Tag Archives: Lewisham

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.

 

Manor Park Parade – Late Victorian Shopping, Part 2

Last week’s post looked at the history of Manor Park Parade focusing on both how it initially developed as well as numbers 1 to 9.  Logically, we should start where we left off, but as the middle of the Parade has been dominated by a chemist’s shop which started at 11 but has expanded into the premises either side that seems like a sensible place to start.

11 Manor Park Parade had been empty in 1896 when first mentioned in Kelly’s Directories,, but its first tenant seems to have been the ‘surgeon’ George Bryce who was there by the time the 1900 Directory was compiled, presumably it was more of a GP’s practice rather than carrying out significant surgery. In 1901 he was living there with his wife Sarah.  The Bryce’s had moved on by 1905 and the name over the window was Charles Fairman, a chemist – a business that has continued in that shop for 115 years at the time of writing.  Unlike most of the other shopkeepers of the era on the Parade, the Fairmans seemed relatively well to do being able to afford to employ a servant in 1911. The Fairmans stayed there more than a decade.

The tenancy was taken over around 1920 by a dispensing chemist called Victor Reed who would have been in his early 30s; Victor and his wife Ethel were to stay at Manor Parade until around 1950.  Victor seems to have stayed in Lewisham until his death in the mid-1960s.

The new owner of the business was Charles Latimer from around 1950, he almost immediately expanded into 10.  The Latimers stayed at Manor Park Parade until the mid-1960s when the Baum’s took over – they expanded into 12 by the mid-1980s.  It was probably the only shop on the Parade that I used with any regularity – often dropping off prescriptions on the way into Lewisham knowing that they’d be ready when I walked back, it felt like a more personal service than Boots in the town centre.   It was a mixture of pretty standard pharmacy fayre along with a large range of ‘gifts’ with a friendly couple running it. The Baums were fondly remembered by several on a Facebook thread in 2019 – one person described them as ‘the nicest, kindest couple I have ever met.’  They have probably retired although whoever is running the business now has retained the family name, no doubt like Wallace Pring in Bromley.

Returning to 10 Manor Park Parade, it was one of the shops that often seemed to be empty.  The first occupant from the late 1890s was George Venning a cycle dealer, who lived behind the shop with his wife Nellie.  The Vennings had gone by 1905 and the shop was vacant.  Reginald Wade, a house agent, had a brief sojourn there but the shop was empty again until Frederick Dunk opened a Spice Merchant around 1925.  The shop had closed by 1930 when a Valet Service, presumably some form of laundrette, was there.

As noted in relation to No 2, during World War 2 Frank Feltham was living at 10 Manor Park Parade, letting out the top floor of the maisonette behind. Douglas Feltham was running the shop as a Florist in 1945, but as noted above the expanding chemists, initially Charles Latimer, had moved in by 1950.

On the other side of the chemists, 12 Manor Park Parade started life as a watchmaker run by John Perse – he was there when Kelly’s Directory of 1896 was compiled.  In 1901 he was 55 and lived above the shop with his wife Emily and 4 grown up children. A decade later he was widowed but also there were adult sons Harry, Arthur and Herbert 37, 34 and 28 respectively.  Like Charles Fairman next door, he had a servant.  John died in 1912 and it seems that none of the family took on the business; the shop was empty in 1916.

The next incumbent, should have been contented, to paraphrase the 1960s and beyond advert -‘Happiness is a cigar (seller) called Hamlet’ – John Hamlet, to be precise, who took on the tenancy around the end of World War 1. He was to stay until 1930 when Lewis Carter took over and was to run the business for around 30 years.

It had a series of brief interludes initially as a florist run by Douglas Feltham, see number 9, a car accessories shop and an electrical appliance repairer before becoming the last bit of Baum’s chemists to be acquired around 1985.

Source eBay Oct 2019

Like the Chemist at 11, 13 Manor Park Parade was more or less the same type of business for most of its history – a Post Office.  In its early years none of the Sub Postmistresses and Sub Postmasters lasted that long – Mary Llewellin was there in 1896, Louisa & Maude Pyle (1900), Kate & Augusta Lydall (1901) and William Hurn who was there between 1905 and 1911. In the census in the latter year William was listed there with his wife, Alice, along with a couple of adult sons, one of which was working in the Post Office.

It was all change by 1916 and Oscar Lewis had arrived, at what was described as a stationer and Post Office.  The name was to be one of the longest lived on the Parade, remaining there until the early 1950s.  It was presumably a father and son, although it is unclear as to who held the Sub Postmasters role.  In 1939 Oscar Lewis (born 1914) was living there with his wife Francis (27) and an assistant in the shop Margaret Etherington; Oscar (born 1874) was to remain in the area, passing away in Woolwich in 1958.

R D Barnett had taken over by 1960 followed by ‘Andrews’ in the 1970s; it doubled up as a travel agent during this period.  Thereafter, Kelly’s Directories just referred to it as a Post Office.  It stayed like that until around the millennium when it was empty for a while and then a short-lived carpet shop before being empty again.  The only evidence of the long tradition of being a sub Post Office is the pillar box outside – as it is an Edward VII post box, it is possible that this is the one that the Lewisham suffragettes attacked on Lee High Road.

14 Manor Park Parade started its ‘life’ as a retail outlet aiming at the population of what was then a very well-to-do neighbourhood; it was a ‘Pianoforte Warehouse’ run by William Sanderson who advertised his wares in the local press too.  The business had been taken over by Sydney French by 1905, but Smart Brothers were running a furniture dealer’s business by 1911, although not living over the shop in the census.

There seems to have been a steady flow of business that struggled to build a successful trade at no 14 over the next few decades – in 1920 it was Henry Slade, a musical instrument maker; Belmont Wine Company (1925), another off-licence (1930), and Stevens Valet Services in 1940.

By the end of World War 2 a niche market was found – wireless repairs, initially Albert Allen, then, from 1950, Lee Radio Services – a name that remained over the window until the early 1980s when it caught up with technology and became Lee TV Services.   Most of this century has been spent reverted to a previous trade – an off licence, a combination of Manor Park Wines and Cost Less.

15 Manor Park Parade was empty in 1896 but then had a short-lived milliner called Madame Anita in 1900.  The owner, in 1901, at least , was the far more prosaic Susan Capon, whose husband was a sawyer.  A more exotic name was above the window in 1905, Emellie & Co, a draper.  However by 1911 the shop was empty and remained so until the mid-1920s.

The hairdresser, William Mercer, had arrived by 1925 when he would have been in his late 30s. He was to remain there until the late 1940s – there with him in the 1939 Register was his wife Annie.  The French style naming of the shop-front’s early years re-emerged with the hairdressers that took over from William Mercer around 1950, Maison Miller.   It was a name that was to continue at number 15 until the late 1970s.  The shop remains a hairdresser – Just Us in the late 1970s and as Minos for most of the present millennium.

16 Manor Park Parade went through several early iterations Water Weiss, a printer in 1896 and two hosiers, Walton Bros by 1900 but the following year Phillip Bates from Bedfordshire was carrying out the business.  While he was still there in 1905, by 1911 the Bates’ had moved on.  Like lots of the other shops on the Parade, it was empty in 1911 and remained so in 1916 and 1920 – it was a pattern repeated throughout the Parade with 7, 9 and 8 shop-fronts being empty in those years.  In terms of empty shops, other than towards the end of during World War Two it was the period that the Parade struggled most.

Arthur Emanuel Howard, from South Shields took over the shop as a grocer in more favourable times around 1925, by that stage all the shops were let again.  Arthur came from a family of seafarers; his father was a Master Mariner. He worked for the Marine Police Force, part of the ‘Met.’ before retiring early and taking over the shop – Arthur would have been 53 in 1925.  Arthur had married Elizabeth Evans at Mile End in East London in 1901; Elizabeth came from a family farm in mid-Wales.  The decision to open a grocer’s may well have been influenced by Elizabeth as several of her brothers were successfully running grocery shops in London.

The link back to the family farm was maintained with her father putting fresh farm produce on the train in Aberystwyth, and his sons collecting it at Paddington for distribution to the London groceries.  The Howards stayed at 16 until the end of the war – they had a near miss with one bomb which fell on Patterson Edwards toy factory behind although that showered the maisonette behind with shards of glass – but like the rest of the Parade it remained largely unscathed by bomb damage.

Rose Bland took over the business after the War, with the same trade continuing under Dennis Taylor in the late 1950s and early 1960s; at some point the business expanded into 17.  The Pikes continued the trade until the mid-1970s, when Kelly’s started referring to it as ‘Food Stores’ run initially by M Z Abydeen and then R W Patel from around 1980.  It had become a Sandwich Bar, split from 17 by the early 2000s, variants of which continued into the second decade of the millennium.  It is currently (early 2020) a ‘Grill’ called 2 Flames.

17 Manor Park Parade started out as a tobacconist initially run by Luigi Norchi in 1896, but had been taken over by Charles Marshall by 1900; he was still there in 1905 but the shop was being run by John Hills in the 1911 Kelly’s Directory.  The shop may have undergone a business change in 1911 as in the census Hills is listed as a butcher – this may have been due to new competition from tobacconist  Janet Wood further down the Parade at Number 3.  Alternatively, in an era when passing names down through generations was common, it could have been a father running the business and the butcher son living over and behind the shop.  Either way, it was a business that didn’t continue much longer with the shop empty in 1916 and 1920.

Like many on the Parade, there was a new name over the window in 1925 with Mrs H Conn, a hosier, who was to remain there until the late 1940s.  There were suggestions that Arthur Howard took over 17 as well before he moved on from the Parade in the late 1940s, sometimes Kelly’s Directories are a little behind what happened on the ground.  A photographer, trading as British Technishot Pictures, was listed at 17 in 1950, however, this could easily have been from the maisonette behind.

Until the early 2000s the story of 16 and 17 is merged but the shops were split and 17 became Maishia Park which still offers African and Caribbean Food (and music).

