Tag Archives: Lee

The Woodman – A Former Pub on Lee High Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Picture source – via creative commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aislabie obit

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

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Hocum Pocum Lane – an old Hither Green Street

Hocum Pocum Lane was a former name of what is now Dermody Road in Hither Green; it was known by a number of variants including Hokum Pokum or Hocus Pocus. It was part of an ancient footpath that started opposite St Mary’s church, following roughly what is now Romborough Way, then the footpath by the side of Canada Gardens, following Ryecroft Road before joining what is now Dermody Gardens and Road crossing the Quaggy roughly where the current pedestrian bridge is now and then following what is now Weardale Road to Lee High Road.

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Map Source – National Library of Scotland http://maps.nls.uk/view/102343453

There was a fork in the right of way around Ryecroft Road where another route headed towards the early settlement of Rumbergh or Romborough which was centred around the junction of Hither Green Lane and George Lane – which was covered a while ago in the blog.

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It has been suggested that the name comes from ‘latin’ mumbled by locals along what was a dark lane to ward off the devil and footpads. Attacks by ne’er do wells in the area were featured by the 19th century Lee Historian, F W Hart, who pointed to

  • An attack in 1813 on the parish constable in this area by a sheep stealer;
  • An attack on some of the Martin family of bankers who were travelling back from Lombard Street in the City to their home in Chislehurst; and
  • Pistols, lantern and jemmies were found hidden in a hedge near Lee High Road (close to the Rose of Lee) presumably around the same time.

Hart also asserted that ‘medical gentlemen, too, on their journeys from Greenwich to Lee, when attending their patients, never went without arming themselves with a brace of pistols’ and that Lee in the early to mid-19th century ‘was so rural as to be unsafe to be about after dusk’.  Mr Hart though was not always the most reliable narrator….

The area around Hocum Pocum Lane had been one of nurseries in the first half of the 19th century – the main one being the then renowned Lewisham Nursery, run in its later years by Willmott and Chaundy, which finally closed in 1860.  Amongst the plants they specialised in was wisteria – although the street name seems to come from a 14th century name for the hillside leading down to the Quaggy (1).

The closure of the nursery in 1860 was to sell the land for development, and as FW Hart notes

a number of genteel houses, which have been constructed with astonishing rapidity on Eastdown Park, and which are daily augmenting, being much sought after by those whose business is in the city, and who seek a residence here.

The early ones and the current street pattern can be seen from the 1870 Ordnance Survey map above (source)  which was surveyed in 1863.  Many of those early houses didn’t survive that long – Clyde Villa and Campbell Villa made way for the Edwardian Telephone Exchange, covered on the blog in July 2015; and Ashburton and Eastdown Villas too were short lived.  It may be that two of their gateposts survived – one is on the corner of Wisteria Road – although they could be earlier and relate to Lewisham Nursery.

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Top left clockwise – gatepost from early development, current view along Hocum Pocum Lane (Weardale Road) towards Lee High Road from bridge over Quaggy, looking up ‘Hocum Pocum Lane’ (Dermody Road)

Development continued apace and by the time the Ordnance Survey mapmakers returned to survey the area in 1893 the street pattern and most of the housing was mainly as it is now.

Presumably it those marketing the homes, particularly on the former Hocum Pocum Lane itself, felt that the well-to-do of the new London suburb would rather that their street was not associated with term relating to something untrue or insincere (or a magical term with the Hocus Pocus variant).  So instead, the road was renamed in 1879 after an alcoholic Irish poet who had died in a Sydenham hovel and buried at St Mary’s Church – Thomas Dermody, whose sad story was covered in the blog 18 months ago.

Anyone following the link to the 1893 surveyed OS map will see that what is now Leahurst Road is marked as Ennersdale Road, which then was a dog-leg – the name was changed a year or two later when Leahurst Road was developed to the south.  The house of the corner with Dermody Road has a just visible street sign marking its former name.

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Note

  1. Joan Read (1990) Lewisham Street Names & Their Origins (Before 1965)

A Dairy, a Pastor and a Lee Street Name

On the corner of Waite Davies Road in Lee, high above street level, is a fading painted sign of a street name that is no more – Butterfield Street.  It is now known by the name of a long-serving pastor who was based at a chapel opposite the sign – it is a (hopefully) interesting story.imageThe eastern end of Butterfield Street was a late Victorian development, just off Baring Road (then Burnt Ash Road) its name possibly relating to a former field, presumably like its near neighbour Summerfield Street.  There was still, just, a farm nearby, Burnt Ash Farm, on the corner of St Mildred’s Road and Baring Road.  The farm site was later to house United Dairies Depot, nearly became a Big Yellow Storage Depot but is now a housing association development.

