Tag Archives: Hither Green Hospital

A Walk through Hither Green’s History

Hither Green has a rich and interesting history; this post was written to ‘accompany’ a walk organised as part of the 2018 Hither Green Festival, it can be used to independently to walk the route (its a circuit of around 1.8 miles) or as virtual tour of the area.  The ‘walk’ is divided into sections which relate to the planned stopping points – each of which is full of links to other posts in the blog which will have more detailed information.

Starting Point – Before the Railway

Hither Green station is the perfect place to start the walk as the railway ‘made’ the area.  At the time of the railway arrived in Hither Green in the 1860s, it didn’t stop – it was to be a junction until the mid 1890s.  When the South Eastern Railway navvies constructed the embankment and cutting through the area, Hither Green was largely rural, surrounded by farms as the map below shows – the farms including several covered by Running Past – North Park, Burnt Ash and Lee Green.

Hither Green Lane was there with several large houses but the main population centres were outside the area – the elongated Lewisham stretching all the way along what is now the High Street and Rushey Green, the three parts of Lee – Lee Green, the area around the church and Old Road, the latter with the Manor House and the farm and servants housing of Lee New Town.

While Hither Green remained a junction until the 1890s, the edges that were closer to other stations started to be developed – for example Courthill Road started to be developed from 1867, Ennersdale Road during the 1870s.  Then roads like Brightside, Mallet and Elthruda were developed in the late 1870s and early 1880s.  Everything changed with the opening of Hither Green Station on 1 June 1895 – the area lost its rural feel, most of the remaining large houses were sold and the Victorian and Edwardian houses and ‘villas’ built.

The Prime Meridian is crossed and marked in the pedestrian tunnel at Hither Green station, most of the walk will be in the western hemisphere..

Springbank Road & Nightingale Grove

A V-1 attack on devastated the area on the western side of the station on 29 July 1944 killing five  and destroying a significant number of homes, as the photograph (below) from the now closed ramp up to Platform 1 shows. It was one of 115 V-1 rocket attacks on Lewisham that summer – the most devastating had been the previous day when 51 had died in Lewisham High Street. Soon after the war nine prefab bungalows were put on the site; with the council bungalows probably appearing in the early 1960s.  The Beaver Housing Society homes on the corner of Nightingale Grove and Ardmere Road also replaced some of the homes destroyed – there are glazed tiles naming the landlord which is now part of L & Q Group.

© IWM Imperial War Museum on a Non Commercial Licence

Ardmere Road was built in the 1870s but was considered one of the poorest in the neighbourhood by Charles Booth’s researcher Ernest Alves in 1899 – he described it as one of the ‘fuller streets, shoddy building, two families the rule.’ It was marked blue – one up from the lowest class.

The area was looked unfinished to Alves and there was even a costermonger living in a tiny tin shack with their donkey on the unfinished Brightside Road in 1899, along with a temporary tin tabernacle. This immediate area was very poor and in ‘chronic want’ compared with the comfortable middle class housing of much of the rest of the area.

Hither Green Community Garden

The Community Garden dates from 2010 – cleared and maintained by volunteers from Hither Green Community Association.

North Park Farm

The Community Garden would have been part of the farmyard for North Park Farm.  It was latterly farmed by the Sheppards, although the land was owned by the Earls of St Germans until the sale to Cameron Corbett in 1895 – there are already posts on both the farm itself and in the early days of the development.

There were two Sheppard brothers both of whom had houses – one of the farm houses remains at the junction of Hither Green Lane and  Duncrievie Roads (see above) – along with their long term farm manager William Fry, who lived in the original farm building around the Community Garden..

The shops (see below) were developed by Corbett early in the development – there was no pub as Corbett was a strict teetotaller. There was a beer house (licenced to sell beer bu not wines or spirits) nearer the station in area demolished by the V-1.

There was a small stream which I have called North Park Ditch which ran through the farm – it is visible in the Hither Green Nature Reserve and was a tributary of Hither Green Ditch, which joins the Quaggy between Manor Lane and Longhurst Road.

The Old Station

The original entrance to the station was where Saravia Court , a block of housing association flats built around 2013, is now situated – it is named after the original name for Springbank Road.  The station buildings lasted until around 1974, when the booking hall was moved to its current location at platform 4½.  The site was used by timber merchants for many years.

The only remnants of the former station are the stationmaster’s house, 69 Springbank Road and the gate pillars to the former station entrance

Park Fever Hospital

This was the site of two of Hither Green’s larger houses – Hither Green Lodge and Wilderness House, these were sold to a private developer in the early 1890s and then onto the Metropolitan Board of Works who built the hospital after much local opposition.

Despite the 1896 signs, the hospital opened in 1897, it went through variety of guises including fever, paediatrics, geriatrics in its century of use.  The site was redeveloped for housing after the hospital closed in 1997.  There is a specific post on the the hospital and the housing before and after it in Running Past in early 2018.

Opposite the hospital in Hither Green Lane was the childhood home of Miss Read – she was a popular writer of rural fiction in the mid 20th century, who covered her time there in the first volume of her memoirs.

