Tag Archives: Swan – Lee High Road

The Swan – A Lee High Road Pub

On the corner of Lee High Road and Lee Church Street there is a small Victorian pub that seems to be clinging onto life, it has gone through a pair of reincarnations in the recent past. For the first 160 or so years of its life it was known as the Swan, in the last decade Rambles Bar and then Elements Bar.

The pub had opened around 1837, with the licence going to a James Couchman. It transferred to Thomas Couchman, presumably James’ son, on the condition that he ran the pub (1), Thomas was previously the parish constable. He had been born around 1796 somewhere in Kent (the 1841 census only listed the county), this may well have been in Lee.

As we saw in a post on one of the Quaggy tributaries, Mid Kid Brook, the original name came from swans that lived on a small lake or moat which had been created by damming the Brook in what are currently the grounds of Merchant Taylor’s Almshouses. The lake, sometimes referred to as the Looking Glass of Lee, went back to around the bottom of Dacre Park. Initially, it was for a farm run by the Lord of the Manor, Brian Annesley, whose later years seems to have at least influenced Shakespeare’s King Lear. Later it was an ornamental lake for Lee Place, home initially to a man who profited from the slave trade, George Thomson, and later to the Boone family.

In its early days, in the absence of of public buildings, The Swan was home to jury led inquests into deaths. This seems to have been common practice as we saw with the unfortunate Robert Cocking who died in an early parachute accident. His inquest was held at the Old Tigers Head.

Of the inquests held, the most notable was that following the death of police constable, William Aldridge, from a fractured skull in Deptford. He was hit by a rock thrown by a mob who tried to resist the arrest of John Pine outside the Navy Arms in Deptford (a pub building that is still there but looks forlorn and has seemingly been converted into flats). The death wasn’t instant and Aldridge returned to his home in Lee where he declined rapidly and died – the Metropolitan Police had been formed a decade before and he was the eighth officer to die on duty.

The foreman of the jury was a well known Lee name, Sidery, possibly William the head of household but, could have been Thomas, who lived in one of the houses between the Swan and the Woodman, which was transitioning into a shopping parade.

The inquest jury recorded ‘wilful murder’ against William Calvert, John Pine, his brother William, and John Burke (2). In the end charges were reduced to manslaughter and at the end of the trial at the Old Bailey, John Pine was transported for life as was William Calvert, albeit for 15 years (3). Perhaps they ended up in the antipodean Lewisham.

Like the Old Tiger’s Head at Lee Green there were sporting events along with associated gambling at the Swan. In 1843 there was a pedestrian race between ‘Two Unknowns’ one from Greenwich, one from Lee for a £10 stake over 200 yards (4). There also seems to have been live pigeon shooting (5) possibly over the road around what is now Bankwell Road, it was a sport that was only mentioned once in the press in relation to The Swan, but was later to happen regularly at the Old Tigers Head.

Thomas Couchman had moved on by early 1846 with George Chapman’s name was on brass over the door (6). Chapman died the same year, aged just 29 (7). James Charles Tiley was landlord by 1847; he would have been about 34 at that time, he was born in Middlesex. In 1851 he was a widower and was there with Charlotte Goddard, who was listed as his daughter in law (but almost certainly wasn’t), she worked as a barmaid; also there was a lodger. By 1861 James and Charlotte were married with two young children and a couple of servants – Sarah Larking and Mathilda Newmann.

As with every pub in the area, there were fights, drunkenness and arrests – one included the drunken assault of a police officer by George Mahoney of Robertson Street (now the Lee High Road end of Brightfield Road) who was fighting with someone else outside the pub and when arrested hit the PC. He was fined 10/- or two weeks in prison (9).

The next landlord was John Fitzgerald who started pulling pints after James Tiley’s death. He had moved on before the 1881 census enumerators called as the landlord was then John Green who was then 38 and hailed from Dartford. There with him was his wife, Mary from Devon, two children, two bar staff who lived above the pub, along with a domestic servant.

