Tag Archives: Lee Place

Old Road & Beyond – A Walk Through Some of Lee’s Past

The area bordering Manor House Gardens has a rich and interesting history which Running Past has written numerous posts about.  This post was written to ‘accompany’ a walk organised as part of the 2019 Manor House Gardens Festival, it can be used to independently to walk the route (it’s a circuit of around a mile, which can be found here) or as virtual tour of the area.  The ‘walk’ is divided into sections which relate to the planned stopping points – each of which is full of links to other posts in the blog which will have more detailed information.

Some Background

Before it was enveloped by the city Lee was a village, a village with three centres – Lee Green, the area around St Margaret’s Church and Old Road, as John Rocque’s map from 1746 shows.

Lee remained largely rural until mid-19th century until the coming of the railways – Blackheath & Lewisham stations opened in 1849, Lee in 1866 and Hither Green not until mid-1890s (it was just a junction before that).

The mid-1860s Ordnance Survey map above shows how little development there was beyond Lee Green and to the south of Old Road; farms remained until the 1920s and 1930s, such as Burnt Ash and Horn Park.

The Manor House

Old Road was once home to a series of large houses, starting from the eastern end these were Lee House, The Cedars, Lee Place, the Manor House, Pentland House and The Firs – geography played an important part, it is on a small hill which would have offered impressive views to the east and south but were high enough to protect from flooding from the Quaggy and the now diverted Mid Kid Brook, which used to flow down Lee High Road.

Lee Place

The first of the country houses was Lee Place; Its building was the result of the death of Lord of the Manor, Brian Annesley who had a moated farm probably where St Margaret’s Lee School is now situated.  His later years are believed to at least partially inspired Shakespeare to write King Lear – there was happier ending than in the play though.  The estate split up on his death.

Lee Place (above) probably built by/for George Thompson – had links to the slave trade but is better known as a soldier and MP during the Commonwealth brother of Maurice who lived at Lee Farm. It was the home to the Boone family (it was their family chapel) for several generations but was let out from the mid-18th century.  Its last tenant was Benjamin Aislabie.

The estate was sold in 1824 as still has an impact on the current landscape as it was broken up into relatively small lots which were developed at different times.  It allowed too the straightening of Lee High Road – the straightened bit was known as New Road for several decades

The Manor House

Lee Farm was previously on the site, which moved to what is now the junction of Baring and St Mildred’s Roads in 1727 and became Burnt Ash Farm. The former farm was bought initially by the slave trading brother of George Thomson, Maurice and then by William Coleman who sought to re-create the lands of the old Manor for his nephew,Thomas Lucas, both were ‘merchants’ with strong links to the slave trade.

The Grade II listed Manor House was built on the site of the farm in 1770 by Richard Jupp for Lucas.  It was bought by Sir Francis Baring in early 19th century, whose family wealth also had its origins in the slave trade – used it as their near London base – the merchant on the maroon plaque is depressingly vague. The Northbrooks let in out during much of the 19th century

They sold the house as a library and grounds to the London County Council in 1898 opening to the public in 1902.  The Northbrooks owned much of Lee and their gradual selling off of their ‘estate’ in the latter part of the 19th century which shaped the current urban landscape.

Pentland House

Pentland House was built in early 1790s and is probably the oldest residential building in Lewisham – it is a close run thing with St Mary’s Vicarage though!  It has been added to considerably and rendered in the early 19th century when extended.

It was home to the rich, but not that significant Smith family, who sold to some more Smiths, who sold to some more Smiths (albeit with a prefix) – it became a Goldsmiths’ College hall in 1913 which stayed until the early 2000s.  It is currently a largely backpackers hostel.

Flats & Houses Opposite

The houses and flats opposite are a bit less grand – Bankwell Road & adjoining bits of Old Road – completed in 1908, possibly by James Watt – it was the central of three plots of land bounded by Lee High Road and Old Road – as the 1890s Ordnance Survey maps below shows.

The eastern of the plots are Arts & Crafts style flats which are a bit out of kilter with rest of area.  The land they were built on had been part of Lee Place – the house itself was on this part.  The land was bought as an orchard and kitchen garden for Pentland House with the flats & Market Terrace on Lee High Road built in the mid-1930s.

Before moving on worth reflecting on the library, the park and indirectly the rest of the current urban landscape was paid for by the slave labour in the plantations of the Caribbean owned or traded by those that lived here and over the road.

On the way to Lochaber Hall at the first house on Manor Lane Terrace look at the wall – the remains of a sign pointing towards air raid shelters in Manor House Gardens (more on that later).

Lochaber Hall, the Firs, Holy Trinity

Lochaber Hall

If think Lochaber Hall looks like a church hall you’d be right, it was originally church hall for Holy Trinity in Glenton Road (pictured below).  The church was destroyed in the Blitz and is now Callaghan Close (almost opposite the Telephone Exchange) and named after the 1970s Prime Minister who lived in Blackheath.

The Hall was designed by Ernest Newton, a locally renowned architect and President of RIBA, he also designed St Swithuns, the original Church of Good Shepherd and Baring Hall at Grove Park. Slightly surprisingly it is Grade II listed. Immediately after World War Two it was used as a hall for the Church of the Good Shepherd as that church was largely destroyed in a fire & the congregation was using the adjacent hall as the church.

The Firs Estate

The Firs was another of the large country houses of Lee, it was a large red-brick house which was a built around 1700 as the ‘town’ residence for the Papillion’s, a prominent Huguenot banking family – it stayed in the family’s ownership for a century.  The last owner from the mid-1860s was John Wingfield Larkin, a member of a wealthy Kent family who had been a merchant in Egypt and British consul in Alexandria between 1838 and 1841.  The family sold up on his death as the city encroached in 1893.

