Tag Archives: Phyllis Willmott

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

Preparations for World War Two – ARP Wardens, Sirens and Black Outs

As part of the 80th anniversary of World War 2 breaking out, Running Past has been looking at some of the preparations for war on the ‘Home Front.’ So far, this has included Lewisham children being evacuated to Kent then Surrey and the variety of shelters used to one of the key elements try to keep the civilian population safe during air raids. We return now to the Civil Defence services set up to try to keep the civilian population that remained in London and other urban centres as safe as possible from the air attacks that were expected soon after war broke out.  This post looks in particular the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) service.

Like the building of shelters, the roots go back to the interwar period. The ARP Department of the Home Office was set up in 1935 (1),  although appeals for volunteers were not made until 1937 – the approach was based on studying the impact of fascist bombing of Republican areas of Spain and the measures that were employed on the ground there (2). A second appeal for volunteers was made in March 1938 (3).

In the months before war broke out, it was agreed to pay full time ARP personnel £3 per week, although only £2 for women, with recruitment posters stressing the desire for ‘responsible men.’ Later in the year payments for some part time personnel were agreed (4).

Some of the early work that ARP wardens had to contend with was enforcing the blackout that was introduced on 1 September 1939 and lasted until April 1945 (5). Shop windows were darkened from 6:00 pm as were houses – requiring heavy curtains or blankets to ensure that no light escaped. Streets in almost darkness were dangerous with a large increase in injuries – 20% of the population reported as having suffered blackout related injuries in the first 4 months that they were in operation.

Road deaths increased around 40% when compared with pre-war fatalities. Regular readers will recall that a few years earlier Lewisham streets were noted as being some of the most dangerous in London.

Source ebay March 2016

Their control centre was in the basement of the old Town Hall in Catford (above) and, after January 1940, was funded through the rates, a predecessor of Council Tax (6). Every bombing, incendiary and related incident was phoned through to the ARP control centre who effectively acted as an emergency call centre.  They would find out about injuries, deaths, those trapped or missing, any fires that couldn’t be controlled locally (7) and look to send emergency services to assist.  On nights where there was heavy bombardment or large numbers of incendiary devices dropped these were not always available, as we saw with the fire that destroyed the original Church of the Good Shepherd in Lee, below.

Below is one small part of the Lewisham ARP log for the period between Christmas and New Year in 1940, while there had been a lull on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, hundreds of high explosives and incendiary bombs were dropped over the next few days, many around Lee. We’ll explore these attacks in much more detail in later posts.

At the level below the control centre, Individual wardens were based at schools and some purpose built concrete ‘pillboxes’ (8) around the community. They each served a population of 2 to 3,000, typically with a complement of six wardens, mainly part time (9).

One of the ARP posts in Lee was at what was then Hedgley Street School, pictured above (it was later Northbrook and currently Trinity Lewisham School) on the corner of Taunton Road. Running Past has covered the Noble family, who started the war at 49 Lampmead Road, a number of times before, including in relation to 1920’s play and the ‘Sunday Constitutional.’ Several of the family members worked for the ARP – Phyllis was briefly a warden with a navy battledress and steel helmet with a large white ‘W’ on the front (10). Her brother Joe and a cousin, who also lived at 49 Lampmead Road, worked as messengers based at the School – while in theory there were telephone links to Catford, cycle and motor cycle based messengers were used too in case lines came down.

The school was hit while Phyllis’ younger brother, Joe, was working there and partially destroyed. He was to be the only one injured – a bruised ankle from a falling fireplace (11). The ARP post presumably moved to an undamaged part of the evacuated school.

On the ground, the local ARP wardens would deal with whatever was needed, this ranged from providing first aid to those injured in incidents, directing people to shelters and help in getting the dead and injured out of bombed premises, this was both for hits on houses as well as the larger scale destruction of incidents like the attack on Sandhurst Road School in early 1943.

In front of St Stephens Church in Lewisham is a tall metal post with what looks like a pair of speakers attached to the top. It is easy to miss, particularly when the adjacent trees alongside the Quaggy are in leaf. It seems to be Lewisham’s last remaining air raid warning siren – one of around 25 around the then Boroughs of Deptford and Lewisham (12).

