There have been several posts on Running Past about the evolution of public buildings around Lee – the two telephone exchanges, the trio of fire stations and most recently the municipal offices off what is now Woodyates Road. Next door to the latter, albeit constructed a little later was the Lee Sorting Office.
From around 1888, perhaps a little earlier, the Sorting Office was based on Lee High Road on the corner of what is now Lampmead Road (originally it was a dog leg of Lenham Road) – it is now home to a firm of solicitors, after being the offices of a realtively long standing business, Homesales, who were also in Market Terrace.
In the 1881 census, what was then 1 Sussex Terrace, was a grocer’s run by Nathaniel Short – he was from Greenwich and had four young children, with wife Elizabeth from Gravesend. They can have been there no more than a year as their youngest daughter was born in Lewisham, rather than Lee and the older children all were born in Bexleyheath.
Little had changed by the 1884 Kelly’s Directory, but by1888 the address was now 226 High Road, and Short had added a Post Office to the Grocery business. Out at the back there were some buildings used as a sorting office.
Where sorting had been done before isn’t immediately clear – there were several other local post offices, including one already covered at 10 Burnt Ash Road (now part of the Sainsbury’s site) run by Martin Martin. There was another in the row of shops between Brandram Road and Boone Street.
There was a high turnover of grocers and Postmasters, the Shorts moved on to Enfield by around 1888 – they were in Enfield in the 1891 census, making a circuitous trip via Australia to get there. William James Francis took over from the Shorts; Abraham Culverhouse was in charge when the census enumerators called again in 1891 and Roberts & Co were running the Post Office and grocers by 1896. There was no mention of a post office by 1900 when A M Curtis was there and it was not listed in the 1901 census and just being a grocer in 1904 when George Iliffe was there.
With a burgeoning population, continuing to run a sorting office from some small outbuildings behind a grocery shop was not really sustainable. Lewisham already had one – located in what is now the shopping centre and had gone out to tender in 1895 (1). Lee’s sorting office was put out to tender three years later. It was a site next to what were originally Lee Parish Offices, on what was then Woodstock Road. It became Woodyates Road after the development of the Woodstock Estate.
The Architect was Jasper Wager; a man from Bridgnorth in Shropshire, he had been working for Her Majesty’s Office of Works since 1877, they were responsible for a lot of public building work at this stage. The sorting office at Lee seems to have been one of the earliest projects that he was specifically responsible for. He was probably living locally at the time it was built – in the 1901 he is listed as living next to Greenwich Park in Vanbrugh Hill.
It is a striking building; the Local Listing describes it as ‘(a) single storey red brick Queen Anne Revival building (with) near symmetrical elevation onto Woodyates Road with stone mullioned and transomed window. Stone surround to centrally placed entrance door with stylised gablet with casement windows above.’
There is some lovely detail on it – particularly the stone sign Postmen’s Office over the main door (the newer brickwork to the side was the site of the postbox).
Looking at the 1911 census, around 35 men were listed as ‘postmen’ (no women) in Lee. Some obviously may have been based at other Sorting Offices. Unsurprisingly, they were concentrated in the smaller houses of the area, but in relative terms they were well paid, as shared households were rare, other than around half a dozen in their teens. The road with the most was Taunton Road – which was home to Edward Greenwood (131), Philip Cox (56), Arthur Fincham (47), Arthur Goodwin (69), Charles Wood and lodger William Hedge (99), plus two other lodgers William Pescott (72) and Bertie Ridgewell (64). Roads like Lenham, Lochaber and the small houses of Lee New Town also had significant numbers.
While this wasn’t the case in either the 1901 or 1911 Censuses, some staff lived on site by the time World War Two broke out – in the 1939 Register there was postman Edward Wood and Ernest Rawlings who worked as a Post Office cleaner.
Like much of the post war development of the eastern side of Burnt Ash Road, the partial redevelopment of the site for housing in the mid-1990s related to the ending of Crown Estate leases. It had been the same with shops on Burnt Ash and Eltham Roads that made way for the Leegate Centre and the housing that was demolished for Leybridge Court and most of the nurseries. The Sorting Office closed in 1993 with sorting and deliveries on the Lewisham side of Lee being transferred to Endgate Street and, presumably, on the Greenwich side to Court Yard in Eltham.
The site for both the Municipal Depot and the Sorting Office was bought by Developer Gengis Kemal. The main depot building fronting onto Woodyates Road along with its stables in the north west corner along with the Sorting Office were all retained and converted. There was sympathetic infill to the rest of the site. The site is now known as Jasmin Court – it was originally to be called Jasmine after the daughter of the developer – the sign at the entrance to the former yard refers to it as this. However, it appears to have been incorrectly had an ‘e’ removed by Lewisham so Jasmin is what it is officially known as. It follows in the footsteps of a trio of misspelled Lee street names going back over a century – Holme Lacey Road, Aislibie Road and Wolfram Close (3).
London Evening Standard 5 July 1895
Kentish Mercury 12 August 1898
Before someone else notes this, the irony of this is not lost on a writer with poor proof reading skills
Census and related information is via Find My Past (subscription required)
Kelly’s Directory data comes from Southwark Archives
The Ordnance Survey map is part of the collection of the National Library of Scotland and is used on a non-commercial licence
I am indebted to George Willis who lives in Jasmin Court (the 1990s development that the offices and stables are now part of) who has researched the site – although most of the research for this post was in parallel so any errors are obviously mine. Thank you also to Darryl from the excellent 853 news blog for putting us in touch – if you don’t follow 853 you are missing out!
In the first part of this post, we explored the 19th century history of Brightfield Road from its building as Robertson Street to its extension and renaming in the 1880s. We turn now to the 20th century and beyond, looking in particular at how the street fared in the World Wars.
We pick up the story with the 1901 census; the street had changed in the late Victorian period from homes for the building trades employed by John Pound, and other local builders, as well as for servants for the large houses in Lee, to a wider mixture of working class occupations. Looking at the lower numbers at the eastern end of the street, little had changed by 1901 with a mixture of working class jobs such as road mender, carpenter, horse keeper and coachman (this excludes the shops which we will return to in a later post).
The average size of households had reduced to 5.3 (from 5.8 a decade before) mainly as a result of slightly fewer households taking in lodgers and/or houses being split between households. This was much smaller than the numbers in the not dissimilar homes in Ardmere Road in Hither Green which were built at around the same time.
There was little change by 1911, although the average household size dropped again to 4.5. The nature of the jobs was little different though – manual trades and still lots relating to horse based transport.
The street fared badly in World War One, many of the sons, brothers and husbands of the households were either volunteers or conscripts to fight on the battlefields of France and Belgium – eight of them never returned home to Lee all were buried in cemeteries or remembered on memorials close to where they died.
William Upton of number 42 was a Driver in the Royal Engineers and died on 13 March 1918. He was a labourer in civvy street and was around 25 when he died; he was buried at Sailly-Labourse Cemetery in France.
Sidney George Munday lived five doors up from William Upton at 52, he was a Private with The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). He was 21 when he died on 14 April 1918 and is remembered at the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.
William Henry Church had lived just over the road at 33, he was just 20 when he died serving as a Private in the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) on 18 September 1916. He was buried at Etaples Military Cemetery in northern France.
Willie J Church was just 18 when he died on 6 June 1918, serving as a Private in the London Regiment. He is buried at Bienvillers Military Cemetery in France. He lived at number 85, it isn’t clear whether he was related to William Henry Church.
Arthur John Cobb will have known Willie, as he lived two doors away at 89 with his wife Gertie. They served in the same Regiment too. Arthur died on 18 February 1917 and was buried in France at Merville Communal Cemetery Extension.
Alfred William Meggs lived seven doors down at 75, he was 20 and serving as a Corporal with the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) when he died on 3 October 1916. He is remembered at the Thiepval Memorial, pictured above.
