Tag Archives: Hither Green

Ardmere Road – A Portrait of What Was Once Hither Green’s Poorest Street (Part 1)

Ardmere Road in Hither Green is a quiet residential street of smaller Victorian terraced houses with some post Second World War bomb damage replacement homes; it is older than the homes to the south and predates the arrival of the station by around 15 years.

It was unusual in the area in that when Charles Booth’s researcher Ernest Alves included it on his 1899 walk which was mapping poverty in late Victorian London it was coloured ‘dark blue’, one up from the lowest class.  He described Ardmere Road as

 One of the fuller streets, shoddy building, two families the rule.

Charles Booth conducted an ‘Inquiry into Life and Labour in London’ between 1886 and 1903 – for much of the city he produced wonderfully detailed maps coloured on the basis of income and the social class of its inhabitants.  His assessment was based on walks carried out either himself or through a team of social investigators, like Alves, often with clergymen or the police, listening, observing what he saw and talking to people he met on the road.  The observations were part of a longer walk by Ernest Alves that took in much of the Corbett estate which was being built.  The extract of the map below is  available from London School of Economics as a Creative Commons.

Hither Green had been just a series of large houses along what is now Hither Green Lane and North Park Farm when the railway navvies carved the route through the area in the 1860s. There were little bits of development around the edges of the area in the next decade – with roads like Courthill Road emerging. The houses in Ardmere Road, along with the those in the neighbouring Maythorne Cottages were much smaller though and were built before the school in Beacon Road – the site for which was bought in 1881 (1)

So was Alves right about the street? The 1901 census was carried out a couple of years after Alves visited Hither Green, so the street was unlikely to have changed that much.  The census showed two households in each house were the just the majority, in 16/30 houses – with an average of 7.8 people living in the small three bedroom houses – the highest being 12.  There were a couple of shops – a grocer at 18 and an off-licence beer shop at 17.

All were manual labourers except for the Police Constable at 9, and you could probably make the case for PC Davies being a manual worker too.  A disproportionate number of the men worked in the building trade – some of these will have worked for Cameron Corbett’s contractors in the development of the Corbett Estate.  While Corbett initially rented out some of the smaller houses on his estate to building workers – notably in Sandhurst Road – this probably wasn’t sufficient.

A lot of the women worked – 8 were laundresses taking in washing for the wealthier households in the streets around – although some may have worked at laundries; there were a trio of charwomen and a couple of dressmakers.

In the early years of the street rent levels were low – around five years after they were built they were being offered for rent as ‘seven roomed houses, in good locality, bay windows, forecourt, rent 7s per week’ – that’s 35p for those without pre-decimal knowledge (2).

Rent levels seem to have slightly reduced in the next decade – 21-32 were sold in 1894 as the owner was bankrupt – a couple of hundred properties across London were sold at the same time. The advertised rent level at Ardmere Road would have averaged 31p a week (3).

A decade later, when there were further sales, rents had gone up significantly – at 21, 22 and 23 they were 9/- (45p), 8/6d and 9/- respectively.  Whereas at 4 and 5 they were more expensive at 10/-. A few hundred metres away on similar sized houses on Ennersdale Road houses were offered at 13/- a week (4). The rent increases  probably related to the opening of the station at Hither Green.  21 – 23 were sold again in 1907 – rents hadn’t changed though (5).

The tenanted value of the houses was around £140 – based on the sale of an unspecified pair of properties in 1908 (6).   The trio of 21-23 Ardmere Road homes was again sold just before the outbreak of World War 1 – rent levels had declined slightly to 8/6d. The freeholds of most of the street were sold at the same time (7).

Perhaps part of the reason for the frequent changing of hands were difficulties in collecting the rent. There was a case of claim and counterclaim at the Police Court in 1897. One of the tenants was alleged to have assaulted the rent collector by hitting him with a chair. The rent collector, who described himself a clergyman of the Church of England, was witnessed to having used language and behaviour that would not been heard coming from the pulpit – calling the tenant a ‘dirty cow’ and then attempting to strangle her after she only offered him 10/- towards rent (and presumably arrears). Both cases thrown out by the Police Court (8).

There was lots of low level crime relating to the street – the O’Connor brothers at 30 appeared several times in court. Hugh was described as a ‘bad lad’ after stealing a ‘whip from a trap’ in Ardmere Road in 1890 (9). He was again in court in 1894 after stealing tinned fruit from a shop on Ennersdale Road (10); younger brother Michael was convicted of stealing from orchard in Nightingale Grove and was remanded for a week the following year (11).

