Tag Archives: Lee

The Post Christmas Blitz on Lee Part 2 – 29 December 1940

In the first part of this post we looked at the post-Christmas Luftwaffe attacks on 27 December 1940 on Lee which saw numerous bombs dropped and homes destroyed on Aislibie Road, the misspelled road, named after Benjamin Aislabie – slave owner, awful cricketer and tenant of Lee Place.

While there was a lull the following evening, it seems that the Luftwaffe were just gearing up for an even bigger raid on 29 December, the aim of which seems to have been to put the fire services under a level of pressure that they would be unable to cope with and see London burning.

The attacks were much more concentrated in a small number of streets between Lee High Road and and Manor House Gardens. Most were incendiaries, and along with a few high explosive bombs, were dropped in a few minutes around 8:15 pm.

As we found with the post on the first night of the Blitz, it is worth remembering that not every incident was reported to the Air Raid Precautions (ARP), some being just reported to the Fire Brigade but others never going through official channels. One of the pages of incidents for the night of 29/30 December 1940 is show below.

The first attacks of the night in Lee started at around 7:25 pm in Blessingham Road, when a high explosive bomb hit the back garden of number 38. Elsewhere on the street another high explosive bomb injured two people. The street was to be decimated by a series of V-1 flying bombs later in the war and was developed, initially as prefabs, and in the early 1960s, as the Mercator Estate.

Fifty minutes later, Lee was on fire, the ARP logs note several dozen incendiaries being dropped at the same time, so we’ll look at the attack on a street by street basis. Aislibie Road (pictured below) which had suffered badly two nights before, was again hit. It was different houses this evening with 5, 13, 26, 30 and 39 all being bombed with roofs and upper floors damaged by the incendiary bombs, none were destroyed though.

Parallel to Aislibie Road, and the location of a devastating V-1 flying bomb three and a half years later, is Lenham Road which saw 5, 7, 10 and 28 all hit by incendiaries. The fires were successfully dealt with by local ARP and Fire Wardens.

Incendiary bombs rained down on neighbouring Brightfield Road with 32, 34, 42, 43, 49, 63 and 83 all hit by them (some are pictured below) – the fires were put out by wardens and the inhabitants, but many of the roofs were damaged.

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, the roof and upper floors of 24 Lampmead Road were damaged, as was 4 Hedgley Street. Taunton Road saw at least two attacks – number 60 was slightly damaged and 2 Thornhill Cottages saw its roof damamged. Thornhill Cottages was a terrace at the eastern end of Taunton Road between Burnt Ash Road and Hedgley Street seemingly on the present Sainsbury’s site.

At the opposite end of Manor House Gardens, 2, 44 and 61 Old Road plus Pentland House (pictured below) were all hit but Fire Wardens managed to deal with all four fires.

A little further along Lee High Road, number 345 was hit by another incendiary; ironically it had been a fire station up until 1906 when the one on Eltham Road opened, it is now a solicitors. The roof seems to have been damaged, and assuming that there was no damage on other occasions during the war, a central turret there was destroyed (there is a pre-damage photograph in the post on the fire station).

There was an explosive and incendiary combination dropped on Dacre Park at the same time and there were ‘several .. casualties in the road’ as a result.

Around fifteen minutes later at 8:30, a high explosive bomb hit Lee High Road between Old Road and Lochaber Road – there 5 casualties, including an ARP warden, with shrapnel damage to almshouses’ boundary wall that is still visible (along with a fading direction sign to an air raid shelter). The ARP warden was Henry Cottell of 41 Manor Lane Terrace who was to die later that evening in Lewisham Hospital – it was a house that seems to have been lost to the construction of Wolfram Close. Henry left behind two adult daughters and his wife Ann, who were there when the 1939 Register was collected.

Also at 8:30, Chiesman’s store repository at 87 Old Road was hit by a high explosive and incendiary combination – the ARP log noted that the repository was on fire. We’ll return to this incident later in the post.

One of the ARP Fire wardens for that part of Lee that night was Phyllis Noble (later Willmott), who lived at 49 Lampmead Road with her parents and grandparents. In the aftermath of the incendiaries being dropped, she and her brothers, who were also ARP Wardens, grabbed stirrup pumps, buckets and sandbags. ‘Incendiaries seemed to be everywhere, but so too were numerous fire watchers like ourselves.’ (1)

The first fire they dealt with was at the almshouses that stood at the corner Lampmead and Lee High Roads (pictured above) where a room had caught fire. They put out that and another in the neighbouring Methodist church, now the New Testament Church of God. Phyllis and her brothers spent the next few hours putting out fires in locations that didn’t even get a mention in the ARP log chasing ‘up and down stairs in the tall Victorian houses in the High Road.’ They reached Old Road and Chiesman’s Store depository by around midnight (2)

“As the red glow in the sky told us, there were still plenty of fires raging, including one in the furniture depository nearby. We went along to see if there was anything we could do there; giant tongues of red and gold flames were shooting skywards from the glowing building and clearly this was not work for us, in any case the firemen had already arrived.”

Had the Fire Brigade arrived earlier they may have been able to save 87 Old Road but it was largely destroyed.

Lee was probably only a stopping off place for the Luftwaffe as they headed towards the centre of the city. Later in the evening incendiaries rained down on central London in what was described as the Second Great Fire of London, the iconic picture of St Paul’s Cathedral amidst the smoke was from that night as 160 died and hundreds of buildings were destroyed in the capital.

Notes

  1. Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming of Age in Wartime p50
  2. ibid

Credits

  • Most of the information for this post comes from the Lewisham ARP Log – it is a fascinating document, which is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives. It isn’t a complete record – some incidents were reported to the Fire Brigade rather than the APR and some incendiaries were dealt with by residents or Fire Wardens without ever reaching the ARP service – this is particularly the case on busy nights such as this.
  • The photograph of St Paul’s is via a Wikipedia Commons
  • The photograph of the Boone’s Almshouses and the page of the ARP Log are both from the collection of Lewisham Archives, both are used with permission and remain their copyright.

1-19 Burnt Ash Road – Shopping Before the Leegate Centre, Part 2

In the first part of this post we looked at the shopping parade of 1-19 Burnt Ash Road, following its evolution from housing built on the site of Lee Green Farm until the outbreak of World War One. As had been the case with the shops opposite, it seemed to be a thriving parade at this stage – empty shops something of a rarity, certainly when compared with Manor Park Parade, closer to Lewisham. We continue the story, taking it to the the end of the parade when the bulldozers arrived, ahead of the building of the Leegate Centre.

Bank House

The Bank had opened around 1906 as a branch of the London and Provincial Bank; there was a name change in 1918 following a merger with the London and South Western Bank, who had a branch that we’ve already covered at the junction of Lee High and Brightfield Roads. The combined name was the snappily titled London, Provincial and South Western Bank.  Probably by the time the sign writers had finished the new title, it had become redundant as it was taken over by Barclays later in 1918.  It seems to have stayed a bank until the parade was demolished, although the address changed to Eltham Road in the mid-1930s.

Clock House

The watchmaker and jeweller Robert Fielding who had been at the Clock House from around 1906, remained there until the late 1920s.  Fielding would have been 80 in 1930 and presumably retired to Bromley where he died that year. 

There was a new business, a chemist that was there until at least the beginning of World War 2, run by W George, latterly trading as George’s Chemist.   It was bought out by the national chain Bannister and Thatcher, who eventually became part of Lloyds Chemists.  Oddly, at around the same time they opened another shop on the opposite side of the road in what was originally called Burnt Ash Parade – the late 1930s development in the southwestern quadrant of Lee Green.  They remained at the Clock House, latterly referred to as no 1, until the end of the parade.

1a Burnt Ash Road

1a was referred to before and after World War 1, but it seems likely that either the numbering changed or there were errors in the recording as it was referred to as being the premises of  CH Reed & Co and then Griffiths & Co House Furnishers.  They generally seem to have been at No 1 so we’ll refer to them there.

However, by 1925 there was some clarity and the firm John Lovibond was trading out of 1a. Their managers seemed to live on site; in 1939, it was Harold McLuskie who lived there with wife Constance, a lodger and three others, probably children.

John Lovibond & Sons were the owners of the Greenwich Brewery at 177 Greenwich High Road, almost next to the station, although it was a firm which originated in Somerset.  They stopped brewing in 1959 to concentrated on selling wines and spirits through a chain of shops, including the one in Burnt Ash Road.  They continued there until the demolition of the shops in the mid-1960s; the remaining shops were sold to Wine Ways in 1968, and many subsequently on to Victoria Wines. 

1 & 3 Burnt Ash Road

We’d left 1 and 3, along with a big chunk of the shops around the corner in Eltham Road under the stewardship of Griffiths & Co.  They had bought out the drapery, furnishing and ironmongery empire of C H Reed from Charles Reed’s son William around 1905.

By 1920 the shops had been sold back to the Reeds – initially  trading as William Reed and then known as Reeds (Lee) by 1925.  The second name change reflected the death of William in 1924.  He was succeeded by his brother Ernest, who seems to have run the business until the 1950s.  It appears likely that the site was redeveloped at around the time of the re-acquisition to allow for a single premises straddling the corner of Burnt Ash and Eltham Roads, although the Bank remained.

By 1960, the shop front was home to Barker Clark Estate Development Company, perhaps a firm related to the creation of the Leegate Centre

5 Burnt Ash Road

We’d left the shop front being run by a firm of builders’ merchants called Barnes Brothers as World War 1 approached.  By 1916 though the premises were being used by a firm of ironmongers – a trade that was to continue until the bulldozers demolished the parade in the early 1960s. 