William George Bickle had lived five doors away at 65, he died two days after Christmas in 1915 aged just 16, the youngest on the street to perish. He shouldn’t have been there but, probably like Willie Church he will have lied about his age – soldiers needed to be 18 to sign up and 19 to be sent abroad as we saw with Herbert Burden from Catford who was shot for desertion aged just 17.
As World War Two broke out, the numbers living in the smaller houses at the eastern end of Brightfield Road were probably the lowest that there had ever been in the street’s existence – an average of just 2.9 people per home. A large chunk of this related to the evacuation of children in September 1939, just before the ‘census’ for rationing purposes was taken, the 1939 Register. However, even taking this into account household size had reduced with very few lodgers and a lot more houses just inhabited by couples and single people. This will probably be at least in part as a result of limited non-contributory pensions being paid from 1909.
Since 1911 all the horse related trades had disappeared and the eastern end of the street was home to several involved in train, lorry and tram related transport. There were several working at the Royal Arsenal making armaments. Very few had the ‘Heavy Work’ suffix to their role which would have allowed them to have larger rations though. The difference with Ardmere Road here is significant. A slightly smaller proportion of women worked to 28 years before in 1911, but the trades were little more diverse – still mainly shop, laundry and work and dressmaking though.
There were a couple of nights heavy bombing in early December 1940, on the nights of the 8th and 9th of December. Given the significance of these nights in the area we’ll return at some point but several houses had incendiary bombs hit them – 19, 20, 22, 43, 46, 52, 60, 113 and 123. All seemed to have been put out and the houses remain. There was a high explosive bomb that seems to have landed in the rear garden of 95 without causing too much damage.
Just after Christmas incendiary bombs rained down on Brightfield Road with 32, 34, 42, 43, 49, 63 and 83 all hit by them (some are pictured below) – the fires were put out by wardens and the inhabitants, but many of the roofs were damaged.
Early in 1941 there was a high explosive bomb that hit the roadway close to the bridge over the Quaggy, several houses were destroyed or had to be demolished due to the resulting major gas explosion (1). The damage is the darker colours is shown on the bottom left hand corner of the map below (2). No one died with only two requiring optional treatment but there was widespread damage in terms of broken windows and major structural damage to houses up to 100 metres away (3).
On the odd side, 103 – 107 were never replaced and the gap was used to form an entrance to Manor House Gardens. Over the road, whilst the last house, 92 (at the left of the photograph) survived, 84 to 90 didn’t and they were replaced by private sector housing after the war.
So who lives there now? While it isn’t possible to use census data from 2011 just for the street there is a Output Area that relates to most of the street, along with Lampmead Road. The employment categories are very different to the census data that we have looked at before. The main employment types of the 196 residents in employment were shops (7%), finance, insurance and banking (10%), professional and scientific (13%), education (19%) and health (7%). It will be interesting to see what changes there are when the 2021 Census results are collated.
Most of the homes seem to be owner occupied homes – although there are eight or nine owned by property companies letting the homes and three are let by social landlords. The change is massive compared with when the homes were built as Robertson Street when virtually all will have been privately rented.
Certainly rising house prices will make affordability nigh on impossible for the sort of people that lived there before World War Two. One of the bigger houses was sold for £842,500 in 2020 – now single-family dwellings, when built they had been ‘conveniently arranged for two families. Let to very respectable tenants at 12/- a week’ in 1892 (4).
One of the smaller houses sold for just under £500,000 just before the first lockdown.
We will return to Brightfield Road at some point in the future to look at the shops that used to be on the street.
Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming of Age in Wartime London, Peter Owen p51
Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 p116
Willmott op cit p51
Kentish Mercury 25 July 1892
Permission has been given by the copyright owners of the Bomb Damage Maps, the London Metropolitan Archives to use the image here, it reamins their copyright
All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
The photographs of the VE Day party is part of the collection of the Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission and remains their copyright;
Streets having their names changed is nothing unusual – we’ve covered it a couple of times before with Dermody Road (formerly Hocum Pocum Lane), Waite Davies Road (formerly (Butterfield Street). Similarly, on the other side of Lee High Road the bottom of Dacre Park was previously known as Turner Road. Like the second two examples, there is fading evidence of a painted street sign bearing the earlier name. However, it isn’t as easy to decipher the former name, Robertson Street, due to multiple layers of faint paint, re-pointing and a burglar alarm. In a pair of blog posts we’ll tell the history of the street – from its building to the present day.
The builder of the original part was someone we’ve covered several times before, John Pound, mainly in relation to his house building but also shops on Burnt Ash Road, pubs and Lee Public Halls. The street was built by Pound around 1862 (1), with applications made to the Board of Works that March for drainage connections. The land was owned by Lord Northbrook, although it doesn’t seem to have been farmed as part of Lee Manor Farm – it isn’t in the farm map of 1846 – and the estate seems to have retained the freehold post development (2) as permission was sought from Lord Northbrook’s agent for some work.
The homes were unlike most of those in the rest of the area at the time. The arrival of the railway in Blackheath had seen substantial homes with space for servants built to the north of Lee High Road. The function of these smaller houses was similar to those in Lee New Town – providing homes for the servants who didn’t ‘live-in’ and working classes of mid-Victorian Lee. There was another function too, large-scale housing development in what was then suburbia needed somewhere for the building labourers and trades to live in an era without cheap public transport. Pound seems to have done the same around Waite Davies Road and Summerfield Street for his brickworks in South Lee. It was a pattern followed by Cameron Corbett with houses in Sandhurst Road a few decades later.
Pound also seems to have built the neighbouring Hedgely Street – he made an application for sewer connections in 1868 (3). The street was adopted and paved in 1871 at a cost of 4/6d on the rates for occupiers – not the landlord (4).
So, who were the early occupants? We’ll look at the first 20 houses in the 1871 census, the first census they appeared in; while the numbers appeared as consecutive in the census reports it isn’t clear whether this was the case on the ground. The numbering is now odds and evens. The shops have been ignored for now, but may be returned to in a later post.
The majority (52%) of heads of household were working in the building trade, mainly skilled trades with the remainder split between various forms of domestic service and other trades. Relatively few of the women worked, but those who did, tended to be listed in the census as charwoman or laundress. While not in in the houses reviewed in detail, elsewhere in the street there were farm labourers housed – presumably still working at either Burnt Ash, Lee Manor or Horn Park which were all still working at that stage.
Almost half of the houses were either home to two households or took in a lodger, there were some very overcrowded homes as a result – 13 lived at no 17 for example. Almost all the households had children.
A decade later the average number in each house was 6.7 (it had been 5.5 in 1871), mainly due to an increase in lodgers and shared houses. More women were working, although the trades were mainly around washing, ironing and cleaning. Male employment had changed little too, the majority working in the building trades.
Unsurprisingly, there was some crime relating to the street, a fair amount of it alcohol related. John Mahoney had to be removed by heavies from the Tiger’s Head for being drunk and aggressive. He then went over the road to what is now referred to as the New Tiger’s Head, but press reports called the Little Tiger, where he was arrested after falling asleep drunk. He then violently assaulted the arresting officer for which he spent 6 weeks in prison (5).
Robert Stow was found guilty of assaulting a police officer after being arrested for being drunk and disorderly outside the nearby Duke of Edinburgh – his defence was that he didn’t know it was a policeman and that he’d had too much rum to drink cut no ice with the magistrates. He was fined 20/- or 2 weeks in prison (6).
Theft wasn’t completely absent though – Thomas Upton (23) a labourer from 19 Robertson Street charged with stealing 25 hens from Blackheath Park and then selling them in Greenwich. He was sent to prison for 14 days (7).
The western side of the terrace backed not onto the Quaggy, as it does now, but onto a path from that broadly followed what is now Aislibie Road. After the floods in 1878 and probably also to allow better development of the land that was to form Lampmead Road, the Quaggy was deepened, straightened and took the route of the path. The differences are clear between the 1863 (top map below) and 1893 visits of the Ordnance Survey Cartographers.