There were a couple of dozen similar reports of theft in the local press between the early 1880s and the outbreak of the Great War. While not attempting to excuse them, most seem to have been born out of the grinding poverty that seems to have existed on the street. A laundress at 23 was remanded for pawning various clothes which belonged to a resident of the nearby, wealthy College Park estate (12).

There were thefts of a marrow in 1886 (13) and milk in 1887 (14), and several occasions of stealing lead piping including from empty houses on the street which belonged to the Finsbury Building Society the same year (15).

There were, of course, alcohol related convictions too, the father and son Lustys, from 21 were together charged with being drunk and disorderly in 1887 (16).

 

There was an off-licence at 17 run initially by Lewis White, who held the licence from 1879 to 1897. He was also a ‘General Dealer’ and had several brushes with the law, including allowing purchasers to drink outside the off-licence in 1884 (17). He was charged with selling alcohol outside permitted hours in early 1887 (18).

The last event seems have led to the bench refusing to grant him a new licence, so in the end it was transferred to William Barrett (19).  Barrett seems to have tried to extend to 18 in 1898 and obtain a full beer house licence, unsuccessfully on this occasion (20).  Oddly the Ordnance Survey, incorrectly  showed the 17 as a public house when surveyed in the 1890s.  Perhaps that’s how William Barrett’s tenure there appeared to the cartographers, it wasn’t though what the magistrates had approved though! (21)

We will leave Ardmere Road early in the 20th century, we will return in a week or two to look at changes to the street since then.

Notes

  1. 29 October 1881 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  2. 26 September 1884 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  3. 27 October 1894 – South London Press – London, London, England
  4. 13 May 1904 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  5. 17 May 1907 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  6. 20 November 1908 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  7. 07 March 1914 – Middlesex Chronicle – London, London, England
  8. 28 August 1897 – South London Press – London, London, England
  9. 26 September 1890 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  10. 20 April 1894 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  11. 30 August 1895 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  12. 6 October 1880 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  13. 08 October 1886 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  14. 16 December 1887 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  15. 18 February 1887 – Kentish Mercury – London, London, England
  16. 25 March 1887 – Kentish Mercury – London
  17. 06 September 1884 – Kentish Independent – London, London, England
  18. 14 January 1887 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  19. 01 October 1897 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  20. 09 September 1898 – Woolwich Gazette – London, London, England
  21. On a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland

Charles Booth’s map is  available from London School of Economics as a Creative Commons.

Notes re FMD

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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

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.

 

The Fernbrook Road Doodlebug Attack

In Fernbrook Road, opposite the railway embankment for platform 6 at Hither Green station, there is a row of bungalows which were built by Lewisham Borough Council sometime after the Second World War.  They look slightly out of place in an area of Victorian terraces, like lots of other small sites in south east London – they were not there because of any defect of the original properties but because of bomb or rocket damage. Fernbrook Road was hit by a V-1 rocket, better known as a Doodlebug, on 23 June 1944 – which destroyed several houses and caused serious damage to others.

V-1 attacks had started on 13 June 1944 – a week after the D Day landings – and were to go on until October 1944 when the last V-1 site in range of Britain was captured, although there were a small number of later air launched attacks.

As was noted in a post a couple of years ago on the attack on Lewisham town centre, there appear to have been some attempts to use double agents to persuade the Germans that the V-1s were over-shooting their targets and landing to the north west of London, this may explain the reasons for the volume of V-1 rockets that hit South London. The old boroughs of Croydon (171), Wandsworth (122), Lewisham (115) and Woolwich (77) were the 4 locations hit the most. The Cities of London and Westminster only received 17 and 29 attacks respectively.

The V-1 exploded on impact and a blast wave rippled out from the impact point, effectively creating a vacuum in the centre – the combined impact was to both push and pull buildings leading to large numbers of collapses.  The Impact was often spread over quite a wide area with total destruction in the centre with much less damage on the outside.

Key: black=total destruction, purple=damaged beyond repair, dark red=seriously damaged (doubt if repairable), light red=seriously damaged (repairable at cost), orange=general blast damage (non-structural), yellow=blast damage (minor), green=clearance area

The map above (1) shows the damage surveyed by the London County Council, the circle to the north east of the railway shows the location of the Fernbrook Road V-1 (the adjacent one, in Nightingale Grove will be covered in a later post).  The terrace of homes it hit was probably built by W J Scudamore and Sons – certainly the houses either side of those destroyed have the same square bays and details to others locally.

