Tag Archives: Rose of Lee

The Rose of Lee, latterly the Dirty South, a closed Lee High Road Pub

On a bend in Lee High Road going towards Lewisham from Lee Green an attractive late Victorian pub dominates. Currently badged the Dirty South, it has been empty since March 2020, seemingly a victim of COVID-19.  It has some lovely architectural detail (including the original brass clock) and a fascinating history, most of it when called the Rose of Lee.

It is a pub that seems to have first opened its doors in 1859 with a licence granted to William Baker (1). The area around had started to be developed in earnest from the 1850s after the opening of Lewisham station in 1849, although there was earlier ribbon development along Lee High Road.  The area that is now the Mercator Estate was developed in the 1850s and a Baptist chapel opened on the corner of Eastdown Park in 1854, along with Christ Church in Lee Park the same year.  With the spiritual needs being met it is not surprising that there would be an attempt to meet the drinking requirements of the relatively wealthy locals.    

The early years seemed to be a struggle for licencees and Henry Taunton took over in 1861 (2).  By the autumn of the following year, possibly before, John Maywood Lee was there and had applied unsuccessfully for a music and dancing licence (3).  The same application was repeated a year latter with a sympathetic local press noting a ‘strong case’ and no opposition, but the magistrate was unsympathetic (4).

Lee moved on by July 1864 with the 25 year old William Hart Wildee taking on the licence (5). He had previously had the licence of The Victory in Kingsland Road from 1861, which he seems to have inherited from his father (6).   

Wildee seems to have wanted to make better use of the large space that the Rose of Lee offered – attempting to generate more regular income from the function room above.  It was described in the press as a “ventilated room 75’ by 26’ ft (24 x 9 m) suitable for ‘first rate club or society.’” Its availability for excursion parties and bean feasts was noted too (7). 

The magistrates seemed to take up the offer (8); in an era where few public buildings courts were often held in hotels and larger public houses, as we saw with the Green Man on Blackheath in relation to the Blackheath Pedestrian.  The Rose of Lee was also regularly used for auctions – such as one for a range of building materials in June 1868 (9).

William Wildee attempted unsuccessfully to sell the lease in 1866 – the Rose of Lee was described as ‘a modern structure and replete with every convenience for carrying out a profitable trade’ (10).  The implication seeming to be that while there was potential, money wasn’t being made.

Wildee’s tenure didn’t last much longer as it was cut short by his death in early 1867 at the Rose of Lee.  His assets which included the lease passed to his wife, Harriet.  While she took over the licence she sold up to George Taylor in the autumn of 1867 (11) – he was to be 6th name above the door in 8 years.

George Taylor’s tenure ended with eviction, although this seems to have been something of a formality as he was reported to have abandoned the pub and fled the country – perhaps with large debts and wanting to avoid the debtors’ prison.  The Rose of Lee was left empty for a ‘considerable period’ before a new licensee arrived – the licence was granted to either someone called John Steib (12) or by John Scott, an experienced publican who had run two pubs before for a total of 10 years (13), depending on the newspaper.

A much later sign….

John Steib was certainly a licensee there as he was replaced by James Philip Janes in 1872 (14). Janes would have been 21 when he took over the tenancy, he too struggled and by 1873 James Martin’s name was on the brass plate over the door (15). By early 1874 William Edgington was granted the licence after pub had been ‘closed’ by the late tenant, presumably Martin (16).   Edgington’s tenure was even shorter, Walter Pool was the new landlord by September 1874 (17).

The Rose of Lee was becoming a graveyard for publicans some who had success elsewhere – James Janes did so elsewhere in Woolwich and New Cross and by the 1881 census he was living on Lewisham High Street and described as a ‘Retired Licensed Victualler’ and employing three servants.

Pool seemed to make a little more of go lasting until around 1879 before Edward Slater took over the licence (18).  Slater, from Wednesbury in the Black Country, was there when the 1881 census enumerators called, along with two nieces and a barman. The licensee and owner (19) by 1886 was Frank Wilson though.

While music and dancing licences had been rejected in the 1860s, they had certainly been granted by the 1885. One of the relatively regular users of rooms there were Lewisham Hare and Hounds, a forerunner of Kent AC. The club had a handicapped race from their Hither Green Hall base (listed as Patches Lane, which seems to have been part of Hither Green Lane) with ‘smoking concert’ at the Rose of Lee afterwards (20).  It was used by other sports clubs for similar purposes, including Blackheath and Lee Cricket Club (21).

