Tag Archives: Lewisham

In Search of Upper Kid Brook

Logically this post should start at the beginning but there is no scenic setting for the source of the Upper Kid Brook, and I don’t want to put readers off so the end, the outflow, must be the beginning on this occasion – alongside the St Stephen’s Church, Lewisham.

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Its architect was George Gilbert Scott, better known for his gothic revival work, such as St Giles, Camberwell, and the St Pancras hotel and station. St Stephens is somewhat different

thirteenth-century, with some French details – ‘eclecticism of a chastened kind, and the union in some degree of the merits of the different styles’

But as rivers should be followed downstream, it is back to the beginning in what used to be a marshy area in north east corner in bend of Hervey Road at the junction with Begbie Road, close to the lower end of Shooters Hill Road. There is nothing tangible to see of the Brook around here, there are upstream pointing contour lines of the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map at 40 metres, close to the north western corner of the playing field between Begbie Road and Wricklemarsh Road.

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Eastbrook Road has a perceptible dip, just behind the fallen tree in the photo, a likely pointer to the Brook’s original course.

The 35 metre OS map contour clue is in the gardens of homes close to the south eastern side of the Kidbrooke Grove and Kidbrooke Gardens. On the ground another distinguishable dip on Kidbrooke Grove and the Victorian ‘Brook House’ offer further hints as to the course.

To the west of Kidbrooke Grove there are some man-made signs of the course of the still underground the Brook (it was apparently piped underground around here at the time the railway was built in 1849) – old boundary markers that followed the Brook are alongside the path bordering Morden College on a narrow fenced off green strip of grass. This ‘strip’ is clear from the OS map too as the ‘valley’ marked by the 35 metre contour is around 25 metres wide centring on the path.

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There is more of the same at the front of Morden College as the contours and boundary markers cuts across its grounds – there is a marker on their front lawn and then another against the far wall of the Lodge.

The next few metres of the route are easy to work out; the ground drops away quickly to the east of the Paragon. Perhaps once the Brook babbled and tumbled down a series of small waterfalls in some pastoral idyll, but the current reality is a little less bucolic, it is almost certainly the same as much of the route so far – at best, a buried pipe.

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Behind the Paragon the Brook flows through the Fulthorp Road estate, named after a 15the century landowner, the land was compulsorily purchased by Greenwich Council after WW2 and was the first council housing within the Cator Estate in1954 using a neo-Georgian style to try to fit in with the surrounding architecture.

The Brook used to supply a pond on the imaginatively named Pond Road, which formed a reservoir for the Wricklemarsh Estate.

While the pond is long gone, its western side is clearly demarked by the low boundary wall. The Brook’s course was to the west south west from the pond, although this may well have changed once it was diverted underground.

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Below the Pond there were considerable problems with winter flooding due to heavy rain and snow melt with flooding of up to three feet (one metre) reported around the current centre of the ‘village’ (1). One of the methods used to try to alleviate the problem was the creation of a series of small reservoirs – the biggest of which was known as The Canal and was behind the current Blackheath Grove. The water was used to irrigate Hally’s Nursery there in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (2).

There had been an attempt to alter the course of the Brook in the dip in ‘The Village’, which was then referred to as Dowager’s Bottom (orHole), in the early 18th century by Gregory Page, owner of Wricklemarsh. It was perhaps an early attempt to deal with flooding problems, but Page was ordered by a court at the Green Man on Blackheath Hill to restore the line of the stream or pay a penalty of £10 (3).

The Brook’s valley was taken over by the North Kent Railway from 1849 and the Brook itself hidden from view. It flowed along the back of what is now Blackheath Grove, under the Post Office then crossing Tranquil Vale opposite the entrance to the station car park. The old boundaries would have it flowing just north of the car park, which was once railway sidings, but Edith’s Streets suggests a re-routing at this point to allow housing. It may actually have been buried under the tracks at this point, there are suggestions that after heavy rain it can be heard whilst waiting on the platforms, this may of course be just wishful thinking ….

There was frequent flooding from the Brook in this area too; Neil Rhind’s excellent book on Blackheath, refers to clearing them being a task for the Hollis family, who lived in former cottages in Tranquil Vale (4).

Its former route of the Brook is almost certainly hidden beneath the 1970s Lewisham council housing of Hurren Close, and then crossing Heath Lane (formerly Lovers Lane) to St Jospeh’s Vale.

Just before this point, there may have been a small tributary joining the Brook, there is a small valley clear on OS maps, starting around The Orchard on the Heath, as well as an obvious dip in Eliot Vale, the course would have then broadly followed Baizdon Road to the Brook.

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The 1894 large scale OS map has the Brook feeding two small lakes, one complete with a boating house, which were part of the estate of The Cedars on Belmont Hill. There are upstream pointing 20 metre contours line is at the south western edge of St Josephs Vale.

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(Alan Godfrey 1894 Blackheath and Greenwich Park)
The course then cuts to the other side of the railway around the bottom of Belmont Grove, where not to be outdone by their neighbours, the owners of Belmont, another large house on Belmont Hill also had a small lake fed by the Brook. Belmont was where roads such as Boyne and Caterham Roads now sit.

The lake has long since gone; most recently covered by a housing association development whose service road, at the top of Cressingham Road, the Brook follows. It continues through the back gardens between Cressingham and Boyne Roads. There is another tell-tale dip in the road in Lockmeade Road before following St Stephens Grove for the last 100 metres or so to The Quaggy.

There used to be an old boundary stone that marked the outflow point just south of St Stephen’s Church, but this may have disappeared with the development of the police station. Unlike the Mid Kid Brook, even the outflow isn’t that obvious – there are three pipes above the channelised bank of The Quaggy which all flowed in the rain but were water free on a dry day.

