Tag Archives: Corbett Estate

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A Victorian Walk Around the Corbett Estate

A month or two ago it was noted in another post on Running Past, that there had ‘probably never been a single sale of land around Hither Green and Lee that has been more significant than the sale of North Park Farm by the Earl of St Germans in 1895 as it allowed for the development of was initially known as the St Germans estate, now generally known as the Corbett estate.’ This post picks up the story a few years after the sale after development was well under way, but far from being completed.

We return on 15 November 1899 in the company of one of Charles Booth’s investigators, Ernest Aves (there is a biography of Aves here)and PC Lloyds from Ladywell Police Station, who lived locally in Harvard Road.  The walk gives a fascinating insight into the early days of the estate.120px-charles_booth_by_george_frederic_watts  Charles Booth (picture Creative Commons), the centenary of whose death is on November 23, 2016, conducted an ‘Inquiry into Life and Labour in London’ between 1886 and 1903 – for much of the city he produced wonderfully detailed maps coloured on the basis of income and the social class of its inhabitants.  His assessment was based on walks carried out either himself or through a team of social investigators, often with clergymen or the police, listening, observing what he saw and talking to people he met on the road.  Sadly, no map seems to be available for most of the walk but below is an extract which includes the most southerly part of Hither Green that seems to have been mapped – available from London School of Economics as a Creative Commons.

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Albert Lloyds was about 35 and has been in the police for 11 years all of which has been in Lewisham, Booth feels that he is unlikely to get promotion due to his lack of education, he had five children in 1899.  By the 1901 census Albert Lloyds, from Newchurch in Kent, was still living at 35 Harvard Road, with his wife Ellen and 7 children in a two bedroom house.

Corbett was described as ‘speculator in chief’ but was subletting much of the work, the contractors included James Watt, whom Running Past has already covered.  The estate is described as being mainly for the ‘lower middle class’ and two styles predominated – ‘a small single fronted house letting at about £25 and a somewhat larger double-fronted house letting at £36 to £38.‘  The larger houses in Brownhill Road attracted a rent of £60.  These were presumably monthly rentals.  But there were lower, weekly, rents around ‘working class’ Sandhurst Road.

Aves seemed almost surprised that ‘many of the houses throughout the estate are said to be owned by their occupiers‘. Sale prices, on a leasehold basis a year earlier in 1898 had been £379 to £470 for the largest six bedroom homes; £298 – £353 for four bedroom homes and £215 to £252 for the 3/4 bedroom homes.  The smallest 3 bedroom homes on the estate were not offered for sales until 1903 (1).  The biggest of these are now fetching over £1 million, as was noted in a recent post in Clare’s Diary.

Duncrievie Road
His starting point was where we had left the estate a few years earlier in a post about the farm that came before the estate – North Park.  The original farm, occupied for years by William Fry, had gone, but houses occupied by the Sheppards were still there.  Eliot Lodge (below), at the corner of Hither Green Lane, was still occupied by Samuel Sheppard and the other, the former house of Edward Sheppard, was occupied by the Chief Agent for the estate, Robert Pettigrew who was from Edinburgh – it was referred to as North Park House in the 1901 census.  Both were given the second highest rating by Aves/Booth – red – ‘Middle class.  Well to do.’  Oddly Pettigrew wasn’t always in this trade, he’d been a storekeeper in 1881, but may have come across Corbett whilst the latter was developing in Ilford – he returned to Essex after he retired.

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Springbank Road
While some of the shops had been built, but certainly not all and only two or three let – this was perhaps not surprising, while the road was laid out, the houses were yet to be built.  The bustling parade of a decade later (see below – source eBay September 2016) was yet to come.

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The only houses were the other remnants of North Park farm, the ‘pink’ (Fairly comfortable.  Good ordinary earnings) former farm cottages at the corner of Hither Green Lane.
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Wellmeadow and Broadfield Roads
The northern parts of the road, closer to the station, had already been built as had the ‘large Weslyan Chapel building’ (covered a while ago in Running Past) but south of Brownhill Road it was still under construction.

HG Church

Source – eBay February 2016

The pattern was the same with Broadfield Road (wrongly mentioned at Brookfield). Aves referred to the streets as a ‘pink barred’, this is a slight variant on some of his earlier definitions – in correspondence, this seems to mean ‘high class labour – fairly comfortable good ordinary earnings’

Brownhill Road
This was oddly described as ‘the swell road of the estate’ – many of the larger houses had already been built and were ‘red’ with a few of the pink barred blocks of houses constructed.

