Tag Archives: London Sivan Kovil

(Probably) Lewisham’s Most Beautiful Building and its Past

4a Clarendon Rise is currently home to London Sivan Kovil, a Hindu Temple – it is arguably Lewisham’s most beautiful building and the starting point for the almost certainly most stunning parade in the borough – the Chariot Festival, held each September for the last few years. The site has an interesting past and wasn’t always this attractive.

Clarendon Rise used to be known as Clarendon Road and is one of the main roads that go through what used to be referred to as the College Park Estate, based on the land that once belonged to College Farm. Clarendon Road/Rise bridged the Quaggy, which was one boundary of the farm, to Lee High Road, with The Sultan (now Nando’s) sitting on the far bank.

What is now 4a stood opposite to the Sultan. The site was showing as empty when the Ordnance Survey cartographers visited in the mid 1890s as the top map shows. However, the reality is a little more confused than this and it seems likely that the site was in least partly occupied by a firm of boot makers, E Cooney and Sons from at least the 1891 census. Edward Cooney, was the ‘E Cooney’ a boot maker – the only son listed in 1891 and 1901 was William, listed as a shoe seller in 1901. The business and family was still there until around 1910, but there was no sign of them afterwards, in Lewisham, or anywhere else for that matter.

The next occupant of the site seems to have been a furniture dealer, Arthur Vincent Humm. Arthur was a Lewisham man, born in 1883 he’d spent some time in the Hussars, in 1911 he was listed as a cabinet maker working in his father’s furniture business at 89 Lee High Road, the family home where he had grown up. Arthur was at what was then 2 from around 1919 to at least 1928, possibly longer – there are no Kelly’s Directories for this area between 1928 and 1941 available at Lewisham Archives.

By 1941, the Road had become a Rise and the occupants of the site were a well known Lee name – Penfolds Motor Engineers. Presumably, this was before they moved to Lee Green. They were to stay at Clarendon Rise for another decade, at some stage in the not too distant future Running Past will cover Penfolds.  The site buildings at that stage are shown in the bottom map (above).

A trio of firms were there in the 1950s – Falcon Painting Works, the motor engineers, Premier Diesel Engineering Works, and Falconers Transport motor haulage contractors. Sadly, nothing more is sadly known about any of these firms, the same can be said about their successors Bylay Heliot Equipment Co, who were Machine Tool makers who occupied 4a until 1967.  There was an unsuccessful plan to build a service station, restaurant and multi-storey garage prior to Bylay Heliot moving out.

No one was listed in Kelly’s for a decade, then it was briefly home to the heating engineers Fry Pollard, who moved on at around the time that they were acquired by Norden Heating.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s 4a was the home to Glass Structural Services and Structural Roof Services. The site was bought in 1994 as a Hindu temple and remained in what were the existing warehouse structures which were still there in 2008 when StreetView (above) first passed by.  By the next time the Streetview car passed demolition of the main building was in progress in 2009 when the foundation stone was laid. At the centre of the front is a gopuram – an ornate, tapering oblong tower (see top picture) with richly decorated doors at its base – this a smaller version of a traditional Hindu design. Of the previous building, only the wall facing the Quaggy was retained, although that was much altered.

Clarendon Rise and the temple are well worth a visit in mid September each year when the annual chariot festival takes place – pictured below.

The arrival of the temple has seen a significant change in shopping on a Lee High Road with an influx of shops serving the worshipers at the Hindu Temple – including those selling saris and jewelry.

Notes and Credits

The Ordnance Survey maps published in 1897, 1916 and 1950 are on a creative from the National Library of Scotland

