Tag Archives: Lee Green Farm

Leybridge Court – ‘Tudor House’ to Social Housing

Leybridge Court is an attractive social housing estate centring around three 11-storey blocks a few metres away from the boundary of Lewisham with Greenwich.  The site has an interesting history that this post will explore.

The land was once part of the estate of Eltham Palace which we have covered in relation to the farms that cultivated the area – Horn Park and Lee Green Farms, the former lasted up until the 1930s.  The farmhouse of the latter, unsurprisingly, was at Lee Green in the south eastern quadrant where the Leegate Centre is currently situated and is pictured below.

The farmhouse moved to the current site of Leybridge Court in the 1840s, with the then farmer William Morris(s) purchasing land from the Crown presumably on a 99-year lease.  He built a very large new home called Tudor House and seems to have also built some speculative housing on the same site – either side of the current Cambridge Drive (1).

Little changed until the mid-1860s – the Ordnance Survey map of 1867, shows the houses that Morris built but nothing else around the Lee Green toll house.  The feel though would have still been rural.  The change in the next four or five years was dramatic with new housing laid out along Eltham Road, almost up to what is now Sutcliffe Park.  As the local MP remarked in 1871, ‘in a short period a town has sprung up in the neighbourhood.’ (2)

As we saw in a post on St Peter’s, the church that in various forms has served the area, around 160 large houses were built along Eltham Road, Cambridge Road (now Drive), on what is now Courtlands Avenue along with Weigall, Osberton and Leyland Roads. The houses were small compared with Tudor House, while no photographs seem to survive of Tudor House, a picture of the neighbouring Rothsay, a few doors closer to Leyland Road, does.

Source e Bay February 2021

By 1871 Tudor House and those to the east had been built for well over 20 years, to the east they had been joined by others following the demise of Lee Green Farm in the 1860s. All were covered in the census and all were single family dwellings generally with several servants – Tudor House was home to shipowner Joseph Pegg, some adult children and a modest two servants. One of the houses was used as the vicarage for St Peter’s, the Vicar was Leonard McDonald James, the others included in ship broker, a silk broker, a ship builder.

By 1911 not that much had changed, the houses were still inhabited by wealthy single households with servants – the Tudor House was home to a Swiss engineer with a couple of servants. Fairfield, next door was home three generations of Watkins who had three live-in servants including a Between Maid. It was the family’s 4th census there – the wealth having come from ship ownership.  Others in the group of houses included company director and a doctor.

Much had changed by the time World War Two broke out, while most of the houses still seemed to be occupied in the 1939 Register, virtually all were subdivided into flats (often with some parts of the house empty). The inhabitants were a mixture of manual, clerical and shops workers and the retired, often there were lodgers too. The exception was Tudor House where there were three people rattling around in it – a retired couple, an engineer and millinery buyer, along with a lodger.

The Bomb Sight website, notes that Tudor House was hit during the Blitz, although there is no obvious record of it in the local APR Log. By the time the area was visited by surveyors putting together the LCC Bomb Damage maps the site had been cleared and no significant bomb damage was noted (3). Similarly, when Ordnance Survey visited in 1948, cartographers though noted a gap with some earthworks where the Tudor House once stood. was though.

The reality is that this was a crater that provided a playground for those growing up in neighbouring streets, such as Osberton Road during and after the war. The site wasn’t just a playground during the war, it was part of the dig for victory allotments as the 1948 map above shows.

The old Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham approved the construction of the estate in 1958 and the contract was awarded to Costain, with work completed in 1960, this will have included demolishing the remaining houses on the site.  Costain was a firm with roots in Merseyside who had expanded into the south east in the 1930s.  At the time they  built Leybridge Court, public sector housing was only a small part of their work but they were to become a significant player in the 1960s.  Costain continue today as a civil engineering contractor. 

The estate centres around a trio of 11 storey blocks, each with 44 flats.  At the rear of the estate are much smaller, low rise, maisonette blocks.

The blocks were seemingly quite popular, based on one Facebook thread at least.  Unlike most tower blocks they weren’t given names, just referred to by the numbers within them.  However, they did tend to be known by a distinguishing feature – the colour of the doors and railings on the balconies – green (nearest to Lee Green), blue (close to Cambridge Drive) and red at the back of the estate. 