Initially, it was run by Holeman and Hyland. The Holeman was Charles Herbert Holeman.  Charles was born in Peckham in 1878 and had been living in East Dulwich, working as an electrical engineer in 1911.   In 1939 he was living ‘over-the-shop’ with wife Janet plus two adult daughters, one of whom was a clerk at a draper’s shop, perhaps for Reeds next door – it was just Charles name over the door by the outbreak of World War 2 and it probably remained there until his death in 1957. 

The business continued as Godfreys until the parade’s demise.

7 Burnt Ash Road

Before the outbreak of World War 1, number 7 was a florist – Harriet Walton had taken over the shop after the death of her husband James in 1913.  It was a well-established business that had previously traded round the corner in Eltham Road’s Eastbourne Terrace.  By 1930 their son Walter was running the business.

The Waltons sold up by 1935 – they remained in Lewisham for the rest of their lives, Walter was a typist living in Heather Road off Baring Road with his mother in 1939.  The new name over the door was that of Francis Blake a fruiterer; there was little longevity in the ownership though as by 1939 there was a new name– Lee Green Fruit Stores.  The proprietor was Thomas Jamison, or Jameson, (aged 58 in 1939) along with his wife Beatrice (38) and 6 children, 4 of school age and a son who worked in the shop, Alfred.  Thomas died in 1944 but the business carried on until the parade was demolished – if it stayed in the family, it may well have been Alfred running it until the early 1960s.

9 Burnt Ash Road

In the first part of the story of the parade it was noted that number 9 was one of those retail rarities, a shop that stayed in the same trade throughout its life – that of a butcher.  Frederick Head from Christchurch in Surrey had been there since around 1900, he remained there throughout the First World War and beyond.

By around 1925, Frederick sold up to Grace Mary Plummer. Grace Mary Plummer probably lived in Beckenham as there was someone there of that name in 1939, although listed as carrying out unpaid domestic duties rather than being in the meat trade.  She died in 1976 with an estate of around £70k.  This may not even be the same person, but nothing else is obvious from online searches.  However, it was her name above the window until the wrecking ball destroyed the terrace.

11 Burnt Ash Road

Like its next-door neighbour at number 9, 11 remained in the same trade for the entire period after World War 1, a fishmonger.

While Sparks Bros. had been running the business before World War 1, by 1920 Thomas Butler was selling fish, replaced by James Delliston in the early 1930s.  Delliston seems to have sold up to Mac Fisheries before the war and was still a fishmonger living in Tressillian Road in the 1939 Register.

Mac Fisheries started as a vanity project of Lord Leverhulme of detergents fame, who bought initially the Scottish Isle of Lewis and then part of Harris after a boat trip in the Western Islands.  His plan was to develop a fish-based industry and as part of this he started buying up independent fishmongers throughout Britain, rebranding them Mac Fisheries from just before World War 1. Lever Brothers got rid of the fish processing elements of the business after Lord Leverhulme’s death in the 1920s.  The chain, and no doubt the shop on Burnt Ash Road, benefited during the World War 2 when fish, unlike meat, wasn’t rationed.  Elsewhere Mac Fisheries expanded into other aspects of food sales but the small footprint of the shop at Lee Green probably prevented this.  They were to remain at No 11 until the parade was demolished though.

13 Burnt Ash Road

Before World War 1, the chain Hudson Brothers was running a grocery and provisions business.  They remained there until the early 1920s when name over the grocery changed to William Cullen, who also had a shop close to the railway bridge near Lee Station where he combined a grocers with a Post Office.

The expansion by William Cullen was a short term one as he’d retreated back to the Post Office by 1935 and the shop appears to have been empty during much of the 1930s, something of a rarity on the parade, as was the case over the road.

No one was living there when the 1939 Register was collected as World War 2 started, although a draper Mrs Fenn had opened a shop by 1940.  It was a business didn’t last the war out, as Morgan Brushes, a brush manufacturer had their name painted over the window by VE Day – hopefully using one of their brushes, they lasted into the 1950s.  Robert Lyas, a fruiterer, seems to have been the last business to operate before the parade was lost to the Leegate Centre development.

15 Burnt Ash Road

At the outbreak of World War 1, we’d left number 15 split – 15 was a confectioner’s and 15a was a dyers and cleaners trading as Chambers and Co. – that was still the case in 1920.  The confectioner’s remained too but it was now Amelia Fairburn in charge.

By 1930 Amelia Fairburn had moved on replaced by a Mrs Monk at the confectioners; by 1935 Alice Watkins was there, but her tenure was a short one as Daisy Gadd was running the shop by the outbreak of World War 2. She lived there with her Lighterman husband George (42) and a couple of lodgers.  

Despite the difficulties that wartime rationing will have caused her business, she continued until the 1950s when John Cawthorne took over the business until the end of the parade.

In the mid-1920s and early 1930s, 15a was briefly home to a blouse maker, Madame Iris. It then saw an extension from 17 of Walter Taylor’s photographic business.  After this it returned to being a dyers and cleaners – initially named after the Georgian dandy and socialite, Beau Brummell, who had no obvious links to Lee.  By the end of the war it had taken the name Zip French Cleaners, which it retained until the demolition of the parade.

17 Burnt Ash Road

Like several shops at this end of the parade, 17 was split into two. By the middle of World War 1 and into the interwar years John Allibone, a boot repairer from Northampton was trading at 17a, he’d been based on the Old Kent Road in the 1911 census.  It was a business that lasted there until the late 1920s. 

The partial shop front at 17a was taken over by a Corn Merchant’s business trading as William George Sweet, which was to stay at 17a until the wrecking ball arrived. It seems William George Sweet grew up in Prospect Terrace in the north eastern quadrant of Lee Green and had a long standing Corn Merchant’s shop in Brightfield Road from around 1881.  He died in 1915 so it can be assumed that the family business was continued in his name from around 1930 at 17a. What is slightly odd about this business is that Corn Dealers were a business type that had generally died out during the inter-war period with the switch from horse to the increased horse-power of the internal combustion engine.

After being empty during World War One, the other half of the shop, 17, was taken over by Photographic dealer Walter Taylor by 1925, who expanded into 15a by 1930.  He’d gone by 1935, with the tenure on the shop front taken over by a hairdresser trading as ‘Lydia’ which was to remain on the parade until its end. The person behind the name in 1939, at least, was Gladys Hardine, later Horton.  She lived until 2004, so may well have had the business for 40 years.  

19 Burnt Ash Road

At the beginning of World War 1, George Neal had been running a saddler’s at 19, the business seems to have continued until around his death in 1921. After that, the business carried on at 19 reverted to a previous one, cycle sales and repairs run by Reginald George Littlewood  However, there was competition from F A Lycett in Lee Road, who eventually moved to 30 Burnt Ash Road, this may have caused Reginald to change business to wireless supplies by 1935 (pictured on the sign in the photograph above). By 1940 the shop was empty through.

Post-World War Two, the name over the window was Sentinel Products, what the products sold were isn’t clear though, possibly it was a locksmith.  They had been replaced by Frank Sutherland by 1950, but it isn’t clear what he was a purveyor of though – it was listed in Kelly’s Directory as a ‘Miscellaneous Dealer.’ Frank was there when the parade closed in the early 1960s.

_

We’ll cover the Leegate Centre (pictured above in 2016) at some stage in the future – although we’ll look at the shops on Eltham Road before we do that. However, what is interesting at 1-19 Burnt Ash Road is that after World War 1, while there were significant changes going on over the road there was much more stability here – while some names changed, the traditional shops remained – the fishmonger, butcher, fruiterer, wine and spirit merchant, confectioner and women’s hairdresser. 

The ‘story’ of the parade has been pieced together using Kelly’s Directories held by Southwark and Lewisham Archives – generally looking at every 5th year since the parade opened for business from 1896.

Pictures and Other Credits

  • All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The Kelly’s Directory data was accessed via Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • The black and white postcards and photographs of the parade are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright

1-19 Burnt Ash Road – Shopping Before the Leegate Centre, Part 1

A while ago we looked at the shopping parade of 2-30 Burnt Ash Road, from its development in the late 19th century, to its loss to Penfolds and later Sainsburys.  We now cross over the road to look at the shops on the other side of the road, that were eventually lost to Leegate Centre (pictured from 2016).

While the 1863 surveyed Ordnance Survey map still showed Lee Green Farm (pictured below), its days were numbered – its last farmer, Richard Morris, had, or was about to move, on to Blackfen. His father, William, had leased land from the Crown Estate for several decades, before moving on to College Farm at the highest point on Burnt Ash Hill where he died in 1851.

The developer of the south eastern quadrant of Lee Green, where the farm buildings still sat in 1863, was a name that will be familiar – John Pound, who developed much of Grove Park and south Lee. Work seems to have been completed around 1866 – there were shops at Orchard Terrace on Eltham Road and houses in Crown Terrace on Burnt Ash Road (then called Lane). The Orchard relating to the previous land use and the Crown, the landowner. Burnt Ash Lane/Road was the boundary between the lands of the Crown to the east, which had been part of the estates of Eltham Palace, and the Northbrook estate to the west

The houses were terraced and much smaller than those opposite which were built a few years earlier and were also to become shops.  In the 1871 census, the lower numbers near Lee Green tended to be working class and manual occupations, slightly wealthier further south included articled clerk, solicitor’s clerk but nothing that grand – certainly compared with original occupants over the road.  Little had changed a decade later although there had been a gradual shift to multiple households living in the houses – for example there were four households at 2 Crown Terrace. 

The conversion from houses to shops started to happen in the 1890s.  In the 1891 census all the buildings seem to have been residential but by 1894 well over half the group now had shop fronts and a couple of years later all of them were retail outlets.  We’ll look at them in turn – focussing on, in this first part of the story, on the period up to World War One.

The numbering changed a little in that the building on the corner was originally part of Eltham Road, but that changed with the building of a bank around 1911.  To avoid confusion, as far as possible the numbering referred to will be that from the Edwardian era onwards.