The extension of the street to the northern side of the Quaggy seems to have happened around 1885 following the piecemeal sale of the Lee House estate. The builder may well have been George Mitchell; he made the application for connecting the new homes Brightfield Road to the existing sewers in what was still referred to as Robertson Street. John Pound asked for money for the connection (8). It is assumed that these would be the homes that are now numbered 109 to 127 Brightfield Road (some of which are pictured below), but could have been those to the south over the Quaggy.
Three years later a decision was made by the Metropolitan Board of Works in March 1888 to change street names in the area. It seems that Lampmead Road was created, it had originally been a dog-leg of Lenham Road going towards Lee High Road. The biggest change was in relation to Brightfield Road – from 1883 it had run from Old Road and then dog-legged around to the new homes built by George Mitchell. The section from Old Road now became Aislibie Road and Brightfield Road, while shortened to the north took expanded over the river and Robertson Street was no more (9). In addition to the remains of the painted sign, a stone one remains and is now part of a garden wall.
The new Brightfield Road had changed a lot by 1891 compared with the last census for Robertson Street. John Pound’s building work had finished in the area and only 8% of the heads of household at the eastern end of the street were working in the building industry, just over a third were servants – mainly jobs relating to horses with the remainder a wide variety of manual jobs. As was the case a decade earlier a lot of the women worked – mainly as dressmakers and laundresses. Most households had children and most of the houses were either shared or homes to lodgers too – overcrowding remained, although it was less bad than in 1881 – the average was 5.8 rather than 6.7 a decade earlier.
There were a few sales of the houses which seemed to be all tenanted over the next few years. In 1892, 111 -125 (odds) were up for sale at auction. These are the larger houses backing on to Manor House Gardens, then let as a military crammer school before the House and Gardens were sold to the London County Council in 1898. The particulars of the sale of the houses in Brightfield Road noted the proximity to Lee and Blackheath stations. Each house was ‘conveniently arranged for two families. Let to very respectable tenants at 12/- a week.’ There were unexpired leases of 92 years (10).
Three years later some more of the later houses, 75-79 which were adjacent to the original houses were sold – they were advertised as being on long leases, having a weekly rent of 12/- and an annual ground rent of £5 (11).
The change in name didn’t stop crime relating to the street in 1897, Emma Agate was arrested for theft of a large number of garments from Lee Public Halls Steam Laundry (in early 2021 home to Travis Perkins off Holme Lacey Road) where she worked as an ironer, she was found with a number of pawn tickets. She denied the charges but was remanded in custody (12).
There were a couple of bigamy cases – William James was charged with bigamously marrying Mary Bator of number 61 in 1889 (13). Four years later, Walter Garland admitted to a bigamous marriage to Alexandra Taylor of 60 Brightfield Road (14).
We’ll leave Brightfield Road at the end of the 19th century, returning in the second part to cover the 20th century and beyond.
Kentish Mercury 22 March1862
Kentish Independent 01 June 1872
Kentish Independent 10 October 1868
Kentish Independent 16 December 1871
Kentish Mercury 18 June 1870
Kentish Mercury 30 October 1875
Kentish Independent 10 April 1886
Kentish Independent 02 May 1885
Kentish Mercury 9 March 1888
Kentish Mercury 25 July 1892
Kentish Mercury 29 September 1895
Woolwich Gazette 27 August 1897
Kentish Mercury 13 June 1890
Woolwich Gazette 27 April 1894
The maps are on a Non-Commercial Licence via the National Library of Scotland
All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
The photo of the stone sign is courtesy of Frederic Heffer
Apologies if you’ve seen this before – the previous incarnation was partially deleted. In the autumn of 2020, Running Past covered the attacks of the first night of the Blitz around Lee, Lewisham, Catford and Hither Green 80 years on. Over the next few months there were frequent attacks on the area – the worst night in the old Borough of Lewisham was probably the night of 8 to 9 December 1940. The Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Service Logs (an example of the log is shown below for 29 December 1940) noted for the night of 8-9 December
126 high explosive bombs dropped;
206 incendiary bombs – the number of both incendiary and high explosive bombs was almost certainly understated as the locations rather than numbers were often recorded;
176 fires started – no doubt stretching the Fire Brigade to beyond breaking point;
5 deaths; and
175 injured – this was almost certainly a big understatement as at many locations injuries were ticked rather than having numbers.
However, around Lee some of the worst nights were at the end of December 1940 in two posts we’ll look at the nights 27/28 and 29/30 December where there were two nights of very heavy bombing.
There had been two quiet nights on Christmas Day and Boxing Day 1940, it was the lull before the storm with the night of 27/28 December being one of the heaviest nights of the blitz in Lewisham.
While there were attacks earlier in evening in Brockley, the first attacks on Lee was a series of incendiary bombs which hit at 19:51; one was at 33 Burnt Ash Road – a large house demolished after the war in the large scale demolitions of houses at the end of leases by the Crown Estate. There was no note of damage, but in the LCC Bomb Damage map the house ended the war with general, not structural, blast damage (1).
The other was at Reeds of Lee Green, a long standing drapers and furnishers that dominated the south east quadrant of Lee Green, straddling both Burnt Ash Road and Eltham Road – it was around 50 metres from 33 Burnt Ash Road. There was no damage marked there on the LCC Bomb Damage maps (2).
The final one of trio was at 57 Leyland Road (opposite the present day Alanthus Close) which was dealt with by officers from Lee police station.
Soon after at 20:05, another incendiary bomb was dropped close by in Burnt Ash Road between Southbrook and Micheldever Roads – there was a small fire which was quickly put out though.
There were several attacks on just after 9:00 pm on the then new homes on Upwood Road, (above) 34 and 22 were specifically mentioned but a couple of other incendiaries were reported as well. A hundred metres of so away 73 Leyland Road was hit by another incendiary. The was another dropped on Leyland Road between Dorville and Osberton Road – presumably somewhere around the current Carsten Close. With all of these the fires seem to have been put out by ARP fire wardens.
At around 9:12 pm, 41 Dorville Road and 36 Cambridge Drive were hit by incendiaries – as with the others in neighbouring streets they were put out by ARP wardens who had a busy night. The latter is a large surviving Victorian house, the former lost to the large scale redevelopment of Crown Estate land in the 1960s, but will have looked similar to the very different street scene from a few decades before.
At around 9:40 at least five bombs were dropped around Aislibie Road. One was in Manor House Gardens, which was home to three air road shelters. Fortunately the high explosive bomb hit a shrubbery between the shelters with only limited damage. Had there been a direct hit the loss of life could have been considerable as happened at Albion Way in Lewisham town centre on 11 September 1940 where 41 died.
A hundred metres or so away, 14-20 Lampmead Road (between Aislibie and Lenham Roads) were hit. Presumably the impact was in the road as none of the houses was destroyed although the ARP log noted that walls on all of them were cracked. Numbers 18 and 20 have survived but 14 and 16 were destroyed by a V1 flying bomb later in the war – the circle on the map.
More serious damage was around the corner in Aislibie Road with number 50 being hit directly and largely demolished and the houses either side rendered uninhabitable. The shading on the LCC bomb damage maps is incorrect here – the Ordnance Survey map of 1949 notes ‘ruins.’
Another bomb hit a few doors up, damaging 38 Aislibie Road- it wasn’t one of the houses destroyed during the war and was marked as blast damage – minor in nature on the LCC bomb damage maps. (3). If there was any serious damage it may have been made good by the end of the war.
In the same attack there was serious damage to the odd side of the road too, 17 to 23 had their chimney stacks knocked of; but 25 to 29 were left in ruins. The site had been cleared by the time the Ordnanace Survey cartographers mapped the area in 1949, but unlike similar small sites, such as Fernbrook Road, wasn’t used for prefabs. Again there were no reports on casualties here.