In 2000 the then Labour Government set the Decent Homes Standard which sought to ensure that public sector homes were in a reasonable state of repair, had effective heating systems and ‘reasonably modern’ facilities and services – in the main this related to kitchens and bathrooms.  There wasn’t sufficient money for local authorities to do this work all themselves. So, in some locations, councils looked to transfer stock to other organisations who weren’t subject to the same borrowing restrictions as they were.  In Lewisham, this led to large areas of stock being transferred to housing associations – Phoenix was set up to improve and manage the homes in Downham and Bellingham.  With Leybridge Court and the Newstead Estate (often referred to as the Redbrick Estate), Lewisham with input from residents, undertook a competitive process and in the end selected Broomleigh (now known as Clarion) to refurbish and manage the estates.

Work was underway to the outside of the estate when the Google Streetview car passed by in 2012, the internal works were probably completed earlier.  The exteriors look much more modern and have changed from brick to what looks like a white render – they have become a landmark, clear from many of the higher points of south east London.  One thing remains though the colour of the  entrances is still red, green and blue – something, no doubt, that residents will have insisted upon. 

The improvements on the estate were at least partially paid for by the use of land on the corner of Cambridge Drive for new homes for sale on a shared ownership basis.

Today, the estate, from the outside at least, seems well maintained and cared for – how social housing should be. 

If you live(d) or work(ed) at Leybridge Court estate, tell us your memories of your time there.  Post them below (you can use your Facebook or Twitter login – or via Facebook (if you found the post via here) – if it is you first comment ‘here’, you will have to wait for it to be ‘moderated’.  I will update the post with comments.  Try not to post anything libellous about others though.

Notes

  1. Neil Rhind (1987) Blackheath and Its Environs Volume 2, p34
  2. Kentish Mercury 15 July 1871
  3. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 p116

Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey map is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence
  • The picture of the original Lee Green Farm is from information board at Lee Green
  • The black and white photograph of the estate being built is from the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission and remains their copyright

1-19 Burnt Ash Road – Shopping Before the Leegate Centre, Part 1

A while ago we looked at the shopping parade of 2-30 Burnt Ash Road, from its development in the late 19th century, to its loss to Penfolds and later Sainsburys.  We now cross over the road to look at the shops on the other side of the road, that were eventually lost to Leegate Centre (pictured from 2016).

While the 1863 surveyed Ordnance Survey map still showed Lee Green Farm (pictured below), its days were numbered – its last farmer, Richard Morris, had, or was about to move, on to Blackfen. His father, William, had leased land from the Crown Estate for several decades, before moving on to College Farm at the highest point on Burnt Ash Hill where he died in 1851.

The developer of the south eastern quadrant of Lee Green, where the farm buildings still sat in 1863, was a name that will be familiar – John Pound, who developed much of Grove Park and south Lee. Work seems to have been completed around 1866 – there were shops at Orchard Terrace on Eltham Road and houses in Crown Terrace on Burnt Ash Road (then called Lane). The Orchard relating to the previous land use and the Crown, the landowner. Burnt Ash Lane/Road was the boundary between the lands of the Crown to the east, which had been part of the estates of Eltham Palace, and the Northbrook estate to the west

The houses were terraced and much smaller than those opposite which were built a few years earlier and were also to become shops.  In the 1871 census, the lower numbers near Lee Green tended to be working class and manual occupations, slightly wealthier further south included articled clerk, solicitor’s clerk but nothing that grand – certainly compared with original occupants over the road.  Little had changed a decade later although there had been a gradual shift to multiple households living in the houses – for example there were four households at 2 Crown Terrace. 

The conversion from houses to shops started to happen in the 1890s.  In the 1891 census all the buildings seem to have been residential but by 1894 well over half the group now had shop fronts and a couple of years later all of them were retail outlets.  We’ll look at them in turn – focussing on, in this first part of the story, on the period up to World War One.

The numbering changed a little in that the building on the corner was originally part of Eltham Road, but that changed with the building of a bank around 1911.  To avoid confusion, as far as possible the numbering referred to will be that from the Edwardian era onwards.

