886. (28)

During the 1880s it seems that any pretensions of this being a working men’s club had disappeared and it was more commonly known as the Lee Institute. Penny readings continued into the 1890s (29).  The structural problems that had led to the decision not to renew the musical licence appeared to have been sorted out as the Kentish Mercury reported in early 1895 that the Institute was ‘now available for concerts and kindred entertainments.’ (30)  This was to include several variety hall type evenings, which the original founders would no doubt have frowned upon and would have been more akin to the entertainment offered at the Lee Public Halls 15 years before (31).

Kelly’s’ Directory noted the continued presence of the Lee and Blackheath Building Society from 1890, as well as Tax Offices in the 1901 edition.  However, by 1906 there was no mention of the building, with the Building Society having switched its operations to the opposite side of the road in the St Margaret’s Parish Rooms.  What had happened isn’t clear, whether the previous structural problems had remerged, tastes and expectations had changed or whether a small area couldn’t support two similar type buildings (the church hall of Holy Trinity, Glenton Road, now called Lochaber Hall, was being planned too).

There was no mention of the site in the Kelly’s Directory until 1914 when 87 Old Road was again home to the Building Society and, more importantly, Chiesmans ‘depositary and warehouse.’

It was to be used by Chiesmans (their shop in Lewisham is pictured above) for many years despite being seriously bomb damaged in World War Two, with the Ordnance Survey cartographers describing it as a ‘ruin’ in 1950 (see below).  It was listed in the 1942 Kelly’s Directory but had gone by 1943.

In the years after the war there were various applications to refurbish and extend the building, including the building of an additional storey on the front of the building for use as a piano store.  These were refused by the post war planners and in the end rebuilding to a uniform height of three storeys was approved in 1951.

Presumably the brick shortages after the war meant that it took a while to be rebuilt – the first post war listing as Chiesmans was in 1959, their usage of the building continued until the mi-1980s.  By that stage the firm had been bought out by House of Fraser who rebadged it as Army and Navy.  It didn’t last long the repository had closed by 1985, with the Army and Navy store in Lewisham closing its doors for the last time in 1997. On the shop site is now ‘probably’ the largest police station in Europe.

In the recent past it has had long periods empty (see above from Streetview in 2008), has been squatted, there were attempts to set up a indoor combat venue and was used as an auction house.  Planning permission was eventually given for flats in 2014, although the actually building work has stuttered a lot with periods of activity followed by months of inactivity.  The ‘stunning warehouse conversion’ properties were marketed for rent only in early 2019 with the 4 bed at £3,995 a month, 2 bed at £2,150 or £1,900 and the 1 bedroom flats at £1,650.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 30 September 1854
  2. Ibid
  3. Kentish Mercury 17 October 1874
  4. Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser 19 December 1868
  5. Kentish Independent 06 February 1864
  6. Kentish Mercury 11 November 1871
  7. Kentish Mercury 04 April 1868
  8. London Evening Standard 20 November 1866
  9. Kentish Mercury 26 December 1868
  10. Kentish Mercury 03 August 1866
  11. Kentish Mercury 09 March 1867
  12. Woolwich Gazette 05 August 1871
  13. Kentish Mercury 04 April 1868
  14. Pall Mall Gazette 04 June 1868
  15. Kentish Mercury 04 April 1868
  16. Kentish Mercury 21 August 1875
  17. Kentish Mercury 08 November 1879
  18. Kentish Mercury 25 December 1880
  19. Kentish Mercury 27 April 1883
  20. Kentish Mercury 05 November 1881
  21. Kentish Mercury 02 August 1889
  22. Kentish Mercury 24 April 1880
  23. Kentish Mercury 13 November 1885
  24. Kentish Mercury 25 September 1885
  25. Woolwich Gazette 11 July 1884
  26. Kentish Mercury 18 December 1885
  27. Kentish Mercury 09 October 1885
  28. Kentish Mercury 19 November 1886
  29. Kentish Mercury 11 March 1892
  30. Kentish Mercury 08 February 1895
  31. Woolwich Gazette 25 December 1896

Credits

  • The maps is via the National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
  • The picture of Chiesmans shop in Lewisham is via e Bay in June 2016
  • Kellys Directoy information is via the always helpful Lewisham Archives