Tag Archives: Well Hall Pleasaunce

Well Hall Stream – A Tributary of the Quaggy, Part 2

Last week we left Well Hall Stream in slight suspense – just outside Well Hall Pleasaunce. The public park dates from the 1930s when William Barefoot, persuaded Woolwich Borough Council to buy the current Pleasaunce. The centrepiece of the park is the Tudor Barn, which despite its name dates from the early 17th century, although previous moated buildings on the site can be traced back to 1253.

Running Past has visited the Pleasaunce before, when tracing the homes of E Nesbit in Lewisham and Eltham. She lived there between 1899 and 1920 at Red House, which was demolished when the Pleasaunce was created.

The gardens were designed by the Borough Engineers, J Sutcliffe and H W Tee, the former gave his name to Sutcliffe Park, a little further downstream.

Well Hall Stream seems to enter via the moat, or originally did – possibly along with smaller streams from the North and North East – older Ordnance Survey maps seem to suggest this. There is a small trickle coming in from the right direction (in the bottom left picture below), whether it is the remnants of the Stream is unclear though.

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There is a clear direction of flow for the Stream away from the moat – but there is no running water in it, perhaps it flows in really wet conditions, only little bits of dampness were visible.

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The course of the stream would then have been more or less westwards, skirting the edge of playing fields before being crossed by the A2 and railway in quick succession. The original route would have then taken it through some neglected woodland sandwiched between the railway and Horsfeld Road – amidst the detritus, a ditch is visible, but dry.

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The Stream would have crossed the South Circular and then meandered through the Eltham Green estate, there are hints of a course with a slight dip near the junction of Pinnell and Shawbrook Roads. It probably crossed Eltham Green Road near Messant Road before joining the Quaggy in Sucliffe Park. There is no current evidence of an confluence, the stream probably having been diverted a century ago.

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Ken White (1) suggests that there was another small tributary of the Quaggy in this area – Eltham Green Ditch. Certainly there was a stream around Eltham Green which is clear from Victorian Ordnance Survey maps. However, my reading of the OS map surveyed in the mid 1860s (see below) is that it seems more likely to have been a partial diversion, a distributary, of the Well Hall Stream as it exits Well Hall, which then joined the Quaggy close to Eltham Bridge, just before entering Sutcliffe Park.

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As has been noted by in the Thames Facing East blog, Kidbrooke was marshy farmland covered with drainage ditches and several small streams (several already covered here before) so it is difficult to be totally sure.

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1 Ken White, “The Quaggy & Its Catchment Area”

 

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Well Hall Stream – A Tributary of the Quaggy, Part 1

Unlike some of the other tributaries of the Quaggy, the early stages of Well Hall Stream are obvious; there seem to be at least three sources relatively high up on Shooters Hill.  There are a couple of small streams tumbling down through Jackwood on the southern side of Shooters Hill – just to the east of Sevendroog Castle.  One of these has a clear valley and is big enough to have a bridge crossing it on the path through the woods and has a clear flow in wet weather.

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There is also a rather soggy area just below the café on the western side of Oxleas Meadow – this would seem to be a spring and there a clear signs of fluvial erosion there both on the ground and the tell-tell upward pointing notches of contours on Ordnance Survey maps.

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All three of these sources were constrained by concrete when leaving the meadow or woodland to enter culverts under Crookston Road when the houses were built in the 1930s.  Whether the water is piped down its previous course or enters the road drainage system is unclear.

In the very soggy winter of 2013/14 the culvert to the east either became blocked or couldn’t cope with the flows – oddly these seem to be the responsibility of residents to maintain.  Flooding resulted and residents dug a small drainage channel just inside the meadow to divert the flow away from the houses and onto Rochester Way. It was still visible two winters on.

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Top photo source

While there is no evidence of water on the hillside outside the woods, the former course of streams route away from Jackwood are clear to the fluvial flâneur – there is a small switchback with two little eroded notches in Dairsie Road that the developers didn’t fill.

The streams would probably have crossed what is now Rochester Way before coalescing into a a single flow somewhere around Dumbreck Road. There is a gentle downward fall towards the source of the stream’s name – Well Hall – the former route is obvious from the curvature of the thin brown sepia lines of the Ordnance Survey map but much less so on the ground.

I had hoped to hear the sound of submerged water from beneath manhole covers, but the only audible flows on a quiet Sunday afternoon were those of traffic streaming along the nearby, and also partially submerged A2.

The route became clear again with gentle depressions on both Glenesk and Westmount Roads.  There is a rather attractive Methodist chapel, built in 1906 on the northern ‘bank’ of the stream at the junction of Earlshall and Westmount Roads.  It replaced a ‘tin church’ on the same site and was opened as Walford Green Memorial Church. Walford Green was an important local figure in Methodism rather a predecessor of a fictional E20 square.