Ardgowan, Torridon, Arngask and Fordel Roads
Ardgowan Road, north of Brownhill Road, had been completed by the time Lloyds showed the estate to Aves, but to the south, construction was still ongoing; the opposite seemed to be the case with Torridon Road. Arngask and Fordel Roads were both completed, but Aves merely seemed to pass by noting the same pink barred colouring of the other two streets.

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Torridon Road from a decade or so later via Lewisham Archives on a Creative Commons

Glenfarg and Sandhurst Roads
These were described as ‘the two working class streets’  the former (and maybe the latter) was built by Frederick Taylor, to whom we will return in a later post.  These and the other streets to the west of Torridon, had largely been built  – unlike much of the rest of the burgeoning estate it was possible to rent these weekly and these were the slightly lower graded pink (without barred element).

Aves with his interest in poverty lingered here longer, seemingly mainly on Sandhurst  Road –

‘most occupied by a decent class, but many on the down-grade.  Two families (per house) frequent, and even in passing many signs of deterioration observable.’

Many living in these streets were employed on the estate and would be expected to leave when the work was finished.  Given the estates position in then suburbia, Corbett presumably felt that to get the workers, he needed to build houses for them first – there seemed to be no philanthropy here, just business necessities.  Certainly, Smith noted that these houses were much later coming onto the market (2).

Maybe influenced by his companion, Aves noted that

The street (Sandhurst) is not getting a good name, and disorder and drunkenness are not uncommon, in spite of the absence of licensed houses in the intermediate neighbourhood.

Booth still felt the road to be mainly pink, but, apart from the shops of Sandhurst Market, that it would be turning ‘purple’ (‘Mixed. Some comfortable others poor.’)

It took another eleven years for the the building work to be completed with homes on Verdant Lane and Duncrievie Road being finished in 1910 (3).  The difference between 1894 and 1914 is enormous as the maps below show (both maps on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland).

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At some stage in the not too distant future we will pick up the story of the estate just before World War 2, to see whether the predictions of Aves and Booth proved to be correct.

Notes

  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: the Forgotten Hamlet : Including the Corbett Estate’ p40
  2. ibid p40
  3. ibid p42

Census and related data comes from Find My Past.

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North Park – The Farm Before the Corbett Estate

There has probably never been a single sale of land around Hither Green and Lee that has been more significant than the sale of North Park Farm by the Earl of St Germans in 1895 as it allowed for the development of was was initially known as the St Germans estate, now generally known as the Corbett estate. We will return to the development sometime later, but for now we will look at the farm itself.

The name of North Park Farm goes back to at least the mid 16th century (1); while it is possible that the location changed over the next century it was clear on John Roque’s 1745 map – the easterly buildings in ‘Hether Green.’

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It was situated on what is now Duncrievie Road – it remained in that area until the sale. Initially it was a relatively small farm, around 65 – 75 acres (2).  For a while it seems to have been known as Plum Farm – there is a reference to it as this on at least one map.

There had been a South Park Farm too – a small farm of around 70 acres centred around Dowanhill and Hazelbank Roads, which later ‘moved’ to somewhere around the Torridon and Brownhill Roads junction (3). The farm was renamed ‘Longmisery’ in the early 19th century but seems to have been merged with North Park Farm by the middle of that century (4) along with part of Rushey Green Farm by 1838 and a former nursery, Butlers Gardens, around 1860 (5). The latter nursery of around 43 acres was run by Willmot and Co, later Willmot and Chaundy – referred to in relation to Hocum Pocum Lane.

By this stage the farm was being had been run by the Owens for a generation and a half; there is reference to Abraham Owen in the 1843 Tithe Awards farming 201 acres, including around 38 acres of pasture and the remaining arable. He also farmed another 40 acres, elsewhere in Lewisham from landowners other than the St Germans, including church lands.

Owen also ran a butcher’s shop which was located at what is now 304 Lewisham High Street, almost opposite the current fire station. The family also had another shop a little further north, at Lee Bridge (the bottom of Lee High Road) – Abraham’s son is reported as having rescued a boy who fell into a flooded River Quaggy in 1844.

