Tag Archives: Plough Bridge

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

 

 

Following the Quaggy – Manor Park to the Ravensbourne

We left the Quaggy just outside Manor Park having seen the park’s rejuvenation  from one of Lewisham’s worst bits of open space to one of its best, before that Running Past had followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom; then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley, through the golf courses of Sundridge Park and on to Chinbrook Meadows; through the concrete and countryside of Mottingham; and then on through the playing fields and parkland of Sutcliffe Park and the Lee/Blackheath borders.
We left the river at an old crossing, although relatively new bridge that formed part of Hocum Pocum Lane; we continue along the Lane although it is now referred to as Weardale Road.  Unusually, it is visible for a short stretch as the western side of Weardale Road remains undeveloped, in spring it is a riot of colour from the plants that have colonised the banks.  The bridge is a great place for seeing the iridescent blue blur of the kingfisher – often sighted almost skimming the surface of the water, with occasional sightings of egrets and herons fishing in the shallows.
After 100 metres or so It bends sharply to the left, on the bend, in a tight triangular site, is almost certainly the finest modern building on the Quaggy – 22 Weardale Road – designed by and Anglo-Dutch architectural practice 31/44.
A little further on is the Rose of Lee pub, latterly called the Dirty South although it has gone through several names in the last 25 years.  It opened around 1900 and, perhaps, it’s greatest claim to fame was that it was the first venue that Kate Bush played.  It suffered damage and looting during the 2011 riots that spread across numerous locations in London in early August, it looked as though it was to become another lost Lewisham pub.  There were occasional signs of life and a few drinkers during 2016, but it took until 2017 to have a major revamp and re-open as the Dirty South in late October 2017.
Around here the Quaggy was once joined by Mid Kid Brook which used to flow  more or less alongside Lee High Road from close to Lee Green, its former valley is clear in places.  However, it was diverted to follow Lee Road to Lee Green, probably around the early 18th century.
The river is bridged by Eastdown Park, a bridge that was partially destroyed in a flooding in 1878 in an era when flooding seemed more common.
On the west side of f the Eastdown Park bridge (to the left of the photograph) is currently Penfolds garage – the remaining part of a company that used to have three bases locally, including taking over Lee Picture Palace as a car showroom in the 1970s. The usage of the site, which used to be home to a Baptist Chapel (below – source eBay April 2016), is about to change again – this time to flats.
The river follows a tight channel, built on both sides, occasionally over it – such as by KwikFit. The banks had been almost rural on the south-eastern side of until the College Park Estate in the late 1860s as the map below shows (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland).
By the next bridge, over Clarendon Rise, is without a doubt the most attractive riverside building on The Quaggy, a Hindu Temple, the London Sivan Kovil.  In September each year it is the venue for probably the most stunningly beautiful site in Lewisham – the Chariot Festival.
Attempts continue to be made either side of the Clarendon Road bridge to slow down flows through artificial meanders, while this allows some of the normal fluvial erosion and depositions on rivers in their natural state and thus will help a little with plant growth, it will be of little use in high flows though.
Soon after Clarendon Rise, just behind Lewis Grove, the Quaggy is covered at what used to be known as Lee Bridge.  Like much of the area upstream this too was liable to flooding – on an earlier Facebook thread on the river further upstream there were stories of what was then the Midland Bank (postcard from eBay September 2016) flooding in and notes floating around the flooded basement of the bank.
Historically, flooding was very common around Lee Bridge, this 1968 photograph, outside the Odeon (formerly Gaumont) Cinema commonly shown in relation to Lewisham flooding will probably relate to both the Quaggy and  Ravensbourne though – see comments below.
The extent of the covering of the Quaggy has varied over time, the recent development of the police station offered an opportunity to extend its visibility but it wasn’t taken and there is less of the Quaggy open now than there was a century ago as the postcard below shows (source – eBay February 2016).
The river currently re-emerges in front of St Stephen’s church, having first been joined by Upper Kid Brook. There used to be two arms to the Quaggy at this point – one by the former Roebuck pub, the second by the former Plough as the map below shows ( (Image on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland). Both pubs disappeared in the early 2000s, as part of the redevelopment of Lewisham town centre.
The river broadly follows the course by the former Plough Bridge (left photo above) but at the time of writing, the confluence with the Ravensbourne is hidden in the middle of the Lewisham Gateway development which has rendered the area around the station almost unrecognisable.  Eventually, the confluence with the Ravensbourne will be in a small park, Confluence Place, but it may be a wait until the reality is anywhere near the architect’s impression.

The Plough – A Former Lewisham Pub

The Plough, which was for a while the ‘Plough Railway Tavern’ and latterly ‘Pitchers Bar and Diner’ was an old pub whose original name goes back to the area’s rural past.  It was almost certainly marked in John Rocques map of 1745 (below on a Creative Commons), adjacent to the marked ‘wooden bridge’ – Lewisham Lane is now referred to as Belmont Hill.


It was situated on the road out of Lewisham towards Greenwich , latterly Lewisham Road, adjacent to the railway embankment for the line coming in from Blackheath.  For much of its life it was next to a bridge over the Quaggy, shortly before its confluence with the Ravensbourne.  The Quaggy was moved slightly further south  during the 20th century and is now undergoing a further course change.