Butterfield Street had an eponymous dairy run by Thomas Clark which in 1913 had 28 cows.

The Clark family had been farming in Lewisham since at least the end of the 18th century at Holloway Farm (roughly where Farmfield Road on the Downham Estate is now) and by 1841 had moved to College Farm, around Lewisham Town Centre (1).

By the 1870s, Thomas Clark had a small holding at what was to become Butterfield Street which was known as Clark’s Dairy.  The diary became gradually surrounded by the growth of Butterfield Street – the eastern end in the late 19th century and westwards in the 1930s.

Thomas Clark  was born in 1841 was married to Elizabeth, who hailed from Cuxton, near Chatham.  In the 1881 census, the family was listed at 15 Butterfield Street, with six children (they were to have 10 children in total, although only 7 survived until the 1911 census).  They used a field by the railway, presumably where the Willow Tree riding school now is, and they had 40 cows in a field roughly where Harland Road is now (2).  This latter field was developed by the the builders W J Scudamore  in the 1930s – something covered in the blog in October.

The dairy seems to have been the base for a milk round which initially included Blackheath Standard and Morden College, but during WW2 restrictions meant that the round was just around Baring Road and Burnt Ash Hill.  World War 2 also saw the cows evacuated to Ashford following Bomb damage, probably a V1 rocket on 16 June 1944 which hit Ronver Road.

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Source e bay October 2016

It seems that the evacuation of the cows was only a temporary one, local residents have memories of cows being walked along Baring Road in the 1970s – see comment from Helen below.  There were also fond local recollections of both collecting milk from the diary and the Clarks delivering milk from Waite Davies Road well into the 1970s in Facebook comments on the post.  This was also confirmed by Birchenough (3).

The site of the diary is still there, it was used was used for a while by MJ Mechanical Services and then for many years by gas and plumbing contractors, P & R Installations but, at in November 2015, appears to be for sale.  The buildings have been much altered and/or replaced since Thomas Clark’s days there.

As for Butterfield Street itself, it quickly developed a a certain notoriety in terms of living conditions; the 1903 Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Lewisham noted that

The streets known as Butterfield Street, Summerfield Street and Ronver Road do not bear a good reputation, although the houses are in a fair condition structurally.

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imageThe change in name came in the 1930s, James Waite Davies was a Baptist pastor who worked at, what became known as, the South Lee Tabernacle from 1905.  Waite Davies was born in 1861 in Newbury in Berkshire.  The 1911 census showed him as living at 29 Baring Road, he had been married Kate, also from Newbury for six years, it was probably his second marriage as his oldest daughter living at home was then 20, he also had sons of 12 and three and another daughter of 5. All the children had been born in Lee.

In 1916 Kelly’s Directory listed Sunday services at 11:30 am, 3:30 pm and 6:45 pm, along with Monday and Wednesday evening services.

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Waite Davies was pastor at the church from 1886 to 1930 and presumably the Butterfield Road had its name changed to celebrate and remember the life of a long standing priest and member of the community.

The South Lee Tabernacle is a fine building which still stands at the corner of Waite Davies and Baring Roads – it isn’t listed, but perhaps ought to be.  It is now known as South Lee Christian Centre and used by the Trinity Presbyterian Church, a branch of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.

Notes

1 Josephine Birchenough with John King (1981) Some Farms & Fields in Lee p19

2 ibid

3 ibid

All the census and related data came via Find My Past 

Thank you to P&R Installations, the former occupant of the dairy site, for sharing of the history of the site.

Remembering the WW2 Dead in Lewisham, Lee & Blackheath

As Remembrance Sunday 70 years on from the end of the Second World War approaches this week, it is perhaps worth reflecting on some of the local people who lost their lives during the conflict.  I did a similar piece last year in relation to WW1 combatant deaths, but for WW2, I wanted to focus more on those who lost their lives on the ‘Home Front.’

One of the main differences compared with the WW1 is the number of women who died in the conflict.  While there were deaths in WW1 – such as those I have covered in the blog in relation to the Gotha bombing of Sydenham Road and the Zeppelin attack on Hither Green – they were a very small minority. The extent of aerial attacks by both German and Allied sides in WW2 changed this, as did the changing role of women in the armed forces.  A memorial in Whitehall commemorates both the changes in roles of women during the War and their deaths.

