Tag Archives: Lee Green

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.

Returning to Lee Green Farm, its original site 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 update 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.