Bank House

While the rest of the Parade dated from the 1860s the Bank was much later – probably built around 1906. It seems that what was once 2 and 4 Eltham Road was redeveloped at that point, it was a building  listed in both Eltham Road and Burnt Ash Roads in Kelly’s Directories, its manager in 1911 was Harry Kitto.

Clock House

Like Bank Buildings, the part of the parade known as the Clock House dates from around 1906, presumably part of a redevelopment of that south eastern corner of Lee Green.  It was so called because of the clock that its first occupant advertising his trade – Robert Fielding, a watchmaker. Fielding was 61 and in 1911 was living in one of the larger houses on Lee High Road with his wife, Georgina, a servant and two adult daughters, one of whom assisted in the shop.  Before his move to Clock House, he had been at 141 Lee Road, next but one to Osborn Terrace for around a decade before.

It was a business that had run in the family – his father had been a jeweller and watchmaker but had died young and the business was taken over by his mother in Montpelier Vale in Blackheath, probably from the late 1850s.  

The Clock House seems to have been shared with Horace L Murray Shirreff’s Electron Cycle Co (see 7 below) until around 1916 but no one else is mentioned after then so presumably Robert Fielding used the whole shopfront.

1a Burnt Ash Road

This seems to have remained a house much longer than the rest, possibly also acting as a base for a business.  From 1871 it is listed at the home of G Bush and Sons Builders, run by George Bush – it may have been the case that he had been the builder of Crown Terrace for John Pound.  There were 6 children there with George in 1871, and a decade later he is noted as ‘employing about 35 men.’ His daughter was a drapers’ assistant, perhaps from George Gooding over the road. George Bush died in 1902 and the business was continued by his son who lived in Elswick Road in 1891, listed as a stone mason.  The business continued during the decade of George’s (Senior) death, but the shop front was empty by 1911.

1a was referred to before and after World War 1 but it seems likely that either the numbering changed or there were errors in the recording as it was referred to as being the premises of  CH Reed & Co and then Griffiths & Co House Furnishers.  They generally seem to have been at No 1 so we’ll refer to them there.

1 & 3 Burnt Ash Road

Number one was first mentioned in 1896 with a name that this corner of Burnt Ash Road and Eltham Road became synonymous with – Reeds, for years it was often referred to as ‘Reed’s Corner.’  The ‘Reed’ initially referred to C H Reed & Co and the C H Reed was Charles Henry Reed.  He has been born in 1839 in North Cornwall, having moved to Lee Green in 1866

By 1871 Charles Henry, was living at the next parade along, Eastbourne Terrace, with his wife Maria (probably nee Nichols), also from Cornwall; there was also a niece and 12 employees. Whether all employees these actually lived on the premises was debatable, a decade later, there were two different nieces and 49 staff. By 1881 he had a trio of shops on trading as a draper, furnisher and ironmonger. 

No longer there in 1881 though was Charles wife, Maria, she was living in Forest Hill with Charles William, born in 1873, sometimes referred to as William, along with a daughter Maria (seemingly later referred to as Beatrice, 1875) and Ernest (1881). Whether they were separated or not it wasn’t clear, but the position was the same in 1891, with 63 listed as living at Eastbourne Terrace, and Maria in Brockley.

The inclusion of 1 and 3 Burnt Ash Road into Charles Reed’s empire came in the mid-1890s – it was the furnishing element of the business that was moved around the corner from Eltham Road.  Charles died in July 1895 shortly after the expansion.  The net effects of his will were £28,117 – a very significant amount of money in 1895, both his son Charles William Reed and an Alfred John Reed (given other recording errors this may well be Ernest) seem to have been the main beneficiaries.  There was no mention of Maria, although a two-year-old Thomas Battyll Hodson, a two-year-old with no obvious connection to the Reeds was though.

(Charles) William continued to run the shops for a decade after his father’s death but sold them to Griffiths & Co.  around 1905, it was a name that dominated the south east quadrant of Lee Green for the next 20 years or so.

5 Burnt Ash Road

The first shop-front type of business operating out of 5 was the boot and shoemaker Josiah Tylor who was there from the mid-1890s.  The shop was doing well enough by 1901 to have a manager Thomas Wisdom, who was there with his wife Maude and a young son and sister in law.  Nothing is known of the owner whose name stayed over the door until around 1905.

It seems to have been very briefly an auctioneer around 1907 (1), a firm called Bell and Rainer trading as Lee Green Auction Rooms.  However, other than a few press reports that year they didn’t leave much of a trace.   It was the base of Barnes Brothers who were builders’ merchants by 1911 although it no one was living there when the census enumerators called that year.

7 Burnt Ash Road

In its early years it went through several names on the shop front – in 1894 it was W J Tournour, a house furnisher, followed in 1896 by George Lewis, a draper, and then Walter Woolverton, another draper in 1900.  All will have had competition from shops opposite, in Eltham Road and further down the parade which may explain their lack of longevity.   George Lewis seems to have suffered the ignominy of having his stock sold at ‘prices considerably below cost’ by Reed’s, still in Eltham Road at that point, in September 1897 (2). 

By 1898 the name above the door was the Electron Cycle company who manufactured bicycles.  The name behind the branding was Horace L Murray-Shirreff. Along with his wife Mahala, the family came from Uxbridge where their son was born in 1896.   They had moved to Lee Green by the spring of 1898 as his machines were twice ridden to victory at the Sportsbank Street Velodrome in Catford  (pictured below) over the Easter Bank Holiday, once by Horace himself (3). Electron had moved on within the parade by 1911 as they were listed within the Clock House (see above) in the Kelly’s Directory.  The sojourn at the Clock House was probably a short one as in the 1911 he’d moved to Staines and was listed as an inn keeper in the 1911 census.

By 1911 James Walton was trading at number 7 as a florist; he had had a business just around the corner in Eltham Road’s Eastbourne Terrace in previous censuses, listed variously as a florist and nurseryman.  In 1911 he was there with his second wife, Harriet and three children, two of whom helped in the shop.  James died in 1913 aged around 79, but the business stayed in the family initially in the name of Harriet running it as war broke out. 

9 Burnt Ash Road

Number nine was a rarity in that throughout its life as a shop it was to stay in the same trade – a butchers, there were also only three different names over the window in its 65-year life.  The first of these was the shortest lived, Colonial Meat Stores, who operated there in the mid-1890s, which seemed to be a single shop rather than any form of chain. 

Frederick Head was there by the turn of the century and in 1901 was 47, he hailed from Christchurch in Surrey, and was there with his wife, Martha 47 and 5 children of mixture of ages who were all born in Kings Lynn there as was a servant employed by them. The two eldest sons were both helping in the shop.  By 1911 the rest of the family had moved on, but Frederick and Martha were still running the business.

11 Burnt Ash Road

Like its next door neighbour at number 9, 11 was almost a single trade, a fishmonger, although there were a few more names over the window.  The ‘almost’ is because the initial traders, Green and Co, started life as a fruiterer around 1896 but by 1900 was trading as a fishmonger.  Perhaps they couldn’t cope with the competition from the already established M J Martin over the road who was a fruiterer and florist. There was though a lack of fishmonger though, on both sides of Burnt Ash Road, so Green and Co adapted to meet a gap in the market.

Who Green & Co were isn’t clear, certainly in 1901 the shop was managed by Surrey man E M Mankleton along his wife, mother, four children and a lodger who worked in the shop.

There was a new name over the window by 1911, Sparks Bros. In the census that year Frank Sparks was the fishmonger, the fishmonger’s wife was Sarah and Henry, the brother in the ‘Bros.’ were also there. 

13 Burnt Ash Road

Hudson Brothers were a chain of provisions dealers, that existed from the 1870s, they were based in Ludgate Hill and had a dozen or so stores in and around central London, many close to stations.  They also had a few in the then suburbs like Lee Green by the mid-1890s, where the shop opened around 1894.  They were to remain on the parade until the early 1920s. They refurbished the shop in 1908 as the advert to the left shows (4).

15 Burnt Ash Road

This was another shop that started life as a draper’s shop, initially Thomas & Co from around 1896, but by the turn of the century W Sanders Pepper (40), along with his wife Ella (37) who both hailed from Northamptonshire, they had arrived via Battersea where two of their children born.  A shop assistant and a servant were also part of the household in 1901.

Around the end of the first decade of the century the Peppers moved on, possibly struggling with competition from drapers shops opposite, in Eltham Road and further up the parade.  

The new name at the front by 1911 was Ethel Higgins who was a confectioner; there had been one next door, but it had closed a year or two before.  Ethel was a widow from Greenwich and lived there with her daughter.  Whilst names changed periodically it was a business type that remained until the end of the parade, by 1916 Elizbeth Stevens was running the confectioner’s shop.

Around 1911 the shop front seems to have been ‘split’ and 15a appeared – the dyers and cleaners, Chambers and Co.

17 Burnt Ash Road

17 started its life as a shop around 1896 as a stationer’s run by Thomas James Watts; it wasn’t a business to last long though.  By 1900 Annie Palmer had taken over the shop but changed the business to a confectioner, she was a widow who a decade before had been living in nearby Wantage Road. By 1905 her husband Samuel Evans Palmer was running the business, she died in 1908, and Samuel had gone by 1911 and was a Peckham based ‘Coffee House Keeper’ by then – whether this was a temperance one like one in Lee High Road isn’t clear.

By the census in 1911 Flora May Phillips, a tailoress from Bromley was there on her own, although the name over the window was Frederick May. 

Like number 15, the arrival of a confectioner saw the shop split into two – dressmakers Mabel and Eleanor Harkness, there in 1900.  Empty in 1905, Florence Wood, a milliner, was trading from there in 1911. 