While a tenant farmer, Owen seems to have been a man of influence – his name appears in the 1838 list of Land Tax Commissioners for Lewisham – generally ‘commissioners were drawn from the gentry, but also included members of the peerage and of the professions, such as doctors. They were not paid for the work they did.’

In addition to the farming and the butchers, Owen (and his father Edward before him) acted as an auctioneer – amongst many other farm sales, he undertook the sale of the lease of Horn Park Farm in 1822, which William Morris(s) seems to have been the successful bidder for (6).

Abraham Owen died in 1845 which probably triggered the disposal of the lease to the farm, his will described him as a farmer and butcher.

The last farmers of North Park were the Sheppards – brothers Edward and Samuel. The family had an early mention in 1823 when they were farming land that was in the line of the railway, presumably close to St Johns Station.  The Samuel referred to would have been their father, as the two brothers would have been children then, Samuel was born in 1819 and Edward in 1814, both in Deptford. According to the 1841 census, the farm was Ravensbourne Farm – Samuel (Senior) had been born in 1781 and there were four adult children living on the farm. The oldest brother, Henry took over Ravensbourne Farm, after his father had died – Edward was still there in 1851.

While the brothers took over the farm in 1849 (7) they didn’t move in until later. The farm was managed for them by William Fry, who may have worked for the Owens just before the Sheppards took over, as his three youngest children in the 1851 census were born in Lewisham – the oldest of them born in 1848. Fry originated from Brasted in Kent, but had been working for a decade in Erith. Fry was to continue working for the Sheppards – he was still on the farm, in The Cottage, probably the original farm in 1861 – one of the buildings at the eastern side of the farm on the upper map below. His wife, Sarah, had 10 children by then.

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By 1861, Edward had married Jemima and they were living at the new farm house which had been built in the mid 1850s, and was located about half way up Duncrievie Road (just to the west of the farm buildings on the upper map). The the census says he had ‘250 acres, 16 men and 4 boys’ – several of these would have been William Fry and his family members. Jemima died in 1876 (8), there seems to be not reference to them in the 1871 census, but the farm and employment had shrunk to 200 acres and 10 men in 1881. By 1891, he was listed as a retired farmer although still living on the farm, he suffered from mental health problems in his later years and needed an ‘attendant’ to help him cope; Edward died in 1892, before the farm was sold.

Fry was still there in 1871 at what was described as North Park Farm in the census. By 1881 though, he was living with his son who was a ‘fly proprietor’ on Lewisham High Street. A ‘fly’ was a one horse, two wheeled carriage, in case you wondered… Fry’s wife Sarah had died in 1871, with William passing away in 1888.

As for Samuel, he had married Emma in 1849 although there is no census record for them in 1851 – they may have been at Burnt Ash Farm which he had a brief interest in. In 1861 he was working as a market gardener, still around Deptford – their address was 7 Market Garden. Samuel and his family moved to the North Park farm in the 1860s, Eliot House (sometimes called Lodge) was built around 1867 for him. It still remains on the corner of Duncrievie Road and Hither Green Lane (the westerly of the highlights on the lower map).

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The 1871 census shows that Samuel and Emma had six children who had all been born in Deptford, the eldest son also Samuel, was to take over Bellingham Farm. By 1881, little had changed other than the eldest daughter, also Emma, had moved out. Samuel (1819) was to live until 1904, remaining at Eliot House.

A lot of wheat was grown on the farm, a newspaper report noted in 1868 that there were much higher yields at North Park Farm than in neighbouring farms (9). Latterly though, with the growth of London the wheat will have almost certainly given way to market gardening.

Small parcels of land on the edge of the farm had been sold off to speculative builders almost two decades before the final sale of the farm, they were hoping for Hither Green junction to become a station – these were to become Brightside (developed from 1878), Elthruda (1882) and Mallet Roads (1882) (10). Mallet was the author of a masque about Alfred the Great which contained ‘Rule, Britannia!’ It was written in 1740 but there is no obvious link with Lewisham.
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Other than the farm house, the only other obvious remains of the farm are a trio of farm workers cottages which are now 387 and 389 Hither Green Lane, at the junction with Springbank Road (11). They were referred to as Sheppard’s Cottages, for around a decade after the sale of the farm in Kellys Directories.