It was developed as Murillo, Old, Rembrandt & Lochaber Roads by the end of 19th century.  It is not certain who the builder/developer was – although is a stained glass for Siderys on Murillo Road – who were prominent builders in the area.

The houses on the corner of Manor Lane Terrace and Abernethy were largely destroyed on the 1st night of the blitz.  27 Murillo Road was home to one of the more prominent Lewisham suffragettes – Caroline Townsend.

Lee Manor Farm

This was originally at the Manor House, moved to what is now the junction of St Mildred’s Road and was renamed Burnt Ash Farm in 1727; that farm was split in the early 19th century and new farm buildings constructed opposite The Firs (close to the current junction of Manor Lane Terrace and Manor Lane).  It didn’t stay the farm house that long and we’ll return to it at our next stop.

Junction of Manor Lane Terrace & Kellerton Road

Manor Park Estate

We are in the land of W J Scudamore here and along with John Pound are probably the two firms of builders that most influenced the area – buying land from the Northbrooks. W J Scudamore were based on Manor Lane (corner of Handen Road) then Lee High Road (part of Sainsbury’s site) and latterly on Holme Lacey Road in Lee and active in Lee, Hither Green and later elsewhere from the 1890s until the 1930s.

The Manor Park Estate (as the roads around here were originally referred to as) was built for a mixture of rent and sale – sale prices were £265 or£275 for the bigger ones – it was 1906…!

They definitely also built

  • Shops on Manor Lane (eastern side)
  • Newstead Road
  • Some of St Mildred’s Road
  • Holme Lacey & Dalinger Roads
  • Several small sections of Leahurst, Longhurst and Fernbrook Roads
  • Probably lots of others too

Wolfram Close

On the site of the last location of the Lee Manor Farm (pictured below) – the land farmed was to the south of here.  The farmhouse seems to have been sold with the land for the Manor Park Estate and became a home for the Scudamore family who remained there until 1961.

The site was redeveloped in the 1960s or early 1970s, it isn’t clear whether this was by Scudamores, as they went into liquidation in 1966. It is presumably named after the last occupant of the Manor House – Henry Wolffram from Stuttgart who ran a ‘crammer’ school for would-be army officers – the spelling of his name is incorrect though – the cul de sac as one ‘F’ the name two ‘Fs’.

The council estate behind Cordwell Road – is named after one of the last farmers of the farm.

 

Manor House Gardens

The park was created in the early 1770s as gardens for the Manor House until 1898 when the Northbrooks sold up to the London County Council (LCC), which as with Mountsfield Park on the Hither Green and Catford borders wanted to ensure that the newly developing suburbia had parks and libraries provided. The Gardens had been left in a poor state by last occupant (Henry Wolffram) and didn’t open to the public until 1902.

Source –  eBay Feb 2016

It contains a rather impressive Ice House which was used as an air raid shelter in World War Two; there were a couple of other ones too, the outline of one of them was visible in the parched grass in the hot weather of 2018.

The Gardens have been ‘listed’ since 1987 and underwent a major refurbishment in 2000.  The small lake has been part of grounds for most of its post agricultural life.  The River Quaggy flows through the Gardens, it used to be at a higher level but the bed was  excavated partially to reduce flooding – probably in the 1880s.

Behind the library, there are two little bits of Catford – foundation stones for the now demolished St Laurence Church and the original Town Hall.

Lenham Road/Lammead Road Corner

If we were standing here in the 1870s we would be in or next to the River Quaggy as there was a meander that originally came up to this point. It was straightened in 1880s both to allow development but possibly too as flood prevention measure – there were really bad floods in 1878.

Most of housing on Lenham, Lampmead (and Aislibie that will walk up) Roads dates from late 1880s when Lee House (more on that later) was demolished and the land sold for development. It was slightly different on the other side of the river – Robertson Street, now Brightfield Road probably dates from the late 1850s or early 1860s.

The houses at the corner are very different – early 1960s council housing as opposed to late Victorian.  This was because early in the morning of 22 June 1944 a V-1 rocket hit the corner, killing 6.  There was a lot of Blitz damage on Lenham Road as well as on Aislibie Road where there are several bits of infill council housing from the late 1950s or early 1960s.

49 Lampmead (above) was home to Phyllis Noble who was to become Phyllis Willmott and wrote a 3 part autobiography about growing up in Lee in the 1920s and 30s – this has been covered a few times – including in relation to the Sunday Constitutional and children’s play.

Almsot opposite, at the junction with Aislibie Road in 2016 a house had Blitz type damage as a result of badly executed building work.

Lee Centre

Lee House & Centre

This was originally the site of Lee House, a medieval mansion that was rebuilt in the 1820s probably partially as a result of the re-alignment of Old Road, it is pictured below. However, by the 1880s it no longer met the needs of the wealthy Victorian gent as city encroached with the railways.

Lee Centre was built on the site in the 1880s – initially it was home to a few clubs, including a chess club. But it was never developed uses that befitted its impressive architecture by World War 2 it had effectively become used for storage and nurse appointments; it was used for education from 1970s and more recently by various charities.

Next door was built as St Margaret’s Parish Rooms, long before Kingswood Halls were built; it was also home to school for many years before becoming offices and warehouses for stationery supplier and then a toy merchant.  It has been a nursery for the last decade or so.

Chiesmans’ Warehouse

In a former incarnation this was home to the teetotal Lee Working Men’s Institution, it was taken over as a depot for the Lewisham Department Store, Chiesmans who rebuilt it around 1914 – it was almost completely destroyed in during the Blitz before being rebuilt on same footprint for Chiesmans in mid 1950s.  After some slightly less than legitimate activities it is slowly being converted into flats.

