Tag Archives: Torridon Road

World War Two Damage on Springbank Road

There have been several posts in Running Past on World War 2 bombings and post-war reconstruction, many of these have been around V-1 and V-2 attacks such as those on Lenham Road, Lewisham Hill, along with a pair of Hither Green ones – Nightingale Grove and  Fernbrook Road.  More recently Running Past has covered the attacks that happened on three nights on their 80th anniversaries – the First Night of the Blitz of the as well as the post Christmas raids on the nights of 27/28 and 29/30 December 1940.  We turn our attention now to the more widespread damage on Springbank Road caused through a variety of attacks. 

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 level and scale of damage becomes clear when looking at the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps pictured above (1) which shows that most of the houses in the street had some form of damage.  Rather than Springbank Road itself, Hither Green marshaling yards, behind the eastern side of the street, were one of the two main Luftwaffe targets in Hither Green during the Blitz, the other being the hospital (2). The damage was much greater to Springbank Road though than to the west of the railway. 

Large swathes of the street were mapped as red by the London County Council surveyors – ‘seriously damaged (doubt if repairable)’ or worse.  In reality, a lot more end up surviving the war than the map suggests.

The Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Service logs make for fascinating reading in terms of trying to work out what damage happened when in Hither Green and the extent of the damage.  However, as we’ve seen in relation the First Night of the Blitz as well as the post-Christmas raids, recording in the log was patchy at best with some high explosive and incendiary bombs only being recorded by the Fire Brigade and others, which were dealt with by local ARP Fire Wardens, were never recorded.

On the third night of the Blitz, on 9 September 1940, it is clear that 136 Springbank Road was hit.  What is less clear is whether this was a direct hit or the fallout from the bombing of the house behind at 51 Wellmeadow Road. This was the house was on the corner with Torridon Road and marked in black on the map above and was completely destroyed. This part of Wellmeadow Road was rebuilt after the War.  William Brown (83) and Alice Budd (56) died at 51 Wellmeadow Road that night. 

136 Springbank was less badly damaged, although it seems to have undergone some wartime or post-war rebuilding work as from the front from the variety of slightly different bricks were used.  One of the inhabitants was Mary Hutcheson – it was a large house that she shared with a couple – the Gallotts.   Mary was seriously injured in the bombing, although she lived for another 6 months before dying at St Alfege’s Hospital (later Greenwich) on 10 March 1941, aged 82. 

Elsewhere on Springbank Road, there was some serious damage further down the street with 213 to 225 completely destroyed. The date of this bombing isn’t clear as the attacks appear not to have been recorded in the ARP log (3).  Unlike 136 Springbank, no one was killed in the attack, although given the scale of the damage it would be surprising if there were no injuries.  213 to 225 (pictured above) were rebuilt as a mixture of Borough of Lewisham houses and flats after the war.  On the other side of the street, there was destruction and rebuilding too, but you have to look closely to see the differences compared with the original Corbett estate homes – the brickwork around the doors and windows is different and the homes are similar to replacement houses in Wellmeadow Rod, which we’ll cover below.

Elsewhere on the eastern side, homes got away with some more limited damage; there had to be re-building work at 211; while its next-door neighbour didn’t survive, the roof, chimneys and bay wall had to be re-built at 211.

There had were several nights during December 1940, notably that of 29/30, when the area on the other side of the railway had seen 1 kg incendiary bombs raining down.  Springbank Road escaped on those nights. However, three weeks earlier on the night of 8/9 December, there had been a similar attack over a slightly wider area – there were a trio of hits at just before 11:00 pm at the southerly end of Springbank Road – none of the repots had any indication of the extent of any damage or casualties.  It could have been the attack that destroyed 213 to 225, as the fire services will have been overstretched that night, although incendiary damage tended to be of a much smaller scale and often put out by wardens.

V-1 doodlebug attacks started to pepper the area from 16 June 1944 – in Hither Green and neighbouring areas, during the first week there had been attacks between George Lane and Davenport Road on 16 June; Lewisham Park the same day; Lewisham Hill and Leahurst Road on 17 June and the junction of Lenham and Lampmead Roads on 22 June. 

