Tag Archives: Northbrook Cricket Club

Variety, Soap Suds and Building Supplies – The Story of Lee Public Halls

At the Burnt Ash Road end of Holme Lacey Road, set back from the road, is a London Stock brick building which has been largely covered by the signage of its current owners – Travis Perkins. While the building itself has been much extended and altered, at its core is a 1870s building that started as Lee Public Halls – briefly home to variety, light entertainment and numerous Victorian Societies and later, as the title suggests, put to a variety of other uses.

The ‘proprietor’ and no doubt builder of the Lee Public Halls was John Pound – builder of much of Burnt Ash, Grove Park and bits of Blackheath along with a quartet of the area’s pubs. There were two linked brick buildings one holding up to 1000 the other 400 which were ‘suitable for concerts and public meetings’, they were probably built around 1876. The original site included a frontage onto Burnt Ash Hill, now largely occupied by Bellamy’s Citroën dealership.

The Victorians liked their Societies and needed venues for them – Blackheath had the Concert Halls, built by William Webster’s firm of builders, and the Arts Club; the northern part of Lee had the Lee Working Men’s Institution on Old Road (which was nothing of the sort and will be covered in a later post), but South Lee had nothing equivalent in the way of halls for Societies and entertainment. Lee Public Halls, along with the Station, the shops and the pubs was probably part of the package that Pound was using to sell the homes he was building.

The earliest references to the Halls are at the beginning of 1878 where Professor Era ‘the Popular Illusionist’ performed giving his ‘marvellous and amusing entertainment.’ Like many of the evening entertainments, it was effectively a benefit, with proceeds going to the ‘Burnt Ash Mothers Meeting.’ (1)

Another early benefit was by the Lee Literary and Musical Society who gave a musical recital in aid of Lee Crèche, an organisation which provided for ‘poor children’ in the absence of their mothers during working hours (8 am to 9 pm). The Hall was filled and the ‘audience good’ (2).

During the day the Halls were regularly used as an auction hall for furniture (3). There was an attempt to set up a school there in 1879, although this doesn’t appear to have come to fruition (4).

Political meetings were held there from early in its life, the first recorded one being a large one concerning flooding in the Quaggy and Ravensbourne catchments in May 1878 – an early incarnation of the Quaggy Waterways Action Group, perhaps (5).  It noted that 2000 homes had been flooded in the area in April 1878 and asked the Metropolitan Board of Works to do something about it.

Penny Readings were regular fayre; they seemed to follow the standard, well established form that had been in place for 20 years consisting of readings and other performances, usually by local people. While when they were introduced the charge was as the name implied, by the time they reached Lee, the charges were 2/- (10p) for the reserved seats and 6d (2.5p) for unreserved seats (6). The Penny Readings were popular entertainment with, in the early years, 800 often present (7).

The next door neighbour to Lee Public Halls when they opened was Northbrook Cricket Club, which we have covered before in relation to a suffragette arson attack on their pavilion in early 1914. The Halls were the venue for an annual fundraising concert for the club, the 1878 edition saw the Hall was ‘tastefully arranged and adorned with evergreens and flower, (and) was comfortably filled with a select and appreciative audience.’  (8)

The 1880 version saw apparent favourites of Queen Victoria, the Royal Hand-Bell Ringers and Glee Singers perform. The tickets were only slightly more expensive than the Penny Readings (9).

One of the regular variety acts at Lee Public Hall was the Royal Black Diamond Minstrels (see below, 10)  – they were described as ‘popular exponents of negro minstreley.’ While such entertainment is racist and very dated, it remained popular up until the late 1970s when one of their successor groups, the Black and White Minstrels, still regularly appeared on prime time television on Saturday evenings – oddly for a while featuring Lenny Henry. In the 1880s it was considered family entertainment with generally white performers using burnt cork as make up and ‘enacting comic songs and dances with often grotesquely stereotyped caricatures of black behaviour.’  The Black Diamond Minstrels appeared several times to packed houses, ‘crowded to excess.’ (11)

The local Societies regularly used the Halls as a venue – a regular was South Lee and Burnt Ash Dahlia Society which held annual competitions there (12).

