The Roebuck was a Lewisham pub that dated back until at least the 1740s, possibly earlier. In recent times its address was in Rennell Street but originally it was located on the High Street next to one of the two arms of the Quaggy as it joined the Ravensbourne. The other ‘arm’ had a pub too, the Plough, which Running Past covered a while ago.
In between the two pubs was Plough Green, named after the Plough, and before the Enclosure Acts which allowed the wealthy and powerful to ‘enclose’ common land, there was an area of grass “Plough Green” roughly around the area of the old town centre roundabout; it was home a St Thomas Day fair – the Green is shown below (source on a Creative Commons) – the building shown was an early incarnation of the Roebuck. This area was enclosed in 1810 and built upon. (1)
The two arms of the Quaggy were obvious in early Ordnance Survey maps, the Roebuck is the realtively large building just north of Rennell Street. It was almost opposite the Lewisham Tollgate – marked ‘Lewisham TH.’ (Image on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland).
The first mention of the pub was in parish registers in 1742 (2) It was originally at 40-42 the High Street and it seems to have had a garden or bowling green at the side of it – which was later built upon. The garden had a chestnut tree, in the picture below, which was said to have been planted in 1683 (3).
The William Miller referred in the picture of the pub, was the landlord from around 1834, the previous landlord was a William Lance – he decided to return to his former trade as a hatmaker (4). Miller was probably from Lewisham (his sister certainly was), he died in 1849, but his wife, Elizabeth, took over the tenancy – the owners were Roach and Hill (5) – helped by his son Robert, who was also listed as a licensed victualler in the 1851 census. Elizabeth Hall was from Westerham in Kent, although had lived in Lewisham since 1825, possibly earlier, as Robert was born there. The rate book listed the pub as having assembly rooms, garden, yard, stables and building land (4). Elizabeth was to remain the publican until around 1863 (6). In the 1851 census there were two relatives living at the Roebuck, one working as a barmaid, along with three servants and two paying lodgers.
Robert had moved on by 1861 but a daughter Eliza had returned to work at the pub along with her husband, George Beven who was running the stables at the Roebuck.
After the Millers left there was a steady trickle of licensees; in 1871 the landlord was Richard Wooff who was 40 – he lived there with his wife Hannah and 4 children and a neice – there were three live-in servants helping to run the Roebuck. He seems to have later moved on to the Three Tuns in Blackheath (now O’Neill’s) with one of his sons.
At the 1881 census James Tyrell from Rainham was the ‘Licensed Victualler’, also living there was his wife Frances, three children and three servants. The beer around this time was supplied by the Nicholls brothers from the Anchor Brewery in Lewisham, which was covered by Running Past a while ago, whose offices (below) still remain in Tesco’s car park.
A decade later, Samuel and Elizabeth Fryatt were running the Roebuck (or Roe Back as it is incorrectly transcribed in the census…). The Fryatts had six live-in staff including one with the wonderfully named role of Potman and Billiard Marker. Around this time the pub moved to the corner of Rennell Street, its former site was later to become the Gaumont (picture below from postcard – eBay Nov 2016). The new building didn’t stop the steady flow of publicans though, Owen Ward from Ireland was there in 1901, when the census enumerator called, but had moved on by 1905, to be replaced by EE Coley. Charles and Beatrice Freeman had arrived by 1911, he from Brighton, she from Portsmouth. The business was creating enough trade to support three live-in barmaids, two cooks and a domestic nurse – presumably to look after the Freemans’ children. The Freemans certainly lasted longer than many of their predecessors; they were still there in 1921 Post Office Directory.
Leonard Jennings was the landlord by 1938 and in the 1939 Register; he was a Bermondsey boy, born in 1877 – he married Sarah Elizabeth in 1906 in Southwark. They had moved on by the end of World War Two, Leonard passing away in Greenwich in 1947. One of the next landlords (1956) was W H J Harris.
The pub moved again, probably in the late 1950s or early 1960s, from its impressive position on the corner of the High Street and Rennell Street to a position a little further back down Rennell Street. There are a couple of photos courtesy of Boak and Bailey’s Beer Blog – one each of its exterior and interior from 1961.
It had a function room (downstairs) where bands played – those performing there included the local ‘legend’ Albert Lee, who grew up in Kidbrooke Park Road in Blackheath – according to several comments on Facebook threads relating to this post he was a regular performer there. It also nearly saw the demise of Dave from Chas ‘n’ Dave who was non-fatally electrocuted on stage there whilst playing with The Tumbleweeds. Other famous names spotted there included Lee Brilleaux from the Feelgoods, alas this wasn’t as a performer, but to buy some cigarettes before a gig at the Gaumont around the corner.
During the 1970s the Roebuck also became a relatively well-known Country & Western venue on Tuesday nights, hosting bands in the basement. A Facebook thread from a while ago fondly recalled a local singing postman who was renowned for his rendition of Charley Pride’s ‘The Crystal Chandelier.’ Around the same era a Shadows tribute band called Apache who played regularly at the venue.