19 Burnt Ash Road

The first shop at 19 opened around 1896, a Wine and Spirit merchants run by Cockle & Sons.  It didn’t last long and neither did the next tenant the Electron Cycle Co.; as we’ve seen Horace L Murray Shirreff’s business popped up in three locations on the parade in little more than a decade.

The next name over the window was that of Neal and Son, who were there by 1905.  It was a trade that reflected the era, saddlers, and will have complemented William Brown’s corn dealers over the road who sold the feed for the horses.  George Neal had been born in 1871 to a family in the same business and operated in Prospect Terrace next to the New Tiger’s Head, like William Sweet at 17a.  George was in ‘Son’ in Sons.  George was operating in Turner Road (now Dacre Park) in 1901 and moved back to Lee Green by 1911 where he was to continue at the southern end of the parade until around his death in 1921.

The parade will be returned to after World War One, when the second part of the story will take it to the stage that the bulldozers moved in ahead of the construction of the Leegate Centre. 

The ‘story’ of the parade has been pieced together using Kelly’s Directories held by Southwark Archives – generally looking at every 5th year since the parade opened for business from 1896 along with census records before that.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 29 November 1907
  2. Kentish Mercury 24 September 1897
  3. West Middlesex Gazette 16 April 1898
  4. Kentish Mercury 2 October 1908

Pictures and Other Credits

  • All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The Kelly’s Directory data was accessed via Southwark Archives
  • The black and white postcards and photographs of the parade are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright
  • The photograph of the Velodrome is via eBay in February 2016
  • The picture of the farm is from the information board at Lee Green

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 8 – Blackheath to Lee Green

We’d started our circuit of Lee at Lee Green during the first 2020 Coronavirus lockdown and the last leg from Blackheath to Lee Green was under the not dissimilar conditions of lockdown 2.0 in the late autumn of 2020. In the intervening months, Running Past followed the long thin boundary of Victorian Lee just before it was subsumed into Lewisham in 1900. The navigation was aided by an 1893 surveyed Ordnance Survey map.

This circuit has been in seven stages up to this point, from Lee Green to Winn Road, passing a street whose residents probably now wish it had a different name – Corona Road; the next stage was through Grove Park; then on through Marvels and Elmstead Woods; the circuit skirted Chinbrook Meadows and followed the appropriately named stream Border Ditch; then another Ditch, Hither Green Ditch, more or less parallel to Verdant Lane and Manor Lane before following the Quaggy from Longhurst Road into Lewisham, then in the penultimate part following a Quaggy tributary, Upper Kid Brook to Blackheath.

We’d left the boundary at a T junction of borders, Lee – Lewisham – Charlton with a replacement of a 1903 boundary marker of a similar style to those seen in several places around the border.

Source – eBay (Sept 2016)

The stone is next to the railway bridge and it is worth a quick turnaround by the first turning on the left, or would have been in 1893. A large Methodist chapel had been built in the mid-1860s and dominated the Blackheath Village skyline and was to do so for another 52 years until a V-2 rocket attack hit it in March 1945.

The turning is Bennett Park, which has one of biggest concentrations of blue plaques in south east London – the Physicist, Sir Arthur Eddington lived at number 4 – he was listed as a boarder there in the 1911 census, whilst working at the Royal Observatory. The cartoonist Donald McGill, lived at 5 Bennett Park – he was there when the 1939 Register was compiled. But, perhaps, the most significant is one at the far end for the GPO Film Unit, whose output included the wonderful film adaptation of W H Auden’s Night Mail, which featured a score by Benjamin Britten. The Film Unit also produced some World War Two propaganda films. The building had been partially funded by one the main benefactors of late Victorian Blackheath, William Webster, son of the eponymous main contractor of Joseph Bazlegette, as Blackheath Art Club.

Onwards and southwards, the boundary goes upwards and out of the valley of Upper Kid Brook towards the watershed with the adjacent Brook in the trio of Kid Brooks, Mid Kid Brook. Straddling the catchments is a pair of elegant buildings at the top of the hill – the Conservatoire of Music and Blackheath Concert Halls, again in part the paid for built by William Webster. Both were a few years away in 1893 though, there was a terrace of houses there at that stage. The Concert Halls, resplendent with some lovely pargeting, were to be the location of a badly disrupted suffragette meeting in 1909.

Lee Road, which we follow to Lee Green and the end of our circuit, had been farmland on the western side until 1835 (1) – this was a little later at the Lee Green end which in some years was the home to the annual horse racing of Lee Races. The eastern side, part of the Cator Estate, had seen some development from a couple of decades earlier. We won’t look at much of the housing here in any detail as Neil Rhind’s meticulously researched Blackheath Village and Environs Volumes 2 &3 cover this.

By 1893 though, this was wealthy suburbia and there was still farmland to the west. In the period since, the mix of housing has changed considerably – the area around corner of the Lee Road and Blackheath Park (pictured above from early in the 20th century) is perhaps, typical of them – with Victorian housing replaced by Span housing of which there are lots examples dotted around the Cator Estate (pictured from a similar location in 2020).

The Charlton – Lee boundary continued, unmarked, along the centre of Lee Road in 1893; on the western side the view would probably have been dominated by the Christ Church on Lee Park. The area had once been part of the parish of St Margaret’s but the burgeoning population saw the parish split several ways, Christ Church (pictured below from Lee Park) being the first to be carved out in the 1850s. It lasted until ten days into the Blitz when Luftwaffe bombs destroyed most of it with the remaining parts demolished before the end of the war.

The church wasn’t the only part of the urban landscape to suffer during the war. There was damage of sufficient volume for there to be two small estates of prefab bungalows – Lee Road Bungalows just to the north of what is now Heathlee Road and River Close, which was opposite Manor Way. The section between them and onwards to the south was re-developed in the 1960s. The postcard below shows the street scene in that part of Lee Road in the early 20th century looking towards Blackheath – the boundary going down the middle of the road.

Just to the north of Manor Way, there was another T junction of boundaries – Lee remained constant but on the eastern side Charlton became Kidbrooke. The 1893 Ordnance Survey map noted a boundary stone, but this alas is no longer there. The Charlton – Kidbrooke boundary had followed Mid Kid Brook through the Cator Estate. The Brook’s original course would have been across Lee Road but during the 18th century it was diverted down Lee Road, it is currently culverted.

The was very little bomb damage on the eastern side of the boundary beyond Manor Way, with most of the houses that would have been there in 1893 remaining. One of the original houses was taken over as Lee Workingmen’s Club at 113 -115 Lee Road in the 1920s, the Club (pictured above) closed this century and is now a nursery . The Lee Constitutional Club was two doors down but arrived just too late to quench the thirst of the Ordnance Survey cartographers.

The 1863 and 2020 boundary continues down the middle of the road, now with Greenwich rather than Kidbrooke. Like the streetlights, bins, paving, white lines and tarmac colours that have become informal boundary markers, Lee Road has another variant – a small island in the road.

About a hundred metres on, we reach the Quaggy – another three way boundary in 1893 with Eltham replacing Kidbrooke. There is another boundary marker by the bridge over the Quaggy, its a defaced one of a similar style to that at the beginning of this section – rumour has it that the places were hacked out so as not to offer any help to German troops in the event of an invasion. There is though a better boundary marker almost below it though; by the outflow of the culverted Mid Kid Brook which as it joins the Quaggy is another Lewisham Natureman stag. This is the final one in the quartet of stags we have spotted on or close to the Lee boundary, so it seems an appropriate place to finish the circuit.

Notes

  1. Neil Rhind (forthcoming) Blackheath and Its Environs Volume 3

The Postcards are via eBay from 2016, apart from the one of Christ Church which is from a couple of years before.

Census and related data is via Find My Past (subscription required)

This, and the rest of the series of posts on the Lee boundary, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 7- Lewisham to Blackheath

During the first 2020 Coronavirus lockdown Running Past followed the long thin boundary of Victorian Lee before it was subsumed into Lewisham, aided only by a Second Edition Ordnance Survey map. This was in stages, from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the next through Grove Park; then on through Marvels and Elmstead Woods and a Borough of Deptford Cemetery; the circuit skirted Chinbrook Meadows and followed the appropriately named stream Border Ditch; then another Ditch, Hither Green Ditch, more or less parallel to Verdant Lane and Manor Lane before following the Quaggy from Longhurst Road into Lewisham.

We’d left the 1893 boundary by St Stephens Church in Lewisham where the Quaggy is, or more likely was joined by Upper Kid Brook. When the stream was followed a few years back from its source around Hervey Road, on the lower slopes of Shooters Hill, there seemed no obvious evidence of flows coming into the Quaggy. The position was different in 1893 though, as we shall see.

The view looking towards St Stephens from what was captured in a postcard from slightly, although not much later; at the stage there were two confluences of the Quaggy and the Ravensbourne, the pictured Lewisham Bridge (an area a little later known as the Obelisk) and Plough Bridge by the former eponymous pub.

Even though Upper Kid Brook has disappeared from view, the course of the boundary and river is obvious from the valley. The valley though is not the shape that it had been until the 1840s as the North Kent Line, which opened in 1849 effectively stole the valley, deepening it in places.

There used to be a boundary marker on the curb on the northern side of St Stephen’s Grove, but it seems to have been lost at some stage. There is a slight dip in Lockmead Road, the remains of the fluvial erosion from the Brook, before the boundary hugs the rear fences of Cressingham Road, a boundary in terms of land ownership too. The Lee-Lewisham border comes out into 2020 public space in a relatively new development at the top of Cressingham Road. Looking towards the Brook and boundary from the railway underpass is a variation on a recurring theme from the circuit of Lee – a Lewisham Natureman stag.