The Greens had moved on by September 1884 as Walter William Scott took over the licence. One of the first things that Scott changed was to try to let stabling attached to the pub, noting that it could also be used for for manufacturing or business (10).
Scott moved on by 1889 as the licence was briefly held in 1889/90 by Devonian, John Byerlee Beadle (11) who had previous been landlord at the Coopers’ Arms in Shoreditch. While listed there in the 1891 Kelly’s, he had moved on by the 1891 census as he was recorded as a retired publican living in Woolwich.

At The Swan in 1891 was Walter Haywood Cooper, born in Portsmouth in 1862, who was there with his wife Emma and two live-in staff, a potman, Thomas Mears and a barmaid, Bertha Crew.

The Coopers stay was a relatively short one, but those that followed had very brief tenures as the licence transferred to Frank Minty in August 1896 (12) soon after the death of Emma in May 1896 (13).

As we saw in the post on the Lesters of Lee New Town, there was a serious distubance in early 1897, when George Lester was charged with being ‘riotous whilst drunk’ and assaulting two Police Constables after having to be ejected from the Swan.  He was found guilty and got a hefty fine of £6 or three months imprisonment with 6/- (30p) costs.

Frank Minty was gone by May 1897, as J Ellesmere asserted that the pub was under new management stressing the quality of the whiskies on offer to the discerning drinker (14). Ellesmere’s stay was even shorter, little more than 4 months, as there was new ‘new management’ by September 1897 as the adverts were in the name of John McPherson (15). He was a Scot from Argyllshire, but had moved from the Red Cross pub in North Cray, the pub is has been known as the White Cross since 1935 to avoid confusion with the British Red Cross.

McPherson was there with his wife, Maud, a young child and a couple of live-in staff, barmaid Rosina Jones and a domestic servant Helen Gander in 1901. The pub is pictured at the back of the photograph below from around this era.

Around 1907 Bertie William Richard Perou took over the licence, he’d have been around 24, he’d been working as a barman at his Father’s pub, the Red Lion at 17 Greenwich High Road (the building, although not the pub is still there). His father had probably retired by 1907 and lived in Longhurst Road (16). Perou started to use the rooms for concerts – including a ‘Bohemian Concert’ in late 1907 one of several by the Lee and Lewisham Musical Society (17). Perou’s was another who had a short stay as by 1911 he was running the Hutchinson Arms in Stepney. The pub is pictured below, its sign visible at the rear of the photograph from this era.

The next name on the brass plaque over the door seems to have been Henry Bernard Drew who was certainly there by the time the 1911 Kelly’s Directory was compiled.
Born in the City of London in 1869, Drew came from a family who worked on the Thames, his father was a master lighter man and in 1901 he was listed as a Barge Owner living in the then suburbia of the Corbett Estate on Arngask Road with his wife Ada, daughter Ada and a servant not called Ada. It’s not clear why he gave up life on the water but was there by 1911, probably a year or two before, perhaps living in Catford he’d already given up interest other than ownership. They still had a live in servant and no doubt employed people in the bar.

He stayed at the Swan until the mid 1930s, possibly running the pub until his death in 1937 at the Miller Hospital in Greenwich. At the time he was living in the WJ Scudamore built Thornwood Road. He was survived by Ada.

The next landlord was probably Walter Edward Mitchell, he was certainly there in the 1939 Register, when he was living at The Swan on his own; he probably took over the tenancy at around the time of Henry Drew’s death. He was born in 1895 probably in Westminster, although the family always seems to have lived around Lambeth, and living in Kennington in 1911 when he was working as a Porter. He died in 1962.

On Facebook threads there were a few memories of a DJ called Graham Edwards in the 1960s and 1970s and the regular playing of T Rex’s Ride a White Swan (released in 1970). There was a darts team and that odd fixture of many pub Sunday lunchtimes – the stripper. It seems that in that era Jim and Kath ran the pub.

Fast forward to the 1980s and 1990s the landlord was William (Bill) Whipps born in Bermondsey in 1950, and wife Mary, they’d married in Lewisham in 1969. They may have divorced then remarried as a couple of the same uncommon names married in Bexley in 2002 – both with the surname Whipps.