Bank House

While the rest of the Parade dated from the 1860s the Bank was much later – probably built around 1906. It seems that what was once 2 and 4 Eltham Road was redeveloped at that point, it was a building  listed in both Eltham Road and Burnt Ash Roads in Kelly’s Directories, its manager in 1911 was Harry Kitto.

Clock House

Like Bank Buildings, the part of the parade known as the Clock House dates from around 1906, presumably part of a redevelopment of that south eastern corner of Lee Green.  It was so called because of the clock that its first occupant advertising his trade – Robert Fielding, a watchmaker. Fielding was 61 and in 1911 was living in one of the larger houses on Lee High Road with his wife, Georgina, a servant and two adult daughters, one of whom assisted in the shop.  Before his move to Clock House, he had been at 141 Lee Road, next but one to Osborn Terrace for around a decade before.

It was a business that had run in the family – his father had been a jeweller and watchmaker but had died young and the business was taken over by his mother in Montpelier Vale in Blackheath, probably from the late 1850s.  

The Clock House seems to have been shared with Horace L Murray Shirreff’s Electron Cycle Co (see 7 below) until around 1916 but no one else is mentioned after then so presumably Robert Fielding used the whole shopfront.

1a Burnt Ash Road

This seems to have remained a house much longer than the rest, possibly also acting as a base for a business.  From 1871 it is listed at the home of G Bush and Sons Builders, run by George Bush – it may have been the case that he had been the builder of Crown Terrace for John Pound.  There were 6 children there with George in 1871, and a decade later he is noted as ‘employing about 35 men.’ His daughter was a drapers’ assistant, perhaps from George Gooding over the road. George Bush died in 1902 and the business was continued by his son who lived in Elswick Road in 1891, listed as a stone mason.  The business continued during the decade of George’s (Senior) death, but the shop front was empty by 1911.

1a was referred to before and after World War 1 but it seems likely that either the numbering changed or there were errors in the recording as it was referred to as being the premises of  CH Reed & Co and then Griffiths & Co House Furnishers.  They generally seem to have been at No 1 so we’ll refer to them there.

1 & 3 Burnt Ash Road

Number one was first mentioned in 1896 with a name that this corner of Burnt Ash Road and Eltham Road became synonymous with – Reeds, for years it was often referred to as ‘Reed’s Corner.’  The ‘Reed’ initially referred to C H Reed & Co and the C H Reed was Charles Henry Reed.  He has been born in 1839 in North Cornwall, having moved to Lee Green in 1866

By 1871 Charles Henry, was living at the next parade along, Eastbourne Terrace, with his wife Maria (probably nee Nichols), also from Cornwall; there was also a niece and 12 employees. Whether all employees these actually lived on the premises was debatable, a decade later, there were two different nieces and 49 staff. By 1881 he had a trio of shops on trading as a draper, furnisher and ironmonger. 

No longer there in 1881 though was Charles wife, Maria, she was living in Forest Hill with Charles William, born in 1873, sometimes referred to as William, along with a daughter Maria (seemingly later referred to as Beatrice, 1875) and Ernest (1881). Whether they were separated or not it wasn’t clear, but the position was the same in 1891, with 63 listed as living at Eastbourne Terrace, and Maria in Brockley.

The inclusion of 1 and 3 Burnt Ash Road into Charles Reed’s empire came in the mid-1890s – it was the furnishing element of the business that was moved around the corner from Eltham Road.  Charles died in July 1895 shortly after the expansion.  The net effects of his will were £28,117 – a very significant amount of money in 1895, both his son Charles William Reed and an Alfred John Reed (given other recording errors this may well be Ernest) seem to have been the main beneficiaries.  There was no mention of Maria, although a two-year-old Thomas Battyll Hodson, a two-year-old with no obvious connection to the Reeds was though.

(Charles) William continued to run the shops for a decade after his father’s death but sold them to Griffiths & Co.  around 1905, it was a name that dominated the south east quadrant of Lee Green for the next 20 years or so.

5 Burnt Ash Road

The first shop-front type of business operating out of 5 was the boot and shoemaker Josiah Tylor who was there from the mid-1890s.  The shop was doing well enough by 1901 to have a manager Thomas Wisdom, who was there with his wife Maude and a young son and sister in law.  Nothing is known of the owner whose name stayed over the door until around 1905.

