Tag Archives: Hedgley Street

Preparations for World War Two – ARP Wardens, Sirens and Black Outs

As part of the 80th anniversary of World War 2 breaking out, Running Past has been looking at some of the preparations for war on the ‘Home Front.’ So far, this has included Lewisham children being evacuated to Kent then Surrey and the variety of shelters used to one of the key elements try to keep the civilian population safe during air raids. We return now to the Civil Defence services set up to try to keep the civilian population that remained in London and other urban centres as safe as possible from the air attacks that were expected soon after war broke out.  This post looks in particular the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) service.

Like the building of shelters, the roots go back to the interwar period. The ARP Department of the Home Office was set up in 1935 (1),  although appeals for volunteers were not made until 1937 – the approach was based on studying the impact of fascist bombing of Republican areas of Spain and the measures that were employed on the ground there (2). A second appeal for volunteers was made in March 1938 (3).

In the months before war broke out, it was agreed to pay full time ARP personnel £3 per week, although only £2 for women, with recruitment posters stressing the desire for ‘responsible men.’ Later in the year payments for some part time personnel were agreed (4).

Some of the early work that ARP wardens had to contend with was enforcing the blackout that was introduced on 1 September 1939 and lasted until April 1945 (5). Shop windows were darkened from 6:00 pm as were houses – requiring heavy curtains or blankets to ensure that no light escaped. Streets in almost darkness were dangerous with a large increase in injuries – 20% of the population reported as having suffered blackout related injuries in the first 4 months that they were in operation.

Road deaths increased around 40% when compared with pre-war fatalities. Regular readers will recall that a few years earlier Lewisham streets were noted as being some of the most dangerous in London.

Source ebay March 2016

Their control centre was in the basement of the old Town Hall in Catford (above) and, after January 1940, was funded through the rates, a predecessor of Council Tax (6). Every bombing, incendiary and related incident was phoned through to the ARP control centre who effectively acted as an emergency call centre.  They would find out about injuries, deaths, those trapped or missing, any fires that couldn’t be controlled locally (7) and look to send emergency services to assist.  On nights where there was heavy bombardment or large numbers of incendiary devices dropped these were not always available, as we saw with the fire that destroyed the original Church of the Good Shepherd in Lee, below.

Below is one small part of the Lewisham ARP log for the period between Christmas and New Year in 1940, while there had been a lull on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, hundreds of high explosives and incendiary bombs were dropped over the next few days, many around Lee. We’ll explore these attacks in much more detail in later posts.

At the level below the control centre, Individual wardens were based at schools and some purpose built concrete ‘pillboxes’ (8) around the community. They each served a population of 2 to 3,000, typically with a complement of six wardens, mainly part time (9).

One of the ARP posts in Lee was at what was then Hedgley Street School, pictured above (it was later Northbrook and currently Trinity Lewisham School) on the corner of Taunton Road. Running Past has covered the Noble family, who started the war at 49 Lampmead Road, a number of times before, including in relation to 1920’s play and the ‘Sunday Constitutional.’ Several of the family members worked for the ARP – Phyllis was briefly a warden with a navy battledress and steel helmet with a large white ‘W’ on the front (10). Her brother Joe and a cousin, who also lived at 49 Lampmead Road, worked as messengers based at the School – while in theory there were telephone links to Catford, cycle and motor cycle based messengers were used too in case lines came down.

The school was hit while Phyllis’ younger brother, Joe, was working there and partially destroyed. He was to be the only one injured – a bruised ankle from a falling fireplace (11). The ARP post presumably moved to an undamaged part of the evacuated school.

On the ground, the local ARP wardens would deal with whatever was needed, this ranged from providing first aid to those injured in incidents, directing people to shelters and help in getting the dead and injured out of bombed premises, this was both for hits on houses as well as the larger scale destruction of incidents like the attack on Sandhurst Road School in early 1943.

In front of St Stephens Church in Lewisham is a tall metal post with what looks like a pair of speakers attached to the top. It is easy to miss, particularly when the adjacent trees alongside the Quaggy are in leaf. It seems to be Lewisham’s last remaining air raid warning siren – one of around 25 around the then Boroughs of Deptford and Lewisham (12).