Around this time the name seemed to have subtly changed with both a prefix and suffix to the ‘Famous Swan of Lee.’ The source of the fame is unclear. It was very much a ‘Millwall pub’, something particularly noticeable around the Lions trips to Cardiff for the FA Cup Final (whilst Wembley was being rebuilt) in 2004 and the subsequent brief foray into Europe, along with visits to Wembley later in the decade for play-off Finals. On such occasions the pub was covered with flags of St George. The pub was probably run by a couple called Mark and Faye in this era. It is pictured below from 2009.

There are several reviews in Beer in the Evening for The Swan which deteriorated during the first decade of the 21st century. In 2003 it was described as
“Cheap, honest, good jukebox, good beer. It’s doing the simple things well that makes this pub a cut above the rest nearby.”

A review four years later was equally positive, almost too good to be true “a fantastic pub, wonderful bar staff and super landlady, the entertainment is first class with Campbell’s disco every two weeks and the karaoke and bands they have on there, never any trouble!!!!”

It struggled over the next few years with several short periods closed for a variety of reasons, with reviews less gushing – ‘a very basic boozer’ was one less than enthusiastic description. It had a couple of prolonged periods of over six months closed during 2012 and 2013 before reopening with a new name, Rambles Bar, pictured below from 2014.

From the outside, at least, it was a business that seemed to struggle, while more inviting than the latter days of its previous incarnation, when passing it lacked a key element of a successful pub or bar, drinkers. There were a few party nights when the pub was rammed but these seemed to be rarities.

The current incarnation, which has straddled COVID-19 and the lockdowns that killed off the Dirty South (Rose of Lee), is known as Elements Bar. It offers food and cocktails, but much reduced hours to the traditional pub that was previously there. There seem to be similar issues of large parties but few drinkers on other nights. An almost empty bar from a November 2021 mid Saturday evening is pictured above.

The struggles of the Swan (and it’s successors) are almost certainly related to changes in the area – much of the social housing in what was once Lee New Town (the area bounded by Lee High Road, Dacre Park and Boone Street) has been sold under right to buy. The neighbouring streets on the south side of Lee High Road had been home to skilled manual workers and public sector workers before and after World War Two. However, wealthier professionals have moved in, house prices have risen and drinking patterns changed. There are lots of external factors too such as the smoking ban and cheaper supermarket booze too.

Combined, this has an impact on traditional pubs – the last 25 years have seen the demise of the Royal Oak, the Greyhound and most recently the Woodman. The former Swan is bucking the trend and hanging on in there. All four are pictured above from a few years ago.

Unlike many other closed local pubs, there haven’t been pages of memories posted on Facebook – maybe there hasn’t been a trigger to do it… So, if you worked there or drank there, tell your story, who were the characters who propped up the bar, the publicans, 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 there) – if it is you first comment ‘here’, you will have to wait for it 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. Ken White (1992) The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham p241
  2. 5 October 1839 – Kentish Mercury
  3. 9 October 1839 – London Evening Standard
  4. 28 May 1843 – Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle
  5. 3 April 1842 – Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle
  6. 23 November 1846 – Morning Advertiser
  7. 9 January 1847 – West Kent Guardian
  8. 23 September 1871 – Kentish Mercury
  9. 25 May 1872 – Kentish Mercury
  10. 12 September 1884 – Kentish Mercury
  11. White op cit p241
  12. 28 August 1896 – Kentish Mercury
  13. 24 April 1896 – Kentish Mercury
  14. 14 May 1897 – Woolwich Gazette
  15. 17 September 1897 Woolwich Gazette
  16. 17 May 1907 – Kentish Mercury
  17. 15 November 1907 – Kentish Mercury

Picture and Other Credits

  • The postcard with the pub in the background showing Oates drapers is from the author’s own ‘collection’
  • The postcard with the tram in from of the Woodman, is via eBay in 2017
  • The photograph of the pub from 2009 is via Wikimedia Commons
  • Kelly’s Directories are via the always helpful Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • Census and related data is via Find My Past (subscription required)

Probably the First Shopping Parade in Lee – Part 1, the 19th Century

About a third of the way from Lewisham to Lee Green is a petrol station which sits between two pubs – The Woodman, which closed a while ago and The Swan, re-badged a few years ago as Elements Bar.  It was the location of one of the earliest shopping parades in Lee certainly dating back to at least the 1840s, probably slightly earlier.  This first part will covered the 19th century, with the second bringing the story up to the 2020s.

