Tag Archives: The Woodman

87 Old Road – From Lee Working Men’s Institution to Chiesmans & Flats

A while ago Running Past covered the Lee Centre – originally a hall and meeting place built in the late 1880s originally known as the Lee Institute ‘For the use and benefit of the men and lads of Lee.’   There was similar organisation and building less than 50 metres away when it was built – it was known as Lee Working Men’s Institution.   The building and its successor, which was a warehouse for Chiesmans store, have an interesting history.

With the words  ‘working men’ is in the name one could be forgiven for thinking that Lee Working Men’s Institution was, perhaps, akin to a working men’s club – somewhere for the working class of Lee to meet.  It was nothing of the sort; it was very much the preserve of the wealthy of the parish – although this wasn’t how they saw themselves.

The original venue for the Institute was in Boone Street, numberless, but between 9 and 11 in the 1870 Kelly’s Directory, its likely location is shown below.   It opened its doors in September 1854 – to a packed room, with a number outside, its chairman, a Mr Bennett of Blackheath suggested that members should ‘recognise no class – the corded jacket should have as much respect as the black coat.’  It was seen as a means of sharing knowledge through lectures and the printed word – a lending and reference library and reading room books and newspapers (1).  Unlike equivalent halls elsewhere, there was to be no popular entertainment – musical hall type acts or the like.

The original plan was for members to deliver lectures on their trades so that others could learn from them (2).  In practice though most of the lectures seem to have been given by Dr William Carr, the local GP – who gave talks on subjects ranging from ‘Low Prices and How to Profit from Them’ (3) to ‘Life in Russia’ (4).  A recurring theme though was poverty, drunkenness and overcrowding amongst the poor in the neighbourhood – Carr lecturing on this in 1864 and ‘gave great satisfaction’ to a ‘large attendance’ (in the small hall) (5); it was a subject that he returned to in 1871 (6).

Other lectures in 1868 were noted to include the dwellings of the poor, Trades Unions (7).

The Institution was home to a variety of other meetings, including Deptford and Greenwich Unemployment Relief Fund in 1866 (8) as well as the Lee and Blackheath Horticultural Society.  A frequent speaker there was  also Dr Carr, who on  New Year’s Eve 1868 gave the 3rd in a series of, no doubt, riveting lectures on ‘The food of plants and the sources from whence it is derived: the absorption and circulation of fluids and respiration.’ There is no report as to the numbers attending and the impact that it had on the trade of the neighbouring pubs, notably the Woodman (9).

By 1866 they had started to look for larger premises than their small room in Boone Street and were looking at a site around the junction of what is now Kinsgwood Place and Dacre Park – ‘the very centre of Lee’ (10).  By this stage they had around 500 members and included a temperance society ‘which found a home within their walls’ as they recognised that ‘their great rival’ was the public house (11).  This temperance society seems to have become part of the national Band of Hope by 1871 (12).

By 1868 the land had been bought and there was a fund of £400 that had been put aside for the building work (13), which was added to later that year by a bazaar which was held in the grounds of Blackheath College (now Blackheath Hospital) in Lee Terrace and took over £400 on the first of 3 days (14). The Institution ran ‘benefit clubs’ for the poor along with a ‘coal club’ too (15).

The move from Boone Street took until 1877 to happen though – there seem to have been problems with the site on Dacre Park and then issues with permissions from the local Board of Works, these delays seem to have cost the Institution as, by 1875, despite the regular fetes and bazaars they had only £600 in the bank towards the likely costs of £1100.  A contract was signed though with Messrs Gates of Lee and Eltham to build on a new site in Old Road, on what is now behind shops on Lee High Road (16).

It took another two years for the Institute to open in October 1877 – it was described as

comprising a library and reading room on the ground floor, with club and committee rooms above and in (the) rear a hall, well lighted, with seats for 400 persons; there is a library of 800 volumes and the reading room is well supplied with daily and weekly newspapers and periodicals.

Similar fayre continued in the new home for the Institution, although without the inimitable Dr Carr who died in 1877.  This included a winter series of ‘penny readings’ where members recited poems, gave readings and sang relatively serious songs, ending with the National Anthem (17) .  With a larger venue, classical chamber music began to be offered to the locals of Lee (18) – although sometimes with ‘moderate’ audiences (19) and also it became a venue for amateur dramatics (20) The Horticultural Society continued to meet there and put up a lean to enable the growing of peaches (20).

The move seemed to be a success with 1000 members reported in 1880, with popular life assurance and sickness benefit schemes, the coal club continued and the Lewisham, Lee and Blackheath Buidling Society, formed in 1877, was based there. There was still a debt on the building but this was being paid off (22).  In some ways the Institution was becoming the very model of self-help suggested by the eminent Granville Park resident Samuel Smiles.

