Tag Archives: Kidbrooke

Well Hall Stream – A Tributary of the Quaggy, Part 2

Last week we left Well Hall Stream in slight suspense – just outside Well Hall Pleasaunce. The public park dates from the 1930s when William Barefoot, persuaded Woolwich Borough Council to buy the current Pleasaunce. The centrepiece of the park is the Tudor Barn, which despite its name dates from the early 17th century, although previous moated buildings on the site can be traced back to 1253.

Running Past has visited the Pleasaunce before, when tracing the homes of E Nesbit in Lewisham and Eltham. She lived there between 1899 and 1920 at Red House, which was demolished when the Pleasaunce was created.

The gardens were designed by the Borough Engineers, J Sutcliffe and H W Tee, the former gave his name to Sutcliffe Park, a little further downstream.

Well Hall Stream seems to enter via the moat, or originally did – possibly along with smaller streams from the North and North East – older Ordnance Survey maps seem to suggest this. There is a small trickle coming in from the right direction (in the bottom left picture below), whether it is the remnants of the Stream is unclear though.

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There is a clear direction of flow for the Stream away from the moat – but there is no running water in it, perhaps it flows in really wet conditions, only little bits of dampness were visible.

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The course of the stream would then have been more or less westwards, skirting the edge of playing fields before being crossed by the A2 and railway in quick succession. The original route would have then taken it through some neglected woodland sandwiched between the railway and Horsfeld Road – amidst the detritus, a ditch is visible, but dry.

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The Stream would have crossed the South Circular and then meandered through the Eltham Green estate, there are hints of a course with a slight dip near the junction of Pinnell and Shawbrook Roads. It probably crossed Eltham Green Road near Messant Road before joining the Quaggy in Sucliffe Park. There is no current evidence of an confluence, the stream probably having been diverted a century ago.

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Ken White (1) suggests that there was another small tributary of the Quaggy in this area – Eltham Green Ditch. Certainly there was a stream around Eltham Green which is clear from Victorian Ordnance Survey maps. However, my reading of the OS map surveyed in the mid 1860s (see below) is that it seems more likely to have been a partial diversion, a distributary, of the Well Hall Stream as it exits Well Hall, which then joined the Quaggy close to Eltham Bridge, just before entering Sutcliffe Park.

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As has been noted by in the Thames Facing East blog, Kidbrooke was marshy farmland covered with drainage ditches and several small streams (several already covered here before) so it is difficult to be totally sure.

Note

1 Ken White, “The Quaggy & Its Catchment Area”

 

In Search of the Lower Kid Brook

There is a bit of ground on Eltham Common, a few metres down Well Hall Road from the former Police Station, at the junction with Shooters Hill which is always soggy. Older maps and the dependable Edith’s Street suggest that this area is the source of the Lower Kid Brook; so it seems likely that this is the beginning of the Brook. Finding water at the source of one of the Brooks is a step up from the similar journeys down both the Mid Kid Brook and Upper Kid Brook.

There is a manhole cover just below the ‘spring’, oddly I failed to carry any tools with me that would have allowed a quick look inside, but it may be the current means of getting the nascent Brook across Well Hall Road. There is an interesting post on the springs and geology of the area in e Shooters Hill which suggests that in the past there was an arched bridge taking the Brook under Well Hall Road.

The course then is through the rear of the relatively quickly dropping grounds of the former Royal Herbert Hospital, built in 1865 for treating Crimean War soldiers.

Before following the Brook any further, it is worth doing a minor detour; there is another short stretch of water just outside the eastern edge of Greenwich Cemetery which has been suggested might be the source. It probably isn’t, as it doesn’t coincide with old boundaries which are clearly marked on historic Ordnance Survey maps; but it does beg the question as to where does it come from.

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The water could be the continuation of the flow marked clearly on the current OS 1:25,000 map (although not on the ground) starting further up Shooters Hill, close to Sevendroog Castle, from a hidden reservoir. That flow goes down the hill to Well Hall Water Booster Station, on the edge of Eltham Common.

The water seen might be a partial exit from the Booster Station, or could be from another spring. Whatever it is, gravity would suggest a confluence with the Brook on Broad Walk (at the back of the photo); the Brook’s emergence from the Royal Herbert is clearly marked by a pair of old boundary stones.

Once on Broad Walk, the course of the Brook is easy to follow as the ground falls away quite rapidly with one or two boundary markers helping point the way.

