Tag Archives: Lochaber Hall

87 Old Road – From Lee Working Men’s Institution to Chiesmans & Flats

A while ago Running Past covered the Lee Centre – originally a hall and meeting place built in the late 1880s originally known as the Lee Institute ‘For the use and benefit of the men and lads of Lee.’   There was similar organisation and building less than 50 metres away when it was built – it was known as Lee Working Men’s Institution.   The building and its successor, which was a warehouse for Chiesmans store, have an interesting history.

With the words  ‘working men’ is in the name one could be forgiven for thinking that Lee Working Men’s Institution was, perhaps, akin to a working men’s club – somewhere for the working class of Lee to meet.  It was nothing of the sort; it was very much the preserve of the wealthy of the parish – although this wasn’t how they saw themselves.

The original venue for the Institute was in Boone Street, numberless, but between 9 and 11 in the 1870 Kelly’s Directory, its likely location is shown below.   It opened its doors in September 1854 – to a packed room, with a number outside, its chairman, a Mr Bennett of Blackheath suggested that members should ‘recognise no class – the corded jacket should have as much respect as the black coat.’  It was seen as a means of sharing knowledge through lectures and the printed word – a lending and reference library and reading room books and newspapers (1).  Unlike equivalent halls elsewhere, there was to be no popular entertainment – musical hall type acts or the like.

The original plan was for members to deliver lectures on their trades so that others could learn from them (2).  In practice though most of the lectures seem to have been given by Dr William Carr, the local GP – who gave talks on subjects ranging from ‘Low Prices and How to Profit from Them’ (3) to ‘Life in Russia’ (4).  A recurring theme though was poverty, drunkenness and overcrowding amongst the poor in the neighbourhood – Carr lecturing on this in 1864 and ‘gave great satisfaction’ to a ‘large attendance’ (in the small hall) (5); it was a subject that he returned to in 1871 (6).

Other lectures in 1868 were noted to include the dwellings of the poor, Trades Unions (7).

The Institution was home to a variety of other meetings, including Deptford and Greenwich Unemployment Relief Fund in 1866 (8) as well as the Lee and Blackheath Horticultural Society.  A frequent speaker there was  also Dr Carr, who on  New Year’s Eve 1868 gave the 3rd in a series of, no doubt, riveting lectures on ‘The food of plants and the sources from whence it is derived: the absorption and circulation of fluids and respiration.’ There is no report as to the numbers attending and the impact that it had on the trade of the neighbouring pubs, notably the Woodman (9).

By 1866 they had started to look for larger premises than their small room in Boone Street and were looking at a site around the junction of what is now Kinsgwood Place and Dacre Park – ‘the very centre of Lee’ (10).  By this stage they had around 500 members and included a temperance society ‘which found a home within their walls’ as they recognised that ‘their great rival’ was the public house (11).  This temperance society seems to have become part of the national Band of Hope by 1871 (12).

By 1868 the land had been bought and there was a fund of £400 that had been put aside for the building work (13), which was added to later that year by a bazaar which was held in the grounds of Blackheath College (now Blackheath Hospital) in Lee Terrace and took over £400 on the first of 3 days (14). The Institution ran ‘benefit clubs’ for the poor along with a ‘coal club’ too (15).

The move from Boone Street took until 1877 to happen though – there seem to have been problems with the site on Dacre Park and then issues with permissions from the local Board of Works, these delays seem to have cost the Institution as, by 1875, despite the regular fetes and bazaars they had only £600 in the bank towards the likely costs of £1100.  A contract was signed though with Messrs Gates of Lee and Eltham to build on a new site in Old Road, on what is now behind shops on Lee High Road (16).

It took another two years for the Institute to open in October 1877 – it was described as

comprising a library and reading room on the ground floor, with club and committee rooms above and in (the) rear a hall, well lighted, with seats for 400 persons; there is a library of 800 volumes and the reading room is well supplied with daily and weekly newspapers and periodicals.

Similar fayre continued in the new home for the Institution, although without the inimitable Dr Carr who died in 1877.  This included a winter series of ‘penny readings’ where members recited poems, gave readings and sang relatively serious songs, ending with the National Anthem (17) .  With a larger venue, classical chamber music began to be offered to the locals of Lee (18) – although sometimes with ‘moderate’ audiences (19) and also it became a venue for amateur dramatics (20) The Horticultural Society continued to meet there and put up a lean to enable the growing of peaches (20).