Before the Enclosure Acts which allowed the wealthy and powerful to ‘enclose’ common land, there was an area of grass “Plough Green” roughly around the area of the old town centre roundabout; it was home a St Thomas Day fair – the Green is shown below (source on a Creative Commons) – the building shown was an early incarnation of the Roebuck.  This area was enclosed in 1810 and built upon (1)

IMG_3312

When Rocque surveyed the area in the 1740s, the pub seems to have been in its second incarnation (2).  It was a weather boarded house which sold ‘Marsden’s Entire and Fine Ale’ – sadly this is a brewery whose history seems to be lost, it certainly isn’t related to Marston’s who were 20 years off being founded.  When sketched in 1814. It was owned by one of the area’s larger landowners – the Earl of Dartmouth (3) – (source on a Creative Commons).

There was a further sketch of the Plough drawn around 1847, just before the railway arrived in Lewisham, which was re-interpreted in the 1940s by Ken Stirling in 1948 (See painting credit below for more detail of source and copyright).  The licensees then were the Griggs, initially William and then his widow, Martha (4).

The Plough was pulled down and rebuilt around 1850 as part of the building of the railway, which had opened the previous year – the South Eastern Railway owned the pub, which still offered stabling and a carriage lodge (5).  The 1897 Ordnance Survey shows the location, including the bridge over the Quaggy taking the pub’s name (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland)

The first licensee of the rebuilt pub was William Morris (6), while I had hoped for a link to the eponymous farmer of Lee Green Farm and latterly College Farm, this seems not to have been the case.  This Morris was born in 1813 in Cobham, there were seven children at home when the census enumerators called several of which were working in the pub – including a 15 year old, this would be frowned upon these days. There were a couple of servants and three visitors, presumably paying guests.

Like many pubs it went through a steady flow of licencees, the Morrises had moved on by 1861 when the Hasler’s were there – they, in turn, had moved to Camberwell’s ‘The Queen’ by 1871 to be replaced by Thomas Jeans – plus family and six staff members living in; and so it continued throughout the rest of the 19th and early 20th centuries landlords (they all seemed to be men) came and went every few years.

Around this time, the pub featured in the acquittal of Edmund Pook, the man accused of the ‘Eltham Murder’ in 1871, as he was seen on the bridge over the Quaggy by a witness walking home from The Plough.

The Plough was renamed it the Plough Railway Tavern for a while around the turn of the century, but had returned to its former name by 1911 (7).

The first half of the 20th century saw a change to steady succession of publicans in the form of Joseph Emptage.  Emptage was born in Rotherhithe in 1872, in 1891 he was working for his father as a fishmongers assistant; but by 1901 he was already the landlord of a Battersea pub, the Duke of Edinburgh; in 1911 he was listed as a licensed victualler living in a flat in Crofton Park – presumably away from the pub he ran- probably either the Duke of Edinburgh or the Prince of Wales in Walpole Road Deptford. Although by 1921 he was certainly at the Plough.

Emptage was still at the Plough when the 1939 Register was compiled-  there were several staff ‘living in’ including a Head Bar/Cellar Man, Stanley Grimes; a pot barman,  a bar maid, Helen Matthews and a house maid, Ivy Greg.  Joseph  Emptage died in 1949 and was buried at Ladywell Cemetery.

In the 1970s the pub was run by Jean and Bob Hurley, a Facebook thread on The Plough described it as ‘a great old fashioned pub in those days.’ It seems to have had a saloon and snug bar and some fondly remembered spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve – including dancing on the padded seats that were at the back of the pub.

The pub seems to have been refurbished around 1984 which included the odd addition of a single lane bowling alley.  A new landlord arrived around the time of the renovations, Roger, who is fondly remembered by several along with a South African chef and a Dutch barman.  The pub seems to have attracted quite a young ‘crowd’ – with suggestions that it was an ‘underage drinking heaven;’ ‘the ultimate location for us teenagers back in the late 80s.’  Unsurprisingly there were several recollections of first drinks there and great memories too of Italia ’90 World Cup there.

Latterly the pub became Pitchers Bar and Diner, a ‘sports bar’ with wall-to-wall Sky Sports. It was a bleak, unwelcoming pub – I met up there a couple of times with a friend in its later years to watch football as it was close to buses for both of us.  In the end the cheap, badly kept beer and football, couldn’t hide the dismal, slightly intimidating atmosphere and grim, grubby environment and we moved on.   I don’t remember seeing any evidence of the food implied by the ‘Diner’ sign on the front, but based on the rest of the customer experience, I would have been reluctant to sample.

The outside was uninviting too – at the front changes in road layouts had left it well back from the road, with an odd mish-mash of concrete, tarmac and a wall and a sad looking tree – there was apparently what could be loosely described as a garden at the back although I never ventured out there (it had been used to keep a pony in during the 1970s), but it seems to have been as inviting as the rest of the pub.

Pitchers closed down around 2007 and was left empty, a forlorn looking shell, for a while until the wrecking ball caught up with it – a sad end to what was no doubt once a good boozer (Picture ©Stephen Craven on Creative Commons).  The site was ‘lost’ to the Lewisham Town Centre redevelopment – an access road to the station roughly marks where it once stood.

Notes

  1. Leland Duncan (1908) History of the Borough of Lewisham p96
  2. No doubt the detail of this would be in Part 3 of Ken White (1992) The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham – sadly, I haven’t yet been able to find a copy of this.
  3. White, op cit, volume 6B p203
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid
  7. Ibid, p204

Census and related data comes via Find My Past 

Painting Credit

The painting is by Ken Stirling and dates from 1948, and is presumably a modern interpretation of the one from the 1840s; it is owned and the copyright is held by Lewisham Archives, and is made available, through the Art UK website.  Usage for non-commercial research such as this is allowed under the site’s terms.