The contours of the playing fields by the Samuel Montague Youth Centre show a clear course for the Brook as does a dip in Langbrook Road at the top Shirebrook Road, as well as a similar one in Bournebrook Road at the junction with Sladebrook Road. All the roads in the area close to the Brook are named after other places with ‘brook’ in their name.

After skirting around the rear of houses behind Wendover Road, the Brook then crosses Rochester Way almost at the junction with Briset Road where there is a clear dip in the road and a obvious falling away of the land to the south west. Before the area was developed there was a ford and a small pedestrian bridge, probably little more than a plank, at this point which was referred to in one of the more notorious local Victorian criminal cases, ‘The Eltham Murder’, more on that later in the year.

The upstream pointing 35 metre contour line is crossed at the north-eastern end of Penford Gardens. While there is a wetland nature reserve on Birdbrook Road, this seems to be a remnant of the generally very wet and boggy area, with several springs, rather than having pools directly fed by the Brook. As it is at slightly higher level, the area would have originally drained into the Brook.

The course does though follow Birdbrook Road under the A2 to what was the Ferrier Estate, its original course was almost a straight line through the middle of what is now Kidbrooke Village. Prior to the Ferrier being built the site was developed as a Royal Flying Corps (the forerunner of the RAF) site providing stores, technical support and testing to the infant service. The site stayed in use during WW2 as RAF Kidbrooke, home to the Auxiliary Air Force Balloon Barrage Squadrons and later the No. 2 Mobile Balloon Unit. This was all to the north of the Brook, it was still flowing above ground prior to the development of the Ferrier

There were suggestions that as part of the development of Kidbrooke Village there may be a partial restoring of the Brook going through the new development, but there are no signs as yet along Cambert Way.

Across Kidbrooke Park Road are above ground signs of the Brook – a ditch that skirts along the side of the northern edge of John Roan School playing fields. When two of my children were younger, they played football on Saturday mornings there, and I have run alongside the last 120 metres of the course hundreds of times. I have seen a pair of foxes with several litters over the years on its banks, and lots of birdlife in the dense undergrowth but never more than a tiny trickle of water even in the wettest of periods – presumably its flow has been long since diverted elsewhere when the Ferrier was constructed. The picture of the ‘outflow’ from Kidbrooke Park Road, shows this only too well.

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The location of the final ‘confluence’ with the Quaggy is now full of a pleasant mixture of wetland plants, but no sign of a stream joining the Quaggy.

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The reason for the lack of water becomes obvious when looking at the Environment Agency flood map for the area which seems to indicate that the Brook was diverted into the Quaggy a few hundred metres earlier, presumably at the time that the Ferrier was built and the unseen confluence is now in Sutcliffe Park.

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Returning to the original course, on the opposite bank of the Quaggy, in long grass behind a football ‘cage’, there was a rather incongruous surprise in the long grass – a long forgotten 1903 Woolwich Boundary marker.

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In Search of Upper Kid Brook

Logically this post should start at the beginning but there is no scenic setting for the source of the Upper Kid Brook, and I don’t want to put readers off so the end, the outflow, must be the beginning on this occasion – alongside the St Stephen’s Church, Lewisham.

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Its architect was George Gilbert Scott, better known for his gothic revival work, such as St Giles, Camberwell, and the St Pancras hotel and station. St Stephens is somewhat different

thirteenth-century, with some French details – ‘eclecticism of a chastened kind, and the union in some degree of the merits of the different styles’

But as rivers should be followed downstream, it is back to the beginning in what used to be a marshy area in north east corner in bend of Hervey Road at the junction with Begbie Road, close to the lower end of Shooters Hill Road. There is nothing tangible to see of the Brook around here, there are upstream pointing contour lines of the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map at 40 metres, close to the north western corner of the playing field between Begbie Road and Wricklemarsh Road.

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Eastbrook Road has a perceptible dip, just behind the fallen tree in the photo, a likely pointer to the Brook’s original course.

The 35 metre OS map contour clue is in the gardens of homes close to the south eastern side of the Kidbrooke Grove and Kidbrooke Gardens. On the ground another distinguishable dip on Kidbrooke Grove and the Victorian ‘Brook House’ offer further hints as to the course.

To the west of Kidbrooke Grove there are some man-made signs of the course of the still underground the Brook (it was apparently piped underground around here at the time the railway was built in 1849) – old boundary markers that followed the Brook are alongside the path bordering Morden College on a narrow fenced off green strip of grass. This ‘strip’ is clear from the OS map too as the ‘valley’ marked by the 35 metre contour is around 25 metres wide centring on the path.