18 Manor Park Parade started life as a confectioner, initially run by a Mrs Graff (1896) then Charles Larwood (1900), but by 1905 Ellen Coombes was trading from there, although Kelly’s Directory omits her business.  Pickfords had bought Lee Lodge behind the Parade around 1896, it may even have been them that sold the land to allow the development of the Parade.   They initially used the Lodge to carry out their business but they moved their operation into 18 after the demolition of Lee Lodge just before the outbreak of World War 1, presumably when they switched to motorised transport.  Pickfords were to remain until the 1950s.

Drakes Office Supplies moved in after Pickfords departed and remained until the early 1970s.  It was home to a firm of glaziers from the mid-1980s.  For much of this century it has been home to the Ghanaian takeaway, Imma Kandey Restaurant.

19 Manor Park Parade started life as an ironmongers run by Charles Morris; Alfred Torr had taken over by 1900 but he died in early 1901 and the business was run by his widow and mother for at least a decade, although like many others the shop was empty during World War 1 and in the early 1920s. Hardware dealers C W Hughes and Sons were then from at least 1925, but like many others on the Parade struggled during the war and the shop was empty in 1945.  By 1950, the export arm of toy manufacturer Patterson Edwards had moved in – it was the shop by the entrance to their plant behind, no doubt selling their rocking horses (below) abroad. They remained until the firm’s move to Orpington in the early 1970s.

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After a long period empty at the end of the 20th century, the 21st century has seen it home to various property based businesses, including the estate agents Prime Properties and currently (2020) Element Roofing.

As a whole, the shops appear somewhat on the margin, frequent changes suggesting a precarious existence for many (although certainly not all) – this has been a pattern throughout their existence.  The need for a little tender loving care seemed more evident than at Market Terrace further up Lee High Road.  The vacant units, very noticeable in certain periods were more common here than at Market Terrace and 310 to 332 Lee High Road – perhaps the proximity of Lewisham town centre has had an impact on this.   It always lacked the full range of traditional shops though – there never seems to have been a baker, there was no butcher between 1900 and 1960 and there was a period without a grocer from around 1910 to 1925 so in the pre-supermarket age locals could never do all their shopping on the Parade.

The ‘story’ of the Manor Park Parade has been pieced together using Kelly’s Directories held by the Lewisham and Southwark Archives – generally looking at every 5th year since the Parade opened for business around 1896.  These Directories go up to the mid-1980s.  More recent jogging of memories has been via the ‘back catalogue’ of Google’s StreetView which has passed Market Terrace several times since 2008.

If you think that I have got anything wrong or have memories of any of the shops please use the comments field below or in Facebook thread or Twitter post you reached here from. I’ll include some of them when I update the post.

Picture & Other Credits

  • The Kelly’s Directory data is courtesy of a mixture of Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • Census, 1939 Register and related data is via Find My Past (subscription required)

 

 

Manor Park Parade – Late Victorian Shopping – Part 1

Lee High Road has shops and businesses around half the way from the town centre towards Lee Green.  Manor Park Parade is the last of these, and, as its name suggests, a shopping parade named after the road opposite at its eastern end.

It was built later than the shops closer to Lewisham; it is on a narrow strip of land that had previously been the frontage onto the main road of Lee Lodge – one of a pair of large Victorian houses that stood back from Lee High Road.  The first mentions of the shops were in the 1896 Kelly’s Directory –Lee Lodge behind was to stay for another 20 years when it was demolished by Pickford’s.  More on them in Part 2.

Like the other posts on shopping in Lee and Hither Green – 1930s Market Terrace, 310 to 332 Lee High Road, and the Edwardian Staplehurst Road, the shops are something of a microcosm of changing patterns of shopping – the traditional, single product type of shop such as the draper, the tobacconist and fruiter remaining beyond World War Two, eventually making way for more modern and specialist uses.  Some shopkeepers, as we’ll see, stayed for decades but others clearly found it a struggle – some shops changed hands frequently.

Source eBay Dec 2019

Unlike other groups of shops and houses, its original name of Manor Park Parade has been retained – 318 to 332 Lee High Road was originally 1-8 Ainsley Terrace, but despite some numbering changes around 1907 the Parade’s name was kept.

1 Manor Park Parade  – Like all of the shops, there is a three storey building at the rear, with a separate entrance and a single storey shop front which declined in depth further up the parade.  In the first Kelly’s Directory that the Parade was mentioned, 1896, number 1 was vacant; but by 1901 it was a dairy being run by Mary Walker, the cobbled lane to the back, presumably to allow loading, is still there.

Mary oddly described herself as ‘he’ when offering to wait on families of Lee three times a day (1). The dairy was taken over around 1905 by Joseph and Laura Gatcombe who hailed from Berkshire; they were assisted by a bookkeeper Ada Fairman who also lived over the shop.  They seem to have shared stables with Pickfords behind at what remained of Lee Lodge – a horse and cart were stolen in 1905 (2).

The Gatcombes were to remain at No 1 until the early to mid-1920s they sold out to Edwards and Sons.  Edwards and Sons were a relatively large scale dairy enterprise with 60 shops around south east London, including  another on the current Sainsbury’s site on Burnt Ash Road.  By this stage, the family owned business ran Burnt Ash Farm which was on the corner of St Mildred’s and Baring Roads. Edwards sold out to United Dairies in 1927 and the latter were running the shop well into the 1930s.

The shop front was home to the hairdresser Albert Elliott during World War Two, but was empty in 1945.   By 1950 the name over the window was Grant & Partners, who were a building firm; they remained there until the early to mid-1980s when the shop front was used for a few years by a firm of estate agents – The House Shop.

Like the other businesses and shop fronts, there is a gap in knowledge as to who was there into the early 2000s. It was vacant when the Streetview cars passed in 2008 and 2012, but has been Wood Fires, a Caribbean takeaway for most of the period since.

2 Manor Park Parade started its life as a butcher’s shop although it was a business that clearly struggled as in the early years there were regular changes in proprietor – the first name over the window in 1896 was Henry Drew, but by 1900 it was being run by Joseph Grozzett, although when the census enumerators called in 1901 it was run by Samuel Grant who hailed from Essex.  The shop was empty by 1905 and seems to have been until just after World War 1, even the maisonette above wasn’t used when the census was conducted in 1911.

While struggling as a butcher, in the inter-war years, No. 2 seems to have thrived under the stewardship of Frank Feltham who was listed variously as a florist, fruiterer and greengrocer, first appearing in Kelly’s around 1920. Oddly, Frank seems to have largely passed under the radar in terms of official records of his life and death – he was certainly in Lewisham in 1910 when his son Douglas was born, and his was at No. 10 in 1939 (his name incorrectly recorded) – a widower aged 70.  Douglas may have been running the business as war broke out in 1939 – but more on him later when we get to No 9.

After the Felthams moved out the shop was empty for a while, but after the war it was home to some French Polishers and Furniture shop run by Ted Eden who stayed there until 1958.  During the 1960s the shopfront was used by hardware dealers, initially A & L James and then J R Dawson until around 1970.  It then became a ‘Gift Shop’ – presumably trinkets for presents, rather than souvenirs of Lewisham, for around 15 years.  In the 2000s and beyond it was the home to Mayfair (and then Tom’s) barbers. The current usage is as an ‘Asian Massage & Beauty Salon.’

3 Manor Park Parade – As was the case at No 2, No 3 went through a steady flow of traders – empty in 1896, the fruitier was being run by A E Walter & Co, William King and G F Bull in 1900, 1901 and 1905 respectively.  By 1911 Janet Wood’s name was over the window – Kelly’s lists her as a tobacconist; however, that year’s census suggests that she was a ‘Stationer and Newsagent’ – Kelly’s had caught up with this by 1925.  She was helped, in 1911 at least, by her brother and sister. While there was a new name over the window by 1930, Albert Fennell, the business was the same; Albert was there with his wife Ethel when the 1939 Register was conducted.  The business continued in his name until the 1950s.

There was a steady flow of people trying their hand at being a newsagent, no one staying more than a few years Eric Doyle (1960), TC Brush (1965), J & F Rogers (1970) and Mrs TW Grindlay (1975).  R K Patel bucked this trend and was there for some time from around 1980.  As we will see, they also had a convenience store at the other end of the Parade at 16-17.

After a brief interlude as a tattoo parlour, it became a small convenience store for about decade, Aliyah, and has been run as an off licence for the last few years – currently High Road Bottles, a purveyor of bottled craft beer.

4 Manor Park Parade – Arthur Ash was the first shopkeeper in 1900; alas, he was not a tobacconist (or tennis player for that matter) but a confectioner.  He had died by the time the census enumerators called in 1901, and the business was being run by his widow Catherine who was living above the shop with 10 mainly grown up children.  By 1905, Jane Pierce had taken over the reins of the business although her reign had ended by 1911 as James Eddows was the name over the window.  It may have been a posthumous mention as in the census listed over the shop were the Hoddinotts  – their Daughter Ella was listed as a shop assistant in a confectioners, as was Edith Eddows who was listed as a step daughter.

The shop remained a confectioner  after Edward Gilbey took over in the early 1920s and remained a sweet shop under the stewardship of the Bristows from around 1930; initially James, then briefly John and for many years Alice.  It wasn’t listed in 1945 along with most of premises at the western end of the Parade – this may have related to the rationing of sugar during the war.

Alice seems to have kept the business going until close to her death in 1967; No 4 was then home to short-lived occupants – a builders merchants and an osteopath, before becoming the base for South Eastern School of Motoring.  For at least a decade, it has been home to the gentlemen’s hairdresser Barber DJ – undergoing a refurbishment when pictured.

5 Manor Park Parade

Thomas Harris moved into the parade around 1896 and was originally an ‘oilman’ a seller of lamp oil, it was a trade  that was already on the wane at that point, and by the time the 1901 census was taken he was listed as selling china and glass.  He has gone by 1905 and the shop was empty for much of the next two decades.

It had short-lived milliners, drapers and cycle shops before becoming home to W Goddard, Rubber Stamp manufacturers after World War 2. They were a fixture on the Parade until around the late 1980s. Like many businesses they suffered as a result of the 1968 Lewisham floods, when their basement was flooded.  They moved to Bromley and survived until around 2006 when the company was dissolved – no doubt a victim of changing working practices and digitisation.