The Cedars

Was situated on what is now the opposite corner of Aislbie Road, it was another large house – the estate was broken up and mostly sold at the same time as Lee House.  The house itself remained until the 1890s before being sold for development – hence the housing at the north-western corner of Aislibie Road is different to the rest of the street.  The street itself was named after, although spelled incorrectly, the slave owner and terrible cricketer Benjamin Aislabie – the last tenant of Lee Place.

 

Manor House Gardens (Old Road entrance)

This is next door to 36 Old Road, this was part of the estate of The Cedars.  Post development the site was used for many years as stables for Thomas Tilling’s horse drawn buses and then as a workshop by the firm afterwards.  It went through several uses afterwards – the sweet makers Whitehouse and Co from 1929; John Edgington and Co Marquee Manufacturers who latterly made floats for the Lord Mayors Show were there from 1949 (including some of those below) and then Penfolds used it as a crash repair workshop from the late 1980s until around 2010.  Development into flats started a few years later but has been paused for a couple of years.

 

Picture Credits

  • John Rocque’s 18th century map is from the information board at Lee Green
  • The Ordnance Survey map from the 1860s is on a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland
  • The picture of Lee Place comes from the information board opposite St Margaret’s Church
  • The picture of Holy Trinity Glenton Road is via Wikipedia Commons – originally from Illustrated London News
  • The photograph of The Firs is from the information board on Brandram Road, opposite St Margaret’s church.
  • The drawing of Lee Manor Farm is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission
  • The 1890s Ordnance Survey map is courtesy of the National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons.
  • The pair of Ordnance Survey maps from  1863 (top) and 1893 are on a Creative Commons via National Library of Scotland
  • The sale plan of Lee House is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission
  • The picture of Benjamin Aislabie is on a Creative Commons via one of Lewisham Archives sites 
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Arts & Crafts Housing on Old Road

Old Road in Lee is veritable cornucopia of housing types – two of the large houses of Lee remain – the Manor House, now a volunteer run library, and Pentland House, now a hostel. There is the 1890s housing at the western end which was built on the site of The Firs. At the other end is the Edwardian housing centred on Bankwell Road – possibly built by James Watt, he certainly built the cinema that was part of the same plot.

In between are 1930s flats built with more than a nod to the Arts and Crafts style of housing, more often seen in suburbia of the era with mock exposed beams against white rendered eaves. The reason for two terraces of 1930s housing  and the row of shops of a similar style and era on Lee High Road, Market Terrace, goes back to 1824 and the break-up of the estate of Lee Place, the original country home of Lee.

Lee Place had probably been built for George Thomson, but was for most of its life home to the Boones, they latterly let the house to Benjamin Aislabie – when his lease expired the estate was broken up into small lots with the house being demolished. Two of the lots were used to build Lee New Town (the area around Lee Church Street) and the Merchant Taylors Almshouses. The lot built on in the 1930s was bought by the owners of Pentland House and used as an orchard – it is to the right on the Old Road snow scene, probably from the 1890s.

When Pentland House was bought as halls of residence for Goldsmiths College around 1913, the orchard was bought with it.  The Ordnance Survey map below from the 1890s shows the plots the the north of Old Road clearly.

The land was sold in the early 1930s for housing – the first mention of homes being lived in was in the 1933/34 Kelly’s Directory for Blackheath, Greenwich and Lee – one of the last local editions.

So who lived in the homes? Less than six years after residents moved in World War Two broke out and the 1939 Register was collected – so while there will have been some movement since the initial letting and sales, it gives an interesting insight into some of the early households who made this part of Old Road their home.  A surprising number of the flats did not have entries, whether they were empty or missed by those compiling the Register isn’t clear.

Occupations were mainly manual, although there were a few clerical grade civil servants and similar jobs in selling advertising, insurance and the like. It was quite similar to the Verdant Lane estate which was developed at around the same time.  Unlike Ardmere Road (where Running Past has done a similar analysis of the 1939 Register), where around a third of the male household members had the  ‘Heavy’ suffix to their trade entitling them to more rations, there were only a couple in Old Road.

As was generally the pattern at both Ardmere Road and Verdant Lane (where a 1939 Register analysis was also done) relatively few women worked with most listed either as ‘Housewife’ or  ‘Unpaid Domestic Duties.’  The exceptions were a couple of shop assistants, maybe working in local shopping parades on Lee High Road or Market Terrace plus a laundress, a couple of typists and an embroidery machinist. In all but one of these the woman was the head of household – something that wasn’t seen in either Ardmere Road or Verdant Lane.

The ages were younger though than Verdant Lane – the average age there was almost 42; in the Old Road flats there were mainly relatively young couples living there – the average age was 36, although this was pushed up a couple of years by the single retired couple who had a working son.

This is perhaps not surprising; the homes were smaller, mainly one bedroom flats, compared with the three bedroom houses at Verdant Lane, although any children of school age would have been evacuated in early September 1939.  However, given how few redactions (generally for those who would be still alive) it would indicate almost no pre-school children who would have remained in Lee.  Had the Register been taken a month earlier there would have no doubt be several children in the flats – Winifred and William Kinsey’s son Anthony at 19 would have been 11 in 1939 and was no doubt evacuated with friends from the street.

The tenure of the flats after they were built in the 1930s isn’t clear – although nationally over half of housing was private rented in 1939.  Based on Land Registry data, just over half the flats have been sold since 1999 – 2 bedrooms flat sold for £405k in late £2018, although the last 1 bedroom flat sold seems to have been in 2015 which changed hands for £270k. However, this probably implies that a lot remain in private renting  or have returned to the private rented sector in the recent past. Two of the blocks, four flats, seem to have been acquired by Lewisham Council at some stage, although one of the flats has been subsequently sold under Right to Buy.