The Green of Hither Green, the area’s small bit of common land was  at the junction of Hither Green and George Lanes and was enclosed around 1810,

Roughly the same location was the ‘home’ to Rumburgh (other spellings are available) a settlement that seems to have died out as a result of the Black Death in the mid 14th century – this was covered a while ago in the blog.

Park Cinema opened in 1913 with a capacity of 500, it is one of several lost cinemas in the area.  It closed its doors in 1959 and was vacant for  many years  – it has gone through several recent uses including a chandler – Sailsports, a soft play venue Kids’ Korner and latterly another alliteration, Carpet Corner.

Its days seem numbered as a building as after several unsuccessful attempts to demolish and turn into flats – planning permission was granted in September 2017 after an appeal against a refusal by Lewisham Council.

Beacon Road/Hither Green Lane

The Café of Good Hope  is a recent addition to the Hither Green Lane, part of the Jimmy Mizen Foundation –  Jimmy was murdered on Burnt Ash Road on 10 May 2008.  The charity works with schools all over the United Kingdom, where Margaret and Barry Mizen share Jimmy’s story and help young people make their local communities safer, so they can feel safe when walking home.

The Fox and Sons ‘ghost sign’ is next door to the Café.  Ghost signs are painted advertising signs, they are not meant to be permanent – although were to last much longer than their modern day counterparts.  The urban landscape used to be full of them but most have been lost – either to modern advertising, being painted over or the buildings themselves being demolished lost.  There are still quite a few locally – the best local ‘collection’ is around Sandhurst Market at the other end of Corbett estate.  They can be

This was very briefly an off licence, there is a photo of it but it didn’t seem to last long enough to make local directories. There is much more on the brewery behind the ghost sign in a post here.

St. Swithun’s Church

The church building dates from 1904, although the now church hall was used as a church from 1884.  Both were designed by Ernest Newton who also designed the Baring Hall, the original Church of The Good Shepherd and Lochaber Hall.  Gladys Cooper, the actress was baptised here.

Perhaps the biggest surprise with St Swithun’s (pictured above) – is that it is still here.  So many of the local churches were lost in World War Two – the Methodist Church at the junction of Hither Green Lane and Wellmeadow Road, the original church of The Good Shepherd, Christ Church on Lee Park and Holy Trinity on Glenton Road.

Merbury Close

Merbury Close was developed as a sheltered scheme for the elderly in 1986.  Before that it had been a nursery – the last remnant of something that this end of Hither Green had several of  – the best known – run  Lewisham Nursery, run in its later years by Willmott and Chaundy, which finally closed in 1860.

Bullseye or Japes Cottage – (pictured above) was on the corner of Harvard Road and Hither Green Lane – it was the gardener’s cottage for one of the larger houses on Hither Green Lane  – the inappropriately named, in terms of size, Laurel Cottage.

Spotted Cow – one of the older pubs in the area, the name referring to its rural past; it closed around 2007 and was converted into flats by L&Q Housing Trust, the block at the side is the name of one of its former Chairs.

Monument Gardens

From the 1820s to 1940s this was ‘home’ to Camps Hill House, an impressive large house which was built in the 1820s for the brick maker Henry Lee – it is pictured below (source eBay October 2016) .  It was demolished post-war for what initially called the Heather Grove estate.  There is a much fuller history of both the estate and its predecessor in a blog post from 2016.

The monument on the grass is something of a mystery  – it is dated 1721, well before Campshill House was built – it is rumoured to memorial to an animal – it isn’t marked on Victorian Ordnance maps, although seems to have been there from the mid-19th century.

Nightingale Grove

This used to be called Glenview Road and was the location of one of the biggest local losses of life during World War 1 – a large bomb was dropped by a Zeppelin  in the ‘silent’ raid on the night of 19/20 October 1917.   There were 15 deaths, including 10 children, two families were decimated – the Kinsgtons and the Millgates.  The attack was covered in an early post in Running Past, as was its fictional retelling by Henry Williamson, better known for writing ‘Tarka the Otter.’

Hansbury’s (formerly the Sir David Brewster)

One of the more depressing sites (or sights) on the walk is the rapidly decaying former pub, it was once one of half a dozen Hither Green boozers, despite Archibald Cameron Corbett preventing them on the former North Park Farm.  Hither Green now has just one pub, the Station Hotel along with the Park Fever beer and chocolate shop opposite on Staplehurst Road which offers some limited seating.  A 2016 blog post tells the story of the pub.

There was an attempt to build a pub in the late 1870s in Ennersdale Road, however, there were two rival builders and they seemed to expect the magistrates to decide on which one to allow.  In the end neither happened (1).

Dermody Gardens

The path over the railway to here used to be called Hocum Pocum Lane (covered a while ago in Running Past), it can be followed back to St Mary’s and beyond towards Nunhead and continues down the hill over a long established bridge over the Quaggy and then north along Weardale Road to join Lee High Road by Dirty South (formerly the Rose of Lee).  It was renamed Dermody Road after an alcoholic Irish poet in the 1870s – Thomas Dermody (below) is buried at St Mary’s and there is something on his short life here.

