Tag Archives: Lee Manor House

James Brooker and the Old Lewisham Town Hall

Hidden away under trees in the corner of Manor House Gardens, close to the library, is a large block of masonry carved in a way reminiscent of Victorian graves – it is clearly a foundation stone, one of a trio of similar stones in the same area.

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Unless James Brooker was very busy on 27 July 1874, it is the foundation stone of the old Lewisham Town Hall. It was initially created as the Vestry Hall for Lewisham and Penge, becoming the Town Hall after local government re-organisation in 1899.

The building was ceremonially opened a year and a day later on 28 July 1875 at a cost  of about £11,000 which was shared 2/3rd to be paid by Lewisham and 1/3rd by Penge based upon their respective rateable values.

Source ebay March 2016

Source ebay March 2016

So who was the James Brooker?  He had been born in 1803 in Newington or Walworth (depending on the census) then in Surrey.  He married Ann and they  had stayed around Newington; all their 9 children seem to have been born around there and in 1841 he was living in Gloucester Place.

By 1851 he had moved to Forest Hill, and listed as a ‘master builder’.  He was elected to the Lewisham Board of Works from its formation in 1856, chairing it from 1857 and also representing the District on the Metropolitan Board of Works.  He carried out a variety of other civic roles including Poor Law Guardian.

In the 1861 census he was listed as living in Brockley Park and a decade on he was living in St German’s Road. The foundation stone from 1874 and a few other on line references to him on-line have him back at Brockley Park.

He lived until 1877 and at his funeral he was fondly remembered in terms of his public service

The natural independence of character and integrity of character possessed by Mr. Brooker, coupled with his urbanity and impartiality as chairman, endeared him the respect and esteem of all with whom he was associated, whilst his public spirit and devotion rendered his life and services very valuable to the public generally of this district.

He was buried on the Lewisham side of Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery where the work of, perhaps, the same monumental mason as the foundation stone recalls his life in now fading detail.

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The Town Hall was in rather grand Gothic Revival style and its architect was George Elkington, who was born in Bermondsey in 1824.  He was described as ‘Architect to the Lewisham Board of Works’ at the time of the design.

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Photo source Creative Commons – source here

He seems to have moved on to a similar role in his home borough, designing a similar grand vestry hall for the Bermondsey Board in 1879.  It too is no more, it was demolished in 1963 following WW2 bombing.  There is some video footage of this at around 45 seconds in on the YouTube video below, which was one of a trio made on the work of the council in the early 1930s.  Running Past has touched on some of this in a post of Solarium Court and the Salters (the other two videos are embedded there).

The only known building of his that survives is the Leather Hide and Wool Exchange, also in Bermondsey which remained active until 1912.   His other legacy is Southwark Park – he produced the initial plans for it, although in the end more modest proposals were adopted.

He later seems to have had his own south London practice, with his son, also George who continued it after his father’s death in 1897..

The builders were Higgs, Hill and Hill was  who were based in Vauxhall – they had been formed by a merger the year the foundation stone was laid, so it would have been one of their first major projects.  The initial ‘Higgs’ was dropped a few years later when one of the founders retired.  They continued in business until 1996 when they were taken over by a Dutch construction firm.

There is video footage of the Town Hall from the 1920s when Hither Green channel swimmer, Hilda ‘Laddie’ Sharp  when she was greeted by the deputy Mayor following her successful swim, covered here in Running Past. The video has not been uploaded onto YouTube so cannot be embedded in WordPress but can be watched here.

Just as local government re-organisation had seen the extension of the Town Hall at the end of the 19th century, the old Town Hall and the neighbouring St Laurence Church, were demolished in 1968 to provide a more modern Town Hall for the new, expanded London Borough of Lewisham.  This was despite the involvement of Sir John Betjeman in a campaign against their demise – a picture from which is shown below.

Betjeman

Source Creative Commons via Wikipedia, here

Of the two other stones, one is rather weathered and the lettering unclear to the naked eye. The other marks an event in 1857, presumably another unveiling, by Marian Legge, wife of the Reverend Henry Legge.  It doesn’t seem to relate to the Manor House, despite its prominent location at the rear, its date wouldn’t obviously link it to any of the ‘lost’ churches of the immediate area or even St Laurence Catford  – all were a little earlier or later.  So if anyone can through any light on this it would be much appreciated.