Prior to its building, the land had been part of the Lee Place estate which was broken up and sold in lots in the mid-1820s. The most obvious change that this brought with it was the main road bypassing what is now known as Old Road.  The area to the north of the shops was developed for servants housing and known as Lee New Town.

The road the shops were on was not called the High Road yet; in 1841 it was still referred to as ‘New Road’, presumably to distinguish it from Old Road – the numbering was east to west 1 to 14 which was the The Woodman.

By the 1851 census, the parade next to the pub was referred to as Durham Place.  This was after the first publican of the pub next door, The Woodman, Alexander Durham.  The Durham family owned the pub until the mid-1860s.

The easterly part of the parade was later referred to as Manks Place, the derivation for this isn’t clear; the numbering went in the opposite direction to Durham Place.  It was known as 183 to 205 High Road from the late 1880s  (the prefix Lee was added in the 20th century).  To prevent confusion, we will refer to it by the 20th century numbering!

The layout on the properties is shown in the 1860s Ordnance Survey map above, which predated the redevelopment of the Woodman which is helpfully dated on the side. It seems likely that the properties were built as houses and became shops as was the case at 1-19 and 2-30 Burnt Ash Road around 40 years later.

183 Lee High Road

In 1841, the business next to the Woodman was run by George Baker, who was subject to nominative determinism and was a baker aged 45.  The bakery was still there in 1851 but, alas, Charles Watson who hailed from Stanstead in Essex was now running it, he seems to have moved to Lee the previous year based on the ages and birthplaces of his children; he was 35.

A decade later, 183 was still a baker but the proprietor had changed to Elizabeth Clarke, who was 52 and came from Surrey and was there with here three children. In was still a bakery in 1871, now run by James Case (although the handwriting was terrible) who was running the business with his son, also James, who hailed from Eltham.

During the 1870s the business changed – it was ‘home’ to Frank Attfield, an oil and colourman – a paint seller.  It was to be a business that stayed at 183 for several decades.  Frank was born in Camberwell in 1855, but his family moved to Lee by 1858 and in 1871 was living in Brandram Road with his parents. In 1881 also there was his wife Emma plus 3 children including William Cator Attfield who was to later take over the business, he was just 8 months old in 1881.  Frank and Emma married in Sudbury in Suffolk in 1876. The business was good enough to be able to afford to move out to the then newly built 9 Aislibie Road by 1891.

185 Lee High Road

In 1841 John Hearns, 51, was selling shoes to the people of Lee – it isn’t clear whether he made and repaired them too.  Hearns, who hailed from Greenwich was still there in 1851 with his wife, Hannah from Deptford.  The 1861 census was a little unclear, but it is likely that the shop was empty.

By 1871, it may have reverted to a house and was home to William Joyce, a plumber.  A decade later, John Churcher, born in 1846, was trading there as an upholsterer.   He came from Hampshire and lived there with his wife, Martha, plus two young children

Churcher was there until the first decade of the 20th century although changed his trade to cabinet maker (1884), picture frame maker (1888) and carver and gilder by 1894.  In practical terms this was the same thing as we saw with the Stimpsons in Lee Road

Like his next door neighbour, business was good enough to be able to move from above the shop, he was living at 23 Ennersdale Road in 1891 and 20 Eastdown Park in 1901.

187 Lee High Road

187 was a shop that seems to have stayed in the same trade throughout its life – in 1841 the butchers in rural Lee was run by Richard Howarth (the handwriting isn’t completely clear though) with a live-in assistant and his wife Mary.  By 1851 the trade was being carried out by Richard Hancock (born 1815) from Somerset, with a couple of shop assistants; he was still there in 1861 and doing well – he had married local woman Hannah – they had four children and four servants.

