Tag Archives: Staplehurst Road

The Fernbrook Road Doodlebug Attack

In Fernbrook Road, opposite the railway embankment for platform 6 at Hither Green station, there is a row of bungalows which were built by Lewisham Borough Council sometime after the Second World War.  They look slightly out of place in an area of Victorian terraces, like lots of other small sites in south east London – they were not there because of any defect of the original properties but because of bomb or rocket damage. Fernbrook Road was hit by a V-1 rocket, better known as a Doodlebug, on 23 June 1944 – which destroyed several houses and caused serious damage to others.

V-1 attacks had started on 13 June 1944 – a week after the D Day landings – and were to go on until October 1944 when the last V-1 site in range of Britain was captured, although there were a small number of later air launched attacks.

As was noted in a post a couple of years ago on the attack on Lewisham town centre, there appear to have been some attempts to use double agents to persuade the Germans that the V-1s were over-shooting their targets and landing to the north west of London, this may explain the reasons for the volume of V-1 rockets that hit South London. The old boroughs of Croydon (171), Wandsworth (122), Lewisham (115) and Woolwich (77) were the 4 locations hit the most. The Cities of London and Westminster only received 17 and 29 attacks respectively.

The V-1 exploded on impact and a blast wave rippled out from the impact point, effectively creating a vacuum in the centre – the combined impact was to both push and pull buildings leading to large numbers of collapses.  The Impact was often spread over quite a wide area with total destruction in the centre with much less damage on the outside.

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

The map above (1) shows the damage surveyed by the London County Council, the circle to the north east of the railway shows the location of the Fernbrook Road V-1 (the adjacent one, in Nightingale Grove will be covered in a later post).  The terrace of homes it hit was probably built by W J Scudamore and Sons – certainly the houses either side of those destroyed have the same square bays and details to others locally.

The extent of the devastation is clear – destroying or damaging beyond repair the immediate area but causing significant damage to the shops on Staplehurst Road and the houses behind, on Leahurst Road, along with some blast damage to the Station Hotel.  Not showing on the map, there was also some damage to the Dartford Loop line (2).

There were 22 injuries (3) and two deaths in the attack on Fernbrook Road – Marjorie Annie Lewis and her father, George Samuel Atkins at 22 Fernbrook Road.  Marjorie was 29 and listed as a Clerk in the 1939 Register, George was a Butchers Office Manager in 1939.  George would have been survived by his wife Lily – a Lily Atkins of the right age remained in Lewisham until her death in 1959.

Marjorie had married Francis Lewis who was a Railway Porter after war broke out.  Francis was living further down Fernbrook Road at 64a in 1939 with his parents and sister.   It isn’t clear whether Francis had moved into 22 after their marriage or Marjorie was just visiting her parents at the time of the attack.

They weren’t the only World War Two civilian deaths in Fernbrook Road – Joyce Jones of 100 was to die a month later at Lewisham Hospital probably a victim of a later V-1 which hit there on 26 July 1944 and Henry Munyard from 106 who died in an attack on the London Power Station, along with eight of his work mates on 11 July 1944.

The Blitz, the ‘Dooblebugs’ and the later V2 rocket attacks had destroyed thousands of homes in south east London, leaving considerable numbers homeless. One of the responses was the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act 1944, which planned to deliver 300,000 prefabricated homes over 10 years, within a budget of £150 million. The temporary homes were designed to be quickly put up and last 10 years while more permanent solutions were found. Only half of that number was ever delivered due to a combination of costs being greater than expected and higher than traditional brick homes, and public expenditure cuts after 1947.

The old Borough of Lewisham put up 1,610 prefabs by 1948 and a further 1,088 by 1955. Many went up on parks and open spaces  – the most obvious location for this was on the edge of Forster Memorial Park, the Excalibur Estate (see picture above – taken in 2014), which Running Past covered in one its earliest posts; but there were there were several dozen around the edge of Hillyfields, where they remained until the 1960s, along with several locations on Blackheath (source Britain from Above on a Creative Commons).

Many bombsites were cleared too, including on Boone Street in Lee.  Fernbrook Road was another of these sites – the 1949 OS map (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland) shows them marked.

fernhurst Prefabs

One of the families who lived in the five prefabs in Fernbrook Road was the Beech family, they had lived there before the V-1 rocket attack.   The attack was recalled by Margaret (see comments below) who had been evacuated to Wales the week before the attack.  Her mother and older sister were in a Morrison shelter when the rocket hit three doors away and miraculously they survived.  They moved to relatives in Mottingham for the remainder of the war, returning to Fernbrook Road when the prefabs were built.

Unlike the prefabs of Excalibur, those in Fernbrook Road were relatively quickly replaced with bungalows, and a couple of houses at the southern end, probably in the late 1950s with a pair of semis at the far end of the new bungalows.