Legge was Vicar of Lewisham between 1831 and 1879, he was no humble rural parson – the fifteenth child of George Legge, 3rd Earl of Dartmouth, one of the major Lewisham landowners of the era. George Legge was patrons of the ‘living’ so it was a ‘job for the boys’, well one of his anyway.

 

Lee Manor House – The Years Before the Library

Last week’s post looked at the early days of the Manor House, particularly its links to the slave trade.

While the ownership of the house remained in the Baring Family until the House became a library, it wasn’t their residence for much of the final century of their ownership. They had bought Stratton Park in Hampshire in 1801 – the estate included the village of Micheldever, hence the link to the Lee street name.

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The first tenant of the Barings seems to have been Frederick Perkins, whom FW Hart describes as an ‘opulent brewer’. Frederick Perkins father, John, had been Chief Clerk to the owner of the Anchor Brewery, Henry Thrale. The brewery was put up for auction in 1781 when Thrale died and bought for £135,000 by Robert Barclay, of the banking family, who seems to have seen the brewery as an investment and needed some industry knowledge. So he kept Perkins on, making him a partner. John Perkins died in a freak accident at Brighton Racecourse – being kicked in the head by a horse in 1812.

His son, Frederick Perkins, was born in 1777, he and his brother Henry were each given half of the eighth share in the brewery sometime around1805, Frederick seems not to have taken much interest in the brewery, seemingly being content to live off the income from his valuable share. He spent large amounts of money collecting books. When he moved out of the Manor House in the 1830s, the brewery was producing around 330,000 barrels a year – it was probably the biggest brewery in London.

As for the brewery, it continued on the South Bank, close to the current Globe Theatre, as Barclay Perkins, until 1955 when it merged with rival London brewer Courage.  Courage rationalised their operations, demolished the buildings and sold the site in the early 1970s.

The Barings returned to the Manor House at the end of Perkins’ lease, the House being used by Sir Francis Thornhill Baring, the 1st Baron Northbrook (from 1866), who was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1839 to 1841 – possibly whilst he was using Lee as a close-to-London base. He was the grandson of the original Sir Francis. Francis’ father would have still owned the house at that stage, it didn’t pass onto Sir Francis Thornhill Baring until 1848 when his father died.

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From information board next to Boone’s Chapel

How long Sir Francis stayed at the Manor House is unclear, he may have moved back to Stratton Park when his father died. Whenever he moved out though, it is worth looking at the final two occupants as they are both interesting in their own right. The penultimate occupants were the Farnalls who seemed to have moved there at some stage in the late 1850s. Harry (Henry) had been born in Clifton in Gloucestershire he has been described as

an example of that extraordinary Victorian ideal, the gentleman civil servant defending the patrician notion of a generous, caring state in the absence of any very firm evidence that the state was routinely either of those things.

He seems to have come from a military family and had a privileged education taking him to Downing College Cambridge, via Brasenose College Oxford and Charterhouse.

His married soon after leaving Cambridge, although by the time he had moved to Lee he was in a second marriage; his new wife, Rhoda, came from Sandford, near Weston Super Mare. Before arriving in Lee, they lived in Sandal Magna, now part of Wakefield in Yorkshire, where the three children living at home in later censuses were all born.

Farnall was a Local Government Board inspector, there are several reports written by him or mentioning him, including poor law in South Wales (presumably before he moved to Yorkshire) and health reports on the North West, where he was a Poor Law Insepctor – this included being sent by Parliament to report on the Lancashire Cotton Famine.  The family’s arrival in Lee presumably coincided with him becoming the Metropolitan Inspector for the Poor Law Board.

Along with Florence Nightingale Farnall instituted the first enquiries into the quality of nursing in workhouse infirmaries, having previously been criticised for his ‘blindness’ to this;  he was also later criticised for his ‘light inspection’ of the notorious Bethanl Green Workhouse.

He had a sudden fall from grace after falling out with Gathorne Hardy, later Lord Cranbrook, who was President of the Poor Law Board, and he was ‘transferred unceremoniously to Grantham’ where he was responsible for more mundane elements of public health. The family remained in Lee though.