More recently, the shop has been home to a series of tattoo studios – the current variant notable for the zebra being stalked by a tiger on its roof.

6 Manor Park Parade – Like Arthur Ash at No 4, Richard Macintosh at 6 Manor Park Parade was another who failed to live up to his name; in 1901 the man from Warwickshire he was running a toy shop.  It appears to have been a short-lived business though as he was working as a postman in Lambeth in 1911. The shop was empty in 1911 too; it had been since at least 1905. The toy shop wasn’t the first business as, while empty in 1896, there was a short-lived electric platers business at No 6 from around 1897, S R Bonner.

By 1916 the shop was in competition with No 4 as George McStocker was running a confectioners; the sweet shop changed hands several times with Evelyn Green running the shop by 1920 and Arthur Wheeler in 1925.  By the mid-1930s, the Jacobs, Frederick and Doris, were proprietors, they were there when the 1939 Register was compiled.

Like many of the shops on the parade the shop was empty by the end of the war, there had been no serious bomb damage to the Parade but rationing of sugar will no doubt have led to closures of confectioners.  It remained empty until the mid-1950s when the Royal Arsenal Co-operative butchers arrived – they were to be a feature on the Parade for two decades.

During the 1980s the shop front was home to initially a carpet shop, Plan Flooring, and then a walkie-talkie supplier.  Since 2000 it has been a money transfer bureau and food and a cosmetic shop, and is currently a shoe repairer.

7 Manor Park Parade – like several other shops on the Parade No 7 was empty when first listed in Kelly’s Directory.  The first name over the window seems to have been the draper, Grace Lambert, who was there by 1900; her tenure was a short one as the shop was empty when the census was carried out in 1901.  By 1905 the furniture dealer William Allen was trading from No 7, but like his predecessor he didn’t last long as the shop and maisonette behind were missing from the 1911 census and Kelly’s of the same year.

By 1916 though the cycle makers Brown and Son were there; their business evolved with changing transport and by 1925 they had become motor engineers.  It was a business taken over by Stanley Grey around 1930 – no doubt taking advantage of Lee High Road being based on one of the more accident prone streets in London.

By 1939 though boot repairer Arthur Ackerman there along with his wife, brother and sister in law.  Despite clothing, including shoes and boots being rationed, it wasn’t a business that lasted until the end of the War – the shop was empty in 1945. After a brief interlude as a builder’s merchants, W & H Supplies, in the 1950s; number 7 became home a series of purveyors of car batteries – the name over the window changing several times although was ‘Speed Batteries’ from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s and beyond. In the 2000s it has been home to hair salons – latterly called Porters.

8 Manor Park Parade – while empty when Kelly’s Directory was produced in 1896, by 1898 (see advert above (3))  John Davidson (then 58), a tailor born in Ireland was there – he was to remain there until his death, probably in 1916.  A couple of different costumiers were there in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but other than that the shop seems to have been empty for much of the time until 1960.  The maisonette behind was home to mechanic George Clark in 1939.

Around 1960 George Green opened a fishmongers shop, although he didn’t stay long as M Salih was carrying out the same trade 5 years later.  Fresh fish was turned into fried fish by D Ahmed by 1970, although the ‘churn’ rate continued and ‘George’ was running the shop in 1975.

Presumably after a deep clean to remove the smell and a refit, No 8 became Ann’s Hair Creations for at least a decade from 1980.  By the new century it was a Money Transfer bureau for a while although most recently it is a shop specialising in computer repairs.

9 Manor Park Parade started life as grocers – initially it seems to have been a partnership between Messrs Lewis and Orr, then William Lewis on his own; William died in 1907 and was succeeded by his widow, Susanna.  It was a shop that may well have been not too dissimilar to more recent convenience stores as they had a wine and spirits licence, although were refused a beer licence (4).

The shop was empty during World War 1 but by the mid-1920s James Walker, a cabinet maker was there, he was still there, living over the shop. when war broke out in 1939, married to Ethel.  He was to stay there until the late 1940s.

Douglas Feltham was mentioned earlier as possibly taking over Frank Feltham’s business at No 2 by the time war broke out; presumably Frank was Douglas’ father but could have been a different relative.  In the 1939 Register, Douglas was listed as a ‘Greengrocer, Fruiterer and Florists Shop Keeper’ – he was living in the then suburbia of Brockman Rise (behind the Green Man in Southend) with his wife Dorothy, a hairdresser – perhaps she worked for Albert Elliott who briefly ran the salon at No 1, next door to Frank’s business?  Also in the house were Dorothy’s mother and her sister, the latter who was a shop assistant for a newsagent and stationer – perhaps working for Albert Fennell at No 3?  Douglas had moved to number 10 by 1945 but before the decade was out he had moved the business next door to No 9 initially listed as a florist but from the early 1950s listed as a ‘fruiterer.’

The business was to stay there until the late 1970s as Douglas had moved on by 1980, probably retiring – he lived until 1994 and is buried at Eltham Cemetery.  The family had run businesses in three shops on the Parade for around 60 years.

After a period empty, it became No 9 became the shop front for a printing firm, Realprint before becoming a Mini Cab office in the new millennium, latterly Delta Cars.  It seems to have been empty for the last 6 or 7 years.

The ‘story’ of the Manor Park Parade has been pieced together using Kelly’s Directories held by the Lewisham and Southwark Archives – generally looking at every 5th year since the Parade opened for business around 1896.  These Directories go up to the mid-1980s.  More recent jogging of memories has been via the ‘back catalogue’ of Google’s StreetView which has passed Market Terrace several times since 2008.

If you think that I have got anything wrong or have memories of any of the shops please use the comments field below or in Facebook thread or Twitter post you reached here from. I’ll include some of them when I update the post.

Next week’s post will cover the rest of the Parade.

Notes 

  1. Kentish Mercury 16 September 1898
  2. Kentish Independent 08 September 1905
  3. Kentish Mercury 07 January 1898
  4. Woolwich Gazette 01 October 1897

Picture & Other Credits

  • The photograph of the flooded Eastdown Park and Goddards Rubber Stamps is from the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and it use with their consent;
  • The Kelly’s Directory data is courtesy of a mixture of Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • Census, 1939 Register and related data is via Find My Past (subscription required)

 

 

Lewisham’s 500 Year Belgian Connection

A while ago Running Past looked at the links of Lewisham to its namesake suburb of Sydney, both in the name and through transportation.  Another international link, of much longer standing, is to Belgium, more particularly the Flanders city of Ghent as the land that forms much of the current Borough was under the control of the Ghent Abbey of St Peters for several centuries.  For the sake of historical accuracy, Flanders was a self governed part of France – the County of Flanders – during the period referred we’ll look at.

The links have their origins in the late 9th century when Elfrida, or Ælfthryth  (other variants are available), born in 877 and was the youngest daughter of King Alfred  married Baldwin II, the Count or Margrave of Flanders in the 890s.

In Alfred the Great’s will he left large amounts of land in Lewisham, Greenwich and surrounding areas to Elfrida.  Baldwin died in 919 and was buried in the Abbey of St Peter in Ghent in Belgium; later the same year Elfrida gave her inheritance of “Lieuesham, Grenewic and Uulwic, with the meadows, pastures and woods” to the Abbey of St Peter for the welfare of her husband, sons and herself – and at various stages all of them were buried there  – Elfrida in 929.

The Abbey (pictured below on a Creative Commons) had been founded in the late 7th century and lasted as a monastic building until the end of the 18th century.

The holding of the land in Lewisham was confirmed by King Edgar the Peaceful in 964 after a request from Archbishop Dunstan who had been sheltered at the Abbey

“I, Edgar, King and Chief of the English, buy divine assistance, renouncing ever low and transitory thing as dross, make known to all that I have granted to God and St Peter, and to the Society of the Church of Gand (Ghent), a certain extent of land in a place with the rustics from ancient custom have denominated Lieuesham, with all its appurtenances, viz., Greenwich, Woolwich, Mottingham and Coomb.’

The Lewisham land was captured by one of the many Viking attacks in 1006 – despite the fortifications such as  Faesten Dic (pictured below on a Geograph Creative Commons) part of which remains in Joydens Wood on the Bexley Dartford Borders). Edward the Confessor promised to restore Lewisham to The Abbey of St Peter, but was not able to do so until he became King in 1042.  In 1044 a charter was given to the Abbot of Ghent confirming the rights granted in 964 along with a slightly wider area and rights to hold court.

The power was retained after the Norman invasion as William’s wife Mathilda was a descendant of Elfrida. The Domesday Book describes Lewisham in 1086 – the image is via Open Domesday.

Fortunately, Open Domesday translates the Medieval Latin  this into modern English – the key points about Lewisham were

  • Total population: 62 households (which was very large) made up of (households): 50 villagers. 9 smallholders, 3 slaves;
  • Total tax assessed: 2 geld units (which was quite small given the size);
  • Value: Value to lord in 1066 £16, 1070 £12 and 1086 £30;
  • Plough land: 14 plough lands. 2 lord’s plough teams. 17 men’s plough teams;
  • Other resources: 30 acres of meadow 30 acres, along with woodland supporting 50 pigs, 11 mills – value£ 8 6s; and
  • Lord in 1066 & 1086 & Tenant in Chief 1086: Abbey of Ghent (Saint-Pierre)

The Abbey of Ghent was also noted as Tenant in Chief – this denoted holding land directly from the king, rather than another nobleman, it denoted great honour, but also carried the responsibility of for providing knights and soldiers for the king’s feudal army.

The rights were extended slightly during the reign of Henry I (1100-1135) to include sole right of hunting and the right to establish a market in Greenwich, although by this stage the local possessions other than Lewisham and Greenwich seem to have been transferred to others.

During the reign of Henry I there was another invasion, rather than being from the east of the North Sea and a late Viking incursion, it was from the east of the Quaggy and the Manor of Lee.    The Lord of the Manor, Robert de Baunton seized Lewisham and Greenwich. There were a series of Papal decrees, decisions by Henry I and threats of excommunication heading towards Lee  which stressed the rights of the Abbot of St Peter’s in Ghent.