Once the warning sounded ARP wardens ensured that residents took cover in one of the air raid shelters; they sounded on over 1200 occasions during the war. Other locations seem to have included a former police station on Catford Hill, Catford Police Station on Bromley Road and Sandhurst Road School. The survival of the Lewisham one probably relates to its location next to the Quaggy and has a residual use as a flood warning siren.

The chilling sound of the air raid warning siren and, at the end, the all clear sound is on the YouTube video.

Finally, it is worth remembering that many ARP wardens lost their lives during the war; across London around 300 perished (13).  Those that died serving their community in Lewisham included (14):

  • Albert Brown (64) of 1 Eliot Hill was Injured at 14 Montpelier Vale on 8 March 1945 in the aftermath of the V-2 attack on Blackheath and died later the same day at Lewisham Hospital (pictured below);
  • Henry Cottell (52) was a Senior Air Raid Warden of 41 Manor Lane Terrace was injured at Lee High Road on 29/12/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
  • Barbara Fleming (16) of 20 Farmfield Road in Bellingham was injured on 16/04/1941 at Warden’s Post, Ashgrove Road; died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
  •  Douglas Hardisty (44) ; of 70 Vancouver Road in Forest Hill who was a Captain in the  Home Guard as well as being an ARP Warden was Injured 21 March 1944, at corner of Vancouver Road and Kilmorie Road; he died at Lewisham Hospital;
  • Kenneth Smith (33) of 251 Burnt Ash Hill was injured at Methodist Chapel, Burnt Ash Hill on 13/10/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital; and
  • Marjorie Wickens (19) of 7 Taunton Road died at the Albion Way Shelter on 11 September 1940.


Running Past will return to the fire watchers, the expanded fire service and other elements of the in later posts on World War Two.

Notes

  1. Mike Brown (1999) Put That Light Out! Britain’s Civil Defence Services at War 1939-45 -Stroud, Sutton Publishing p2
  2. ibid p3
  3. ibid p5
  4. ibid p7
  5. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 – 1945 p12
  6. ibid p28
  7. ibid p28
  8. ibid p27
  9. ibid p27
  10. Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming Of Age in Wartime – London, Peter Owen, p42
  11. ibid p45
  12. Blake, op cit, p41
  13. ibid p29
  14. These are based on records from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

Picture Credits

  • The recruitment poster comes from the collection of the Imperial War Museum and is used on a Non-Commercial Licence.;
  • The photograph of Hedgley Street School & the ruins of the Good Shepherd come from a booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p16 and it used with the church’s permission;
  • The picture of Sandhurst Road School is via The Newsshopper;
  • The postcard of the Town Hall is from eBay in March 2016;
  • The ARP Log is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their consent and remains their copyright;
  • The photograph of Blackheath is of an unknown source, although given its age is probably a government one and would thus be out of copyright; and
  • The ARP helmet is via Wikipedia and is on a Creative Commons.

 

Children’s Play in Lee Between the Wars

A while ago Running Past delved into the first volume of the autobiography of Phyllis Willmott who grew up in Lampmead Road in Lee, looking at the Sunday Constitutional that she and her siblings went on with the adult male members of her extended family. We return to ‘Growing Up in a London Village,’ to explore her recollections of play around 90 years ago.

Memoirs like this from the period are rare, as Willmott herself noted ‘(Working class) families seldom write letters; they do no keep diaries or publish books;’ traditions were oral (1).

The house at 49 Lampmead Road was overcrowded by modern standards, although as noted in the posts on Ardmere Road, for working class families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the area, this was not uncommon. It was rented by Phyllis grandparents who had the large front bedroom as well two uncles and a cousin who shared the rear living room. Phyllis mother and father, Harriet and Alec, shared the smaller second floor bedroom – with Phyllis and her brother and sister top to tail in a single bed (2). Unsurprisingly, unless weather prevented it, play was usually outside (or at least that’s what her memories were…)

Skipping games with old clothes lines were common and could often become the entire focus of play for weeks on end to the exclusion of almost everything else, but would then be quickly abandoned (3). Hopscotch would be marked out on the pavement, which was the venue for marbles too. There would be paper chases up and down Lampmead Road and into the road itself with cars a rarity (4).