So how has the area changed since 1939?  For the slightly wider 2011 Census Output Area which covers a slightly wider area of 134 homes including most of the rest of Old Road, Bankwell Road, the adjoining part of Lee high Road and Hamlet Close.  51% were owner occupied and 42% privately rented with  the remainder socially rented.

Employment patterns  have probably changed more – the biggest employment sector was education (15%)Heath and Social Work (13%), IT (9%), Finance and insurance (8%) and the motor trade (8%).  This was not dissimilar to the rest of Lewisham  – although there were fewer working in admin activities and accommodation and food services, with more in manufacturing and education

Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey map is courtesy of the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial license;
  • The Picture of Lee Place is from the information board opposite to St Margaret’s Church;
  • The snow scene is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, who hold the copyright, it is used with their permission;
  • Kelly’s Directories records were accessed at Lewisham Archives;
  • Land Registry data on tenure is through Nimbus Maps (Registration required)
  • The 1939 Register data comes via Find My Past (subscription required)

Lee House to Lee Centre – the Story of a Small Part of Lee

The Lee Centre is an elegant late Victorian building at the junction of Aislibie and Old Roads in Lee. It is currently used by a couple of voluntary sector organisations. Both the building, and its predecessors on the site, have interesting stories – this blog post outlines the history. 

The site was for centuries ‘home’ to Lee House, a medieval mansion that was probably the last building showing on the bend of the main road on the southern side of John Rocque’s map from the 1740s (see below (1)). This was, of course, before Lee High Road was straightened following the breakup of the estate of Lee Place in 1824. At that point Old Road was given its current layout.

The original Lee House was probably a Tudor mansion and was known to have rush and clay partition walls (2).   Relatively little is known about the early history of the House although it was to become one with Republican links – it was home to the family of one of the Regicides of Charles I (3) and then owned by the slave owner and trader, Maurice Thomson.  Running Past has already covered Thomson and his brother George who may have built Lee Place and who also had clear links to slavery.

In the early 18th century the House was owned by the Lewin family (4), then home to the Huguenot Jamineau family (5) and later to City merchant and Alderman Sir George Champion (6). Champion’s daughter Mary was to marry Sir Thomas Fludyer in 1742 who inherited the house (7), presumably on George Champion’s death in 1754.

Sir Thomas Fludyer was brother of Samuel who lived at Dacre House, more on him at some stage in the future. Thomas was elected as MP for Great Bedwin in 1767, a seat that he swapped for his brother’s Chippenham seat on the latter’s death in 1768 (8). He died the following year in Hackney although his body was buried in Lee (9). Lee House was left to his daughter, Mary, better known by her married title, Lady Dacre.  She was to live at the eponymous House, further up the hill towards St Margaret’s Church. Her time in Lee will be considered in more details in a future post on Dacre House.  The House was sold on by the early 1770s to Henry Pelham (10).

Pelham was the nephew of two Prime Ministers – his namesake who died in office in 1754, as well as the Duke of Newcastle.  Lee’s Henry Pelham had been briefly an MP, but by the time he moved to Lee was Commissioner of Customs in 1758, a role he continued in until the 1788 retiring on a pension of £761 (worth around £1.4m at 2018 values). Henry Pelham died in 1803.

Around 1807 (11) the House was bought by the banker and MP for Taunton, William Morland; he died in 1815 with his wife remained at the house until her own death in 1826. The House was then inherited by their grandson Sir Francis Bernard Morland.

Sir Francis demolished the old house within a year or two, along with a neighbouring house on Lee High Road which had previously been home to Alexander Rowland, the barber who popularised the use of Macassar Oil, who had died there in 1823. As F W Hart noted, many of the older houses in Lee had been considerably extended over the years (as we have seen with Pentland House) but done in a way that didn’t meet the aspirations of the wealthy early Victorian Kent country gentleman. The realignment of the road provided the ability to design a home with a sweeping drive and gatehouse so gave added impetus for change.

Like its predecessor, no images of the House seem to exist, but from late 19th century Ordnance Survey maps at least, it appeared quite grand with a gatehouse (12) – Lee House is the unnamed large house below the right ‘E.’

While Sir Francis Morland lived on to the ripe old age of 86,  he moved on relatively quickly, as the occupant of the eight acre estate for much of the 1830s and 1840s were the Stuarts – William Forbes Stuart, a Scottish  ‘merchant,’ and his wife Hannah.  In 1841 they were living there with two grown up daughters a relative and eight live-in servants.  The Stuarts (incorrectly spelled Stewart) were still there in the 1851 census; while their children had moved on, they had a retinue of 14 servants, including a pair of lodge keepers.

The Stuarts seem to have sold up in the 1850s and moved to Brighton.  The purchaser was James Halliburton Young, a Justice of the Peace. he probably never lived there but he certainly added some of the land of Lee House to his estate at Cedar House which was situated on what is now the opposite side of Aislibie Road, and no doubt will be covered at some stage in Running Past.  It is the collection of buildings between Lee House and Manor House on the Ordnance Survey map above.

It isn’t clear who was at Lee House in 1861; it may well have been empty when the census enumerators called. In the 1871 Lee House was home to James and Anne Dale – it was clearly a time before contraception – there were 13 surviving children between 18 and just born living at the House along with 3 live-in servants.