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Even on the oldest Ordnance Survey maps the stream isn’t always visible here, presumably having suffered from minor diversions to allow the cultivation of the farms that emerged after the break-up of the Royal Parks at Eltham Palace – something covered before in the blog in relation to Horn Park Farm.  The farm here was Park Farm.  It was also home to a 1000 yard rifle range on the first OS survey in the 1860s.

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The stream continues down Earlshall Road which starts to have a look of the Catford – Hither Green border; this is not surprising, it is another ‘Corbett Estate’ of a similar vintage – it is ‘carbon-dated’ via the impressive and imposing looking early Edwardian school – Gordon Primary School, which has retained temporary classrooms from WW1 when the area upstream was home to temporary housing for Woolwich munitions workers and their families.

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Not long after, and again with a slight depression in the road, the stream ’emerges’ into Well Hall Road and then into the eponymous Pleasaunce.

The journey  of Well Hall Stream to the Quaggy in what is now Sutcliffe Park will be concluded next week.

E Nesbit, The Railway Children and Lewisham

It was a simple street name sign in Grove Park that this post had its origins in …

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Between 1894 and 1899 Edith Nesbit lived at Three Gables in Baring Road – roughly between the Ringway Centre and Stratfield House flats. Grove Park was then a popular middle-class residential area and still with a number of small farms. The home backed onto the railway and there are suggestions that it may have inspired the Railway Children. Three Gables has long gone, although part of its garden is now Grove Park Nature Reserve, but Nesbit’s time there is remembered with a path which forms part of the Green Chain Walk.

There have been suggestions that the character of Albert Perks, played by Bernard Cribbens in the 1970 film version, was modelled on Southern Railway employee, William Thomson, who worked at Grove Park station and lived in Chinbrook Road.

She had moved to Well Hall by the time she wrote ‘The Railway Children’ though, a four-storey house next to the ‘Tudor Barn’, Well Hall House – shown in ‘engraving’ on the information board in, what is now known as, Well Hall Pleasaunce.  Her name is also remebered in an unattractive cul-de-sac between the Pleasaunce and the elevated A2 dual-carriageway leading to a bowling club.

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The backdrop to the children’s novel was a thinly disguised version of the Dreyfus Affair, whilst Nesbit was writing ‘The Railway Children’ Dreyfus had been pardoned, with the acquittal almost coinciding with the publication in early 1906.

I must admit to not having read ‘The Railway Children’ since school and my recollections of it are more shaped by the 1970 Lionel Jeffries film than the book and the current theatre production at the specially built Kings Cross Theatre. The film and play at least, evoke an almost idealised Edwardian rural middle class lifestyle.

The Railway Children Books About Town bench - Greewnwich 2014

The Railway Children Books About Town bench – Greewnwich 2014

Nesbit’s own adult life was very far removed from this; she was one of the co-founders of one of the Labour Party’s forerunners, the Fabian Society and had brief links with Henry Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, although found it a little too radical for her. Another author with Lewisham connections, David Lodge, covered the period at Well Hall in passing in his biographical novel of H G Wells, ‘A Man of Parts.’ She effectively lived in a ménage-a trois with her husband, Hubert Bland, and his mistress. Nesbit too had numerous affairs, including one with a young George Bernard Shaw.

As for her other Lewisham links, Edith Nesbit lived in several locations in Blackheath, Lewisham and Lee before her stay at Three Gables. The first seems to have been 16 Dartmouth Row, Blackheath (top left photo, below) where she moved in 1879 prior to her marriage to Herbert Bland. They moved to 28 Elswick Road, off Loampit Vale in Lewisham in 1882 (top right) which was recognised as part of Lewisham’s maroon plaque scheme.

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She seems to have spent several years around Lee; the 1891 Kelly’s directory has her husband living at 2 Birch Grove, just off what is now the South Circular. There is also a small park and children’s playground at the corner of Osberton and Leland Roads which bears her name, reflecting the time the she lived in the nearby Dorville Road

Whilst at Three Gables she wrote a couple of children’s books with local connections ‘The Treasure Seekers’ (1898) where the Bastables children’s ‘ancestral home’ was ‘a semi-detached and has a garden, not a large one’ at 150 Lewisham Road, before moving to The Red House in Blackheath in ‘The Wouldbegoods: Being the Further Adventures of the Treasure Seekers’ (1899)’

A quick skim read through on-line finds mentions of The Quaggy and the Lewisham Workhouse (now Hospital) in the ‘New Treasure Seekers’ (1904) concerning attempts to get rid of a Christmas Pudding with an unintentionally soapy taste paid for by subscription by the wealthy folks of Blackheath Park and Granville Park.

Nesbit was important in children’s literature with her biographer, Julia Briggs, suggesting that she was ‘the first modern writer for children’, and credited her with having invented the children’s adventure story – paving the way for the likes for Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’ after World War 1 and Enid Blyton (whose life in Shortlands was touched upon in the blog last year) ‘Famous Five’ around 40 years later.