Harry Farnell was also heavily involved in the 3rd Company of the Kent Volunteer Rifles; they were set up in 1859 and were to become part of the Territorial Army in the 20th century. He was made Captain in November 1859 and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1863. He received a sliver bugle from ladies of Blackheath and Lee to recognise his work in 1860 in front of the Manor House.

The family moved to Wingfield House which was attached to The Firs (covered before in the blog) between 1871 and 1881 – probably around the time of his retirement and/or the end of a lease. Harry died in 1883, the rest of the family seem to have remained at Wingfield House until it, along with The Firs, was demolished in the early 1890s to make way for the new housing on Old, Abernethy and Lochaber Roads. The family moved out of the area – by the 1901 census his widow Rhoda is listed as living in Chelsea.

By 1881 the Manor House was home to the Military ‘crammer’ School run by Henry Wolffram which was designed to prepare young men for the entrance examinations for the Army. The 1881 census lists 21 pupils along with a resident tutor, a housekeeper and a cook. Henry Wolffram was born in Stuttgart in Germany had been in Britain for a while. He had married Anne from Surrey and in the 1871 census he was running some sort of education establishment in Greenwich – it had two Swiss boarders. There is a small photo of the school in front of a now demolished extension of the House in 1884.

Wolffram’s name is remembered by a small cul-de-sac off Manor Lane Terrace, located roughtly where the final home of Manor Farm was. As with Aislibie Road, the spelling is incorrect and is given as ‘Wolfram’.

Source - EBay Feb 2016

Source – EBay Feb 2016

Earl of Northbrook sold the Manor House and estate to the London County Council for £8,835 in 1898, worth a little more now given the increase in London land values. The previous tenants had left it in a poor state of repair, the LCC describing the House and Gardens as being in a ‘somewhat neglected condition’ . The House became a Library and the gardens a public Park opening in May 1902.

Source EBay Feb 2016

Source EBay Feb 2016

The House itself is listed, along with the wall forming the boundary with Pentland House to the west, the entrance gate posts and the telephone kiosk in front.

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Finally, it is important to remember the history covered in the first part of the story of the Manor House – it is worth repeating the final paragraph of that post;  

If you are a current Lee, Hither Green or Lewisham resident, next time you use the park, the library or just walk or travel past and admire Richard Jupp’s fantastic architecture, please at least pause to remember the ‘dark heritage’, to remember the lives of those transported 5,000 miles from New Calabar to injustice and misery in the Leeward Islands, and to remember that it was the enforced and unpaid toil of slaves that largely paid for what you are looking at. If you live somewhere else, something similar may well apply to your local ‘country house’ too.

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All the census and related data came via Find My Past 

 

Slavery and the Manor House

The Manor House in Lee is an impressive building, rightly listed, but amidst the grandeur and beauty it has financial foundations that lie very firmly in slavery – it is a prime example of what has been referred to as ‘dark heritage’

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The House was built for Thomas Lucas around 1770, he had lived in Lee for a while, renting Lee Place (on the opposite side of Old Road) from the Boones – it is a ‘country house’ that Running Past ‘visited’ a while ago.

But to understand the history of the Manor House, we need to go back a generation.  It certainly wasn’t the first building on the site – John Roques map of 1746 (1) a quarter of a century before the Manor House was built shows a lot of properties around where it is now located.  It was probably the location of Lee Farm, although there is some uncertainty about this.  Lee Farm seems to have moved around 1745 to become Burnt Ash Farm and the vacated buildings were bought by William Coleman, Thomas Lucas’ uncle, who sought to re-create the old Manor of Lee for his nephew (2)  which had been broken up after the death of Brian Annesley – covered earlier in Running Past.

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Coleman was the agent for a number of Leeward Islands plantation owners, notably the Pinneys of Bristol who were who were at that time probably the wealthiest plantation owners in St. Kitts and Nevis. He also jointly owned a plantation in Antigua with his nephew – Roundhill which had 150 slaves.

Thomas Lucas was born around 1720, possibly in the West Country.  He was Treasurer (1764-74) and later President (1774-84) of Guys Hospital and has been described as ‘a wealthy merchant’, much of his wealth came from  joint ‘business interests’ with his uncle in St Kitts in the Leeward Islands, along with the Roundhill plantation with 150 slaves in Antigua.  In his own right, Lucas probably owned land at Barbados Bay in Tobago – which almost inevitably would have had direct or indirect links to slavery.