By 1881, while the Youngs were still next door, there was no mention of the House in the census, part of the site had already been sold off – the census lists St Margaret’s Home whose inhabitants included a curate.  By the late 1880s, the house had been demolished and what is now Lee Centre at least had its foundation stone, with the grounds sold for the housing of Aislibie and Lenham Roads.

Part of the land was bought by the widow of George Barnes Williams, Helen, ‘For the use and benefit of the men and lads of Lee.’  The building is now known as the Lee Centre.

George Barnes Williams is a name that has already had a passing reference in Running Past in that he was living at ‘Belmont’ (The House that Named the Hill) when the census enumerators called in 1871. He was an architect and surveyor, with a business based in Westminster.  He was best known for his input into the refurbishment of the Mercers Hall between 1877 and 1881.

In 1881 he and his wife Helen were living at 14 Brandram Road. George died in 1887.  In addition to what is now the Lee Centre, it appears that Helen paid for a window at St Margaret’s Lee in his memory.  Helen seems to have lived on at Brandram Road until her own death in 1894.

From the outset there was a chess club based there, which was to be a feature at the Institute for at least 30 years, meeting initially on Monday and Thursday evenings (13).   In addition to chess, there seems to have been a football team based there for a while (14), and an athletic club was based there in 1892 which met on Tuesday and Thursday evenings (15).  How long the football and athletics clubs lasted is not clear, as there was only one mention for each in the local press. In its early days of operation the building was also used by Lee Dispensary – it was listed in the Kelly’s Directories there between 1895 and 1900.  Certainly, when it was first considered by planners in 1888, the application from Helen Williams, was in relation to setting up a Cottage Hospital (16) so this may have been a relic of the original application.

While initially it seems that the Institute was an independent one, by 1927 it had come under the wing of St Margaret’s Church whose parish rooms were then next door.  The building was still home to the Chess Club which lasted there until 1930; the 1937 Kelly’s saw a solitary mention of St Margaret’s 1st Lee Scouts being based there.

While the Scout group only appeared once in Kelly’s Directory, it seems to have been a feature there until the early 1960s, before the group moved to the then newly acquired Kingswood Halls. The building continued to be used to store camping and other equipment for Scout and Guides until at least 1960.

The building was also used for storage by a father and son painting firm, Charles and Gordon Payne, in the late 1950s and 1960s, perhaps earlier. They lived in Dacre Park as war broke out in 1939 and continued to use a hand cart to transport materials around Lee into the 1960s when motorised transport had become the norm.

The Working Men and Lads suffix lasted until 1953, by which time the building was just known as St Margaret’s Lee, Church Institute – a name which lasted in Kelly’s until 1980 by which time it was referred to as the Lee Centre.  The mosaic above the door probably dates from around then – it certainly wasn’t there in 1979 when photographed.

By this stage, the building was being used Goldsmiths College as a Community Education Centre, as part of their Department of Adult Studies. This had started in 1973 and continued until around 1991, the activities run from there included several reminiscence projects during the 1980s.  The building was also used for some Lewisham Council run Adult Education courses up until around the mid-1990s.

In the more recent past it has been home to several voluntary sector groups – notably the Arts Network whose work was aimed at people with enduring mental health support needs and sought to provide ‘a supportive welcoming space for participants to explore their creativity.’ It often opened its doors to the public as part of Lee Green Open Studios, with the upper floor providing a pleasant airy space for displaying art. The project has now moved on to the Leegate Centre.

At the time of writing (late 2018) the building was being used by Ubuntu, a Black social history project and Family Health Isis, a mental health project.

It is a lovely building, although, oddly, neither Listed nationally by English Heritage or locally by Lewisham – it is certainly at least as worthy as the Grade II listed Lochaber Hall a couple of hundred metres away.

Notes

  1. Map from information board at Lee Green
  2. Edwin and Josephine Birchenough (1968) Two Old Houses of Lee – Dacre House and Lee House p68
  3. ibid p68
  4. ibid p71
  5. ibid p72
  6. ibid p73
  7. ibid p78
  8. ibid p78
  9. ibid p79
  10. ibid p94
  11. ibid p97
  12. The map is on a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland
  13. Kentish Mercury 18 October 1895
  14. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper 15 January 1899
  15. Kentish Mercury 25 March 1892
  16. Kentish Mercury 17 August 1888

Census and related data comes via Find My Past

Kelly’s Directorys were accessed via the always helpful Lewisham Archives

The Thomson Brothers – Slave Traders & Owners of Lee

One of the underlying threads in the growth of Lee and the underpinning source of its wealth from the 17th century onwards was slavery – Running Past has covered this before in relation to the Manor House with the links of both Thomas Lucas and the Barings to it as well as to the last resident of Lee PlaceBenjamin Aislabie, who kept his ties to the awful trade in misery beyond the time it was outlawed in the Empire.

While what these Lee residents trading links were despicable, two of their predecessors on what is now the borders of SE12 and SE13 were considerably worse and helped paved the way for what was to come later – George and, more particularly, Maurice Thomson (they are sometimes referred to by the alternate spelling Thompson).  Maurice Thomson lived at Lee Farm, sometimes referred to as Lee House (1), his brother George was one of the early inhabitants of Lee Place (covered in Running Past in 2014) it may even have been built for him (2).

IMG_0323

Maurice Thompson was described “England’s greatest colonial merchant of his day.”  He was born into a wealthy family in Watton-at-Stone in Hertfordshire  around 1600 and moved to Virginia around 1617, initially being involved in the supply of indentured servants (who were obligated to work only for a set period of time) and became involved in tobacco production directly himself – exporting 25% of Virginian output by the mid 1630s.