At around 9:45 there were at least four high explosive bombs dropped in the area around Winn Road area between Guibal Road and Senlac Raod. The one at 87 Guibal Road failed to explode and the houshold had to be evacuated temporarily while it was made safe. The one at 105 Guibal damaged water, gas and electricity services, with the others not seeming to do much damage other than to gardens.
At 9:55 another high explosive bomb was reported as hitting Manor Lane – 50 was described as being ‘demolished’ and 48 and 52 rendered uninhabitable. Unless these were rebuilt in in exactly the same style as the W J Scudamore originals, it may be that the report was overstated. While there has clearly been some patching of walls, original features seem to remain.
Overall, that night in the old Borough of Lewisham
97 high explosive were dropped;
112 incendiary bombs fell;
91 fires were started;
12 were injured, this is almost certainly an understatement as some just ticked the box rather than entering a number; and
12 were trapped by debris having to be rescued by emergency services.
It wasn’t just Lewisham that was attacked that night, The Times for the following day noted that ‘the raid equaled in intensity, but not duration, some of the heaviest attacks on the capital….from widespread areas came the same report of enemy aircraft flying over almost continuously dropping incendiaries followed by high explosive bombs.’ (4)
Whilst the following night seems to have seen another lull with defence guns silent (5), the Sunday evening of 29/30 saw the bombers return with in what was described in central London as the Second Great Fire of London but also saw numerous bombs dropped on Lee; we’ll return to this is the second part of the post.
Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 p116
The Times Saturday December 28 1940
The Times Monday December 30 1940
Most of the information for this post comes from the Lewisham ARP Log – it is a fascinating document, which is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives. It isn’t a complete record – some incidents were reported to the Fire Brigade rather than the APR and some incendiaries were dealt with by residents or Fire Wardens without ever reaching the ARP service – this is particularly the case on busy nights such as this.
The map is from the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps, 1939-1945 – permission has been given by the London Metropolitan Archives, the copyright owners of the map, the to use the image here.
The photograph of Lee Green and the page of the ARP Log are both from the collection of Lewisham Archives, both are used with permission and remain their copyright.
The postcard of Dorville Road is via eBay in December 2019
In the first part of this post we looked at the post-Christmas Luftwaffe attacks on 27 December 1940 on Lee which saw numerous bombs dropped and homes destroyed on Aislibie Road, the misspelled road, named after Benjamin Aislabie – slave owner, awful cricketer and tenant of Lee Place.
While there was a lull the following evening, it seems that the Luftwaffe were just gearing up for an even bigger raid on 29 December, the aim of which seems to have been to put the fire services under a level of pressure that they would be unable to cope with and see London burning.
The attacks were much more concentrated in a small number of streets between Lee High Road and and Manor House Gardens. Most were incendiaries, and along with a few high explosive bombs, were dropped in a few minutes around 8:15 pm.
As we found with the post on the first night of the Blitz, it is worth remembering that not every incident was reported to the Air Raid Precautions (ARP), some being just reported to the Fire Brigade but others never going through official channels. One of the pages of incidents for the night of 29/30 December 1940 is show below.
The first attacks of the night in Lee started at around 7:25 pm in Blessingham Road, when a high explosive bomb hit the back garden of number 38. Elsewhere on the street another high explosive bomb injured two people. The street was to be decimated by a series of V-1 flying bombs later in the war and was developed, initially as prefabs, and in the early 1960s, as the Mercator Estate.
Fifty minutes later, Lee was on fire, the ARP logs note several dozen incendiaries being dropped at the same time, so we’ll look at the attack on a street by street basis. Aislibie Road (pictured below) which had suffered badly two nights before, was again hit. It was different houses this evening with 5, 13, 26, 30 and 39 all being bombed with roofs and upper floors damaged by the incendiary bombs, none were destroyed though.
Parallel to Aislibie Road, and the location of a devastating V-1 flying bomb three and a half years later, is Lenham Road which saw 5, 7, 10 and 28 all hit by incendiaries. The fires were successfully dealt with by local ARP and Fire Wardens.
Incendiary bombs rained down on neighbouring Brightfield Road with 32, 34, 42, 43, 49, 63 and 83 all hit by them (some are pictured below) – the fires were put out by wardens and the inhabitants, but many of the roofs were damaged.
Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, the roof and upper floors of 24 Lampmead Road were damaged, as was 4 Hedgley Street. Taunton Road saw at least two attacks – number 60 was slightly damaged and 2 Thornhill Cottages saw its roof damamged. Thornhill Cottages was a terrace at the eastern end of Taunton Road between Burnt Ash Road and Hedgley Street seemingly on the present Sainsbury’s site.
At the opposite end of Manor House Gardens, 2, 44 and 61 Old Road plus Pentland House (pictured below) were all hit but Fire Wardens managed to deal with all four fires.
A little further along Lee High Road, number 345 was hit by another incendiary; ironically it had been a fire station up until 1906 when the one on Eltham Road opened, it is now a solicitors. The roof seems to have been damaged, and assuming that there was no damage on other occasions during the war, a central turret there was destroyed (there is a pre-damage photograph in the post on the fire station).
There was an explosive and incendiary combination dropped on Dacre Park at the same time and there were ‘several .. casualties in the road’ as a result.
Around fifteen minutes later at 8:30, a high explosive bomb hit Lee High Road between Old Road and Lochaber Road – there 5 casualties, including an ARP warden, with shrapnel damage to almshouses’ boundary wall that is still visible (along with a fading direction sign to an air raid shelter). The ARP warden was Henry Cottell of 41 Manor Lane Terrace who was to die later that evening in Lewisham Hospital – it was a house that seems to have been lost to the construction of Wolfram Close. Henry left behind two adult daughters and his wife Ann, who were there when the 1939 Register was collected.
Also at 8:30, Chiesman’s store repository at 87 Old Road was hit by a high explosive and incendiary combination – the ARP log noted that the repository was on fire. We’ll return to this incident later in the post.
One of the ARP Fire wardens for that part of Lee that night was Phyllis Noble (later Willmott), who lived at 49 Lampmead Road with her parents and grandparents. In the aftermath of the incendiaries being dropped, she and her brothers, who were also ARP Wardens, grabbed stirrup pumps, buckets and sandbags. ‘Incendiaries seemed to be everywhere, but so too were numerous fire watchers like ourselves.’ (1)
The first fire they dealt with was at the almshouses that stood at the corner Lampmead and Lee High Roads (pictured above) where a room had caught fire. They put out that and another in the neighbouring Methodist church, now the New Testament Church of God. Phyllis and her brothers spent the next few hours putting out fires in locations that didn’t even get a mention in the ARP log chasing ‘up and down stairs in the tall Victorian houses in the High Road.’ They reached Old Road and Chiesman’s Store depository by around midnight (2)
“As the red glow in the sky told us, there were still plenty of fires raging, including one in the furniture depository nearby. We went along to see if there was anything we could do there; giant tongues of red and gold flames were shooting skywards from the glowing building and clearly this was not work for us, in any case the firemen had already arrived.”
Had the Fire Brigade arrived earlier they may have been able to save 87 Old Road but it was largely destroyed.
Lee was probably only a stopping off place for the Luftwaffe as they headed towards the centre of the city. Later in the evening incendiaries rained down on central London in what was described as the Second Great Fire of London, the iconic picture of St Paul’s Cathedral amidst the smoke was from that night as 160 died and hundreds of buildings were destroyed in the capital.
Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming of Age in Wartime p50
Most of the information for this post comes from the Lewisham ARP Log – it is a fascinating document, which is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives. It isn’t a complete record – some incidents were reported to the Fire Brigade rather than the APR and some incendiaries were dealt with by residents or Fire Wardens without ever reaching the ARP service – this is particularly the case on busy nights such as this.
We left the boundary at the confluence of Hither Green Ditch with the Quaggy to which we will return, following the red dots on the map.
The confluence has actually moved – in 1893 it was more or less where 49 Longhurst Road is now located; it is now around 40 metres away on a sharp corner between between Manor Park and Leahurst Road (pictured below).