Richard died in 1867, and the lease was transferred to his widow Hannah Hancock was still running the shop in the 1871 census with two sons who assisted with the business.  Her sister in law plus a servant completed the household.

William Hardstone (30) wore the butcher’s apron in 1881.  He was from farming stock in the then rural St Mary Cray where he was working as a farm labourer a decade before.   Brother George and sister Sarah were working at 187 as butcher and bookkeeper respectively.  Two other butchers were living over the shop along with a servant.

By 1888 Chandler and Sons were there or at least Henry Fuller Chandler (31) from Surrey was running the butchers.  Who the sons were isn’t clear, Henry only had young children – maybe he was the ‘Son’ in a bigger business. A couple of young butchers and a domestic servant also lived there.

As the century drew to a close Thomas Spearing from Redhill in Surrey was wearing the butcher’s apron. The shop, from a little later, is where the height of the buildings in the postcard below slightly increases.

189 Lee High Road

In 1841 Thomas Chipperfield was trading as a linen draper; it wasn’t a business with any degree of longevity though as the next time the census enumerators called John Genery, 46, (the writing isn’t clear) was working as a corn dealer.  This would have been largely horse related supplies rather than seeds for local farms, such as the one at Lee Green and Lee Manor Farm on what is now Manor Lane Terrace.  Genery was from Deptford, and his wife {Phoebe (45) hailed from Cambridgeshire.  In 1861 someone called Harries seemed to there, but the rest of the entry is illegible.

In 1867 the trade changed and Henry Bullesback (56) took over the shop as a tailor and outfitter.   He came from Prussia, now Germany.  He had been in the area since at least 1860 he was listed in the 1861 census as being at Lee Green, along with his Derbyshire born wife, Emma and a young son.  

Henry was made bankrupt in 1868, when he had been living at 1 Lee Park.  This probably led to the family all living over the shop by 1871 where they seem to have remained until around 1895 when the name Harry Wilson and Co was over the window. They described themselves as ‘Scientific Tailors’ seemingly referring to the use of geometry in their trade (1).

191 Lee High Road

In 1841 the shop was a grocer, run by George Gates and his wife Hannah.  By 1851 the shop was still a grocer but now being run by Richard Marsh (36) was there wife Ruth, 4 of their own children and two step children. They had been at 195 in 1841 carrying out the same trade.  Richard had added ‘cheese monger’ to grocer by 1861, his daughters Emma (1842) and Sarah Jane (1846) had moved back into the flat above the shop by 1891, assisting with the business.  

Richard died in 1892 and while Emma and Sarah Jane continued the business for a few more years, they had gone by the turn of the century. The new proprietor was Robert Oates who had enlarged his drapery business from 193-195 to which we will now turn.

193 & 195 Lee High Road

We’ll cover these two shops as one, as for most of their life they were used as a single shop. In 1841 it appears that 193 was yet to be a shop and was home to the Thomas Sidery, a bricklayer born in Lee in 1820.  While we can’t be sure, it assumed that he was part of the extensive multi-generational building family, covered in relation to the Firs Estate.

A decade later it seems to have become a shop run by Thomas Freer (48) who was a stationer from Bridport, he lived there his wife, Eliza, 50, from Poole. The 1861 census was somewhat confused in terms of numbering but seems to have been the first time that Thomas Hoys fishmongers appeared on the parade – they are more associated with 203, so we’ll cover them there.

Next door, as we’ve already seen, Richard Marsh was at 195, in 1841.  A decade later it was ‘home’ to James Mouton’s business as a cordwainer, a shoemaker; he came from just up the road in Eltham.

By 1871 both 193 and 195 were let as one by James Turner who was a draper.  Turner hailed from Andover and was a widow; at the time of the census he was there with three children under 10, three assistants, presumably the ‘three hands’ mentioned in the census. There were two servants too.

