Running Past has ‘visited’ the Corbett Estate a couple of times before – firstly, looking at North Park Farm – whose sale was to allow the development of the estate, and early in the development a walk with one of Charles Booth’s researchers in 1899. This post relates to a period a few years later in the development and was ‘triggered’ by an advert for the sale of newly built houses on the Corbett Estate that periodically appears on social media.
So where is the row of houses? Well it certainly isn’t the 171 Wellmeadow Road of the advert (see two photos down) – they are larger semi-detached houses than those pictured above. The shape of the roof at the right is unusual, and, from a couple of runs up or down almost every street on the estate (with a tiny bit of help from Streetview), it seems to appear on just a small number of roads – there are certainly a few houses at the southern end Ardfillan Road but the bay is wider there with two front-facing windows and the pointed roofs further down the advert are absent; at the northern end of the same road, the houses are again much wider, with two front-facing windows in the bay; a stretch of the terrace towards the northern end of Balloch Road is much closer, the property sizes seem right, but, again, the pointed roofs are missing. However, the road in between, Birkhall Road, has the perfect match on its eastern side with the right mix on the neighbouring houses along with the rendering on the flank wall. While there is no house to the right in the advertisement – this was probably just a later phase of the development.
The advert never seems to appear with a date; however, it would certainly be sometime after 1901 as 171 Wellmeadow was not occupied at that point according to the census, however, it probably wasn’t long after, as building work on the street started in 1904 (1) .
There had been considerable price rises on the estate since we last ‘visited’ the Corbett Estate in 1899 with Charles Booth’s researcher, Ernest Aves, at that point the three bedroom houses were around £252, perhaps 5 or 6 years later, the advert prices them at £290. Rents of £26 a year were only a £1 more than in 1899 though. The houses advertised were more expensive than the similar houses being developed in Lee by the builders WJ Scudamore which were being sold for £265 around the same era. The differences are minuscule compared with current prices – one of the houses in the photograph sold for just under £500,000 in 2015.
So which of the other streets on the estate did Frederick Taylor’s firm build? The only certainty is the terrace in the photograph, however, it is very noticeable that the streets around Birkhall Road – the two mentioned above plus Ardoch Road, where the unusual gables are also present, have much less homogeneity than other streets on the Corbett Estate so maybe this ‘block’ was the area constructed by Frederick Taylor.
Frederick Taylor was certainly not the only builder to work on the Corbett Estate – as was noted in an earlier post, much of the work was sub-contracted by Corbett, whom Booth described as ‘speculator in chief‘; Running Past has covered one of the other sub-contractors, James Watt, who built a lot of homes elsewhere in Catford in his own right, along with running a chain of cinemas. Another was John Lawrence, of whom little is known other than his name cropped up in a legal dispute between Cameron Corbett and the Borough Council relating to unpaid building control fees (2).
So who was Frederick Taylor? He was certainly living at 171 Wellmeadow Road (above) when the census enumerators traipsed through the nearly completed Corbett estate in 1911 – the family had been living in Lambeth where he was listed as a builder a decade earlier. He was then 49 and from Camberwell; he was married to Charlotte from Chelsea, with three children the youngest of whom was born in Lewisham in 1907. There was an 11 year gap back to the middle child who had been born in Dulwich. Sadly Frederick was not to live much longer, he passed away in 1914; the family seems to have moved to Eltham Road in Lee just before his death.
The 1914 Kelly’s Directory lists a builder, Frederick Taylor, at 152 Muirkirk Road (below), this may have been the same man, as Kelly’s Directories always seemed a year or two behind reality, or it could of course have been his son, also Frederick, carrying on the business. There was no mention though in the next available directory in 1917 though.
As for the architect, Ernest Hider, he had been born in Lee in 1871, and stayed in the area until his 20s – he was a Surveyors Clerk in 1891. By the time the houses in Birkhall Road were being built he had moved away, the 1911 census had him listed in Clacton and seems to have been an active mason. By the time the 1939 Register was drawn up he was in the Surrey commuter belt, where he died in 1960.
- Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: the Forgotten Hamlet : Including the Corbett Estate’ p42
- The Times (London, England), Monday, May 06, 1901; pg. 14; Issue 36447.
Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past
Kelly’s Post Office Directory data from University of Leicester
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