Tag Archives: Merchant Taylors’ almshouse

The Almshouses of Lee Part 2

A few months ago Running Past covered the two Boone’s Chapels on Lee High Road, both chapels had almshouses attached to them and in a recent post last week we looked at the almshouses themselves. Behind the Grade I listed Boone’s Chapel, set back from Lee High Road, are the best known some of the best known almshouses in South East London, Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses.

Like much of the area around Old Road, the land currently used by the Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses on Brandram Road, has its roots in the piecemeal sell off of the land that was once belonged to Lee Place in 1824. Several of the plots were bought by the Worshipful Company of the Merchant Taylors’ for almshouses.

The Company was one of the livery companies of the City of London; as the name implies it was first an association of tailors, but this connection had virtually ended by the close of the 17th century and it had become a philanthropic and social association.

The almshouses built in 1826 were the third generation of almshouses – the first had been built next door to Merchant Taylors’ Hall in Threadneedle Street, and dated from the mid 14th century. The second edition was close to Tower Hill on land occupied by the railway into Fenchurch Street and DLR into Tower Hill.

The 1826 almshouses were designed by William Jupp, the Younger, who was the architect and surveyor to the Merchant Taylors’ Company. His uncle was Richard Jupp, who designed Lee Manor House.

The 34 almshouses, two behind each door, are Grade II listed and described by Cherry and Pevsner (1) as:

Large, on three sides of an open quadrangle, stock brick, sparsely classical, with a central feature emphasised by a pediment and cupola.

The almshouses have a walled garden with a lawn sloping down to a small dip which once contained the original course of Mid Kid Brook which was dammed around the border with Brandram Road to form a boating lake – latterly known as the Mirror of Lee. It is surrounded by mature trees and shrubs which make photography difficult.  The impressive gatehouse (pictured below) was added in the 1850s.

Having looked at the Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses, we return to the Boone’s almshouses, as was noted in the previous post, the second version of them was replaced in 1963 in Belmont Park and known as Christopher Boone’s Almshouses. The area around there had been devastated by a pair of V-1 flying bombs, and the land to the north and east was covered with a large concentration of prefab bungalows. A slightly larger area was cleared for what became the Mercator Estate, which included an old people’s home. The almshouses site saw demolition of Victorian houses, which had suffered some damage in the Blitz. They are pictured in the bottom right hand corner of the aerial photograph from 1939 (just above the Patterson Edwards factory).

The number of almshouses increased from the 12 on Lee High Road to 29 one-bedroom houses and bungalows along with two staff units, originally for a matron and a gardener. The selection criteria for residents were less onerous than those of Trinity Hospital in Greenwich, requiring applicants to have lived for at least five years in the Borough of Lewisham or Greenwich; preference was given though to applicants from the former parish of Lee.  

The high walled development had an attractive gatehouse and, from the outside at least, looked a pleasant development. However, unlike the other variants of the Merchant Taylors’ managed almshouses in Lee, their life was a relatively short one – the relatively steeply sloping site proved to be a struggle for an ageing population with increasing mobility issues and letting the almshouses became problematic.

Plans were submitted in 2010 for the demolition of the 1963 site to be replaced by a much denser development – the 29 homes have become 62, with 32 being returned to The Merchant Taylors’ Boone’s Charity (the two charities merged in 2010). The remainder were sold to cross subsidise the re-provision of ‘state-of-the-art, fully-accessible and fully-adaptable almshouses;’ since 2010 there has been little grant funding for social housing and sales were, at the time, the only way to make this type of development ‘work’ financially.

