Tag Archives: Woodyates Road

The World War Two Home Front – Digging For Victory, Allotments and Women’s Land Army

Since the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War in September 2019, Running Past has been looking at a number of aspects of life on the ‘Home Front’ during the War.  This has included the evacuation of Lewisham’s children to safer areas, the shelters built to try to keep the local population safe during air raids, the role of the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Service and the rationing of food.  On a similar vein we’ll look now at what is referred to a Digging for Victory, the growing of food in gardens and allotments along with briefly looking at the Women’s Land Army.

In 1939 Britain was importing large quantities of food – including 70% of cheese, cereals and sugar, 80% of fruit and more than 50% of meat. It was fully expected that the Germans would target food supplies coming in via sea, as they had done with the U-Boat Campaign in World War 1.  At the national level merchant shipping was put under Admiralty control in August 1939 – with food coming via convoy.

While they have links back to the 17th century, allotments, as we know them, have their roots in the Victorian period, demand for them in areas such as the then suburban Lewisham seems to have come from middle classes who wanted space to grow their own.  As we have seen with Lee Working Men’s Institution and Lee Public Halls there were several gardening clubs locally. Allotment numbers were not that large though with 244,268 plots in 1873 across the   country.

Numbers grew steadily in the Edwardian era and by the time World War One broke out, there were somewhere between 450,000 and 600,000 allotments. Those pictured above, bounded by Hafton, Hazelbank and Wellmeadow Roads, probably date from early in this period.  There was a large expansion during World War 1 with just over 1.5 million allotments in England by 1918.

Numbers of plots declined in the interwar period such that by the outbreak of World War Two just 819,000 allotment plots were cultivated. Many around Lee and Hither Green were lost to development in this period – two of the larger interwar private housing developments in the area – the Woodstock (the area around Woodyates Road) and Verdant Lane estates were both built on allotment sites in the 1930s, as was part of Reigate Road on the Downham Estate and a plot to the north east of bend in Meadowcourt Road near Lee Green.

The Ministry of Agriculture launched the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign soon after the outbreak of war in 1939. There was propaganda throughout the war encouraging people to use their gardens, parks and unused land for cultivation, stressing that ‘food just as important a weapon of war as guns’– several hundred thousand leaflets were distributed, with posters such as the one above displayed and it was a regular feature in propaganda films such as this one…

Around a million new allotments were created and many parks and open spaces were converted into allotments.  In the old Borough of Lewisham about 3000 were created (1)  – this included large swathes of Mountsfield Park as the 1940s Ordnance Survey map shows.

Parts of Beckenham Place Park were turned over to the growing of potatoes, with sheep grazing on the now former fairways (2).  Parts of Ladywell Fields were turned into allotments and on Blackheath around half of the triangular green bounded by Hare and Billet Road, Orchard Road and Eliot Place was turned into allotments.

One of the most iconic views in south London changed during the war with the field below the Observatory in Greenwich Park being dug up for allotments, the same had happened during World War One there.

It wasn’t just parks that saw food grown, other bits of land were brought into use too – a narrow strip of, presumably, railway company owned land between Milborough Crescent and the embankment was cultivated.  This was the same with the land on the other side of St Mildred’s Road where a narrow strip all the way down to Grove Park Nature Reserve was turned into allotments.

Other land too seems to have been taken over –  the land in a triangle bounded by Dacre Park (then Turner Road), Boone’s Road and Lee Park was a nursery and had been since the 1860s, probably before, emerged out of the war as allotments.  They continue to remain in that usage and are pictured below.

Another aspect of maintaining food availability was increasing the amount of help on farms – this was done through the Women’s Land Army which was launched ahead of the War in June 1939.   This was initially based on volunteering but a degree of conscription was added. By 1944 it had over 80,000 members; while most were already rural based around a third came from London and other cities.

Several women from Bellingham, including Olive Boyes who had previously worked at Chiltonian Biscuit Factory, Rene Powell and Joan Hicks joined the Women’s Land Army in the spring of 1942. They took a train from Catford to Ashford with Olive and Rene ending up in a small village called Hamstreet, with Joan and her friend Ivy being sent to Faversham.

Betty Hilda Baker lived at 41 Nightingale Grove had started the war as a ‘confectionary hand’ – perhaps working for Whitehouse and Co. at 36 Old Road.  Born in 1918 she was living with her parents, Charles and Julia, along with what are probably two younger siblings, Stanley who was a 23 year old butcher’s assistant and one that was redacted. It is known that she joined the Land Army but not known where she was stationed.

