Tag Archives: Waite Davies Road

The Tin Tabernacle of Lee

On the corner of Waite Davies Road is an impressive early Edwardian church that Running Past has ‘visited’ before in relation to the naming of the street after its long time pastor,  James Waite Davies, and the Butterfield Dairy of the Clarks a little further down the street.  It probably ought to be listed, at least ‘locally’, but like many ‘deserving’ non-conformist churches and chapels, it isn’t.

However, it isn’t this church that is of interest here, it is its forerunner which was a temporary structure – which was known as either a ‘tin tabernacle’ or a slightly more prosaically and ‘iron church.’

‘Tin tabernacles’ were common in areas that expanded rapidly during the second half of the 19th century – often in northern industrial towns and were linked to the parallel rise of non-conformism.

Their appearance in the Victorian urban landscape, certainly didn’t meet with universal approval, William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement (rather than the eponymous farmer from Lee Green, and later College, Farms) suggested that they ‘were spreading like a pestilence over the country.’

The Bromley Road Tabernacle as it was initially known, due to the former name of Baring Road, has many similarities with its northern counterparts; the small community of South Lee, much of it built by John Pound and sometimes referred to as ‘Pound’s Estate’ had sprung up just to the south of Burnt Ash Farm in the early 1870s.  The drinking and local shopping needs were provided for by Pound when he built the area – a mixture of middle class housing and smaller  homes for workers in his brick fields and building works.  The spiritual needs though had not been catered for.

Permission for ‘temporary iron church’ granted in July 1875, so presumably it was erected fairly soon after that (1).  The ‘tin tabernacles’ were relatively expensive to build, the early ones cost up to £4 per seat plus land and foundations. So even relatively small ones, such as the 200 seat one in Lee, could cost £1000 – no mean feat for working class congregations in areas like that around Summerfield Street.

Source e Bay September 2016

It is unclear whether John Pound had any involvement in the building of the tabernacle, if he did it would have probably been as a business rather than spiritual proposition. While he seems to have been responsible for building the Unite Reform Church on Burnt Ash Road, he is known to have helped fund the building of St Augustine’s in Grove Park, a church he lived almost opposite in the 1870s.

Lee’s temporary iron church didn’t feature much in the local press and the only on-line reference is to some ornate stained glass windows above the main entrance.

There were at least a couple of other ‘tin tabernacles’ around Lee and Hither Green – a short-lived building used by the Hither Green Baptist Church which lasted for 7 years between 1896 and 1903 before being replaced by the permanent building in Theodore Road (2).  Similarly, the Brownhill Road Baptist Church had a tin tabernacle lasting from 1900 to 1925 (3).

Lee’s ‘tin tabernacle’ was to last until the early 20th century – was still there in 1893 Ordnance Survey visited, but had gone by the time they returned in 1914 (4).  It is unclear how important  James Waite Davies was in the building of a permanent home for his congregation – but certainly his arrival in 1905, may have been pivotal.

The tin tabernacles have not been the only temporary church building that Lewisham has seen  – around a 1000 metres away, as the crow flies, is the church of St Mark which is part of the Excalibur Estate (below.

 

Notes

  1. Woolwich Gazette 03 July 1875
  2. Godfrey Smith (1997) Hither Green – The Forgotten Hamlet p52
  3. ibid
  4. Map images on a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland
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A Dairy, a Pastor and a Lee Street Name

On the corner of Waite Davies Road in Lee, high above street level, is a fading painted sign of a street name that is no more – Butterfield Street.  It is now known by the name of a long-serving pastor who was based at a chapel opposite the sign – it is a (hopefully) interesting story.imageThe eastern end of Butterfield Street was a late Victorian development, just off Baring Road (then Burnt Ash Road) its name possibly relating to a former field, presumably like its near neighbour Summerfield Street.  There was still, just, a farm nearby, Burnt Ash Farm, on the corner of St Mildred’s Road and Baring Road.  The farm site was later to house United Dairies Depot, nearly became a Big Yellow Storage Depot but is now a housing association development.

Butterfield Street had an eponymous dairy run by Thomas Clark which in 1913 had 28 cows.

The Clark family had been farming in Lewisham since at least the end of the 18th century at Holloway Farm (roughly where Farmfield Road on the Downham Estate is now) and by 1841 had moved to College Farm, around Lewisham Town Centre (1).

By the 1870s, Thomas Clark had a small holding at what was to become Butterfield Street which was known as Clark’s Dairy.  The diary became gradually surrounded by the growth of Butterfield Street – the eastern end in the late 19th century and westwards in the 1930s.

Thomas Clark  was born in 1841 was married to Elizabeth, who hailed from Cuxton, near Chatham.  In the 1881 census, the family was listed at 15 Butterfield Street, with six children (they were to have 10 children in total, although only 7 survived until the 1911 census).  They used a field by the railway, presumably where the Willow Tree riding school now is, and they had 40 cows in a field roughly where Harland Road is now (2).  This latter field was developed by the the builders W J Scudamore  in the 1930s – something covered in the blog in October.

The dairy seems to have been the base for a milk round which initially included Blackheath Standard and Morden College, but during WW2 restrictions meant that the round was just around Baring Road and Burnt Ash Hill.  World War 2 also saw the cows evacuated to Ashford following Bomb damage, probably a V1 rocket on 16 June 1944 which hit Ronver Road.

img_2619

Source e bay October 2016

It seems that the evacuation of the cows was only a temporary one, local residents have memories of cows being walked along Baring Road in the 1970s – see comment from Helen below.  There were also fond local recollections of both collecting milk from the diary and the Clarks delivering milk from Waite Davies Road well into the 1970s in Facebook comments on the post.  This was also confirmed by Birchenough (3).

The site of the diary is still there, it was used was used for a while by MJ Mechanical Services and then for many years by gas and plumbing contractors, P & R Installations but, at in November 2015, appears to be for sale.  The buildings have been much altered and/or replaced since Thomas Clark’s days there.

As for Butterfield Street itself, it quickly developed a a certain notoriety in terms of living conditions; the 1903 Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Lewisham noted that

The streets known as Butterfield Street, Summerfield Street and Ronver Road do not bear a good reputation, although the houses are in a fair condition structurally.

image

imageThe change in name came in the 1930s, James Waite Davies was a Baptist pastor who worked at, what became known as, the South Lee Tabernacle from 1905.  Waite Davies was born in 1861 in Newbury in Berkshire.  The 1911 census showed him as living at 29 Baring Road, he had been married Kate, also from Newbury for six years, it was probably his second marriage as his oldest daughter living at home was then 20, he also had sons of 12 and three and another daughter of 5. All the children had been born in Lee.

In 1916 Kelly’s Directory listed Sunday services at 11:30 am, 3:30 pm and 6:45 pm, along with Monday and Wednesday evening services.

image

Waite Davies was pastor at the church from 1886 to 1930 and presumably the Butterfield Road had its name changed to celebrate and remember the life of a long standing priest and member of the community.

The South Lee Tabernacle is a fine building which still stands at the corner of Waite Davies and Baring Roads – it isn’t listed, but perhaps ought to be.  It is now known as South Lee Christian Centre and used by the Trinity Presbyterian Church, a branch of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.

Notes

1 Josephine Birchenough with John King (1981) Some Farms & Fields in Lee p19

2 ibid

3 ibid

All the census and related data came via Find My Past 

Thank you to P&R Installations, the former occupant of the dairy site, for sharing of the history of the site.