To qualify for a home there the allocations criteria you would need to be …

• a peaceful, considerate person committted to getting on well with your neighbours
• in need of high quality housing in Lewisham
• aged at least 57
• capable of independent living; and
• can’t afford to buy

So what of the 1826 version? The residents were relocated to the new Blessington Road site with the Grade II listed buildings struggling to cope with those with reduced mobility who may require wheelchairs or motorised buggies. They currently stand empty and from the Brandram Road side look rather dilapidated; they are occupied by property guardians – with a notice on the listed entrance. Planning permission was granted in 2010 to build 5 houses, either side of the the southern most block, immediately behind Boone’s Chapel. In 2015 further permission was granted to reduce the number of almshouses – largely by knocking the ‘pairs’ behind each front door together. Both of these Planning Permissions will have lapsed at the time of writing in spring 2020, with no new permissions having been sought. The intention though presumably remains the refurbishment and sale of the Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses on a long leasehold basis – part of the cross subsidisation of the ‘state of the art’ version.

Notes

  1. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p426

 

Credits

  • The 1939 aerial photograph is via the fantastic Britain from Above, its use is allowed in non-commercial blogs such as Running Past, it remains their copyright
  • The photograph of the 1963 scheme is via Google Streetview

The Almshouses of Lee – The Boone’s Almshouses

A while ago Running Past looked at the two Boone’s Chapels on Lee High Road. Both remain, but the better known one is a Grade I building opposite the western end of Old Road.
Both had almshouses attached to them, with the second chapel being built when the original almshouses were re-provided close to what is now the junction of Lampmead and Lee High Roads.
Christopher Boone was a wool merchant who lived at Lee Place which was located in the area currently bordered by Bankwell Road, Old Road and Lee High Road’s Market Terrace. The site for the almshouses on Lee High Road between Boone’s Chapel and Brandram Road was given to Masters and Wardens of the Merchant Taylors’ Company in a deed of 1683. They were known as Boone’s Almshouses and predated the beautiful ones behind, known as Merchant Taylors Almshouses by 140 years.
He built his four almshouses for the poor here on the north side of Lee High Road, three shared by 6 residents, the fourth a school for 12 poor children of the parish.
In order to qualify for a place, prospective residents had to undergo a number of religious tests, which included reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed and the Ten Commandments by heart. Any failure to do so within 2 months could lead to expulsion, and the residents were expected to attend chapel services. There were many similarities with rules applied to residents of Trinity Hospital in Greenwich, which was partially funded by the College Farms in Lee and Lewisham.
In the 1871 census, the almshouses were all shared between in No 1, there was a couple and a seemingly unrelated widower; No 2 was home to 3 single women and at No 3 was a husband and wife, along with a 70 year old servant Alice Simms. There was a separate household which wasn’t numbered, this may have meant that the school was no more – this was another couple with a servant who was 70. Whilst the servants were listed, they were probably providing some form of care to other residents either in their almshouse or more generally in the scheme.
Most were local and had been born in Lee or neighbouring parishes. Given the changes in the area that the railways had brought, this is perhaps surprising but no doubt reflected an allocations policy that gave preference to those with some form of local connection.
All were good ages for the era – all 69 or older and with an average age of 75.
It isn’t clear what led to the decision to move the almshouses; the homes were 250 years old and maybe hadn’t stood the test of time. The new almshouses were 250 metres up Lee High Road on land that had been part of the estate of the late Georgian Lee House. The estate was bounded by Lee High Road, the Quaggy, what is now Aislibie Road and Old Road.
The owner, James Halliburton Young, who lived at Cedar House next door originally seems to have tried to sell the estate as a single lot in the early 1870s. However, this seem to have failed and instead he sold off a narrow tract of land along Lee High Road in several lots, while at least two were for housing but the two plots nearest to Lee Green were allocated to the Bible Christian Chapel and Boone’s Chapel and Almshouses.
The only sign of the first incarnation of the Boone’s Almshouses is the very weathered looking red brick wall that replaced them – eroded both by the elements and World War Two shrapnel.
The second version of the almshouses were designed by the same architect as the chapel, Edward Blakeway I’Anson and in a similar Gothic style (1).
1881 was the first census after move to what is now the corner of Lampmead – a local connection still seemed important, in an age where migration due to the railways was common, most were from no further than Kent. Two of the occupants were the same as a decade before of the corner of Brandram Road – including Alice Sims who at 80 was still carrying out the duties as a servant.  Unlike a decade earlier no one was sharing their home, five of the almshouses were home to couples.
When the 1939 Register was compiled, of the 12 almshouses. three were empty. The occupants were all single people with six women three men the oldest 93, with a care; the youngest 60 with an average just shy of 79 with no couples.
As we saw when we looked at the two Boone’s Chapels, the congregation on the second version of the chapel dispersed in the early 1950s. The almshouses lasted slightly longer as a going concern but they too were replaced at Belmont Park in 1963, something we’ll return to in the next post.
However, this isn’t the end of the story. The almshouses, along with the church, were acquired around 1975 by was was to become the ‘Assemblies of God Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.’ While the almshouses were locally listed in 2012, sadly, this didn’t offer them much protection (as was the case with the gas holders at Bell Green) and the church demolished them without planning permission, seemingly to provide extra car parking for worshippers. One almshouse does remain though; it is not immediately recognisable, with its red brick painted ‘brilliant’ white. The inappropriate look pails into insignificance when compared with the painting of the formerly elegant Kentish ragstone church next door a very bright grey and cream by the Lee New Testament Church of God (just visible above).
In the final instalment of Lee’s almshouses we’ll look at both the Merchant Taylor’s Almshouses of 1826 and their 20th and 21st century replacements.
Notes
  1. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p426