Notes

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

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

The Butcher, the Baker and the Disney Store – Shopping on Staplehurst Road

The shops on Staplehurst Road have served the Hither Green community to the east of the railway line for well over a hundred years, and, no doubt, some now even venture under the tracks from the west too (it was harder with the pre-1970s layout of the station).  Their dates are there to see, if you look up, in a couple of places.

image

The numbering wasn’t always the same – the 11-17 was Station Parade (sign still there) and 19-37 was King’s Parade – these were the first to be let being mentioned in the 1907 Kelly’s Directory; Market Parade (2 to 12) gets its first mention in the 1908 edition, with Grand Parade (the Station Hotel plus the shops at 24 to 28) making its first appearance in 1911 (there were no Directories available on-line for 1909 and 1910).

image

The 1911 edition (on a creative commons from the University of Leicester) is below

staplehurst2

In the early years, while some of the names on the shops changed, the businesses remained similar with some moving around in the street.  They were small shops specialising in one sort of produce – butchers, greengrocers, bootmakers, grocers, tobacconists and the like.

By the 1939 Register, while few of the original traders remained, little had changed in terms of the types of shop.  There are some gaps as the Register only captured those who were living above the shops and several – particularly 11-17 – aren’t recorded.  The changes become more apparent when we fast forward to 2017, most of the specialist food shops have gone – replaced by more generalist off licences and convenience shops along with, the more recent developments such as IT, mini cabs and betting (which was only allowed on the high street after a change in the law in 1961).

staplehurst

Some of the stories of the early shopkeepers are worth telling  – Henry Edwards (sometimes spelled Edwardes) ran a pharmacy at number two (now Nisa) for much of the street’s early existence.  He was born in Egypt to British parents  and seems to have stayed in the then Middle Eastern colonies.  He moved to Catford in the latter half of the 1890s and was a mineral water manufacturer in the 1901 census.  He was almost certainly the first tenant of 1 Market Place, and stayed there until at least 1919 expanding into number 4 when a watch repairer moved out around 1918. The family had moved on by 1921 though – Henry was living in Fulham when he died that year.  Number 4 briefly had a resident who was later to become well known – Edith Summerskill, a left wing Labour MP for Fulham West, briefly lived there for a year or so from 1914 with her father who used the shop front as a surgery.

image

Lucy Goericke’s grocers shop was another relatively long standing business on the street – she started around 1911 at number 6 (now part of Nisa) moving on to 28 (now Bill’s Barbers) by 1914.  She came from Canvey Island and had married Karl Otto in early 1899 in Hackney with their daughter, Ethel being born later in the year.

She had certainly moved before the Second World War as she was listed on electoral registers in Bexley from 1938.  However, as the 1939 register only covered who was living at properties and there was no record for 28 Staplehurst Road she may have been still running the grocer’s shop there.  She died in April 1958, by which time she had moved to Ealing, and was described as a widow. Her daughter had died seven years before in Lambeth.

What happened to Karl is unclear, there is no mention of him in Britain after the 1911 census.  In the early part of the First World War, many German men were deported and German businesses attacked – Running Past has covered this in relation to Deptford, but there were also disturbances at Lee Green and Catford.  Oddly a Karl Ludwig Otto Goericke of the right age and Lucy Goericke were listed as missing persons in Australia in 1915.

Laban Nash was a relatively old man when he came to Hither Green around 1907 – born in 1843 in Norfolk he had worked as a labourer (1881) and then a Covent Garden porter (1891 and 1901) – he and his wife Elizabeth would have been well into their 60s when taking on the tenancy of 7 King’s Parade (now Body Silk Clinic) when the shops opened, moving on to 2 Grand Parade (now Coral’s) in 1911.  Laban lived until 1923, it is not clear whether Elizabeth outlived him or not.

Their next door neighbours, the Strouds, were poulterers and fishmongers – they hailed from Kent, the father, Albert, probably started the business – Stroud and Sons – but by the time the census enumerators called in 1911, Frederick Arthur Stroud, aged 24 was running the business.  While Frederick seems to have lived until 1964, it is not clear how long the fishmongers business lasted.  There were people living ‘above the shop’ in 1939, but they were unrelated to the business.  The shop is currently vacant.

William Gardiner was one of the early traders, setting up a butcher’s shop around 1907 – he was from Whitchurch in Hertfordshire, he married Ethel from Gravesend in 1908 – initially at 2 Kings Parade (vacant but may become Park Fever beer and chocolate retailer through crowd funding ) before moving to take over a shop vacated by another butcher at 10.

There were two long lived family businesses next door to each other.  George Jones, a grocer had moved into 31 (now Body Silk) around 1914   – in 1901 he had been managing a similar business in Hastings, although originated from Northop in Flintshire.  In 1939 there were three children living above the shop – Doris, an unemployed piano teacher, Hilda who was probably caring for her disabled mother (Kate) with Claude (24) who was assisting his father (67) in the shop.  The relatively common name meant that finding out anything further about the family proved difficult.

image

Next door to them at 29 (now Quick Shopping) for many years were the Darvills (not to be confused with the unrelated Darvell & Son at 19 – now home of DJ’s Cars – see above, source eBay Summer 2016).  The Darvills were a newsagents, tobacconist and stationers across several generations from 1908 until at least 1939, initially at 23 (Station Café) before moving to 29.  John was from Spitalfields and his wife Emily who was from Westminster.  In 1911 they were at Kings Parade with their three children, Kathleen, Gertrude and John along with Emily’s widowed sister, Agnes.  John Senior died in 1922, but the rest were still there in 1939, although Emily was to die before the war was out with Agnes passing away in the early 1950s.

