Tag Archives: Lee Green

Following the Quaggy – Lee Green to Hocum Pocum Lane

We left the Quaggy close to Lee Green with a Lewisham Natureman stag ‘grazing’ by the outflow of Mid Kid Brook, before that Running Past has followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom; then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley, through the golf courses of Sundridge Park and on to Chinbrook Meadows; through the concrete and countryside of Mottingham; and latterly through the playing fields and parkland of Sutcliffe Park and the Lee/Blackheath borders.

The river changes here; gone now are the almost bucolic feel of the river through the playing fields and parkland in the section of the river from Sutcliffe Park to Lee Green. The Quaggy is now very much an urban river, with building up to the banks and the route downstream for the fluvial flâneur often parallel with the river only visible on bridges.

Riverside pubs have been conspicuous by their absence so far, but are a much more regular feature as we follow the last mile or so of the course.  The Old Tiger’s Head, 50 metres or so away from the river, was the base for the mid 1840s horse racing of the Lee Races. Lee Green was still rural then, complete with a green, a windmill and a farm – Lee Green Farm. The pub was very different then, being rebuilt in the 1890s, as the picture above from an information board at Lee Green shows.
The Quaggy squeezes between some 1990s flats and a plot of land that was Victorian housing and will presumably be returned to housing again; it was latterly the showroom of Penfolds Vauxhall dealers, after they moved from the former Lee Picture Palace on the corner of Bankwell Road.  The river, for a short period, is again banked and bedded in concrete – little is able to grow but that didn’t stop a few optimistic sticklebacks from attempting to eke out an existence in a hostile environment (below, top left) when I did the research for the post.

The Quaggy emerges out into the open at what used to be called Lee Green Bridge and the first proper riverside pub, the Duke of Edinburgh, still serving and with a pleasant garden at the rear.  The pub dates from around 1871 when the landlord, a Mr W Baker, took over licence of the Black Horse, which was a short-lived ‘beer house’ that may have been on the same site (1)

The river forms the rear boundary between homes in Lampmead and Brightfield Roads – the former named after a field. The course wasn’t always thus, the Quaggy originally took a course further to the north touching the southern end of what is now Lenham Road.  The differences are clear between the 1863 (top map below) and 1893 visits of the Ordnance Survey Cartographers (maps on a Creative Commons via National Library of Scotland). The effective development of Lampmead required the straightening of the river, following what was previously a path behind the houses of Robertson Street, which was to become Brightfield Road at around the same time.  The curved building (above, top right and bottom) hugs the banks of the river.
The Quaggy is bridged by the dog-leg of Brightfield Road before tumbling down into Manor House Gardens.  The Gardens are one of Lewisham’s flagship parks and were the grounds to a large house built and maintained from the proceeds of slavery until bought by the London County Council as a library and park in 1902.

Source – eBay Feb 2016

The Quaggy seems to have originally fed the small lake although is now at a much lower level.  It is bridged a couple of times within the park, both having been the venues for generations of Pooh Sticks, no doubt played before the game was named in the 1920s by A A Milne.
The river has natural earth banks topped with a dense tree canopy throughout its 400 metres or so through the park, during the summer the river is heavily shaded.  The steep banks make the river relatively inaccessible through the park.
Flowing out of Manor House Gardens, the river crosses Manor Lane, an old farm track and again forms a boundary – between the WJ Scudamore homes of Thornwood Road, a Lewisham Council sheltered scheme off Manor Lane and later more Scudamore homes on Manor Park.  This was a largely rural area until Hither Green station was build in the 1890s, there was a junction there from the 1860s, as the 1870 map below  on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland) shows. This part of Lee was still used for market gardening, mainly run from Manor Farm, until the Scudamores built homes of what was marketed as the Manor Park Estate..
Over the other side of Manor Park the river turns almost 90 degrees, to flow between more gardens, between Manor Park and Longhurst Road, briefly visible by peering around a bridge on one side of Staplehurst Road – close to the shops posted about earlier in 2017.  Just before the bridge the river is joined by one of its tributaries, Hither Green Ditch (Quaggy Hither Green).
The river continues northwards, squeezing between the gardens of Manor Park (the street) and the northern end of Longhurst Road before opening out into Manor Park (the park rather than the street).  The park’s rejuvenation has been covered before in Running Past, the former small pig farm has gone from one of Lewisham’s worst bits of open space to one of its best.  The Park has become a community hub – centred around the Arts Cafe.  The river itself is used much more – including the annual Quaggy Duck Race and the Float Your Boats event in June 2017, pictured below.
The Quaggy itself while having a ‘natural’ feel at the end of the back gardens of Leahurst Road, was concrete encased and hidden from the park on  the opposite bank.   Flooding used to be common in this area – in the mid-1960s, the then MP for the area Chris Chataway described residents as living ‘in fear of this wretched stream.
At the edge of the Park, there is a bridge – while the structure is a new one, the crossing an old one – it was the final section of Hocum Pocum Lane – an ancient path from Lee High Road to St Mary’s Church, and possibly beyond.
We’ll leave the Quaggy here for its final section to its confluence with the Ravensbourne in Lewisham.
Notes
  1. Ken White (1992) ‘The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham’ Part 6a, p134