As noted above, benefit concerts and amateur dramatics were a staple fayre at the Halls – an early one in May 1878 was a fundraiser for the building of St Mildred’s – there was a poor turnout due to the ‘inclement weather’ (13).  By the autumn of the following year there were fortnightly concerts and entertainments raising funds to build the church (14) and pay for the organ – there was a concert with piano, several violins and vocalists in November 1879 (15).

Indirectly, the funding of benefit concerts for St Mildred’s was probably one of the things that contributed to the Halls demise as a venue. The building of churches and other halls locally will have reduced the revenue stream and it is noticeable from the early 1880s that local press coverage of events there diminished considerably.

By mid-1885 the building had been put to a new use – an advertisement in the Kentish Mercury in July announced that ‘The Public Hall Sanitary Steam Laundry’ was now in operation. A smaller advert in the same edition ‘Ladies desiring the van to call may send post card to the Manageress’ and could also come and have a look at the new machinery (16).

These were days before washing machines and, in middle class Lee, it would not be expected that the women (and certainly not the men….) of the households would be undertaking domestic drudgery of this type. As we saw in the first of the posts on Ardmere Road, taking in laundry for wealthier neighbours was commonplace. A step up from this were laundries – a little later local suffragette Clara Lambert came from a family that had set up a laundry and worked in it herself for many years.

There were adverts most weeks for staff in the ‘Kentish Mercury’, a few examples included:

  • Woman & boy for wash house (17)
  • Experienced preparer ‘none but good hands need apply’ (18);
  • Best ironers, tall drier also good washer (19);
  • Experienced folder wanted (tall preferred) (20).

It is possible that John Pound still had an interest in the building into the 1890s; there were attempts to sells it, along with Pound’s Estate Office (2 Burnt Ash Hill) opposite in the months after his bankruptcy. The laundry was let at £150 pa, and was noted as having a frontage of 81′ onto Burnt Ash Hill ‘thoroughly ripe for the erection of business premises.’ (21)

There were several similar adverts over the next few months, so perhaps surprisingly, the laundry remained and the frontage onto Burnt Ash remained undeveloped (22).

By 1905, it appears that a small portion of the frontage was let to decorators – Edmund James Tagg, but the Public Halls Steam Laundry, then under the control of W P Cowan remained as having an address with a frontage onto Burnt Ash Hill.

Little changed until the 1920 when two motor trade businesses were to take over the front – in the 1927 Kelly’s Directory Albert Tooley’s Station Garage and Lee Auto Services were on the Burnt Ash Hill frontage, with the shortened Public Hall Laundry now accessed from the W J Scudamore developed Holme Lacey Road (the map below shows the site from 1950 (23))

By 1941 Scudamore’s were using part of the site of the laundry, whether this marked a slight scaling back of operations isn’t clear. By 1953 the ‘Public Halls’ had been dropped from the name – it was now known as ‘Supreme Laundry.’ The last mention of the laundry was in 1962, when Lee Public Halls name had been restored. In 1963, the Halls were home to South London Engineering and Sheet Metal – they seem to have diversified into electrical equipment and air conditioning and were still there in the late 1980s when the last local Kelly’s Directories seem to have been published – replaced over time by Yellow Pages, Thompsons and the Internet.

View of rear of building from the Chiltonian Industrial Estate

As for Scudamores, they remained on the site until they went bankrupt in 1966; for a few years another building contractor – M E Lee seem to have used part of the site but they had gone by the mid-1970s. The current occupants are Travis Perkins and while the overall impression is of a builders supply yard, bits of the original building can still be glimpsed and it is still just about possible to imagine the carriages drawing up at 9:45 for the wealthy suburban citizens of Lee having seen the Royal Handbell Ringers and Glee Singers in February 1880 (24).