It seems to have been very briefly an auctioneer around 1907 (1), a firm called Bell and Rainer trading as Lee Green Auction Rooms.  However, other than a few press reports that year they didn’t leave much of a trace.   It was the base of Barnes Brothers who were builders’ merchants by 1911 although it no one was living there when the census enumerators called that year.

7 Burnt Ash Road

In its early years it went through several names on the shop front – in 1894 it was W J Tournour, a house furnisher, followed in 1896 by George Lewis, a draper, and then Walter Woolverton, another draper in 1900.  All will have had competition from shops opposite, in Eltham Road and further down the parade which may explain their lack of longevity.   George Lewis seems to have suffered the ignominy of having his stock sold at ‘prices considerably below cost’ by Reed’s, still in Eltham Road at that point, in September 1897 (2). 

By 1898 the name above the door was the Electron Cycle company who manufactured bicycles.  The name behind the branding was Horace L Murray-Shirreff. Along with his wife Mahala, the family came from Uxbridge where their son was born in 1896.   They had moved to Lee Green by the spring of 1898 as his machines were twice ridden to victory at the Sportsbank Street Velodrome in Catford  (pictured below) over the Easter Bank Holiday, once by Horace himself (3). Electron had moved on within the parade by 1911 as they were listed within the Clock House (see above) in the Kelly’s Directory.  The sojourn at the Clock House was probably a short one as in the 1911 he’d moved to Staines and was listed as an inn keeper in the 1911 census.

By 1911 James Walton was trading at number 7 as a florist; he had had a business just around the corner in Eltham Road’s Eastbourne Terrace in previous censuses, listed variously as a florist and nurseryman.  In 1911 he was there with his second wife, Harriet and three children, two of whom helped in the shop.  James died in 1913 aged around 79, but the business stayed in the family initially in the name of Harriet running it as war broke out. 

9 Burnt Ash Road

Number nine was a rarity in that throughout its life as a shop it was to stay in the same trade – a butchers, there were also only three different names over the window in its 65-year life.  The first of these was the shortest lived, Colonial Meat Stores, who operated there in the mid-1890s, which seemed to be a single shop rather than any form of chain. 

Frederick Head was there by the turn of the century and in 1901 was 47, he hailed from Christchurch in Surrey, and was there with his wife, Martha 47 and 5 children of mixture of ages who were all born in Kings Lynn there as was a servant employed by them. The two eldest sons were both helping in the shop.  By 1911 the rest of the family had moved on, but Frederick and Martha were still running the business.

11 Burnt Ash Road

Like its next door neighbour at number 9, 11 was almost a single trade, a fishmonger, although there were a few more names over the window.  The ‘almost’ is because the initial traders, Green and Co, started life as a fruiterer around 1896 but by 1900 was trading as a fishmonger.  Perhaps they couldn’t cope with the competition from the already established M J Martin over the road who was a fruiterer and florist. There was though a lack of fishmonger though, on both sides of Burnt Ash Road, so Green and Co adapted to meet a gap in the market.

Who Green & Co were isn’t clear, certainly in 1901 the shop was managed by Surrey man E M Mankleton along his wife, mother, four children and a lodger who worked in the shop.

There was a new name over the window by 1911, Sparks Bros. In the census that year Frank Sparks was the fishmonger, the fishmonger’s wife was Sarah and Henry, the brother in the ‘Bros.’ were also there. 

13 Burnt Ash Road

Hudson Brothers were a chain of provisions dealers, that existed from the 1870s, they were based in Ludgate Hill and had a dozen or so stores in and around central London, many close to stations.  They also had a few in the then suburbs like Lee Green by the mid-1890s, where the shop opened around 1894.  They were to remain on the parade until the early 1920s. They refurbished the shop in 1908 as the advert to the left shows (4).

15 Burnt Ash Road

This was another shop that started life as a draper’s shop, initially Thomas & Co from around 1896, but by the turn of the century W Sanders Pepper (40), along with his wife Ella (37) who both hailed from Northamptonshire, they had arrived via Battersea where two of their children born.  A shop assistant and a servant were also part of the household in 1901.