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There is more of the same at the front of Morden College as the contours and boundary markers cuts across its grounds – there is a marker on their front lawn and then another against the far wall of the Lodge.

The next few metres of the route are easy to work out; the ground drops away quickly to the east of the Paragon. Perhaps once the Brook babbled and tumbled down a series of small waterfalls in some pastoral idyll, but the current reality is a little less bucolic, it is almost certainly the same as much of the route so far – at best, a buried pipe.

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Behind the Paragon the Brook flows through the Fulthorp Road estate, named after a 15the century landowner, the land was compulsorily purchased by Greenwich Council after WW2 and was the first council housing within the Cator Estate in1954 using a neo-Georgian style to try to fit in with the surrounding architecture.

The Brook used to supply a pond on the imaginatively named Pond Road, which formed a reservoir for the Wricklemarsh Estate.

While the pond is long gone, its western side is clearly demarked by the low boundary wall. The Brook’s course was to the west south west from the pond, although this may well have changed once it was diverted underground.

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Below the Pond there were considerable problems with winter flooding due to heavy rain and snow melt with flooding of up to three feet (one metre) reported around the current centre of the ‘village’ (1). One of the methods used to try to alleviate the problem was the creation of a series of small reservoirs – the biggest of which was known as The Canal and was behind the current Blackheath Grove. The water was used to irrigate Hally’s Nursery there in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (2).

There had been an attempt to alter the course of the Brook in the dip in ‘The Village’, which was then referred to as Dowager’s Bottom (orHole), in the early 18th century by Gregory Page, owner of Wricklemarsh. It was perhaps an early attempt to deal with flooding problems, but Page was ordered by a court at the Green Man on Blackheath Hill to restore the line of the stream or pay a penalty of £10 (3).

The Brook’s valley was taken over by the North Kent Railway from 1849 and the Brook itself hidden from view. It flowed along the back of what is now Blackheath Grove, under the Post Office then crossing Tranquil Vale opposite the entrance to the station car park. The old boundaries would have it flowing just north of the car park, which was once railway sidings, but Edith’s Streets suggests a re-routing at this point to allow housing. It may actually have been buried under the tracks at this point, there are suggestions that after heavy rain it can be heard whilst waiting on the platforms, this may of course be just wishful thinking ….

There was frequent flooding from the Brook in this area too; Neil Rhind’s excellent book on Blackheath, refers to clearing them being a task for the Hollis family, who lived in former cottages in Tranquil Vale (4).

Its former route of the Brook is almost certainly hidden beneath the 1970s Lewisham council housing of Hurren Close, and then crossing Heath Lane (formerly Lovers Lane) to St Jospeh’s Vale.

Just before this point, there may have been a small tributary joining the Brook, there is a small valley clear on OS maps, starting around The Orchard on the Heath, as well as an obvious dip in Eliot Vale, the course would have then broadly followed Baizdon Road to the Brook.

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The 1894 large scale OS map has the Brook feeding two small lakes, one complete with a boating house, which were part of the estate of The Cedars on Belmont Hill. There are upstream pointing 20 metre contours line is at the south western edge of St Josephs Vale.

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(Alan Godfrey 1894 Blackheath and Greenwich Park)
The course then cuts to the other side of the railway around the bottom of Belmont Grove, where not to be outdone by their neighbours, the owners of Belmont, another large house on Belmont Hill also had a small lake fed by the Brook. Belmont was where roads such as Boyne and Caterham Roads now sit.

The lake has long since gone; most recently covered by a housing association development whose service road, at the top of Cressingham Road, the Brook follows. It continues through the back gardens between Cressingham and Boyne Roads. There is another tell-tale dip in the road in Lockmeade Road before following St Stephens Grove for the last 100 metres or so to The Quaggy.

There used to be an old boundary stone that marked the outflow point just south of St Stephen’s Church, but this may have disappeared with the development of the police station. Unlike the Mid Kid Brook, even the outflow isn’t that obvious – there are three pipes above the channelised bank of The Quaggy which all flowed in the rain but were water free on a dry day.

