There is a postcard that appears from time to time on Lewisham Facebook reminiscence groups and for sale on eBay of a small house set back from the road with the label Burnt Ash Hill. In the former locations, it often causes consternation as there are no obvious current or even recent landmarks. The house was Wood Cottage and this post seeks to tell at least some of its story, and more particularly the nurseries that it was linked to.
The cottage probably dates from the 1870s and was broadly where the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes now stands (pictured below) – midway between Lee Station and what is now the South Circular of St Mildred’s Road and Westhorne Avenue.
The origin of the name is unclear, although the most likley scenario is after one of the Wood family who farmed the neighbouring Horn Park Farm who may have farmed the land for a brief period in the 1860s.
The firm running the nursery for much of its life was Maller and Sons. It was set up by Benjamin Maller, a gardener who hailed from Surrey (Sussex in some censuses). Born in 1823, he was living with wife Mary and daughter Mary at Belmont Lodge in 1851 – which was attached to Belmont a large house on what is now Belmont Hill, where he was the gardener.
In the 1861 census, Maller had moved just down the hill and was listed at 5 Granville Terrace, later it was to have the address 61 Lewisham High Street. It is now part of the Lewisham police station site, but before that, became part of the Chiesmans empire. Maller was listed as a ‘Nurseryman employing two boys’ in the census. Long and Lazy Lewisham which is covering the history of the High Street, notes that he had been there, trading initially with Robert Miller for around 5 years.
The partnership with Miller was short lived as was another with George Fry which ended in 1860. The next decade saw a rapid expansion, the 1871 census suggests he was employing 31 men and 6 boys.
By 1881 they were listed in the census as being in Leyland Road – the numbering isn’t totally clear as the road was being developed and the house is just described as ‘The Nursery.’ This is pictured above (back middle), it was later numbered 72 and puts it now at the corner of Leyland Road and Alanthus Close. The nursery shown on an 1890s Ordnance Survey map. below, along with several other areas cultivated.
This would have been land leased from the Crown, part of the former Lee Green Farm (pictured below) which ceased operating in the1860s. While the exact geography of the farm isn’t completely clear – it seems to have been a narrow farm covering land to the east of what is now Burnt Ash Road and Hill from Lee Green to around Winn Road. Just a few hundred metres wide, it shrank rapidly as homes and shops were developed by John Pound following the arrival of the railway in Lee in 1866. Land was also temporarily lost to clay pits and brickworks just south of Lee Station and north of The Crown.
In 1881 Maller was listed as a nursery man with 30 acres employing 4 men 8 boys. The family included grown-up children Mary, Benjamin and Herbert – in the 1881 census at ‘the Nursery, Leyland Road’.
There had been of significant reduction in labour since 1871 – 31 men to just 4 over 10 years. This probably relates to the land they cultivated being rapidly lost to Victorian suburbanisation as streets like Dorville, Osberton and Leyland Roads were developed.
Benjamin died in 1884 but the business continued as B Maller and Son afterwards, with Benjamin Boden Maller in charge – living variously at 107 and 111 Burnt Ash Road (there was access to the site from Burnt Ash Road too) and 72 Leyland Road. Benjamin Boden Maller died in 1913 although his son, also Benjamin, continued for a while. However, in the 1939 Register he was listed as a Civil Servant living in Reigate.
So what did they grow? In 1879 an advert in the Kentish Mecury suggested the land cultivated from Wood Cottage (Burnt Ash Hill site) was for roses. The site around Leyland Road (listed as Burnt Ash Lane) was used for trees and and shrubs as well as having greenhouse plants and other plants that needed warmth – stove plants. While they cultivated Brockely Nursery they had moved from there as the Billinghursts (see below) were there by 1880 (1),
It seems that before the end of the century there was a change in focus with a lot of plants being grown for seed – they were regualrly advertising their illustrated seed catalogue to the gardeners of south east London and beyond (2).
In the early 20th century, they would also have auctions of surplus stock in September each year. The 1910 sale included 20,000 winter blooming heaths, gorse, winter aconites, ferns and palms (3).