Around the end of the first decade of the century the Peppers moved on, possibly struggling with competition from drapers shops opposite, in Eltham Road and further up the parade.  

The new name at the front by 1911 was Ethel Higgins who was a confectioner; there had been one next door, but it had closed a year or two before.  Ethel was a widow from Greenwich and lived there with her daughter.  Whilst names changed periodically it was a business type that remained until the end of the parade, by 1916 Elizbeth Stevens was running the confectioner’s shop.

Around 1911 the shop front seems to have been ‘split’ and 15a appeared – the dyers and cleaners, Chambers and Co.

17 Burnt Ash Road

17 started its life as a shop around 1896 as a stationer’s run by Thomas James Watts; it wasn’t a business to last long though.  By 1900 Annie Palmer had taken over the shop but changed the business to a confectioner, she was a widow who a decade before had been living in nearby Wantage Road. By 1905 her husband Samuel Evans Palmer was running the business, she died in 1908, and Samuel had gone by 1911 and was a Peckham based ‘Coffee House Keeper’ by then – whether this was a temperance one like one in Lee High Road isn’t clear.

By the census in 1911 Flora May Phillips, a tailoress from Bromley was there on her own, although the name over the window was Frederick May. 

Like number 15, the arrival of a confectioner saw the shop split into two – dressmakers Mabel and Eleanor Harkness, there in 1900.  Empty in 1905, Florence Wood, a milliner, was trading from there in 1911. 

19 Burnt Ash Road

The first shop at 19 opened around 1896, a Wine and Spirit merchants run by Cockle & Sons.  It didn’t last long and neither did the next tenant the Electron Cycle Co.; as we’ve seen Horace L Murray Shirreff’s business popped up in three locations on the parade in little more than a decade.

The next name over the window was that of Neal and Son, who were there by 1905.  It was a trade that reflected the era, saddlers, and will have complemented William Brown’s corn dealers over the road who sold the feed for the horses.  George Neal had been born in 1871 to a family in the same business and operated in Prospect Terrace next to the New Tiger’s Head, like William Sweet at 17a.  George was in ‘Son’ in Sons.  George was operating in Turner Road (now Dacre Park) in 1901 and moved back to Lee Green by 1911 where he was to continue at the southern end of the parade until around his death in 1921.

The parade will be returned to after World War One, when the second part of the story will take it to the stage that the bulldozers moved in ahead of the construction of the Leegate Centre. 

The ‘story’ of the parade has been pieced together using Kelly’s Directories held by Southwark Archives – generally looking at every 5th year since the parade opened for business from 1896 along with census records before that.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 29 November 1907
  2. Kentish Mercury 24 September 1897
  3. West Middlesex Gazette 16 April 1898
  4. Kentish Mercury 2 October 1908

Pictures and Other Credits

  • All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The Kelly’s Directory data was accessed via Southwark Archives
  • The black and white postcards and photographs of the parade are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright
  • The photograph of the Velodrome is via eBay in February 2016
  • The picture of the farm is from the information board at Lee Green

Beating The Bounds of Lee, Part 1- Lee Green to Winn Road

As regular readers of Running Past will be aware, the blog has followed the course of a number of natural features and human constructs – rivers and streams, notably the Quaggy and its tributaries, the Greenwich Park branch railway and the Prime Meridian from the edge of Croydon, back through Lewisham and to the Greenwich Observatory. Such wanders make for interesting cross sections of the city. We turn our attention to another of these constructs – the boundary of the former civil parish of Lee which existed until 1900.

Beating the bounds is an ancient tradition, reminding parishioners of the importance of boundaries which was carried out during Rogationtide—the fifth week after Easter. There would be a walking of the parish boundaries, with children would carrying willow which would be used to beat the boundary markers. The boundary markers might be stones, streams or marks on trees, or roads. Oddly, other than around Lee Green, roads seem to have been neglected in deciding the parish boundaries of Lee.

No willow will be harmed in the perambulation of Lee, the on-ground research for which appropriately started on Rogation Sunday. The variant of Lee that we will be metaphorically beating is the civil parish mapped with the second edition of the Ordnance Survey 6” to the mile series. It was was surveyed in 1893 and published a few years later, just before Lee was merged with Lewisham to form the new Borough of Lewisham in 1900.