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Albion Way Shelter

At about 4 pm on 11 September 1940, a brick street shelter suffered a direct hit, as a German bomber discharged his remaining bombs as he returned to Germany.  Unsurprisingly there were a large number of casualties, with 41 dying inside the shelter and nearby.  Those who died included

  • William Abbott (56) a shop assistant of 8 Murillo Road;
  • Marjorie Wickens of 7 Taunton Road (19), who was an air raid warden; and
  • Elizabeth Grant of 19 Brightfield Road (19)

All three were buried and commemorated at Hither Green Cemetery.

Deptford Central Methodist Hall

The Central Hall was also hit on 11 September 1940, probably in the same raid as Albion Way, 50 were buried in the rubble whilst sheltering in the basement.  There were 26 deaths – including

  • Phoebe Turner of 60 Harvard Road (45); and
  • Lillian Allum of 47 Effingham Road (40).

Lee Park

There were at least seven who died in the bombing on Lee Park on 17 September in 1940 –  which would have been roughly to the left of the picture below, towards the Lee High Road end of the street.  The church was Christ Church which was bombed at around the same time and has been covered in the blog before.  Those who died were:

  • Emily Collins (62) of 35;
  • Ethel (66) & George Crawford (70) of 31a;
  • Ethel Pollard (39), daughter of the Crawfords also of 31a;
  • Emma Green (90) from 40 Dacre Park who was visiting 35 Lee Park and died of her injuries later in the year; along with
  • Maud (30) & Samuel (32) Nuttal at 31 Lee Park

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Boone Street

George Loader of 34 Boone Street died aged 85 in the Blitz on 21 September 1940. This probably became one of the sites for prefab bungalows after the war.

Sandhurst Road School

A large bomb was dropped during the day of 20 January 1943 killing 45 children and teachers, the casualties included:

  • Anne & Judith Biddle, 5 year old twins from 22 Muirkirk Road;
  • Pauline and Eunice Davies – Sisters of 9 and 7 from 57 Killearn Road;
  • Dennis and Ronald Barnard 10 and 9 from 120 Further Green Road;
  • Mary Jukes (38) from 3a Newstead Road; and
  • Harriet Langdon (40) from 65 Manor Park

There is a poignant memorial to those who died in Hither Green Cemetery.

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Hither Green Railway Station

There was a V-1 attack on the station on 29 July 1944 – the day after the Lewisham High Street V-1 explosion, which was covered on the blog a year or so ago.  There were four deaths including a mother and daughter from Walworth, Emily (25) and Jean (1) Champion, Violet Kyle of 11 Morley Road, who died in the Miller Hospital in Greenwich, and William Pontin (38) of Weybridge.

Blackheath Village

There was considerable damage to Blackheath Village on 8 March following a V-2 rocket hitting the Methodist chapel in what is now called Blackheath Grove –  there will be a specific post on this in a few weeks, 134 were injured and there were five deaths including Daisy Denny, Alice Drain and Eve Taylor who all lived in and around Blackheath, and Eve Leibe lived a little further away in St Mildred’s Road.

Note

Unless linked otherwise, the source for all the casualty information is the  Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

W J Scudamore – A Family Builder of Lee

W J Scudamore seem to have been a medium-sized building firm working, initially, in and around Lee, Hither Green and later in more ‘suburban’ locations including Baring Road and later into Bexley.  My interest in them is both in terms of their lasting impact on the urban environment, but also in trying to unpick some of their own story.

William John Scudamore the son of William and Harriet Scudamore, was born around 1867 and at the age of three was living at 37 Henry Street in St George’s area of Borough in Southwark – where his father was a blind maker.   The family had moved to Bermondsey New Road by 1881 where his father was then listed as a furniture dealer.

By the 1891 census he was a builder living at 226 Old Kent Road and had married Annie Elizabeth Jackson the previous year, Annie hailed from Leeds. It isn’t clear whether he was working in his own right or for someone else at this stage.  By 1901 he was in the, then, suburbia of 144 Laleham Road, Catford, and had a daughter, also Annie, who had been born in Southwark around 1894 and a son, also William John, born around 1897 in Catford.

At this stage they were building homes on Hither Green Lane, it is not clear exactly where but he had to pay bills of £20 in 1898 and £6 11s 6d in 1899 for connection of sewers

By 1906 they were at 89/91 Manor Lane which they were using as estate office for various developments in the area; they had another son Harold who was born there.  It is on the corner of Manor Lane and Handen Road and is now a convenience store.

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By 1915 they were operating out of 412-414 Lee High Road, where Sainsbury’s is now – a couple of doors down from the Imperial Picture Palace and next door to the former Police Station, During that year they bought several pieces of land and buildings in Newstead Road although, while his interest was noted as a builder this may have been completing transactions on work completed several years before – OS maps show Newstead Road being built around the mid-1890s.  Examples on the link are for 45, 47, 59 and 67 but there were several other similar transactions.