Seasonal ‘standards’ included conkers in the autumn and a season later, winter warmer. The latter involved keeping lit rags smouldering in a pierced cocoa can (5) – it isn’t clear whether the children were able to purloin any methylated spirit or other accelerant to aid the burning.

In summer holidays the children of Lampmead, Brightfield and neighbouring streets would have a ‘fair’ against the wall of the end house which faced Brightfield Road (below); the house was occupied by the irritable Mrs French. They sold sweets made by mothers, posies of flowers from gardens, swapped possessions they no longer wanted – dolls clothes, toy soldiers and the like. It lasted about a week (6).

The wall was used for other games too – one involved cigarette cards being were propped up against it, others would attempt knock the cards down by flicking their own cards at them. Any card(s) knocked down were the spoils of victory for the flicker, but all cards standing would mean the loss of the the flicked card. Spirits rose and fell with the winning and loss of cards. (7)

Ball games were played against that long flank wall to the terrace too, it had enough length to support up to 4 games at once. The reverberations no doubt drove Mrs French to despair – often shooing the children away (8).

There were a couple of dozen children of a primary school age that played out in the street (9) so perhaps Mrs French’s interventions were not surprising. Street play was safe though, unlike now, cars were a rarity in the neighbourhood apart from those on Lee High Road. Much of the rest of traffic on the streets was horse drawn or the hand pulled barrow of the type that her father used for building work. The streets ‘belonged’ to the children and other pedestrians (10).

While the back garden was very much her grandfather’s domain, the children were allowed to play there too – a favourite was racing snails found in the lilac along the wooden benches he had made. The only condition was that he made Phyllis and her siblings clear up the trails from the seats. (11)

Source EBay Feb 2016 Source eBay Feb 2016

The children seemed to have a lot of freedom to wander from an early age and a frequent destination was Manor House Gardens, which had only been open for 25 years when Phyllis made her first forays there. There was then a shop in the park, the Old Road end of the cafe which sold sweets, tea and cakes. Next to it was a covered shelter (now part of the cafe, behind what is now the outside seating) – often where they ended up when weather was poor (12). The playground at Mountsfield Park was preferred to that in Manor House Gardens (it isn’t clear what existed in Manor House Gardens at that stage – large scale maps only note the tennis courts in front of the Manor House & where the football ‘cage’ currently is.)  However, there were gangs from neighbouring areas at Mountsfield Park so it was less popular (13).

As the children got older they were allowed to venture further afield, literally to a field – next to the Little Quaggy in Mottingham – ‘camping’ by the still clear stream – fishing and paddling there and on spring trips out there, jam jars would be filled with frogspawn (14). The Sidcup by-pass had just been built, and then it was home to Express Dairy cattle, now it is riding school land with lorries thundering past.

And finally… when her Dad was in work, trips to the Imperial Picture Palace were made on Saturday mornings, it was opposite where her grandmother had grown up near Lee Green (15).

Notes

  1. Phyllis Willmott (1979) Growing Up in a London Village p6
  2. ibid p12
  3. ibid p35
  4. ibid p36
  5. ibid p36
  6. ibid p37
  7. ibid p37
  8. ibid p37
  9. ibid p31
  10. ibid p177
  11. ibid p60
  12. ibid p106
  13. ibid p109
  14. ibid p110
  15. ibid p118

 

The Sunday ‘Constitutional’ in Lee

For many working class men and often their children and sometimes their wives and girlfriends, the ‘Sunday Constitutional’ was a big part of the weekend.  The ‘Constitutional’ that we are about to follow is that of the Noble family from 49 Lampmead Road in Lee (below) in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Their life in Lee formed part of the memoirs of their second youngest child, Phyllis, who went on to become Phyllis Willmott, who trained as a Social Worker and later became a lecturer in Social Policy, frequently contributing to journals such as ‘New Society’. Running Past will return to her life and memoirs several times over the next few months.