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Notes

1 Rhind, N (1976) Blackheath Village and Environs 1790 to 1970 (Bookshop Blackheath Ltd.) p71
2 ibid p71
3 ibid p67
4 ibid p105

Rolla Richards – The New Cross Post Office Bomber

There was an explosion at around 10:15 pm on Tuesday 14 August 1894 at the then Post Office at 177 New Cross Road – today a nondescript shop front

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A man was seen passing the Five Bells pub, about 30 metres from the Post Office, carrying a small parcel, then hurrying away down Hatcham Park Road soon after and followed by a small explosion at the Post Office. It caused ‘considerable noise which greatly alarmed those in the immediate vicinity.’ (1)

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At the Post Office, the police had found the remains of a tube upon which were written (2)

In memory of Ravachol, Vaillant, Bourdin, Polti, Santo.  Vive L’Anarchie.

All were well known anarchists who had died or been imprisoned as part of their activities – Bourdin had blown himself up, probably unintentionally in Greenwich, this was covered in Running Past in 2014; Vaillant had been responsible for the bombing of the French Chamber of Deputies.  So it was rather odd that it was reported that ‘the authorities do not entertain the theory that the explosion was the work of Anarchists.’ (3)  Some press reports though did make the clear and obvious linkage – referring  to it as an ‘anarchist outrage’ (4).

This wasn’t the only Post Office explosion in south east London in the 1890s – there was another in Lewisham High Street in January 1896. The small post office ‘filled with smoke and the smell of gunpowder was noticeable.’ While fittings were damaged by the ‘sardine tin shaped bomb’, there seemed to be no structural damage.  The perpetrator was described as a ‘dastardly scoundrel’ and the Illustrated London News hope that a ‘heavy punishment would be meted out to the bomb ruffians’ (5).  There was no mention of anarchists at all on this occasion, despite press reports linking it with the New Cross bombing.

This approach continued after the forensic results were made public – when it was reported that ‘The authorities at first thought that the outrage was the work of an anarchist. They now believe that it was committed by some imbecile or other irresponsible person.’ (6)

This official line didn’t seem to help the police with their inquiries, there was a further attack on a Post Office on Trafalgar Road in East Greenwich in January 1897, which seems to have received little publicity at the time (7).  However, it appears that the police started to infiltrate the relatively large Deptford anarchist group who met at Deptford Broadway – their meetings occasionally got mentions in the left leaning Reynolds News (8).

These meetings led the police to a watchmaker, Rolla Richards (the court reports incorrectly call him Rollo), who had been heard talking about effectiveness of different explosives in late January 1897 and they raided his home at 136 Edward Street in Deptford.

Richards1Gunpowder and various other bomb making equipment was found at Edward Street (pictured, left (9) and Richards was charged with ‘Feloniously causing an explosion by gunpowder on August 14th, 1894, likely to endanger life.’ Initially he was changed with all three explosions but the Old Bailey record only covers the New Cross Road charge, although it notes that ‘There were two other indictments against the prisoner for similar offences.’.

Richards was linked to the New Cross explosion by pieces of card and paper from the parcel bomb, more of which was found at Edward Street A handwriting expert identified some of the surviving fragments of writing which were quoted above as being in the ‘hand’ of Richards,

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Richards, pictured above from a sketch at his trial (10), was sentenced to seven years hard labour, which according to 1901 census records he spent at Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight. He was released on a conditional licence in 1903. He seems to have moved to the Bromley area on release, he married Emma Jane Macneale there in 1904.  They were living in Melrose Road in Biggin Hill in 1911, although neither were working.  He died in 1929 in the Bromley area and someone of the same unusual name bequeathed money to provide bells and a clock for the tower of St Peter & Paul, Cudham in 1931.

Notes

  1. Daily News (London, England), Thursday, August 16, 1894; Issue 15094
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Thursday, August 16, 1894; Issue 11282.
  5. The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, January 18, 1896; pg. 38; Issue 1808
  6. The Morning Post (London, England), Tuesday, February 25, 1896; pg. 3; Issue 38600.
  7. Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Wednesday, February 3, 1897; Issue 8643
  8. For example – Reynolds’s Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, April 5, 1896; Issue 2382
  9. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, February 7, 1897
  10. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, April 11, 1897; Issue 2838

Census and other related data are from Find My Past.

Garibaldi in Lewisham

Sadly this is not a post about links between the Borough in which I have made my home and Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of the ‘founding fathers’ of modern Italy, rather it is about the eponymous biscuits.

The Old Biscuit Factory is one of the better new buildings around Hither Green; I run past it a couple of times a week at night during the winter but today’s run included a day time run past.

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The Old Biscuit Factory was the site of Chiltonian Biscuits – their baking plant started in around 1911 in Staplehurst Road and expanded during WW1 making army biscuits.

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They moved to another site on Manor Lane in 1925, where it was latterly the home to Dad’s Cookies, Lemon Puffs and the link to the title, Garibaldi biscuits, until its closure in the early 1980s. While biscuit manufacture has gone, the Chiltonian name lives on through an industrial estate that is now on the site. By a strange coincidence the last non-residential user of the Staplehurst Road site, Drain Centre, made the same relocation as Chiltonian biscuits.

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The 1911 date suggested in the National Archives may have been slightly early, as the Staplehurst Road site was home to a short lived cinema – the Globe, later the Playhouse, which apparently closed it’s doors for the final time in 1915; this is covered in the excellent Lewisham’s Lost Cinemas blog.