During the first 2020 Coronavirus lockdown Running Past followed the long thin boundary of Victorian Lee before it was subsumed into Lewisham, aided only by a Second Edition Ordnance Survey map. This was in stages, from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the next through Grove Park; then on through Marvels and Elmstead Woods and a Borough of Deptford Cemetery; 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.
We’d left the 1893 boundary by St Stephens Church in Lewisham where the Quaggy is, or more likely was joined by Upper Kid Brook. When the stream was followed a few years back from its source around Hervey Road, on the lower slopes of Shooters Hill, there seemed no obvious evidence of flows coming into the Quaggy. The position was different in 1893 though, as we shall see.
The view looking towards St Stephens from what was captured in a postcard from slightly, although not much later; at the stage there were two confluences of the Quaggy and the Ravensbourne, the pictured Lewisham Bridge (an area a little later known as the Obelisk) and Plough Bridge by the former eponymous pub.
Even though Upper Kid Brook has disappeared from view, the course of the boundary and river is obvious from the valley. The valley though is not the shape that it had been until the 1840s as the North Kent Line, which opened in 1849 effectively stole the valley, deepening it in places.
There used to be a boundary marker on the curb on the northern side of St Stephen’s Grove, but it seems to have been lost at some stage. There is a slight dip in Lockmead Road, the remains of the fluvial erosion from the Brook, before the boundary hugs the rear fences of Cressingham Road, a boundary in terms of land ownership too. The Lee-Lewisham border comes out into 2020 public space in a relatively new development at the top of Cressingham Road. Looking towards the Brook and boundary from the railway underpass is a variation on a recurring theme from the circuit of Lee – a Lewisham Natureman stag.
In 1893, on the site of the new housing, was a small lake, the Brook was dammed to create it. The lake was at the end of the grounds of one of the large houses of Lee, Belmont, which gave its name to the Hill. it is mapped below. The house was built for the architect George Ledwell Taylor around 1830, when there would have been clear views to the dockyards of Deptford, where he worked for the Navy.
With the city encroaching and the railway passing, the large house ceased to be as desirable and was sold for the development of what turned out to be some of the most elegant Edwardian housing in Lewisham.
The Brook, and the Lewisham – Lee boundary drifted slightly to the north after he grounds of Belmont. By 1893 this was on the northern side of the railway around the end of what is now Belmont Grove. The railway is in a cutting within the valley, the pre-1849 level Brook and boundary would have been roughly at current road levels.
The railway had split the grounds of another of the large mansions of Lee, the Cedars – home in 1893 at to Ellen Penn, the widow of John Penn the eminent marine engineer. The northern portion of grounds had been laid out in the late 18th century for the then owner, Samuel Brandram, by the architect George Gwilt (1), who dammed Upper Kid Brook to form a pair of ornamental lakes, big enough for boating. Brandram was a paint and chemicals manufacturer and merchant whose large business was based in Rotherhithe.
The lakes were filled in by the next owners, Penfold’s whose carting business was to fill them with rubbish before selling the site on for housing development in the 1980s, now known as St Joseph’s Vale.
The boundary and Brook crossed Love Lane, now Heath Lane – part of an ancient path from Lee High Road to the Heath. In 1893, this area was still fields, with several boundary markers indicating on the ground the now hidden Brook. It wasn’t fields for long – within around 200 metres the fields turned to railway sidings, which extended another 600 metres up to the station, including the current car park.
The hidden street and boundary largely skirted the sidings – cutting across the late 1970s council housing of Nesbit Close and around the top of the current Perks Close. The Nesbit is E Nesbit who lived in various Lewisham locations, including a Blackheath home around half a mile away. Perks, of course, is a reference to Stationmaster of the Railway Children, played by Bernard Cribbins.
The boundary followed the edge of what is now Baizdon Road and then what is and was Collins Street. The former was named after a Blackheath miller, the latter after two mid 19th century Lee residents – Ann and Julia Collins (2). At the far end of Collins Street a boundary marker remains on a wall – the fence next to it seems to be the actual location of the Lee – Lewisham boundary.
The boundary continues following the building line to Blackheath Village; there was a three way boundary here Lee – Lewisham – Charlton. We’ll stop the circuit for now at a boundary marker, a replacement for one from 1903, when it would have been a Greenwich – Lewisham one.
- Neil Rhind (forthcoming) Blackheath and Its Environs Volume 3
- Joan Read (1990) Lewisham Street Names and Their Origins In the corner of the latter into the centre of Blackheath. – the area
The 1893 map which is used twice is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence.
The Postcards are via eBay from 2016
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.