It appears then that a lease was granted to Robert de Baunton for Lewisham and Greenwich for the sum of £25 a year.  The charter for this was held in a Devon country house but this was then destroyed in a fire and there was a subsequent case two generations later that was due to be heard before King John (1199 to 1216).  It the end it was settled out of court for a payment by the Abbot to the Lord of the Manor of Lee.

The rights of the Abbot were confirmed by Henry III (1216-1272).  It appears that the land was subdivided by the Abbot into a number of Manors – Bankers, Brockley, Catford, Bellingham, Shraffolt and Sydenham – more on them at some stage in the future though.

During the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453) various monarchs seized ‘alien Priories’ and then returned them during lulls in the fighting.  However, the seizure became a permanent one in 1414 when Henry V (pictured via Creative Commons) permanently seized all this land. So ended Belgian control of Lewisham after almost 500 years. Lewisham was only to remain in Crown ownership for a year before being transferred to the newly established Sheen Priory in 1415, the year of Agincourt.

More recently, there were links to Belgium during the First World War; Deptford was initially home to some Belgian refugees in the early stages of the War – their arrival provoked anti-German attacks there. More importantly, hundreds of young men from Lewisham served in Belgium during the War, with many never returning. Forty two young men from Lewisham, along with another 7 from the New South Wales namesake, are remembered on the Menin Gate in Ypres (pictured below on a Creative Commons).

The young men from Lewisham remembered there include

  • Arthur Lee of 26 Ardmere Road (pictured) who died on 27 October 1914 serving with King’s Royal Rifle Corps, aged just 20;
  • Albert Sims of 322 Hither Green Lane who died on 16 June 1915 serving with the Honourable Artillery Company aged only 19
  • Frederick Robus of 19 Elthruda Road who died on 16 August 1917 serving with the London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) aged just 21;

 

The final street on the list takes us almost full circle back to the original Belgian link – Elthruda is one of the variants of Elfrida who gave the Lewisham to the Abbey of St Peters in Ghent.

 

Olive Llewhellin – A Lewisham Suffragette Activist

During 2018, in the centenary of (some) women getting the vote, Running Past celebrated the militant Lewisham branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union.  The name of Olive Llewhellin was mentioned in several posts, including a section within a post on activities in Lee and Hither Green.  Her significance though was a little understated, largely due to an error in court and newspaper reporting where she was incorrectly referred to as Margaret.   This post corrects this and tells Olive’s story.

Olive was one of many suffragettes who refused to register in the 1911 census; she was living at 114 Burnt Ash Hill – where the only occupants listed were her mother Sarah Jane and her sister Daisy. Olive’s activity was a mixture of militancy and organisation. She was arrested at least three times– the first time was with fellow Lewisham branch member Clara Lambert in late January 1913 after the smashing of the windows of the Hamburg American Line in Cockspur Street off Trafalgar Square. While Olive was remanded in custody, unlike Clara, she was later discharged (1).  One of her arrests may well be pictured below; it is a picture in her adopted family’s collection, they believe it to be Olive.

She was arrested in Downing Street in the spring of 1913 for smashing the window of the Chief Whip at number 12 (2).  In all the press reports, she was listed as ‘Margaret.’  Later editions of ‘The Suffragette’ corrected the mistake reporting the date that she was due to be released from Holloway in late April 1913 (3). Olive is listed in the roll of imprisoned suffragettes.

The severity of Olive’s sentence  was raised by Keir Hardie in the House of Commons in relation to the proportionality of the fine and whether there was an instruction to treat suffragettes differently to male defendants convicted of similar ‘crimes’.  Olive was still incorrectly referred to as ‘Margaret.’  He pointed out that a Mr E W Hills  who smashed windows valued at 2s 6d (12½p) at the WSPU Offices at Lincoln’s Inn House, was fined 5s (25p) or 7 days imprisonment.  Olive was fined £2, had £2 2s costs awarded against her, and had to pay for the window, also valued at 2s 6d, a total of £4 4s 6d – over 33 times the total penalty of the male defendant.

If there was any doubt as to her time in Holloway, her ‘adopted’ family still have the lovely portcullis brooch given to imprisoned suffragettes.

Olive was also arrested as part of protest by the Cymric Suffrage Union, which she was also a member of, due to her Welsh ancestry, when Lloyd George refused to see a deputation later in 1913 (4).

Olive was the driving force behind the Lewisham WSPU banner, above, (5) – she had designed a well-received poster for the office window in 1912 (6). This seems to have led to her designing the banner (7) and being in charge of the fundraising for it (8).  She is pictured bottom right below, with Caroline Townsend to her left; above her to the left is Clara Lambert and a Miss Warwick to the right (9).

Olive was Branch Treasurer from early 1913 (10) and briefly acted as Branch Secretary in mid-1913 (11). She was an occasional speaker at the public meetings held most Sunday evenings at 7:00 in Lewisham Market – such as on Sunday 21 September when she spoke with Eugenia Bouvier (12).

Olive had been born on 8 October 1888, in Lewisham, and lived at 114 Burnt Ash Hill (a house probably built by John Pound) from around 1899 – her father appeared on the electoral register there from that year. She is pictured below aged 7.

Her parents were Arthur Jones Llewhellin, the mother was Sarah Jane (nee Thomas) – both were from Pembroke Dock in south west Wales, where they married in 1873. Arthur worked for the Inland Revenue and the family moved around a lot with children being born in Dublin, the Potteries, Malvern, Greenwich and Lewisham (Olive).

In terms of the local WSPU branch, both Sarah, Olive and her elder sister Ethel were active members – they were included in the branch photograph probably taken in mid-1913 at 3 Ravensbourne Park.  Sarah is second from the left on the back row, Ethel is on the front row with her niece on her lap, and Olive is to the right of her (13).  There is detail on the rest of group in the post on the Lewisham WSPU Branch.

Sarah was widowed in 1906 and listed as living on her own means in the 1911 census; times obviously became harder for the family after Arthur died in early 1911. 114 was the first house in that part of Burnt Ash Hill to be split between two households – all the others had gone the same way be the time the 1920 Electoral Register was complied though. Sarah was mentioned several times in ‘The Suffragette’ for donations, producing food for sale and catering, including for the Annual Branch meeting in 1912 (14).

Olive and the rest of the family had moved on by the time the women were able to vote in Parliamentary elections in Lewisham.  By 1927 she was living in the Stockwell/Camberwell borders at Dover House on Cormont Road – she registered from there as a teacher and also corresponded with Chrisatbel Pankhurst, following the death of Emmeline in 1928 (see above). Dover House is a large Victorian mansion block on an estate created by a family of Protestants fleeing religious persecution in France in the 17th century centering on Myatt’s Fields.

She was living in Poole in Dorset in 1939, she later returned to London –she died in Wandsworth in 1972 – she is photographed below in her later years.

Notes

  1. The Suffragette 31 January 1913
  2. The Suffragette 04 April 1913
  3. The Suffragette 25 April 1913
  4. The Suffragette 13 October 1913
  5. The banner is part of the collection of the Museum of London, as is the photograph, the Museum allows its use for non-commercial research such as this – add exact link
  6. The Suffragette 25 October 1912
  7. The Suffragette 4 July 1913
  8. The Suffragette 20 December 1912
  9. The photograph of the Lewisham Banner is part of the collection of the Museum of London who allow its use for non-commercial research such as this
  10. The Suffragette 24 January 1913
  11. The Suffragette 1 August 1913
  12. The Suffragette 19 September 1913
  13. The branch photograph is part of the collection of the Museum of London, who allow its use for non-commercial research such as this
  14. The Suffragette 25 October 1912

I am indebted to Ruth Knapton for this post; Olive was ‘adopted’ as family by one of her friends; her photographs and some papers relating to her WSPU activity have been passed down within that adopted family to Ruth.   The photographs that are used here are done so with Ruth’s permission but remain her copyright.

Census and related data comes via Find My Past; the Electoral Register information comes through the always helpful Lewisham Archives.

Remembering Lewisham’s World War One Combatants

This week marks the centenary of Armistice Day and the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of the Great War. No doubt, there was celebration and relief about the end of the bloodshed in Lewisham and elsewhere.

Ultimately victory had come at a high cost; around six million British men were mobilised, with just over 700,000 were killed; that’s around 11.5% of the combatants.

In every community there had been deaths; Lewisham, Lee and Hither Green were no different – almost every street had seen it residents slaughtered, every family had lost a son, a relative or a friend. The German bullets, rockets and grenades were no respecter of social class, officers were slightly more likely to die. The same was no doubt the case for the German conscripts on the end of the British weaponry.

The number of men from Lewisham who lost their lives is uncertain, while many of the records on Commonwealth War Graves website contain a reference to an address (there were 624 in Lewisham, 552 in Catford, 213 in Lee and 440 in Blackheath), the records are sadly incomplete in terms of addresses so probably fail to show the enormity of loss felt in local communities.

What is less clear is what happened to those who came home disabled in body or mind as a result of experiencing things that no one should see. This was a country a generation before the NHS with little understanding of mental health or dealing with even the practicalities of physical disability.  At least 80,000 soldiers suffered from shell shock, now referred to as post traumatic stress disorder. There was often little sympathy for the soldiers who suffered and at least 20,000 were still suffering as the war came to an end.

Dotted around Lewisham are several dozen memorials to those who perished in France, Belgium and elsewhere – many are in churches or other buildings where access is limited; or in graveyards where the number of passers by is small. There are a few memorials though which are out in the open, easy to see, easy to visit and easy to reflect on when passing by, whatever your mode of transport. This post visits three of them, at each ‘stop’ we’ll remember one of the many names chiselled or engraved in the memorial.

St Mildred’s, Lee

The memorial is on the South Circular, just beyond the traffic lights at the junction with Baring Road. It is clearly visible from the road, but surrounded on three sides by dense hedging, it is a surprisingly calm location. It has three faces and two thirds of the way up on the left panel in Leonard Cole, along with his brother, Henry.

Leonard Cole was born Eltham in 1883, he was one of at least eight children born to Edmund and Sarah. In the 1911 census most of the family who were living at 31 Butterfield Street (now Waite Davies Road) in Lee, next door but one to the Butterfield Dairy, where the family hav moved to in 1904. Leonard was working on his brother-in-law’s farm in Harefield, near Uxbridge in Middlesex when the census enumerators called in 1911.