The shops were still a drapery in 1881, but there was a new name on the awnings over the window – Robert Oates, from Andover; he was listed in the census as being a ‘draper employing 16.’  He was 36 (born in 1845) and there with wife Sarah, 2 children, 2 servants plus Louisa who worked in the shop. Oates was still trading there a decade later but no longer living over the shop; he had moved to 239 Lee High Road – a large house that was between Lee Park and Dacre Park (then Turner Road). Some of Oates’ employees, three dressmakers, were living at 193/195 in 18910

Oates was a regular user of the local press to advertise new goods and sales – such as the summer sale of 1899 (2). 

By the turn of the century the shop had expanded into 191, which as we have seen had previously been a grocery run by the Marsh family. The Oates ’empire’ is pictured below, probably from around 1908.

197 & 199 Lee High Road

As with 193 & 195, this pair of shops spent much of their lives being operated as single businesses, so they’ll be treated as one here.

The writing and subsequent scanning was poor with both the 1841 and 1851 censuses – the 1841 entries appear to suggest that a shoemaker, James Feltham, and Matthew Simcock with an indecipherable business were plying their trade there in 1841.  By 1851, 197 appears to have been home to a draper’s shop run by George Cannon, although 199 seems to have been empty.

By 1861 though trade and joining of the two premises was clear – John Aldous was running a smithy and iron monger, the former part no doubt shoeing the horses of the district. Aldous came from Suffolk lived there with his wife, Mary from Shropshire – they’d married in Lewisham in 1840. They were still listed in 1871 as an ‘iron monger employing 9 men and 4 boys.’

There was a new man in the shops by 1881, Charles Hopwood, also an ironmonger ‘employing 6 men and 2 boys’ – he was 25 and from Colchester in Essex, and lived there with his sister. He’d moved his home to 46 Brandram Road by 1887, where he was still living in 1901. 

The shop is pictured above, to the right of Oates drapery – its from a year or two after Hopwood moved on in the early 1900s.

201 Lee High Road

The 1841 census isn’t particularly clear at this end of what was then New Road with seemingly four numbers for what were later three properties, the writing was impossible to decipher anyway.  However, it was to be some time before the property became a shop, it was residential in 1851 and an overcrowded lodging house in 1861.

By 1871, it seemed gone the way of the rest of the terrace and was being used as a drapers, run by Welshman  Charles Edwards (35) – he was living there with wife Elizabeth (40), she from Cranbrook in Kent.  The Edwards had gone by 1881 and it was still empty when the 1884 Kelly’s Directory was produced.

Arthur Herringway had opened a confectioners there by 1888, although seems to have sold up to a German national, Christian Beckhauser (the handwriting was poor so the spelling may be incorrect) by 1891, his stay was a short one as Greenwich man  William Button was there by 1894 still selling sweets and chocolates – probably not chocolate buttons though – they were much later.

203 Lee High Road

Like 201, most of the earlier years of its existence saw 203 being used as a house rather than a shop.  In 1841, it was the home to Benjamin Wainwright who was a shoemaker.  A decade later Esther Ward (24) was there, described as a ‘builder’s wife’ – she was probably widowed as her brother William Brown (19) marked as builder employing 11 men and 3 boys.  There were also a lot of other family members there.  By 1861 there were two households – both headed by servants for the larger houses of the district- a gardener and a coachman.

By 1871 though the Thomas Gray Hoys was there selling fish and poultry – he had been further up the parade in 1861; he was there with his wife Mary Ann along with a servant and an assistant in the shop.  The family is listed as living in Eltham by 1881, although the census is unclear and a neighbouring census reference to St Peter’s probably means that they were on Eltham Road.   The business was probably passed to Hoys son, also Thomas Gray Hoys, who in 1901 was living at 34 Effingham Road.  However, Thomas Senior died in 1903, and the name continued over the shops for another few years.

205 Lee High Road

This was a property on the corner of Lee Church Street.  In 1841 and 1851 it seemed to be still residential, home to Richard Page, a plumber and glazier.  By 1861, it was a grocer run by Charles Hudson, he also sold oil for lamps.  He was 21 and hailed from Deptford and lived there with his wife Mathilda who was from Lee.

