Tag Archives: Nightingale Grove

World War Two Damage on Springbank Road

There have been several posts in Running Past on World War 2 bombings and post-war reconstruction, many of these have been around V-1 and V-2 attacks such as those on Lenham Road, Lewisham Hill, along with a pair of Hither Green ones – Nightingale Grove and  Fernbrook Road.  More recently Running Past has covered the attacks that happened on three nights on their 80th anniversaries – the First Night of the Blitz of the as well as the post Christmas raids on the nights of 27/28 and 29/30 December 1940.  We turn our attention now to the more widespread damage on Springbank Road caused through a variety of attacks. 

Key: black=total destruction, purple=damaged beyond repair, dark red=seriously damaged (doubt if repairable), light red=seriously damaged (repairable at cost), orange=general blast damage (non-structural), yellow=blast damage (minor), green=clearance area

The level and scale of damage becomes clear when looking at the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps pictured above (1) which shows that most of the houses in the street had some form of damage.  Rather than Springbank Road itself, Hither Green marshaling yards, behind the eastern side of the street, were one of the two main Luftwaffe targets in Hither Green during the Blitz, the other being the hospital (2). The damage was much greater to Springbank Road though than to the west of the railway. 

Large swathes of the street were mapped as red by the London County Council surveyors – ‘seriously damaged (doubt if repairable)’ or worse.  In reality, a lot more end up surviving the war than the map suggests.

The Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Service logs make for fascinating reading in terms of trying to work out what damage happened when in Hither Green and the extent of the damage.  However, as we’ve seen in relation the First Night of the Blitz as well as the post-Christmas raids, recording in the log was patchy at best with some high explosive and incendiary bombs only being recorded by the Fire Brigade and others, which were dealt with by local ARP Fire Wardens, were never recorded.

On the third night of the Blitz, on 9 September 1940, it is clear that 136 Springbank Road was hit.  What is less clear is whether this was a direct hit or the fallout from the bombing of the house behind at 51 Wellmeadow Road. This was the house was on the corner with Torridon Road and marked in black on the map above and was completely destroyed. This part of Wellmeadow Road was rebuilt after the War.  William Brown (83) and Alice Budd (56) died at 51 Wellmeadow Road that night. 

136 Springbank was less badly damaged, although it seems to have undergone some wartime or post-war rebuilding work as from the front from the variety of slightly different bricks were used.  One of the inhabitants was Mary Hutcheson – it was a large house that she shared with a couple – the Gallotts.   Mary was seriously injured in the bombing, although she lived for another 6 months before dying at St Alfege’s Hospital (later Greenwich) on 10 March 1941, aged 82. 

Elsewhere on Springbank Road, there was some serious damage further down the street with 213 to 225 completely destroyed. The date of this bombing isn’t clear as the attacks appear not to have been recorded in the ARP log (3).  Unlike 136 Springbank, no one was killed in the attack, although given the scale of the damage it would be surprising if there were no injuries.  213 to 225 (pictured above) were rebuilt as a mixture of Borough of Lewisham houses and flats after the war.  On the other side of the street, there was destruction and rebuilding too, but you have to look closely to see the differences compared with the original Corbett estate homes – the brickwork around the doors and windows is different and the homes are similar to replacement houses in Wellmeadow Rod, which we’ll cover below.

Elsewhere on the eastern side, homes got away with some more limited damage; there had to be re-building work at 211; while its next-door neighbour didn’t survive, the roof, chimneys and bay wall had to be re-built at 211.

There had were several nights during December 1940, notably that of 29/30, when the area on the other side of the railway had seen 1 kg incendiary bombs raining down.  Springbank Road escaped on those nights. However, three weeks earlier on the night of 8/9 December, there had been a similar attack over a slightly wider area – there were a trio of hits at just before 11:00 pm at the southerly end of Springbank Road – none of the repots had any indication of the extent of any damage or casualties.  It could have been the attack that destroyed 213 to 225, as the fire services will have been overstretched that night, although incendiary damage tended to be of a much smaller scale and often put out by wardens.

V-1 doodlebug attacks started to pepper the area from 16 June 1944 – in Hither Green and neighbouring areas, during the first week there had been attacks between George Lane and Davenport Road on 16 June; Lewisham Park the same day; Lewisham Hill and Leahurst Road on 17 June and the junction of Lenham and Lampmead Roads on 22 June. 