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Notes

1 Rhind, N (1976) Blackheath Village and Environs 1790 to 1970 (Bookshop Blackheath Ltd.) p71
2 ibid p71
3 ibid p67
4 ibid p105

In Search of Mid Kid Brook

I have known about the Kid Brooks for years, having done a little on-line trawling in the past to try to understand why Blackheath Village, whose contours would suggest that it is in a river valley which extends into Lewisham, seemed to be devoid of any waterway. The ‘discovery’ of the Upper Kid Brook (now with its own post) and its course through ‘The Village’ led to the realisation that there were two other Kid Brooks and that the end of the Lower one was on a playing field I knew well.

It is thus entirely logical then to start with the third Brook, Mid Kid Brook. Its source, according to the fantastic and usually reliable Edith’s Streets, is to the east of the Brook Hospital site, possibly from a pond at the former Hill Farm, (the entrance to which was around where Corelli Road is now). The source was probably covered when the Brook Hospital site was originally developed, and a ‘gated community’ was built after the Hospital closed around where the source may well have been. One of the few remaining bits of the fever hospital site is the old Water Tower, and for the want of a more tangible source, it seems as appropriate starting point for following the course of the Mid Kid Brook.

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Maps produced prior to the development of the area show the Brook flowing westwards, parallel to Shooters Hill Road, passing the former Brook pub (now a Co-op). Certainly at that point it could not be too far away from the main road at the land falls away to the south about 30 metres away from the road.

The first ‘sounding’ of the Brook may be in the London Marathon Playing Fields – there is a large manhole cover and a sound of running water underneath. It may just be wishful thinking on my part though, given the topics the blog covers.
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Edith’s Streets has the Brook flowing parallel to Shooters Hill Road to opposite Marlborough Lane latterly behind a parade of shops, although there is nothing there to show its course in the jumble of dumped rubbish, broken fences and abandoned outbuildings. Just beyond there the Brook turned back sharply on itself at a farm that has long since disappeared – Arnold’s Farm.

The name lives on though with a sheltered housing scheme, in the general location of the farm – Arnold House. There are parallels with the modern housing at the former Brook Hospital site, between 1881 and 1948 it was the site of the Blackheath and Charlton Cottage Hospital (the Cottage being dropped just before WW1). The small dispensary is all that remains of one of a large number of hospitals on Shooters Hill Road.

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The pre-development map of the area has the Brook meandering south-west towards the current A2. The exact route is difficult to work out, although the on the ground contours would probably suggest a route that included Begbie Road, the playing fields on Wricklemarsh Road, and going behind houses on Holbourne Road and crossing Woolacombe Road just north of Dursley Road – just to the north of the former location of Manor Farm before crossing what is now the A2.

On the far side of A2 the exact locations become a little clearer, aided and abetted by a street name, Brook Road, and some gentle contours, which sees the Brook flowing under the edge of a small meadow behind St. John Fisher church and then under the church drive.

Opposite the church, on the other side of Kidbrooke Park Road, is our first sighting of the Brook – emerging from underneath the road and running alongside Thomas Tallis School.

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While it is then apparently visible as the boundary alongside the Blackheath Girls School playing fields, there is no public access. The next clues as to its course are on Casterbridge Road on the Cator Estate where the contours and manhole covers with the sound of water underneath suggest a likely route.

The next sighting is more obvious, the pond on Casterbridge Road. This is likely to be the remains of one of the former ponds from the Wricklemarsh Estate (the other being on what is now Pond Road), certainly the Mid Kid Brook originally fed a pond in roughly this location.

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The remains of a bridge over the Brook are still there and there is a clue as to the course in a street name, Brookway, after which it crosses Foxes Dale and its route becomes apparent again (although without any obvious sign of water, but oddly it is marked on various modern maps in blue) between two houses before disappearing in a sink in the garden of a house on Lee Road, as I confirmed a few weeks ago.

The sink takes the Brook across Lee Road, where there used to be a small bridge, before following a the western side of the road a couple of hundred metres to Lee Green where it joins the Quaggy next to the Lewisham side of the bridge..

Its final outflow from a pipe provided a picture of what I would have imagined happening further upstream perhaps 300 years ago – a deer drinking from the Brook. Alas it is not a real one, but it is the next best thing, and one that is rather more permanent feature – one of the delightful works of Lewisham Natureman, that appear in all sorts of odd places – a Blackheath Banksy perhaps?

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This post is a part of a series on the Quaggy and its tributaries which are brought together here.

Postscript – a later post suggests than the current course from the ‘sink’ may not have been the original one and that Mid Kid Brook may have originally flowed westwards, roughly along the line of Lee High Road, to join the Quaggy nearer Lewisham.