His involvement in slavery began in 1626 – supplying 60 slaves for the Leeward Island of St Kitts.  Over the next couple of decades along with a  few other families, like the Noells, the Thomsons turned the English colonies in the West Indies into sugar producing islands totally dependent on slavery – there were around 12,800 slaves in Barbados by 1650. The number doubled again within a decade.

The trade was effectively a three cornered one – taking slaves from Guinea and elsewhere on the coast of West Africa to the West Indies, bringing sugar back to Europe and then returning with provisions to West Africa.  Thomson was also involved in a wide variety of other trade – including privateering in the Caribbean – essentially a legalised form of piracy, which has been covered in Running Past before, in relation to the name of the Antigallican Hotel in Charlton.

Maurice Thomson’s first definite on-line links to Lee came when he took a 21 lease out on Lee Farm in 1662 from Francis Sherman, who had bought the farm in 1633.  It wasn’t his primary residence for much of the rest of his life, this was in Haversham which is now part of Milton Keynes where he bought the Manor House in 1664.

As discussed previously in a post , Slavery and the Manor House, there isn’t complete certainty where Lee Farm (sometimes known as Lee House) actually was in this period.  It may have been where the Manor House is currently sited or could have been close to the junction of Old Road and Aislibie Road.

It seems likely that Maurice Thomson  was living in Lee before 1662 – there was a Maurice Thomson in Lee in 1641, who had a son, also Maurice, christened at St Margaret’s Lee in May – it is known that Maurice Thomson’s first son who died in infancy was also called Maurice. He was also on hearth tax records from 1641 (3).

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Maurice Thomson used Lee Farm it as his close to London base until his death in 1676.  In his will he left most of his land interests, including the slaves, to his son John

I give bequeath and devise unto my said dearely beloved sonn Sir John Thomson Baronett All my ffreehold mannors Lands Tenements and hereditaments in England Ireland Barbadoes, Cureco St Christophers (now known as St Kitts), Virginia , the Caribie Islands and elsewhere …

John Thomson stayed in Lee until 1680 when the remainder of the lease was transferred to Elias Aston.

John Thomson, married Frances Annesley, while she has the same family name as Brian who had been Lord of the Manor of Lee and an early 17th century  court case seems to have at least partially inspired King Lear (covered in Running Past in 2014),  she would have been no more than a distant relative – it has not been possible to find any direct link through The Peerage.  Her part of family came from Anglesey.

As merchants the Thomsons were very much in the Parliamentary camp during the English Civil War, which Christopher Hill notes was

… a class war, in which the despotism of Charles I was defended by the reactionary forces of the established Church and conservative landlords, and on the other side stood the trading and industrial classes in town and countryside . . . the yeomen and progressive gentry…’

Of the Thomson brothers, George was much less involved in the slave trade, although his name crops up; it is with much less frequently than Maurice his brother.  He settled in Virginia in 1623 before returning to London as a merchant trading with Virginia and the Caribbean – trade with these areas always indirectly involved slavery in this period.  He is much better known for his political and military activity.  George Thomson became actively involved in the Parliamentary cause as a soldier, losing a leg in battle. After the end of the Civil War he was elected to Parliament for Southwark, although fell out with Cromwell for a while.  After the Restoration in 1660, George Thomson (picture below – source) seems to have laid low in Lee, but he was mentioned in hearth tax records in 1664 – he had the most chimneys in the parish, 21, six more than his brother at Lee Farm.

Thomson

While this is the first definitive on-line reference to him, like his brother, there are clear indications that he had been living in the area for a while – there are christening records from the 1645 with the correct names of children and wife.  So it may be that he had been the first resident of Lee Place.

He died in 1668, and the estate of Lee Place seems to have been sold to the Christopher Boone, who took up residence in 1670. Boone’s will makes reference to it having been bought from Thomson.

Notes

  1. Edwyn and Josephine Birchenough (1968) Two Old Lee Houses – Dacre House and Lee House p68
  2. Picture from information board opposite St Margaret’s Church
  3. Birchenough op cit p70

 

Benjamin Aislabie – Lee Resident, Slave Owner & Possibly the Worst Ever First Class Cricketer

The blog has touched on Benjamin Aislabie a couple of times before, notably him being the last tenant of Lee Place – the first of the country houses of Lee, that was situated in the area bounded by the current Old Road, Lee High Road and Bankwell Road, although its estate extended much further.

The long-term owners of the house, the Boone family, had ceased living in the house around 1770, letting it initially to Thomas Lucas who was to build the Manor House.  Aislabie became its final occupant in 1809, taking on a 14 year lease.

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(Picture from information board opposite St Margaret’s Lee)

Benjamin Aislabie, son of Rawson and Frances Aislabie, was born in 1774 at Newington Green.  By the time he moved to Lee he was a wealthy man, he would have needed to be to afford to rent Lee Place; he had made much of his wealth from the wine trade and was widely reported as having Nelson as one of his customers.

Like a number of the former wealthy inhabitants of Lee, he had links to slavery in the West Indies and the southern states of the current USA, this is something that the blog will undoubtedly return to in the future in posts on Lee Farm, the Manor House and Dacre House.  Aislabie was more unusual in that his links with the slave trade continued after it had been abolished in the British Empire in 1807.  However, it still existed elsewhere and there was nothing to prevent British citizens having interests in it outside the Empire.

It is known that Aislabie had a mortgage interest from 1812 in an estate in Antigua, and in his will he was owner of two estates in Dominica, one of which had 111 slaves, leaving them to his son Rev. William John Aislabie along with an income to his wife from them of £100 a year.

Unsurprisingly, he was one of those in Lee who did not sign the Lee Petition in 1814 – calling on the government to insert a clause into a treaty with the defeated French to end slavery in their empire.