Lee in 1893 was a long narrow parish, a width of just over a mile and a quarter at its broadest point between Lee Bridge at the western end of Lee High Road to just beyond Cambridge Drive’s junction with Eltham Road. It’s length was around 5 miles at its longest – Blackheath, just to the north of the railway, in the north, to Marvels Wood on the borders of Mottingham to the south. The boundary was around 14 miles long, although with the diversions made to avoid trespass and Hot Fuzz style demolition of garden fences the actual 21st century trip around the borders of late 19th century Lee is somewhat longer….

We start at Lee Green, one of the three original centres of Lee, along with Old Road and the top of Belmont Hill; it had the green that it’s name implies, along with a windmill and a farm. The boundary with Liberty of Kidbrooke was to the north east, beyond the Quaggy and with the Parish of Eltham in the north eastern quadrant of Lee Green and to the north of Eltham Road. In 1893, that quadrant included a previous incarnation of the New Tigers Head, then called the Tiger Tavern, the photograph below was taken around 1897.

The Old Tigers Head shown above was the 1896 variant; three years before, when the Ordnance Survey visited, it was the earlier building pictured below. It was about to be demolished with the pub briefly migrating a couple of doors down during the rebuilding.

On the Lee side, the farm, called Lee Green Farm, had been there in 1863 when the Ordnance Survey cartographers first mapped the area, but had been demolished soon after. The farm building had been relocated to the current site of Leybridge Court on the already built Leyland Road by 1893.

Opposite, the impressive Fire Station would still be 13 years away, and its predecessor on Lee High Road a couple of years off, it would be the temporary Old Tigers Head first.

The boundary followed the centre of Eltham Road; in 1893 there was a boundary post more or less next to the easternmost leg of Ravens Way, presumably named after the Ravensbourne Athletic, whose buildings were incorporated into the post war development, but had not been developed in 1893. In the first incarnation of the Ordnance Survey map, the Lee Green Toll Gate (pictured below) would have been a few metres behind, a bus stop is located in its place now. Tolls were meant to cover the costs of maintaining the roads, but with the coming of the railways (1849 in Lewisham and Blackheath) income dropped and in 1888 the remaining Turnpike Trusts were wound up with responsibilities going to the local authorities.

The current, and indeed 1893 surveyed boundary, goes to the rear of the houses in Cambridge Drive, following the edge of the Old Colfeans playing fields. Cambridge Drive, originally Road, and the land bordering Eltham Road had been one of the first parcels of land sold from Horn Park Farm for housing by the Crown Estate. The 1890s and current variants of the boundary slightly diverge around Dorville Road, briefly, home to Edith Nesbit. The former border slightly cut across the playing fields, but was presumably revised to ensure that the cricketing boundaries weren’t crossed by administrative ones.

The boundary, now with Greenwich (in 1863 with Eltham), re-emerges on Upwood Road. Former municipal generations needed to make boundary stones or even marks on trees to indicate the edge of their territory. Their modern counterparts have more subtle methods – different shades of tarmac, wheelie bins of changed hues and my favourite here, the humble street light. Lewisham has energy efficient, 21st century LED lights whereas the Royal Borough has a cornucopia of types including some rather attractive Borough of Woolwich concrete ones which probably dates from the 1950s.

The 1893 and current variants again diverge at this point, the former boundary heading south east, the current one turning back westwards behind elegant interwar detached houses of Upwood Road. The divergence seems to have been after the move of Colfe’s, then a Grammar School, in 1963. The original had been in a site between Lewisham Hill and Granville Park in Lewisham.

It had been largely demolished by a V-1 flying bomb in 1944 – the site is pictured above, and until the 1960s used what are now Brindishe Green and Trinity Primary schools in Beacon and Leahurst Roads respectively. The new school would have stood astride the then Woolwich and Lewisham boundary, so the current variant hugs the railway line heading towards Mottingham from Lee.

The boundary crosses the South Circular close to Alnwick Road where a pleasant Green is situated. The 1893 flâneur would have found the last large farm of Lee at the southern edge of the green on what is now Horncastle Road. Running Past has already told the story of Horn Park Farm; but there was a cautionary tale that is worth repeating in relation to boundaries.

