Tag Archives: Lee High Road

The Woodman – A Former Pub on Lee High Road

The former Woodman pub is a fine Victorian building – with some lovely detail to be observed if you look skywards.

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The Woodman, in its first incarnation, was one of the earlier pubs in Lee – the original was the (Old) Tiger’s Head at Lee Green, but the local justices approved the licence in 1838, along with the nearby Swan of Lee (now Rambles Bar).  It was one of four public houses (clockwise from the top left below – the Swan, the Greyhound, the Woodman and the Royal Oak) around what was originally referred to as Lee New Town, all but the former Swan have closed, and from the outside at least, that too seems to have a precarious existence.

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The first landlord of the  Woodman appears to have been Alexander William James Durham who came from a family of publicans – he is listed there in the 1841 census on what was then referred to as New Road – what was to become Lee High Road used to followed a course which was largely that of Old Road and was straightened after the demolition of Lee Place and the breakup of the Boone estate in the 1820s.

His father, Jacob, seems to have owned the pub (it was part of his estate when he died in 1866) and lived close by in Boone Street, where he was listed in the 1841 census. Alexander moved on during the 1840s and was living in Lambeth when he died in 1848.

As is common with many pubs there was a steady ‘trickle’ of licensees at the Woodman throughout the mid-19th century, none seemingly staying more than a few years – for example, Ann Gordon, a widow from  Ockley in Staffordshire, was there in 1881 but had moved on by 1884 (1).  By 1886 the licensee was a J W Coombe (Comb) who was landlord when the pub was demolished and rebuilt (2)  – the current building it is dated 1887 (shown in a postcard via eBay November 2016).

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Coombe didn’t stay long in the new pub, by the time the 1891 census enumerators called, the publican was George Ridley, who hailed from Newbold in Warwickshire, and his wife Eliza, from Bunwell in Norfolk, were probably the first licensees of the rebuilt pub – they were there until around 1902 when George died, Eliza may have remained slightly longer but there was a new publican in 1905 – Thomas Craddock, who came from Southwark.

There were two bars, what was sometimes referred to as the snug at the front, and larger room at the back, with a separate off licence next door. All were interconnected so that whoever was serving could look after them all.

Around the Second World War Albert and Florence Cordwell ran the pub – Albert had been born in Lambeth and lived in the area until his death in Bromley in 1979.  During the war they put up photos on the wall of the locals that had fallen in battle.  In the years after the war there were ‘beanos’ – trips to the seaside and elsewhere – such as this one (probably from the late 1950s courtesy of Marianne Cole on Facebook). Unlike other local pubs, they seem to have been just for the men – with crates of beer loaded onto the coach for the journey.  The button holes were almost certainly provided by Bill, a florist (third from the right on the middle row). From around that time there were happy memories of Wally playing the piano in the back room (from one of the Facebook threads on this post).

imagePost war it went through a series of pub chains with various companies owning it, including Enterprise Inns, CC Taverns, Unique, Inntrepreneur and Courage.  There was a degree of continuity with the licensee though – with Brian running it from the late 1970s or early 1980s until the early 2000s, his tenure was fondly remembered on the Facebook threads that came out of this thread.

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By this stage it had a reputation as a good local; it was latterly described as a “fairly basic, but friendly, locals’ pub on Lee High Road with an Irish landlord  … decent enough for a pint or so if you’re nearby, or tackling the legendary Lee High Road crawl of an afternoon.” The photo in its latter years is on a creative commons via Ewan Munro.

Under Brian’s tenure, the pub certainly had a lot of live music – some just singalongs to popular 1930s and 1940s songs around the piano on the small stage in the back room Friday or Saturday night.  Jules Holland was spotted strumming with a couple of friends in the snug an at least one occasion.

Dermot was the landlord in the early 2000s, he continued the musical traditions of his predecessor, his ‘party piece’ was Ewan McColl’s Dirty Old Town, with students from Trinity (now Trinity Laban) School of Music performing jazz there on Monday nights. There were certainly traditional Irish music nights on Sundays.

The 11 remaining years of the lease was advertised as being for sale around 2008 for £75,000 with an annual rent of £37,500 but a turnover of just £234,000, although the estate agent’s details described it as ‘busy’.  It was described as ‘Ideal for husband and wife team with assistance from 1 Full Time Staff.’  There was clearly interest as a new landlord attempted to rescue the pub bringing back traditional Irish music nights and some real ale.

Given the state of the business before the lease was bought, it was always going to be a tough ask keeping the pub afloat, and so it transpired – something possibly not helped by poor ‘reviews’ latterly. The last pint of John Smiths (there proved not to be enough trade to support the London Pride served initially by the new landlord) seems to have been pulled sometime in late 2012 or early 2013.

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It was completely stripped of its fittings and was offered out on a much lower rent of £25,000, which was presumably taken on by its new tenant – a plumbing supplies firm – while the Courage cockerel remains the sign above has gone (source).

Unlike many other closed local pubs, there haven’t been pages of memories posted on Facebook – maybe there hasn’t been a trigger to do it… So, if you worked there or drank there, tell your story, who were the characters who propped up the bar, the landlord, the staff,  the atmosphere, the memorable nights, the particular celebrations that were held there, memories of the friends, the beers.  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 ti to be ‘moderated’.  I will update the post with comments.  Anything libellous will get deleted here & no doubt on the Facebook Group pages.

Notes

  1. Ken White (1992) The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham, Part 6C p251
  2. ibid p251

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Ghost Signs in Catford and Lewisham

I had an interesting run last Sunday, triggered by a detour earlier in the week stopping in traffic by a couple of ‘Ghost Signs’ in Catford. I vaguely remembered that there were a few more in the area and set off to explore.

Ghost signs are old hand-painted advertising signage which pre-dated the paper advertising hoardings. There are some fantastic blogs on ghost signs, particularly on Caroline’s Miscellany, which covers a lot of other interesting things too.

The first was en route, and is on the corner of Lee High Road and Bankwell Road in Lewisham. This was hidden for years under an advertising hoarding but became visible a few years ago.

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Witalls was a car dealership on the opposite corner from the 1930s to the 1970s. It was housed in what was previously a cinema, the Lee Picture Palace, later to be Central Hall Pictures, before becoming a WW1 munitions factory.

More recently the building was home to Penfold’s car showroom and an upstairs snooker hall, but was demolished in the early 2000s for flats and a health centre.

There are seveal ghost signs around around Sandhurst Road in Catford. The first is on Muirkirk Road, for baker and pastry cook, the name was presumably in a different paint and has worn off.

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On the corner of Muirkirk Road and Sandhurst Road, over the door of a supermarket, is a butcher’s sign.

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At the other end of the terrace of shops that used to be called Sandhurst Market, on the corner of Inchmery Road, is a much less clear sign that has deteriorated in recent years for a chemist and druggist, over a present day pharmacy.

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Behind it is my favourite of the area, that of an ‘hygienic’ baker, the least one would expect; the sign dates from the 1930s or 1940s, although there was a bakers there from 1907, and there is a sign at the rear advertising Hovis.

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The bakers were Warner Bros….so I should sign off with a a phrase that originates from the same era ‘That’s All Folks!’

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