Credits

  1. The census and related information comes from Find My Past (subscription required)
  2. The black and white photograph of the 1875 variant of the almshouse is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission
  3. The photograph of the original Boone’s Chapel and almshouses is from The Proceedings of the Lewisham Antiquarian Society 1908 on a Creative Commons
  4. The photograph of the almshouses being demolished is via the Newsshopper, 24 February 2014

 

The Two Boone’s Chapels

Boone’s Chapel on Lee High Road is a impressive former church building on Lee High Road; it is one of only two Grade I listed buildings in Lewisham, the other being St Paul’s in Deptford. Less well known is that there is another Boone’s Chapel – about 500 metres up Lee High Road. This post looks at both of them starting with the listed variant.

‘…..a delightful little brick rectangle with stone trimming, two heavy round-headed windows on the front, equally heavy oval windows higher on the east, west and south, and heavy pediments on the same sides; octagonal cupola on the centre of the roof.’ (1)

Originally, there seems to have been a carved stone angel above the door but supports rusted away it was lost in a storm, probably in the early 19th century.

Christopher Boone had bought Lee Place around 1670 following the death of George Thomson. The Chapel was built for the Boones; it has been attributed to Wren, but was probably designed by Robert Hooke and construction finished around 1683, along with some almshouses built next door on the High Road. We will return to these almshouses, along with the Merchant Taylor’s almshouses, behind, at some point.

Between 1683 and 1877 the Chapel was used as a place of worship for the Boone family, the almshouse residents and as a chapel-of-ease for St Margaret’s Parish. After Christopher Boone died in 1686, the Chapel was also used as a mausoleum for him and his wife. The burial place in a chamber beneath the floor was discovered during restoration works on the Chapel in 2006.

When the Chapel was built, it was close to the gate to the estate; at this stage the main road broadly followed the course of Old Road. There were regular accidents on the sharp bend with carts going to and from London markets. During a service in 1813, when St Margaret’s was being rebuilt, a horse and cart failed to navigate the corner and the horse ended up inside the Chapel!

While it was one of the first London buildings scheduled for preservation, it had largely fallen into disuse by the end of World War Two. In 1999 Blackheath Historic Buildings Trust was set up to try to restore the Chapel. The initial plan involved some cross subsidisation with a block of new almshouses at the back. However, alternative funding streams through the National Lottery Heritage Fund were found that meant that this wasn’t needed and the Chapel was restored, with work being completed in 2008. The Chapel is now home to an architectural practice although is regularly open to the public including during Open House weekend.

