Tag Archives: Christ Church Lee Park

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 8 – Blackheath to Lee Green

We’d started our circuit of Lee at Lee Green during the first 2020 Coronavirus lockdown and the last leg from Blackheath to Lee Green was under the not dissimilar conditions of lockdown 2.0 in the late autumn of 2020. In the intervening months, Running Past followed the long thin boundary of Victorian Lee just before it was subsumed into Lewisham in 1900. The navigation was aided by an 1893 surveyed Ordnance Survey map.

This circuit has been in seven stages up to this point, from Lee Green to Winn Road, passing a street whose residents probably now wish it had a different name – Corona Road; the next stage was through Grove Park; then on through Marvels and Elmstead Woods; the circuit skirted Chinbrook Meadows and followed the appropriately named stream Border Ditch; then another Ditch, Hither Green Ditch, more or less parallel to Verdant Lane and Manor Lane before following the Quaggy from Longhurst Road into Lewisham, then in the penultimate part following a Quaggy tributary, Upper Kid Brook to Blackheath.

We’d left the boundary at a T junction of borders, Lee – Lewisham – Charlton with a replacement of a 1903 boundary marker of a similar style to those seen in several places around the border.

Source – eBay (Sept 2016)

The stone is next to the railway bridge and it is worth a quick turnaround by the first turning on the left, or would have been in 1893. A large Methodist chapel had been built in the mid-1860s and dominated the Blackheath Village skyline and was to do so for another 52 years until a V-2 rocket attack hit it in March 1945.

The turning is Bennett Park, which has one of biggest concentrations of blue plaques in south east London – the Physicist, Sir Arthur Eddington lived at number 4 – he was listed as a boarder there in the 1911 census, whilst working at the Royal Observatory. The cartoonist Donald McGill, lived at 5 Bennett Park – he was there when the 1939 Register was compiled. But, perhaps, the most significant is one at the far end for the GPO Film Unit, whose output included the wonderful film adaptation of W H Auden’s Night Mail, which featured a score by Benjamin Britten. The Film Unit also produced some World War Two propaganda films. The building had been partially funded by one the main benefactors of late Victorian Blackheath, William Webster, son of the eponymous main contractor of Joseph Bazlegette, as Blackheath Art Club.

Onwards and southwards, the boundary goes upwards and out of the valley of Upper Kid Brook towards the watershed with the adjacent Brook in the trio of Kid Brooks, Mid Kid Brook. Straddling the catchments is a pair of elegant buildings at the top of the hill – the Conservatoire of Music and Blackheath Concert Halls, again in part the paid for built by William Webster. Both were a few years away in 1893 though, there was a terrace of houses there at that stage. The Concert Halls, resplendent with some lovely pargeting, were to be the location of a badly disrupted suffragette meeting in 1909.

Lee Road, which we follow to Lee Green and the end of our circuit, had been farmland on the western side until 1835 (1) – this was a little later at the Lee Green end which in some years was the home to the annual horse racing of Lee Races. The eastern side, part of the Cator Estate, had seen some development from a couple of decades earlier. We won’t look at much of the housing here in any detail as Neil Rhind’s meticulously researched Blackheath Village and Environs Volumes 2 &3 cover this.

By 1893 though, this was wealthy suburbia and there was still farmland to the west. In the period since, the mix of housing has changed considerably – the area around corner of the Lee Road and Blackheath Park (pictured above from early in the 20th century) is perhaps, typical of them – with Victorian housing replaced by Span housing of which there are lots examples dotted around the Cator Estate (pictured from a similar location in 2020).

The Charlton – Lee boundary continued, unmarked, along the centre of Lee Road in 1893; on the western side the view would probably have been dominated by the Christ Church on Lee Park. The area had once been part of the parish of St Margaret’s but the burgeoning population saw the parish split several ways, Christ Church (pictured below from Lee Park) being the first to be carved out in the 1850s. It lasted until ten days into the Blitz when Luftwaffe bombs destroyed most of it with the remaining parts demolished before the end of the war.

The church wasn’t the only part of the urban landscape to suffer during the war. There was damage of sufficient volume for there to be two small estates of prefab bungalows – Lee Road Bungalows just to the north of what is now Heathlee Road and River Close, which was opposite Manor Way. The section between them and onwards to the south was re-developed in the 1960s. The postcard below shows the street scene in that part of Lee Road in the early 20th century looking towards Blackheath – the boundary going down the middle of the road.