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 05 January 1878
  2. Kentish Mercury 16 February 1878
  3. Kentish Mercury 07 December 1878, but lots of other examples
  4. Kentish Mercury 05 July 1879
  5. Kentish Mercury 04 May 1878
  6. Kentish Mercury 19 April 1879
  7. Kentish Mercury 26 October 1878
  8. Kentish Mercury 02 February 1878
  9. Kentish Mercury 24 January 1880
  10. Kentish Mercury 01 November 1879
  11. Kentish Mercury 08 November 1879
  12. Kentish Mercury 20 September 1879
  13. Kentish Mercury 25 May 1878
  14. Kentish Mercury 15 November 1879
  15. Kentish Mercury 01 November 1879
  16. Kentish Mercury 31 July 1885
  17. Kentish Mercury 27 February 1891
  18. Kentish Mercury 03 February 1893
  19. Kentish Mercury 14 May 1897
  20. Kentish Mercury 12 August 1910
  21. Kentish Mercury 29 May 1896
  22. Kentish Mercury 04 December 1896
  23. On a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland http://maps.nls.uk/view/103032888
  24. Kentish Mercury 24 January 1880

The non-hyperlinked references to Directories are from the Blackheath, Greenwich and Lee Kelly’s Directories (pre-World War 2), the later ones are from the Kelly’s London Directories. Both were accessed via the always helpful, and under resourced, Lewisham Archives.

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Suffragette City – Hither Green & Lee

During 2018 Running Past has covered several of the leading suffragettes who lived in Lewisham with posts on Clara Lambert, Eugenia Bouvier and Caroline Townsend along with an update on the post on May Billinghurst. This post seeks to bring together some of the other suffragette and suffragist activity in Lee and Hither Green that hasn’t been covered so far, it will be followed by a similar one on Lewisham and possibly one for Blackheath too before the year is out.

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Source eBay September 2016

Nancy LightmanThere were occasional public meetings at Lee Green, seemingly outside  including one addressed Nancy Lightman in July 1908 (1), Lightman (pictured – 2) was a teacher who regularly appeared on Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) platforms, particularly in the early days of the campaign – she spoke at a large suffragette demonstration held in Hyde Park on 21 June 1908.

A later one was addressed by a  Mrs Brailsford on 4 October 1910 who gave ‘a most interesting address’; her name appears a lot in reports of local activity so she was probably a member of the Lewisham WSPU branch (3).

One of the regular features of the WSPU campaign in Lee and Hither Green, and elsewhere, were attacks on pillar boxes.  They were targets because they were seen as an obvious institutions of the state, resplendent with the mark of the Monarch and would disproportionately impact on the wealthy, business and the Government who were denying women the vote.

May Billinghurst’s conviction for a ‘pillar box outrage’ in December 1912 has already been covered in Running Past; the same evening as she was arrested pillar boxes attacked in Beacon Road, Staplehurst Road (then probably on the corner of Leahurst, where the post office was then located and Northbrook Road – all between 6:30 and 7:30 pm – with tar being placed inside. While The Suffragette reported two arrests this was presumably May Billinghurst and Grace Michell – no one seems to have been charged for the Lee and Hither Green ones (4).

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The original Victorian Beacon Road pillar box attacked is still there at the junction with Hither Green Lane (see above). I did suggest to Royal Mail, that it might be appropriate to paint it in suffragette colours of purple, green and white – sadly, their courteous response declined the request.

In early 1913 there were further reports of ‘pillar box outrages’ outside 124 Burnt Ash Road (almost opposite Upwood Road) which had a copy of ‘The Suffragette’ posted into it, along with another at the junction of Manor Park and Northbrook Road (5) – below.

E0D06DA6-9758-4512-A432-96B861488336

There were reports of further attacks on post boxes in unspecified locations in Lewisham and Hither Green later in the year on 26 October (6).  Late in 1913 wax vesta matches and gunpowder were found in the post box in an unspecified location in Lee High Road but they failed to explode (7).