In 1893, on the site of the new housing, was a small lake, the Brook was dammed to create it. The lake was at the end of the grounds of one of the large houses of Lee, Belmont, which gave its name to the Hill. it is mapped below. The house was built for the architect George Ledwell Taylor around 1830, when there would have been clear views to the dockyards of Deptford, where he worked for the Navy.

With the city encroaching and the railway passing, the large house ceased to be as desirable and was sold for the development of what turned out to be some of the most elegant Edwardian housing in Lewisham.

The Brook, and the Lewisham – Lee boundary drifted slightly to the north after he grounds of Belmont. By 1893 this was on the northern side of the railway around the end of what is now Belmont Grove. The railway is in a cutting within the valley, the pre-1849 level Brook and boundary would have been roughly at current road levels.

The railway had split the grounds of another of the large mansions of Lee, the Cedars – home in 1893 at to Ellen Penn, the widow of John Penn the eminent marine engineer. The northern portion of grounds had been laid out in the late 18th century for the then owner, Samuel Brandram, by the architect George Gwilt (1), who dammed Upper Kid Brook to form a pair of ornamental lakes, big enough for boating. Brandram was a paint and chemicals manufacturer and merchant whose large business was based in Rotherhithe.

The lakes were filled in by the next owners, Penfold’s whose carting business was to fill them with rubbish before selling the site on for housing development in the 1980s, now known as St Joseph’s Vale.

The boundary and Brook crossed Love Lane, now Heath Lane – part of an ancient path from Lee High Road to the Heath. In 1893, this area was still fields, with several boundary markers indicating on the ground the now hidden Brook. It wasn’t fields for long – within around 200 metres the fields turned to railway sidings, which extended another 600 metres up to the station, including the current car park.

The hidden street and boundary largely skirted the sidings – cutting across the late 1970s council housing of Nesbit Close and around the top of the current Perks Close. The Nesbit is E Nesbit who lived in various Lewisham locations, including a Blackheath home around half a mile away. Perks, of course, is a reference to Stationmaster of the Railway Children, played by Bernard Cribbins.

The boundary followed the edge of what is now Baizdon Road and then what is and was Collins Street. The former was named after a Blackheath miller, the latter after two mid 19th century Lee residents – Ann and Julia Collins (2). At the far end of Collins Street a boundary marker remains on a wall – the fence next to it seems to be the actual location of the Lee – Lewisham boundary.

The boundary continues following the building line to Blackheath Village; there was a three way boundary here Lee – Lewisham – Charlton. We’ll stop the circuit for now at a boundary marker, a replacement for one from 1903, when it would have been a Greenwich – Lewisham one.

Notes

  1. Neil Rhind (forthcoming) Blackheath and Its Environs Volume 3
  2. Joan Read (1990) Lewisham Street Names and Their Origins In the corner of the latter into the centre of Blackheath. – the area

The 1893 map which is used twice is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence.

The Postcards are via eBay from 2016

This, and the rest of the series of posts on the Lee boundary, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 6 – Following the Quaggy

During the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown Running Past followed the long, thin boundary of Victorian Lee before it was subsumed into Lewisham in 1900, aided only by a 1893 Second Edition Ordnance Survey map. This has been in stages, from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the second part took us through Grove Park, crossing the never built Ringway; we then passed through Marvels and Elmstead Woods and a Borough of Deptford Cemetery; the fourth part took us through Chinbrook Meadows appropriately following Border Ditch; and the last part followed the hidden stream Hither Green Ditch more or less parallel to Verdant Lane and Manor Lane.

We left the boundary at the confluence of Hither Green Ditch with the Quaggy to which we will return, following the red dots on the map.

The confluence has actually moved – in 1893 it was more or less where 49 Longhurst Road is now located; it is now around 40 metres away on a sharp corner between between Manor Park and Leahurst Road (pictured below).

In 1893 this was still, just, the land of Lee Manor Farm, although this would change dramatically over the next decade. As was the case when we followed the boundary along Hither Green Ditch, the Quaggy not only was the Lee – Lewisham boundary it was one between two farms. On the west was North Park Farm (the top of the map below) and on the east Lee Manor Farm – the sale of the former to Cameron Corbett who created what is known as the Corbett Estate and the latter by the Northbrooks in a more piecemeal fashion was to shape the urban landscape.

The boundary was within the flood plain, with the Quaggy meandering along the boundary of the farm, the Lee – Lewisham boundary of 1893. While this was acceptable in farmland it wasn’t in relation to the smaller suburban housing about to be developed the east of the railway. Memories of the devastating floods of 1878 will still have been prominent – the theory about dealing with such floods, which prevailed until the end of the following century, was to deepen and straighten the river, moving the water on as quickly as possible – this is clear from the photograph below. This approach also made development easier as had been seen with the development of Lampmead Road following the sale of Lee House in the 1880s.

Like the previous sections, the boundary is being followed on foot, the footwear of choice has changed though because while the rest of the route has been run, this section, apart from a 300 metre covered section in central Lewisham, is by walking along the river bed so waders became the footwear of choice.

The river and boundary continue to diverge for a little, the 1893 flow of the Quaggy and consequently the boundary meandered along what is now broadly Longhurst Road. It was never any more than 50 metres away from the river’s current, very straight, deep, engineered course. The convergence of the 19th boundary and the Quaggy more or less where the 21st century bridge from the the entrance from Longhurst Road into Manor Park is now situated – just above the start line for the annual (in non-COVID-19 years) Quaggy Duck Race.

While the Quaggy and Lee – Lewisham boundary are now coterminous and the meanders are broadly similar in 2020 to 1893, much changed in the intervening period. The Quaggy was straightened and channelised through what until the 1960s was the last bit of farming in Lee – a piggery. The open space, Manor Park, was created in the mid-1960s with meanders restored to something very close to those that existed in 1893 in 2007.

At the exit of the Park, there is a bridge, it is a long-standing crossing of the Quaggy, part of an ancient path known as Hocum Pocum Lane which ran from St Mary’s Church in Lewisham to Lee High Road. Despite the work done further upstream to deepen and straighten the course it flooded badly here in 1968.

Beyond Manor Park, the river and 1893 boundary squeezes between the Victorian housing of Weardale Road and Eastdown Park. The land for the latter land had already been developed by 1893, Eastdown Park on land that had been cultivated by the market gardens of Lewisham Nursery, run by Messrs Willmott and Chaundy, until 1860.

Beyond the river’s first meander is the garden of 45 Eastdown Park, possibly very briefly home to the Ginger Baker, his father was there just before the Cream drummer was born in 1939.  A hundred metres or so further on another there is another building with a musical history – the Rose of Lee, now Dirty South, which saw the first public performance by Kate Bush.

We have already mentioned serious flooding that occurred in the spring of 1878 in relation to straightening the Quaggy upstream.  However, while the meanders and boundary of Lewisham and Lee hadn’t changed since then, the depth of the watercourse had.  It is at least half a metre lower than in the prictue showing the partial destruction of the bridge in Eastdown Park.  So whilst it is a pleasant wander down the river there is little to see beyond boundary walls and banks for much of this stretch.

In 1893 on the opposite side of the Eastdown Park bridge was a Baptist Chapel, this was largely destroyed during World War 2 and the site is a vacant garage, last home to Penfold’s.

Both sides of the river and boundary into Lewisham were lined with housing in 1893; on the Lee (High Road) side a few remain, 152 was once home to William Sidery (pictured top) part of a multi generational Lee building firm.  Grove Cottage next to the Ambulance Station dates back to 1835 and 96 is the last remaining section of Lee Place (not to be confused with the eponymous mansion off Old Road) which was built in 1813 (lower picture) (1).

The remaining houses were largely lost to Fry’s garage and showrooms, which themsleves were replaced by a large Lidl and topped by an even larger block of flats this century.

On the opposite side of the river in Lewisham in 1893 was the well established College Park estate, briefly home to the poet James Elroy Flecker.

Behind the housing the river retains a pleasant almost rural feeling idlyll – it has probably changed very little in the 127 years since the Ordnance survey map being followed was surveyed.  

Beyond Clarendon Rise bridge, on the Lee side, was the Sultan in 1893 (pictured from early in the 20th century below), replaced in the last decade by Nandos; on the Lewisham side of the bridge is now the beautiful Hindu temple although that was a yard in 1893. Penfold’s moved into the site adjacent to both, known as Clarendon Yard around 1904.

The river disappears under what was referred to as Lee Bridge in 1893 for around 300 metres.  Alas, dear reader, this part was done at street level. 

The raised area above the river was an established shopping parade in 1896 with a tea dealer (83), a pair of boot makers (75 & 81), a wool shop (79), a confectioners with an architect and auctioneers above (77), Singer’s sewing machines (73), a stationers (71), a series of household goods shopsunder George Stroud’s ownership (65-69), a chemist (63), a florist (61) and the mainstay of that part of Lewisham high Street for generations – Chiesman’s Department Store (pictured a few years into the 20th century). 

Much has changed now, rather than Chiesmans dominating the street scene it is a massive and not particularly attractive police station. 

On the side of the police station is memorial that celebrates the contribution of Asquith Gibbes to Lewisham and, in the context of of the Black Lives Matter protests of earlier in lockdown, seems an important place to pause. Such memorials to members of London’s Black community remain a rarity, although just inside the Lee border is the Desmond Tutu Peace Garden, Tutu was a curate in Grove Park.

Asquith Gibbes was born in Grenada, and arrived in Britain in the late 1950s, working in Lewisham for 40 years fighting racial inequalities in education, policing and housing. There is a fuller biography of him as part of the brief for the memorial – two examples of his work have national significance. He chaired Millwall Anti-Racist Trust and instigated the ‘Kick it Out’ programme at Millwall Football Club in 1993, a campaign that was adopted nationally. Asquith was also part of very significant work with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office on reforming ‘stop and search’ rules.