Before moving up Lee High Road, it is worth pausing briefly by the adjacent wall, which is part of the Grade I listing, while the listing mentions ‘3 brick and stone piers and ball caps’ what is probably more interesting is a very weathered coat of arms, that of the Merchant Taylors Company (2).

The ‘other’ Boone’s Chapel was described by Pevsner as ‘a neat new Gothic chapel ….. red brick, apsed, lancet style.’ (3) It was designed by Edward Blakeway I’Anson, who was the third generation of the family practicing in a City of London architectural firm.  The replacement almshouses were built either side of it – as the photograph below shows.

This second Boone’s Chapel dates from around 1875. The land will have been the first part of the estate of Lee House to have been sold off; there had been attempts to sell the whole estate in the early 1870s, but in the end only a narrow strip alongside Lee High Road was sold; 344 to 368 were built in the late 1870s and Blenheim Villas, 334 -342 a few years earlier (4).

While it was generally referred to locally as Boone’s Chapel, it was consecrated as St John the Baptist. It was later referred to as ‘a missionary outpost of the parish (of St Margaret’s) where the rector’s volunteer workers came to do good with the Lee villagers on whom curates also learnt their craft.’ (5)

It was slightly odd that this part of Lee had continued to be ministered to by St Margaret’s parish even when the ‘new’ parishes of Christ Church (1854) on Lee Park, Holy Trinity on Glenton Road (1863), St Mildred’s on the South Circular (1872) and the Church of the Good Shepherd on Handen Road (1881) were carved out of it. It was connected by a small isthmus of land between Old Road and Boone Street.

The parishioners included some of the Noble family from Lampmead Road. We have covered the 1920s and 1930s childhood reminiscences of Phyllis Willmott (née Noble) a few times in relation to the Sunday Constitutional, trips to Lee Working Men’s Club on Lee Road and in interwar play.

She notes that the Nobles weren’t a chapel or church going family; her mother had a Methodist upbringing but went to the chapel a couple of hundred metres from their home as ‘social pleasures drew her, a chance for a word or two with friends and neighbours; the chance to sit back and remember the Sundays of her own childhood.’ (6)

Part of the joy of going seemed to be the dressing up in the ‘Sunday Best’ even if the clothes were from a jumble sale. Her mother put on ‘a slick of powder and lipstick and perhaps a new feather in an old hat or, for me, putting the latest find from a jumble which we persuaded ourselves we had succeeded in making “as good as new.”’ (7)

Phyllis’ brothers were choristers in the small choir, girls seem not to have been allowed to join. They occasionally sang solos, which guaranteed her mother’s presence (8). The social aspect of going to church was important – her Mother would chat to friends and neighbours outside and shake hands with the curate who would take the service (9).

Her parents seemed to have assumed that religion was ‘a good thing for young children but something they naturally grew out of;’ it seemed particularly helpful as it allowed supervised childcare on Sundays. Most of the other children in the Bible Class seemed be from the ‘posh’ side of Lee High Road, the Blackheath side, rather than the poorer streets to the south (10). This changed when the evangelical Harold Plumstead became curate and organised lots of activities using them as an opportunity to persuade the children to ‘see the light’ and ‘stand up for Jesus.’ (11). Despite the lack of church origin tradition within the family, Phyllis was confirmed when she was 13 (12).

It seems that the church was at least partially rebuilt in the 1920s suffering some limited damage during World War 2, although it reopened in 1947 (13). However, it’s temporary closure probably sounded the Chapel’s death knell as its congregation dispersed in 1952 (14). Its listing in Kelly’s didn’t change though, so while not used, it seems to have remained in the ownership of St Margaret’s. During the 1960s the church unsuccessfully sought to turn part of the site into a petrol station.

By 1975, Kelly’s Directory was describing it as a ‘Pentecostal Church’ although by 1980 the entry had changed to ‘Assemblies of God Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.’ They added the single story modern frontage completed in 1984. More recently there were unsuccessful attempts to demolish the entire site and rebuild the church with some flats (the unsanctioned demolition of most of the almshouses will be covered in a later post.)

Behind the single-storey frontage are the red brick remnants of the original church.