Research on the accuracy of V-1s has noted that they had ‘relatively low accuracy… compared to modern missile systems’ but that the aim of the attacks was ‘to achieve its terror and urban damage objectives’ rather than hit specific targets.  So, V1 flying bomb hits on Hither Green and surrounding areas weren’t specifically targeted here.  Indeed, as we have mentioned in other posts on V-1 attacks there is some evidence to suggest that false intelligence was spread back to Germany which indicated that the early V-1 flying bombs were overshooting the north west of London and latter ones were re-calibrated slightly leading to south London boroughs such as Lewisham, Woolwich and Croydon being disproportionately affected.

At around 7:15 in the morning of Friday 23 June 1944 Hither Green had a double hit either site of the railway – Fernbrook Road, which Running Past covered a while ago and Springbank Road; where the block of Corbett Estate housing of 104 to 116 Springbank Road was either destroyed or had to be demolished along with the similar houses behind in 27-37 Wellmeadow Road – the scale of debris blocked Springbank Road for a while.

It was perhaps surprising that only one person died, Annie Taylor (57) who was visiting 110 Springbank from her home at 121 Brightfield Road – Annie was a widow and had lived with her son and daughter in law.  There were several reports of the level of injuries in the ARP log – which were thought at one point to be as high as 25, although final tally seemed to be 14. 

We don’t know the identity of those injured but from the 1939 Register we can work out something about the people who were living in 104 to 116 Springbank Road and the houses behind in 27-37 Wellmeadow Road.  Before doing that, it is worth remembering that the houses had been built as suburbia for the middle classes of Victorian and Edwardian London.  The houses in Springbank Road were some of the later ones built on the Corbett Estate and didn’t appear in the 1901 census, but were in the 1911 edition. The difference between Springbank Road and nearby streets such as Ardmere Road in 1911 is dramatic.  The latter had been built as working class housing with the small houses generally shared between two households with income coming from manual work.  In Wellmeadow and Springbank they were office and sales jobs – with several commercial salesmen and clerks along with a cashier and an accountant.  There were no manual jobs apart from servants in 3 of the 11 houses.  Despite the large houses, large households were rare – it was a very different life to that in Ardmere Road.

By the time the 1939 Register was taken, both streets had changed a lot – the middle class had moved out and both Wellmeadow and Springbank Roads were homes to manual workers, the only exceptions being the adult Spurrell sisters at 112 Springbank – which included Edith who was a Ledger Clerk at a bookshop but also worked as an ARP First Aider.  They were more well-to-do than their counterparts in Ardmere Road and Woodlands Street, the households were smaller and there was less sharing.  Only 108 Springbank and 31 Wellmeadow were split between more than one household.  None of the men (or women) were able to claim the ‘Heavy Work’ supplement which entitled larger rations

The housing built after the war on both Springbank and Wellmeadow sides of the site seems to have been private sector; this is unlike many of the other V-1 attacks that Running Past has covered – Hither Green Station, Lenham/Lampmead Road, Lewisham Hill and Fernbrook Road where it was homes built for the local authority.  On Springbank Road 104 to 116 (pictured above) were re-built, initially as houses although most have been converted into flats. Based on Land Registry data, most remain in the private sector although one has been subsequently acquired a housing association. It was very different in Wellmeadow where the houses seem to have been built almost as 1950s versions of their predecessors – again all but one are privately owned, with one has been bought and converted into flats by a housing association.

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 p63
  3. It is possible that some mentions were missed when scanning through the very fragile records

Data Sources

  • The ARP records are via Lewisham Archives
  • 1939 Register data is via Find My Past – subscription required
  • Land Registry data is via Nimbus Maps – registration required.
  • The photograph of 136 Springbank Road is via Streeview

The First Night of the Blitz in Lee, Hither Green, Catford and Lewisham

The afternoon of 7 September 1940 saw wartime football matches at the Valley, where Charlton lost 4-2 to Millwall, and a few miles away Crystal Palace beat yet to be rivals Brighton 5-2 in the wartime South Regional Competition.  The almost normality was about to come to a shuddering halt with the first raids of the Blitz, when German bombers came ‘en masse’ on a Saturday afternoon, some up the Thames, some from the south – it was to be the start of eight months heavy bombing of London.

A Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over the Thames at the start of the Luftwaffe’s evening raids of 7 September 1940

One of the waves came over the Surrey hills and were recalled by a then young cyclist

It was the most amazing, impressive, riveting sight …Directly above me were literally hundreds of planes … the sky was full of them. Bombers hemmed in with fighters, like bees around their queen…

Running Past has covered many of the V-1 and V-2 attacks of the second half of the war – including ones in Lewisham High Street, Lewisham Hill, Hither Green Station (pictured below) and Blackheath Village.  On the 80th anniversary of the start of the Blitz it seems appropriate to reflect on what happened that afternoon and into the early hours of the Sunday. We’ll look at that the first night of the Blitz from the perspective of the Lee, Catford and Lewisham areas that Running Past generally focuses on.  Hither Green largely escaped that first night with one significant exception a partial collapse of the railway bridge on Ennersdale Road with 20 injured and several trapped at around 20:25 which was noted in the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Log.

For many of the other attacks on the area, Running Past has used the ARP log for the old Borough of Lewisham.  However, in the early days of the Blitz the records seemed to be only partial, they seemed to be overwhelmed by incidents. There is better documentation for that first night in the records of the London Fire Brigade which are part of the collection of the Metropolitan Archives.  There were typed official green slips record each incident and a separate bound volume listing all the fires attended.  These were all pulled together for the 70th anniversary and a datasheet published in The Guardian, and elsewhere.  As we shall see though, even these aren’t perfect, serious incidents to homes in Limes Grove, Lewisham Road and Ennersdale Road railway bridge were not included.

The data shows the sheer scale of the attacks on the dockland communities on both sides of the Thames from late afternoon onwards, with a second wave of attacks from around 8:30 pm – seemingly the fires from the first attacks helping guide the Luftwaffe for a renewed onslaught as the natural light faded.  The attacks will have seen Londoners scurrying to their shelters – both household ones and communal ones such as those in Manor House Gardens and lots in the streets around Lewisham High Street.

The first bombs in the area – seemed to have been on Lewisham High Street furniture suppliers, Bolsom Brothers which was ‘severely damaged’ at 16:14 and the same with part of Chiesmans department store six minutes later.

There were a series of reports at 17:55, around Blackheath and Lee with damage to three houses in Brandram Road, including number 30, the original house is no longer there.  The ARP log noted another incident in a similar location around 19:09 but this could well have been the same one.  A couple of bombs failed to explode at the almshouses – given the communal shelter there (pictured below) there could have been a large loss of life had they exploded.

Around 20 minutes later 51-57 Lewisham Hill were hit – the damage noted in the Fire Brigade reports was to contents rather than the structure.  However, they were all marked as badly damaged in the LCC Bomb Damage maps – a mixture of repairable at cost, damaged beyond repair and completely destroyed, so either the Fire Brigade reports were incorrect or they were hit again either later in the Blitz or during the sporadic attacks that preceded the V-1 flying bombs – one of which caused enormous damage a little further down the Hill.  53 (the Victorian house and 55-57 are pictured below)

Bombers returned to Brandram Road at 18.31 with damage to 1, 2 and 4 although fortunately not the adjacent church – the worst damage seems to have been to a garage at number 2.

The second wave of attacks started from around 8:30 pm, and for the first few hours Lee, Catford, Hither Green and Lewisham were ignored with the much of the firepower being targeted on Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth areas.  By around 10:30 though dockland areas were re-targeted and half an hour later bombs started falling on Catford and Lee.

At 11:00 pm here was some limited damage to 34 Winn Road, part on an estate built by Wates just before the war; with an incendiary bomb being dropped on a nearby field in Alnwick Road. Around the same time an incendiary bomb fell in the street on Glenton Road, seemingly outside Holy Trinity Church – the extensive damage to the church was to come later in the Blitz. A bit further south ‘slight damage’ was recorded to 31-37 Abernethy Road, part of the late Victorian Firs Estate (top picture below).

The bombers returned to the skies above Abernethy Road around 11:45 pm, possibly ‘guided’ by a fire from the previous attack – the Fire Brigade report suggested that four houses of 41-47 were ‘severely damaged.’ As that numbering didn’t exist – in reality, these were almost certainly houses on Manor Lane Terrace about 30 metres away (lower picture above).  The damage to 31-37 seems much more serious than recorded and both groups of houses had been demolished by 1949. Neither site seemed to have been big enough for prefabs and the Victorian housing was replaced with council homes in the 1950s or 1960s.