The land that is now part of Alanthus Close seems to have remained with the Mallers until around the mid 1920s. On Burnt Ash Hill they will have added the land of the former brickworks less the frontage onto Burnt Ash Hill and a development next to The Crown centring on Corona Road. This will have been an extension of the land cultivated from Wood Cottage.
It seems that the land was split three n the mid to late 1920s when the Mallers left. There were different names at 107 Burnt Ash Road (May Scotland), 111 Burnt Ash Road (George Friend Billinghurst) and Norris Buttle at Wood Cottage.
May Clark Scotland was appropriately Scottish, born in Perth, she was running a florists at 111 Lewisham High Street by 1911, the name over the door was Alexander Scotland.
George Billinghurst was born around 1871 and seems to have spent his early years in Eliot Place in Blackheath, his father Friend Billinghurst was also a gardener. There is no obvious link to the more well known Blackheath Billinghurst family, which included disabled suffragette (Rosa) May. They seem to have cultivated Brockley Nursery for a while (4), after the Mallers moved out, but family moved on to Croydon. By 1891 George was listed as a gardener, a decade later a florist and by 1911 a nurseryman living in Annerley Road.
Norris Buttle was living at 172 Ennersdale Road in 1901 and at 31 Leahurst Road in 1911 (these were probably the same house as the Ennersdale originally dog-legged around) – he was listed as a gardener then nursery gardener.
With all three of them, details beyond 1911 proved difficult to work out. Certainly none of them were at 72 Leyland Road – it was empty in 1939 as were 8 out of 10 the houses of that end side of the street going southwards. It was a different picture going northwards.
The land sandwiched between Leyland and Burnt Ash gradually was encroached upon with development at the southern end of Leyland Road although there were memories of roses being grown until the early 1960s when many Crown Estate leases ended.
And finally, while no longer cultivated, there is a small piece of undeveloped land where the nursery was – the green space to the south of Alanthus Close. On some satellite images of the area in drought conditions show rectangles, probably the ghosts of greenhouses past – a little less clear than the prefabs around Hilly Fields.
Kentish Mercury 16 August 1879
Kentish Mercury 09 February 1894
Kentish Mercury 02 September 1910
Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 3 July 1880
Census and related data come from Find My Past (subscription required)
We’ll take the same approach to the narrative as we did in the first post, generally looking at shops eastwards from Lee Green.
2-4 Eltham Road
We had left this pair of shops as a grocer which was part of a south east London chain of around 15 branches – Webb and Ellen. They remained until around 1906 when number 2 was acquired by London and Provincial Bank – it straddled the corner of Burnt Ash and Eltham Roads and had addresses in both roads at various stages – it was covered in part on the post on Burnt Ash Road shops too. It seems likely that the building was partially rebuilt on the Burnt Ash Road side but on Eltham Road side, if any building work was undertaken it was done to match existing properties.
The Bank went through through two name changes in quick succession – firstly, in 1918 when it became the snappily titled London, Provincial and South Western Bank. following a merger with the London and South Western Bank. The latter also had a branch that we’ve already covered at the junction of Lee High and Brightfield Roads which was origianlly a temperance coffee tavern. Probably by the time the sign writers had finished the new title, it had become redundant as it was taken over by Barclays later in 1918. It seems to have stayed a Barclays branch until the parade was demolished in the 1960s.
Initially, 2 and 4 were let separately, in 1905, number 4 was an off licence run by John Lovibond & Sons. They were the owners of the Greenwich Brewery at 177 Greenwich High Road, almost next to the station, although it was a firm which originated in Somerset. In 1911 it was being run by Harry Beney who lived over the shop. It seems that they may have done a deal with Barclays in the early 1920s as around they moved from one side of the bank to 1a Burnt Ash Road around 1925, where they remained until that parade was demolished.
In its early days, the bank manager was Harry Kitto who lived over the bank; but from the late 1930s the rooms above the Bank were let out to solicitors Page, Moore and Page who remained there until around 1960, although there was no Moore towards the end. From around 1950 they were joined by accountants Levett and Co.