The move seemed to be a success with 1000 members reported in 1880, with popular life assurance and sickness benefit schemes, the coal club continued and the Lewisham, Lee and Blackheath Buidling Society, formed in 1877, was based there. There was still a debt on the building but this was being paid off (22).  In some ways the Institution was becoming the very model of self-help suggested by the eminent Granville Park resident Samuel Smiles.

Political meetings started to happen by the mid-1880s in a way that would have been perhaps frowned upon by those who set up the Institute, with meetings in opposition to what became the Local Government act of 1884 which would have impacted on the power of many of the leading lights of the Institute, Liberal Party hosting held there during the 1885 General Election (23) as did the sitting Conservative MP, Viscount Lewisham (24)

Children’s entertainment had been added to the repertoire of the Institute by 1885 including the dissolving view entertainment – a form of magic lantern (26).  Around the same time quadrille classes started to be offered – perhaps the salsa of its day (27).

It is clear that there were issues with the structure from an early stage – it was noted in an unrelated newspaper report that the building had suffered from structural problems, leading to a decision not to renew a musical licence in 1886. (28)

During the 1880s it seems that any pretensions of this being a working men’s club had disappeared and it was more commonly known as the Lee Institute. Penny readings continued into the 1890s (29).  The structural problems that had led to the decision not to renew the musical licence appeared to have been sorted out as the Kentish Mercury reported in early 1895 that the Institute was ‘now available for concerts and kindred entertainments.’ (30)  This was to include several variety hall type evenings, which the original founders would no doubt have frowned upon and would have been more akin to the entertainment offered at the Lee Public Halls 15 years before (31).

Kelly’s’ Directory noted the continued presence of the Lee and Blackheath Building Society from 1890, as well as Tax Offices in the 1901 edition.  However, by 1906 there was no mention of the building, with the Building Society having switched its operations to the opposite side of the road in the St Margaret’s Parish Rooms.  What had happened isn’t clear, whether the previous structural problems had remerged, tastes and expectations had changed or whether a small area couldn’t support two similar type buildings (the church hall of Holy Trinity, Glenton Road, now called Lochaber Hall, was being planned too).

There was no mention of the site in the Kelly’s Directory until 1914 when 87 Old Road was again home to the Building Society and, more importantly, Chiesmans ‘depositary and warehouse.’

It was to be used by Chiesmans (their shop in Lewisham is pictured above) for many years despite being seriously bomb damaged in World War Two, with the Ordnance Survey cartographers describing it as a ‘ruin’ in 1950 (see below).  It was listed in the 1942 Kelly’s Directory but had gone by 1943.

In the years after the war there were various applications to refurbish and extend the building, including the building of an additional storey on the front of the building for use as a piano store.  These were refused by the post war planners and in the end rebuilding to a uniform height of three storeys was approved in 1951.

Presumably the brick shortages after the war meant that it took a while to be rebuilt – the first post war listing as Chiesmans was in 1959, their usage of the building continued until the mi-1980s.  By that stage the firm had been bought out by House of Fraser who rebadged it as Army and Navy.  It didn’t last long the repository had closed by 1985, with the Army and Navy store in Lewisham closing its doors for the last time in 1997. On the shop site is now ‘probably’ the largest police station in Europe.