Towards Lewisham the street layout evolved in the early 1870, the area was certainly included within the Lewisham Nursery of Wilmott and Chaundy who grew Wisteria amongst other plants, although the name of the road may predate the nursery.  The area beyond this, towards Lewisham, was developed as the College Park Estate in the 1860s.

Manor Park

This was a pig farm before being turned into a park in the 1960s, although it was once of Lewisham’s more neglected parks until a major upgrade in 2007 with Heritage and Environment Agency funding the river was opened up park and the park re-planted to encourage wildlife.   There are Running Past posts on both the Park and the Quaggy at this point.

While going through Manor Park is a pleasant detour – we will only see the backs of the houses of Leaahurst Road.  Large chunks of this end of the street, particularity on the western side were destroyed during World War 2.  The bomb sites were searched extensively during a notorious 1943 child murder investigation – the murderer was Patrick Kingston, a surviving member of the family almost wiped out in the Zeppelin attack.

Leahurst Road was also home to one of Hither Green’s once famous residents – the early Channel swimmer, Hilda ‘Laddie’ Sharp (pictured above).

Staplehurst Road

The Shops were built in the early 20th century, a little later than those in Springbank Road, the dates are marked in several places as one of the original ‘Parades’ – the sign for Station Parade is still there (above the Blue Marlin Fish Bar).  The nature of the shops has changed significantly – although mainly in the period since World War 2.  There is more on this in a blog post, including Hither Green’s Disney store.

The Station Hotel was built by the Dedman family who had previously run both the Old and New Tigers Head pubs at Lee Green and opened around 1907.  It is now Hither Green’s only pub.

The Old Biscuit Factory is a new housing development from around 2013, the site including the building now used by Sainsbury’s was originally a very short-lived cinema, the Globe – which lasted from 1913 until 1915, before being ‘home’ to Chiltonian Biscuits.

The area around Staplehurst Road suffered badly in a World War 1 air raid – two 50 kg and two 100 kg bombs were dropped by German Gotha aircraft and fell close to 187 Leahurst Road, damaging 19 shops and 63 homes, the railway line.  Two soldier lost their lives and six were injured on the evening of 19 May 1918.  Unlike the World War Two attacks, there seems little evidence there now of the bombing.  There was more significant damage and a lot more deaths in Sydenham in the same raid.

World War 2 damage is a little more obvious in Fernhurst Road, there was a small terrace built by the local firm W. J. Scudamore, which was hit by a V-1 rocket in June 1944.  Prefabs were built there immediately after the war, with the present bungalows following in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

If you want to do the walk physically rather than electronically ….

It is about 1.8 miles long and all on footpaths, it seems fine for buggies and wheelchairs apart from one very narrow, steep uneven section on Dermody Road (although it is better on the opposite side of the road).

Toilets – the only ones on the route are in Manor Park, although they are only open when the café is.

Refreshments – several places either side of the station, along with the Café of Good Hope on Hither Green Lane and the Lewisham Arts Café in Manor Park

Public transport (as of May 2018) – there is a bus map here, and rail journey can be planned from here.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 04 October 1879

Picture Credits

  • The postcards and drawing of Campshill House are all from e Bay between January 2015 and January 2018
  • The painting of Japes Cottage is  ©Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre, on a non-commercial licence through Art UK
  • The Ordnance Survey map is on a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland
  • The photograph of the destruction of Glenview Road in the ‘silent’ Zeppelin raid is on a Creative Commons via Wikipedia
  • The photograph of the Sir David Brewster (Hansbury’s) is from the information boards at Hither Green Station.
  • The picture of Thomas Dermody comes from an information board at St Mary’s church
  • The photographs of Hilda Sharp – left photo source, right photo Times [London, England] 25 Aug. 1928: 14. The Times Digital Archive
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The Park Fever Hospital – Hither Green’s Former Infirmary

The water tower is one of the more dominant features of Hither Green – it is included in the festival’s logo and a reference point for photos from the air or higher vantage points.  It is one of the remaining parts of one of the bigger Victorian hospitals – which has gone by various names – although was  the Park Fever Hospital for just over half of its existence.  The hospital closed in its centenary year of 1997.

The known history of the site goes back to the Middle Ages – as was covered in one of the early posts in Running Past, part of the site seems to have been covered by a medieval village that was probably wiped out by the Black Death.

The site was home to a pair of large houses, Hither Green Lodge and Wilderness House owned by the Desvignes family (as of the road name) for many years.  The map from the mid 1860s shows (1) that the area had lots of big houses – some of which have already been covered by Running Past such as the inappropriately named Laurel Cottage.  The houses were sold in 1892 to a barrister who seemingly also speculated on land values.

The roots of a hospital were in a Scarlet Fever epidemic in 1892/93, the health system was unprepared and there was a severe shortage of beds.  It was an area overseen by the Metropolitan Asylums Board and five new fever hospitals were planned on the edge of London, including one in Hither Green and the relatively nearby Brook Hospital – covered a while ago in Running Past. Hither Green was still largely rural at the time – the station was not yet open and the neighbouring North Park Farm was still being farmed by the Sheppards.  Cameron Corbett was hovering though and before the new hospital was finished, the farm was sold and early development started.