6 Eltham Road
We’d left number 6 with Frank Sanders running a bakers and confectioners; it had been in the same trade for at least 30 years and was to continue in that trade until the bulldozers moved in during the 1960s. Frank Sanders was from Hounslow and had arrived with his large family from Reigate. Given where his children were born, he may have been commuting from Reigate to start with, but by 1911 Frank, his wife Alice and 9 children were living above the shop.
The Sanders name continued until around 1935, when Frank presumably retired – he died in Lewisham in 1938. The new name over the window was Ernest John Hall, it was a surname that continue until the end of the parade. Little is known about him other than the marriage to Annie who seems to have taken over the busines around 1950. The Halls didn’t seem to live above the shop, in 1939 it was home to Frederick Dundas who worked as a fitter at RAF Kidbrooke, there with wife and probably 5 children, most were redacted though.
8 Eltham Road
Tanner and Hook had taken over the business in the early 1890s, they had one other shop at 287 Brockley Road. The ‘Tanner’ was Arthur Tanner was from Banbury in Oxfordshire, it was a family business with a sister and shop assistant living with his over the ‘Fancy Draper’s’ shop in 1911. Their shop from this era is at the right of the postcard below.
The name stayed on until around Arthur’s death in 1926 and then became a tobacconist which changed hands several times before Alan John Martin took over during World War 2. He was to stay until the end of the parade in although it wasn’t possible to find any more about him.
During the 1930s and during the war, it was a building that was home to several other businesses – a house agent run by Thomas Jones and a series of hairdressers. Part of the upper floors were also let as a flat in 1939. In the early 1960s Perry’s Restaurant was also there but it sems like a short-lived enterprise.
10 Eltham Road
The greengrocer and fruiterer which had been run by Walter William Wood of Horn Park Farm, since the 1890s continued into the 1930s, although run by Sydney after Walter’s death in 1924. They moved to 34 Eltham Road around 1935. The shop in Walter’s time is towards the right of the postcard above.
The shop became a butcher; initially the name over the window was Herbert J Jackman, but it may well have actually been run by John Dennis. Dennis had been living in Cambridge Drive since 1901 and seems to have come from the same part of Cornwall as the draper Charles Reed. Certainly, Dennis’ name was over the window in the early 1940s, presumably until his death in 1946. It remained a butcher until the end with the last name that of John Manson.
Like much of the rest of the parade, by 1939, the rooms above the shop were being let out – to a ship and house painter.
12 Eltham Road
We’d left number 12 in 1905 as a stationers and bookseller under the stewardship of Alfred Wilson. Wilson lived two doors away in Cambridge Drive from his parade next door neighbour, John Dennis. By 1911 though there were new names over the window, cousins (Percy) Jennings and (Stewart) Hill, they were aged 25 and 32 respectively – they lived above the shop. Also above the shop in 1911, but not for long, was solicitor Charles Henry Dodd, a firm that still exists in Blackheath – he was later to become Major of Lewisham on three occasions.
It was just Percy listed in Kelly’s in 1916, but he had left by the time the Directory was published. He had signed up with the London Regiment in November 1915. He never returned to Eltham Road – as he was killed in action in West Flanders on 23 January 1917. Percy’s sister, Lillian Jennings, seems to have run the the business after he enlisted in the army and it was her name over the window in 1920. Harold Tibbles took over the business which continued until the early 1930s when Reed’s expanded again.
18 Eltham Road
In 1905 18 Eltham Road was part of the Reed, soon to become Griffith, empire. John Grffith soon expanded into the shop fronts at the other side of Carston Mews and knocked through into the shops on Burnt Ash Road. They seem to have moved out of 18-26 Eltham Road around the beginning of the war and the empty shop, along with its neighbours, was requisitioned by the army.
The shop front seems to have remained empty until 1925 South East Premier Garage, Motor Engineers moved in, they may well have been using some of Carston Mews behind too. They’d gone by 1935 though, when Show Card Makers, Cut Out Press were there but they had gone by the time war broke out again when both shop and the floors above were empty.
The shop remained empty until around 1950 when Crystal Chemical Co (Lee Green) were there and the final years saw the shop front split between two odd bedfellows – Juno Fashionwear and coopers Robert Tyson.