Leonard enlisted in Eltham and was a Gunner who served with A’ Battery of 307 Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He died of wounds less than three weeks before the end of the war on 23 October 1918 and was buried at Awoingt Cemetery near Cambrai, along with 707 other British servicemen. His listed address was Butterfield Street.

St Andrew, Catford

The war memorial is on the western side of the church, on Torridon Road. The top of the left panel has been largely worn away from being out in the open, in the firing line of the prevailing winds, names only just visible.

Julian Baxter is one of those largely eroded names; he was one of at least a dozen children of Alfred and Charlotte Baxter who had lived at 68 Arngask Road in 1911, the family had been at 55 Holbeach a decade earlier, Julian attended the school named after the street.

Julian joined the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, he was killed in action on the 15th April 1918, aged just 20. He has no grave and in addition to the fading memorial in Catford he is remembered at the Tyne Cot Memorial.  While the metal inlay makes Julian’s name just visible, it is still hard to see, but he is certainly not forgotten.

The Lewisham Victoria Cross Memorial

Just to the side of the main Lewisham war memorial, opposite the hospital, is a smaller one, easy to miss from the main road. It is to the recipients of the Victoria Cross who were born in the Borough. For several such as, John Lynn, it was their final act of courage that saw a posthumous award for bravery. The names are remembered in the stones in front of the memorial.

Alan Jerrard was born and briefly lived in Vicars Hill in Ladywell – he had served in the Staffordshire Regiment and then the nascent Royal Air Force. His Victoria Cross was awarded for repeated attacks on an Italian Airfield in the face of overwhelming fire – he destroyed several aircraft before being shot down himself and being taken prisoner – the citation for award was listed in the London Gazette of 1 May 1918.

His story is deliberately last, because, like most of the combatants he returned home, while his home was no longer Lewisham, he returned. He was awarded a Victoria Cross, and is rightly remembered, but there were no doubt hundreds of local men who carried out small acts of courage, that may not have been noticed by officers but will have been remembered by their comrades in arms.

Next time you pass one of Lewisham’s war memorials do stop, do pause for thought, do remember the sacrifices – not just of the men whose names are listed, but think of their families and those who returned having experienced things that no young man should ever see. To quote the words of Laurence Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen.’

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

 

 

 

Notes

The census and related data comes from Find My Past; the numbers of local war dead and some of the other information about them comes from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

There have been several other posts in Running Past relating to those who died in World War 1 which may be of interest:

Suffragette City – Public Meetings in Lewisham

In the year of the centenary of (some) women getting the vote Running Past has been looking back at the work of the Lewisham Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) branch. It was an active branch with a number of militant members – this post looks at one of the main vehicles of bringing public attention to the cause – the (mainly) open air public meetings held in and around Lewisham town centre from 1908 until the outbreak of World War 1.

The earliest of these were around The Obelisk, for those with only recent knowledge of the town centre – it was at the station end of the High Street more or less opposite the church of St Stephen. The area was lost the late 1980s to the major roundabout and it is now covered by the tower blocks of the current redevelopment.

These public meetings, while they sometimes saw well known suffragettes from the wider movement, were frequently addressed by members of the local branch – the WSPU had a programme of training women on public speaking. One of the earliest of these open air meetings saw Jeannie Bouvier, for many years the Branch Secretary, and a Mrs Auld speaking there in July 1908 (1).

In October 1910, Russian émigré Eugenia Bouvier again spoke at the Obelisk to ‘large and interested crowds.’ (2) She’d spoken with Ellen ‘Nurse’ Pitfield there a couple of months earlier too (3). Ellen Pitfield was arrested several times, latterly putting herself at considerable risk of death in an arson attack after she discovered she had an inoperable cancer – she died in 1912.

Caroline Townsend, later WSPU Branch Secretary, spoke there too in late October 1910 to a ‘sympathetic audience.’  (4) The Blackheath born Emily Davison was a speaker there later in the autumn of that year (5).

For most of the active WSPU period in Lewisham public meetings were in the market area, what was still referred to then as the Costers’ Market.

While the road layout is little altered, it looked very different to modern Lewisham – the remnants of the Lewisham of the suffragette era was destroyed with a V-1 attack in July 1944 and in the development of the Shopping Centre in the late 1960s.

The meetings in the market were a regular feature of the weekend, one of the earlier meetings saw local activist, and later branch secretary, Caroline Townsend speak there in November 1909. It enable ‘good propaganda work’ and ‘brisk business’ for the nearby branch shop (6).

Townsend and her co-secretary Christina Campbell, spoke in the market in response to Asquith dropping the Franchise Bill noting that ‘the Government had done what it was expected that it would do and had broken faith with women in letter and in spirit.’ (7)

The crowds attending were considerable regularly reaching several hundred by the spring of 1913. Certainly, there were hundreds there when, the almost ever present Jeannie Bouvier told the assembled crowd in early February

The life of men will be made so miserable that they will rush to the Prime Minister and beseech him to give the vote to women….men would cry for mercy….Miltancy had brought the women’s question to the forefront of politics.

There was a ‘good deal of jeering’ and Jeannie had to be escorted back to her tram towards Catford by police as she was ‘followed by 200.’ (8)

The level of disruption, heckling and threats of violence increased during the year, with youths storming the stage in June following the death of Emily Wilding Davison, there were crowds of up to 2,000 at this point (9).

The market area also saw ‘poster parades’ with branch members marching up and down the High Street, holding posters, often to draw attention to a major meeting. There seem to have been speakers at the end of the parades. Georgina Brackenbury, who had been imprisoned with Jeanie Bouvier following the pantechnicon incident, spoke at the end of one and ‘created a sensation.’ (10)

There was a procession by a Drum and Fife Band in early October 1909 – part of the publicity for a big meeting in Blackheath later that month, it was a band that regularly appeared at WSPU events (11).

There were similar open air meetings by the tram terminus in Catford – close to the old Town Hall (above). Jeannie Bouvier chaired a meeting there in June 1909 where a Mrs Massie spoke, it was ‘well attended and uninterrupted’ and the ‘clever speaker’ spoke in defence of militant tactics, but was ‘accorded an attentive hearing.’ (12)

Later in 1909 disabled suffragette, Adelaide Knight (pictured, middle, with Annie Kenney, right and Jane Sparborough) spoke to a large audience in Catford in October 1909 (13).

The almost ever present Jeannie Bouvier and a Miss Froude had ‘splendid meetings’ there in September 1912, along with similar meetings at Hillyfields (14).

One of those influenced by the meetings in Catford was probably Eliza Simmons, she had been born in Hoo in Kent in 1886, she had started working for the Hart Family who lived at Carn Brae on Ravensbourne Park in early 1901.  She was registered there in the 1901 census, although had moved on by 1911 when the Harts were living in Lowther Hill.

She was present at Black Friday in late 1910 and was awarded the WSPU badge for this.  She was arrested the following week for throwing stones at the home of the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, in Eccleston Square.  After her arrest she was described in Votes for Women as a housemaid ‘who would devote her whole time to help the cause if she were in a position to do so.’ (15)

She and eight other women pleaded guilty to committing wilful damage and were sentenced to 14 days in prison or £2 fine, like the others Eliza took the former course. One of her co-defendants, Margaret Fison, told the court ‘I want to say this: We were forced to make a protest. I want you to know that I am a law-abiding woman, but I have had to do this for political reasons. I am not in the habit of throwing stones through windows.’ (16)

 

Around Lewisham Town Centre there were also meetings in Limes Grove – one example of this is a meeting that Eugenia Bouvier spoke at in late May 1911 (17)

There were regular ‘at home’ meetings in a house in Avenue Road (around the main entrance to Lewisham Shopping Centre), one had to be broken up by police after it became disorderly with chants of ‘why did you burn the Pavillion down.’ It isn’t clear which pavilion they were referring to – the probable suffragette arson of the Northbrook cricket pavilion was 9 months later (18).

Earlier in the struggle there were meetings in many other locations in and around Lewisham Town Centre – Charlotte Despard and Christobel Pankhurst spoke in Ladywell – the latter was heckled. Also speaking was Edward Aveling, Sydenham resident and long term partner of Eleanor Marx, and, according to Rachel Holmes’ biography, her murderer (19)

Christobel Pankurst was due to speak at Ladywell Baths in late February 1910, with the Lewisham branch spending much of the early part of the year publicising and promoting the meeting – including a dozen meetings largely to promote it. Oddly, there wasn’t a report of it (20).

Ladywell also welcomed Millicent Garrett Fawcett – her non militant brand of suffrage was ‘heartily received’ as she pointed to the enfranchisement of women in Australia and New Zealand to a Parish Hall only two thirds full (21).

Notes

  1. Votes for Women 30 July 1908
  2. Votes for Women 21 October 1910
  3. Votes for Women 10 August 1910
  4. Votes for Women 4 November 1910
  5. Votes for Women 11 November 19105
  6. Votes for Women 26 November 1909
  7. Lewisham Borough News 3 January 1913
  8. Lewisham Borough News 7 February 1913
  9. Iris Dove (1988) Yours in the Cause, Suffragettes in Lewisham, Greenwich and Woolwich p5
  10. Votes for Women 5 November 1908
  11. Votes for Women 15 October 1909
  12. Kentish Mail Greenwich and Deptford Observer 11 June 1909
  13. Votes for Women 15 October 1909
  14. Votes for Women 20 September 1912
  15. Vote for Women 25 November 1910
  16. Votes for Women 2 December 1910
  17. Votes for Women 26 May 1911
  18. Lewisham Borough News 18 April 1913
  19. Lewisham Borough News 31 May 1907
  20. Votes for Women 25 February 1910
  21. Lewisham Borough News 3 April 1914

Thank you to the always helpful Julie Robinson at Lewisham Archives in terms of press cuttings held there from Lewisham Borough News

Census and related data comes from Find My Past

Picture Credits

The photograph of Adelaide Knight et al is via the Museum of London website and reproduction is allowed for non-commercial research such as this

Eliza Simmons Black Friday ‘badge’ is via her grandson Nick Flint

Copies of postcards are via eBay at various stages over the last four years

The header drawing is via Spartacus Educational, although originally appear in Punch

 

Suffragette City – The Attacks on Lewisham’s Post Office

During recent months Running Past has celebrated the work of Lewisham’s suffragettes both individually – looking at May Billinghurst, Eugenia Bouvier, Caroline Townsend and Clara Lambert, and collectively in the first of a series of ‘Suffragette City’ posts in Lee and Hither Green, all being brought together on a Lewisham Suffragettes page

This post continues with this, looking at the repeated attacks on Lewisham Post Office, Sorting Office and neighbouring pillar boxes within Lewisham Town Centre by Lewisham’s militant suffragettes, presumably members of the Lewisham branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

The main Post Office, marked PO above, was in roughly the same location as its last independent location, in Lewisham High Street within the market.  The sorting office was more or less opposite behind 108 Lewisham High Street – this is now land covered by the Lewisham Shopping Centre and would have been close to the current location of the residual Post Office within W H Smiths.