Research on the accuracy of V-1s has noted that they had ‘relatively low accuracy… compared to modern missile systems’ but that the aim of the attacks was ‘to achieve its terror and urban damage objectives’ rather than hit specific targets.  So, V1 flying bomb hits on Hither Green and surrounding areas weren’t specifically targeted here.  Indeed, as we have mentioned in other posts on V-1 attacks there is some evidence to suggest that false intelligence was spread back to Germany which indicated that the early V-1 flying bombs were overshooting the north west of London and latter ones were re-calibrated slightly leading to south London boroughs such as Lewisham, Woolwich and Croydon being disproportionately affected.

At around 7:15 in the morning of Friday 23 June 1944 Hither Green had a double hit either site of the railway – Fernbrook Road, which Running Past covered a while ago and Springbank Road; where the block of Corbett Estate housing of 104 to 116 Springbank Road was either destroyed or had to be demolished along with the similar houses behind in 27-37 Wellmeadow Road – the scale of debris blocked Springbank Road for a while.

It was perhaps surprising that only one person died, Annie Taylor (57) who was visiting 110 Springbank from her home at 121 Brightfield Road – Annie was a widow and had lived with her son and daughter in law.  There were several reports of the level of injuries in the ARP log – which were thought at one point to be as high as 25, although final tally seemed to be 14. 

We don’t know the identity of those injured but from the 1939 Register we can work out something about the people who were living in 104 to 116 Springbank Road and the houses behind in 27-37 Wellmeadow Road.  Before doing that, it is worth remembering that the houses had been built as suburbia for the middle classes of Victorian and Edwardian London.  The houses in Springbank Road were some of the later ones built on the Corbett Estate and didn’t appear in the 1901 census, but were in the 1911 edition. The difference between Springbank Road and nearby streets such as Ardmere Road in 1911 is dramatic.  The latter had been built as working class housing with the small houses generally shared between two households with income coming from manual work.  In Wellmeadow and Springbank they were office and sales jobs – with several commercial salesmen and clerks along with a cashier and an accountant.  There were no manual jobs apart from servants in 3 of the 11 houses.  Despite the large houses, large households were rare – it was a very different life to that in Ardmere Road.

By the time the 1939 Register was taken, both streets had changed a lot – the middle class had moved out and both Wellmeadow and Springbank Roads were homes to manual workers, the only exceptions being the adult Spurrell sisters at 112 Springbank – which included Edith who was a Ledger Clerk at a bookshop but also worked as an ARP First Aider.  They were more well-to-do than their counterparts in Ardmere Road and Woodlands Street, the households were smaller and there was less sharing.  Only 108 Springbank and 31 Wellmeadow were split between more than one household.  None of the men (or women) were able to claim the ‘Heavy Work’ supplement which entitled larger rations

The housing built after the war on both Springbank and Wellmeadow sides of the site seems to have been private sector; this is unlike many of the other V-1 attacks that Running Past has covered – Hither Green Station, Lenham/Lampmead Road, Lewisham Hill and Fernbrook Road where it was homes built for the local authority.  On Springbank Road 104 to 116 (pictured above) were re-built, initially as houses although most have been converted into flats. Based on Land Registry data, most remain in the private sector although one has been subsequently acquired a housing association. It was very different in Wellmeadow where the houses seem to have been built almost as 1950s versions of their predecessors – again all but one are privately owned, with one has been bought and converted into flats by a housing association.

Notes

  1. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 – permission has been given by the copyright owners of the map, the London Metropolitan Archives to use the image here
  2. Godfrey Smith (1997) Hither Green, The Forgotten Hamlet p63
  3. It is possible that some mentions were missed when scanning through the very fragile records

Data Sources

  • The ARP records are via Lewisham Archives
  • 1939 Register data is via Find My Past – subscription required
  • Land Registry data is via Nimbus Maps – registration required.
  • The photograph of 136 Springbank Road is via Streeview

The Hither Green Station V-1 Attack

Running Past has covered several of the almost two hundred V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks on Lewisham, including the ones on Lewisham High Street, Lewisham Hill, Lenham Road, Mercator Road and Hither Green’s Fernbrook Road.  They are important to remember both in terms of the death and injuries caused to ordinary Londoners whose stories often get forgotten, but also in terms of their impact on the urban landscape – both in the short-term and longer term.

Another was on the opposite site of the railway to Fernbrook Road around the junction of Springbank Road and Nightingale Grove, very close to the station at 6:18 on the evening of 29 July 1944. The photograph that is part of the Imperial War Museum collection (produced here on a Creative Commons) shows the devastation all too clearly.