By 1871 the trades were similar. grocer and cheesemonger, although the proprietor had changed – it was now  John Green and his wife, Elizabeth who came from East Farleigh in Kent. A decade later the grocer’s apron was worn by David Kennard from Maidstone Kent, there with wife young son and his father.

Before the end of the 1880s a surname and trade was to appear that was to remain until the 1950s – Brunning an outfitter; initially it was Louis George Brunning.  While not moving to Lee High Road until around 1888, they had been trading as a bootmaker at 99 Lewisham High Street since at least 1881.   They are listed in the census in 1901 when he was there with his wife Annie, from Holloway plus 6 children, including Herbert (1879) who was working as a tailors cutter and a 7 year old Leonard Geoffrey. 

We’ll return to the Parade next time to look at the 20th century and beyond. As the century changed, it seemed to be in a relatively healthy position – empty shops were rare and many of the shopkeepers able to afford to live in some of the larger homes of Lee and employ servants. The birth places, particularly in the years after the railway arrived, showed the levels of migration into Lee from places all over the country.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 27 December 1895
  2. Kentish Mercury 14 July 1899

Credits

  • The postcard of the parade showing Oates drapers is from the authors own ‘collection’
  • Kelly’s Directories are via the always helpful Lewisham and Southwark Archives
  • Census and related data is via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The postcard of the Woodman is via eBay in October 2016

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’

d0be2f21-0e8c-4820-8402-bfbee3dac1b6

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

The Looking Glass of Lee & a Possible Previous Course of Mid Kid Brook

The Swan is the former name of a struggling pub on the corner of Lee High Road and Lee Church Street, now known as Rambles Bar. The Swan was the second pub in Lee after the Tigers Head, when the local justices approved the licence in 1838, along with the Woodman. It’s first licensee was the former parish constable, Thomas Couchman (1).

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Whether the building is of that age is unclear though, although it could well be. The building is almost certainly Victorian, but it is not the building that is of interest rather the former name. Its name related to a small lake at its rear, known as the Looking Glass or Mirror of Lee on which the swans of the pub’s former name once lived.

The age of the ‘Looking Glass’ is uncertain although, probably goes back to the 16th century or before. There was a medieval moated farmhouse, Annesley’s house, which was roughly on the site now occupied by St Margaret’s Lee CoE school – around 100 metres behind the pub. The last days of Brian Annesley, his contested will and the subsequent link of the story to Shakespeare’s King Lear, were covered a few months ago in the blog.

Annesley’s death and the subsequent break up of his estate allowed the development of some of the other large houses in Lee – notably Lee Place, which again was covered a in the blog in late 2014.

It is clear that Lee Place had an extensive partial moat – there was a plan of it in Hastead’s ‘The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent’ (see below) although it is possible that at least some of it may be part of Annesley’s moated farm house as Edith’s Streets suggests. Certainly, the slope of what is now Lee Church Street would probably preclude a moat much higher than the school, unless extensive earthworks were involved.

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Source – Hastead (Lee High Road’s current route is just to the south of the main part of the moat/lake and North of Lee Place)

Recent archaeological work for a site four doors away from the Swan suggests that due to an early 18th century clay pipe found at the bottom that there was evidence of a

massive 18th century ditch which ran east-west roughly parallel to the line of Lee High Road… it had been supported by the addition of stout timber planking nailed to raked wooden uprights. The precise function of the ditch is at present unclear. It might have once formed a moat around a manor house or could represent a relief channel for water draining from the hillside located to the north into the River Quaggy, it may have fulfilled both these functions.

However, this does not rule out the Boones of Lee Place having deepened and strengthened an existing moat.

A picture was ‘painted’ of the area was described in FH Hart’s The History of Lee & its Neighbourhood (1882), although as this was published over 50 years after the demolition of Lee Place, there could have been a degree of writing through rose-tinted spectacles.