20 Eltham Road
Like 18, 20 went from being part of the Reed ‘empire’ in 1905 to Griffith & Co., to empty, to being requisitioned by the army. It was to remain empty until around 1930 when it became home to a small manufacturing unit run by John Barber who was listed in Kelly’s as a Leather Goods Manufacturer. Like the garage at 18, this was a move away from the retail uses. As we’ll return to in a future post, history is repeating itself with some of the non-retail uses of the declining Leegate Centre.
John Barber would have been in his late 30s when he moved to the parade – he didn’t live over the shop – he was at 50 Effingham Road in 1939, with his wife Lilian. He seems to have come from a family who worked in the leather trade; born in Camberwell, his father was listed in various censuses as a leather cutter (1901) and harness maker (1911). It is a business that remained until the end of the parade in the early 1960s.
The floors above the shop seem to have been let briefly to a Wireless Supplies dealer around 1935, but had been turned over to unlinked flats in 1939 and presumably was the same in the years after.
22 Eltham Road
Prior to World War 1, this had always been part of the Reed empire, it had been one of the shops where they started. After the drapers moved along the road the shop was then requisitioned. The first retail use after World War One was around 1930 when Stanley Pooles opened a Grocer’s. He was gone by 1935 as Victor Webling was plying the same trade – he’d been around the area since around 1925 when he married Kathleen in Lewisham, they were living in Grove Park in 1939. Victor stayed until the end of the parade and remained in Lewisham until his death in 1978.
24 Eltham Road
Like the near neighbours, 24 remained empty after Griffith & Co moved out and the army moved in and then on – it was to stay this way until 1930. It was probably symptomatic of the decline of the area – which had gone from very large houses which were homes to single families with several servants to the houses becoming subdivided into flats – we saw this in the post on the houses that were on the Eltham Road frontage of what is now Leybridge Court, along with one the nearby St Peter’s Church. The wealth disappeared as the houses were subdivided.
Around 1930 Davis and Carter, who were wholesale stationers, moved into 24 – they were to be a feature on the parade until its demise. The rooms that once acted as a workers’ hostel for Reed’s were subdivided into four flats by 1939.
26 Eltham Road
This had been the last of the Reed/Griffith shops before they shuffled along the parade around the outbreak of World War 1. Like the others, it was requisitioned by the Army but emerged as another non-retail use by 1925 – Lee Green Temperance Billiard Hall. There were several such premises in south east London at this stage – the best known at the junction of Courthill Road and Lewisham High Street (which was later Riley’s).
The Billiard Hall was to last much longer than the decade of the temperance Jubilee Coffee Tavern a couple of hundred metre away at the corner of Lee High and Brightfield Roads. At the outbreak of World War 2, it was managed by Edward Fuller who lived above the green baize tables with his daughter, May. He survived World War 2 by a few days. It may have been a one-man operation as it was soon taken over by the British Legion (Lee Green) Club in whose stewardship the premises remained until the bulldozers moved in.
28 Eltham Road
We’d left 28 with the name of Charles Henry Lenn over the window of a shop selling china and glass. It had probably been there since the parade opened; Charles had died in 1898 but the business carried on in his name, in 1911 run by daughters Susannah, Emma and Caroline who were still living over the shop along with their sister in law Lilian. They moved on within a few years and the sisters were living in Somerset by 1921. The shop is on the left of the postcard below.
By 1916 there was a new name to the parade, although not to Lee Green. Frederick Lear had moved from 118 Lee Road where he’d been trading as an antique furniture dealer in 1911. He was born in 1859 and was from Cheltenham, his wife Laura from Jersey helped with the business. It was a business that they’d moved several times before it had been in Deptford in 1891 and Lewisham High Street in 1901. Frederick died soon after they moved in and the shop was empty in 1920.
Herbert Lindley was running a confectioner in 1925, one of a series of different trades he’d tried – it was different in every census. This one didn’t seem to last either as Walter J Mercer was running a café, referred to as ‘refreshment rooms’ in the 1930 Kelly’s. Mercer didn’t stay that long as by 1935 Robert Flett was there running what was still a café. His wife Alexandra was a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force driver, presumably based at Kidbrooke. Robert also was an agent for coach bookings. In a separate household above the shop were the retired Smiths.