Other Facebook reminiscences from this post included Saturday nights which frequently saw tribute acts in the basement including Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison and the Everley Brothers. After the bar closed, some went to the Gaumont on the pub’s former site for late night ‘pictures’. Kicking out from there would be after the last bus – so it would be a long walk home.
The YouTube video of Dreamstate performing there in 1991 gives a few glimpses of what the room was like (the volume is at Spinal Tap 11, so you may want to turn down the sound on your device before opening ….)
Harry Robinson was landlord during the 1980s and also owned Lewisham firm Robinson’s Hauliers based in Thurston Road. My own recollections are from a decade later – my memory is of a dark, dismal place with little natural light and a blurry fag smoke fug even when there were few drinkers lighting-up.
Within a year or two of my last visit, the Roebuck became a gay bar, initially retaining the Roebuck name but latterly it was known as Bar Phoenix (see above on a Wikipedia Creative Commons), which included ‘weekly drag entertainment’. There are a few on-line reviews from that era
The Roebuck, near Lewisham Shopping Centre, is dire, but has to be seen to be believed. It attracts a strange mix of ‘fresh’ and ‘experienced’ faces.
This gay-friendly bar is a real find. I’d heard good things about The Roebuck from friends so last Saturday we trooped off to the place anticipating a good night. We simply had a ball. The service was outstanding and the atmosphere unrivalled by any bars in the area. The Roebuck has got to be seen to be believed!
It remained until around the end of the first decade of the 21st century before it was demolished – part of the early preparation work for the redevelopment of the northern end of Lewisham town centre. Rennell Street still exists; it is part of a short stretch of dual carriageway to be endured by those passing through the town centre by road with risks of high levels of pollution.
The final resting place of the pub is ‘marked’ by a pedestrian crossing (left, below) with its Victorian incarnation remembered via The Roebuck Memorial Traffic Lights (right, below).
- Leland Duncan (1908) History of the Borough of Lewisham p96
- ibid p77
- ibid p77
- Ken White The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham 6c p233
Census and related data comes via Find My Past
Lewisham has a namesake in the south western Sydney suburbs named after its south east London equivalent. The New South Wales Lewisham, was given the name in 1834 from the estate of Jacob Josephson, which was sold after his death by his son, Joshua, in the 1850s for development.
Jacob was transported for 14 years in May 1818 for having forged £1 notes in his possession. His son Joshua and his mother made the same journey to New South Wales in 1820. Jacob had been on the run before his arrest and running up considerable bank debts and absconding with church silver whilst working as a clerk to a parish church. He seems to have never been charged with the theft as his punishment could have been considerably greater. Once in Australia he set himself up in his former trade as a silversmith but again got into considerable debt and ended up in a debtors’ prison.
Once out of prison he seems to have made a large amount of money as a publican in several locations in New South Wales, it would be appear that part of this money was used to buy land, including what was to become Lewisham.
So where does the link to south east London come from? Sadly, it isn’t clear, the church that Jacob Josephson was clerk to and ran away with the silver from was in Bethnal Green. The offence for which he was transported was tried in Oxford and at the time of the offence was living just north of Oxford.
The land in the area had been ‘granted’ by the first Governor, Arthur Phillip (who had been educated at what is now Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College) by around 1809. This was a decade or so before Josephson arrived in the colony, so one possibility might have been that an earlier owner had a link to south east London. Sadly, nothing is obvious though – the two largest parts of the Lewisham estate were ‘granted’ to an the emancipated convicts, George Gambling, who had been convicted in Hampshire in 1797, and to John White from County Fermanagh, So, sadly, it remains something of a mystery where the link to Lewisham.
Transportation began to be used as a punishment in the early 18th century – Running Past has covered it before in relation to the Scottish Political Martyrs remembered at Nunhead Cemetery – see below.
It continued until 1857 when it was replaced by the slightly more enlightened penal servitude, which those who have been reading the blog for a while may recall was the punishment meted out to the Deptford anarchist and Post Office bomber Rolla Richards.
The Old Bailey’s on-line archives offer a fascinating insight into crime and punishments – by modern standards many of the sentences seem incredibly harsh – transportation for ten years for burglary without any aggravating factors would perhaps warrant a custodial term of 2 years now. Some of the theft cases that saw the perpetrators Australia bound may only have seen community orders.
The cases below all have a Lewisham (south east London) link in either the crime and/or the residence of the perpetrator, sadly with all of them it isn’t clear what became of them once they reached the Antipodes.
James Moore – Theft of Flutes from Colfe’s School
Moore was convicted of ‘burglariously breaking and entering’ the home of Joseph Prendergast, at Lewisham, who then head of Colfe’s School off Lewisham Road, his will was to enable the founding of the Prendergast School. He and an accomplice stole two flutes, with a value of £5 and £3 and a hat valued at 2/6d (13p). Moore was transported for 15 years in 1837.