In July 1913 there was a march from various locations within Kent which was converging on Blackheath that was organised by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies who supported a more gradualist and non-militant approach to attempting to get the vote for women. They were described in the local press as the ‘law abiding and constitutional groups in women’s movement.’  (8)

The marchers, who were described as ‘pilgrims’ gathered in Taunton Road to march to Whitefield’s Mount on Blackheath before heading towards New Cross, Deptford and eventually Hyde Park a couple of days later. They received some barracking but nothing of the level often received by the WSPU. Banners on show included – ‘Home makers demand the vote.’  (9)

At the other end of the spectrum of suffrage and suffragette activity was the likely burning down of a cricket pavilion in Lee.  Suffragettes had started attacking sports facilities in early 1913 after Asquith’s Government had rejected demands for Votes for Women; it marked an extension on the damage to property of the window smashing campaigns.   The pavilions, golf clubs and the like attacked tended to be those not allowing woman members and left unattended for long periods.

northbrookCricket

In January 1914 the Northbrook Cricket Club pavilion was burned down – it was somewhat ironically located just off Burnt Ash Road, next to the railway – its pavilion was mid-way along what is now Holme Lacey Road (10).

Press reports nationally in ‘The Times’ were circumspect about who or what was responsible, noting that ‘nothing was found to support the theory that suffragists were responsible’ (11).  Elsewhere though there were strong indications that it was the work of the WSPU; the Daily Herald merely reported the fire not mentioning any possible cause or culprit – however, they carefully juxtaposed the report with an advert for the paper’s ‘Suffrage Week’ which was to start a few days later (12).

While responsibility was not directly claimed for the blaze either locally or nationally, it was covered as part of a series of reports  in that week’s ‘The Suffragette’ (see bottom right hand corner below) headed ‘Fires and Bombs as Answer to Forcible Feeding’ – so the implication about the cause of the fire was pretty clear (13).

B35C76AC-9482-4321-A8D9-40E79E11D918

While as noted above the arson attacks on pavilions tended to be on buildings left unattended for long periods, there may have been an added ‘incentive’ in this case – the club was named after previous Lords of the manor and major landowners – the Northbrooks, who were Liberals in the House of Lords, the then Baronet having been a Liberal MP before succeeding to the Earldom in 1904.  Oddly, it wasn’t the first time the pavilion had burned down – there had been a major fire there in the early 1890s (14).

No one was every arrested or charged with the fire.

In terms of the activists in Lee there were a three households that were really important in the struggle for votes in Lee – the Townsends who lived at 27 Murillo Road on what was then referred to as The Firs estate. One of the sisters, Caroline Townsend was covered in a post in early 2018.

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The second was 62 Manor Park – this was home to the Leighs – John, a Canadian, and Eda an American had 4 daughters and a son, the adult daughters in the 1911 census included Cornelia, 20, and Gladys, 18. One of these two, probably Cornelia, generally known as ‘Nellie’, organised the sale of ‘The Suffragette’ (15) and its earlier incarnation, ‘Votes for Women’ (16) in Lewisham for much of the time it was produced, it isn’t totally clear though as she was just referred to a ‘Miss Leigh’ – however, ‘Nellie’ appeared in a photograph of branch activists in 1913.   It was presumably Nellie who organised jumble sale collections too (17). Nellie was to live in Lewisham until her death in 1977, Gladys died in Sussex the year before. There was presumably at least tactic support for the cause of women’s suffrage from John and Eda, as the house was used for displaying the new Lewisham banner in July 1913 (18). Saturday rallies were held there too from the spring of 1913 (19).

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It is possible that Eda Leigh was a regular speaker in the early days of the campaign – a Mrs Leigh is frequently mentioned giving speeches in the area – including one in Catford in August 1910 (20).  However, the speaker is much more likely to be Mary Leigh.  A ‘Mrs Leigh’ was also involved in the day to day activity in the branch; she was more likely to have been Eda from Manor Park rather than Mary though.