We’d left Frederick Miller undertaking boot and shoe making duties on the parade in 1905, but he was living elsewhere – in Clarendon Road (now Rise) in the 1901 census. The name over the window stayed until around the outbreak of World War 1 when it had changed to Samuel Gilbert who continued with the same trade.
It may well be that like neighbouring properties it was requisitioned by the military – there was no business there in 1920. By the mid-1920s Rosie Coombs was running a milliner’s shop which remained the case for a decade, it was a property shared initially with auctioneer Thomas Jones (who moved to number 8) and then the hairdressers Miss A P Measures.
Around the time World War 2 broke out Vera Boore had taken over the milliner’s shop, she lived around the corner in Leyland Road. There was no obvious sign of bomb damage on the property, but it wasn’t a business that survived the war, maybe it was the rationing of clothes that saw the business close.
Another non-retail activity started in 1950 – a Christian Science Reading Room which remained until the demolition company moved in.
32 Eltham Road
In 1905 number 32 was an outpost of Griffith and Co. This had changed by1911 when it became a tobacconist turn by George Harry Buttler, he was there wife Sarah and daughter Ruby who was a shop assistant in the shop along with a young servant. Like 18 to 28, the shop is not listed as having a business in 1920 – it may well have been with the Army in those years.
For around a decade it was an extended part of Howard Perceval’s Outfitters (see 34) but by 1935 was a stationer run by Constance Tibbles – she’d given up by the time war broke out again though and was listed as a typist living in Blackheath in 1939. The supply of stationery had been taken over by David Evans who lived in the newly built Woodyates Road. It didn’t survive the war though.
The shop was empty for most of the rest of its history apart from a period when the Woods extended from 34.
34 Eltham Road
We’d left the shop and the nursery on the land next door in 1905 with both managed by James Walton. James had been there since at least 1871, probably a few years before. By this stage James was in his early 70s – whether the land became too much for hm isn’t clear but by 1911 the family business was trading around the corner at 7 Burnt Ash Road.
From 1911, the land and shop were split. The nursery was cultivated by Walter Wood from Horn Park Farm (immediately above) who also traded at 10 Eltham Road (see earlier in the post). The shop was an outfitter’s run by Howard Percival, little was able to be found out about him – although he is also listed as having a similar business from around 1915 close to Blackheath Station at 3 Lee Road and his wife (Mrs H) having a confectioner close to Lee Green at 129 Lee Road. He expanded into 32 by 1925 but had gone from the parade within the decade.
By 1935 the Woods had taken over 34 (having moved from number 10) – it isn’t clear whether the was still farming, the land for Horn Park Farm was rapidly being sold for housing development by the Crown – notably the Horn Park Lane area for private sector houses and the area around the original farm for council homes. Sydney was made bankrupt in 1935/36 but was still listed as a ‘farmer etc.’ in the 1939 Register, living at 3 Guibal Road. The farming may just have been the small holding at 34 – by 1948 it had lost the greenhouses that had been there in the Victorian period. The current location is the paved area of Leegate and the units behind.
There was expansion into 32 by 1950 and the shop and presumably the land seem to have been run by Sydney until around 1960, when he would have been 67. Walter Burvill took on the shop for is last few years.
It is clear that the parade struggled towards the end. Certainly, elsewhere in neighbouring streets such as Osberton and Leyland Roads, along with along Eltham Road itself, the Crown Estate was letting the 99 year leases granted in in the mid-1860s run down and the area seems to have become quite neglected.
Road traffic was increasing too and the shops only allowed for one row of traffic in each direction with a bus stop in front of Reeds – the current road layout with 3 lanes westwards barely copes with traffic volumes at times. Had they survived longer no doubt the parade would later have come under pressure from transport planners.
At some point in the not too distant future we will turn our attention to what came after – the development (and demise) of the Leegate Centre.