Oddly, the suffragettes weren’t the first to attack Lewisham Post Office; as Running Past has already covered, Rolla Richards, a Deptford Anarchist with mental health issues had attacked it in 1896 along with several other local Post Offices.

Before looking at the attacks, it is worth looking, briefly, at the history of and reasons given for damage to and destruction of property by militant suffragettes. The WSPU had believed in Direct Action almost from its formation in 1903 – Emmeline Pankhurst had disrupted a Liberal meeting in 1904.  The move to greater militancy and targeted damage to property seems to have been born out of a frustration with lack of progress, not just since 1903, but for a generation before. Despite a majority of MPs elected in 1906 supporting women’s suffrage Asquith (Liberal Prime Minister and opponent of women’s suffrage) contrived to ensure that Bills were never enacted.  This came to a head between 1911 and 1913 with levels of militant activity increasing dramatically.  There were also serious concerns about the extent to which the initial form of protest, demonstrations, were being met with considerable brutality by the police – notably Black Friday and events the following week in late 1910.

One of the first examples of a more direct approach was by a woman with a Greenwich link, Edith New, who smashed windows in Downing Street in 1908. This remained a rarity until 1911, but the following year 240 women were sent to prison for smashing windows, arson and pillar box ‘outrages.’

So why were the Post Office and pillar boxes targets? Presumably it was because they are obvious institutions of the state, resplendent with the mark of the monarch and would disproportionately impact on the wealthy, business and the Government. In practice, it was at least partially targeting those who were denying women the vote. One of the first recorded incidents was in 1911 when Emily Wilding Davison attacked three post boxes in late 1911 including one in Parliament Square. It started to be used on a larger, more coordinated scale in November 1912.

The post box at the main Lewisham Post Office (pictured above) was attacked on 17 December 1912, the same evening at several others in Lewisham, Lee, Hither Green and Blackheath – after the latter attack May Billinghurst and Grace Mitchell were arrested. A black, tar-like, substance was poured into the box, damaging letters (1).

There was to be another ‘pillar box outrage’ at the Lewisham Post Office on 3 May 1913 when a packet of partially burnt gunpowder was found, it had only ‘partially fired’ and around 30 letters were damaged (2).

In September 1913 there was a significant explosion and fire there, which ’caused some alarm.’ A loud bang was heard in the market and then (3)

a portion of the letter box fell into street and this was immediately followed by flames bursting from inside. The fire spread to other parts of the building which was quickly alight…..By the time the firemen arrived (from Lee Green and Ladywell) the flames had got a firm hold of a section of the premises and their efforts were directed at confining the fire to as limited an area as possible.

It took around 45 minutes to put the fire out although the local newspaper report suggested that there was relatively little damage to the building itself (4).

As the local press noted, by this stage it was obvious that the Post Office was ‘steadily becoming the objective of malicious suffragette activity in this neighbourhood.'(5). What was perhaps more surprising was that the attack in September 1913 was immediately after a public meeting in the market, which would probably have had a relatively high police presence and that no one seemed to have been watching what had become a clear target.

Less than a month later there was an almost repeat at around 7:00 pm on a Saturday evening in early October 1913 a loud explosion occurred at the Post Office and moments later flames were seen to be coming from the letter box. A large crowd gathered and while the flames were put out quickly hundreds of letters were damaged or destroyed (6).

Late in 1913 wax vesta matches and gunpowder were found in the post box at the Post Office, but they failed to explode.  The same evening there was also an attack on a pillar box in Lee High Road, that too failed to ignite as intended (7).

There was a further attack on Saturday April 18 1914 when phosphorous in an envelope and a cycle tyre containing a black liquid, wrapped in ‘The Suffragette’, was pushed through the letter box at Lewisham Post Office. The same evening an envelope containing sulphur was put in a post box at 160 Rushey Green (above). The damage on this occasion was quite limited.

As for the Lewisham Post Office while the attempts to destroy it, initially by Rolla Richards and then suffragettes, failed – it was very badly damaged in the V-1 attack on 28 July 1944 (it is on the right edge of the photograph above). It was initially rebuilt as a Post Office after the war although is now used for other retail purposes.

 

Notes & Credits

  1. The Suffragette 27 December 1912
  2. Lewisham Borough News 12 September 1913
  3. ibid
  4. ibid
  5. ibid
  6. The Suffragette 10 October 1913
  7. The Suffragette 4 January 1914
  8. The Suffragette 1 May 1914

Thank you to the always helpful Julie Robinson at Lewisham Archives in terms of press cuttings held there from Lewisham Borough News

Picture Credits

The picture of the Post Office is courtesy of Luke Anthony Briscoe on the excellent Catford and Lewisham Way Back When Facebook Group.

The picture on the pillar box in Catford is via Google Streetview.

The map is on a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland

The photograph of the destruction of the town centre in 1944 is on a Creative Commons via the Lewisham War Memorials Wiki

The 1968 Lewisham Floods

Mid-September sees the 50th anniversary of the 1968 floods in Lewisham caused by the Rivers Ravensbourne, Quaggy and Pool all overflowing their banks as a result of two days very heavy rain on 15 and 16 September 1968.  The summer of 1968  had been one of the wettest on record, so the ground was already pretty much saturated causing large amounts of water to immediately run-off with large amounts draining into the local rivers.

So what caused the floods? A warm and very moist air front which had its origins in the western Mediterranean converged with a cool, moist one from the Baltic over south eastern England.  The fronts then moved very little for two days.   A broad area from the Thames Estuary to Hampshire received six weeks of rain, 75 mm (3” for you non-metric folk), during those two days.  A large area including south east London received double this – 150 mm (6”) – 3 months of rain in 48 hours.  On  Sunday 15 September alone, the Met Office noted that Bromley saw the heaviest rain with 129.5 mm (5.2”); rain in Bromley  ends up in flowing down the Ravensbourne and Quaggy to Lewisham. With this volume of rainfall it is not surprising that drainage systems failed to cope.

To understand the sheer scale of the flooding it is worth noting that the Quaggy, which typically had a depth of 15 cm (3”) at one point was over 5 metres deep in Lewisham (1). Traffic was unable to run at all along the main road between Catford and Loampit Hill as the entire area, built in the Ravensbourne flood plain was flooded (2).

The Ravensbourne

The Ravensbourne runs in a fairly flat valley all the way through Catford and Lewisham and there was flooding all the way along course – The Times photographed flooding on Southend Lane, close to Bromley Road where the usually hidden Ravensbourne crosses (3).  There was flooding too further upstream at Bromley South where the Ravensbourne burst its banks.

There were lots of memories on Facebook threads on this of using boats from Peter Pan’s Pond – originally a mill pond on the Ravensbourne (now the pond outside Homebase) to row around the area, including getting into the bar at the Tiger’s Head and generally playing in the flooded waters.

In nearby Watermead Road, flood waters reached 1.5 metres deep in places (as they did on Southend Lane) – houses there took a year to dry out and there was some looting after the flood waters receded.   A little further downstream is one of iconic pictures of the Lewisham floods – the Robertson’s Jam Factory which had the Ravensbourne immediately behind (on a Creative Commons via David Wright on Geograph).    

Unsurprisingly, a hundred metres further down Bromley Road, there was also flooding at the junction with Aitken Road (on a Creative Commons via David Wright on Geograph). Those with basement flats were particularly badly affected – in one on Barmeston Road the water went up to the ceiling.  

The volume of water coming down the Ravensbourne was augmented by the also flooded River Pool (see below) – the confluence is just south of Catford Bridge.  This meant that Catford Town Centre was under water.  There were memories on Facebook of free buses being laid on to transport people wanting to get from Stanstead Road to Brownhill Road, elsewhere refuse lorries did the same thing.

There was a ‘not entirely successful’ attempt to sail from Catford to Lewisham on a wooden garage door brought downstream on the Ravensbourne.  More appropriate forms of water transport were used in Ladywell Fields where an unknown kayaker paddled close to the railway bridge.

The extent of the flooding becomes apparent in the foreshortened by telephoto lens shot looking towards Ladywell Bridge from the around the ‘playtower’

While not shown in the picture there was a boat that ferried people across the worst of the flooding at Ladywell.  Marsala Road, parallel to the Ravensbourne, itself became ‘a fast flowing river’ with water levels inside houses rising to over a metre above ground level at one point.  There were Facebook memories of playing on a tractor inner tube in the flood water on the street. The ground floors in neighbouring Elmira Street were flooded too.

In Lewisham it seems that the flooding caused a crane to topple over – presumably on the Sundermead Estate that was being built at the time (4).

The Quaggy

From its entry into Lewisham at Chinbrook Meadows (and no doubt further upstream too) there was flooding along the Quaggy, Just outside the park in Marvels Lane, next to Sydenham Cottages as the Quaggy burst its banks.

Lee Green flooded, although probably not as badly as it had done in the past from snow melt in the early 19th century.  Manor Lane, where the Quaggy is bridged and Leahurst Road flooded too. There was flooding on Lee High Road and the parallel streets – with memories of submerged basements and flooded gardens around Eastdown Park – the photogrpah belwo shows the bottom of Dermody Road and the bridge over the Quaggy into Weardale Road.