The V-1 would have exploded on impact and a blast wave rippled out from the impact point, effectively creating a vacuum in the centre – the combined impact was to both push and pull buildings leading to large numbers of collapses.  The impact was often spread over quite a wide area with total destruction in the centre with much less damage on the outside.  There were memories from someone living at the edge of this attack of gardens ‘full of bits of shattered china and pottery from the houses affected by the bomb blast’ many years later.  The map below  produced by the London County Council during the war (1) shows this well – the darker the hand-colouring, the greater the damage.

Key: black=total destruction, purple=damaged beyond repair, dark red=seriously damaged (doubt if repairable), light red=seriously damaged (repairable at cost), orange=general blast damage (non-structural), yellow=blast damage (minor), green=clearance area

The worst destruction was in Maythorne Cottages and northern end of Springbank Road along with the adjacent ends of Ardmere and Beacon Roads, where, as the photograph shows, there was almost complete destruction.   Although a degree of caution needs to be used with the maps as a few properties that show as destroyed were able to be repaired – notably the former off licence on the corner of Ardmere Road – covered in an earlier post on the street.

There was damage too along  Nightingale Grove from opposite Maythorne to Brightside Road at the southern end. At this end were purpose-built maisonettes and, which seemed to have been built as ‘railway workers cottages’.  There was considerable damage, with the upstairs maisonettes having to be largely rebuilt.

Many of the houses destroyed were homes to some of the poorer residents of Hither Green, as was covered in the post on Ardmere Road.  Given the scale of destruction it is unsurprising that there were deaths in the attack, the casualties seem to have all been at Hither Green Station:

  • Emily (25) and Jean (1) Chapman – a mother and daughter from Walworth;
  • Violet Kyle (25) of 11 Morley Road, who died in the Miller Hospital in Greenwich;
  • Gerald Hill (17) of 278 Brownhill Road, who was in the Home Guard; and
  • William Pontin (38) of Weybridge.

Emily (nee Keleher) was living in Huntsman Street in Walworth when war broke out, and at the time was listed as a Solder Machine Hand.  The Bermondsey born Emily married James Chapman in 1940, although they were probably living together in 1939 with James’ parents.  Jean was just 22 months old when she died.

Violet was from Lewisham although when the 1939 Register was drawn up was living in a shared house in Circus Street in Greenwich.

Gerald had been born in Lewisham in 1927; at the time the 1939 Register was drawn up he would have been around 12 and was not listed locally as he had presumably been evacuated in September 1939.  Assuming that he was still living at home, his parents will have moved during the war as 278 Brownhill Road was vacant when the Register was compiled.  William Pontin appears to have been working as a brewer’s clerk at the outbreak of war in 1939 and was a lodger in a cottage in Weybridge.  The reason for his visit to Lewisham was probably to visit family – a William Pontin of the right age was born in Lewisham and in 1911 was living in Hedgley Street – where his younger brother Ernest still lived in 1939.

A further 17 people were reported as injured as a result of the attack (2).

There were initial reports of the tracks being blocked by debris at the station, although by the following day local lines were running and by 31 July the track was back to full operations.

The post-war rebuilding was a little more piecemeal than in some of the other sites with V-1 damage locally.  One of the early responses was to clear the site and erect prefab bungalows; what is perhaps surprising is that only 9 were built given the area covered and level of destruction.  Those at the southern end of Springbank Road were replaced in the late 1950s or early 1960s by permanent bungalows built by the Borough of Lewisham.

Beaver Housing Society, which seems to have been formed in the 1920s, appear to have owned the houses at the eastern end of Ardmere Road – they rebuilt some of them in the mid-1950s and added a terrace of red-brick houses on the corner of Nightingale Grove.

Both are resplendent with the blue glazed ‘Beaver’ panel, sadly, this is all that remains of Beaver – they were taken over by L&Q in the early 2000s.

The block surrounded by Maythorne, Springbank and the railway was used for offices and related yards. The one on the corner of Maythorne – still survives, home to the building contractors P J Harte.  The opposite corner went through a greater variety of uses – it was last a nursery which closed in the mid-2000s.  It was boarded up by 2012 (see below from StreetView) and new houses completed by the summer of 2017.

The remaining houses were repaired – the differences in the brickwork are obvious in several locations on Nightingale Grove.

Notes

  1. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 – permission has been given by the copyright owners of the map, the London Metropolitan Archives to use the image here
  2. Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: the Forgotten Hamlet : Including the Corbett Estate’ p64

The Ordnance Survey map is on a Creative commons via the National Library of Scotland.