Once the warning sounded ARP wardens ensured that residents took cover in one of the air raid shelters; they sounded on over 1200 occasions during the war. Other locations seem to have included a former police station on Catford Hill, Catford Police Station on Bromley Road and Sandhurst Road School. The survival of the Lewisham one probably relates to its location next to the Quaggy and has a residual use as a flood warning siren.

The chilling sound of the air raid warning siren and, at the end, the all clear sound is on the YouTube video.

Finally, it is worth remembering that many ARP wardens lost their lives during the war; across London around 300 perished (13).  Those that died serving their community in Lewisham included (14):

  • Albert Brown (64) of 1 Eliot Hill was Injured at 14 Montpelier Vale on 8 March 1945 in the aftermath of the V-2 attack on Blackheath and died later the same day at Lewisham Hospital (pictured below);
  • Henry Cottell (52) was a Senior Air Raid Warden of 41 Manor Lane Terrace was injured at Lee High Road on 29/12/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
  • Barbara Fleming (16) of 20 Farmfield Road in Bellingham was injured on 16/04/1941 at Warden’s Post, Ashgrove Road; died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
  •  Douglas Hardisty (44) ; of 70 Vancouver Road in Forest Hill who was a Captain in the  Home Guard as well as being an ARP Warden was Injured 21 March 1944, at corner of Vancouver Road and Kilmorie Road; he died at Lewisham Hospital;
  • Kenneth Smith (33) of 251 Burnt Ash Hill was injured at Methodist Chapel, Burnt Ash Hill on 13/10/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital; and
  • Marjorie Wickens (19) of 7 Taunton Road died at the Albion Way Shelter on 11 September 1940.


Running Past will return to the fire watchers, the expanded fire service and other elements of the in later posts on World War Two.

Notes

  1. Mike Brown (1999) Put That Light Out! Britain’s Civil Defence Services at War 1939-45 -Stroud, Sutton Publishing p2
  2. ibid p3
  3. ibid p5
  4. ibid p7
  5. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 – 1945 p12
  6. ibid p28
  7. ibid p28
  8. ibid p27
  9. ibid p27
  10. Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming Of Age in Wartime – London, Peter Owen, p42
  11. ibid p45
  12. Blake, op cit, p41
  13. ibid p29
  14. These are based on records from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

Picture Credits

  • The recruitment poster comes from the collection of the Imperial War Museum and is used on a Non-Commercial Licence.;
  • The photograph of Hedgley Street School & the ruins of the Good Shepherd come from a booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p16 and it used with the church’s permission;
  • The picture of Sandhurst Road School is via The Newsshopper;
  • The postcard of the Town Hall is from eBay in March 2016;
  • The ARP Log is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their consent and remains their copyright;
  • The photograph of Blackheath is of an unknown source, although given its age is probably a government one and would thus be out of copyright; and
  • The ARP helmet is via Wikipedia and is on a Creative Commons.

 

The Three Schools of the Trinity

The new Trinity School on Taunton Road in Lee has an imposing presence, some suggest it is somewhat overbearing for the location within an area where Victorian terraces predominate.  Whatever, the current architectural merit of the school, the site has an interesting history – it is the third generation of schools to have been on the site – this post explores some of the history of its predecessors which were known as Hedgley Street and Northbrook.

When the Ordnance Survey cartographers surveyed the area in 1863, the site was part of the then extended grounds of the Manor House (1).  The beginnings of the first school were only a few years later – the first on-line mention of it seems to have been granting permission to the local builder John Pound, to ‘erect an infant school in Hedgley Street’ at Lee and Kidbrooke Board of Works meeting in July 1870 (1). John Pound has been covered a couple of times before in Running Past – both in relation to the large number of houses he built around Lee as well as a quartet of pubs.

The land appears to have been given by Lord Northbrook in 1871 (2) and was described as a

Piece of land situate in Hedgley Street, Lee, containing on the south 100 feet, on the north 129 feet, on the west 213 feet and on the east 255 feet or thereabouts ….to be used as a school for the education of the children of labouring and other poor persons of the parish of Lee.