In the early hours of Sunday morning the Luftwaffe turned some of their attention to Catford and the streets to the south of Brownhill Road.  The first attacks were at 0:18 and 0:20 on 141 Braidwood and 129 Killearn Roads, both suffered roof damage from an incendiary bomb – any sign of which was hidden behind a replaced roof and rendering.  At around the same time another incendiary hit a shed at Sandhurst Road School – the target of a much worse attack in early 1943 and there was some damage to 54 Laleham Road from another incendiary.

Twenty seven minutes past midnight saw an explosive bomb hit Jutland Road with seventeen houses damaged, several seriously – while some of the houses were repairable others weren’t with three houses being rebuilt (see below) – not in the style of the immediate post-war council housing so, presumably, private sector housing.

There was slight roof damage, now not obvious, from incendiary bombs to 86 Torridon and 91 Ardgowan Roads (the latter may have been hit twice as there was another report for it at 1:10 am) at the same time with some damage to fences to a couple of houses in Fordel Road. A few minutes afterwards saw the front bedroom of 127 Minard Road ‘severely damaged.’  The house was rebuilt well, with no obvious damage visible from the outside.

In between these attacks there had been an explosive bomb dropped on Sportsbank Street, which still had the stand for the former velodrome being used as warehousing, which damaged three houses, and ‘severely damaged’ three others – probably at the Laleham Road end.  The homes were rebuilt as council housing after the war (see below).

A few minutes earlier, at 138 Engleheart Road had been hit by an explosive bomb leaving two houses destroyed and two damaged beyond repair.  At 140 Ellen Moseley (37) was injured and died later in Lewisham Hospital – she was living in Hythe in Kent in 1939.  Again the homes were rebuilt post war.

Not every incident was recorded, and this was the case with the two in Lewisham where there was the biggest loss of life in the first night of the Blitz. The first of these was the bombing of 159 Lewisham Road (opposite Connington Road) where five died. Neville (20), Gwendoline (19) and Hilda Osborne (16) along with Charles Smith (23) and Christine Smith (nee Osborne – 24) who had married a few weeks before the bombing. They were all living at 213 Algernon Road in 1939 – Gwendoline  was a Photographic Clerk and Hilda an accounts assistant. Charles Smith was a Mechanical Engineering Draughtsman at the War Office as well as being in the Home Guard.

Despite the deaths and probable large amount of damage, the house (pictured above) was probably repaired during the war – it was marked on the LCC Bomb Damage Maps as orange – ‘general blast damage, not structural.’

The second unrecorded incident leading to significant loss of life was about half a mile further south; it seems that at some point during the night that 43 and 45 Limes Grove was hit. At 43 (the left of the houses below), Mayhew Edith Spedding died aged 56; she was the wife of George Spedding who was First Mate on a ship. In the 1939 Register she was listed there with George and what seem to have either been a couple of lodgers or it was a shared flat. It was a house that was split into two flats. Edith was badly injured in the bombing and later died at Lewisham Hospital.

Next door at 45, which was also two flats, lived the Bennions; both Edith Bennion (53) and her son William Arthur Bennion (18) were badly injured in the explosion, and like Mayhew next door, died later in hospital. They were survived by William Henry Bennion a mail porter and a school age daughter, also called Edith.

Lewisham had got off lightly compared with other areas, 11 deaths from the 430 who perished on that first night.  The all clear was sounded at around 5:00 am on the Sunday morning.  The respite was short though bombers arrived again over London the following night and did so every day/night for about two months and off and on for eight months.  Catford, Lee and Hither Green weren’t attacked every night but there will be more posts on the Blitz over the next few months.

The bombings changed the urban landscape, not as dramatically as they did in areas around the Thames, but most streets in the area have bits of post-war council housing amidst the Victorian terraces.  Most will tell a story of a family displaced and possibly injuries and deaths as a result.

Credits

Most of the information for this post comes from four sources:

The football results are from The Times of 9 September 1940.

Picture Credits

  • The Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses air raid shelter is from the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their permission and remains their copyright;
  • The Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over the Thames is from Wikipedia and is on a Creative Commons
  • The Hither Green Station V-1 photograph part of the Imperial War Museum collection (produced here on a Creative Commons)
  • The rest are copyright of the author and are usable elsewhere, attributed, on a non-commercial basis.