John Jnr married Doris Freshwater, a ‘tailoress’ (1939 Register) who lived in Ennersdale Road and perhaps popped into the shop on way to station in (late) 1939, like the rest of his family, he  stayed in SE London or north west Kent (Kathleen) until their deaths.

Kathleen and Gertrud never married and it is possible that they kept the shop going beyond the end of the war.  One day I will try to do some more work on this at the Lewisham archives, but if anyone knows …..

image

And finally …… as for the Disney store, Staplehurst Road cannot claim to have had an official outlet selling merchandise relating to Buzz Lightyear, Cinderella or Frozen – the Disney store was at number 37 (now Stanford’s Estate Agents) and predated Mickey Mouse by a decade – it was a drapers run by a Miss E H Disney.  She arrived on the street in 1917 and was still there in 1919 – but was gone by 1939, sadly nothing definitive is known about her.  The shop had been a drapers or hosiers since the first Kelly’s Directory reference. By 1939, while Mickey Mouse may have been well known to the cinema going public, the Disney shop was no more – the Post Office had moved from 19 to 37, a location it was to keep until at least the Millennium.

Notes

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past

Kelly’s Post Office Directory data from University of Leicester 

Hither Green’s Lost Globe Cinema

On Staplehurst Road, to the north east of Hither Green station, and now part of the Old Biscuit Factory development, is a rather elegant building next to the shops.  Over the years it has been put to a variety of uses, but originally it was a cinema, as the OS 25” Map, surveyed in 1914 shows.Globe.3

The Globe Cinema opened on 27th November 1913 with a capacity of around 700 and included features that audiences had come to expect of the cinema – tip up seats and a sloping auditorium (1). It was one of a quartet of cinemas that spring up in Hither Green and Lee in the late Edwardian period, perhaps the golden age for the growth of the cinema.  The others were the Park Cinema, on the corner of George Lane and Hither Green Lane, and a pair on Lee High Road – the Imperial Picture Palace near Lee Green, and the Lee Picture Palace on the corner of Bankwell Road – Running Past covered the last of these a while ago, and will no doubt ‘visit’ the others at some stage.

image

The proprietor was Ethel Mary Smith; she was the landlord of The Green Man Hotel (see picture below) on Blackheath Hill.  She was originally from Seaford in Sussex and was married to Charles Smith who was a Bermondsey ‘boy’ and was an insurance agent – he seems to have been the Managing Director of the firm behind the cinema (2).  The earliest reference to Ethel at The Green Man was in both the 1911 Kelly’s Directory and the census of the same year.  The 1914 Kelly’s had her still there but she had moved on by 1917.  What happened to her after that is unclear, if only she had had a less common name ….

Source - ebay March 2016

Source – ebay March 2016

Presumably the Smiths felt that a cinema was a logical extension of the existing trade at The Green Man and the new inhabitants of Hither Green would want to come to the pictures.  Whether it was competition from the other cinemas, poor bills or poor management, the cinema clearly struggled from the outset – it was put up for sale and temporarily closed on 16th February 1914, only 10 weeks after opening. It was sold at auction in April 1914 for £2,500 (3).

Globe2

 

The cinema re-opened on 23rd April 1914 as the Playhouse, opening with the 1913 film Spartacus (source for poster here)

 

The licencing authority, the London County Council, clearly had concerns about the cinema; probably centering around fire safety and refused to grant another when the licence expired at the end of May 1915.  While the Playhouse struggled for another few weeks, using non-flammable films, the request for another licence was refused and it closed around 19th July 1915. There were further unsuccessful attempts after the closure to get a new licence, the final attempt being in February 1916.

After closure, the cinema was taken over by what was to become Criterion Biscuits who seem to have already been on the site in the buildings behind the cinema (see the map above); this has already been covered by Running Past in one of the very earliest posts on the blog.

Globe1

Photograph by David Simpson – made available on creative commons

The auditorium is no more; it was demolished as part of the development of the Old Biscuit Factory although is visible in the photograph above just before the building work started, however the front of the building remains.  It is currently vacant – the original intention was to create a restaurant after it had finish being used as the sales base for the site. There was a convoluted, but ultimately successful attempt to change the use to a mixture of residential on the first floor and retail on the ground – but as of July 2016 it still appears vacant.

Notes

  1. Ken George (1987) ’Two Sixpennies Please – Lewisham’s Early Cinemas’ p40
  2. Ibid
  3. ibid

Census and related data are from Find My Past; and the Kelly’s Directory information via the University of Leicester.