In 1893 this was still, just, the land of Lee Manor Farm, although this would change dramatically over the next decade. As was the case when we followed the boundary along Hither Green Ditch, the Quaggy not only was the Lee – Lewisham boundary it was one between two farms. On the west was North Park Farm (the top of the map below) and on the east Lee Manor Farm – the sale of the former to Cameron Corbett who created what is known as the Corbett Estate and the latter by the Northbrooks in a more piecemeal fashion was to shape the urban landscape.
The boundary was within the flood plain, with the Quaggy meandering along the boundary of the farm, the Lee – Lewisham boundary of 1893. While this was acceptable in farmland it wasn’t in relation to the smaller suburban housing about to be developed the east of the railway. Memories of the devastating floods of 1878 will still have been prominent – the theory about dealing with such floods, which prevailed until the end of the following century, was to deepen and straighten the river, moving the water on as quickly as possible – this is clear from the photograph below. This approach also made development easier as had been seen with the development of Lampmead Road following the sale of Lee House in the 1880s.
Like the previous sections, the boundary is being followed on foot, the footwear of choice has changed though because while the rest of the route has been run, this section, apart from a 300 metre covered section in central Lewisham, is by walking along the river bed so waders became the footwear of choice.
The river and boundary continue to diverge for a little, the 1893 flow of the Quaggy and consequently the boundary meandered along what is now broadly Longhurst Road. It was never any more than 50 metres away from the river’s current, very straight, deep, engineered course. The convergence of the 19th boundary and the Quaggy more or less where the 21st century bridge from the the entrance from Longhurst Road into Manor Park is now situated – just above the start line for the annual (in non-COVID-19 years) Quaggy Duck Race.
While the Quaggy and Lee – Lewisham boundary are now coterminous and the meanders are broadly similar in 2020 to 1893, much changed in the intervening period. The Quaggy was straightened and channelised through what until the 1960s was the last bit of farming in Lee – a piggery. The open space, Manor Park, was created in the mid-1960s with meanders restored to something very close to those that existed in 1893 in 2007.
At the exit of the Park, there is a bridge, it is a long-standing crossing of the Quaggy, part of an ancient path known as Hocum Pocum Lane which ran from St Mary’s Church in Lewisham to Lee High Road. Despite the work done further upstream to deepen and straighten the course it flooded badly here in 1968.
Beyond Manor Park, the river and 1893 boundary squeezes between the Victorian housing of Weardale Road and Eastdown Park. The land for the latter land had already been developed by 1893, Eastdown Park on land that had been cultivated by the market gardens of Lewisham Nursery, run by Messrs Willmott and Chaundy, until 1860.
Beyond the river’s first meander is the garden of 45 Eastdown Park, possibly very briefly home to the Ginger Baker, his father was there just before the Cream drummer was born in 1939. A hundred metres or so further on another there is another building with a musical history – the Rose of Lee, now Dirty South, which saw the first public performance by Kate Bush.
We have already mentioned serious flooding that occurred in the spring of 1878 in relation to straightening the Quaggy upstream. However, while the meanders and boundary of Lewisham and Lee hadn’t changed since then, the depth of the watercourse had. It is at least half a metre lower than in the prictue showing the partial destruction of the bridge in Eastdown Park. So whilst it is a pleasant wander down the river there is little to see beyond boundary walls and banks for much of this stretch.
Both sides of the river and boundary into Lewisham were lined with housing in 1893; on the Lee (High Road) side a few remain, 152 was once home to William Sidery (pictured top) part of a multi generational Lee building firm. Grove Cottage next to the Ambulance Station dates back to 1835 and 96 is the last remaining section of Lee Place (not to be confused with the eponymous mansion off Old Road) which was built in 1813 (lower picture) (1).
The remaining houses were largely lost to Fry’s garage and showrooms, which themsleves were replaced by a large Lidl and topped by an even larger block of flats this century.
Behind the housing the river retains a pleasant almost rural feeling idlyll – it has probably changed very little in the 127 years since the Ordnance survey map being followed was surveyed.
Beyond Clarendon Rise bridge, on the Lee side, was the Sultan in 1893 (pictured from early in the 20th century below), replaced in the last decade by Nandos; on the Lewisham side of the bridge is now the beautiful Hindu temple although that was a yard in 1893. Penfold’s moved into the site adjacent to both, known as Clarendon Yard around 1904.
The river disappears under what was referred to as Lee Bridge in 1893 for around 300 metres. Alas, dear reader, this part was done at street level.
The raised area above the river was an established shopping parade in 1896 with a tea dealer (83), a pair of boot makers (75 & 81), a wool shop (79), a confectioners with an architect and auctioneers above (77), Singer’s sewing machines (73), a stationers (71), a series of household goods shopsunder George Stroud’s ownership (65-69), a chemist (63), a florist (61) and the mainstay of that part of Lewisham high Street for generations – Chiesman’s Department Store (pictured a few years into the 20th century).
Much has changed now, rather than Chiesmans dominating the street scene it is a massive and not particularly attractive police station.
On the side of the police station is memorial that celebrates the contribution of Asquith Gibbes to Lewisham and, in the context of of the Black Lives Matter protests of earlier in lockdown, seems an important place to pause. Such memorials to members of London’s Black community remain a rarity, although just inside the Lee border is the Desmond Tutu Peace Garden, Tutu was a curate in Grove Park.
Asquith Gibbes was born in Grenada, and arrived in Britain in the late 1950s, working in Lewisham for 40 years fighting racial inequalities in education, policing and housing. There is a fuller biography of him as part of the brief for the memorial – two examples of his work have national significance. He chaired Millwall Anti-Racist Trust and instigated the ‘Kick it Out’ programme at Millwall Football Club in 1993, a campaign that was adopted nationally. Asquith was also part of very significant work with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office on reforming ‘stop and search’ rules.
Returning to the Lee – Lewisham boundary of 1893, the Quaggy re-emerges just beyond the shops of 1893 and the police station. The boundary though takes a sharp turn to the east (right) by St Stephen’s church, at what is/was the confluence of the Quaggy and Upper Kid Brook, following the latter towards Blackheath. We’ll cover that part of the boundary at our next visit.
The picture of Chiesmans shop in Lewisham is via e Bay in June 2016
The photographs of 1968 floods, the destroyed bridge in Eastdown Park and the map of Lee Manor Farm are from the collection of Lewisham Archives and remain their copyright, but are used with their permission
The photograph of the Sultan is used with the permission of Robert Crawford, the great grandson of the Craddocks, licensees there in the 1920s, it remains his family’s copyright.
1 Lewisham Leisure (1990) ‘From the Tiger to the Clocktower’
This, and the rest of the series of posts on the Lee boundary, 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.
Friday 8 May 2020 sees the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, VE, Day and would have been celebrated both locally and nationally if these were normal times – it was to be one of the themes of the 2020 Hither Green Festival – maybe this will be re-visited later in the year. We’ll look at what happened that day in 1945 with a local perspective.
After Berlin was surrounded by Allied forces and Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945, the end of the war was quite rapid. A week later, on 7 May 1945 Germany accepted an unconditional surrender of German Forces in most of the areas that they still occupied in the Netherlands and northwest Germany and the surrender came into effect the following day. A further surrender document was signed with the Russians on 8 May.
Over a million people took to the streets on 8 May in celebration throughout Great Britain to mark the end of the European part of the war. Many massed in central London, particularly in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace as featured in the video footage (the sound levels are a bit variable, so beware!)
Many celebrated locally though; South Park Crescent (above and below) had been built as part of the Verdant Lane estate in the early 1930s and was the scene of a large party. No doubt the celebrations were tempered there though by memories of 5 children from there and neighbouring streets who were amongst 38 children and 5 teachers who died at Sandhurst Road School. There had also been a V-1 flying bomb that hit the junction of South Park and Further Green Road less than a year before at 16:48 on 12 July 1944 which injured 15 (3) – several houses were destroyed and lots damaged – perhaps including the roofs of those pictured below).