Returning to the Lee – Lewisham boundary of 1893, the Quaggy re-emerges just beyond the shops of 1893 and the police station. The boundary though takes a sharp turn to the east (right) by St Stephen’s church, at what is/was the confluence of the Quaggy and Upper Kid Brook, following the latter towards Blackheath. We’ll cover that part of the boundary at our next visit.

Picture Credits

  • The picture of Chiesmans shop in Lewisham is via e Bay in June 2016
  • The photographs of 1968 floods, the destroyed bridge in Eastdown Park and the map of Lee Manor Farm are from the collection of Lewisham Archives and remain their copyright, but are used with their permission
  • The Ordnance Survey map of 1893 is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence
  • The photograph of the Sultan is used with the permission of Robert Crawford, the great grandson of the Craddocks, licensees there in the 1920s, it remains his family’s copyright.

Note

1 Lewisham Leisure (1990) ‘From the Tiger to the Clocktower’

This, and the rest of the series of posts on the Lee boundary, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 5 – Verdant Lane and Manor Lane

During the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown, Running Past has been following the boundary of Victorian Lee before it was subsumed into Lewisham at the end of the Victorian era, aided only by a Second Edition Ordnance Survey map. We have so far wandered, in stages, initially from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the second stage took us through Grove Park, crossing the never built Ringway;  then through Marvels and Elmstead Woods and a Borough of Deptford Cemetery; and in the previous instalment through Chinbrook Meadows appropriately following Border Ditch. We pick up the 1893 Lee – Lewisham boundary on what is now Downham Way – the most southerly of the red dots on the map below.

The Downham estate was built by the London County Council (LCC) in the late 1920s and early 1930s on compulsorily purchased farm land. On this side of the estate included what was probably the last outpost of the land owned by the Baring family, Shroffold Farm, pictured later in the post.  We will probably return to the farm at some stage in the future. However, the farm was part of the Manor of Lee bought by Sir Francis Baring, later Baron Northbrook, the purchase of which was at least partially funded by both financing of slave owning operations as well as some direct ownership on enslaved people. While the Barings dispensed largesse to the locals in their latter years, their ability to do this was based, in part at least, on the enslavement of African men, women and children in Montego Bay in Jamaica at the end of the 18th century.

We’d split our circuit of Lee at the top of what was described in a 1790 map as ‘Mount Misery’, better known these days as Downham Way (the most southerly dot on the map). There was a lot of ‘misery’ in the area in that era. South Park farm, which was to become North Park – a little further down the hill in our broad direction of travel was a farm that for a while was known as Longmisery.

The reason for the split in the post at Mount Misery was that the boundary in 1893 had changed soon after the brow of the ‘Mount’ from field edge to stream at the boundary.

Before leaving this point, it is worth remembering that at the time the Ordnance Survey cartographers surveyed the area they would have had an undisturbed view almost to the north of the parish and St Margaret’s Church. Certainly this was what the local Victorian historian, FH Hart, noted in the early 1880s when following the boundary from this point.

The stream is Hither Green Ditch; a stream that Running Past followed a while ago which has several sources. The nomenclature ‘Ditch’ is used quite a lot within the Quaggy catchment, it shouldn’t be seen as belittling or derogatory it is just the way smaller streams are described – the 1893 boundary of also followed, Grove Park Ditch and Border Ditch, with Milk Street and Pett’s Wood Ditches further upstream.

This branch of Hither Green Ditch seems to have emerged somewhere around Ivorydown, south and above Downham Way. It merges with the 1893 Lee – Lewisham boundary just north of the street named after the farm, Shroffold. The merged boundary and stream followed the middle of Bedivere Road.

The section that the Lee-Lewisham boundary initially followed, is one of the sections of Hither Green Ditch that is barely perceptible on the ground, although the contours are clear on early 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey maps, if not current ones. Whether this part of the stream was actually flowing in 1893 is, at best, debatable, water tables had declined after the end of the Little Ice Age, the last really cold winter was in 1814 – with extensive flooding around the parish of Lee when there was a thaw.

The boundary and stream followed the edge of a small piece of woodland in 1893 which is now an area bordered by Pendragon, Ballamore and Reigate Roads. There is an attractive U shaped portion of the latter, where council surveyors struggled with dampness from the hidden Ditch.

The post war 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map, notes a flow at around the point of Railway Children Walk, an homage (or a homage) to E Nesbit who lived on the other side of the railway – on of at least a trio of locations within the Parish she resided in. A small detour is worth making for a view of another Lewisham Natureman stag standing proudly above the railway.

Detour made, the boundary follows Hither Green Ditch which was marked as flowing in the 1960s 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map, so was presumably also flowing in 1893. To the west of the Ditch, and boundary, was Shroffold Farm, the farmhouse (pictured below from the 1920s) was where the mosque is now located – diagonally opposite to where the Northover/Governor General was to be built 40 years later at the junction of Verdant Lane, Northover and and Whitefoot Lane. To the east was almost certainly land belonging to Burnt Ash Farm – both sides of the boundary owned by the Northbrooks.

While fields in 1893, this area is now part of Hither Green Cemetery. It originally opened as Lee Cemetery in 1873 but with a much smaller size at the northern end of the current one. Like the Borough of Deptford cemetery we passed through in Grove Park, it was outside the jurisdiction it served, all on the Lewisham side of Hither Green Ditch. There are two impressive chapels, the Dissenters one (for Methodists and the the Baptists of Lee High Road and what is now Baring Road), was built by William Webster of Blackheath and was damaged during the last war and is slowly decaying.

The southerly end of what is now the cemetery had changed from farm land to allotments in the early part of the 20th century. The exact timing of the expansion of the cemetery into the allotments isn’t clear, it was probably just before or just after the start of World War 2, it was showing as allotments in the 1938 surveyed Ordnance Survey map. But by the time the children who died in the awful attack on Sandhurst Road School in early 1943, were buried the area had expanded. There is a large memorial to those who perished, something covered in a blog post that marked the 75th anniversary of the bombing in 2018. The crematorium in the south east corner was opened in the 1950s.

The 1893 boundary is relatively easy to follow on the ground through the cemetery as Hither Green Ditch has left a small valley close to the Lombardy poplars that border the railway.

Just outside the cemetery in 1893 was a small hospital, Oak Cottage Hospital; it had been built in 1871 by the local Board of Works for dealing with infectious diseases like smallpox and typhoid (1).  It was overtaken by events in that the Metropolitan Board of Works (which covered all of London) decided to open a series of fever hospitals as a response to a major Scarlet Fever epidemic in 1892/93, the health system was unprepared and there was a severe shortage of beds.  One of these was the Park Fever Hospital, later referred to as Hither Green Hospital; Oak Cottage Hospital was briefly considered as a possible alternative location (2).   Oak Cottage Hospital closed soon after Park Fever opened in 1896 (3).  It eventually became housing in the 1960s or 1970s.

Beyond Oak Cottage Hospital in 1893, were again fields, probably part of Shroffold Farm. On the opposite side of Verdant Lane (then Hither Green Lane) was North Park Farm, about to be ploughed under by Cameron Corbett. The Lee Lewisham boundary continued to use Hither Green Ditch which was to remain visible until the development of the Verdant Lane estate in the 1930s. This section is pictured below, probably soon after the Corbett Estate was completed around 1910.

In addition to the Ditch, there were a pair of long gone boundary markers, one was just to the north of the junction of Verdant Lane and Sandhurst Road, perhaps at the point one of the confluence of two of the branches of the Ditch; the other where it crosses St Mildreds Road – again a possible branch of the Ditch that would have been obliterated by the railway.

St Mildreds Road hadn’t existed when the Ordnance Survey cartographers had first visited in the 1860s. While the church of St Mildreds had been built in 1872, even in 1893 only homes at the Burnt Ash Hill end had been build, including another of the homes in the area of E Nesbit in Birch Grove.

The boundary went under the railway close to what was a trio of farm workers cottages for North Park Farm, which are still there at the junction of Springbank Road and Hither Green Lane.

The boundary continued to follow Hither Green Ditch – it wasn’t just a Parish boundary at this point, but a farm boundary too – on the Lewisham side, Hither Green’s North Park Farm, which was mainly on the other side of the railway and was sold at around the time that the land was surveyed and would form the Corbett Estate. On the Lee side was Lee Manor Farm, which is pictured on a 1846 map below (right to left is south to north, rather than west to east) and Hither Green Ditch which had several small bridges is at the top.  There were several boundary stones and markers along what was broadly Milborough Crescent and Manor Lane.  There was then a sharp turn to the east along what is now Longhurst Road.

The confluence of Hither Green Ditch with the Quaggy was in a slightly different place in 1893, then it was more or less where 49 Longhurst Road is now located; it is now around 40 metres away on a sharp corner between between Manor Park and Longhurst Road, as pictured below.

We’ll leave the boundary of Lee and Lewisham here for now following what is now the Quaggy into Lewisham in the next instalment.

This series of posts would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go to person on London’s boundary markers, he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient.  He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me.  A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him.

Notes

  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) Hither Green, The Forgotten Hamlet p54
  2. Woolwich Gazette 02 June 1893
  3. Smith op cit p54

Picture Credits

 

 

 

The First Night of the Blitz in Lee, Hither Green, Catford and Lewisham

The afternoon of 7 September 1940 saw wartime football matches at the Valley, where Charlton lost 4-2 to Millwall, and a few miles away Crystal Palace beat yet to be rivals Brighton 5-2 in the wartime South Regional Competition.  The almost normality was about to come to a shuddering halt with the first raids of the Blitz, when German bombers came ‘en masse’ on a Saturday afternoon, some up the Thames, some from the south – it was to be the start of eight months heavy bombing of London.

A Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over the Thames at the start of the Luftwaffe’s evening raids of 7 September 1940

One of the waves came over the Surrey hills and were recalled by a then young cyclist

It was the most amazing, impressive, riveting sight …Directly above me were literally hundreds of planes … the sky was full of them. Bombers hemmed in with fighters, like bees around their queen…

Running Past has covered many of the V-1 and V-2 attacks of the second half of the war – including ones in Lewisham High Street, Lewisham Hill, Hither Green Station (pictured below) and Blackheath Village.  On the 80th anniversary of the start of the Blitz it seems appropriate to reflect on what happened that afternoon and into the early hours of the Sunday. We’ll look at that the first night of the Blitz from the perspective of the Lee, Catford and Lewisham areas that Running Past generally focuses on.  Hither Green largely escaped that first night with one significant exception a partial collapse of the railway bridge on Ennersdale Road with 20 injured and several trapped at around 20:25 which was noted in the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Log.

For many of the other attacks on the area, Running Past has used the ARP log for the old Borough of Lewisham.  However, in the early days of the Blitz the records seemed to be only partial, they seemed to be overwhelmed by incidents. There is better documentation for that first night in the records of the London Fire Brigade which are part of the collection of the Metropolitan Archives.  There were typed official green slips record each incident and a separate bound volume listing all the fires attended.  These were all pulled together for the 70th anniversary and a datasheet published in The Guardian, and elsewhere.  As we shall see though, even these aren’t perfect, serious incidents to homes in Limes Grove, Lewisham Road and Ennersdale Road railway bridge were not included.

The data shows the sheer scale of the attacks on the dockland communities on both sides of the Thames from late afternoon onwards, with a second wave of attacks from around 8:30 pm – seemingly the fires from the first attacks helping guide the Luftwaffe for a renewed onslaught as the natural light faded.  The attacks will have seen Londoners scurrying to their shelters – both household ones and communal ones such as those in Manor House Gardens and lots in the streets around Lewisham High Street.

The first bombs in the area – seemed to have been on Lewisham High Street furniture suppliers, Bolsom Brothers which was ‘severely damaged’ at 16:14 and the same with part of Chiesmans department store six minutes later.

There were a series of reports at 17:55, around Blackheath and Lee with damage to three houses in Brandram Road, including number 30, the original house is no longer there.  The ARP log noted another incident in a similar location around 19:09 but this could well have been the same one.  A couple of bombs failed to explode at the almshouses – given the communal shelter there (pictured below) there could have been a large loss of life had they exploded.

Around 20 minutes later 51-57 Lewisham Hill were hit – the damage noted in the Fire Brigade reports was to contents rather than the structure.  However, they were all marked as badly damaged in the LCC Bomb Damage maps – a mixture of repairable at cost, damaged beyond repair and completely destroyed, so either the Fire Brigade reports were incorrect or they were hit again either later in the Blitz or during the sporadic attacks that preceded the V-1 flying bombs – one of which caused enormous damage a little further down the Hill.  53 (the Victorian house and 55-57 are pictured below)

Bombers returned to Brandram Road at 18.31 with damage to 1, 2 and 4 although fortunately not the adjacent church – the worst damage seems to have been to a garage at number 2.

The second wave of attacks started from around 8:30 pm, and for the first few hours Lee, Catford, Hither Green and Lewisham were ignored with the much of the firepower being targeted on Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth areas.  By around 10:30 though dockland areas were re-targeted and half an hour later bombs started falling on Catford and Lee.

At 11:00 pm here was some limited damage to 34 Winn Road, part on an estate built by Wates just before the war; with an incendiary bomb being dropped on a nearby field in Alnwick Road. Around the same time an incendiary bomb fell in the street on Glenton Road, seemingly outside Holy Trinity Church – the extensive damage to the church was to come later in the Blitz. A bit further south ‘slight damage’ was recorded to 31-37 Abernethy Road, part of the late Victorian Firs Estate (top picture below).

The bombers returned to the skies above Abernethy Road around 11:45 pm, possibly ‘guided’ by a fire from the previous attack – the Fire Brigade report suggested that four houses of 41-47 were ‘severely damaged.’ As that numbering didn’t exist – in reality, these were almost certainly houses on Manor Lane Terrace about 30 metres away (lower picture above).  The damage to 31-37 seems much more serious than recorded and both groups of houses had been demolished by 1949. Neither site seemed to have been big enough for prefabs and the Victorian housing was replaced with council homes in the 1950s or 1960s.

In the early hours of Sunday morning the Luftwaffe turned some of their attention to Catford and the streets to the south of Brownhill Road.  The first attacks were at 0:18 and 0:20 on 141 Braidwood and 129 Killearn Roads, both suffered roof damage from an incendiary bomb – any sign of which was hidden behind a replaced roof and rendering.  At around the same time another incendiary hit a shed at Sandhurst Road School – the target of a much worse attack in early 1943 and there was some damage to 54 Laleham Road from another incendiary.

Twenty seven minutes past midnight saw an explosive bomb hit Jutland Road with seventeen houses damaged, several seriously – while some of the houses were repairable others weren’t with three houses being rebuilt (see below) – not in the style of the immediate post-war council housing so, presumably, private sector housing.

There was slight roof damage, now not obvious, from incendiary bombs to 86 Torridon and 91 Ardgowan Roads (the latter may have been hit twice as there was another report for it at 1:10 am) at the same time with some damage to fences to a couple of houses in Fordel Road. A few minutes afterwards saw the front bedroom of 127 Minard Road ‘severely damaged.’  The house was rebuilt well, with no obvious damage visible from the outside.

In between these attacks there had been an explosive bomb dropped on Sportsbank Street, which still had the stand for the former velodrome being used as warehousing, which damaged three houses, and ‘severely damaged’ three others – probably at the Laleham Road end.  The homes were rebuilt as council housing after the war (see below).

A few minutes earlier, at 138 Engleheart Road had been hit by an explosive bomb leaving two houses destroyed and two damaged beyond repair.  At 140 Ellen Moseley (37) was injured and died later in Lewisham Hospital – she was living in Hythe in Kent in 1939.  Again the homes were rebuilt post war.

Not every incident was recorded, and this was the case with the two in Lewisham where there was the biggest loss of life in the first night of the Blitz. The first of these was the bombing of 159 Lewisham Road (opposite Connington Road) where five died. Neville (20), Gwendoline (19) and Hilda Osborne (16) along with Charles Smith (23) and Christine Smith (nee Osborne – 24) who had married a few weeks before the bombing. They were all living at 213 Algernon Road in 1939 – Gwendoline  was a Photographic Clerk and Hilda an accounts assistant. Charles Smith was a Mechanical Engineering Draughtsman at the War Office as well as being in the Home Guard.

Despite the deaths and probable large amount of damage, the house (pictured above) was probably repaired during the war – it was marked on the LCC Bomb Damage Maps as orange – ‘general blast damage, not structural.’

The second unrecorded incident leading to significant loss of life was about half a mile further south; it seems that at some point during the night that 43 and 45 Limes Grove was hit. At 43 (the left of the houses below), Mayhew Edith Spedding died aged 56; she was the wife of George Spedding who was First Mate on a ship. In the 1939 Register she was listed there with George and what seem to have either been a couple of lodgers or it was a shared flat. It was a house that was split into two flats. Edith was badly injured in the bombing and later died at Lewisham Hospital.

Next door at 45, which was also two flats, lived the Bennions; both Edith Bennion (53) and her son William Arthur Bennion (18) were badly injured in the explosion, and like Mayhew next door, died later in hospital. They were survived by William Henry Bennion a mail porter and a school age daughter, also called Edith.

Lewisham had got off lightly compared with other areas, 11 deaths from the 430 who perished on that first night.  The all clear was sounded at around 5:00 am on the Sunday morning.  The respite was short though bombers arrived again over London the following night and did so every day/night for about two months and off and on for eight months.  Catford, Lee and Hither Green weren’t attacked every night but there will be more posts on the Blitz over the next few months.

The bombings changed the urban landscape, not as dramatically as they did in areas around the Thames, but most streets in the area have bits of post-war council housing amidst the Victorian terraces.  Most will tell a story of a family displaced and possibly injuries and deaths as a result.

Credits

Most of the information for this post comes from four sources:

The football results are from The Times of 9 September 1940.

Picture Credits

  • The Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses air raid shelter is from the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission and remains their copyright;
  • The Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over the Thames is from Wikipedia and is on a Creative Commons
  • The Hither Green Station V-1 photograph part of the Imperial War Museum collection (produced here on a Creative Commons)
  • The rest are copyright of the author and are usable elsewhere, attributed, on a non-commercial basis.

 

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 3 – through Grove Park

During the COVID-19 lockdown Running Past has been following the boundary of Victorian Lee a few years before it was subsumed into Lewisham, aided only by a Second Edition Ordnance Survey map and a smattering of knowledge of the area. The previous two posts have taken us in stages, from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the second took us On through Grove Park, crossing the never built Ringway, We’d left the boundary on Grove Park Road, on top of a culverted Grove Park Ditch, with a marker that had been weathered beyond any potential to decipher.  

For the pedants of periphery, the boundary marker is no longer on the boundary, in adjusting it to the rear fences of Marvels Lane it has led to the now Bromley – Lewisham boundary dog legging down the middle of Grove Park Road, the small sign of the former and the larger one of the latter announce the changes.  

The route followed in this section was entirely rural in 1893 as the Ordnance Survey map below shows with the Morse code dot dash line – although the most southerly end of Victorian Lee, the largely John Pound developed ‘new town’ of Grove Park is visible to the north east.

One the opposite side of Grove Park Road is the attractive Chinbrook Estate, built by the Greater London  Council (GLC) in the early 1960s; it is a development that has been covered by the 21st century’s foremost chronicler of council housing, Municipal Dreams, who noted 

“What was exceptional ….is the overall architectural and design quality of the Estate…..Chinbrook is a reminder of the best that might be achieved with proper investment and careful planning.”

