Tag Archives: Hither Green Lane

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)

home_and_colonial_stores_may_10_1910

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.

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 South Park name lives on in a street, South Park Crescent to the east of Verdant Lane.  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

A Hither Green Ghost Sign of a Long ‘Lost’ Brewery

In the middle of a row of shops on Hither Green Lane is a single-storey building, which seems oddly out of place in the two/three storey late Victorian properties – it has created some advertising space which remains filled by a painted ‘ghost sign’ which, at its very latest was painted in 1909 – more on that later.  The single-storey building may have originally been the same size as the rest of the terrace, the building was destroyed in a fire in 1894 (1).

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The sign has clearly gone through at least two incarnations, painted over the top of each other, and have unevenly weathered, it appears to read – ‘Fox & Sons’. Below that is ‘…nborough’, then ‘Ales Stout’ and finally ‘In bottle and cask’.  There looks to be ‘wine’ in the midst too.

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It is quite common for ‘ghost signs’ to relate to the business on the side of the building that it was painted on – Running Past has covered several including John Campion & Sons in Catford, a bakers in Sandhurst Road, Catford, a now hidden one at Lee Green and perhaps my favourite Wallace Prings Chemists in Bromley.  This is not the case here – Fox & Sons were brewers from Green Street Green in Farnborough, now on the edge of Bromley. In the period up until the end of World War 1, and probably much longer, 210 Hither Green Lane seems to have been one of a pair of butchers shops on Hither Green Lane run by Joseph Hurdidge.  Hurdidge was born in Old Ford in 1865 and seems to have taken over the (presumably) tenancy of the 132 Hither Green Lane around 1890 and probably expanded to 210 when the shops were developed a little later.  Hurdidge certainly remained in the trade and remained in the Lewisham area for the rest of his life – in the 1939 Register he was still working but widowed and living at 78 Eltham Road, Lee, where he died in 1952.

 

There were a couple of off licences on Hither Green Lane – one just to the north of Harvard Road, run for years by a Robert Mott and one adjacent to Woodlands Street run by Florence Jackson.  Neither was mentioned in the sign though, although they may have sold bottled Fox and Co beer.

So, like most modern advertising billboards, it seems to have been a more general sign – which the Brewery probably repeated in many locations – there is a postcard of a still serving pub from around 1906, the British Queen in Locksbottom, with an identical advertisement on the building side.

Source eBay April 2016

Source eBay April 2016

So what of the brewery? John Fox (born around 1787 in Buckinghamshire) had moved to Green Street Green in 1818 to run Oak Farm.  He brewed a little for himself and his employees but decided to set up a proper brewery on the site in the 1830s.  The business was taken over by his son Thomas (born 1819) who was still running the brewery (pictured below) with his sons in the 1881 census, but died in 1886. The third generation, Thomas (born 1852) and Walter St John Fox (born 1855), took full control after their father’s death.

fox-1

Source here

By the mid 1860s they had three main beers – BB Bitter, which they sold at £2 a barrel, XL Pale Ale at £2.25, and East India Pale Ale for £2.50 cash price.   All had been “carefully brewed from malt of the finest quality and they are hopped with the best Kent growths.”  They delivered to most of the then rural suburbs of south east London – including Lee and Lewisham every Thursday.  By 1891 the Oak Brewery was attempting to mimic the Burton Pale Ales and treated the water with gypsum, quarried by the River Trent to try to do this.

By 1909 they had expanded their range of beer – the best known was Farnborough Ale (FA) – which they described as ‘bright, sparking and nutritious.’ They had almost 40 tied public houses and employed 110 workers in brewing, distribution as well as associated trades such as barrel making and a blacksmith.  The brewery was the centre of village life in Green Street Green, with around 30 tied cottages.

Early in the 20th century, the brothers may have been in some financial problems – they were certainly re-mortgaging some of the ‘tied houses’ in 1906.  The partnership was dissolved in 1907 and they decided to retire, putting the brewery put up for sale including its ‘tied houses.’ (2 – see cutting below).

fox-2

It was not a good time to sell – values in the brewing industry were falling sharply (3), the 1904 Licensing Act gave magistrates more powers to refuse licences, particularly if there were a number of pubs in the area, although the value of the smaller number licences was expected to increase (4).