Magistrates at the Green Man in Blackheath had to decide on the case of whether Lee or Eltham parishes should pay for the care of a farm worker at the farm. The boundary passed through the centre of the house on the farm he lived in. In fact, his bed was actually on the boundary – the magistrates found in favour of Lee as the farm labourer would have put his feet on the Eltham side first.

The development of Horncastle Road seemed to follow field boundaries, which also marked the administrative border. There were a couple of stones in 1893 that have been replaced by rear garden fences. As we saw in a post on Corona Road, the Crown Estate, had sold off land alongside Burnt Ash Hill, initially used as a brick works used by John Pound and then developed by William Winn. Almost all of Winn’s development has been lost to the Blitz and post war redevelopment.

The 1893 boundary bisected a tennis club within the development, but seems to have been adjusted soon after as there are a trio of very weathered 1903 boundary markers marking the current border between Lewisham and Greenwich on Corona Road at its junction with Guibal Road, on Guibal Road itself and at the junction of Guibal and Winn Roads.

While the derivation of Winn and Corona Road is clear, developer and relating to the Crown, Guibal isn’t immediately obvious. It isn’t a family name of either William Winn or his wife and the only obvious mentions in the press at the time relate to the development of a centrifugal mining fan by a French engineer, Théophile Guibal in 1872. It is not an obvious connection to an area with no mining heritage.

In the next post on ‘beating the bounds’ we will look at the boundary from Winn Road southwards towards Grove Park.

Picture Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey map is on a non-commercial licence from the National Library of Scotland, other maps from the same source have been referred to for the post;
  • The photographs of Lee Green and the Lee Green Toll Gate are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, remain their copyright and are used with their permission;
  • The photograph of the earlier version of the Old Tigers Head is from an information board at Lee Green; and
  • The photograph of Lewisham Hill and Granville Park bomb damage is via the Imperial War Museum on a Creative Commons).

This, and the series of posts on the Lee boundary that will follow, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.

William Morris – A Farmer from Lee Green Farm

It is easy to forget that Lee Green was once a village green – large enough for cricket matches – with a windmill and a village pub.  Unsurprisingly, there were farms too – over time, the blog will probably cover most of the former farms in the area. The starting point though will be a farm next to the green – the imaginatively named Lee Green Farm.

The location of the farmhouse was roughly where the decaying remains of the Leegate Centre are now located.  Its age is uncertain, oddly it wasn’t covered in Josephine Birchenough’s fascinating booklet ‘Some Lee Farms and Fields’. However, the information board at Lee Green suggest dates it around the mid to late 17th century, there were certainly buildings there in John Roque’s 1740s map (1).

image

The land was owned by the Crown, probably as part of the extensive lands held through Eltham Palace, and the first on-line reference to the farm was a lease granted to William Morris in 1838 of both Lee Green Farm and the neighbouring Horn Park Farm.

Lee Green Farm (see picture below (2)) was 131 acres in size, according to tithe records, and was a mixture of arable and pasture but it was just a small part of the land that William Morris (sometimes spelled Morriss) farmed.  As early as 1815 he was leasing much of the current Cator Estate (3) and his 9th (ninth) child was born in Kidbrooke.   The land was largely rich pasture that he used for dairy cattle – important in terms of proximity to London, prior to the development of the railways.

image

By the 1830s he had relinquished much of this Cator estate interest, Kidbrooke tithe records for 1850 had his interest at just 7 acres.   Some of this was to allow development – such as a field where 97-115 Lee Road now stands (4).

The 1838 lease of Lee Green Farm was presumably a continuation of a previous one, certainly he was farming in Lee in 1820 as there was a case as the Old Bailey involving the theft of two cows and an attempt to sell them to a farmer in Mile End – William Smith was found guilty and hanged. The timings of his move to Lee are confirmed with the birth of his 11th child there the same year.