The marriage and 1939 Register data comes via Find My Past, the details of the deaths are via the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

 

 

https://maps.nls.uk/view/102908716

Literary Lewisham – Henry Williamson & the Zeppelin Attack on Hither Green

During the research I undertook for the post on the Hither Green Zeppelin attack, it emerged that there had been a fictionalised account of the events in a novel by Henry Williamson, best known for Tarka the Otter, “the Golden Virgin”. 

The link, according to the Henry Williamson Society was that one of the characters in the book ‘Lily Cornford’ was based around ‘Lily Milgate,’ the Milgates were one of the two families decimated in the attack.  There seems to have been some confusion about the name though, the Milgate’s daughter who was killed in the attack was Edith Mabel Milgate who according to 1911 census data was around 17 at the time of her death. While there appears to be no evidence of a Lily Milgate, both the father Samuel, and the oldest son, Percy, both had ‘Lilly’ as their middle name – presumably a family tradition.

As was covered in the article on the Hither Green attack, the Milgate’s lost four children and the father in the raid.  They were a family decimated by the war, as they had already had two deaths before the raid. Eldest son Percy lost his life as a Royal Navy Reservist on 14 July 1915 (aged around 22); and his younger brother John who was in the London Regiment had died too – on 1 October 1916 (aged around 21).

The Golden Virgin (1957) was the sixth novel in Henry Williamson’s partially autobiographical fifteen-volume ‘A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight’ which followed the life of Phillip Maddison from the late Victorian period to WW2. It is set in 1916 and the central part of the book covers the Battle of the Somme, where the ‘hero’ in injured early on.

There are two ‘Golden Virgins’ – the first a religious statue on a church roof in Albert (around 25 km from Amiens) which partially toppled during the fighting.

IMG_0801

Source – Wikimedia Commons

The second was ‘Lily Cornford’, Williamson describes her as being delectable and having

large blue glistening eyes and loose smiling mouth, tall white neck and golden hair coiled under straw hat with a spray of forget-me-knots circling its dark blue crown.

Williamson depicts her as having had a tragic life – raped when she was fourteen years old by an unpleasant plain clothes detective,who in the novel, is on the look-out for deserters and spies, and seems to consider the ‘signed off’ Philip Maddison to fall into the first category.

Towards the end of the novel, Phillip and his friend Desmond go up onto the Hill (presumably Hillyfields) to watch for Zeppelins as there had been a warning of a raid.  As they argue, and later make-up, about Lily, the Zeppelin appears, a bomb is dropped and the airship shot down.  They rush to the scene, which would have been at least a mile and a half away, and find Lily, her mother and others dead.

20140807-222919-80959327.jpg

The destroyed houses in Glenview Road, now Nightingale Grove – source Wikipedia Commons

There was a degree of artistic licence in the re-telling in that the Zeppelin was never seen nor heard, the Zeppelin was not shot down in London (it met its demise in south eastern France)  and it was ‘Lily’s’ father rather than mother who died, and the real life Williamson was nowhere near the incident at the time.

There is no evidence that Henry Williamson knew Edith Milgate, although the Henry Williamson Society suggest that one of his friends, Terence Tetley, may have done.  The reality is probably that Williamson wanted to include a story that he would have undoubtedly known about both through local connections and the national coverage that the bombing received.

As for Williamson he was an author with strong local connections – he was born in 1895 at 66 Braxfield Road, Brockley before moving to 11 (now 21) Eastern Road on the edge of Hillyfields – which remained his home until 1921.  He attended Colfe’s School (which was then on Lewisham Hill) when it was a Grammar School and joined the London Rifle Brigade as a ‘territorial’ in early 1914. He was mobilised on 5 August, the day after war broke out.  He is best known for ‘Tarka the Otter’.  He was a fascist for a while – a member of the British Union of Fascists, supportive of Hitler and detained for a short period early in WW2.  While he claimed to have ‘abandoned’ politics after WW2, his sympathies appear to remain – the final book in the series ‘A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight’, sees Maddison questioning the moral and legal validity of the Nuremberg Trials.  He died in 1977 as his best known work was being filmed.

The Zeppelin Attack on Hither Green

Zeppelin attacks had been expected since the beginning of the war with blackouts reminiscent of the Blitz 35 years later in place almost from the declaration of war. Initially, London wasn’t a target for Zeppelin strikes because the Kaiser didn’t want to put members of his family that were part of the British royalty at risk, but this was relaxed in April 1915, to allow for attacks on dockyards. The first attack in London was in May 1915 in Stoke Newington, with the final one on the night of 19 -20 October 1917 with, in total, around 200 deaths in the capital. It is that final raid that this post will focus on as the final bomb fell in Hither Green.