In and around Hither Green, there were several other street parties including ones in The Woodlands and neighbouring Blashford Street.
Lee too saw several street parties, mainly in the working class streets. Taunton Road had seen a lot of damage in the Blitz with several lives lost. There was a posed picture probably taken close to the park entrance, the road in the background is Wantage Road.
Just around the corner in Brightfield Road (below) there was another street party in the part of the street that was built by John Pound and had originally been called Robertson Street. As can be seen from the photograph, the party wasn’t held there until early June 1945.
Brightfield Road had seen some damage from the V-1 flying bomb that hit the junction of Lenham and Lampmead Roads. In addition, there was Blitz damage to houses close to the bridge over the Quaggy, with several destroyed and several seriously damaged; along with three houses on the southern side of the bend which were damaged beyond repair (3). The houses destroyed in Brightfield Road were never rebuilt, a new entrance to Manor House Gardens was created in their stead and those damaged beyond repair suffered a similar fate – they were to become an entrance to, what became after the war, Northbrook School and is now Holy Trinity
The street scene is now markedly different – the attractive bank buildings at the end of the street were lost after the war either to Penfold’s or Sainsbury’s expansion – more on the building another day, as there is an interesting story behind it.
While there were dozens of parties, as Lewis Blake noted, ‘for all the public display, it may be assumed that a majority of people stayed quietly at home.’ (4)
In addition to the celebration of the end of hostilities, there will have been a relief that bombing and rocket attacks were over – roads like Springbank, Taunton and Aislibie Roads had been badly affected by the Blitz, with V-1s hitting lots of local streets – including Nightingale Grove, (pictured below) Fernbrook Road, between Springbank and Wellmeadow Roads along with Leahurst Road, and as we’ve mentioned the Lenham/Lampmead junction.
A couple of days after VE Day, Lewisham was visited by the King and Queen who stopped in a packed town centre to survey the damage caused by the V-1 flying bomb from 10 months before (it’s at about 4:10 into the film, which is sadly silent).
Other than the rebuilding which was to continue for the best part of 20 years, the other element of wartime privations that was to linger on for almost another decade was rationing, which didn’t officially end for meat until 1954.
If you have personal or family local VE Day memories, please do post them either in the Facebook thread you reached this post from or in the comments below, if you haven’t commented here before, it may take a few hours for your comment to be approved. I will hopefully add some of the comments into the main post.
In early May 2020 we don’t have the potential for street parties, but oddly, despite the lock down, we are probably contacting and seeing more of our neighbours than any of the generations since the end of World War Two. Every Thursday evening with the #ClapforCareWorkers most of our small street come out to clap and bang pots and pans; if we are typical, people often stay out in the street to chat, keeping social distancing, of course. Neighbours are checking in with each other by phone with shopping bought for those having to stay at home. Perhaps, for now at least, this is the World War Two type spirit we should embrace and celebrate, the parties will have to wait.
Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 -1945 p62
From ARP Logs held at Lewisham Archives
Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 p119
Blake, op cit p66
Credits and Thanks
Thank you to Andy Wakeman and Clive Andrews for allowing the use of their family photographs of the South Park Road party – the photographs remain their families’ copyright;
The photgrpahs of Brightfield Road and Taunton Road are part of the collection of the Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright;
Both had almshouses attached to them, with the second chapel being built when the original almshouses were re-provided close to what is now the junction of Lampmead and Lee High Roads.
Christopher Boone was a wool merchant who lived at Lee Place which was located in the area currently bordered by Bankwell Road, Old Road and Lee High Road’s Market Terrace. The site for the almshouses on Lee High Road between Boone’s Chapel and Brandram Road was given to Masters and Wardens of the Merchant Taylors’ Company in a deed of 1683. They were known as Boone’s Almshouses and predated the beautiful ones behind, known as Merchant Taylors Almshouses by 140 years.
In order to qualify for a place, prospective residents had to undergo a number of religious tests, which included reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed and the Ten Commandments by heart. Any failure to do so within 2 months could lead to expulsion, and the residents were expected to attend chapel services. There were many similarities with rules applied to residents of Trinity Hospital in Greenwich, which was partially funded by the College Farms in Lee and Lewisham.
In the 1871 census, the almshouses were all shared between in No 1, there was a couple and a seemingly unrelated widower; No 2 was home to 3 single women and at No 3 was a husband and wife, along with a 70 year old servant Alice Simms. There was a separate household which wasn’t numbered, this may have meant that the school was no more – this was another couple with a servant who was 70. Whilst the servants were listed, they were probably providing some form of care to other residents either in their almshouse or more generally in the scheme.
Most were local and had been born in Lee or neighbouring parishes. Given the changes in the area that the railways had brought, this is perhaps surprising but no doubt reflected an allocations policy that gave preference to those with some form of local connection.
All were good ages for the era – all 69 or older and with an average age of 75.
It isn’t clear what led to the decision to move the almshouses; the homes were 250 years old and maybe hadn’t stood the test of time. The new almshouses were 250 metres up Lee High Road on land that had been part of the estate of the late Georgian Lee House. The estate was bounded by Lee High Road, the Quaggy, what is now Aislibie Road and Old Road.
The owner, James Halliburton Young, who lived at Cedar House next door originally seems to have tried to sell the estate as a single lot in the early 1870s. However, this seem to have failed and instead he sold off a narrow tract of land along Lee High Road in several lots, while at least two were for housing but the two plots nearest to Lee Green were allocated to the Bible Christian Chapel and Boone’s Chapel and Almshouses.
The only sign of the first incarnation of the Boone’s Almshouses is the very weathered looking red brick wall that replaced them – eroded both by the elements and World War Two shrapnel.
The second version of the almshouses were designed by the same architect as the chapel, Edward Blakeway I’Anson and in a similar Gothic style (1).
1881 was the first census after move to what is now the corner of Lampmead – a local connection still seemed important, in an age where migration due to the railways was common, most were from no further than Kent. Two of the occupants were the same as a decade before of the corner of Brandram Road – including Alice Sims who at 80 was still carrying out the duties as a servant. Unlike a decade earlier no one was sharing their home, five of the almshouses were home to couples.
When the 1939 Register was compiled, of the 12 almshouses. three were empty. The occupants were all single people with six women three men the oldest 93, with a care; the youngest 60 with an average just shy of 79 with no couples.
As we saw when we looked at the two Boone’s Chapels, the congregation on the second version of the chapel dispersed in the early 1950s. The almshouses lasted slightly longer as a going concern but they too were replaced at Belmont Park in 1963, something we’ll return to in the next post.
However, this isn’t the end of the story. The almshouses, along with the church, were acquired around 1975 by was was to become the ‘Assemblies of God Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.’ While the almshouses were locally listed in 2012, sadly, this didn’t offer them much protection (as was the case with the gas holders at Bell Green) and the church demolished them without planning permission, seemingly to provide extra car parking for worshippers. One almshouse does remain though; it is not immediately recognisable, with its red brick painted ‘brilliant’ white. The inappropriate look pails into insignificance when compared with the painting of the formerly elegant Kentish ragstone church next door a very bright grey and cream by the Lee New Testament Church of God (just visible above).
In the final instalment of Lee’s almshouses we’ll look at both the Merchant Taylor’s Almshouses of 1826 and their 20th and 21st century replacements.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p426
The census and related information comes from Find My Past (subscription required)
The black and white photograph of the 1875 variant of the almshouse is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission
Like the building of shelters, the roots go back to the interwar period. The ARP Department of the Home Office was set up in 1935 (1), although appeals for volunteers were not made until 1937 – the approach was based on studying the impact of fascist bombing of Republican areas of Spain and the measures that were employed on the ground there (2). A second appeal for volunteers was made in March 1938 (3).