In the recent past it has had long periods empty (see above from Streetview in 2008), has been squatted, there were attempts to set up a indoor combat venue and was used as an auction house.  Planning permission was eventually given for flats in 2014, although the actually building work has stuttered a lot with periods of activity followed by months of inactivity.  The ‘stunning warehouse conversion’ properties were marketed for rent only in early 2019 with the 4 bed at £3,995 a month, 2 bed at £2,150 or £1,900 and the 1 bedroom flats at £1,650.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 30 September 1854
  2. Ibid
  3. Kentish Mercury 17 October 1874
  4. Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser 19 December 1868
  5. Kentish Independent 06 February 1864
  6. Kentish Mercury 11 November 1871
  7. Kentish Mercury 04 April 1868
  8. London Evening Standard 20 November 1866
  9. Kentish Mercury 26 December 1868
  10. Kentish Mercury 03 August 1866
  11. Kentish Mercury 09 March 1867
  12. Woolwich Gazette 05 August 1871
  13. Kentish Mercury 04 April 1868
  14. Pall Mall Gazette 04 June 1868
  15. Kentish Mercury 04 April 1868
  16. Kentish Mercury 21 August 1875
  17. Kentish Mercury 08 November 1879
  18. Kentish Mercury 25 December 1880
  19. Kentish Mercury 27 April 1883
  20. Kentish Mercury 05 November 1881
  21. Kentish Mercury 02 August 1889
  22. Kentish Mercury 24 April 1880
  23. Kentish Mercury 13 November 1885
  24. Kentish Mercury 25 September 1885
  25. Woolwich Gazette 11 July 1884
  26. Kentish Mercury 18 December 1885
  27. Kentish Mercury 09 October 1885
  28. Kentish Mercury 19 November 1886
  29. Kentish Mercury 11 March 1892
  30. Kentish Mercury 08 February 1895
  31. Woolwich Gazette 25 December 1896

Credits

  • The maps is via the National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
  • The picture of Chiesmans shop in Lewisham is via e Bay in June 2016
  • Kellys Directoy information is via the always helpful Lewisham Archives

 

 

 

 

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The Original Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee – ‘Lost’ in the Blitz

Historically, the Parish Church of St Margaret,  Lee was relatively small one serving three small population centres – the area around the church itself on what is now called Lee Terrace, around Lee Green and the large houses of Old Road such as Lee Place, the Manor House, The Firs and Pentland House.

The coming of the railways saw the population grow and the ecclesiastical parish of St Margaret was divided several times to form the parishes of Christ Church (Lee Park) in 1854, Holy Trinity (Glenton Road) in 1863 and St Mildred’s on the eponymous Road in 1872.  The first two of these have already been ‘visited’ by Running Past and were both lost as a result of World War Two bombs – the churches were partially destroyed, later demolished and not replaced – their parishes being subsumed back into that of St Margaret.

The fourth subdivision was the creation of The Church of the Good Shepherd in 1881 (see above – source eBay October 2016). Much of the initial funding apparently came from Lord Northbrook, still owner of the Manor House at that point but hadn’t lived there for some time.  Initially it was to be a chapel of ease rather than a parish in its own right, the Rector of St Margaret’s, Reverend F H Law announced at the beginning of 1881

The Chapel-of-Ease, then, to the Parish Church, which I purpose calling ‘The Church of the Good Shepherd,’ is to hold 550 persons, all the Sittings are to be unappropriated, so that the poor cannot be crowded out from what is more especially their own Church; and I have sufficient faith and confidence in those who will worship there, to believe that by their offerings, sufficient will be contributed, not only to provide for all necessary expenses of the Services, but also for the maintenance of at least one of the Clergy who will be especially in charge of it.

The church was designed by Ernest Newton; Newton has been featured in some detail in Running Past, in an earlier post on another local building that he designed, Lochaber Hall – formerly the church hall of Holy Trinity, Glenton Park.  Locally, he also designed the Baring Hall pub as well as St Swithun’s Church on Hither Green Lane.  Like St Swithun’s, the builders were the largely ecclesiastical Croydon firm Maides and Harper, they have been described as ‘first-class building firm’ with a reputation for high quality workmanship (photo below – source eBay September 2016).

Local Victorian historian F H Hart (who was a sidesman at St Margaret’s at the time of the consecration) described the church as a

plain, substantial structure of red brick, with tiled roof, and neat bell turret. The interior of the church has a remarkably open appearance, and light is admitted by four large semi-circular windows.

He suggested that the ‘fittings’ for the Church of the Good Shepherd church are very plain but substantial – money for them had been raised through a special offertory at St Margaret’s.

Hart also noted that in the months after the consecration that attendance at the services ‘is most encouraging, as are also the offertories.’

The church was largely ‘lost’ during  the Blitz in 1941 when it was hit by an incendiary bomb, possibly in error as that night the Luftwaffe were targeting the docks, however as the then vicar, the Reverend J B Phillips, sadly noted (1)

‘Consequently every fire-fighting appliance was directed to save our vital food supplies.  No water pump could be spared to save a building, however beloved, and it was poignant indeed for us to stand helplessly by and see the church blaze into ruins.’