On Lee High road itself the shops on Manor Park Parade (opposite the Rose of Lee, now Dirty South) had almost 2 metres of water in their basements).

At Lee Bridge water reached the top of the steps of the White Horse and there are rumours of paper money floating in the basement of the then Midland (now HSBC) Bank opposite, which were covered in a blog post on the last stretch of the Quaggy.

The bottom of the High Street flooded as the whole area around the Quaggy and Ravensbourne confluence was inundated – perhaps the most icon photograph of the floods are of the ‘Lewisham Lake’, it made the front page of the Daily Mirror but local people put on their wellies just got on with life as the photograph below outside the Odeon (formerly Gaumont) shows.

One of the largely culverted tributary streams of the Quaggy, Hither Green Ditch, seems to have flooded on Verdant Lane.

The Pool

The Pool effectively forms in Cator Park in Beckenham from the confluence of The Beck, Chaffinch Brook (which certainly flooded) and the River Willmore (often known as Boundary Stream).   Unsurprisingly, the River Pool flooded too at, and below, Bell Green.  The photograph below is from Winsford Road, with the backdrop of Grangemill Road in Bellingham (on a Creative Commons via David Wright on Geograph) – the area flooded to the left is still open ground and known locally as Dog Field (after a very short-lived greyhound track that was once there).  The high waters washed away large amounts of coke from the gas works, off screen right, which was deposited on the allotments behind Dog Field.

A little further upstream the Pool overflowed near Bell Green making the bridge from Southend Lane impassable other than by boat

Pool River in Flood - 1968

Elsewhere in the South East

Given the extent of the weather front it wasn’t surprising that the flooding wasn’t an isolated issue for Lewisham, although it was one of the areas that was hit worst; large swathes of south east England were flooded with rail contact between London and Kent was being completely cut.   Edenbridge in Kent was completely cut off after the River Eden, a tributary of the Medway, burst its banks. 150 passengers on a diverted train from Charing Cross to Hastings stuck on the train for almost 12 hours at the station there (6).

The AA described the picture from above with only a little exaggeration –  ‘The whole of the area form Essex to the Sussex-Hampshire border was like a giant lake, with dozens of main roads and hundreds of secondary roads flooded.’ (7)

In days when mobile communication is the norm – landlines were the only means of telecommunications – over 78,000 (9), including many in Lewisham were down as the GPO were overwhelmed (8).  Still 28,000 of those out of action by 19th September (10)

In the days that followed the flooding spread as the storm water made its way down the Thames – East Molesey being particularly badly affected. (11)

The Immediate Aftermath

In the days after the flood before the water subsided the army were brought into deliver food to those cut off on upper floors (14). Shops had sales of tinned food without labels which became something of a lucky dip and town centre shops, such as Chiesmans, had flood damage sales.

Basements were pumped out – including the Rose of Lee (now Dirty South) and no doubt the shops opposite.

The Mayor of Lewisham had used his dinghy to ferry a few people around and investigate what was happening on the ground (lake?) himself whilst the area was flooded (11).  However, the then Tory run council was accused of “falling down” on its duties.  Some victims were paid up to £1600 from surpluses on funds set up following the Lewisham Rail Crash in 1957 and the Hither Green one of 1967 (12).  Some were rehoused by the council, but beyond that, other than giving people a bottle of bleach, there seems to have been little practical support for those families make homeless or having had possessions ruined – particularly those who weren’t insured.  After the floods subsided, carpets were hung over fences and other possessions left outside in the hope that they would dry out and recover …..and then there would have been the smell as they probably didn’t properly dry out.

Lewisham’s population has changed a lot since 1968, many of the areas alongside the rivers have seen gentrification and those with better paying occupations move in.  It is easy to forget the changes in the last 50 years – ‘Employers, Managers and Professional Workers’ made up 34.5% of the adult population in last census in 2011 – in the census immediately after the floods in 1971 only 10.5% fell into this category.  Census employment categories have changed a lot over time but it is worth remembering that manual work still dominated in the area at the time of the floods.  Household contents insurance was rarer, and then, as now, poorer households didn’t have it.   While overall household insurance costs from the floods across south east England were estimated at £15 million (13), this would obviously not have taken into account those without.

There was little in the way of a Parliamentary debate about the floods – Parliament was in recess when the floods happened and seems to have moved-on by the time that the floods were debated in mid-October – in the Commons the focus was on farming and in the Lords, oddly on a telephone exchange in Cobham that was flooded for a couple of days.

Longer Term Changes

There was little change in approach to moving peak flows downstream, a continuation of plans that had been started on the River Willmore (Boundary Stream) in Penge and other local rivers of creating concrete banks and beds to move water on faster – sometimes referred to as ‘channelisation’.

 

This continued along parts of the Quaggy – notably between Grove Park and Eltham Bridge (see above); the River Pool between Bell Green and Catford had its meanders removed (left) and the concrete casing and straightening continued from its confluence with the Ravensbourne all the way through Catford, Ladywell and Lewisham (see below).

There were still occasional more localised flooding’s but the real downside of the concrete straight-jackets was that the lack of natural banks and beds meant that the rivers lost much of the plant and wildlife.

New approaches started to be developed from the late 1990s, with large scale flood water storage areas in Sutcliffe Park (above) and Weigall Road which hold peaks flows – much of this happening through work by QWAG, the Environment Agency and other local groups. Similar work is planned in Beckenham Place Park.   More natural, wider banks and meanders have been added and restored in several areas – notably in John Roan Playing Fields, Chinbrook Meadows, Manor Park and Ladywell Fields (below from late 2013) – these allow the rivers to hold more water in peaks, slow down flows and allow the return of plant and wildlife on banks.

Notes

  1. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Sep 17, 1968;
  2. Ibid
  3. The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 16, 1968; pg. 5; Issue 57357.
  4. The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 16, 1968; pg. 5; Issue 57357.
  5. ibid
  6. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Sep 17, 1968; pg. 1; Issue 57358. (796 words)
  7. The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 16, 1968; pg. 1
  8. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Sep 17, 1968; pg. 10; Issue 57358. (1129 words)
  9. The Times (London, England), Friday, Sep 20, 1968; pg. 2; Issue 57361. (376 words)
  10. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Sep 18, 1968; pg. 1; Issue 57359.  (792 words)
  11. South East London and Kentish Mercury 19 September 1968
  12. The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 16, 1968; pg. 1
  13. The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 23, 1968; pg. 4; Issue 57363.
  14. The Times (London, England), Friday, Sep 20, 1968; pg. 21; Issue 57361.

Picture Credits

  • Most of credited within the text
  • The Ordnance Survey map of the Pool’s meanders is via the National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
  • The photograph of Marvels Lane is from Borough Photographs, used with permission of Lewisham Archives
  • The photograph outside the Odeon has appeared numerous times on social media, never credited – if you are the copyright owner do let me know so that I can credit you (or remove if you would prefer.
  • The remaining 1968 photos were copied by Emily Hay from Lewisham Archives and are used with the kind permission of both
  • The modern photographs are mine, feel free to use them, credited, for non-commercial purposes.

A massive thank you to Emily Hay both for the photos and talking with me about her childhood memories of the floods – it was really helpful and much appreciated.

The 1957 Lewisham Rail Crash

The evening rush hour of Wednesday 4 December 1957 was a very foggy one, while the Clean Air Act had been passed the year before it had yet to have a dramatic impact and fogs made worse by the pollutant laden air of the city were still common.

The train services had been disrupted throughout the day by the fog, the running order of trains had been changed and a Hastings train heading towards Ladywell was wrongly held at a red signal, on the assumption that a train heading towards Hayes was in front of it.  It wasn’t; the crowded electric commuter train was behind and stopped at a red signal close to St Johns, just beyond the point where the line from Nunhead joins, its brakes firmly on as it was on a slight incline at that point.

At just before 6:20 pm a late running steam train from Cannon Street to Ramsgate approached, its driver had missed two yellow warning signals and when he saw the lights of the Hayes train it was too late.  The Ramsgate train ploughed into the stationary Hayes-bound electric, the front coach of the former left the track and crashed into the bridge from Nunhead which partially collapsed onto the first three coaches of the still moving Ramsgate train – largely destroying them. The map above from the Ministry of Transport report shows the location, with the picture below showing the devastation under the bridge was from a few days later (1).

Further up the track two of the Hayes train carriages were forced upwards and together as a result of the impact from behind.  The accident could have been even worse as a train was approaching the bridge from Nunhead; fortunately the damage to the bridge caused a partial derailment and the driver saw the problems ahead and was able to stop in time.  The extent of the damage to the twisted bridge from above became visible as the fog cleared and daylight broke (2).

As was to happen a decade later with the Hither Green crash, local emergency services and people  (such as the unknown woman below (3)) responded to the aftermath of the crash. In a statement in Parliament the next day, the Transport Minister noted:

The Government would like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the outstanding work done, not only by the emergency services and the voluntary organisations but also by those living near the scene, who so unselfishly put their houses and their belongings at the disposal of the rescuers. The conditions in the dense fog and darkness were appallingly difficult and distressing, and there can be nothing but praise for all concerned who worked with such efficiency and determination throughout.

Express 5 Dec

The conditions that the rescue workers operated in were atrocious – one syndicated newspaper report (4) describing it as ‘Dante-esque’  – rescue workers ‘ moving like ghosts in the all-embracing fog guided by the screams of the injured trapped in the wreckage.’  There was too the evidence of everyday life of coats, gloves , handbags and briefcases strewn across the site along with Christmas parcels bought hours earlier in the West End scattered across the tracks – some just visible the following day in a photograph from the official report – the location with the art deco Grover Court to the left is clear.

While many of the casualties went to Lewisham Hospital they were also rushed to various other local hospitals, many of which are long lost to NHS rationalisation – St Alfege’s (later to become Greenwich) ,  the Brook, the Miller, St John’s (Morden Hill), St Giles (Camberwell) and  to the Maudsley – which had a small unit that dealt with serious head injuries and tumors.