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Picture source – via creative commons

In addition to his interests in wine and slavery, Aislabie was actively involved with the affairs of the parish of St Margaret, both helping oversee the construction of the short-lived second incarnation of the church (which had to be replaced three decades later due to subsidence) and helping dispense the largesse of the parish in the bad winter of 1814.  The late 19th century Lee historian FW Hart notes that Aislabie

took a lively interest in distributing the charities that severe winter to the poor; he also placed to the use of the parish the buildings in the front yard of his mansion, for the storage of coals and potatoes, which were given to the poor during the thirteen weeks’ frost; bread was very dear at this time, and Lee had no poor-house.

Aislabie’s erstwhile landlord, Charles Boone, had died in 1819 and when the lease ended in 1823, it was not renewed, and Lee Place was sold.  While FW Hart suggests he may have moved to Sevenoaks, it certainly wasn’t his permanent residence; in his latter years this was Park Place, next to Regent’s Park and close to the new home of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), Lords.  He was buried in Marylebone church in 1842.

Aislabie had a passion for cricket and was heavily involved in the administration of the game through the MCC, becoming its President in 1823 and secretary from the year before until his death.  In cricketing terms he is remembered though as having one of the worst first-class cricket records of all time.  In part this was because he continued playing well into his later years – his final match was played against Cambridge University at Lord’s on 1 and 2 Jul 1841 when he was aged 67 years 169 days – the oldest ever English participant in a first class game.

His record suggests that he managed 100 first class innings, with a highest score of 15 and a batting average of a paltry 3.15; he didn’t bowl.  The cricket records website, Cricinfo, suggests that

His lack of skill was further hampered by his girth, and towards the end of his career he was so fat that he had a permanent runner who also used to field for him

His record as an administrator seems little better, the same source notes

Under his tenure the club lurched from crisis to crisis, and while not dishonest, he was certainly a dreadful financial controller. He was also, among other posts, Custodian of the MCC Snuffbox.

The MCC at the time though was a little kinder to his memory – it was noted in the Sporting Magazine that

Aislabie obit

Given his links to slavery it seems strange that a man of Aislabie’s ‘pedigree’ has been remembered with a street name (albeit incorrectly spelled) from the 1890s, although perhaps the late Victorians in Lee and Lewisham were only aware of his past via the rose tinted glasses of FW Hart.

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Lee New Town – Victorian Servants’ Housing

When thinking of new towns, the likes of Stevenage, Cumbernauld, Telford or perhaps Peterlee may spring to mind, but early Victorian Lee on the then outskirts of London?  Lee New Town was much smaller than its Twentieth century counterparts – a few streets of homes mainly to house those working directly or indirectly for the wealthy residents in the existing large houses in Lee but also the new, substantial homes being developed in the area. 

Lee New Town was built from 1825 and was made possible by the break-up of the Boone estate and the demolition of Lee Place 1824, once its final tenant Benjamin Aislibie moved out , this was covered a few months ago in the blog.  

The break-up of the estate allowed the straightening of Lee High Road to its current route, it previously looped around Old Road, and provided easier access to the parts of the former estate north of Lee High Road.  The tithe map of 1839 (below – see note 2) shows how quickly the area developed, although Turner Road (later Dacre Park) was to come later, as was Boone’s Road (not to be confused with Boone Street.)



It is possible to build up something of a picture as to the people living in Lee New Town in the late Victorian period.   From 1881 census, data on 16 households a reasonable cross section of the around 200 homes was reviewed (1). 38% of the heads of household were in some form of service for the wealthy of the area – including trades such as gardener, housekeeper and coachmen, much of the rest that were reviewed tended to be either shopkeepers, there were two grocers, or more skilled manual workers such as bakers, a painters and a police constable – the only exception to this was a laundress was in Blows Place – see below.  The area reflected the growth and migration into London, only two of the heads of household originated in the local area, it also reflected high mortality levels – 56% having no surviving partners, with several men with very young families and relatives or lodgers, presumably, looking after children.

Little seems to have changed 13 years later when Charles Booth’s carried out his Poverty survey in Lee in August 1894.  Booth used the following classes



Boone’s Road – ‘small six roomed houses, 2 to  2½ storey houses.  Some of houses still pump their water.  Decorators, gardeners, police; all comfortable working people.  Pink’

Turners Road – much more of a mixture a few houses at the northern edge with servants (pink), much smaller to the southern end (near Lee High Road) where working people (pink to purple).

Dacre Road – ‘2 storey cottages flush with footpath.  Five rooms as a rule, some smaller at the east end (4 rooms). Labouring people with a few better off. Several with fine shows of chrysanthemums in their windows. Purple’

Dacre Square – ‘narrow paved court, two rows of six cottages.  Very small some broken windows stopped with paper.  Light blue’  Photo from a few years later (3).



Church Street – ‘small two storey shops on east side near High Road and also near Dacre Street, remainder two storey cottages; purple to light blue in character…. On west side is a small hall with inscription “soup kitchen 1856”.’

Blows Place – ‘one east side (of Church Street) and only reached by a long passage giving access to back gardens … two storey: four rooms and scullery, labouring people. Light blue.’

Boone Street – ‘2 storey private houses of various styles..some mechanics but people are mostly labourers.  Very little signs of poverty. Purple to pink.’

Some of the New Town was demolished by German WW2 bombs, there were Blitz strikes on Lee Church Street, Boone Street and Dacre Park/Turners Road, as well as one earlier in 1940 in Boone Street. Some of these sites were used for 25 pre-fab bungalows, although unlike others such as the Excalibur Estate and on Hillyfields they were relatively short lived.