Political meetings started to happen by the mid-1880s in a way that would have been perhaps frowned upon by those who set up the Institute, with meetings in opposition to what became the Local Government act of 1884 which would have impacted on the power of many of the leading lights of the Institute, Liberal Party hosting held there during the 1885 General Election (23) as did the sitting Conservative MP, Viscount Lewisham (24)

Children’s entertainment had been added to the repertoire of the Institute by 1885 including the dissolving view entertainment – a form of magic lantern (26).  Around the same time quadrille classes started to be offered – perhaps the salsa of its day (27).

It is clear that there were issues with the structure from an early stage – it was noted in an unrelated newspaper report that the building had suffered from structural problems, leading to a decision not to renew a musical licence in 1886. (28)

During the 1880s it seems that any pretensions of this being a working men’s club had disappeared and it was more commonly known as the Lee Institute. Penny readings continued into the 1890s (29).  The structural problems that had led to the decision not to renew the musical licence appeared to have been sorted out as the Kentish Mercury reported in early 1895 that the Institute was ‘now available for concerts and kindred entertainments.’ (30)  This was to include several variety hall type evenings, which the original founders would no doubt have frowned upon and would have been more akin to the entertainment offered at the Lee Public Halls 15 years before (31).

Kelly’s’ Directory noted the continued presence of the Lee and Blackheath Building Society from 1890, as well as Tax Offices in the 1901 edition.  However, by 1906 there was no mention of the building, with the Building Society having switched its operations to the opposite side of the road in the St Margaret’s Parish Rooms.  What had happened isn’t clear, whether the previous structural problems had remerged, tastes and expectations had changed or whether a small area couldn’t support two similar type buildings (the church hall of Holy Trinity, Glenton Road, now called Lochaber Hall, was being planned too).

There was no mention of the site in the Kelly’s Directory until 1914 when 87 Old Road was again home to the Building Society and, more importantly, Chiesmans ‘depositary and warehouse.’

It was to be used by Chiesmans (their shop in Lewisham is pictured above) for many years despite being seriously bomb damaged in World War Two, with the Ordnance Survey cartographers describing it as a ‘ruin’ in 1950 (see below).  It was listed in the 1942 Kelly’s Directory but had gone by 1943.

In the years after the war there were various applications to refurbish and extend the building, including the building of an additional storey on the front of the building for use as a piano store.  These were refused by the post war planners and in the end rebuilding to a uniform height of three storeys was approved in 1951.

Presumably the brick shortages after the war meant that it took a while to be rebuilt – the first post war listing as Chiesmans was in 1959, their usage of the building continued until the mi-1980s.  By that stage the firm had been bought out by House of Fraser who rebadged it as Army and Navy.  It didn’t last long the repository had closed by 1985, with the Army and Navy store in Lewisham closing its doors for the last time in 1997. On the shop site is now ‘probably’ the largest police station in Europe.

In the recent past it has had long periods empty (see above from Streetview in 2008), has been squatted, there were attempts to set up a indoor combat venue and was used as an auction house.  Planning permission was eventually given for flats in 2014, although the actually building work has stuttered a lot with periods of activity followed by months of inactivity.  The ‘stunning warehouse conversion’ properties were marketed for rent only in early 2019 with the 4 bed at £3,995 a month, 2 bed at £2,150 or £1,900 and the 1 bedroom flats at £1,650.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 30 September 1854
  2. Ibid
  3. Kentish Mercury 17 October 1874
  4. Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser 19 December 1868
  5. Kentish Independent 06 February 1864
  6. Kentish Mercury 11 November 1871
  7. Kentish Mercury 04 April 1868
  8. London Evening Standard 20 November 1866
  9. Kentish Mercury 26 December 1868
  10. Kentish Mercury 03 August 1866
  11. Kentish Mercury 09 March 1867
  12. Woolwich Gazette 05 August 1871
  13. Kentish Mercury 04 April 1868
  14. Pall Mall Gazette 04 June 1868
  15. Kentish Mercury 04 April 1868
  16. Kentish Mercury 21 August 1875
  17. Kentish Mercury 08 November 1879
  18. Kentish Mercury 25 December 1880
  19. Kentish Mercury 27 April 1883
  20. Kentish Mercury 05 November 1881
  21. Kentish Mercury 02 August 1889
  22. Kentish Mercury 24 April 1880
  23. Kentish Mercury 13 November 1885
  24. Kentish Mercury 25 September 1885
  25. Woolwich Gazette 11 July 1884
  26. Kentish Mercury 18 December 1885
  27. Kentish Mercury 09 October 1885
  28. Kentish Mercury 19 November 1886
  29. Kentish Mercury 11 March 1892
  30. Kentish Mercury 08 February 1895
  31. Woolwich Gazette 25 December 1896

Credits

  • The maps is via the National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons
  • The picture of Chiesmans shop in Lewisham is via e Bay in June 2016
  • Kellys Directoy information is via the always helpful Lewisham Archives

 

 

 

 

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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 Woodman – A Former Pub on Lee High Road

The former Woodman pub is a fine Victorian building – with some lovely detail to be observed if you look skywards.

image

 

The Woodman, in its first incarnation, was one of the earlier pubs in Lee – the original was the (Old) Tiger’s Head at Lee Green, but the local justices approved the licence in 1838, along with the nearby Swan of Lee (now Rambles Bar).  It was one of four public houses (clockwise from the top left below – the Swan, the Greyhound, the Woodman and the Royal Oak) around what was originally referred to as Lee New Town, all but the former Swan have closed, and from the outside at least, that too seems to have a precarious existence.