What is clear though is that William Morris had interest in a lot of land around Lee Green other than the Farm, F H Hart noted that at this time he and ‘Farmer Giles’ from Burnt Ash Farm leased most of the land in the area.  Morris’ land included

William Morris(or Morriss, the spelling of the surname varies) was from Banstead, Surrey was the son of Samuel and Sophia Morriss, and was baptised on May 29 1780. By 1804 he had married Elizabeth Walker and they had their first child Sophia and they were living on Blackheath Hill – presumably close to the Green Man Hotel.  At that stage he was described as a ‘milkman’ or ‘cowkeeper’ – possibly having a small amount of land (as was the case with Clark’s of Summerfield Street).

MorrisGrave

Elizabeth died in 1829 and was buried in the old St Margaret Lee Churchyard (see middle vault above).  William Morris remarried in early 1832, Susannah gave birth to the first of six children for the new family at Horn Park and seem to have made that their home rather than Lee Green – their youngest child was baptised in Eltham, rather than St Margaret’s Lee.

The farm buildings moved slightly to the east in the 1840s to what was to become known as Tudor House (roughly where the Leybridge Court estate is now).  This was presumably under the stewardship of Morris, who also built a few speculative homes adjacent to it (6).

One of the frustrating elements of writing this and other posts about the history of the area is that written history tends to focus on the rich and influential in society.  Nothing is known about the farm labourers on Morris’ land, other than there were a number of tied cottages, whether Morris was a good employer, his rates of pay and so on.  The only references to the rural working classes in Lee tend to relate to crime, and as we have seen with the case of the theft of cattle in 1820 and its draconian punishment, and when there were calls on poor law relief – such as in the bitterly cold winter of 1814 – referred to in the post on Benjamin Aislabie.

There were some attempts to redress this by William Cobbett in the 1820s.  Cobbett was a late Georgian and early Victorian radical, the son of an agricultural labourer from Surrey, he opposed to the Corn Laws who undertook a series of ‘Rural Rides’ to look at the condition of farming in the 1820s.  In addition to the Corn Laws, his ‘rides’ were against a backdrop of the Enclosure Acts of the early part of the century, where the rich landowners took ownership of what hitherto had been common land.  While there seems to have been little common land in Lee, the Acts had a major impact elsewhere in Lewisham – particularly in Sydenham.

Cobbett visited farms, talked to farmers and labourers on his horseback rides; he did not visit Lee, so it is difficult to judge on conditions locally but he did note in terms of land close to Dartford “Here dwell vanity and poverty.”

It is certainly difficult to generalise based on Cobbett’s observations and whether there was this “poverty” in Lee is unclear but elsewhere in the south-east when describing farming poverty he noted that

The labourers seem miserably poor. Their dwellings are little better than pig-beds, and their looks indicate that their food is not nearly equal to that of a pig. Their wretched hovels are stuck upon little bits of ground on the road side, where the space has been wider than the road demanded.

We will return to William Morris in his final days at College Farm where he was to pass away in 1851, by then Lee Green Farm was being run by his son Richard, three of his sisters Eleanor, Rebecca and Mary were living there too – the farm was listed as 302 acres and employed 20. Richard was still at the farm in 1861 although the acreage was much reduced, just 114 acres were being farmed.  He moved to Days Lane Farm in Blackfen around 1868 (see comment below), he clearly had some interest in land in Lee after he left as he was on Electoral REgisters into the 1870s. Beyond 1861 there seem to be no mentions of the farm, through on-line sources at least, – maybe it became unviable as land was lost to development.

The original site of the farm was redeveloped in the 1860s as housing called Carston Mews, although the name lived on it Carston Close, just to the south.  Carston Mews itself was demolished to make way for Leegate shopping centre in the 1960s. The centre has been in decline since Sainsbury’s opened to the west of Burnt Ash Road, something compounded by an increasing amount of empty office space above the centre.  There are plans to redevelop the centre going through the planning process at the time of writing (January 2016).

image

Notes

  1. Map from information board at Lee Green
  2. ibid
  3. Neil Rhind p34
  4. ibid p162
  5. Josephine Birchenough with John King (1981) Some Farms and Fields in Lee p28
  6. Rhind op cit p34

All the census and related data came via Find My Past 

I am indebted to Mike for providing most of the family information via a fascinating comment (see below, you may need to click on the title first if you can see another post below this one) – the post was substantially updated in June 2016 as a result of this.