Like the much larger Downham estate, which we will encounter further along the Lee boundary, it is an estate that straddles a boundary, Mottingham to the east, Lee to the west in 1893, at least.  The 21st century boundary is slightly different and is a currently  a Lewisham to Bromley one, The divisions aren’t immediately obvious, but as with Upwood Road further back, while there are no boundary stones, the  21st century markers are clear.  Along with the Borough colour coded bins, the Borough street signage indicates the location – white on blue for Lewisham, white on green for Bromley (plus some faded black on white signage, perhaps from the GLC era).

Back in 1893 there was a boundary marker close to where Grove Park Ditch now enters its long culvert on the edge of the estate; if it is still there, it is lost in the dense undergrowth.  Whilst the border probably ought to have followed Grove Park Ditch it doesn’t and seems to have followed field and probably ownership boundaries.  So the border follows what is now a fence between the attractive Lower Marvels Wood and the rear gardens of Grace Close.  The name coming from ‘W G’ who lived both in Mottingham and Sydenham. The estate provides links to other Lewisham sporting greats, Henry Cooper Way and Lions (Millwall’s nickname) Close. 

Over Dunkery Road, the 2020 boundary has been slightly amended compared with its late Victorian counterpart to cope with the slight dog leg of Duddington Close. There has also been a slight adjustment to for the 1930s council housing of Bilsby Grove.

The late Victorian boundary of Lee was at the border between the woodland of Marvels Wood and farmland.  The woodland remains but behind the council housing of Charminster Road the former fields have become Grove Park Cemetery.  It was an out of town burial solution by the Borough of Deptford whose main burial ground, Brockley Cemetery, was almost full by the early 1930s.  Running Past has covered Brockley Cemetery several times in the past, notably in relation to the murder of Jane Clouson who was buried there in the 1870s and has a large memorial.

Grove Park Cemetery was designed by their Borough Surveyor H Morley Lawson and ‘juxtaposed formal and informal elements and the cemetery buildings showed the influence of Moderne and Art Deco style.’  It was used from 1935.

From Bromley side of the boundary, the cemetery is largely hidden, albeit rather attractively by a hundred metre long mural by the seemingly now defunct Onit Design. At the top of the hill, within a metre of the boundary there is some even more impressive artwork, a chainsaw carving by Will Lee, which seems somewhat apt when following the Lee boundary.  There is some more of his work about 100 metres into the woods.

A couple of metres further on there is a very weathered boundary marker which in the Victorian Ordnance Survey map was a three way marker for Lee, Mottingham and Bromley; now the bigger London Boroughs of Bromley and Lewisham.  A metre or two along the path is another, hard to spot boundary marker, just inside the heavy duty palisade fencing ‘protecting’ the cemetery from the Green Chain Walk in what is now Elmstead Woods. It is unusual in the that it marks the direction of the boundary, located as it is on an angle.  The direction is incorrect as it appears that the marker was moved at the time of construction of the cemetery and unintentionally rotated by 90°.

The 1893 boundary darted easterly across the fields  towards Grove Park, the current variant, dating from 1991, is a little more circuitous and reflects the ownership of the cemetery and skirts its border.

There was, and probably still is, another marker at the eastern edge of the cemetery. However, in the very dense undergrowth it proved impossible to find amidst the brambles and nettles (poor companions for a short-clad runner).  All was not lost though, there was a marker of sorts – a Lewisham bollard, marking the  boundary of car park and Green Chain Walk.

Over the car park the Victorian boundary followed the northern edge of what are now allotments – we’ll leave the boundary there for a while before we go through Chinbrook and on to the edge of the Downham Estate.  

Credits and Thanks

The Ordnance Survey map is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence.

The series of posts on the Lee boundary that this post is part of, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.

The Four Churches of St Peter, Eltham Road

When the Ordnance Survey cartographers visited the area around Eltham Road, to the east of Lee Green, for the first time in 1863, a small number of large houses had been laid out at the edge of suburbia of Victorian London.  The feel though would have been rural, little different to when horse racing had happened in the fields parallel to the main road and Quaggy up until the mid -1840s.

The change in the next four or five years was dramatic with new housing laid out along Eltham Road, almost up to what is now Sutcliffe Park.  As the local MP remarked in 1870, ‘in a short period a town has sprung up in the neighbourhood.’  (1)

As we have seen with new developments elsewhere in the area churches followed soon afterwards – Christ Church in Lee Park (1854), Holy Trinity, Glenton Road (1863), St Mildred’s in 1871, the original Church of the Good Shepherd in 1881 along with the Baptist Chapel at the corner of Eastdown Park in 1854.  This new ‘town’ between Lee Green and Eltham was no different.

From around 1867, possibly slightly before, there was a temporary ‘iron church’ that was built somewhere in the area which was called St Peter, the exact location isn’t clear – a Rev. A Tien being appointed to minister from there from a church in Bedfordshire (2). As we have seen in relation to an iron church on what is now Baring Road (see above), ‘tin tabernacles,’ as they were often referred to, provided quick solutions to the provision of a church whilst funds were raised to build a permanent place of worship.

The foundation stone for the permanent church (pictured above) was laid on 3 December 1870 by Lady Louisa Mills, who was the wife of the local MP for West Kent, Charles Mills. He obviously wasn’t that impressed with his wife laying the foundation stone; his speech ‘regretting very much the absence of a member of the Royal Family’ (3). The Conservative Mills had previously lost his seat in Northallerton, amidst a bribery scandal. Also present at both the foundation stone laying and the service in the iron church that preceded it, were the Vicar Designate, the Rev J L Macdonald, along with the Vicars of Eltham and Greenwich (4).

The church was on the corner of what it now Lyme Farm Close and Courtlands Avenue, although it was just one street then referred to simply as The Avenue.  There were a dozen or so large houses in the development plus perhaps another 150 large houses along Eltham Road, Cambridge Road (now Drive), along with Weigall, Osberton and Leyland Roads.  It was an ambitious project for a small, albeit probably relatively wealthy and pious area.  So, there was a range of fundraising activity to help pay including bazaars and concerts to help pay for the new church (5).

In the end, it all came together quite quickly with the new church consecrated in July 1871, just six months after the foundation stone was laid.  The ceremony was undertaken by the Bishop of Colombo, in the absence of the Bishop of Rochester, most of local clergy in the area being present too.   The church seemed large for the area – holding 750 and cost £4,500 to build (6).

The local paper, the Kentish Mercury, described it as ‘early French’ in style consisting of ‘nave, side aisles and an octagonal chancel…. surmounted by a very characteristic tower and spire…..Both externally and internally the edifice is of red brick, relieved with copious Bath stone dressings’ (7).

The architects were Newman and Billing, both called Arthur, who were based in Tooley Street and had an extensive practice mainly concerned with church work from around 1860.  They were also acted as surveyors to Guy’s Hospital and to St Olave’s District Board of Works in Bermondsey.   Other work included the design of the Grade II listed St Luke’s in Hackney and the Grade I listed Parish Church of St Dunstan and All Saints (The Church of the High Seas)

The builders were Dove Brothers who were a long standing Islington based builders operational between 1781 and 1993, well known for late Victorian church construction building around 130 churches between 1858 and 1900, mainly in London.

The church had parish rooms, a some distance away in St Peter’s Court at Lee Green, behind the New Tiger’s Head. The first mention in Kelly’s Directories was in 1894, but given the naming of the alley (which is still there) it probably dates from the 1880s or before. The last mention of the parish rooms was around 1911.

The church seems to have suffered as the wealthy suburban residents moved on and was closed in 1939 in a poor state of repair; several of the houses were empty on Courtlands Avenue when the 1939 Register was collected as war broke out, with others in multiple occupation – a parish probably unable to cope with the high running costs of the building. While no damage was marked on the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps (8) – given there were a couple of V-1s that fell on neighbouring fields it seem seems likely that there was some damage; certainly the church website suggests that. It seems that the remaining parishioners worshiped for a while at the elegantly situated St John’s at the top of Eltham Hill.

The church was declared redundant in 1960, and along with the rest of the housing on Courtlands Avenue was demolished, probably the same year. The much denser housing, seemingly built by Wates. All that remains now is the war memorial, which has a brief note about the church’s history.

Courtlands Avenue wasn’t the only area of large housing demolished in the early post war period – flats appeared on Ravens Way and opposite on Reed Close – maybe 99 year Crown leases were coming to an end.  There was to be much larger scale development redevelopment around Lee Green, again on Crown land.

The new, denser developments with hundreds more homes provided a nascent congregation and the church re-established itself in a wooden hall on the corner of Weigall Road in 1960, joining with the, then recently rebuilt, Church of the Good Shepherd in Handen Road.  

The plot on which the hall that the church took over seems to have been undeveloped until the late 1930s when it was listed in Kelly’s Directory as Pyke Jocelyn School of Dancing, it changed hands during the war to become Saville Hall School of Dancing before a 1960 listing as St Peter’s Church. 

The wooden structure was replaced by a smaller, attractive multi-purpose building in 1983, presumably at least partially paid for by the sale of part of the site for a sheltered housing development next door.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 15 July 1871
  2. Bedfordshire Times and Independent 16 July 1867
  3. Kentish Mercury 10 December 1870
  4. ibid
  5. Kentish Mercury 10 June 1871
  6. Kentish Mercury 15 July 1871
  7. ibid
  8. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 p120

Credits

  • The photographs of the original church are from the collection of Lewisham Archives, remain their copyright and are used with their permission
  • The photograph of the tin tabernacle on what is now Baring Road was from eBay in September 2016
  • The Kelly’s Directory data is from a mixture of Lewisham and Southwark Archives