Frank Wilson had taken over both the licence and the ownership of the Rose of Lee probably from around 1883 when one of his children was born in Lee. The family had spent time in Aden (now Yemen) before that. In the 1891 census Frank was there with his wife, Alice, six children and a barmaid – Ada Sidery.  Ada was a local woman and was one of at least 12 children of the builder William Sidery and had grown up 100 metres down Lee High Road (next door to the Baptist Chapel, later site of Fry’s and Penfolds parts and servicing).

Frank Wilson sold up to Thomas Henry Cook in 1896 (22); Cook seems to have been behind the rebuilding of the Rose of Lee. Several prominent local pubs had been rebuilt in the late 1880s and 1890s – notably The Sultan, close to Lewisham, The Woodman further up Lee High Road, along with the Old and New Tigers Head pubs at Lee Green. Plans were submitted to the Parish surveyor in 1897 (23). However, it wasn’t until 1900 when plans were approved by local magistrates (24).

No photographs seem to exist of the original Rose of Lee, but the changes are obvious from the ‘footprint’ of the pub from 1863 (left) and 1914 (right) Ordnance Survey maps.

The changes seem to have enabled the pub to have a billiards club which saw regular exhibition matches, the were appearances from some of the well-known professional players of the day. In 1906 this included Bert Elphick (25) who was to become the Billiards Professionals’ Association Champion a few years later and Walter Lovejoy (26) who had recently turned professional after winning the amateur championship in 1904.

Other clubs and societies met there too – Lee Rovers Cycle Club (27) had already moved there from the alcohol free Jubilee Coffee Tavern near Lee Green. With the Lee Excelsior Musical Society (28) meeting there as well. The pub was home too to several Masonic Lodges, including the Lee Lodge of Instruction which had links to another lodge at Eltham Palace (29).

Source eBay Dec 2019

Cook was born in 1861 in the City and in the 1901 census was listed as being at the Rose of Lee living with his wife, Maud, four children, some extended family, two servants and four bar staff. Unless Thomas Cook was living way beyond his means, it seemed that the pub was a thriving business and had moved way beyond the trials and tribulations of his predecessors.

Cook was fined in 1903 for selling alcohol to a drunk, despite evidence to the contrary but the magistrates believed the police (30).

Cook must have moved on soon after as the 1905 Kelly’s Directory listed a Hugh William Shannon as being the landlord. Although Adrian Bailey had taken over by the end of 1905 (31) and like Cook, received a fine for selling alcohol to a drunk the following year (32).

Bailey there until December 1909 – the date was mentioned in case where his wife, Emily, was seeking divorce, citing cruelty.  These were allegations that he denied, and the petition was dismissed (33). By the end of the war they were divorced though, Emily had moved in with a former regular at the Rose of Lee and Bailey, then an army Lieutenant, hired a private detective to get the evidence (34).

Thomas Robinson there in 1911 and is listed in the census with his wife, Edith, two young children, two servants, three bar staff and a boarder. The Robinsons had moved on by 1916 and Kelly’s listed George Poole as the man pulling pints.

Source eBay Oct 2019

George Poole and was to have his name in brass over the door until around the end of World War 2. Other than his 1939 Register entry, anything more of George’s life has proved difficult to track down – he was listed there as being born in 1872 and in 1939 was living there with his wife, Frances, a couple of bar staff and a cook.

By the 1945 Kelly’s Directory, the pub was listed as being run by Norriss Brothers, Caterers – who are listed until the early 1950s, after which the Directory doesn’t name who was there.

By the 1970s it was at least in part a music venue with bands playing regularly, its greatest claim to fame from this era was the first gig of Kate Bush in March 1977. The set list included a lot of covers including ‘Come Together’, ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’, ‘Tracks Of My Tears’, but some of her own songs including ‘James And The Cold Gun’, ‘Saxophone Song’ and ‘Them Heavy People’ which all appeared on her debut album.

Source eBay Jan 2021

There were lots of fond memories of the pub in the 1970s and 1980s from a Facebook thread – the upstairs room used for wedding receptions, a landlord called Austin from the early 1980s who continued the tradition of live music, a short-lived gym in the function room, soul and R&B nights on Sundays, and, of course, the odd lock in – although how on earth that would have been hidden with the frontage, goodness knows….