Following the Quaggy – Sutcliffe Park to Lee Green

In previous posts, Running Past has followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom and then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley, through the golf courses of Sundridge Park and on to Chinbrook Meadows.  Most recently, we left he river at on the south side of Eltham Green Bridge, by an old London County Council sign, wondering about how to moor a boat there.

North of the bridge, over Eltham Road, is Sucliffe Park; until the early 20th century the area was farmland, The Quaggy meandered through the fields as the map below shows (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland).  Woolwich Borough Council acquired the land just after World War 1.  It was named after the then Borough Engineer (1).

The meanders had been removed by the time that the Ordnance Surveyors cartographers visited again in 1938 and encased in concrete – as the map below shows (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland). The river was completely enclosed at some stage during the post war period, Ken White believed it to be around 1970 (2) although several on Facebook threads thought it was much earlier than this.

The look that remained until the current Millennium was of a flat, featureless park (apart from the athletics track that is home to Cambridge Harriers, whose early history was covered a while ago.  It was reminiscent of a miniature Hackney Marshes (Photo below on a Creative Commons via Restoring Europe’s Rivers wiki)

In Facebook threads on upstream posts, there were lots of memories of playing in the Quaggy and culverts around the Park, seemingly including some of the streams that join the Quaggy – notably Well Hall Stream.

This all changed in 2002. A new meandering channel was created for the Quaggy, close to its pre-1930s course, albeit at a slightly lower level, with the park itself being remodelled to create a flood plain able to store 85,000 m³  with a series of boardwalks, viewing points and a large pond. The old channel was retained for extreme flood situations and flow can be switched to it when the storage in the park is full (above, right photograph).

The park which used to be rarely visited other than for weekend football is now a well-used focal point and reconnecting the community with the river and its natural environment – it is often held up as an excellent example of urban river management. Unlike other parts of the Quaggy’s catchment, it is beginning to be used as a place of play and discovery – children can sometimes be seen jumping across the river, there were reminiscences about doing this in Mottingham, feeding ducks on the pond along with the occasional sightings of fishing nets and buckets.

The Quaggy was originally joined by Well Hall Stream in the park, although when followed a while ago, there was little evidence of any current flow.

The river goes through some complex engineering that can shut off the flows in periods of high water, and re-emerges the other side of Kidbrooke Park Road in the playing fields of John Roan School.  Here too the river has changed, the concrete encasement had continued west of the road, I remember having to scramble down angled concrete to fish out footballs from the river during my sons’ Saturday morning football practice there. 

The Quaggy is theoretically joined by Lower Kid Brook (above) opposite a rather impressive Woolwich Borough marker (below left), or rather it isn’t any more – the flow was probably diverted into the Quaggy three hundred metres to the east in Sutcliffe Park.

Beyond John Roan playing fields, the river is sandwiched between Lyme Farm Road estate, which replaced Victorian housing, and Crofton Albion FC.  It emerges out into the public gaze again at Weigall Road where the 1903 boundary markers from Woolwich had again been busy (above right).

Over the road, to the south, there is another series of playing fields – the first is a public one, Weigall Sports Field which was once home to Ravensbourne Athletic Club’s grass running track.  It was part of a residential club and sports centre for employees of Cook, Son and Co (St Pauls) Ltd. which was a clothing wholesale company – the building faces on to Eltham Road (see above) and was completed in 1912.  Prior to then there were newspaper reports of them being based in Ladywell Fields, hence the name from a different catchment.  The building on Eltham Road was requisitioned for World War 1 billeting but returned to its former use after the War.  It continued as this until after World War Two when it was converted into flats – it is now part of Ravens Way (perhaps a shortening of the club’s name) (3).