Notes & Credits
The ‘story’ of the parade in this and other posts has been pieced together using census data from 1871 and Kelly’s Directories, generally looking at every 5th year from the early 1880s
All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
The Kelly’s Directory data was accessed via Southwark and Lewisham Archives
The black and white postcards and photographs of the parade along with the painting of Horn PArk Farm are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright
Beating the bounds is an ancient tradition, reminding parishioners of the importance of boundaries which was carried out during Rogationtide—the fifth week after Easter. There would be a walking of the parish boundaries, with children would carrying willow which would be used to beat the boundary markers. The boundary markers might be stones, streams or marks on trees, or roads. Oddly, other than around Lee Green, roads seem to have been neglected in deciding the parish boundaries of Lee.
No willow will be harmed in the perambulation of Lee, the on-ground research for which appropriately started on Rogation Sunday. The variant of Lee that we will be metaphorically beating is the civil parish mapped with the second edition of the Ordnance Survey 6” to the mile series. It was was surveyed in 1893 and published a few years later, just before Lee was merged with Lewisham to form the new Borough of Lewisham in 1900.
Lee in 1893 was a long narrow parish, a width of just over a mile and a quarter at its broadest point between Lee Bridge at the western end of Lee High Road to just beyond Cambridge Drive’s junction with Eltham Road. It’s length was around 5 miles at its longest – Blackheath, just to the north of the railway, in the north, to Marvels Wood on the borders of Mottingham to the south. The boundary was around 14 miles long, although with the diversions made to avoid trespass and Hot Fuzz style demolition of garden fences the actual 21st century trip around the borders of late 19th century Lee is somewhat longer….
We start at Lee Green, one of the three original centres of Lee, along with Old Road and the top of Belmont Hill; it had the green that it’s name implies, along with a windmill and a farm. The boundary with Liberty of Kidbrooke was to the north east, beyond the Quaggy and with the Parish of Eltham in the north eastern quadrant of Lee Green and to the north of Eltham Road. In 1893, that quadrant included a previous incarnation of the New Tigers Head, then called the Tiger Tavern, the photograph below was taken around 1897.
The Old Tigers Head shown above was the 1896 variant; three years before, when the Ordnance Survey visited, it was the earlier building pictured below. It was about to be demolished with the pub briefly migrating a couple of doors down during the rebuilding.
On the Lee side, the farm, called Lee Green Farm, had been there in 1863 when the Ordnance Survey cartographers first mapped the area, but had been demolished soon after. The farm building had been relocated to the current site of Leybridge Court on the already built Leyland Road by 1893.
The boundary followed the centre of Eltham Road; in 1893 there was a boundary post more or less next to the easternmost leg of Ravens Way, presumably named after the Ravensbourne Athletic, whose buildings were incorporated into the post war development, but had not been developed in 1893. In the first incarnation of the Ordnance Survey map, the Lee Green Toll Gate (pictured below) would have been a few metres behind, a bus stop is located in its place now. Tolls were meant to cover the costs of maintaining the roads, but with the coming of the railways (1849 in Lewisham and Blackheath) income dropped and in 1888 the remaining Turnpike Trusts were wound up with responsibilities going to the local authorities.
The current, and indeed 1893 surveyed boundary, goes to the rear of the houses in Cambridge Drive, following the edge of the Old Colfeans playing fields. Cambridge Drive, originally Road, and the land bordering Eltham Road had been one of the first parcels of land sold from Horn Park Farm for housing by the Crown Estate. The 1890s and current variants of the boundary slightly diverge around Dorville Road, briefly, home to Edith Nesbit. The former border slightly cut across the playing fields, but was presumably revised to ensure that the cricketing boundaries weren’t crossed by administrative ones.
The boundary, now with Greenwich (in 1863 with Eltham), re-emerges on Upwood Road. Former municipal generations needed to make boundary stones or even marks on trees to indicate the edge of their territory. Their modern counterparts have more subtle methods – different shades of tarmac, wheelie bins of changed hues and my favourite here, the humble street light. Lewisham has energy efficient, 21st century LED lights whereas the Royal Borough has a cornucopia of types including some rather attractive Borough of Woolwich concrete ones which probably dates from the 1950s.
The 1893 and current variants again diverge at this point, the former boundary heading south east, the current one turning back westwards behind elegant interwar detached houses of Upwood Road. The divergence seems to have been after the move of Colfe’s, then a Grammar School, in 1963. The original had been in a site between Lewisham Hill and Granville Park in Lewisham.
