Tag Archives: Lee Farm

Lee Manor Farm -‘Old’ Lee’s Last Farm

As regular readers will no doubt recall Running Past has covered many of the former farms of Lee – Lee Green Farm, College Farm, Melrose Farm, Horn Park Park and Burnt Ash Farm.

The land of Burnt Ash Farm had originally been farmed from a large house which was on the site of what is now Lee Manor House.  It was probably not an ideal location for the farm as its land was virtually all to the south – stretching away towards Grove Park.  The move to the junction of what is now St Mildred’s and Baring Roads happened in the mid-1720s (1).  The remains of the original Farm on Old Road were found underneath the library when some building work was undertaken in the early 1980s.

The shift in location to Burnt Ash was by Thomas Butler who came from Dagenham in, what was then, rural Essex (2).  Perhaps as early as 1739, and certainly after Butler’s death in 1751 (3), Burnt Ash Farm was split between two of his sons, Matthew who remained at Burnt Ash and farmed the land south of St Mildred’s Road; and James who was to farm what was to be called Lee Manor Farm.  The land was most of the area bordered by Burnt Ash Road, what is now St Mildred’s Road, the stream Hither Green Ditch until it joins the Quaggy, the river itself and Lee High Road.The initial site of the farmhouse was to the west of Pentland House (at one stage called Foclallt House) on what is now Manor Lane Terrace and included the site of Lochaber Hall (on the 1860s map above it is referred to as Manor Cottage).  It was a large three-storey house with extensive outbuildings (4).  The land was not owned by the Butlers and, as was covered in a post on the Manor House, was bought by William Coleman who sought to recreate the old Manor of Lee for his nephew Thomas Lucas – funded by the proceeds of slavery.  Lucas inherited the farms on his uncle’s death in 1771.

On James Butler’s death in 1762 it seems likely that the Farm was again managed by his brother, Matthew, from Burnt Ash (5). After Matthew’s death in 1784 the tenancy of the two farms were taken on by Baron Dacre of Dacre House, whose estates were relatively small.  (6) We will return to Dacre House at some point in the future.

Following the deaths of Lord Dacre in 1806 and Lady Dacre in 1808, there were some changes to Lee Manor Farm.  Part of the land bounding Lee High Road was sold to the new owner of The Firs, Christopher Godmond, who had bought the House after the death of David Papillon. (7)

The farm house had be let separately since the 1780s; so when Lee Manor Farm was again let and managed in its own right in 1808, a new farmhouse was needed for a new tenant.  The new farmhouse was built on what is now Manor Lane Terrace, between the current Northbrook and Kellerton Roads (it is shown on the map above).  The bend in Manor Lane Terrace is explained by the location of the farm.   The artists impression of the farm is by Lloyd Roberts (see credits below).

The new tenant was the butler of the new Lord of the Manor, Sir Francis Baring – Thomas Postans (8) – Postans was to stay there until 1816, when he moved on to manage the kitchen gardens of the Manor House to supply the officers mess at St James Palace.  Mr R E Brown was the tenant of the farm for this period but Postans returned to the Farm in the mid 1830s.

There is a fascinating map of the farm from towards the end of Thomas Postans tenure drawn with an east – west axis; Lee Green is in the bottom right hand corner with Burnt Ash Road providing the bottom boundary (the other side of Burnt Ash Road was Crown Estate land) and Lee High Road to the right of the map.  There is considerable overlap between the 1843 field pattern and the street pattern that emerged in the decades afterwards.

In 1845 a lease was granted to Mark Cordwell who hailed from Buckinghamshire; oddly he was listed as a seaman in the 1861 census with with his 20 year old son, Charles, born in Greenwich, noted as as the farmer.  Mark died in 1864.

By 1881, Charles had married Mary (née Peasnell) who was from Buckinghamshire, like his father, and had eight children and a servant living on the farm; the farm was listed at 150 acres in the census. They may have had a bailiff or manager running the farm for them for a while in the 1870s as three children were born in Shoreham in Kent.  In the 1871 census they were listed at Prestons Farm House  in Shoreham.

They were back in Lee in 1891; but by the 1901 Census, Charles was listed at 35 Medusa Road in Catford as a ‘retired farmer’ with his son and daughter in law.  He may have emigrated to the USA as the last record for him is sailing to New York on the Philadelphia in 1906.

While he may have moved to America, his name lives on in the 1970s council housing that was developed to replace the southern side of Northbrook Road and land behind Kellerton Road – Cordwell Road.

The end of the farm coincided with the gradual sale of of the Northbrook estate from the 1860s onwards.  One of the main builders from the mid 1890s were the family firm W J Scudamore.  Their developments included what they referred to as the Manor Park Estate (roads such as Kellerton Road, parts of Manor Lane Terrace, Redruth Road (now Manor Lane) and parts of Manor Park.  It seems that the old Manor Farm came as part of the lot; most developers would have probably demolished the buildings and built over it.  However, the Scudamores decided to retain the building as a family home – which it remained as until the 1960s – there is a little more on this in the post on W J Scudamore.

The last of the Scudamores to live in Manor Lane Terrace was Elizabeth (née Drane) who died in 1961 aged 90.  After her death, the house and the land around it were acquired for council housing – although all the homes appear to have been sold under Right to Buy.  The name Wolfram Close is presumably a reference to the last tenant of the Manor House – the slightly differently spelled Henry Wolffram.  