The whole of these beautiful views of Lady Dacre’s park and the Boone estate (Lee Place) were open to the public gaze on all sides, either by low hawhaw fences or dwarf thorn hedges. Boone’s estate was partly enclosed with a fine moat and island, well stocked with water fowl and fish. This moat was called the looking glass of Lee, and was supplied by a fine spring of beautifully clear water, rising from the high ground…… This fine piece of water ran from here southwards as far as Messrs. Bloxham and Dale’s shops, corner of Turner-Road (now Dacre Park), and from thence, westwards, to the rear of the old almshouses; a short branch ran farther south to the ancient plane tree, and under a bridge to the boat house; the overflow ran in the rear of Woodland Villas into the Quaggy river.

The source of the spring seems to have been somewhere in the area of what is now Kingswood Road and was piped to cottages on the opposite side of the road to the former pub, the Royal Oak (corner of Lee Church Street and Boone Street). It is likely that this water is now culverted along St Margaret’s Passage (between Boone Street and Kingswood Road) as below a manhole cover there (and another one on Boone Street, near the top of Lee Church Street) there is always the sound of rushing water down the hill.

Woodland Villas, where the overflow from the western end of the waterworks was to be found, was where the telephone exchange on the corner of Glenton Road and Lee High Road is now sited. Presumably the ‘overflow’ would have then followed Lee High Road before joining the Quaggy around Wearside Road and Eastdown Park.

There is certainly evidence of fluvial activity on Lee High Road with an upward pointing 10m contour line on the 1:25,000 OS Map between Boone’s Chapel and Brandram Road – this may suggest the original course of the stream starting in the area of Kingswood Road. The view down Brandram Road from the entrance to the Merchant Taylor’s almshouses shows this clearly.

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There are a couple of alternative possibilities though which would have the stream, let’s call it Annesley’s Brook, joining another watercourse on Lee High Road, certainly the size of the valley around Brandram Road, would suggest a watercourse bigger than a small field stream.

Hastead suggested in 1797 that

There is a little bourn, or rivulet, which takes its rise in this parish, and sometimes, on sudden rains, swells so much, as to rise near ten feet in height, where it crosses the high road, which made it so dangerous, or rather impassable, at those times for passengers, that within these few years there had been a bridge built over it, and a high causeway raised for a considerable length at each end of it, at the public expence. This brook, running from hence, passes along by the foot of the wall of the old seat of the Annesley’s, long since quite ruined; about the south side of which it seems to have made a kind of moat, and afterwards discharges its waters into the river Ravensborne in the adjoining parish of Lewisham.

This seems a little confused possibly mixing up the Quaggy and Mid Kid Brook, although neither rises in Lee. One reading might suggest that it was The Quaggy that originally flowed down what is now Lee High Road with an implication that is was later diverted to its current course through Manor House Gardens. The valley through Manor Park would then have to have been created by a different stream – The Quaggy, Hither Green, which given the relative lack of erosion it caused further up stream doesn’t seem that likely. In any case, why would a bridge over the High Road near Lee Green be needed if the river was to stay to the north of the road to feed the moat?

A much more likely scenario is that the watercourse was the original course of the Mid Kid Brook (there is a detailed post on the brook here) before a sink was created in Lee Road and then the Brook piped parallel to the road before emerging into the Quaggy near Lee Green. The 1:25,000 OS map contours would certainly point to this having happened. It was also the view of the sadly departed fellow river detective, Ken White, who suggested that as late as 1709, that the Brook flowed through two fields both named Conduit Field on the western side of what is now Lee Road (2).

As for the pub, it seems that the former Swan is just clinging onto a business – there seem fewer drinkers than before the name change and it can only be a matter of time before it sadly meets the same fate as the three other pubs within a hundred metres or so – The Royal Oak, The Greyhound and The Woodman – and serves its last pint.

This post forms part of a series of posts on the Quaggy and its tributaries, which are brought together in one page on the blog.

(1) Kincaid, D (2001) ‘Lee Races’ in Lewisham History Journal No 9
(2) White, K (1999) ‘The Quaggy & Its Catchment Area’