While the building was damaged beyond repair the parish continued to function using the parish hall that had been built in 1892 (2), there were donations from other parishes of an altar cross, candlesticks, pews, pulpits, a font and altar frontals (3).  Some of these probably came from other churches lost in the Blitz.

 

For a while, the parish used the church hall of Holy Trinity in Manor Lane Terrace (now known as Lochaber Hall), see below, for Sunday Schools as well as providing a hall for other activities (4).

For many local churches and chapels destroyed during the war, the destruction of the physical place of worship saw the end of the parish or church community; in addition to losses of Christ Church and Holy Trinity, the Methodist church on Hither Green Lane and the Baptist chapel at the corner of Eastdown Park and Lee High Road were lost.  This was not the case with the Good Shepherd, but the parishioners had to be patient; due to post war shortages of building materials and the priority given to housing, it meant that it was to be seventeen years before it was possible to rebuild the church.

The new church was completed and re-consecrated in 1957 and in its rebuilding it was able to use foundations and some portions of the old walls, varying in height from a few brick courses up to some 2 to 3 metres on all the walls, apart from that facing Handen Road. This probably explains the more than cursory nod to the original designs of Ernest Newton, although perhaps had more work been done to the Victorian foundations there wouldn’t have been the problems with subsidence that beset the church around the Millennium.

 

 

Notes

  1. Booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p11
  2. ibid p8
  3. ibid p12
  4. ibid p12

Thank you to the Reverend Shepherd of the Church of the Good Shepherd and Lewisham Archives for allowing me use the photographs of the bomb damage and temporary church (the three black and white photographs in the middle of the post) – they were part of the booklet noted above.

Lochaber Hall – the Church Hall without a Church

Lochaber Hall is a rather nondescript looking building, easy to ignore as one goes past, squeezed in between Edwardian and late Victorian housing; but on election days, like thousands of other halls, community centres, schools and other buildings it takes on great importance – it is a Polling Station.
 It looks like a church hall because that is exactly what is was; it was built in 1910 as the church hall for Holy Trinity in Glenton Road – quarter of a mile away on the other side of Lee High Road.  The Hall was built on some of the last bits of farming in the area – Manor Nursery, the nursery had been built as kitchen gardens around 1800 by the then owner of the Manor House,  Sir Francis Baring, its collection of fruit trees was described in 1882 as ‘one of the best on this side of London’. Some of its boundary walls predate its current usage.
 Its architect was Ernest Newton, who was to become President of the RIBA a few years later; he mainly focused on the more exclusive private homes in Bickley, Bromley and Chislehurst.  He was associated with Art Workers Guild, which, with links to William Morris, promoted the ‘unity of all the arts’, denying the distinction between fine and applied art, such as architecture.  Newton’s obituary in the February 1922 Architect’s Journal described him in glowing terms

“His eminence as an architect of unexcelled skill in a class of work that constitutes England’s chief or sole claim to supremacy – the capture and apt embodiment of the very spirit of the home…”

Lochaber Hall was given Grade II listing in 1973, its listing text describes it as a

One storey building with gable end to road.  Multi-coloured stock brick. Wide, fairly high pitched, slated roof  with overhanging eaves at sides and brick dentil cornice in gable.  Also in gable large, four-light, square-headed window with brick arch in 2 planes and flanking brick pilasters. Angles of building emphasised by gabled buttresses breaking roof line. 5 side bays defined by buttresses with sloping step just below eaves. Projecting ground floor, with brick-quoined  centre, has recessed porches at outer corners, with overhang resting on stout Doric columns.

Holy Trinity was bombed during WW2, it was covered here a few weeks ago in the blog and the only obvious link is now a dedication stone at the front of the Hall.
Other than its occasional use as a polling station, it is a well-used community resource with two halls.  The smaller of the two is in extension at the back, the Jack Poole Annexe, is in memory of a former ‘caretaker’ of the Hall.  Jack was a genuinely community spirited man, looking after the Hall but reporting any dumped rubbish, street lights out and the like – he badgered Lewisham Council until the problem was sorted out.
 Jack used to live in my street and if he was still alive would have almost certainly have had a Labour Party poster displayed in his window – he always did whatever the election  and he sometimes had ‘committee rooms’ there.  I’ll undoubtedly think of him as I pass his house, it is still his in my mind, on my way to cast my vote.