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William (1867) and Annie moved to Baring Road (presumably built by the firm), and by 1928 had retired – they are recorded on a couple of passenger lists going to North Africa and listed as having  had no occupation.  How long William (1867) lived after handing over the reins isn’t known.  The business seems to have been taken over by William John (1897) – the business, at least, was based at 1 Burnt Ash Hill, next to the station – convenient for sales to commuters.

In the 1930s they were building some of the newer homes of Lee – including homes on what was then referred to as the Northbrook Estate, opposite the Northbrook Park on Baring Road (see picture below).  An advert offered the 3 bedroom homes at £725 for leasehold at £875 freehold – stressing the relative proximity of both Grove Park and Lee Stations.

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William John (1897) was also extending their area of operation – particularly into Bexley, during the mid to late 1930s they developed sites at

William John (1897) married Dora and had at least one child, also William John who was born around 1923, he died training as a member of the Glider Pilot Regiment in 1942.

Nothing is known of what happened to the firm after World War 2 although they continued in business until 1966, when they were based in Holme Lacey Road – possibly where Travis Perkins are now (2015) trading from.  The firm was voluntarily wound up on 18 July 1966 and a liquidator appointed – when William John (1897) would have been around 69 and was still Chairman of the business at the time of the winding up.

The fantastic Edith’s Streets suggested that the name of and address  of W J Scudamore ‘appears on various drain inspection covers in the roads on the estate’  so obviously I went on a ferrous foray around the streets of Hither Green and Lee looking for evidence.  Alas, dear reader, I found no evidence of this in my traipsing of the tarmac – my time was not wasted though, I am now something of an expert on the work of C H Laud and Son and can correctly identify the ironwork of Mather and Smith Ltd. of Ashford at 20 paces.  Obviously, if your eagle eyes are more finely attuned to early 20th century drain metalwork and spot a “W J Scudamore”, please do let me know.

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Notes

All the census, shipping, marriage and related data came via Find My Past 

Graffiti Ancient and Modern

It may seem rather obvious, but not being able to run for a while has slowed my wanderings down a bit.  As a result, I noticed, for the first time, something on a footpath I have run along probably hundreds of times – some 18th century graffiti on a wall along St Margaret’s Passage.



St Margaret’s Passage was part of an old route from St Margaret’s Church and almost certainly northwards to Blackheath (the open space, not the ‘village’) via Love Lane, now Heath Lane, and Lee High Road.


The alley has gone through a variety of names – I have a series of Ordnance Survey maps referring to it over time by different names ‘The Arches’ (1863), ‘Church Passage’ (1894) and ‘Royal Oak Place’ (1914).  The change to ‘St Margaret’s Passage’ seems to have come around 1920.  

South of what is now Kingswood Place, the alley more or less followed the course of a field stream, which I called Annesley’s Stream, and still seems to be audible, if not visible, which flowed into the Looking Glass of Lee.  
Beyond the former Royal Oak, which was at the boundary of the Boone and Fludyer estates, the path presumably joined what is now Dacre Park to join Lee High Road – Lee Church Street wasn’t developed until the 1820s.

One of the reasons I have never noticed the graffiti is that they are around knee height – the ground level has presumably changed in the intervening 240 years.  When trying to find out a bit more about the graffiti I discovered that another blogger had noticed them too, the fantastic and inimitable Edith’s Streets blog – which is painstakingly documenting the history of London streets and buildings in Ordnance Survey grid square by grid square.  ‘Edith’ visited in 2010 and suggests that there was probably a stile into the field with which contains the present St Margaret’s church – the old was on the opposite side of the field in Belmont Hill. 

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Edith suggests that the ne’er-do-wells seemed to congregate around the likely stile and scratched dates and initials in to the wall belonging to the Fludyer estate.  The front of the house (generally now known as Dacre House) was around 100 metres away to the south-east and the wall would have offered some privacy.  

The requirement for privacy probably pre-dated the graffiti though.  By the 1770 the House was home to Lady Mary Jane Dacre (formerly Fludyer) and Lord Dacre, who died before his wife.  The following is a description of the area relating to that time (albeit written sometime later)

The whole of these beautiful views of Lady Dacre’s park and the Boone estate were open to the public gaze on all sides, either by low hawhaw fences or dwarf thorn hedges. 

However, the high walls and secluded environment for the graffiti artist remain and a metre above the 18th century graffiti is a late 20th or early 21st counterpart.