Just to the north of Manor Way, there was another T junction of boundaries – Lee remained constant but on the eastern side Charlton became Kidbrooke. The 1893 Ordnance Survey map noted a boundary stone, but this alas is no longer there. The Charlton – Kidbrooke boundary had followed Mid Kid Brook through the Cator Estate. The Brook’s original course would have been across Lee Road but during the 18th century it was diverted down Lee Road, it is currently culverted.

The was very little bomb damage on the eastern side of the boundary beyond Manor Way, with most of the houses that would have been there in 1893 remaining. One of the original houses was taken over as Lee Workingmen’s Club at 113 -115 Lee Road in the 1920s, the Club (pictured above) closed this century and is now a nursery . The Lee Constitutional Club was two doors down but arrived just too late to quench the thirst of the Ordnance Survey cartographers.

The 1863 and 2020 boundary continues down the middle of the road, now with Greenwich rather than Kidbrooke. Like the streetlights, bins, paving, white lines and tarmac colours that have become informal boundary markers, Lee Road has another variant – a small island in the road.

About a hundred metres on, we reach the Quaggy – another three way boundary in 1893 with Eltham replacing Kidbrooke. There is another boundary marker by the bridge over the Quaggy, its a defaced one of a similar style to that at the beginning of this section – rumour has it that the places were hacked out so as not to offer any help to German troops in the event of an invasion. There is though a better boundary marker almost below it though; by the outflow of the culverted Mid Kid Brook which as it joins the Quaggy is another Lewisham Natureman stag. This is the final one in the quartet of stags we have spotted on or close to the Lee boundary, so it seems an appropriate place to finish the circuit.

Notes

  1. Neil Rhind (forthcoming) Blackheath and Its Environs Volume 3

The Postcards are via eBay from 2016, apart from the one of Christ Church which is from a couple of years before.

Census and related data is via Find My Past (subscription required)

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.

The Original Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee – ‘Lost’ in the Blitz

Historically, the Parish Church of St Margaret,  Lee was relatively small one serving three small population centres – the area around the church itself on what is now called Lee Terrace, around Lee Green and the large houses of Old Road such as Lee Place, the Manor House, The Firs and Pentland House.

The coming of the railways saw the population grow and the ecclesiastical parish of St Margaret was divided several times to form the parishes of Christ Church (Lee Park) in 1854, Holy Trinity (Glenton Road) in 1863 and St Mildred’s on the eponymous Road in 1872.  The first two of these have already been ‘visited’ by Running Past and were both lost as a result of World War Two bombs – the churches were partially destroyed, later demolished and not replaced – their parishes being subsumed back into that of St Margaret.

The fourth subdivision was the creation of The Church of the Good Shepherd in 1881 (see above – source eBay October 2016). Much of the initial funding apparently came from Lord Northbrook, still owner of the Manor House at that point but hadn’t lived there for some time.  Initially it was to be a chapel of ease rather than a parish in its own right, the Rector of St Margaret’s, Reverend F H Law announced at the beginning of 1881

The Chapel-of-Ease, then, to the Parish Church, which I purpose calling ‘The Church of the Good Shepherd,’ is to hold 550 persons, all the Sittings are to be unappropriated, so that the poor cannot be crowded out from what is more especially their own Church; and I have sufficient faith and confidence in those who will worship there, to believe that by their offerings, sufficient will be contributed, not only to provide for all necessary expenses of the Services, but also for the maintenance of at least one of the Clergy who will be especially in charge of it.

The church was designed by Ernest Newton; Newton has been featured in some detail in Running Past, in an earlier post on another local building that he designed, Lochaber Hall – formerly the church hall of Holy Trinity, Glenton Park.  Locally, he also designed the Baring Hall pub as well as St Swithun’s Church on Hither Green Lane.  Like St Swithun’s, the builders were the largely ecclesiastical Croydon firm Maides and Harper, they have been described as ‘first-class building firm’ with a reputation for high quality workmanship (photo below – source eBay September 2016).

Local Victorian historian F H Hart (who was a sidesman at St Margaret’s at the time of the consecration) described the church as a

plain, substantial structure of red brick, with tiled roof, and neat bell turret. The interior of the church has a remarkably open appearance, and light is admitted by four large semi-circular windows.

He suggested that the ‘fittings’ for the Church of the Good Shepherd church are very plain but substantial – money for them had been raised through a special offertory at St Margaret’s.

Hart also noted that in the months after the consecration that attendance at the services ‘is most encouraging, as are also the offertories.’