The house was rented by Phyllis grandparents who had the large front bedroom as well two uncles and a cousin who shared the rear living room. Phyllis mother and father, Harriet and Alec, shared the smaller second floor bedroom – (based on the dimensions of rooms downstairs) it was probably 3.65 metres by  3.02 metres.  Phyllis and her brother and sister were top to tail in a single bed (1)

Sunday morning started with the smells of the night before – the chamber pot (2) containing her father’s urine from the Saturday night at one of the local pubs, often the Duke of Edinburgh (below – eBay Sept 2017). The toilet was downstairs and outside (3).

Phyllis and her her siblings were allowed briefly into her parents bed before going downstairs with her Mum whilst her Dad was allowed to sleep off some of Saturday night’s beer (4).  Whilst her grandmother cooked breakfast, the men folk gradually gathered and planned the route for the ‘Sunday Constitutional’ – there were generally two routes to the Hare and Billet – either via Lee Green and the Old and/or New Tigers Head– left and right respectively below (6).

Source eBay September 2016

While not mentioned, the route up the the penultimate watering-hole, the Hare and Billet, probably involved other stops in ‘the Village’

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The alternative route to the Heath and the Hare and Billet was via the Swan (currently Elements and before that Rambles Bar) and the Dacre Arms via what was still known then as Love Lane – now St Margaret’s Passage and Heath Lane – pictured as it would have been then (picture via Pub History)

As with the route via Lee Green, other possible stopping places were not mentioned but may well have included one of the pubs in or on the edge of the now gone old housing of Lee New Town, around Lee Church Street – on these only the Swan (top left) remains, the Greyhound (top right), the Woodman (bottom right) and the Royal Oak all having closed.

Whether the children noticed the early 18th century graffiti at their chest height en route is not known.At each of the stops, the children would have ‘liberal supplies of biscuits and lemonade’ (7). While her mother and father disapproved of other parents who left their children outside in the evenings, the Sunday morning ‘walks’ were regarded as an exception (8). However, it seems that the children were allowed to wander off from the Hare and Billet (above) and throw sticks for the the Cocker Spaniel (who also lived at 49) – if water levels are as they are now, this may have been at at Hare and Billet pond (9), rather than the suggested pond at Whitefield’s Mount (below).

The final drinking stop of the ‘Sunday Constitutional’ was described as an ex-servicemen’s club ‘beyond Whitefield’s Mount’ (22) – the most likely location was Point House Club at Point House on West Grove. The house dates from the 18th century and was once home to Grote family, responsible from Grotes Buildings, it became a hotel in Phyllis’ teens and was to become a nursing home for the Miller Hospital on Woolwich Road after World War Two. It is now flats. (11).

The were a couple of other options, both down the escarpment and off Lewisham Road – the probably linked Point House Club and Institute on the wonderfully named Mount Nod Square (roughly where Morden Mount School is). Also there was the nearby Bentley House Club and Institute on Orchard Hill.

Unlike the pubs, the children (and presumably the dog) were allowed in the club and they remained there until closing time but often had to avail themselves of other, closed, pubs toilets on the long walk back to Lampmead Road (12).

The Noble and, no doubt noble, women stayed at home to cook the Sunday roast, oddly this was done separately in the two parts of the household – Phyllis’ immediate family ate upstairs (13). After dinner, the children went to Sunday school at what was referred to as Boone’s chapel on Lee High Road at the far end of Lampmead Road (14), presumably whilst the menfolk slept off their drink and late lunch. Phyllis recalled her Dad having to be woken up with tea before the men again went to the pub when it reopened (15) – the final session of a ‘heavy’ weekend.

Notes

  1. Phyllis Willmott (1979) Growing Up in a London Village p12
  2. ibid p17
  3. ibid p18
  4. ibid p18
  5. ibid p20
  6. ibid p20
  7. ibid p20
  8. ibid p21
  9. ibid p21
  10. ibid p22
  11. Neil Rhind (1987) The Heath p71
  12. Willmott, op cit, p22
  13. ibid p23
  14. ibid p23
  15. ibid p25