The extent of the devastation is clear – destroying or damaging beyond repair the immediate area but causing significant damage to the shops on Staplehurst Road and the houses behind, on Leahurst Road, along with some blast damage to the Station Hotel.  Not showing on the map, there was also some damage to the Dartford Loop line (2).

There were 22 injuries (3) and two deaths in the attack on Fernbrook Road – Marjorie Annie Lewis and her father, George Samuel Atkins at 22 Fernbrook Road.  Marjorie was 29 and listed as a Clerk in the 1939 Register, George was a Butchers Office Manager in 1939.  George would have been survived by his wife Lily – a Lily Atkins of the right age remained in Lewisham until her death in 1959.

Marjorie had married Francis Lewis who was a Railway Porter after war broke out.  Francis was living further down Fernbrook Road at 64a in 1939 with his parents and sister.   It isn’t clear whether Francis had moved into 22 after their marriage or Marjorie was just visiting her parents at the time of the attack.

They weren’t the only World War Two civilian deaths in Fernbrook Road – Joyce Jones of 100 was to die a month later at Lewisham Hospital probably a victim of a later V-1 which hit there on 26 July 1944 and Henry Munyard from 106 who died in an attack on the London Power Station, along with eight of his work mates on 11 July 1944.

The Blitz, the ‘Dooblebugs’ and the later V2 rocket attacks had destroyed thousands of homes in south east London, leaving considerable numbers homeless. One of the responses was the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act 1944, which planned to deliver 300,000 prefabricated homes over 10 years, within a budget of £150 million. The temporary homes were designed to be quickly put up and last 10 years while more permanent solutions were found. Only half of that number was ever delivered due to a combination of costs being greater than expected and higher than traditional brick homes, and public expenditure cuts after 1947.

The old Borough of Lewisham put up 1,610 prefabs by 1948 and a further 1,088 by 1955. Many went up on parks and open spaces  – the most obvious location for this was on the edge of Forster Memorial Park, the Excalibur Estate (see picture above – taken in 2014), which Running Past covered in one its earliest posts; but there were there were several dozen around the edge of Hillyfields, where they remained until the 1960s, along with several locations on Blackheath (source Britain from Above on a Creative Commons).

Many bombsites were cleared too, including on Boone Street in Lee.  Fernbrook Road was another of these sites – the 1949 OS map (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland) shows them marked.

fernhurst Prefabs

One of the families who lived in the five prefabs in Fernbrook Road was the Beech family, they had lived there before the V-1 rocket attack.   The attack was recalled by Margaret (see comments below) who had been evacuated to Wales the week before the attack.  Her mother and older sister were in a Morrison shelter when the rocket hit three doors away and miraculously they survived.  They moved to relatives in Mottingham for the remainder of the war, returning to Fernbrook Road when the prefabs were built.

Unlike the prefabs of Excalibur, those in Fernbrook Road were relatively quickly replaced with bungalows, and a couple of houses at the southern end, probably in the late 1950s with a pair of semis at the far end of the new bungalows.

Notes

  1. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 – permission has been given by the copyright owners of the map, the London Metropolitan Archives to use the image here
  2. Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: the Forgotten Hamlet : Including the Corbett Estate’ p64
  3. ibid

The marriage and 1939 Register data comes via Find My Past, the details of the deaths are via the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Butcher, the Baker and the Disney Store – Shopping on Staplehurst Road

The shops on Staplehurst Road have served the Hither Green community to the east of the railway line for well over a hundred years, and, no doubt, some now even venture under the tracks from the west too (it was harder with the pre-1970s layout of the station).  Their dates are there to see, if you look up, in a couple of places.

image

The numbering wasn’t always the same – the 11-17 was Station Parade (sign still there) and 19-37 was King’s Parade – these were the first to be let being mentioned in the 1907 Kelly’s Directory; Market Parade (2 to 12) gets its first mention in the 1908 edition, with Grand Parade (the Station Hotel plus the shops at 24 to 28) making its first appearance in 1911 (there were no Directories available on-line for 1909 and 1910).

image

The 1911 edition (on a creative commons from the University of Leicester) is below

staplehurst2

In the early years, while some of the names on the shops changed, the businesses remained similar with some moving around in the street.  They were small shops specialising in one sort of produce – butchers, greengrocers, bootmakers, grocers, tobacconists and the like.