EC98EA2D-390F-4B1B-A184-F39147E5A8AB

The other family was the Llewhellin’s of 114 Burnt Ash Hill, above,  a house probably built by John Pound. The parents were Arthur Jones Llewhellin, the mother was Sarah Jane (nee Thomas) – both were from Pembroke Dock in south west Wales, where they married in 1873. Arthur worked for the Inland Revenue and the family moved around a lot with children being born in Dublin, the Potteries, Malvern, Greenwich and Lewisham (Olive). In terms of the local WSPU branch both Sarah and more particularly Olive were active members. Sarah was widowed in 1906 and living on her own means in the 1911 census. Sarah was mentioned several time in ‘The Suffragette’ for donations, producing food for sale and catering, including for the Annual Branch meeting in 1912 (21).

Olive was one of many suffragettes who refused to register in the 1911 census. Olive’s activity was a mixture of militancy and organisation. She was arrested twice – the first time was with Clara Lambert in late January 1913 after smashing the windows of the Hamburg American Line in Cockspur Street off Trafalgar Square. While Olive was remanded in custody, unlike Clara, she was later discharged (22).

She was also arrested as part of protest by the Cymric Suffrage Union, which she was also a member of, due to her Welsh ancestry, when Lloyd George refused to see a deputation (23).

Lewisham Suffragette banner

Olive was the driving force behind the Lewisham WSPU banner, above, (24) – she had designed a well-received poster for the office window in 1912 (25). This seems to have led to her designing the banner (26) and being in charge of the fundraising for it (27).  She is pictured bottom right below, with Caroline Townsend to the left; above her to the left is Clara Lambert and a Miss Warwick to the right (28).

WSPU banner

Olive was Branch Treasurer from early 1913 (29) and briefly acted as Branch Secretary  in mid-1913 (30). She was an occasional speaker at public meetings held most Sunday evenings at 7:00 in Lewisham Market – such as on Sunday 21 September when she spoke with Eugenia Bouvier (31).

Olive became a teacher, registering in 1927, when she was living in Stockwell.  She was living in Poole in Dorset in 1939, she later returned to London –she died in Wandsworth in 1972.

 

Notes

  1. Votes for Women 30 July 1908
  2. Picture copyright is held by the Museum of London, but use is allowed for non-commercial research purposes such as Running Past.
  3. Votes for Women 14 October 1910
  4. The Suffragette 27 December 1912
  5. Lewisham Borough News 3 January 1913
  6. The Suffragette 31 October 1913
  7. The Suffragette 4 January 1914
  8. Lewisham Borough News 1 August 1913
  9. ibid
  10. Map on a creative commons via the National Library of Scotland
  11. The Times 26 January 1914
  12. Daily Herald 26 January 1914
  13. The Suffragette 30 January 1914
  14. Blackheath Gazette 28 April 1893
  15. The Suffragette 12 September 1913
  16. Votes for Women 15 July 1910
  17. The Suffragette 12 September 1913
  18. The Suffragette 4 July 1913
  19. The Suffragette April 11 1913
  20. Votes for Women 26 August 1910
  21. The Suffragette 25 October 1912
  22. 31 January 1913 The Suffragette
  23. The Suffragette 13 October 1913
  24. The banner is part of the collection of the Museum of London, as is the photograph who allow its use for non-commercial research such as this.
  25. The Suffragette 25 October 1912
  26. The Suffragette 4 July 1913
  27. The Suffragette 20 December 1912
  28. The photograph of the Lewisham Banner is part of the collection of the Museum of London (on a creative commons)
  29. The Suffragette 24 January 1913
  30. The Suffragette 1 August 1913
  31. The Suffragette 19 September 1913

Census and related data comes from Find My Past

Thank you to the always helpful Julie Robinson at Lewisham Archives in terms of press cuttings held there from Lewisham Borough News