Along with the New Testament Church of God next door, the church seems popular with dense parking in neighbouring streets at the time of Sunday services.

Notes

  1. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1983) The Buildings of England – London 2: South p426
  2. Lewisham Leisure (1990) From The Tiger to The Clocktower
  3. Cherry and Pevsner op cit p426
  4. Lewisham Lesiure, op cit
  5. Phyllis Willmott (1979) Growing Up in a London Village p119
  6. ibid p119
  7. ibid p119
  8. ibid p121
  9. ibid p122
  10. Phyllis Willmott (1983) A Green Girl p40
  11. ibid p42
  12. ibid p43
  13. Lewisham Leisure, op cit
  14. ibid

Credits

  1. The Kelly’s Directory information comes from a mixture of Lewisham and Southwark archives.
  2. The black and white photograph of the 1875 variant of the church is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it remains their copyright and is used with their permission
  3. The photograph of the original Boone’s Chapel and almshouses is from The Proceedings of the Lewisham Antiquarian Society 1908 on a Creative Commons

Preparation for World War Two – Going Underground

At the time of the anniversary of evacuation Running Past, started to look at some of the preparations for war on the ‘Home Front’ with Lewisham children being evacuated to Kent then Surrey.  We return now to some of the preparations that were made to try to keep the civilian population that remained in Lewisham as safe as possible from the air attacks that were expected soon after war broke out – looking here at air raid shelters.

In theory, planning had started just after World War 1 with the setting up of the Air Raid Precautions Committee in 1924.  As regular readers of Running Past will recall, there had been devastating air raids during World War 1 on both Glenview Road in Hither Green with a Zeppelin attack (above), and with a Gotha airplane attack on Sydenham Road which also bombed the area around Staplehurst Road and Hither Green Station. However, little progress had been made because of the apparently irreconcilable conflict between the need to send the public underground for shelter from air attack but the need to keep them above ground for in the event of gas attacks.  The latter had been expected as a result of gas attacks during World War 1.

During the Munich Crisis of September 1938 the Government instructed local authorities to start building trench air raid shelters with precast concrete walls which were then covered.  They became a permanent feature in the lead up to war.

There were a series of public shelters in Lewisham High Street under the planted area that ran down most of the market (see above from a couple of decades before World War 2) – they had to cope with day time raids when the town centre would be busy (1). One of these was to be hit by a V-1 flying bomb in July 1944. There were also large public shelters opposite Lewisham Hospital and in the grounds of Robertson’s Golden Shred works on Bromley Road (2).

Running Past covered a couple of the Lee shelters that were located in Manor House Gardens – one in the Ice House, and the other seemingly under the grass almost next to it – the likely outline appeared in the drought of 2018.  A third was under the lawn in front of Manor House Library was mentioned in passing in the Lewisham ARP log (3).

A large one was also constructed in the grounds of Merchant Taylors’ almshouses (above), although it isn’t clear whether this was just for the inhabitants of the almshouses or for wider use.  There is a ‘ghost sign’ on the external wall to the almshouses on the corner of Brandram and Lee High Roads – although it has faded and it isn’t certain whether it is pointing to Manor House Gardens or the almshouses.

Some local streets also had communal shelters too – one is shown at the back of a photograph of a VE Day street party in Taunton Road in Lee.

The public shelters were not bomb-proof and many people were killed in direct hits – this included one on the Albion Way shelter in Lewisham where 41 people died on 11 September 1940.  There was another street air raid shelter in the next road – Mercia Grove.  Memories of which were included on the BBC website around the 50th anniversary of VE Day – which was described

At the bottom of the stairs there were four bays. Each bay had a wooden slatted seat at either side, along its length. …We soon made the shelter comfortable, with rugs for the floor and a paraffin stove for warmth and to boil a kettle. We slept on the floor and on the benches. After a while, bunks were installed. These served as seats during the day when it was a public shelter and at night we were issued shelter tickets and a designated bunk number. .. Soon there was a sink installed and a small portable oven, for which we paid a small rental fee. When the blitz was at its height we went down at 6.30 after the evening meal, until the all clear, or until it was time to get ready to go to work the next day. On the long summer evenings (double British summertime) we played gramophone records in the street and danced to the music, when all was quiet, no Jerry’s above.