The school itself didn’t open until 1884 (4) and was called Hedgley Street; whether the builder was Pound is unclear, by that stage he had scaled back his operations and was living in Dickens former home in Kent, then home to his daughter and her husband. The Head Teachers of the Junior Schools, either from their opening or certainly very soon after, were a George Bazeley and a Miss Young, with Miss Cripps being Head of the Infant School (5). The Junior School heads were to stay well into the new century. What is presumably the frontage onto Taunton Road is pictured below (6)

Like all the local schools children from Lee, the children from Hedgley Street will have celebrated Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 at The Cedars on Belmont Hill (7).  There was a similar celebration a decade later for the Diamond Jubilee – this time, it acted partially as a fundraiser for a new classroom at the school (8).

Press reports noted a successful inspection visit by Her Majesty’s Inspectors – an early Ofsted – it was noted that at the boys’ school, still under the stewardship of George Bazeley ‘scholars were well behaved and made good progress.’ The girls school the press report noted ‘fully maintained its reputation.’ (9)

The school started to receive London County Council (LCC) funding in 1903 and seems to have changed its name to Northbrook at around this point (10). Coming under the auspices of the LCC, higher standards of accommodation and facilities seem to have been expected. After a surveyors report in early1905, significant works were agreed by LCC Education Committee – including tarmacking the playground, provision of cloakrooms, a new hall, rebuilding offices (11).

However, the school clearly struggled to fund works required of them by the LCC – it had spent over £800 by the spring of the following year but hadn’t done work to heating and other works that would cost in total another £1200 (12).  In the end the governors had to take out a mortgage of £1000 to undertake work required by LCC (13).

During the Blitz the children were evacuated to Ashford in Kent. The boys (Junior) school was completely destroyed in a daytime raid in 1941 (14), while, as the maps  from pre-war and 1950 (15) show, the girls and infants schools survived, they were seriously damaged – marked beyond repair in the case of the Infants School at the rear in the LCC Bomb Damage Maps (16).

The school never re-assembled as a primary school. It was rebuilt as a secondary school, still named Northbrook. It was designed by Covell and Matthews and built by Unit Construction, as the photograph below shows (17).

It was officially opened by Princess Margaret in December 1957, although children had returned in the summer term of 1957 in ‘small numbers’ – a roll of just 151 with 7 teachers and 6 ‘clergy assistants’ when it first re-opened. It was planned to gradually increase numbers to full complement within 2 years. The funding was a mixture of LCC, local funding from churches and from the Diocese (18). The new school, just after completion is pictured below (19); a 6th form block was added in the following decades at the side of the building.

By the mid-1990s, the school was struggling; in 1995 only 5% of students achieved 5 A-C GCSEs – putting inside the bottom 30 schools in the country (20).  Later Ofsted reports  though, suggested some gradual improvement in the years afterwards.

The current school opened in January 2011, one of the many Building Schools for the Future funded programmes of the 1997 – 2010 Labour Government – it was officially opened in June 2011 by the then Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu along with Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander and the Right Reverend Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark.

There had been opposition about the scale of the development, which was much bigger than its predecessor and went up closer to the boundaries, the new building has a 77 per cent increase in building area and a 50 per cent building.  There were also concerns about the effective encroachment of the playground into Manor House Gardens.

 

Notes

  1. http://maps.nls.uk/view/102343453#
  2. 30 July 1870 – Kentish Independent – London, London, England
  3. Booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p15
  4. ibid
  5. 01 July 1887 – Kentish Mercury – London
  6. Booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd op cit, p16
  7. 01 July 1887 – Kentish Mercury – London
  8. 02 July 1897 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  9. 15 March 1901 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  10. Booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, op cit, p15
  11. 24 March 1905 Kentish Mercury
  12. 4 May 1906 Kentish Mercury
  13. 18 October 1907 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  14. Booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, op cit, p15
  15. The map images are on a Creative Commons Via National Library of Scotland, surveyed in 1914 and 1949 respectively http://maps.nls.uk/view/103313456 http://maps.nls.uk/view/102909226
  16. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps, 1939-1945
  17. Booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, op cit, p16
  18. ibid, p15
  19. ibid, p17
  20. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, November 21, 1995; pg. 2[S]; Issue 65430.

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.