By the early 1950s the rest of the New Town was in a poor state, much of the area was described as having 

substandard houses in disrepair, with sanitary defects and bad arrangement of staircases, passages or water-closets, rendering them unfit for human habitation or injurious to health, and for which the most satisfactory method of treatment is by the demolition of all the buildings.



Dacre Street around 1953 (see note 4).

In addition to the pre-fabs, around 135 homes, a couple of halls and 10 shops were demolished with plans to re provide around 183 new homes, all flats plus 8 shops.  In the end the ‘mix’ in the new development was slightly different with a small number of houses also built with slightly fewer shops.  



Lee Church of England School was also demolished sometime after 1959 (the date of the first photo (see note 5) with the new school opening in 1963.



There are two small terraces that remain,  on Dacre Park, and on Lee High Road, next to the former Swan. There also may be a solitary house from the New Town on Fludyer Street, formerly Dacre Street.



Other than this, all that now remains of Lee New Town are the four pubs, from the top right the Greyhound (now offices), the Royal Oak (now flats), the currently unoccupied Woodman, and the Swan (now Rambles Bar) – the reasons behind its name was covered in a post a few weeks ago. 



Notes

  1. Source for 1881 Census data – Family Search – film 1341170 but research for this blog.
  2. Photograph from the notice board adjacent to Kingswood Halls
  3. As note 2
  4. As note 2
  5. Source for black and white photograph http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/collage/app Record number 189098 / Catalogue reference: SC_PHL_02_0327_59_2658 – permission give for use here, but no rights to elsewhere.

Lee Place – A Stately Home of Lee

Lee is now was very different to how it was in the past, that doesn’t make it that dissimilar to any other place in the country. What is really different is that it has moved. What is now regarded as Lee, the area around the station, and Burnt Ash Road/Hill is a mile away from its historic centres – Lee was previously three small settlements – on Belmont Hill, around Old Road and around Lee Green. Old Lee was a place for the rich, with some of the wealth having its origins in the slave trade and Deptford. There were several very large houses stretching from The Cedars on Belmont Hill in the north to the Manor House in the south – over time I will probably touch on all of them, but I will start with one that is no longer there – Lee Place.

There is a logic to this in that its disappearance helped shape the current development of the area in that it allowed the straightening of Lee High Road. There had been a large medieval moated farm, latterly known as Annesley’s House, located some distance away, to the north of the High Road – roughly where St Margaret’s Lee CoE School is now. This estate was fragmented in the early 17th century following the death of Brian Annesley. The end of his life, and his at least partial inspiration for King Lear, was covered a few months ago in the blog.

This fragmentation of the old estate seemed to allow the development of a series of slightly smaller merchant’s houses in the area. Lee Place was one of the first of this new generation of houses and was built in the early 17th century. It was located just to the rear of the western side of the current Bankwell Road (named after Lords of the Manor of Lee in 13th and 14th Centuries). Its grounds included an area largely bounded by the current Old Road, which then formed the main road from Eltham westwards towards London but included an area to the north of it as well. There was a partial moat, probably originally Annersley’s, and small lake just north of the current Lee High Road, behind the petrol station and Rambles bar. There will be another post on this in the New Year.

IMG_0323.JPG (Picture from information board opposite St Margaret’s Lee)

Relatively early in its history it was home to Christopher Boone, a wool merchant in London. His name lives on with the estate chapel that bears his name and was a mausoleum which was built in 1683 – more that sometime in the future. The main entrance to the estate was adjacent to the recently refurbished Boone’s chapel.

P1040595.JPG Other than Boone’s Chapel, the remaining sign of Lee Place is part of its boundary wall facing onto Old Road, it was the external wall for a now unused council depot, while old, it isn’t brickwork of any great beauty.

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Lee Place almost certainly not built by the Boones, the 1664 Hearth Tax listed it as being owned by George Thomson and having the most chimneys in the parish – 21.  He seems likely to have been the brother of Maurice Thomson – who lived nearby and was heavily involved in slavery, Running Past will return to him in the future.  Assuming it is the same family, George Thomson had been a member of the Long Parliament and was also heavily involved with slavery.

The Boone family lived in the Place for most of its life, after Christopher’s death the house was inherited by his son Thomas. It then passed to Thomas’ daughter in 1749 to live in until her death when it passed to Thomas’ nephew, Charles Boone. Around this period, the house was let to Thomas Lucas who went on to build The Manor House – which was completed in 1772. Charles moved into Lee Place in 1777, although by 1797, possibly earlier, he was letting it out to Benjamin Harrison, and then to Benjamin Aislabie (the Victorian street at the south east corner of the estate is named after him, albeit spelled ‘Aislibie’) for 14 years from 1809.

Charles died in 1819 and the end of the lease to Aislabie the estate was sold. The site seems to have been sub-divided, which led to its piecemeal development. The area to the north of what is now Lee High Road seem to have been the first to have been re-developed with Lee New Town – small terraced houses mainly for the ‘staff’ for the large houses. By the end of the century Booth described in the notes books for his poverty maps purple – ‘Mixed – Some comfortable others poor’

IMG_0569.JPG Turner Road (now Dacre Park) on the edge of the ‘New Town’ – from information board by Kingswood Hall Lee High Road was straightened soon after the sub-division of the estate, but the immediate grounds of Lee Place remained as small fields. There were some Victorian shops built along the straightened Lee High Road with a depot for the Cheisman’s store in Lewisham behind them on Old Road. The terraces of Bankwell Road and part of Old Road were built around 1907, and the long gone cinema Lee Picture House, on the corner of Lee High Road and Bankwell Road first opened its doors in 1910. The remainder of the northern side of Old Road and Lee High Road (Market Terrace) to the west of the cinema weren’t developed until the mid to late 1930s.