In the 1980s it became a sports bar known variously as the Sports, Hobgoblin and Dirty South.  It never seemed terribly inviting, a bar dominated by TV screens with a sparse number of drinkers looking out through the large windows. The landlords from the 1980s and beyond included Vickie & Steven Hill, Tony Coffey and Colin Taylor who ran the pub between 2001 and 2004 (there are several comments from Colin below, some of which has been included in the post).

From around 2004, the Rose of Lee re-invented itself as a rock and indie music venue, again badged as the Dirty South.   It was a venue which attracted a younger audience, it always seemed busy around the weekend with DJ sets, which included the likes of Tim Burgess from the Charlatans and Terry Hall of the Specials.

There were lots of live acts too – this included some significant names from the era as two snapshots in time from Google StreetView in 2008 and 2009 note – posters outside included gigs for Bloc Party, Bombay Bicycle Club, the Levellers, The Yards (a band that evolved from The Seahorses), Domino Bones (a band that featured Bez from the Happy Mondays) and Babyshambles, filmed below – warning the music is loud and of not great sound quality.  Alabama 3 also played there in 2010.

From around this time the upper floors started to be used for temporary housing hostel of various types – known as Rose House.

The pub was ransacked during the summer riots of 2011; while there main damage was to the windows at the front, it was enough to see the pub remained shut for around 5 years, with a full re-launch in 2017. It was a different clientele and age group it was aiming at – no longer primarily a music venue rather it seemed to have modelled itself on the same demographic as the seemingly successful Station Hotel on Staplehurst Road. 

From Facebook page

They offered a variety of fayre with an emphasis on food but music continued with jazz evenings and DJ sets, along with quiz nights and football on the TV.  The shutters went up at the beginning of the first COVID-19 lockdown and never seemed to come off.  Its website is no more, and the Facebook page has been silent since 7 March 2020.

At the time of writing in early 2021, the building is squatted and with metal grilles over the windows at the front It is a forlorn looking sight – it is owned by Wellington, a company controlled by the ultra-rich Reuben Brothers, its future, like much of the pub sector, appears very uncertain in the current environment.

If you worked there or drank there, tell your story, who were the characters who propped up the bar, the landlord, the staff,  the atmosphere, the memorable nights, the particular celebrations that were held there, memories of the friends, the beers.  Post them below (you can use your Facebook or Twitter login – or via Facebook (if you found the post via here) – if it is you first comment ‘here’, you will have to wait for ti to be ‘moderated’.  I will update the post with comments.  Anything libellous will get deleted here & no doubt on the Facebook Group pages.

Notes

  1. The Era 2 October 1859
  2. The Era 17 February 1861
  3. Kentish Mercury 04 October 1862
  4. Kentish Mercury 24 October 1863
  5. Morning Advertiser 11 July 1864
  6. Morning Advertiser 13 March 1861
  7. Morning Advertiser 3 August 1864
  8. Kentish Gazette 22 September 1868
  9. Morning Advertiser 27 June 1868
  10. Morning Advertiser 26 November 1866
  11. The Era  – 17 November 1867
  12. Kentish Independent 19 August 1871
  13. Kentish Mercury 19 August 1871
  14. Morning Advertiser 12 February 1872
  15. Ken White (1992) The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham p236
  16. Kentish Mercury 16 May 1874
  17. White op cit p236
  18. ibid p236
  19. ibid p236
  20. The Sportsman 18 December 1885
  21. Kentish Mercury 14 January 1887
  22. Kentish Mercury 28 August 1896
  23. Kentish Independent 10 July 1897
  24. Kentish Mercury 11 May 1900
  25. Sporting Life 31 March 1906
  26. Sporting Life 5 May 1906
  27. Kentish Mercury 12 February 1897
  28. Kentish Mercury 08 November 1907
  29. Kentish Mercury 09 July 1909
  30. Kentish Mercury 27 February 1903
  31. Woolwich Gazette 15 December 1905
  32. Woolwich Gazette 30 March 1906
  33. Globe 9 November 1910
  34. Globe 23 July 1918

Credits

  • All the census and related data came via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The Kelly’s Directory data was accessed via Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • The modern photograph of the pub is via StreetView from 2019
  • The Ordnance Survey maps are via the National Library of Scotland and are on a non-commercial licence
  • I have no idea where the photo of the pub sign came from, if it is your’s do let me know so I can credit your photography (or take it down if you’d prefer).