IMG_0781

The first landlord of the  Woodman appears to have been Alexander William James Durham who came from a family of publicans – he is listed there in the 1841 census on what was then referred to as New Road – what was to become Lee High Road used to followed a course which was largely that of Old Road and was straightened after the demolition of Lee Place and the breakup of the Boone estate in the 1820s.

His father, Jacob, seems to have owned the pub (it was part of his estate when he died in 1866) and lived close by in Boone Street, where he was listed in the 1841 census. Alexander moved on during the 1840s and was living in Lambeth when he died in 1848.

As is common with many pubs there was a steady ‘trickle’ of licensees at the Woodman throughout the mid-19th century, none seemingly staying more than a few years – for example, Ann Gordon, a widow from  Ockley in Staffordshire, was there in 1881 but had moved on by 1884 (1).  By 1886 the licensee was a J W Coombe (Comb) who was landlord when the pub was demolished and rebuilt (2)  – the current building it is dated 1887 (shown in a postcard via eBay November 2016).

image

Coombe didn’t stay long in the new pub, by the time the 1891 census enumerators called, the publican was George Ridley, who hailed from Newbold in Warwickshire, and his wife Eliza, from Bunwell in Norfolk, were probably the first licensees of the rebuilt pub – they were there until around 1902 when George died, Eliza may have remained slightly longer but there was a new publican in 1905 – Thomas Craddock, who came from Southwark.

There were two bars, what was sometimes referred to as the snug at the front, and larger room at the back, with a separate off licence next door. All were interconnected so that whoever was serving could look after them all.

Around the Second World War Albert and Florence Cordwell ran the pub – Albert had been born in Lambeth and lived in the area until his death in Bromley in 1979.  During the war they put up photos on the wall of the locals that had fallen in battle.  In the years after the war there were ‘beanos’ – trips to the seaside and elsewhere – such as this one (probably from the late 1950s courtesy of Marianne Cole on Facebook). Unlike other local pubs, they seem to have been just for the men – with crates of beer loaded onto the coach for the journey.  The button holes were almost certainly provided by Bill, a florist (third from the right on the middle row). From around that time there were happy memories of Wally playing the piano in the back room (from one of the Facebook threads on this post).

imagePost war it went through a series of pub chains with various companies owning it, including Enterprise Inns, CC Taverns, Unique, Inntrepreneur and Courage.  There was a degree of continuity with the licensee though – with Brian running it from the late 1970s or early 1980s until the early 2000s, his tenure was fondly remembered on the Facebook threads that came out of this post.

image

By this stage it had a reputation as a good local; it was latterly described as a “fairly basic, but friendly, locals’ pub on Lee High Road with an Irish landlord  … decent enough for a pint or so if you’re nearby, or tackling the legendary Lee High Road crawl of an afternoon.” The photo in its latter years is on a creative commons via Ewan Munro.

Under Brian’s tenure, the pub certainly had a lot of live music – some just singalongs to popular 1930s and 1940s songs around the piano on the small stage in the back room Friday or Saturday night.  Jules Holland was spotted strumming with a couple of friends in the snug an at least one occasion.

Dermot was the landlord in the early 2000s, he continued the musical traditions of his predecessor, his ‘party piece’ was Ewan McColl’s Dirty Old Town, with students from Trinity (now Trinity Laban) School of Music performing jazz there on Monday nights. There were certainly traditional Irish music nights on Sundays.

The 11 remaining years of the lease was advertised as being for sale around 2008 for £75,000 with an annual rent of £37,500 but a turnover of just £234,000, although the estate agent’s details described it as ‘busy’.  It was described as ‘Ideal for husband and wife team with assistance from 1 Full Time Staff.’  There was clearly interest as a new landlord attempted to rescue the pub bringing back traditional Irish music nights and some real ale.

Given the state of the business before the lease was bought, it was always going to be a tough ask keeping the pub afloat, and so it transpired – something possibly not helped by poor ‘reviews’ latterly. The last pint of John Smiths (there proved not to be enough trade to support the London Pride served initially by the new landlord) seems to have been pulled sometime in late 2012 or early 2013.

woodman

It was completely stripped of its fittings and was offered out on a much lower rent of £25,000, which was presumably taken on by its new tenant – a plumbing supplies firm – while the Courage cockerel remains the sign above has gone (source).

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 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. Ken White (1992) The Public Houses of Lee and Lewisham, Part 6C p251
  2. ibid p251

Census and 1939 Register data is via Find My Past