It had been largely demolished by a V-1 flying bomb in 1944 – the site is pictured above, and until the 1960s used what are now Brindishe Green and Trinity Primary schools in Beacon and Leahurst Roads respectively. The new school would have stood astride the then Woolwich and Lewisham boundary, so the current variant hugs the railway line heading towards Mottingham from Lee.
The boundary crosses the South Circular close to Alnwick Road where a pleasant Green is situated. The 1893 flâneur would have found the last large farm of Lee at the southern edge of the green on what is now Horncastle Road. Running Past has already told the story of Horn Park Farm; but there was a cautionary tale that is worth repeating in relation to boundaries.
Magistrates at the Green Man in Blackheath had to decide on the case of whether Lee or Eltham parishes should pay for the care of a farm worker at the farm. The boundary passed through the centre of the house on the farm he lived in. In fact, his bed was actually on the boundary – the magistrates found in favour of Lee as the farm labourer would have put his feet on the Eltham side first.
The development of Horncastle Road seemed to follow field boundaries, which also marked the administrative border. There were a couple of stones in 1893 that have been replaced by rear garden fences. As we saw in a post on Corona Road, the Crown Estate, had sold off land alongside Burnt Ash Hill, initially used as a brick works used by John Pound and then developed by William Winn. Almost all of Winn’s development has been lost to the Blitz and post war redevelopment.
The 1893 boundary bisected a tennis club within the development, but seems to have been adjusted soon after as there are a trio of very weathered 1903 boundary markers marking the current border between Lewisham and Greenwich on Corona Road at its junction with Guibal Road, on Guibal Road itself and at the junction of Guibal and Winn Roads.
While the derivation of Winn and Corona Road is clear, developer and relating to the Crown, Guibal isn’t immediately obvious. It isn’t a family name of either William Winn or his wife and the only obvious mentions in the press at the time relate to the development of a centrifugal mining fan by a French engineer, Théophile Guibal in 1872. It is not an obvious connection to an area with no mining heritage.
In the next post on ‘beating the bounds’ we will look at the boundary from Winn Road southwards towards Grove Park.
The Ordnance Survey map is on a non-commercial licence from the National Library of Scotland, other maps from the same source have been referred to for the post;
The photographs of Lee Green and the Lee Green Toll Gate are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, remain their copyright and are used with their permission;
The photograph of the earlier version of the Old Tigers Head is from an information board at Lee Green; and
This, and the series of posts on the Lee boundary that will follow, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.
Horn Park Farm, like Lee Green Farm, was owned by the Crown and in 1838 it consisted of around 221 acres of a mixture of arable and pasture. It seems to have stretched from around Winn Avenue to Eltham Road and probably further northwards to the Quaggy – certainly the land what is now Courtlands Avenue was orginally part of the Crown Estate. At the Winn Avenue end it bordered College Farm, and from around 1914 Melrose Farm (sometimes known as Woodman’s Farm), a largely market gardening enterprise that was probably carved out of Horn Park Farm. .
An area nearly twice the size, 345 acres, known then as West Horne, had been enclosed in the 15th century and was one of three parks that belonged to Eltham Palace. The Royal family stopped using the Palace early in the reign of Charles I and the Palace was badly damaged during the Civil War and the Commonwealth – John Evelyn noting in 1658 that “both the palace and chapel (were) in miserable ruins, the noble wood and park destroyed by Rich the rebel (Nathaniel Rich)”.
The first subsequent on-line mention was in relation to a dispute in 1816 between the Lee and Eltham parishes in relation to the boundary between the two, it oddly went through the bed of the ill farm worker who was claiming poor relief. He got out of bed on the Eltham side so they ended up paying. The farmer at that stage was a Richard Stames.
While Morris seems to have lived at Lee Green Farm, there were farm buildings at Horn Park marked from the earliest Ordnance Survey Maps up until the 1930s when the area was developed as Horn Park estate, a development not completed until the 1950s due to the intervention of WW2. The farm is pictured above (see credits below).
Maps source – Ordnance Survey 6″ via National Library of Scotland – surveys from 1862, 1930 and 1938.