Its next door neighbour is the Bowring Group Sports Ground (below), although its days in recreational use are probably numbered as it seems to have been acquired for  a ‘Free’ School.

The northern banks of the Quaggy also used to have playing fields, the just post war Ordnance Survey map shows cricket grounds (on a Creative Commons from National Library of Scotland.) The outlines of the fields are still there and indeed the derelict remains of one the pavilions remains.  The formerly manicured grounds have been largely abandoned and now form part of the Weigall Road flood defence and storage, although the intention has always been dual use.

It isn’t meant to be an accessible area, but fences on Weigall Road and Blackheath Park are always porous enough for the runner of a smaller stature to enter without having to resort to contortions or scaling boundaries.  It the last long section of the river where the Quaggy has a bucolic feel – it probably hasn’t changed much since the fields by the river were used as the venue for the horse racing of the Lee Races in the first half of the 19th century.

The flood defences have a second fence to prevent the fluvial flâneur but in a period of low flow they proved to be of limited deterrent.  Apparently the Weigall Road storage will hold 65,000 m³ of water.

There is/was probably a small tributary joining around here.  There is very boggy ground just south of the derelict pavilion, more standing water in wetter seasons but still pooling in a very dry Spring.  There is an occasionally running stream which forms the boundary between the fields, in recent years I have only seen water there in the very wet winter of 2013/14.

On Facebook pages relating to upstream posts, there are fond memories of playing in and on the banks of the Quaggy in these parts – there still sometime cross river swings with a ducking for those with poor grips, although none have been noticed for a year or two.

Beyond the Weigall Road flood storage area, the Quaggy briefly disappears before being bridged by Meadowcourt Road and then flowing onwards towards Osborne Terrace.  The river is then bridged by Lee Road, there was only a footbridge until as late as the 1860s, as the 1863 published 25″ Ordnance Survey shows (on a Creative Commons via National Library of Scotland). The road bridge was certainly there by the time the cartographers returned in 1893.

 

This was an area of flooding – Hastead reported depths of 10′ (3 metres) in the 18th century and FW Hart reporting similar depths after the rapid thaw following the bitterly cold 1813/14 winter, there was flooding over a wide area including a lot of Lee Park.  Hart reported flooding being a regular occurrence in the early 19th century with a Bromley farmer drowning in 1830.

 

There is another Woolwich marker from 1903 by the bridge, only someone has chiselled out – the borough name, perhaps they were going to return and add Greenwich, but they never did.  Next to the bridge there is a pipe with water entering the Quaggy, with a Lewisham Natureman stag ‘grazing’ next to it, this is the diverted Mid Kid Brook.  On the opposite bank, there is a ghost sign for a ‘carver and gilder’ (more here), oddly hidden by the current cafe owners.  We’ll leave the river here for another day.

Notes

  1. Ken White (1999) The Quaggy & Its Tributaries p25
  2. ibid p25
  3. John Coulter (1997) Lewisham and Deptford in Old Photographs: A Third Selection

 

Imperial Picture Palace – A Lee Green Cinema

Running Past has already covered a couple of Lee and Hither Green cinemas – the Globe in Staplehurst Road and the Lee Picture Palace which was on the corner of Bankwell and Lee High Roads.  Both were short lived – part of the reason for this was almost certainly the more successful Imperial Picture Theatre (sometimes referred to as Palace) which was at 404 to 408 High Road, close to Lee Green. (Map surveyed in 1915 – on a Creative Commons via National Library of Scotland).

ippmap

It opened on 6 December 1913 (1), a week after The Globe (2) but a good three years after its nearest neighbour 400 metres down Lee High Road. The picture below is from its latter years and is on a Creative Commons, courtesy of Ken Roe.

imperial-pic-theatre-lhr

It was designed by H. Wakefield & Sons, and the Cinema Treasures website describes it as having had a ‘stone and brick facade, with columns and an elaborate pediment.’  As the map shows, it was quite a deep building which seated 750.  It tried to encourage the wealthy of Edwardian Lee to come by separating them from the masses – offering boxes at 5/- and 7/6d – with those with less disposable income being able to get in for thruppence (3).

ipp-dtThe opening afternoon was an invitation only event which saw a series of ‘shorts’ including the French film ‘The Duke’s Talisman’ (4) – described as ‘full of action and intensely exciting situations’ (picture via eBay November 2016).