Notes

  1. Josephine Birchenough (1981) Some Farms and Fields in Lee p4
  2. ibid p5
  3. ibid p7
  4. ibid p7
  5. ibid p8
  6. ibid p9
  7. ibid p9
  8. ibid p10

Picture Credits

 

The Thomson Brothers – Slave Traders & Owners of Lee

One of the underlying threads in the growth of Lee and the underpinning source of its wealth from the 17th century onwards was slavery – Running Past has covered this before in relation to the Manor House with the links of both Thomas Lucas and the Barings to it as well as to the last resident of Lee PlaceBenjamin Aislabie, who kept his ties to the awful trade in misery beyond the time it was outlawed in the Empire.

While what these Lee residents trading links were despicable, two of their predecessors on what is now the borders of SE12 and SE13 were considerably worse and helped paved the way for what was to come later – George and, more particularly, Maurice Thomson (they are sometimes referred to by the alternate spelling Thompson).  Maurice Thomson lived at Lee Farm, sometimes referred to as Lee House (1), his brother George was one of the early inhabitants of Lee Place (covered in Running Past in 2014) it may even have been built for him (2).

IMG_0323

Maurice Thompson was described “England’s greatest colonial merchant of his day.”  He was born into a wealthy family in Watton-at-Stone in Hertfordshire  around 1600 and moved to Virginia around 1617, initially being involved in the supply of indentured servants (who were obligated to work only for a set period of time) and became involved in tobacco production directly himself – exporting 25% of Virginian output by the mid 1630s.

His involvement in slavery began in 1626 – supplying 60 slaves for the Leeward Island of St Kitts.  Over the next couple of decades along with a  few other families, like the Noells, the Thomsons turned the English colonies in the West Indies into sugar producing islands totally dependent on slavery – there were around 12,800 slaves in Barbados by 1650. The number doubled again within a decade.

The trade was effectively a three cornered one – taking slaves from Guinea and elsewhere on the coast of West Africa to the West Indies, bringing sugar back to Europe and then returning with provisions to West Africa.  Thomson was also involved in a wide variety of other trade – including privateering in the Caribbean – essentially a legalised form of piracy, which has been covered in Running Past before, in relation to the name of the Antigallican Hotel in Charlton.

Maurice Thomson’s first definite on-line links to Lee came when he took a 21 lease out on Lee Farm in 1662 from Francis Sherman, who had bought the farm in 1633.  It wasn’t his primary residence for much of the rest of his life, this was in Haversham which is now part of Milton Keynes where he bought the Manor House in 1664.

As discussed previously in a post , Slavery and the Manor House, there isn’t complete certainty where Lee Farm (sometimes known as Lee House) actually was in this period.  It may have been where the Manor House is currently sited or could have been close to the junction of Old Road and Aislibie Road.

It seems likely that Maurice Thomson  was living in Lee before 1662 – there was a Maurice Thomson in Lee in 1641, who had a son, also Maurice, christened at St Margaret’s Lee in May – it is known that Maurice Thomson’s first son who died in infancy was also called Maurice. He was also on hearth tax records from 1641 (3).

IMG_0421

Maurice Thomson used Lee Farm it as his close to London base until his death in 1676.  In his will he left most of his land interests, including the slaves, to his son John

I give bequeath and devise unto my said dearely beloved sonn Sir John Thomson Baronett All my ffreehold mannors Lands Tenements and hereditaments in England Ireland Barbadoes, Cureco St Christophers (now known as St Kitts), Virginia , the Caribie Islands and elsewhere …

John Thomson stayed in Lee until 1680 when the remainder of the lease was transferred to Elias Aston.

John Thomson, married Frances Annesley, while she has the same family name as Brian who had been Lord of the Manor of Lee and an early 17th century  court case seems to have at least partially inspired King Lear (covered in Running Past in 2014),  she would have been no more than a distant relative – it has not been possible to find any direct link through The Peerage.  Her part of family came from Anglesey.

As merchants the Thomsons were very much in the Parliamentary camp during the English Civil War, which Christopher Hill notes was

… a class war, in which the despotism of Charles I was defended by the reactionary forces of the established Church and conservative landlords, and on the other side stood the trading and industrial classes in town and countryside . . . the yeomen and progressive gentry…’

Of the Thomson brothers, George was much less involved in the slave trade, although his name crops up; it is with much less frequently than Maurice his brother.  He settled in Virginia in 1623 before returning to London as a merchant trading with Virginia and the Caribbean – trade with these areas always indirectly involved slavery in this period.  He is much better known for his political and military activity.  George Thomson became actively involved in the Parliamentary cause as a soldier, losing a leg in battle. After the end of the Civil War he was elected to Parliament for Southwark, although fell out with Cromwell for a while.  After the Restoration in 1660, George Thomson (picture below – source) seems to have laid low in Lee, but he was mentioned in hearth tax records in 1664 – he had the most chimneys in the parish, 21, six more than his brother at Lee Farm.

Thomson

While this is the first definitive on-line reference to him, like his brother, there are clear indications that he had been living in the area for a while – there are christening records from the 1645 with the correct names of children and wife.  So it may be that he had been the first resident of Lee Place.

He died in 1668, and the estate of Lee Place seems to have been sold to the Christopher Boone, who took up residence in 1670. Boone’s will makes reference to it having been bought from Thomson.

Notes

  1. Edwyn and Josephine Birchenough (1968) Two Old Lee Houses – Dacre House and Lee House p68
  2. Picture from information board opposite St Margaret’s Church
  3. Birchenough op cit p70