The site of Hither Green Lodge and Wilderness House, along with some adjoining land, had been bought in 1892 by the barrister Edward Boyle – he sold on to the Metropolitan Board of Works little more than a year later at a £10,000 profit (2).  He also owned the site for the equivalent hospital in Tottenham, St Ann’s.  Questions were later asked by a Board member about the level of profit involved and asked about whether there had been insider knowledge or corruption (3).  It doesn’t seem to have led to any investigation by the Board though.   However, it is just possible that’ given the site’s position on the edge of a developing city, Boyle was just a land speculator.

There was much local opposition to the development of the hospital site at an Enquiry Board (4) – effectively the equivalent of the hearing by Planning Inspectors.  The opposition fell into two main camps with concerns over

  • Spread of disease –one witness who was a doctor noted ‘the erection of a fever hospital may theoretically involve no risk of infection, but practically it does, in my opinion.’ He and none of the other similar witnesses presented no evidence of contamination or disease spreading even from locations where there were existing fever hospitals amidst housing; and
  • Property values falling – there was a lot of speculation about value falling by 25 to 30% if the hospital was built – although there seems to have been no independent advice presented (or at least reported) – there were linked concerns from schools about falling rolls.

The Local Board of Works grudgingly accepted the need in the area, although appears to have suggested a site that is now Oak Cottages adjacent to the cemetery, where there was an existing small hospital (5).

Interestingly they were issues raised by Ernest Alves, Charles Booth’s researcher when putting together the poverty map for the area in 1899.  The ‘walk’ was covered in relation to the Corbett Estate a while ago.  Alves had assumed that the hospital would have had ‘a bad effect on the district.’  The local policeman that he conducted the walk with felt that it hadn’t.

There was a competition for the design of the hospital (pictured above (6)) which was won by Edwin T. Hall, who was design several late 19th and early 20th century hospitals, including Manchester Royal Infirmary; although perhaps the best known surviving building he designed is Liberty & Co. store in London’s West End.   The contractors were Leslie and Co of Kensington – while the tender was for £210,000 it seems that costs escalated during the project and the final bill was £280,000.

It was officially opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales on the afternoon of 12 July 1897 (7).  It was a large hospital with 548 beds and employed 3000 when it was built; quite a lot of the staff lived on site in the early days. (Source for postcard below (8))

As the number of fever cases declined, the hospital was briefly a children’s hospital in the early 20th century before housing war refugees during the First World War.  By the beginning of World War 2 the hospital was controlled by the London County Council before joining the NHS in 1948 under the Lewisham Group Hospital Management Committee, ‘Fever’ was dropped from the name at this point and it was renamed Hither Green Hospital in 1957.

The number of beds reduced during the 1950s to around 500 from a peak of over 600 pre-war.  It was again used as a fever hospital but also for those with skin disorders, tonsil and adenoids operations as well as some strange treatments for whooping cough already covered in Running Past. (Picture source (9))

There was a polio epidemic in the early 1950s and a vaccine did not became available until the mid-1950s and widespread through sugar cubes until the early 1960s.  Hither Green was to specialise in the treatment of the disease and built a hydrotherapy pool.

It evolved into a more general hospital, treating many of the survivors of the 1967 Hither Green rail crash, including a young Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees.  From the 1970s it became a largely geriatric and psychiatric hospital but changes in the way in which both groups of patients were dealt with as Care in the Community evolved in the late 1980s.  Part of the hospital was effectively mothballed in the early 1990s and in the centenary year of 1997 the last patients were transferred to Lewisham Hospital.

 

The site was surplus to requirements for the then Lewisham NHS Hospital Trust who saw the development opportunity of the large urban site and secured a series of outline planning permissions from 1996 for housing development of the site before selling on to developers.  Much of it was bought by Bellway, a large developer based in the north-east and contains over 500 homes – now ‘badged’ as Meridian South, so named as the Prime Meridian passes the very southern edge of the site and is marked in a pavement on Woodlands Street – covered a while ago in Running Past.

The housing is generally low rise, particular the earlier development around the edge of the site facing onto George Lane and Stainton Road, with some higher densities and higher buildings in later phases.

 

A few of the buildings close to the George Lane entrance remain – these include  a porter’s lodge, the medical superintendent’s house, an office and discharge and waiting rooms – the latter names still visible.

Notes

  1. Map on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland. http://maps.nls.uk/view/102343453
  2. Woolwich Gazette 02 June 1893
  3. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper 08 December 1895
  4. Woolwich Gazette 02 June 1893
  5. ibid
  6. source e Bay June 2016
  7. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Jul 13, 1897
  8. Source e Bay May 2016
  9. Source e Bay Sept 2016

The Hither Green Rail Crash

Bonfire night was a Sunday in 1967, and, perhaps, a few fireworks were still going off in the streets between Grove Park and Hither Green marshalling yard as the twelve coach 19.43 from Hastings to Charing Cross passed the Hither Green signal box at 21.14 at about 70 mph with clear signals to pass through on the “Up Fast Line.”

