Tag Archives: Millwall

Following the Meridian II – Into Inner London

Last week’s Following the Meridian 1, I tracked the Prime Meridian from the borders of New Addington, through suburbia, to Shortlands, leaving the ‘line’ close to a rather imposing war memorial. This post continues the trail towards Greenwich.

The ‘line’ crosses the railway close to Shortlands station, but then heads through the houses on Ravensbourne Avenue and across the real Ravesnbourne onto a golf course. That’s obviously out of bounds for the running blogger so I head parallel to the meridian – my path is still very suburban in feel, although there are a few large Edwardian houses at the station end of the Avenue. The route to the incomes to afford them, the railway into Victoria and the City, is high on the embankment to my left.

After several miles without a man-made meridian memento – there are two in quick succession either side of Farnaby Road both of which I have passed numerous times before.

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While the Greenwich Meridian Trail heads off for the more scenic surroundings of Beckenham Place Park and the Rivers Pool and Ravensbourne – it doesn’t actually follow the meridian – we won’t meet the walk until close to the Observatory. The meridian itself then heads into Warren Avenue Playing Fields, like so many of the open spaces in this area they were formerly company sports grounds – in this case a mixture of The Times and Midland Bank. Oddly, Bromley failed to add an entrance here, so it is a squeeze through some railings to the play area that Bromley Council and everyone else seems to have forgotten – a trio of former swings now more reminiscent of gibbets.

The Prime Meridian then cuts across Millwall’s rather leafy training ground – somewhat removed from the New Den and its adjacent incinerator. The training ground used to be owned by Oxo and below is an image from 1937 from the fantastic Britain from Above site, with the line of the meridian towards the rear.

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The Millwall training ground is close to a big change in the territory, the first signs of which are a McDonalds Drive-Thru’ in what used to be a 1950s pub, the Garden Gate.

We are on the edge of the Downham estate; inter-war council housing mainly in Lewisham but straddling the boundary with Bromley – its origins are covered well in the excellent Municipal Dreams blog. At the bottom of Bromley Hill there is one of a small number of street plaques that Lewisham council have installed – it seems strange that they didn’t do more with the same template. It is in front of a dry cleaner’s shop.

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Other than the main road, which changes from Bromley Hill to Road, little is actually seen of Downham, the meridian (or at least the route closest too it) follows Downham Woodland Way – part of the Green Chain Walk. It is a route I have run along several times, although oddly always in the other direction.

North of Whitefoot Lane, the meridian makes its way through the houses and gardens of Waters Road and Boundfield Road before passing through the Excalibur Estate – passing down Meliot Road – roughly bisecting the museum.

Running Past visited here earlier in the year, not that much has changed although some of the ‘decanted’ homes on the eastern side of the estate have now been demolished and the pop-up museum that was originally just for a few weeks is still there and has recently found funding to continue until 2017, with a large mural added to the side of the bungalow next door.

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Out of the estate and the roundabout at the end of Torridon Road (which more or less follows the meridian) proved to be a photo opportunity that was too much to resist (although I should have gone prepared with a bigger piece of chalk)……

Lewisham Council and Bellway also couldn’t resist the opportunity to mark the crossing of Woodland Road and Hither Green Lane with small footpath inserts marking other places along the route. A great idea, but sadly the inserts last only a little longer than my chalk degree symbol and were either stolen or became trip hazards and all that remains are some infilled concrete and a line.

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One of the most visible, and perhaps best meridian marker, is at Hither Green station where the meridian bisects the foot tunnel entrance to the station.

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Continuing on, the ‘line’ enters Manor Park (there was a post about this a few months ago) almost using the new bridge entrance from before crossing a path I use several times a week near the main entrance. More or less following the road Manor Park, we come to the second of Lewisham’s pavement inserts outside Halley Gardens which they combined with a celebration of Anti Racist Week.

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Inside Halley Gardens there is another on line marker, a rather attractive pergola.

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The old landownership patterns of the former stately homes of Lee make getting near to the Prime Meridian difficult, but my slightly off line route takes me past the old churchyard of St Margaret Lee which is rather appropriate as it contains the graves of several Astronomers Royal – including that of the previously celebrated Edmund Halley.

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With its links to the Observatory this is perhaps an appropriate stopping point. The next post will cover the final mile and a half to the Observatory.

From the Fire to the Frying Pan

I must admit that the area around the South East London Combined Heat and Power Plant incinerator is not generally on any of my running routes, but last Sunday’s rather tired-legged run included it. The only reason was a search for a bit of history, the old New Cross speedway and greyhound stadium.

These days it isn’t much to look at – a triangle of grass surrounded by the Overground and housing, now known as Bridgehouse Meadows. There is a large mound of earth at one end and from the top of that a vague outline of what once was becomes more apparent.

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The ‘Frying Pan’ had a capacity of 26,000 in its heyday. It opened initially as an athletics track in the early years of the 20th Century, but was converted to a greyhound track which had a speedway track inside it.

The New Cross Rangers speedway team operated from there from 1934 when a team based at Crystal Palace moved there. The Crystal Palace base is where the National Sports Centre now is in Crystal Palace Park, and had previously been the home to Crystal Palace Football Club before the military requisitioned the park during WW1.

With a few gaps in the late 1950s, the New Cross Rangers kept going until mid-way through the 1963 season, in the latter years their riders included Barry Briggs. There are some great photos of the stadium in its prime on the Defunct Speedway site, as well as occasionally appearing on eBay – those below were on sale in December 2014.

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(Clockwise from the top right – Ernie Freeman, Jeff Lloyd, Mick Mitchell & Eric French all from the 1940s)

Greyhound racing continued into the 1960s but the legalisation of betting shops in 1961 saw attendances at greyhound racing decline generally and New Cross only continued for another 8 years.

The stadium was demolished in 1975 as part of plans to redevelop Millwall’s ground, The Den, which was adjacent to the Frying Pan. The plans ultimately came to nothing as the club were unable to afford the costs of a 25,000 all-seater stadium. Millwall eventually moved to the New Den in Senegal Fields in 1993. The site of The Den is the housing at the rear of the top photo.

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The Den is commemorated by one of Lewisham’s Maroon Plaques, close to where the old ground was located.

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Updated in December 2014, to increase size of photos & add those of the riders from eBay. Transpontine has recently done a post with programme covers from New Cross Speedway.