In the months before war broke out, it was agreed to pay full time ARP personnel £3 per week, although only £2 for women, with recruitment posters stressing the desire for ‘responsible men.’ Later in the year payments for some part time personnel were agreed (4).
Their control centre was in the basement of the old Town Hall in Catford (above) and, after January 1940, was funded through the rates, a predecessor of Council Tax (6). Every bombing, incendiary and related incident was phoned through to the ARP control centre who effectively acted as an emergency call centre. They would find out about injuries, deaths, those trapped or missing, any fires that couldn’t be controlled locally (7) and look to send emergency services to assist. On nights where there was heavy bombardment or large numbers of incendiary devices dropped these were not always available, as we saw with the fire that destroyed the original Church of the Good Shepherd in Lee, below.
Below is one small part of the Lewisham ARP log for the period between Christmas and New Year in 1940, while there had been a lull on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, hundreds of high explosives and incendiary bombs were dropped over the next few days, many around Lee. We’ll explore these attacks in much more detail in later posts.
At the level below the control centre, Individual wardens were based at schools and some purpose built concrete ‘pillboxes’ (8) around the community. They each served a population of 2 to 3,000, typically with a complement of six wardens, mainly part time (9).
One of the ARP posts in Lee was at what was then Hedgley Street School, pictured above (it was later Northbrook and currently Trinity Lewisham School) on the corner of Taunton Road. Running Past has covered the Noble family, who started the war at 49 Lampmead Road, a number of times before, including in relation to 1920’s play and the ‘Sunday Constitutional.’ Several of the family members worked for the ARP – Phyllis was briefly a warden with a navy battledress and steel helmet with a large white ‘W’ on the front (10). Her brother Joe and a cousin, who also lived at 49 Lampmead Road, worked as messengers based at the School – while in theory there were telephone links to Catford, cycle and motor cycle based messengers were used too in case lines came down.
The school was hit while Phyllis’ younger brother, Joe, was working there and partially destroyed. He was to be the only one injured – a bruised ankle from a falling fireplace (11). The ARP post presumably moved to an undamaged part of the evacuated school.
On the ground, the local ARP wardens would deal with whatever was needed, this ranged from providing first aid to those injured in incidents, directing people to shelters and help in getting the dead and injured out of bombed premises, this was both for hits on houses as well as the larger scale destruction of incidents like the attack on Sandhurst Road School in early 1943.
In front of St Stephens Church in Lewisham is a tall metal post with what looks like a pair of speakers attached to the top. It is easy to miss, particularly when the adjacent trees alongside the Quaggy are in leaf. It seems to be Lewisham’s last remaining air raid warning siren – one of around 25 around the then Boroughs of Deptford and Lewisham (12).
Once the warning sounded ARP wardens ensured that residents took cover in one of the air raid shelters; they sounded on over 1200 occasions during the war. Other locations seem to have included a former police station on Catford Hill, Catford Police Station on Bromley Road and Sandhurst Road School. The survival of the Lewisham one probably relates to its location next to the Quaggy and has a residual use as a flood warning siren.
The chilling sound of the air raid warning siren and, at the end, the all clear sound is on the YouTube video.
Finally, it is worth remembering that many ARP wardens lost their lives during the war; across London around 300 perished (13). Those that died serving their community in Lewisham included (14):
Albert Brown (64) of 1 Eliot Hill was Injured at 14 Montpelier Vale on 8 March 1945 in the aftermath of the V-2 attack on Blackheath and died later the same day at Lewisham Hospital (pictured below);
Henry Cottell (52) was a Senior Air Raid Warden of 41 Manor Lane Terrace was injured at Lee High Road on 29/12/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
Barbara Fleming (16) of 20 Farmfield Road in Bellingham was injured on 16/04/1941 at Warden’s Post, Ashgrove Road; died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
Douglas Hardisty (44) ; of 70 Vancouver Road in Forest Hill who was a Captain in the Home Guard as well as being an ARP Warden was Injured 21 March 1944, at corner of Vancouver Road and Kilmorie Road; he died at Lewisham Hospital;
Kenneth Smith (33) of 251 Burnt Ash Hill was injured at Methodist Chapel, Burnt Ash Hill on 13/10/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital; and
Marjorie Wickens (19) of 7 Taunton Road died at the Albion Way Shelter on 11 September 1940.
Running Past will return to the fire watchers, the expanded fire service and other elements of the in later posts on World War Two.
Mike Brown (1999) Put That Light Out! Britain’s Civil Defence Services at War 1939-45 -Stroud, Sutton Publishing p2
Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 – 1945 p12
Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming Of Age in Wartime – London, Peter Owen, p42
The area bordering Manor House Gardens has a rich and interesting history which Running Past has written numerous posts about. This post was written to ‘accompany’ a walk organised as part of the 2019 Manor House Gardens Festival, it can be used to independently to walk the route (it’s a circuit of around a mile, which can be found here) 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.
Before it was enveloped by the city Lee was a village, a village with three centres – Lee Green, the area around St Margaret’s Church and Old Road, as John Rocque’s map from 1746 shows.
Lee remained largely rural until mid-19th century until the coming of the railways – Blackheath & Lewisham stations opened in 1849, Lee in 1866 and Hither Green not until mid-1890s (it was just a junction before that).
The mid-1860s Ordnance Survey map above shows how little development there was beyond Lee Green and to the south of Old Road; farms remained until the 1920s and 1930s, such as Burnt Ash and Horn Park.
The Manor House
Old Road was once home to a series of large houses, starting from the eastern end these were Lee House, The Cedars, Lee Place, the Manor House, Pentland House and The Firs – geography played an important part, it is on a small hill which would have offered impressive views to the east and south but were high enough to protect from flooding from the Quaggy and the now diverted Mid Kid Brook, which used to flow down Lee High Road.
The first of the country houses was Lee Place; Its building was the result of the death of Lord of the Manor, Brian Annesley who had a moated farm probably where St Margaret’s Lee School is now situated. His later years are believed to at least partially inspired Shakespeare to write King Lear – there was happier ending than in the play though. The estate split up on his death.
Lee Place (above) probably built by/for George Thompson – had links to the slave trade but is better known as a soldier and MP during the Commonwealth brother of Maurice who lived at Lee Farm. It was the home to the Boone family (it was their family chapel) for several generations but was let out from the mid-18th century. Its last tenant was Benjamin Aislabie.
The estate was sold in 1824 as still has an impact on the current landscape as it was broken up into relatively small lots which were developed at different times. It allowed too the straightening of Lee High Road – the straightened bit was known as New Road for several decades
The Manor House
Lee Farm was previously on the site, which moved to what is now the junction of Baring and St Mildred’s Roads in 1727 and became Burnt Ash Farm. The former farm was bought initially by the slave trading brother of George Thomson, Maurice and then by William Coleman who sought to re-create the lands of the old Manor for his nephew,Thomas Lucas, both were ‘merchants’ with strong links to the slave trade.
The Grade II listed Manor House was built on the site of the farm in 1770 by Richard Jupp for Lucas. It was bought by Sir Francis Baring in early 19th century, whose family wealth also had its origins in the slave trade – used it as their near London base – the merchant on the maroon plaque is depressingly vague. The Northbrooks let in out during much of the 19th century
Pentland House was built in early 1790s and is probably the oldest residential building in Lewisham – it is a close run thing with St Mary’s Vicarage though! It has been added to considerably and rendered in the early 19th century when extended.
It was home to the rich, but not that significant Smith family, who sold to some more Smiths, who sold to some more Smiths (albeit with a prefix) – it became a Goldsmiths’ College hall in 1913 which stayed until the early 2000s. It is currently a largely backpackers hostel.
Flats & Houses Opposite
The houses and flats opposite are a bit less grand – Bankwell Road & adjoining bits of Old Road – completed in 1908, possibly by James Watt – it was the central of three plots of land bounded by Lee High Road and Old Road – as the 1890s Ordnance Survey maps below shows.