Other locations too were used as air raid shelters, including underneath railway arches, such as those in Ladywell which, like its Lee counterparts, had a painted sign showing the way to it which still survives above it.

Below, a probably more permanent one than was possible under the arches in Ladywell is pictured from elsewhere in SE London. There were also railway arch shelters at Plough Bridge (sheltering 40, close to Lewisham Station); Morley Road (95) and Catford Hill (105) (4).

 

Elsewhere in London tube stations were used, but this clearly wasn’t an option in south east London. Initially cellars and basements of larger houses, churches and factories were also used but their use brought with it dangers of collapse of the building above with heavy masonry or machinery coming through from higher floors.   A few buildings built just ahead of World War Two were built with air raid shelters, such as one in East Sheen, covered in the excellent Flickering Lamps blog.

One of the stranger public shelters used by Lee and Hither Green residents involved catching a train to Chislehurst to shelter in the caves; even when London had been free of attacks for a couple of months in July 1941, 2,000 still sheltered there every night (5).

Not all air raid shelters were communal ones, it wasn’t always feasible for people to quickly get to the public ones, so individual household ones were developed – Anderson shelters (below) which were external and the internal Morrison ones.

Anderson shelters were named after Sir John Anderson, who was the Government Minister responsible for air-raid precautions prior to the outbreak of World War II.  They were made from 14 galvanised steel panels bolted together and were 1.8 m high, 2 metres long and 1.4 metres wide, and were buried 1.2 metres deep and then covered with 40 centimetres of soil.  They ‘housed’ six and were issued free to all householders who earned less than £5 a week, which was most people in areas such as Lewisham; those with a higher income were charged £7 for them.  In Lewisham around 23,000 were issued – so about 192,000 could be accommodated (6).

Running Past visited a partially fictional Anderson shelter on the Brockley/New Cross borders when looking at one of the early works of one of Lewisham’s best known authors – David Lodge’s Out of The Shelter.

While they performed well apart from dealing with direct hits, as they were buried in the ground they tended to be cold and damp, not the place to spend lots of consecutive nights – something common at the height of the German Bombing campaign.  The level of waterlogging led some Lewisham families to go back to the original advice and hide under the stairs.

My former next door neighbours  Jack (actually George) and Doris had an Anderson Shelter in their garden which was still dug into its original place by his first wife’s parents; while the soil covering of the roof was removed, they used it as a shed until they died in the late 1990s.  This was not uncommon – while local authorities collected the shelters as scrap many hung on to them, with several memories of playing in them in and around Lewisham into the 1960s.

Morrison Shelters were indoor shelters which, in theory at least, could be used as tables between air raids.  They were named after the Minister of Home Security at the time that they were first issued – Herbert Morrison, who was to become Labour MP for Lewisham South in the 1945 General Election.

Pictured below, they were effectively a cage 2 metres, by 1.2 metres and 0.75 metres high with a steel plate top and mesh sides. They had to be assembled IKEA-like by the household, with tools supplied.  Like the Anderson Shelters, they were provided free to low income households.  Around 500,000 were distributed during the Blitz with a further 100,000 ahead of V-1 attacks.  They were much more effective than the Anderson Shelters in preventing protecting households even withstanding some direct hits.

In posts in the not too distant future we will look at other World War 2 preparations on the Home Front – gas masks, warning sirens, the Women’s Voluntary Services and the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) wardens.

Notes

  1. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 – 1945 p41
  2. ibid p42
  3. The ARP log for Lewisham is a fragile document that lists (virtually) all the attacks, property by property, raid by raid – we will come back to this in future posts.
  4. Blake op cit p43
  5. ibid p43
  6. ibid p41

 

Picture credits