A massive thank you to Colin Taylor, landlord at the pub in the early 2000s and with much longer connections to the pub for his input – filling in some details and correcting me on a few things.

Beating the Bounds of Lee, Part 6 – Following the Quaggy

During the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown Running Past followed the long, thin boundary of Victorian Lee before it was subsumed into Lewisham in 1900, aided only by a 1893 Second Edition Ordnance Survey map. This has been in stages, from Lee Green to Winn Road, appropriately passing Corona Road en route; the second part took us through Grove Park, crossing the never built Ringway; we then passed through Marvels and Elmstead Woods and a Borough of Deptford Cemetery; the fourth part took us through Chinbrook Meadows appropriately following Border Ditch; and the last part followed the hidden stream Hither Green Ditch more or less parallel to Verdant Lane and Manor Lane.

We left the boundary at the confluence of Hither Green Ditch with the Quaggy to which we will return, following the red dots on the map.

The confluence has actually moved – in 1893 it was more or less where 49 Longhurst Road is now located; it is now around 40 metres away on a sharp corner between between Manor Park and Leahurst Road (pictured below).

In 1893 this was still, just, the land of Lee Manor Farm, although this would change dramatically over the next decade. As was the case when we followed the boundary along Hither Green Ditch, the Quaggy not only was the Lee – Lewisham boundary it was one between two farms. On the west was North Park Farm (the top of the map below) and on the east Lee Manor Farm – the sale of the former to Cameron Corbett who created what is known as the Corbett Estate and the latter by the Northbrooks in a more piecemeal fashion was to shape the urban landscape.

The boundary was within the flood plain, with the Quaggy meandering along the boundary of the farm, the Lee – Lewisham boundary of 1893. While this was acceptable in farmland it wasn’t in relation to the smaller suburban housing about to be developed the east of the railway. Memories of the devastating floods of 1878 will still have been prominent – the theory about dealing with such floods, which prevailed until the end of the following century, was to deepen and straighten the river, moving the water on as quickly as possible – this is clear from the photograph below. This approach also made development easier as had been seen with the development of Lampmead Road following the sale of Lee House in the 1880s.

Like the previous sections, the boundary is being followed on foot, the footwear of choice has changed though because while the rest of the route has been run, this section, apart from a 300 metre covered section in central Lewisham, is by walking along the river bed so waders became the footwear of choice.

The river and boundary continue to diverge for a little, the 1893 flow of the Quaggy and consequently the boundary meandered along what is now broadly Longhurst Road. It was never any more than 50 metres away from the river’s current, very straight, deep, engineered course. The convergence of the 19th boundary and the Quaggy more or less where the 21st century bridge from the the entrance from Longhurst Road into Manor Park is now situated – just above the start line for the annual (in non-COVID-19 years) Quaggy Duck Race.

While the Quaggy and Lee – Lewisham boundary are now coterminous and the meanders are broadly similar in 2020 to 1893, much changed in the intervening period. The Quaggy was straightened and channelised through what until the 1960s was the last bit of farming in Lee – a piggery. The open space, Manor Park, was created in the mid-1960s with meanders restored to something very close to those that existed in 1893 in 2007.

At the exit of the Park, there is a bridge, it is a long-standing crossing of the Quaggy, part of an ancient path known as Hocum Pocum Lane which ran from St Mary’s Church in Lewisham to Lee High Road. Despite the work done further upstream to deepen and straighten the course it flooded badly here in 1968.

Beyond Manor Park, the river and 1893 boundary squeezes between the Victorian housing of Weardale Road and Eastdown Park. The land for the latter land had already been developed by 1893, Eastdown Park on land that had been cultivated by the market gardens of Lewisham Nursery, run by Messrs Willmott and Chaundy, until 1860.

Beyond the river’s first meander is the garden of 45 Eastdown Park, possibly very briefly home to the Ginger Baker, his father was there just before the Cream drummer was born in 1939.  A hundred metres or so further on another there is another building with a musical history – the Rose of Lee, now Dirty South, which saw the first public performance by Kate Bush.

We have already mentioned serious flooding that occurred in the spring of 1878 in relation to straightening the Quaggy upstream.  However, while the meanders and boundary of Lewisham and Lee hadn’t changed since then, the depth of the watercourse had.  It is at least half a metre lower than in the prictue showing the partial destruction of the bridge in Eastdown Park.  So whilst it is a pleasant wander down the river there is little to see beyond boundary walls and banks for much of this stretch.