The cinema seems to have changed hands early in its life and by its second winter it was offering special shows for children – with a Christmas morning show for 400 and a gift for each child supplied by Chiesmans department store (5).

broadway_melody_posterThe cinema had a small orchestra to accompany the silent films, with frequent adverts in the press for musicians – ‘relief’ pianists seemed particularly hard to come by (6).  By the end of the war it had seen off its local competitor, Lee Picture Palace, which had been requisitioned as a munitions factory and never re-opened.  It changed with the times too, both in terms of name – it was to become the Savoy under new management in 1928 (it had been known just as the Imperial since 1916 (7)) – but also in terms of the pictures it showed – sound equipment for ‘talkies’ was installed in 1929.  The first  talking picture was ‘The Broadway Melody’ (8) (Picture on a Creative Commons), the first sound film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.  Whether the owners showed the version with one of the first Technicolor sequences is not clear though.

imperial-pic-theatre-lhr-tarzan

The cinema survived World War Two unscathed and was sold again in the early 1950s (9) with the new owners changing it to its final name – The Pullman.   It only lasted another four years with the final closure on 27 June 1959 with a performance of “Tarzan and the Lost Safari”.

The building survived in a number other guises for another 27 years, initially as a motor spare-parts shop and then a shopfitters  – there is a photograph of it from this era, sadly without any usage rights.  It was demolished  before in October 1986 to make way for the Lee Green Sainsbury’s.

image

Notes

  1. Ken George (1986) ‘Two Sixpennies Please’ – Lewisham’s Early Cinemas p41
  2. ibid p40
  3. ibid p41
  4. ibid p41
  5. ibid p41
  6. one example – The Era 7 May 1919
  7. George op cit p81
  8. ibid p42
  9. The Stage 3 June 1954

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 W 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. Beyond 1861 neither the farm nor Richard Morriss are able to be found on census records – 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.

 

Victorian Shooting at Lee Green

Charles Morton, the landlord of the Tiger’s Head always seemed to be on the look-out for sporting events, particularly those that involved gambling, that might bring in customers.  The blog has covered distance runningsprinting and hurdling and horse racing before.  So it is of no great surprise that live pigeon shooting, common in Victorian Britain, was tried out at the Tiger’s Head over the winters of 1843 and 1844.

image

It was a sport that had a ‘not quite respectable’ reputation – there were sometimes reports of those operating the traps being bribed to pull out the tail feathers from an opponent’s bird to make it fly erratically and hence be much harder to shoot.

The picture below is of the sort of ‘trap’ that was probably used – this one is in the Ryedale Folk Museum – several would be lined up in a row.  They would have a lever connected to a rope at the side – once ready the shooter would shout ‘pull’, the rope was pulled and the pigeons escaped into a hail of shot.

p trap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In February 1843, ‘The Era’ noted ‘A goodly muster of shooters attended at Morton’s, the Tiger’s Head, Lee Green, where several sweepstakes and matches were excellently contested’ (1).  The second reported shoot was the following year, although sadly for Moreton, poor weather seems to have restricted the turnout for the meeting during the second week in January 1844 (2).

Two weeks later another shooting match was advertised for up to 10 people with 10 shilling entrance fee, 7 pigeons each, for a silver cup prize (3).   In the end only 6 participated, including an appropriately named Mr Bang – the cup being won by a Mr Luffman (4).

LGshoot

There were no reports in subsequent years of pigeon shooting at the Tiger’s Head, while the poor turnout amongst the competitors may have had a bearing on this, the changing neighbourhood with the area around Lee Green with new housing being developed on Lee Road and Lee Park was probably as significant a factor though. Horse racing, the Lee Races which the blog covered a while ago, met a similar fate during 1844 too.

Moreton though had troubles of his own which may have distracted him from his business – his father, also a publican working then in Blackfriars, had got into serious debt after an employee stole from him and he took his life in 1844.  The inquest was at the Tiger’s Head.

Notes

  1. The Era (London, England), Sunday, February 19, 1843; Issue 230.
  2. The Era (London, England), Sunday, 14 January, 1844; Issue 277.
  3. The Era (London, England), Sunday, 31 December, 1843; Issue 275
  4. The Era (London, England), Sunday, 21 January, 1844; Issue 278 (including press cutting)

Picture Notes

Photo of the (Old) Tiger’s Head in its original incarnation is from the information board by the Leegate Centre at Lee Green.