A Thomas Lucas of this era part owned a number of ships directly involved in taking slaves to the West Indies – while there  is nothing definitive linking him to Lee, there cannot have been many of that name, with sufficient wealth to own a share in a large ship, who had  links to the West Country and who were involved in the slave trade at that time.  One of these ships was the ‘Africa’, jointly owned by a Thomas Lucas and seven others.  It left Bristol in 1774 and its captain purchased slaves at New Calabar (in what is now Nigeria) and then proceeded to St Vincent for instructions on their sale in 1775.  The net proceeds were a staggering £5442, millions at today’s prices.

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Manor House was designed by Richard Jupp, a well-known 18th century architect and surveyor, employed for much of his career by the East India Company.  The Manor House is one of a trio of relatively well known south London properties that he designed – the others being the Sevendroog Castle and the entrance and wings to Guys Hospital (1774-77), presumably as a direct result of his work for Lucas  at the Manor House.

Lucas died in 1784 and what happened next in terms of ownership and occupancy is a little confused with some contradictory evidence, although some elements of this ‘confusion’  may relate to the author’s poor understanding of 18th and early 19th century legal jargon.  It seems that the former Lady Lucas let the house to the Call family, Sir John in 1792 on a 61 year lease.  However, he seems to have moved out before his death in Westminster in 1801 – there is an impressive pyramidical family tomb in the old St Margaret’s churchyard.

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Lucas wife, who later married John Julius Angerstein (someone else who had made money from slavery) and appears to have sold the estate in the 1790s; there is a report of a sale in August 1796 at Garraway’s Coffee-House.  However, to confuse matters there is also the granting of a lease to Sir Francis Baring by the executors of Thomas Lucas in 1797. There are also frequent reports of a sale by a Sir Joseph Paice of the Manor House to Sir Francis Baring for £20,000 in 1796.  This may be the same sale as that by former Elizabeth Lucas, in that the House might have been due to pass to him after her death – there is a mention of him as the reversionary legatee which might point to this. Whatever the chain of events was, the net result was that around the end of the 18th or early in 19th centuries the Manor House became the London home of the Barings – this was certainly by 1801 as John Baring, the 3rd son of Sir Thomas was born there.

Before moving onto the Barings, it is worth touching on Sir Joseph Paice.  He would certainly have known Thomas Lucas as Paice was also trustee at Guys.  While there were no direct links to slavery, the Paice family had ‘trading links’ with Jamaica for produce and crops inevitably produced by slave labour.  Paice was also a childhood friend of Francis Baring – growing up in the same part of Devon, and was to help with the setting up of Barings Bank.

Despite their purchase of Stratton Park in Hampshire in 1801, it seems that the Barings remained at the Manor House, using it as their London base.  Sir Francis died there in 1810 and Sir Thomas lived there for a few years after that, although the family was to own the House for almost another century.

The links of the Barings early wealth to slavery is relatively well known and well documented;  the whole family of that era and before seem to be imbued in the trade.    The graphics below come from the University College, London Legacies of Slave Ownership database – the maroon plaque from the Manor House.
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While Sir Francis is said to have made his fortune before the age of 16 based on slavery. While his son Thomas Baring is known to have eventually opposed slavery, unlike his near neighbour Benjamin Aislabie – whose murky past Running Past covered a while ago – his home and lifestyle at the Manor House and Stratton Park were under-pinned by past links to slavery.

Given this past it seems odd that it is a family deemed worthy of a Lewisham maroon plaque without mention of what the ‘merchant’ refers to.   Next week’s post will look at the latter years of the House in private ownership, when the Barings retained ownership but rented the House out.

If you are a current Lee, Hither Green or Lewisham resident, next time you use the park, the library or just walk or travel past and admire Richard Jupp’s fantastic architecture, please at least pause to remember the ‘dark heritage’, to remember the lives of those transported 5,000 miles from New Calabar to injustice and misery in the Leeward Islands, and to remember that it was the enforced and unpaid toil of slaves that largely paid for what you are looking at.  If you live somewhere else, something similar may well apply to your local ‘country house’ too.

Notes

  1. From information board at Lee Green
  2. Josephine Birchenough &  John King (1981)Some Farms and Fields in Lee p3