In the Facebook discussions on the post there were lots of memories of those who ‘escaped’ the crash through small changes to their normal routine with themselves or relatives leaving work slightly late and not being able to get onto the train and in days before many homes had telephones those waiting fearing the worst – such as a brother, expected home at 7:00 pm, but not opening the door until nearly midnight.  There were those who were lucky in their ‘choice’ of carriages saving them.  There will have been others though where changes to their normal routines will have meant that they didn’t return home that night.

Both parents of one person who commented on one of the threads were involved – her father was in the Civil Defence and so he decided to go and assist. Her mother was found in the wreckage about 11.00 pm – she had moved carriage at London Bridge, a move that probably saved her life.   She was taken to Lewisham Hospital and seems to have been in for a while with operation to dislocated hips and pelvis. She never fully recovered from her injuries but she was stoic and was determined to get back to ‘normal’ as soon as she could.

Many suffered mental scars after surviving the crash or being involved with the recovery – one man described his 15 year old self who worked for a company who had heavy duty cutting gear working most of the night in the recovery efforts. While there was a subsequent court case relating to what we now would refer to as post-traumatic stress none of the survivors or those involved in the rescue received the sort of support that would happen now.

George W GregoryThe story of one survivor is worth telling in a little more detail. George Gregory (pictured), from Accrise near Folkestone, was one of those who, eventually, made it home.  He was an aviation underwriter at Lloyds who commuted every weekday – the carriage he was one of those that the bridge collapsed onto. He was able to get out onto the track, although was very cautious of the live rail.  With other surviving passengers he helped with the initial rescue work until the emergency services arrived – they managed to free 20-30 passengers from the wreckage.  He then worked with a doctor who was administering morphine – marking with a ‘M’ those who had received it with his pen.  He stayed on site for almost 3 hours helping the emergency services.

George stayed the night with a dock worker who lived near the station who had also been helping with the rescue effort before returning home the following day.  He was a little overwhelmed by the generosity of the couple he stayed with (and other local people) – the dock worker had given his coat away to a cold crash victim.  They wouldn’t wanted nothing more than thanks from him, but apparently he left some bank notes down the side of a chair before he left.

Despite surviving the crash, George carried the events of that commute home through the rest of his life.  He had survived when close friends and colleagues hadn’t and had given up his seat to a woman who never made it home. He suffered nightmares for years as a result of the crash – often waking his wife up by trying to drag her from their bed and ‘rescue’ her from the crash (5).

In the end, 90 passengers lost their lives that night; there are few, if any, peacetime incidents in Lewisham that caused as many fatalities – the December 1952 London smog with a total death toll of between 4,000 and 12,000 may have well have done over a few days but data doesn’t seem to be broken down by borough.

There was a Ministry of Transport inquiry to find out what happened and to try to learn for the future.  The report found that the driver he had failed to slow after passing two caution signals so he was unable to stop at the danger signal, although some newspaper reports of the inquest suggest that he never saw it due to the density of the fog.  It concluded that an automatic warning system would have prevented the collision, although recognised that there were lines with even more rudimentary warning systems that needed to be prioritised.

The inquest jury found, by a majority decision that the 90 deaths were due to ‘gross negligence’ but it was a verdict rejected by the coroner who recorded one of accidental death.  The driver of the Ramsgate train was charged with manslaughter, but was acquitted at a second trial; at the first the jury were unable to reach a verdict.

The memorial to the crash is slightly oddly at Lewisham station given the proximity of the crash to St Johns, but perhaps it is more visible there at a busier station.  It seems strange that it gives no idea of the sheer enormity of the scale of the loss of life; it is sad that there is almost as much space is devoted to the names of the commercial organisations (a newspaper, two private rail companies and a funeral director)  who ‘made possible’ the installation of the plaque as to the accident itself.

A full list of the names doesn’t seem to be available for the crash, on line at least – something that just wouldn’t happen now.  The names of 86 of the 90 fatalities have been pieced together from on-line press reports, as well as the friends and relatives of those who died responding to this post.    While there are some local (to Lewisham) people, given the routes and destinations of the trains most of the dead were from the areas around Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Dover and Beckenham.

The youngest victim was Graham Freeman who was just three and had visited Father Christmas on Oxford Street that afternoon and was returning to Catford. He was found dead at the scene – a toy drum crushed by him and he was still holding a soft toy when he was found by rescuers (6).

Pat BakerPatricia (Pat) Baker was 19 and had lived at 9 Lushington Road, Bellingham since she was a toddler. She had been a pupil at Holbeach Secondary School in Catford.  When she she left, she had gone to work in statistics for the Regent Oil Company and liked going to the pictures and dancing.  Her Dad had tried to get the same train but had failed.  In the tangled debris of the crash she had hung upside down for 3 hours but was still chatting and joking with her rescuers before being able to be cut free; she he died in the early hours of 5 December (7).

The impact on the families of those who died was significant too; Anthony Matthews of Tunbridge Wells died of his injuries a few days after the crash. His death left his widowed mother and two younger sisters in financial difficulties as he was the breadwinner. No support came from British Rail.

Unlike the Hither Green crash a decade later, this crash felt a much longer time ago, the smaller hospitals of the early NHS, the pre-nationalisation steam trains and the rudimentary signalling and warning systems (semaphore was still used elsewhere).  They belonged to a different era, much less safe one – although as the 2016 Sandilands tram derailment showed, no rail system is 100% safe.

Next time you are travelling towards Lewisham through St Johns or from Nunhead, while the train probably won’t stop, at least pause for thought – the crash location will be obvious to even the occasional traveller on the line, remember those who died, remember that your journey is that little bit safer because of what happened to them.

image

Those who died included

  • Ms Agnes Adams (Embleton Road, Ladywell)
  • Mr Richard Allchin (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Joseph Allen (unknown)
  • Mr Leonard Ambrose (Tonbridge)
  • Ms Rosemary Gillian Ashley (Beckenham)
  • Miss Patricia Baker (Lushington Road, Bellingham)
  • Mr R A Baker (Beckenham)
  • Mr Morris J Banfield (Tonbridge)
  • Mr John Barnard (Tonbridge)
  • Mr P B Bassett (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Anthony Berkeley (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Mr Guthrie Birch (Folkestone)
  • Denise Bridle (Catford)
  • Mr F J Bond (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Charlesworth (West Wickham)
  • Pte Kenneth (wrongly referred to as Arthur) Clift (Hexal Road, Catford)
  • Mr Leonard Colin (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Coombs (Ashford)
  • Mr Roy Coppard (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Mr C A Davis (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Mr V B Emes (Abbey Wood)
  • Fusilier Brian England (Dover)
  • Mr C Everard (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Alfred Ernest Fletcher (Southborough)
  • Mr R Gibson Fleming
  • Mr Graham Freeman (Catford)
  • Mr H R Green (Horsmonden)
  • Mr Brian Hallas (Southborough)
  • Mr W J Halsey (Dymchurch)
  • Mr C Halstead (West Wickham)
  • Ms Florence Ada Harries (Persant Road, Excalibur Estate, Catford)
  • Mr Percy Heaver (Dover)
  • Ms Jospehine Henning (unknown)
  • Mr William Hicks (Sunderland Road, Forest Hill)
  • Miss Barbara Hubbard (Beckenham)
  • Mr M Humphries (Tonbridge)
  • Mr S T Humphries (Tonbridge)
  • Mr George Huxtable (Shirley)
  • Mr Colin James (Folkestone)
  • Mr Brian Jarrett (Pembury)
  • Mr Thomas Sydney Kennett (Dover)
  • Mr Sidney Lawrence (High Wycombe)
  • Miss E Leary (West Wickham)
  • Mr Liddle (Little) (Pembury)
  • Ms Eileen Mary Maskins (Downham)
  • Mr T W March (Tonbridge)
  • Miss F L Masters (Mastens) (Grove Park)
  • Mr  Anthony Donald Matthews (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Mr McGauge (Not known)
  • Mr McGregor (Southborough)
  • Mr A R McGregor (Tonbridge)
  • Mr R D McGregor (Hildenborough)
  • Mr Robert Morley (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Rodney Newbery (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Vernon Newland (Beckenham)
  • Mr T F Nightingale (Tonbridge)
  • Miss A Noakes (Tonbridge)
  • Mr FJR Norris (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Mr C North (Chislehurst)
  • Mr Harry North (Folkestone)
  • Mr Andrew Phillips (New Romney)
  • Mr Edward Phillips (Beckenham)
  • Mr Colin Pope (Saltwood, near Folkestone)
  • Mr E J Pope (Hythe)
  • Dr Harold Priestley (Lewisham Park, Lewisham)
  • Mr Arthur Reeves (Romborough Way, Lewisham)
  • Mr L Relfe (Tonbridge)
  • Mr R W Reynolds (Crutchley Road, Downham)
  • Mr Derek Rose (Ardgowan Road, Catford)
  • Mr C E Rowson (Beckenham)
  • Mr Royle (Silvermere Road, Catford)
  • Mr Sedgewick (Dover)
  • Mr John Sherrott (West Wickham)
  • Mr John Shotton (Fordmill Road, Catford)
  • Mr Peter Slipper (Tonbridge)
  • Mr Edward Snook (Folkestone)
  • Mr Andrea Sofokis (Pomphret Road, Brixton)
  • Mr F Steeples (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Mr Charles George Stone (Southborough)
  • Mr Roy Harold Taylor (Folkestone)
  • Mr Roy Taylor (Tonbridge)
  • Mr R W Taylor (London)
  • Mrs S M Taylor (Broadfield Road, Catford)
  • Mr William Tidman (Beckenham)
  • R Wells (Camden)
  • Mr Ronald Williams (Downderry Road, Downham)
  • Mr Vernon Williams (Beckenham)
  • Mr John Wood (Tonbridge)
  • Mr W J Wyard (Hythe)

Notes

  1. Illustrated London News 14 December 1957
  2. The Sphere 14 December 1957
  3. Daily Express 5 December 1957
  4. Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail 5 December 1957
  5. George’s story comes from both a local paper – the Folkestone, Hythe and District Herald of 7 December 1957 and a emails from his daughter who also supplied his photograph.
  6. Daily Express 6 December 1957
  7. ibid