By the 1939 Register, while few of the original traders remained, little had changed in terms of the types of shop.  There are some gaps as the Register only captured those who were living above the shops and several – particularly 11-17 – aren’t recorded.  The changes become more apparent when we fast forward to 2017, most of the specialist food shops have gone – replaced by more generalist off licences and convenience shops along with, the more recent developments such as IT, mini cabs and betting (which was only allowed on the high street after a change in the law in 1961).

staplehurst

Some of the stories of the early shopkeepers are worth telling  – Henry Edwards (sometimes spelled Edwardes) ran a pharmacy at number two (now Nisa) for much of the street’s early existence.  He was born in Egypt to British parents  and seems to have stayed in the then Middle Eastern colonies.  He moved to Catford in the latter half of the 1890s and was a mineral water manufacturer in the 1901 census.  He was almost certainly the first tenant of 1 Market Place, and stayed there until at least 1919 expanding into number 4 when a watch repairer moved out around 1918. The family had moved on by 1921 though – Henry was living in Fulham when he died that year.  Number 4 briefly had a resident who was later to become well known – Edith Summerskill, a left wing Labour MP for Fulham West, briefly lived there for a year or so from 1914 with her father who used the shop front as a surgery.

image

Lucy Goericke’s grocers shop was another relatively long standing business on the street – she started around 1911 at number 6 (now part of Nisa) moving on to 28 (now Bill’s Barbers) by 1914.  She came from Canvey Island and had married Karl Otto in early 1899 in Hackney with their daughter, Ethel being born later in the year.

She had certainly moved before the Second World War as she was listed on electoral registers in Bexley from 1938.  However, as the 1939 register only covered who was living at properties and there was no record for 28 Staplehurst Road she may have been still running the grocer’s shop there.  She died in April 1958, by which time she had moved to Ealing, and was described as a widow. Her daughter had died seven years before in Lambeth.

What happened to Karl is unclear, there is no mention of him in Britain after the 1911 census.  In the early part of the First World War, many German men were deported and German businesses attacked – Running Past has covered this in relation to Deptford, but there were also disturbances at Lee Green and Catford.  Oddly a Karl Ludwig Otto Goericke of the right age and Lucy Goericke were listed as missing persons in Australia in 1915.

Laban Nash was a relatively old man when he came to Hither Green around 1907 – born in 1843 in Norfolk he had worked as a labourer (1881) and then a Covent Garden porter (1891 and 1901) – he and his wife Elizabeth would have been well into their 60s when taking on the tenancy of 7 King’s Parade (now Body Silk Clinic) when the shops opened, moving on to 2 Grand Parade (now Coral’s) in 1911.  Laban lived until 1923, it is not clear whether Elizabeth outlived him or not.

Their next door neighbours, the Strouds, were poulterers and fishmongers – they hailed from Kent, the father, Albert, probably started the business – Stroud and Sons – but by the time the census enumerators called in 1911, Frederick Arthur Stroud, aged 24 was running the business.  While Frederick seems to have lived until 1964, it is not clear how long the fishmongers business lasted.  There were people living ‘above the shop’ in 1939, but they were unrelated to the business.  The shop is currently vacant.

William Gardiner was one of the early traders, setting up a butcher’s shop around 1907 – he was from Whitchurch in Hertfordshire, he married Ethel from Gravesend in 1908 – initially at 2 Kings Parade (vacant but may become Park Fever beer and chocolate retailer through crowd funding ) before moving to take over a shop vacated by another butcher at 10.

There were two long lived family businesses next door to each other.  George Jones, a grocer had moved into 31 (now Body Silk) around 1914   – in 1901 he had been managing a similar business in Hastings, although originated from Northop in Flintshire.  In 1939 there were three children living above the shop – Doris, an unemployed piano teacher, Hilda who was probably caring for her disabled mother (Kate) with Claude (24) who was assisting his father (67) in the shop.  The relatively common name meant that finding out anything further about the family proved difficult.

image

Next door to them at 29 (now Quick Shopping) for many years were the Darvills (not to be confused with the unrelated Darvell & Son at 19 – now home of DJ’s Cars – see above, source eBay Summer 2016).  The Darvills were a newsagents, tobacconist and stationers across several generations from 1908 until at least 1939, initially at 23 (Station Café) before moving to 29.  John was from Spitalfields and his wife Emily who was from Westminster.  In 1911 they were at Kings Parade with their three children, Kathleen, Gertrude and John along with Emily’s widowed sister, Agnes.  John Senior died in 1922, but the rest were still there in 1939, although Emily was to die before the war was out with Agnes passing away in the early 1950s.