The Oak Brewery was bought in June 1907 for £89,000 (5); but the new owners clearly struggled and there was a second auction in April 1908 (6), but with a ‘reserve’ of £60,000 it failed to attract any interest.  It was split into smaller lots in June 1909 (7 – see below) with other breweries buying up the tied houses.  As brewing stopped in July 1909, presumably there was a separate sale of the buildings which were put to a variety of other uses after 1909 including military uses in the First World War and a later a plastic factory. The buildings were demolished for housing in the 1960s.

fox-3

Notes

  1. The Times (London, England), Monday, Dec 10, 1894; pg. 10; Issue 34443.
  2. The Times (London, England), Saturday, May 18, 1907; pg. 20; Issue 38336.
  3. The Times (London, England), Saturday, Dec 28, 1907; pg. 13; Issue 38528.
  4. Ibid
  5. The Times (London, England), Saturday, Jun 19, 1909; pg. 15; Issue 38990.
  6. Ibid
  7. ibid

Census and related information comes from Find My Past

Kelly’s Directory data is from the Collection at Leicester University

 

 

 

Campshill House – Housing for the Victorian Elite & the Post War Working Classes

Campshill was one of the larger houses on Hither Green Lane – it was home for a few generations to some of the wealthy of Victorian society. It declined during the 20th century being demolished to make way for post-war council housing.  It was built in the mid-1820s after Henry Lee had leased the land from Trinity College and built Campshill House. Henry was a brick maker and lime merchant who had previously lived with his brother, Henry, at Ellerslie House, close to their works on Loampit Vale.

campshillh

The Lee family were to remain at Campshill (above – source eBay October 2016) until around 1858, after both Henry and his widow had died, the latter in 1849 (1).

One of the next inhabitants was James Allan who bought the House in 1861.  He was an Aberdonian, born in 1811, he had worked for a variety of Scottish shipping based employers before moving to London with one of these which was to become the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company, later the Peninsular and Oriental Company (P & O).  He was to become Secretary, then Managing Director in 1848 – a position he held until his death in 1874.

Allen’s career was described as

one of steady industry and intelligent supervision. Without marked energy either of intellect or of action, his progress was rendered sure by the wisdom of his judgments, which were singularly undisturbed by any emotion of interest or of temper, and by his amiability of character, which disarmed hostility.

While the area was predominantly rural in feel when Allan bought Campshill House – the map below was surveyed in the 1860s

Campshill1

The lease for the house was put up for sale in 1879, with an advertisement in The Times describing it as a ‘capital family residence’ (2)

Campshill2

The purchaser may have been a W. H. Smith who lived at the House in the 1880s and 1890s, he wasn’t connected to the eponymous booksellers; the son of the founder of the stationers lived in altogether more grand Grosvenor Place, but may have known Campshill’s W. H. Smith, as both were members of the London Library.

Campshill’s W. H. Smith seems to have owned a firm of Gibraltar based shipping agents, Smith Imossi and Co, which still is in existence.

In the early inter-war years the Campshill House, was home to a glass bottle merchant and then a garage.   By 1927 it was home to John Belmont Taylor; Taylor was a surveyor, he was in partnership with Horace William Langdon but their partnership was dissolved in 1927.  This was probably not a good move for Taylor – the quantity surveying firm he left behind was to become internationally successful; continuing today as Langdon & Seah.  Taylor seems to have become a small scale developer, with Henry Thomas Taylor, in Hayes (Kent) where the latter lived – buying land in Langley Way on the Hayes/West Wickham borders in 1929 and The Crescent, Hayes, in 1932 and 1933.  The name had changed to ‘Canada House’ by 1929 – the name is thought to refer to the billeting of Canadian troops at the House during World War 1.

It seems likely that Taylor was the last occupant of the House. The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945, shades the main house as a dark blue, one step better than ‘completely destroyed’ and outbuildings in purple, ‘damaged beyond repair.’  So it is of little surprise that the site was acquired by the local authority for early post war housebuilding.

Campshill3

In any case the area had changed since the time of the Allans and Lees; as outlined in the post on ‘Hocum Pocum Lane’ which skirted the edge of the estate, the former market gardening area around Eastdown Park had been developed from the 1870s and the arrival of a station at Hither Green junction in 1895 saw the rest of the area developed.  Victorian terraced houses and the early council housing of Romborough Way and Campshill Road surrounded it.

146 homes were built where there had been built where there had been one, on what was initially referred to as the Heather Green Estate (picture below (3)); the builder was A Roberts, a firm that seemed to specialise in medium sized public sector projects such as this.

Campshill4
The architect for the development was  M. H. Forward, who was Lewisham’s Borough Architect, a position he held at least until 1962/63 – when he was responsible for the rather out of keeping additions to the side of Sydenham Library. In the intervening period he started the redevelopment of the old Lewisham Town Hall site which was eventually completed by his successor in 1968.

The Heather Grove Estate was opened by the Lewisham MP, Herbert Morrison in 1948 – there is video footage of the opening with the then Deputy Prime Minister unveiling a commemoration stone and going inside the flats – sadly it isn’t publicly available.