The train was pretty much full, particularly at the front of the train as some of the intermediate stations had ‘short’ platforms.  The train was busy enough for standing in the 1st class corridor on the fourth coach.

Close to the sidings north of Grove Park, the third carriage seems to have struck a ‘small wedge shaped piece of steel that had broken away from the end of a running rail and became derailed.’ It didn’t immediately come off the track but when the coach struck some points close to St Mildred’s Road bridge (next to where Bestway is now – see photographs above), the third coach, the one ahead of it, and all the coaches behind it became completely derailed, and the second to the fifth coaches to turn over onto their sides.  The first coach ran on stopping just short of Hither Green station.

The coaches two to five had their sides torn off, this included the fourth coach where there were large numbers standing, there was other extensive damage to several coaches – notably coach two, whose roof was ripped off.

The emergency services arrived within minutes of the accident and must have witnessed utter devastation..  There were 49 fatalities and 78 people injured – the sixth highest number of deaths in a single rail accident in Britain.

Amongst those injured was a young Robin Gibb from the Bee Gees who was treated at Hither Green Hospital.  He had been in the first class seats in the fourth carriage but only suffered from bruising and minor cuts from broken glass – he had been lucky – many of the deaths were those standing in the corridor to his carriage.

Local emergency services reacted quickly- all six operating theatres at Lewisham Hospital were staffed up quickly to deal with the worst casualties, with the less severe injuries, like Robin Gibb, going to Hither Green. Thirty fire brigade appliances from stations all over south London attended with cutting gear, with fire-fighters and ambulance staff coming into work on days off.  Local people tried to help too – Lewisham Hospital was inundated with offers from south east Londoners of blood donations and offers to transport the walking wounded to Lewisham and Hither Green hospitals; local houses became first aid stations and blankets were provided from houses in the neighbouring streets (1).  In a Parliamentary debate the following lunchtime, the Minister of Transport, Barbara Castle, noted

…. Sir Stanley Raymond, the Chairman of the (British Railways) Board, was on the scene of the accident as quickly as he could be. He has informed me that the selflessness shown not only by members of the emergency services, but by ordinary members of the public, including a number of teenagers, was unparalleled in his experience since the days of the blitz.

HG Rail1

The picture the next day was of carnage, as the photographs from The Times show – the first (above) shows the extent of the damage to carriages (2); the second from close to the bridge on St Mildred’s Road shows carriages toppled down the embankment parallel Springbank Road (3) – the rendered white Corbett houses are a giveaway in terms of the location.

HG Rail2

There is also video footage from British Pathé News both from the immediate aftermath and the days after the crash.

An enquiry was opened soon after and the cause was quickly found, the driver and guard were exonerated, and the findings reported upon in the press before the end of the month, with the final detailed report being published in 1968.

HG Rail4

The cause was found to be a fractured joint, the joint itself was new but the ballast underneath it had been had been inadequately built up when a wooden sleeper had replaced a concrete one in June 1967 – the inquiry concluded

I have no doubt that the fracture was caused by the excessive “working” of the joint resulting from its unsatisfactory support condition (pictured below)

HG Rail3

There is a list at the end of the post of the names of the  victims; they ought to be remembered.  While there is a small brass memorial to one of the victims Dianna Williams high on the wall of the newspaper kiosk close to the ticket office – this feels inadequate; there should be a more prominent memorial to the dead at Hither Green, perhaps at the bridge on St Mildred’s Road.  Contact me if you have any ideas about this.

Many of those involved in the emergency response were to suffer considerably in the aftermath at a time when post-trauma counselling was rare.  Several stories of this have come up in response to the blog – such as an engine driver based at Hither Green who helped with recovery work and had nightmares for years as a result of the horrors he encountered. He had to take early retirement from a job he loved because of his anxiety due to disturbed sleep. Other staff at Hither Green station too were traumatised by the events.

The site today shows nothing of the disaster – neither on the railway itself nor on the bridge over St Mildred’s Road.  But if you are travelling under the bridge or passing from Grove Park to Hither Green on the train, do reflect on those whose lives were cut short that night:

  • Rose Margaret Ashlee (36)  Crowborough
  •  Elizabeth Tamara Ashmore (20)  Bordon
  •  Howard L. Austin (17)  Etchingham
  •  Janet E. Bartlett (18)  Hastings
  •  Jennifer Ann Bohane (26)  Wadhurst
  •  Jacqueline Branch (16)  Hurst Green
  •  Gay E. Breeds (17) Addington
  •  Judith M. Breeds (21) Addington
  •  Dorothy V. Cannon (57)  Hampton
  •  Kathleen Charlton (73)  Chiswick
  •  Veronica B. Chevallier (34)  St John’s Wood
  •  Eric G. Coveney (64)  South Tottenham
  •  Terence D. Cronk (19)  Wateringbury
  •  Edith Olive May Dutch (65)  Fulham
  •  Eric H. O. Fletton (64)  Buckhurst Hill
  •  Rev. Harold Theodore Gibso Forster (51)  Harrow
  •  Julia H. Hardwick (28)  Tunbridge Wells
  •  Marion Gay Hardwick (23)  Tunbridge Wells
  •  Charles Haycraft (23)  Wadhurst
  •  Jacqueline A.  Hazard (20)  Nottingham
  •  Gillian Mary Heppenstall (29)  Mark Cross, Sussex
  •  Ella Gladys Kemp (40)  Cartsfield
  •  Bernard John Lavender (44)  Wembley
  •  Irene E. Lavender (44)  Wembley
  •  Mark Clifton Lavers (20)  Burwash
  •  Betty Lewis (26)  Hastings
  •  Ann E. Lingham (19)  Streatham S.W.
  •  Juliet W. Mcpherson-Heard (20)  Mill Hill
  •  George Alfred Meyers (26)  Neasdon
  •  Dianne Sandra Reed (22)  Enfield
  •  Susan Anne Ritson (21)  Maidenhead
  •  Ruby Hazel H.  Rolls (48)  Tottenham
  •  Hugh P. Roots (19)  Rolvenden, Kent
  •  Geoffrey Sellings (19) Hastings
  •  Michael Smith (2)  Bloomsbury
  •  Wendy  Smith (38)  Bloomsbury
  •  Richard Spencer (21) Abbey Wood
  •  Rosemary Stewart (22)  Upper Holloway
  •  William D. Thomson (28) Hastings
  •  Alison Winifred Treacher (23)  Steyning
  •  Christopher Ian Turner (31)  Cross-In-Hand
  •  James Gordon Melville Turner (60)  Staplecross, Sussesx
  •  Lindsay Margaret Ward (19)  Bexhill-On-Sea
  •  Joyce Watson (48)  Putney
  •  Harold Arthur White (75)  Chiswick
  •  Walter H. Whittard (64)  South Kensington
  •  Dianna Williams (19)  Rye
  •  Mabel Lillian Daisy Williams (69)  Hampstead Aven
  •  Catherine Yeo (20) Wadhurst

 

Notes

  1. The Times (London, England), Monday, Nov 06, 1967; pg. 8; Issue 57091
  2. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Nov 07, 1967; pg. 8; Issue 57092.
  3. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Nov 07, 1967; pg. 2; Issue 57092.

 

Strange Treatments for Whooping Cough in Hither Green and Sydenham

One of the stranger medical trials in Britain happened at the Park Hospital, later known as Hither Green Hospital in the late 1940s – using a decompression chamber to treat whooping cough.

image

The Park Hospital from a few decades earlier (via eBay, Jan 2016)

The background was a serious problem in post war Britain with a whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic in 1941 with 173, 330 cases and 2,383 deaths.  There were over 60,000 cases and at least 500 deaths every year throughout that decade.

The trial had its roots in the 1920s when a Strasbourg pilot took his child who was suffering from whooping cough for a flight and found that the coughing had almost ceased after 3 days.  Why the pilot attempted this was not explained, though.  Further work done in Switzerland and Germany prior to World War 2  found that the ‘treatment’ was most effective in the 5th and 6th weeks of the disease and that it cured 30% of cases within 3 days and alleviated symptoms within a further 30% of cases.  However, given the scale of the problem and the limited number of non-military aircraft replicating the trials on a bigger scale were not really feasible.

whoop1

So a decompression chamber was used, initially in Paris, where the results seemed to be similar to those in airplanes, and in Sweden, where they were inconclusive.  The Park Hospital at Hither Green managed to get hold of a former RAF decompression chamber (pictured above and below – source British Medical Journal 1949) and tried the same testing – the initial reports published in the British Medical Journal were that it seemed to work for some cases – around a third saw significant improvement or cure.

whoop-2

Despite the technique seeming to work in at least some cases, the rationale for remained unknown.  There are few references to the type of treatment after the early 1950s, other than one suggestion that it continued to be used by the RAF as late as the 1990s. So it can, perhaps, be assumed that the later results at the Park Hospital were similar to the inconclusive ones in Sweden, or as we will see later, possibly overtaken by other medical advances.

There were several memories of the treatment in Facebook comments on the post – including being told that they were in a rocket going to the moon and it leading to subsequent issues with claustrophobia for one former patient.

The altitude treatment wasn’t the only rather odd treatment, in modern terms at least, tried in Lewisham there was an alternative tried at the South Suburban Gas Works at Bell Green in the 1920s (below – see notes for photo credit) when the company turned their pump room into a clinic where children who were suffering could go and ‘take the smells’ (1).

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It wasn’t a new idea – there were Scottish reports of children living at a gas works not getting whooping cough during an outbreak in Fife in 1891.  It certainly wasn’t the only place in Britain where gasworks related ‘cures’ this were tried, with reports of it happening on a more informal basis in Shoreham on Sea and High Brooms in Kent amongst others.  There were several memories in Facebook comments on the post of similar strategies being used in relation to taking children to places where new road surfaces were being laid and making them breathe in the fumes.

The logic at Sydenham seemed to be that one of the gases, ammonia, had a similar effect to smelling salts, and the smell of the tar caused a tickling sensation around the throat which, while it brought on violent fits of coughing, seemed to remove the ‘whoop.’ (2)

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The Bell Green gasworks have all but disappeared – all that remains is the former social club, the Livesey Memorial Hall (covered a while ago in Running Past) and the now threatened gas-holders.