John Jnr married Doris Freshwater, a ‘tailoress’ (1939 Register) who lived in Ennersdale Road and perhaps popped into the shop on way to station in (late) 1939, like the rest of his family, he  stayed in SE London or north west Kent (Kathleen) until their deaths.

Kathleen and Gertrud never married and it is possible that they kept the shop going beyond the end of the war.  One day I will try to do some more work on this at the Lewisham archives, but if anyone knows …..

image

And finally …… as for the Disney store, Staplehurst Road cannot claim to have had an official outlet selling merchandise relating to Buzz Lightyear, Cinderella or Frozen – the Disney store was at number 37 (now Stanford’s Estate Agents) and predated Mickey Mouse by a decade – it was a drapers run by a Miss E H Disney.  She arrived on the street in 1917 and was still there in 1919 – but was gone by 1939, sadly nothing definitive is known about her.  The shop had been a drapers or hosiers since the first Kelly’s Directory reference. By 1939, while Mickey Mouse may have been well known to the cinema going public, the Disney shop was no more – the Post Office had moved from 19 to 37, a location it was to keep until at least the Millennium.

Notes

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past

Kelly’s Post Office Directory data from University of Leicester 

Hither Green’s Lost Globe Cinema

On Staplehurst Road, to the north east of Hither Green station, and now part of the Old Biscuit Factory development, is a rather elegant building next to the shops.  Over the years it has been put to a variety of uses, but originally it was a cinema, as the OS 25” Map, surveyed in 1914 shows.Globe.3

The Globe Cinema opened on 27th November 1913 with a capacity of around 700 and included features that audiences had come to expect of the cinema – tip up seats and a sloping auditorium (1). It was one of a quartet of cinemas that spring up in Hither Green and Lee in the late Edwardian period, perhaps the golden age for the growth of the cinema.  The others were the Park Cinema, on the corner of George Lane and Hither Green Lane, and a pair on Lee High Road – the Imperial Picture Palace near Lee Green, and the Lee Picture Palace on the corner of Bankwell Road – Running Past covered the last of these a while ago, and will no doubt ‘visit’ the others at some stage.

image

The proprietor was Ethel Mary Smith; she was the landlord of The Green Man Hotel (see picture below) on Blackheath Hill.  She was originally from Seaford in Sussex and was married to Charles Smith who was a Bermondsey ‘boy’ and was an insurance agent – he seems to have been the Managing Director of the firm behind the cinema (2).  The earliest reference to Ethel at The Green Man was in both the 1911 Kelly’s Directory and the census of the same year.  The 1914 Kelly’s had her still there but she had moved on by 1917.  What happened to her after that is unclear, if only she had had a less common name ….

Source - ebay March 2016

Source – ebay March 2016

Presumably the Smiths felt that a cinema was a logical extension of the existing trade at The Green Man and the new inhabitants of Hither Green would want to come to the pictures.  Whether it was competition from the other cinemas, poor bills or poor management, the cinema clearly struggled from the outset – it was put up for sale and temporarily closed on 16th February 1914, only 10 weeks after opening. It was sold at auction in April 1914 for £2,500 (3).

Globe2

 

The cinema re-opened on 23rd April 1914 as the Playhouse, opening with the 1913 film Spartacus (source for poster here)

 

The licencing authority, the London County Council, clearly had concerns about the cinema; probably centering around fire safety and refused to grant another when the licence expired at the end of May 1915.  While the Playhouse struggled for another few weeks, using non-flammable films, the request for another licence was refused and it closed around 19th July 1915. There were further unsuccessful attempts after the closure to get a new licence, the final attempt being in February 1916.

After closure, the cinema was taken over by what was to become Chiltonian Biscuits who seem to have already been on the site in the buildings behind the cinema (see the map above); this has already been covered by Running Past in one of the very earliest posts on the blog.

Globe1

Photograph by David Simpson – made available on creative commons

The auditorium is no more; it was demolished as part of the development of the Old Biscuit Factory although is visible in the photograph above just before the building work started, however the front of the building remains.  It is currently vacant – the original intention was to create a restaurant after it had finish being used as the sales base for the site. There was a convoluted, but ultimately successful attempt to change the use to a mixture of residential on the first floor and retail on the ground – but as of July 2016 it still appears vacant.

Notes

  1. Ken George (1987) ’Two Sixpennies Please – Lewisham’s Early Cinemas’ p40
  2. Ibid
  3. ibid

Census and related data are from Find My Past; and the Kelly’s Directory information via the University of Leicester.