The eastern of the plots are Arts & Crafts style flats which are a bit out of kilter with rest of area. The land they were built on had been part of Lee Place – the house itself was on this part. The land was bought as an orchard and kitchen garden for Pentland House with the flats & Market Terrace on Lee High Road built in the mid-1930s.
Before moving on worth reflecting on the library, the park and indirectly the rest of the current urban landscape was paid for by the slave labour in the plantations of the Caribbean owned or traded by those that lived here and over the road.
On the way to Lochaber Hall at the first house on Manor Lane Terrace look at the wall – the remains of a sign pointing towards air raid shelters in Manor House Gardens (more on that later).
Lochaber Hall, the Firs, Holy Trinity
If think Lochaber Hall looks like a church hall you’d be right, it was originally church hall for Holy Trinity in Glenton Road (pictured below). The church was destroyed in the Blitz and is now Callaghan Close (almost opposite the Telephone Exchange) and named after the 1970s Prime Minister who lived in Blackheath.
The Hall was designed by Ernest Newton, a locally renowned architect and President of RIBA, he also designed St Swithuns, the original Church of Good Shepherd and Baring Hall at Grove Park. Slightly surprisingly it is Grade II listed. Immediately after World War Two it was used as a hall for the Church of the Good Shepherd as that church was largely destroyed in a fire & the congregation was using the adjacent hall as the church.
The Firs Estate
The Firs was another of the large country houses of Lee, it was a large red-brick house which was a built around 1700 as the ‘town’ residence for the Papillion’s, a prominent Huguenot banking family – it stayed in the family’s ownership for a century. The last owner from the mid-1860s was John Wingfield Larkin, a member of a wealthy Kent family who had been a merchant in Egypt and British consul in Alexandria between 1838 and 1841. The family sold up on his death as the city encroached in 1893.
It was developed as Murillo, Old, Rembrandt & Lochaber Roads by the end of 19th century. It is not certain who the builder/developer was – although is a stained glass for Siderys on Murillo Road – who were prominent builders in the area.
The houses on the corner of Manor Lane Terrace and Abernethy were largely destroyed on the 1st night of the blitz. 27 Murillo Road was home to one of the more prominent Lewisham suffragettes – Caroline Townsend.
Lee Manor Farm
This was originally at the Manor House, moved to what is now the junction of St Mildred’s Road and was renamed Burnt Ash Farm in 1727; that farm was split in the early 19th century and new farm buildings constructed opposite The Firs (close to the current junction of Manor Lane Terrace and Manor Lane). It didn’t stay the farm house that long and we’ll return to it at our next stop.
Junction of Manor Lane Terrace & Kellerton Road
Manor Park Estate
We are in the land of W J Scudamore here and along with John Pound are probably the two firms of builders that most influenced the area – buying land from the Northbrooks. W J Scudamore were based on Manor Lane (corner of Handen Road) then Lee High Road (part of Sainsbury’s site) and latterly on Holme Lacey Road in Lee and active in Lee, Hither Green and later elsewhere from the 1890s until the 1930s.
The Manor Park Estate (as the roads around here were originally referred to as) was built for a mixture of rent and sale – sale prices were £265 or£275 for the bigger ones – it was 1906…!
They definitely also built
Shops on Manor Lane (eastern side)
Some of St Mildred’s Road
Holme Lacey & Dalinger Roads
Several small sections of Leahurst, Longhurst and Fernbrook Roads
Probably lots of others too
On the site of the last location of the Lee Manor Farm (pictured below) – the land farmed was to the south of here. The farmhouse seems to have been sold with the land for the Manor Park Estate and became a home for the Scudamore family who remained there until 1961.
The site was redeveloped in the 1960s or early 1970s, it isn’t clear whether this was by Scudamores, as they went into liquidation in 1966. It is presumably named after the last occupant of the Manor House – Henry Wolffram from Stuttgart who ran a ‘crammer’ school for would-be army officers – the spelling of his name is incorrect though – the cul de sac as one ‘F’ the name two ‘Fs’.
The council estate behind Cordwell Road – is named after one of the last farmers of the farm.
It contains a rather impressive Ice House which was used as an air raid shelter in World War Two; there were a couple of other ones too, the outline of one of them was visible in the parched grass in the hot weather of 2018.
The Gardens have been ‘listed’ since 1987 and underwent a major refurbishment in 2000. The small lake has been part of grounds for most of its post agricultural life. The River Quaggy flows through the Gardens, it used to be at a higher level but the bed was excavated partially to reduce flooding – probably in the 1880s.
Behind the library, there are two little bits of Catford – foundation stones for the now demolished St Laurence Church and the original Town Hall.
Lenham Road/Lammead Road Corner
If we were standing here in the 1870s we would be in or next to the River Quaggy as there was a meander that originally came up to this point. It was straightened in 1880s both to allow development but possibly too as flood prevention measure – there were really bad floods in 1878.
Most of housing on Lenham, Lampmead (and Aislibie that will walk up) Roads dates from late 1880s when Lee House (more on that later) was demolished and the land sold for development. It was slightly different on the other side of the river – Robertson Street, now Brightfield Road probably dates from the late 1850s or early 1860s.
The houses at the corner are very different – early 1960s council housing as opposed to late Victorian. This was because early in the morning of 22 June 1944 a V-1 flying bomb hit the corner, killing 6. There was a lot of Blitz damage on Lenham Road as well as on Aislibie Road where there are several bits of infill council housing from the late 1950s or early 1960s.
49 Lampmead (above) was home to Phyllis Noble who was to become Phyllis Willmott and wrote a 3 part autobiography about growing up in Lee in the 1920s and 30s – this has been covered a few times – including in relation to the Sunday Constitutional and children’s play.
Almsot opposite, at the junction with Aislibie Road in 2016 a house had Blitz type damage as a result of badly executed building work.
Lee House & Centre
This was originally the site of Lee House, a medieval mansion that was rebuilt in the 1820s probably partially as a result of the re-alignment of Old Road, it is pictured below. However, by the 1880s it no longer met the needs of the wealthy Victorian gent as city encroached with the railways.
Lee Centre was built on the site in the 1880s – initially it was home to a few clubs, including a chess club. But it was never developed uses that befitted its impressive architecture by World War 2 it had effectively become used for storage and nurse appointments; it was used for education from 1970s and more recently by various charities.
Next door was built as St Margaret’s Parish Rooms, long before Kingswood Halls were built; it was also home to school for many years before becoming offices and warehouses for stationery supplier and then a toy merchant. It has been a nursery for the last decade or so.
In a former incarnation this was home to the teetotal Lee Working Men’s Institution, it was taken over as a depot for the Lewisham Department Store, Chiesmans who rebuilt it around 1914 – it was almost completely destroyed in during the Blitz before being rebuilt on same footprint for Chiesmans in mid 1950s. After some slightly less than legitimate activities it is slowly being converted into flats.
Was situated on what is now the opposite corner of Aislbie Road, it was another large house – the estate was broken up and mostly sold at the same time as Lee House. The house itself remained until the 1890s before being sold for development – hence the housing at the north-western corner of Aislibie Road is different to the rest of the street. The street itself was named after, although spelled incorrectly, the slave owner and terrible cricketer Benjamin Aislabie – the last tenant of Lee Place.
Manor House Gardens (Old Road entrance)
This is next door to 36 Old Road, this was part of the estate of The Cedars. Post development the site was used for many years as stables for Thomas Tilling’s horse drawn buses and then as a workshop by the firm afterwards. It went through several uses afterwards – the sweet makers Whitehouse and Co from 1929; John Edgington and Co Marquee Manufacturers who latterly made floats for the Lord Mayors Show were there from 1949 (including some of those below) and then Penfolds used it as a crash repair workshop from the late 1980s until around 2010. Development into flats started a few years later but has been paused for a couple of years.
John Rocque’s 18th century map is from the information board at Lee Green