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The trials in Hither Green were not that long before the  post-war introduction of both vaccines for whooping cough and antibiotics to treat the condition, both lessened the need to try other methods, so even had the decompression chamber ‘worked’ it may not have lasted that long anyway.

The disease has never been eradicated though – the vaccines wear off over time and there has never been complete take-up, in 2015 the provisional figures for recorded whooping cough (pertussis) were 3063 cases with 4 deaths.

Finally, there is a short film made by British Pathé News about the tests, sadly it isn’t one of the films uploaded onto YouTube so it can’t be embedded here – but it gives a few glimpses of the the Park Hospital and it is worth watching for that.

 

Notes

  1. Gipsland Times 7 January 1926 via the Washed Out Goth blog
  2. ibid

Picture credits – both the Sydenham pictures are on a creative commons via Steve Grindlay’s lovely Flickr page which is well worth a ‘visit.’

 

A World War One Childhood in Hither Green

One of the more surprising literary links to Lewisham, and Hither Green in particular, is that of Dora Saint, much better known as ‘Miss Read’ who wrote about the fictional, very rural, hamlets of Thrush Green and Fairacre.  She spent some of her formative years in the then more suburban Hither Green – opposite Park Hospital.

While her gentle, observational novels about seemingly cosy, idyllic and probably idealised bucolic landscapes sold well, particularly abroad, she never featured that strongly in the British public consciousness.  In addition to her novels she wrote a series of short autobiographical volumes, the first of which related to a few years in Hither Green.

‘Miss Read’ was born as Dora Shafe in South Norwood in April 1913, her father was an insurance salesman who was conscripted during the First World War. Her mother kept on his ‘round’ of door to door collections to maintain the family income and the family moved to Hither Green around 1916, where Dora grew up surrounded by a close-knit extended family of aunts and grandparents.

imageThe family home’s location isn’t clear, there was no mention of the family in the Kelly’s Directories of the era (maybe sometime I will trawl through electoral registers…), but much of Dora’s early childhood was spent at the home of her grandmother at 267 Hither Green Lane opposite the then Park Hospital.  The house is still there and the first volume of her autobiography paints an interesting picture of life and growing up in Hither Green during World War 1.

It was relatively well-to-do home, dominated by strong women – her maternal grandmother, Sarah Read, and two unmarried aunts – Jess and Rose.  The latter seems to have lived elsewhere but spend most of her non-working time at 267, probably contributing heavily to the household income.  Dora’s own mother and her uncle who also lived at 267 rarely get a mention.  As the older Dora noted the chief attraction of the house, in retrospect, was the affection with which Dora and her sister were surrounded.’ (1)

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The House

She describes the house as a solidly built red brick house, it had a vigorous climbing red pyracantha at the front – Aunt Jess would lean out of the front bedroom to cut branches to take to school in the autumn (2);  the red brick is now painted and the pyracantha is long gone though. The house is visible between the trees on postcard above.

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Whilst it well into the 20th century Sarah Read’s ‘house in Hither Green Lane was a Victorian one, and furnished in the Victorian style, sombre and heavy.’ This was contrasted with her paternal grandmother’s home in Walton on the Naze which reflected the relative ‘gaiety’ of the Edwardian era. (3)

The ‘drawing room’ at the front was Dora’s favourite – recalling plush red upholstered furniture and carpets, conch shells on the mantelpiece, when the fire wasn’t lit there was a beaded screen with arum lilies in front of it (4). There was a piano which had china cherubs perched on top, there was a small octagonal table with a potted fern.

The dining room was reached through rarely opened double doors and was dominated by a large mahogany table and chairs, with a corner cabinet containing the best and specimen china (5).  There was a conservatory at the back where fairy lights in small, different coloured glass jars were once lit (6).

Upstairs, there was an inside toilet and a separate bath with brass taps and encased in wood (7) – having an inside WC made it at the more genteel end of London living. Dora remembered being forced to spend time there to ‘try, dear’ before heading off to school.

Beyond the bathroom was Grandma Read’s room where Dora was meant to sleep in bed in afternoons before she was of school age and then during school holidays ‘tucked up under the eiderdown in just my vest, liberty bodice, chemise, knickers… petticoat and socks.’ (8). However,  she often just investigated the room rather than sleep – heading for the lace mat covered dressing table (9). There was a coloured glazed door from the bedroom through which the young Dora would imagine an underwater world through a blue pane, and a world of winter sun through the crimson glass (10).

Her aunt’s room was at the front of the house, looking out towards the hospital which even then had trees big enough to screen it (11) – perhaps remnants of Wilderness House that was on the site before the hospital.

The house was set up for servants with a set of bells operated by handles next to the fireplaces which rang in the kitchen (12).

Out and About in Hither Green

Grandmother Sarah regularly went to the then new Park cinema, the building is still there on the corner of George Lane, where the films were changed a couple of times a week.  Sometimes she went on her own, sometimes with friends, although there is not mention of the young Dora going too (13).