The farm buildings were roughly where the grassed area on Alnwick Road, opposite Horncastle Road – close to where Westhorne Avenue now is.
The next significant tenants were the Wood family who seem to have moved to Horn Park in the 1880s, presumably after the bankruptcy proceedings of Blenkiron. The first tenant would have been Walter William Wood – his son Walter Thomas Wood was born there in 1888.
The farming changed under the Woods – while it was predominantly grazing under both Morris and Blenkiron – cows and horses respectively, by 1912 the farm was described as having ‘well cultivated fields.’ (5). There were also orchards at the southern end of the farm – clear on the later Ordnance Survey maps above.
The Woods seem to have moved the farm towards market gardening – certainly they were advertising for a ‘man well up in growing tomatoes, cucumbers and mushrooms for market’ in 1895
They also grew flowers for the market too – there was a court case involving theft of lilacs the same year in the short-lived Blackheath Gazette . They later diversified into growing bulbs, they were subject to legal action (6) at Greenwich County Court in 1920 relating to a dispute with a Dutch firm of bulb sellers, which they lost.
They sold produce locally too, opening a shop at what was latterly referred to as 10 Eltham Road at Lee Green around 1896. The location of the shop changed to 34 Eltham Road in the early 1930s. This was next to another bit of land, on the corner of Leyland and Eltham Roads which they had greenhouses on – its now the Leegate ‘piazza.’
The shop seems to have been run by a cousin of Walter’s Arthur Russell who lived at the farm in both the 1901 and 1911 censuses.
Walter senior died at the farm in 1924 and Walter Thomas died in 1929 in Bromley, it is not clear whether he was still on the farm at that point – he was certainly there in the 1901 and 1911 censuses though. The younger son Sidney, born in 1892, stayed on after the deaths of his father and brother. He married Audrey in 1920.
Sidney was made bankrupt in 1935 – possibly as a result of the shrinking size of the farm, the land around the farm house had been lost to the Horn Park Estate but development of private sector housing on roads like Horn Park Lane and Upwood Raod will have seen the acreage dwindle too.
Despite the bankrupcy, Sidney was still listed as a ‘Farmer etc.’ in the 1939 Register, living at what was clearly not a farm house – 3 Guibal Road. There was a logic in living at 3 Guibal Road – it provided access to some orchards and a couple of fields which were the last remnants of the farm.
The open fields descent down the hill towards Mottingham Lane and the Quaggy – they were later to become the park Horn Park. The orchards to the north were used by local children for camps and tree climbing. to become part of the council housing on the redeveloped council housing with the children scattering on the sight of Mr Wood (7)
The shop though continued though until the 1950s, the orchard and fields may have lasted into the 1960s when the prefabs were replaced by permanent housing over a wider areas and the fields became the park Horn Park.
The couple stayed in Lewisham after the break-up of the farm around the outbreak of World War 2. Audrey died in 1968 and Sidney ten years later.
The Farm was home to a number of sporting events – this included many of the fields that the horses and riders of the Lee Races would have galloped through in the 1830s. In 1914 it was home to the annual Lewisham Horse Show.
There was at least one illegal prize fight between Emmanuel Bilby and Jeremiah McCarthy, both of Deptford which was spotted by a local constable who followed crowds there in early 1899. It isn’t clear whether the fight was with the Wood’s sanction or not.
Finally, one of the early ‘losses’ of land was what is now the Old Colfeans sports ground – the Old Alleynians played rugby there for at least a season around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, and it seems to have been used for sport ever since. It was sold to the Leathersellers Company as Trustees for Colfes School, then a Grammar School sometime after 1929. The current site of the school was also part of the farm.
Notes & Credits
Census and related data comes from Find My Past (subscription required)
Information about the shop comes from Kelly’s Directories, accessed via Lewisham and Southwark Archives
The picture of the farm is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission but remains their copyright – the date, the artist and period it depicts isn’t clear though
This post was written in early 2016 but was substantially updated in February 2022
This was originally sourced via an on-line book called London South of the Thames – the link was broken in early 2022 though
Again this was a link that was broken by 2022 – it was to an online version of Gardeners’ Chroncile from 1920
Many thanks to Susan McCarthy for her memories about this