In 1893 on the opposite side of the Eastdown Park bridge was a Baptist Chapel, this was largely destroyed during World War 2 and the site is a vacant garage, last home to Penfold’s.

Both sides of the river and boundary into Lewisham were lined with housing in 1893; on the Lee (High Road) side a few remain, 152 was once home to William Sidery (pictured top) part of a multi generational Lee building firm.  Grove Cottage next to the Ambulance Station dates back to 1835 and 96 is the last remaining section of Lee Place (not to be confused with the eponymous mansion off Old Road) which was built in 1813 (lower picture) (1).

The remaining houses were largely lost to Fry’s garage and showrooms, which themsleves were replaced by a large Lidl and topped by an even larger block of flats this century.

On the opposite side of the river in Lewisham in 1893 was the well established College Park estate, briefly home to the poet James Elroy Flecker.

Behind the housing the river retains a pleasant almost rural feeling idlyll – it has probably changed very little in the 127 years since the Ordnance survey map being followed was surveyed.  

Beyond Clarendon Rise bridge, on the Lee side, was the Sultan in 1893 (pictured from early in the 20th century below), replaced in the last decade by Nandos; on the Lewisham side of the bridge is now the beautiful Hindu temple although that was a yard in 1893. Penfold’s moved into the site adjacent to both, known as Clarendon Yard around 1904.

The river disappears under what was referred to as Lee Bridge in 1893 for around 300 metres.  Alas, dear reader, this part was done at street level. 

The raised area above the river was an established shopping parade in 1896 with a tea dealer (83), a pair of boot makers (75 & 81), a wool shop (79), a confectioners with an architect and auctioneers above (77), Singer’s sewing machines (73), a stationers (71), a series of household goods shopsunder George Stroud’s ownership (65-69), a chemist (63), a florist (61) and the mainstay of that part of Lewisham high Street for generations – Chiesman’s Department Store (pictured a few years into the 20th century). 

Much has changed now, rather than Chiesmans dominating the street scene it is a massive and not particularly attractive police station. 

On the side of the police station is memorial that celebrates the contribution of Asquith Gibbes to Lewisham and, in the context of of the Black Lives Matter protests of earlier in lockdown, seems an important place to pause. Such memorials to members of London’s Black community remain a rarity, although just inside the Lee border is the Desmond Tutu Peace Garden, Tutu was a curate in Grove Park.

Asquith Gibbes was born in Grenada, and arrived in Britain in the late 1950s, working in Lewisham for 40 years fighting racial inequalities in education, policing and housing. There is a fuller biography of him as part of the brief for the memorial – two examples of his work have national significance. He chaired Millwall Anti-Racist Trust and instigated the ‘Kick it Out’ programme at Millwall Football Club in 1993, a campaign that was adopted nationally. Asquith was also part of very significant work with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office on reforming ‘stop and search’ rules.

Returning to the Lee – Lewisham boundary of 1893, the Quaggy re-emerges just beyond the shops of 1893 and the police station. The boundary though takes a sharp turn to the east (right) by St Stephen’s church, at what is/was the confluence of the Quaggy and Upper Kid Brook, following the latter towards Blackheath. We’ll cover that part of the boundary at our next visit.

Picture Credits

  • The picture of Chiesmans shop in Lewisham is via e Bay in June 2016
  • The photographs of 1968 floods, the destroyed bridge in Eastdown Park and the map of Lee Manor Farm are from the collection of Lewisham Archives and remain their copyright, but are used with their permission
  • The Ordnance Survey map of 1893 is via the National Library of Scotland on a non-commercial licence
  • The photograph of the Sultan is used with the permission of Robert Crawford, the great grandson of the Craddocks, licensees there in the 1920s, it remains his family’s copyright.

Note

1 Lewisham Leisure (1990) ‘From the Tiger to the Clocktower’

This, and the rest of the series of posts on the Lee boundary, would probably not have happened without Mike Horne, he was the go-to person on London’s boundary markers; he had catalogued almost all of them in a series of documents. He was always helpful, enthusiastic and patient. He died of a heart attack in March but would have loved my ‘find’ of a London County Council marker in some undergrowth on Blackheath during 2020’s lockdown, and would have patiently explained the details of several others he knew to me. A sad loss, there is a lovely series of tributes to him via this link.