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cats-meat-man-x300-m-1482-204x300There was a ‘cats meat man’ with a raucous voice whole sold skewers threaded with cooked horse meat (14) although the young Dora misunderstood the concept and was worried that it was the meat of cats that was being sold from the back of the trap (picture source).

 

 

Church, Sunday School and Singing

Sarah, Jess, Rose as well as Dora and her sister, all seemed to go to St Swithun’s Church a little further up Hither Green Lane (15); Rose ran the Sunday school there – ‘simple hymns and prayers alternated with handwork, making Moses in Plasticine, for instance, to put into a carefully woven cradle…There was quite a bit of marching…’ (16).

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Congregation members often came back to 267 to sing around the piano in the ‘drawing room’.  Dora and more particularly her sister found this quite boring and hid behind the piano amongst the sheet music (17).

It wasn’t just church music though that was sung, Sarah clearly had been to music hall as there was lots of singing of music hall numbers as well as some of the more contemporary wartime songs (18).

Goodbye-ee, Goodbye-ee

Wipe the tea, baby dear,

From your eye-ee!

Wartime Memories

There was little recollection of the war itself other than the difficulties of getting certain foods, although as the youngest, it seems that Sarah spoiled Dora by putting her with sugar in sandwiches for her (19).

Soldiers and sailors regularly turned up at 267 for post church singing during the war (20), but apart from that the only mention was noticing a crater from a bomb one morning after a raid (21).  This was almost certainly in May 1918 when the area was attacked by aircraft, 2 bombs were dropped, one near St Swithun’s Church, where about 20 houses were damaged; the other bomb on Hither Green Lane, damaged 12 houses. No people were injured or killed, and, presumably, the second was some distance from 267, otherwise Dora would have probably recalled it.

The sisters were frightened that the Kaiser was hiding behind curtains on the landing ready to pounce! (22)

School

Their aunt, Rose, was a teacher at Ennersdale Road (now Trinity) School (23) and took both Dora and her elder sister to school with her. Dora’s first visit was the day before her fourth birthday in 1917 (24) her sister was already there.

The route to school involved walking down Ennersdale Road, the rumbling of the trains overhead terrified the young Dora (25).

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At Play

Dora played a lot in the kitchen, often with her Aunt Jess, whilst she iron or made clothes.  She modelled with plasticine – mimicking the grocer cutting and wrapping up butter from the marble slab at the Home and Colonial Stores (26), which were at 180 Hither Green Lane, between Lanier and Theodore Roads (the picture is illustrative rather than Hither Green Lane – Creative Commons source here)

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Other shopping games were played in the kitchen too, whilst most of the ‘purchases’ were imaginary, a request for ‘a farthing’s worth of currants’ would often lead to the real thing being brought down from a large metal canister on a high shelf (27).

The early books that the young Dora had read to her at 267 included many of the Beatrix Potter, which had begun to be published at the turn of the century (28).

Dora and her family moved out to the more rural Chelsfield soon after the war ended – both she and her mother were seriously ill as a result of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 to 1921 – and they moved for the country ‘air’ whilst her father continued to work as an insurance salesman.

Notes

  1. ‘Miss Read’ (1982) A Fortunate Grandchild (Boston, Houghton Mifflin), p58
  2. Ibid p48
  3. ibid p101
  4. ibid p48
  5. ibid p50
  6. ibid p51
  7. ibid p51
  8. ibid p52
  9. ibid p53
  10. ibid p55
  11. ibid p56
  12. ibid p57
  13. ibid p15
  14. ibid p38
  15. ibid p15
  16. ibid p35
  17. ibid p16
  18. ibid p18
  19. ibid p19
  20. ibid p19
  21. ibid p40
  22. ibid p47
  23. ibid p29
  24. ibid p31
  25. ibid p39
  26. ibid p19
  27. ibid p28
  28. ibid p28

The postcards are all from eBay, downloaded during 2015 and 2016.

Hither Green and the Black Death

Romborough Way is a road that it would be easy to pass by without a second thought but it is a name with some interesting history spanning 700 years.

The most recent part of that history is that Romborough Way, along with Campshill Road, formed Lewisham’s first council estate in the 1920s on the site of Campshill House.

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What is now Hither Green Lane has existed as a road for hundreds of years following part of the watershed between the river valleys of the Quaggy and the Ravensbourne. There are 14th century accounts of the road going from an earlier incarnation of St Mary’s Church to a hamlet called Rumbergh.

Rumbergh or Romborough was centred around the junction of Hither Green Lane and George Lane. While there are a number of references to the settlement up to 1349 there are none after, leading to the strong likelihood that the inhabitants of the hamlet were some of the victims of the Black Death epidemic that devastated the English population between 1348 and 1350 wiping out 1.5 million out of an estimated population of 4 million.

Along with the more obvious buboes, one of the symptoms of the Black Death was an acute fever – it therefore somewhat ironic that on the site of Romborough, the Park Fever Hospital, later Hither Green Hospital, was built in 1897 following a London-wide Scarlet Fever epidemic in 1893.

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