The church was largely ‘lost’ during  the Blitz in 1941 when it was hit by an incendiary bomb, possibly in error as that night the Luftwaffe were targeting the docks, however as the then vicar, the Reverend J B Phillips, sadly noted (1)

‘Consequently every fire-fighting appliance was directed to save our vital food supplies.  No water pump could be spared to save a building, however beloved, and it was poignant indeed for us to stand helplessly by and see the church blaze into ruins.’

While the building was damaged beyond repair the parish continued to function using the parish hall that had been built in 1892 (2), there were donations from other parishes of an altar cross, candlesticks, pews, pulpits, a font and altar frontals (3).  Some of these probably came from other churches lost in the Blitz.

 

For a while, the parish used the church hall of Holy Trinity in Manor Lane Terrace (now known as Lochaber Hall), see below, for Sunday Schools as well as providing a hall for other activities (4).

For many local churches and chapels destroyed during the war, the destruction of the physical place of worship saw the end of the parish or church community; in addition to losses of Christ Church and Holy Trinity, the Methodist church on Hither Green Lane and the Baptist chapel at the corner of Eastdown Park and Lee High Road were lost.  This was not the case with the Good Shepherd, but the parishioners had to be patient; due to post war shortages of building materials and the priority given to housing, it meant that it was to be seventeen years before it was possible to rebuild the church.

The new church was completed and re-consecrated in 1957 and in its rebuilding it was able to use foundations and some portions of the old walls, varying in height from a few brick courses up to some 2 to 3 metres on all the walls, apart from that facing Handen Road. This probably explains the more than cursory nod to the original designs of Ernest Newton, although perhaps had more work been done to the Victorian foundations there wouldn’t have been the problems with subsidence that beset the church around the Millennium.

 

 

Notes

  1. Booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p11
  2. ibid p8
  3. ibid p12
  4. ibid p12

Thank you to the Reverend Shepherd of the Church of the Good Shepherd and Lewisham Archives for allowing me use the photographs of the bomb damage and temporary church (the three black and white photographs in the middle of the post) – they were part of the booklet noted above.

The Lost Church of Lee Park

All that remains to indicate a former church is a sign on a gate referring to an Old Vicarage with a, probably, mid Victorian house behind it. The significance of the sign only becomes obvious when looking at 19th and early 20th century maps of the area where a church is clearly marked.

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Christ Church was designed by George Gilbert Scott and built in 1854, taking part of the parish of St Margaret, Lee. It has been described as “a neat structure, in the pointed style”

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It was located opposite to the southern ‘entrance’ to Lock Chase and its narrow grounds went back to Lee Road, just south of Priory Park. The ‘living’ for it was initially within the patronage of the St Margaret’s.

The mid 19th century saw a considerable growth in the number of churches as London grew rapidly outwards with the railways; within the Diocese of London in the 20 years to 1856, 107 new churches were consecrated (1). While Christ Church being then in Kent, was in the Diocese of Rochester, the trends were the same there. Within a mile radius of Christ Church, other Victorian churches include, St Michael and All Angels, Blackheath Park; St Margaret, Lee which was the replacement of a 13th century church; All Saints, Blackheath; The Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee; as well as the former churches of St Peter, Lee and Holy Trinity, Glenton Road.

The church was badly damaged during a bombing raid on 17 September 1940; most of the building was demolished in 1941, although the tower and spire stood for another 3 years until they too were demolished. Some of the fixtures were obviously salvaged as some of its pews are now in St Swithuns on Hither Green Lane. Several of the neighbouring properties were damaged or destroyed – with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission reporting seven deaths in homes bombed a little further down the hill, including Ethel and George Crawford at 31a Lee Park, along with their daughter Ethel Pollard who was visiting.

It seems that there were attempts to keep the parish going elsewhere, as marriage records continue until 1949; but the land was sold to the Page Estate in 1960 and the current housing built later that decade where the church stood.

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There is little on line information about the church, although there is a report of the dedication of the war memorial there in 1920, which named 41 local men who had died in the conflict. The memorial was salvaged although is in poor condition and not currently on display.

There are a few other visible signs of Christ Church, or at least its parish boundaries. There are several stone markers on the roads in the Lee Manor Conservation Area showing the boundary between Christ Church and St Margaret’s Lee – towards the eastern end of Handen, Micheldever and Effingham Roads. One of the boundary markers was replaced by the Lee Manor Society in 2014. The originals were presumably installed before the parish of the Good Shepherd was formed in 1888.

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(1) Jerry White (2007) ‘London in the 19th Century’