William Skilton – Bigamy
Skilton (Skelton) was convicted of bigamy in 1837; he had married Mary Ann Wyld in Newington in 1820, Anne Sarah Wilkinson in Islington in 1826 and finally Esther Pink at St Mary’s, Lewisham (below) in 1829. On arrest he was reported as having said “What if I have had three wives, two of them turned out bad ones, and now I have got a third I suppose you won’t let me keep her.” Skilton was sentenced to seven years for each offence – seemingly to run consecutively.
George Baker, George Bassett & John Grant – Burglary
The three men were convicted of ‘burglariously breaking and entering’ the home and business of a Lewisham grocer, taking coins and notes of almost £100 along with various goods of some considerable value one night in February 1844. The trio then went on a drinking spree taking in Deptford and Poplar, before heading to the brothels and bars of the Strand area. Baker, Bassett and Grant were sentenced for 10 years transportation.
Samuel Ewins – Robbery
Ewins was indicted for a robbery, with violence on Loampit Vale, close to the former Hope Tavern, stealing from a 15 year old a watch and chain, value £14 along with around 6/2d (31p) in cash. He was transported for 10 years in 1853.
Henry Pickett – Burglary
Henry Pickett was found guilty of ‘burglariously breaking and entering’ and stealing two coats, a cap and a pair of boots from George Selby of Ravensbourne Park in Catford. Based on the 1851 census, George Selby was a solicitor who lived on a farm which appears to have been managed by one of his sons. Ravensbourne Park was to become an extremely desirable location with the arrival of the railway at Catford Bridge six years later, but already had a small number of large houses in the early 1850s. The postcard below (eBay April 2016) was from a few decades later, but the look of the area, other than the station, would have been little different. Pickett was apprehended after his accomplice tried to sell some of the goods in Deptford.
While his accomplice was sent to prison for two years, Pickett was sentenced to be transported for 10 years. However, he never made to long voyage to Botany Bay as he seems to have ended up with a lesser prison sentence and was released from Portsmouth prison in 1855.
Thank you to the ever helpful Julian Watson for being able to rule out the theft of the silver being from St Mary’s, Lewisham and pinpointing it to Bethnal Green. Thank you also to Aleem Aleemullah, Local Studies Librarian at Inner West Council (which includes the ‘other’ Lewisham) in the Sydney suburbs who was very helpful in providing some Antipodean local knowledge and getting me a little further along what proved to be a dead-end in trying to work out the link Jacob Josephson or his estate had to south London’s Lewisham.
The 1851 census data comes via Find My Past.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
1 Rhind, N (1976) Blackheath Village and Environs 1790 to 1970 (Bookshop Blackheath Ltd.) p71
2 ibid p71
3 ibid p67
4 ibid p105
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)
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 hoped 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.
Gunpowder 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,
It was clear from his trial that Richards had some mental health issues and/or some learning disabilities – he was described several times during the trial as ‘eccentric’ and was ‘confined as a lunatic for nine months in 1883-84 in the Greenwich Infirmary.’
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 – where he was described as ‘feeble minded.’
He was released on a conditional licence in 1903. He seems to have moved to the Bromley area on release, he married Emma Jane McNeale there in 1904. They were living in Melrose Road in Biggin Hill in 1911, although neither were working, in previous censuses this would have been described as ‘living on own means’.
The Richards next door neighbour was William Nelson, a professional photographer, who captured Rolla Richards on film – he was, at best, seen as somewhat eccentric – as the photograph with a tricycle and a cat on his shoulder at least implies. The mental health problems that came out during his trial, in the 1901 census as well as the 1881 census where he was described as an ‘invalid ‘seemed to have re-surfaced in Biggin Hill. Stories of him attempting to burn down the Nelson’s home have been passed down through that family’s history.
He died in 1929 in the Bromley area and someone of the same unusual name bequeathed £500 to provide bells and a clock for the tower of St Peter & Paul, Cudham.
The bequest was part of an estate valued at £1672. Where the money came from is a mystery. As a watchmaker recently out of prison he is unlikely to have earned sufficient money to retire by 1911. He had married in 1904, his wife, Emma was a recent widow – her husband died in Greenwich in 1902, but as he was listed as a lighterman in the 1901 census, he is unlikely to have been wealthy.
It is much more likely to have been inherited from his father, William, who was listed as a widower living on his own means in the 1901 census, after being a Cooper in the previous two censuses. William died later in 1901. If this is the case he too must have inherited the wealth, being a cooper is unlikely to be trade generating enough to retire on.
- Daily News (London, England), Thursday, August 16, 1894; Issue 15094
- Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Thursday, August 16, 1894; Issue 11282.
- The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, January 18, 1896; pg. 38; Issue 1808
- The Morning Post (London, England), Tuesday, February 25, 1896; pg. 3; Issue 38600.
- Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Wednesday, February 3, 1897; Issue 8643
- For example – Reynolds’s Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, April 5, 1896; Issue 2382
- Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, February 7, 1897
- Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, April 11, 1897; Issue 2838
Census and other related data are from Find My Past.
Thank you to John Nelson for allowing me to use the photograph that his father took as well as filling in some of the details of Rolla Richards’ will and life in Biggin Hill.
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.
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.
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.