While the new homes were built to a high standard, there were issues of affordability, something that has echoes in present new social housing, which have Orwellian ‘affordable’ rents.  It was noted by the Tory MP for Lewisham West, Henry Price in a Parliamentary debate in 1950

The rents here are 36/- (£1.80) a week, and for a four-bedroomed flat 39/- (£1.95) despite a subsidy of about 27/- (£1.35) per week. The result was that of the first 80 people to whom these flats were offered more than 40 had to refuse them because they could not afford to pay the rent. The flats had to be let to families a little lower down the list whose need was not so great but whose pockets were a little deeper.

image

Nothing remains of the former Campshill House, however, one feature escaped the post war wrecking ball – an obelisk remains on the grassed area to the east of what is now referred to as Benden House.  There is no inscription other than a date, 1721, but it is thought to be a memorial to an animal.  The date is a century earlier than the former house, so whether it was on the site before the House or was a family monument that was subsequently moved to the site by a previous occupant is unclear. The estate is now known as Monument Gardens.

 

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The Campshill name lives on the street behind and the latter ‘Canada’ appellation in the newer development fronting onto Hither Green Lane (visible in the top right photograph above).

Notes

  • 1 The Standard (London, England), Saturday, April 21, 1849; Issue 7703
  • 2 The Times (London, England), Saturday, Jul 05, 1879; pg. 18; Issue 29612
  • 3 Picture via ebay May 2016

Bullseye Cottage of Hither Green Lane

One of the stranger looking houses in Victorian Hither Green was Bullseye Cottage which stood on what is now the corner of Harvard Road and Hither Green Lane.  The Bullseye name came from its rather distinctive circular windows. It was latterly known as Japes Cottage after its final inhabitant, William Japes.

unknown artist; Jape's Cottage, Hither Green Lane

See note on painting at end

There is a surviving painting of the cottage by an unknown artist dates from around 1860 and is looking roughly south-west – Crystal Palace (and its adjacent water tower), moved to Anerley Hill in 1854 is visible across the largely open countryside.

William Japes was gardener at Laurel Cottage, see below (source), which was a large house around 200 metres further south along Hither Green Lane , almost opposite Mountsfield Close, between Lanier and Theodore Roads.

japes cottage3

Laurel Cottage dated back until at least the early 19th century, it was advertised for letting in 1835 (1), and described as a ‘detached‘ Gothic Villa’.  Great play was made of one of its previous occupants having been Sir John McMahon, who was ‘Keeper of the Privy Purse’ from 1812 until his death in 1817.  The ‘gardener’s cottage’ mentioned was presumably Bullseye Cottage.

japes cottage2

William Japes hailed from Cambridgeshire – seemingly from Willingham, a village mid-way between Cambridge and Huntingdon.  He married Louisa from Lewisham around 1832 so he must have moved to the area before then.  Whether he was already working at Laurel Cottage at that stage is unclear; the first reference to him at Bullseye Cottage was in the 1851 census – in addition to Louisa, the were five children living there, along with a visitor.

While the children moved on from Bullseye Cottage, William and Louisa seem to have remained – they were still as living on Hither Green Lane in 1871, although the house wasn’t given a name or number.  William was still listed as a gardener in the census (no mention of ‘retired’), although they had a couple of lodgers living there too.  Development was afoot though Harvard Road seems to have been laid out around 1871 (2).

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William died in Lewisham in 1874 and if Bullseye Cottage was still there at that stage, it seems that the cottage was demolished soon after to make way for the shop fronts now there.  As for Laurel Cottage, that survived around another 20 years or so until it too succumbed to urbanisation, Theodore Road dates from 1897 (3).  The shop fronts below are on its former site.

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Little can be found of Laurel Cottage’s occupants other than there was a steady flow of inhabitants noted by the deaths, marriages, auctions and servant advertisements reported in the press.  As late as 1883 there were some elements of farming going on from the land associated with the ‘cottage’ – the auction particulars included  an Alderney cow and several head of chicken (4).  The marriage of the younger daughter of a W J Seward warranted an advertisement in The Times in 1887 (5).

Laurel Cottage seems to have been renamed as The Laurels in the early 1890s; its last inhabitant was probably the then renowned mathematician William Burnside, an academic at the Royal Naval Cottage.

Notes

  1. The Morning Post (London, England), Wednesday, March 25, 1835; pg. [1]; Issue 20061
  2. Joan Read (1990) ‘Lewisham Street Names & Their Origins’, p26
  3. Ibid p54
  4. The Times (London, England), Friday, Mar 23, 1883; pg. 12; Issue 30775.
  5. The Times (London, England), Thursday, Oct 06, 1887; pg. 1; Issue 32196.

Picture Credit

The painting is owned by Lewisham Archives and made available on the Art UK website, reproduction is allowed for the non-commercial research purposes, such as this post.

The census and related data, other than where ‘linked’ comes from Find My Past.

 

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 

 

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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