Census and related data is via Find My Past

Kelly’s Directory information is via Lewisham Archives

Following the Quaggy – Manor Park to the Ravensbourne

We left the Quaggy just outside Manor Park having seen the park’s rejuvenation  from one of Lewisham’s worst bits of open space to one of its best, before that Running Past had followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom; then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley, through the golf courses of Sundridge Park and on to Chinbrook Meadows; through the concrete and countryside of Mottingham; and then on through the playing fields and parkland of Sutcliffe Park and the Lee/Blackheath borders.
We left the river at an old crossing, although relatively new bridge that formed part of Hocum Pocum Lane; we continue along the Lane although it is now referred to as Weardale Road.  Unusually, it is visible for a short stretch as the western side of Weardale Road remains undeveloped, in spring it is a riot of colour from the plants that have colonised the banks.  The bridge is a great place for seeing the iridescent blue blur of the kingfisher – often sighted almost skimming the surface of the water, with occasional sightings of egrets and herons fishing in the shallows.
After 100 metres or so It bends sharply to the left, on the bend, in a tight triangular site, is almost certainly the finest modern building on the Quaggy – 22 Weardale Road – designed by and Anglo-Dutch architectural practice 31/44.
A little further on is the Rose of Lee pub, latterly called the Dirty South although it has gone through several names in the last 25 years.  It opened around 1900 and, perhaps, it’s greatest claim to fame was that it was the first venue that Kate Bush played.  It suffered damage and looting during the 2011 riots that spread across numerous locations in London in early August, it looked as though it was to become another lost Lewisham pub.  There were occasional signs of life and a few drinkers during 2016, but it took until 2017 to have a major revamp and re-open as the Dirty South in late October 2017.
Around here the Quaggy was once joined by Mid Kid Brook which used to flow  more or less alongside Lee High Road from close to Lee Green, its former valley is clear in places.  However, it was diverted to follow Lee Road to Lee Green, probably around the early 18th century.
The river is bridged by Eastdown Park, a bridge that was partially destroyed in a flooding in 1878 in an era when flooding seemed more common.
On the west side of f the Eastdown Park bridge (to the left of the photograph) is currently Penfolds garage – the remaining part of a company that used to have three bases locally, including taking over Lee Picture Palace as a car showroom in the 1970s. The usage of the site, which used to be home to a Baptist Chapel (below – source eBay April 2016), is about to change again – this time to flats.
The river follows a tight channel, built on both sides, occasionally over it – such as by KwikFit. The banks had been almost rural on the south-eastern side of until the College Park Estate in the late 1860s as the map below shows (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland).
By the next bridge, over Clarendon Rise, is without a doubt the most attractive riverside building on The Quaggy, a Hindu Temple, the London Sivan Kovil.  In September each year it is the venue for probably the most stunningly beautiful site in Lewisham – the Chariot Festival.
Attempts continue to be made either side of the Clarendon Road bridge to slow down flows through artificial meanders, while this allows some of the normal fluvial erosion and depositions on rivers in their natural state and thus will help a little with plant growth, it will be of little use in high flows though.
Soon after Clarendon Rise, just behind Lewis Grove, the Quaggy is covered at what used to be known as Lee Bridge.  Like much of the area upstream this too was liable to flooding – on an earlier Facebook thread on the river further upstream there were stories of what was then the Midland Bank (postcard from eBay September 2016) flooding in and notes floating around the flooded basement of the bank.
Historically, flooding was very common around Lee Bridge, this 1968 photograph, outside the Odeon (formerly Gaumont) Cinema commonly shown in relation to Lewisham flooding will probably relate to both the Quaggy and  Ravensbourne though – see comments below.
The extent of the covering of the Quaggy has varied over time, the recent development of the police station offered an opportunity to extend its visibility but it wasn’t taken and there is less of the Quaggy open now than there was a century ago as the postcard below shows (source – eBay February 2016).
The river currently re-emerges in front of St Stephen’s church, having first been joined by Upper Kid Brook. There used to be two arms to the Quaggy at this point – one by the former Roebuck pub, the second by the former Plough as the map below shows ( (Image on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland). Both pubs disappeared in the early 2000s, as part of the redevelopment of Lewisham town centre.
The river broadly follows the course by the former Plough Bridge (left photo above) but at the time of writing, the confluence with the Ravensbourne is hidden in the middle of the Lewisham Gateway development which has rendered the area around the station almost unrecognisable.  Eventually, the confluence with the Ravensbourne will be in a small park, Confluence Place, but it may be a wait until the reality is anywhere near the architect’s impression.