20140807-222807-80887011.jpg
Source Wikipedia

Over those two and a half years the Zeppelins had evolved to evade the improving air defence systems on the ground and aircraft attacks on them, much of this involved flying at higher levels of dodge attacks.

London wasn’t even the target for the ‘Silent Raid’ of the 19th and 20th October; the 13 Zeppelins were heading for Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool. They were a new variant of Zeppelin able to fly at 20,000 feet – above the range of fighter planes and anti-aircraft guns. However, on that night they were hindered by gale force winds from the north at that altitude and were forced to turn back. The L45 that was responsible for the raid was heading for Sheffield but turned back and dropped 22 bombs in Northamptonshire before drifting south.

Navigation was a real problem for the Zeppelins and in an interview with one of the crew of the L45, Karl Schuz, the problems on that flight were described

We saw some lights – afterwards darkness. We tried to get wireless bearings from Germany but we couldn’t obtain them. Now it was a searchlight, two searchlights – I counted twenty! And that we guessed it must be London. But no shot, we were unseen, and we could see the Thames. Now, running before the wind with a full speed, and we must drop our bombs. We dropped the large bombs, they were 600 pounders, and I heard later on bombs – great bombs – fell on the Piccadilly Circus.

The reasons for Zeppelin L45 escaping the searchlights was fog, it was an extremely misty night and had been so for several nights.

The Piccadilly Circus bomb killed seven, mainly people waiting for buses, and severely damaged the Swan and Edgar store (at the junction with Regents Street). Another bomb was dropped on the corner of Albany and Calmington Roads (now on the edge of the Aylesbury Estate) in Southwark demolishing three houses, a fishmonger and a Doctor’s Surgery killing 10 people and injuring a further 24.

The highest number of casualties of the night though was in Glenview Road in Hither Green where three houses were destroyed and several others seriously damaged in the raid, as the Wikipedia photograph below shows.

20140807-222919-80959327.jpg
The homes in Glenview Road were three bedroom terrace houses, probably dating from around 1895 – some of a large number of homes developed in when Hither Green belatedly became a station. By current standards at least, two of them were seriously overcrowded.

There were fifteen deaths, ten of which were children and seven of these were all members of the same family – the Kingstons. The Kingstons had moved to Glenview Road sometime after 1911 as at the time of the census they were living nearby at 17 Leahurst Road.

They were a family that had moved around a lot – whilst the father, Patrick, was born in Deptford, he had moved to County Tipperary where he had married Mary and they had at least three children in Ireland. They then returned to Deptford in 1902, moving on to Greenwich (1904) and Woolwich (1907) before coming to Lewisham. By 1914 there were 10 children in the family, but Patrick was killed in the Lee sewer tragedy on 15 July 1914 – drowned when attempting to clear a blocked drain a few streets away in Eastdown Park.

Another family was decimated too – the Milgates, they had seven children and had lived in Glenview Road since 1895. The father and four children were killed as a result of the attack.

The burials of fourteen of the victims were on 24 October 1917 and it was reported that Mrs Kingston attended “with her only surviving daughter, Joyce, and her little boy … [she] was carried in the arms of a man to the graveside”.

The burial of Samuel Milgate, a joiner and carpenter, was later as he initially survived but died a few days later in hospital.

News about the detail of the bombings was limited in London with no information given about the locations, and there was concern expressed in several newspapers about the lack of warning and the silence of the raids which contributed to the number of casualties. There was also a lot of anger about the raid – the Coroner at the inquest for Samuel Milgate belligerently called for reprisals.

glenview1

The site was not immediately used for housing and was a garage until the 1990s (see map above from 1950, on creative commons from the National Library of Scotland) when the current houses were built in what is now Nightingale Grove.

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As for the Zeppelin that carried out the bombing – the raid was its last flight as it drifted considerably off course in the wind and was then chased by French aircraft across Lyon and Dijon before being brought down at Sisteron, near Gap in south eastern France and its crew taken prisoner. There is a French site about this particular Zeppelin with photos of both the crashed airship and its captured crew, which includes the press cutting below. It was the last Zeppelin attack on London.

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There was a memorial put up for the victims, and those of the Gotha attack on Sydenham Road seven months later at Brockley and Ladywell and Cemetery paid for by public subscription.  It was next to the low service personnel memorial in the ‘Lewisham side’ of the cemetery .  Over the years the details of those who died became eroded and indecipherable.  The Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries successfully sought funding to restore this memorial, which is being officially unveiled on Saturday 21st October at 2.30 pm.

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