Notes
1 Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: The Forgotten Hamlet’ p10
2 ibid p11
3 ibid p 12
4 ibid p12
5 ibid p11
6 The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, June 01, 1822 p1
7 Smith op cit p11
8 Daily News (London, England), Monday, August 28, 1876; Issue 9469.
9 The Times (London, England), Thursday, Aug 13, 1868; pg. 9; Issue 26202
10 All the development dates come from Joan Read (1990) ‘Lewisham Street Names & Their Origins (Before 1965)’
11 Smith op cit p11

Census and related data comes from Find My Past, references to Kelly’s Directories come from Leicester University and the Ordnance Survey maps are from the National Library of Scotland on a creative commons

The Lost Methodist Church of Hither Green Lane

The Church had an impressive position on the angle of Wellmeadow Road and Hither Green Lane and was part of the St Germans Estate, now generally known as the Corbett Estate, it was one of seven places of worship built on the Estate – although there were no public houses or off-licences.

Source EBay February 2016

Source – EBay February 2016

The foundation stone was laid in July 1899 and completed the following year at a cost of £4,800, and accommodated 700 worshipers.  The building work was carried out by C. Castle & Son of Lower Clapton, little is known of them other than it was may well have been the son, Frederick William Castle, who was carrying out the work.  The firm went ‘bust’ in 1911 when Frederick was living in Alcester Crescent in Lower Clapton trading out of Milton Works Shacklewell Lane in Hackney.

The church has been described as being of

red brick with stone dressings in the 16th century Gothic style with heavily traceried windows and a tall pinnacled tower. The interior consisted of a nave, two aisles, a transept, chancel, organ chamber and galleries on three sides.

Its architect was Josiah Gunton was born in the tiny Fens village of Manea, about 4 miles north west of Ely in 1862. In the 1871 census he was 9 and living with an elder brother, William, and his father, also Josiah who was a farmer.  His mother died just before the census was carried out.

In the 1881 census, he was lodging with the Collard family in St Phillips Road in Hackney and was listed as an Architectural Assistant.  He isn’t recorded in either the 1891 or 1901 censuses but married Jessie Runchman from Hackney in 1886, it was probably his second marriage as both his children pre-dated the marriage and his staunch Wesleyan Methodist views would have no doubt ‘prevented’ having children outside wedlock.  They probably stayed around East London – he was captain of Walthamstow Cricket club in in the late 1880s.

By 1911 he and Jessie were  living at 23 Orchard Road in Bromley  and had  two children still at home who had been born in Hackney two decades before, and  along with 3 servants.

Josiah Gunton was articled to the firm Gordon & Lowther and was taken into partnership in 1885. After the death of Lowther in 1900, the practice continued as Gordon & Gunton. William Henry Gunton, Josiah’s son who had been born in 1881 joined as partner in 1916.  Josiah Gunton designed many Wesleyan chapels but the firm Gunton & Gunton tended to specialise in commercial buildings after World War I.

Gunton was a City of London Alderman, having initially been elected for Coleman ward in 1904.  He was a member of the London County Council for the Municipal Reform Party (allied to Conservatives) from 1928 until his sudden death on 5 March 1930 at Hotel Metropole, Monte Carlo, Monaco. There were suggestions that but for his death he might have been elected as Lord Mayor.

The church was destroyed during a raid on the night of 11 September 1940, which also caused a fire a few hundred metres up the road at the Park (later Hither Green) Hospital.

It is not clear why some local churches destroyed in WW2 were rebuilt, such as the Good Shepherd in Lee, but others such as Holy Trinity in Glenton Road and Christ Church in Lee Park weren’t – the latter two have both already been covered in Running Past.  Hither Green Methodist church was one of those that were never rebuilt.  The congregation seems to have largely moved to another Methodist church on the Corbett Estate – what was then known as the Benson Memorial Church on Torridon Road.

The site of the church was redeveloped for council housing after World War Two which is known as Littlebourne – while they are flats that, from the outside at least, have stood the test of time well, and been on the site much longer than the church, they are perhaps not quite so impressive looking.

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The Benson Memorial Church suffered bomb damage in 1944, possibly as a result of a V1 attack on 4 August which hit Arngask Road, which was opposite the church,although it was initially reported as hitting Torridon Road.  The congregation had to move into the neighbouring church hall.  The Benson Memorial Church eventually became known as Hither Green Methodist Church and remained in the church until 1995 when it was sold for housing.  The hall was modified and refurbished as both a hall and church in 1996.

Note

All the census and related data came via Find My Past