Joan Pearson lived at 73 Bramdean Crescent in Lee, at the outbreak of war she was an invoice clerk for Fords, aged 17.  When she joined up in 1942, she was working for Crosse and Blackwell near Charing Cross station – she wanted to ‘do something useful’ and to ‘get away from London.’ She ended up driving tractors in the New Forest.

Notes

  1. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 -1945 p24
  2. ibid

Where not specifically referenced, examples of locations of allotments come via Ordnance Survey maps.

Credits

 

 

The Woodstock Estate – The 1930s Homes of Woodyates & Pitfold Roads in Lee

The area to the west of Lee station had been developed in the decades following the arrival of the railway – Lee station opened in 1866.   Most of the Lee Manor Conservation Area was built soon after and the area beyond it filled over the next few decades – much of it by the local builders W. J. Scudamore. The maps below from 1863, 1898 and 1914 show the gradual development clearly (1).

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The area to the south and east remained farmland though – with farms already covered in the blog such as Burnt Ash and Horn Park farms surviving until the 1920s and 1930s respectively.  These were the days before the arrival of the South Circular with St Mildred’s Road ending as a T junction at Burnt Ash Hill.

Grant funding was made available in 1933 for the dual carriageway of Westhorne Avenue to link up with the section from Well Hall Road to Eltham Road  that had been completed in 1930.  However, it is clear that preparations for Westhorne Avenue had been on the go for a few years before that, as developments were being drawn up either side which backed onto the new road.  On the northern side was a development originally known as the Woodstock Estate – now referred to as Woodyates and Pitfold Roads.

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Woodstock Road was the original name of what is now Woodyates Road; however it was merely a short lane to the Board of Works Depot (above) and to a Post Office Sorting Office (below), the former it was taken over by the new borough of Lewisham after local government re-organisation in 1899.  Before looking at the Woodstock Estate it is worth pausing briefly at this end of the street.

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Both the Sorting Office and the Council Depot have relatively imposing facades and are locally listed.  They are now in residential use as part of Jasmine Court and have been sympathetically converted into houses with new homes which are in keeping with the old, added on the former yards

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On the opposite side of Woodyates Road, the original street name is retained through a block of 1930s flats (see above) with a few nods towards Art Deco, Woodstock Court, which wraps around the junction with Burnt Ash Hill with shops on the main road.

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The Woodstock Estate itself was advertised for sale in the 1931 Lewisham Council Handbook (2), and no doubt other places too; prior to development it had been allotments and a nursery as the map below shows (3).  It had probably originally been part of Lee Green Farm and is likely that it was the location that the parachutist Robert Cocking met his death.

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The houses offered much subtle variety in style with the house in the architect’s impression having proved hard to find, the nearest seemed to be the top of the trio pictured.  They have been much altered since they were built with lots of extensions upwards and outwards.  Those that have remained close to the way they were built are now close to 1000 times more expensive than when they were initially advertised.  Sales of 3 bedroom houses in early 2017 were £585,000 and £600,000 with a garage in Woodyates and Pitfold Roads respectively.  While the development was next to the about to be built South Circular, unlike the earlier developments along St Mildred’s Road, there was no frontage onto it – the development backed onto it with generally quite large gardens from Pitfold Road.

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Some of the original green of the allotments were retained as part of the development (see bottom photograph above) which was certainly grander than the Scudamore developed homes of Holme Lacey Road from a similar era.  A small gated green area remains at the south eastern corner of the development.  In the middle of the estate a limited amount of allotments were retained too, although this too succumbed to development in the end.  It is now home to a church which, on a cursory glance, appears to offer grim consequences for the non-believer (4).

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As for the developers, G H Builders, they seem to have been a medium sized builders in the south east, building homes in Carshalton and Banstead in 1930; however an on-line newspaper search gleaned little more information.

 

The agents W & H Elliotts were based at the same address as the developers.  Again, little was to be found of them in on line newspaper and other searches other than a similar development to the Woodstock Estate in Edgware in 1933 (5).  The company may still be in existence, a private company incorporated in 1931 from the same era still exists.

Notes

  1. The maps are on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland from 1863, 1898 and 1914
  2. This image was copied from somewhere on social media in mid-2017, I thought that it was the excellent cornucopia of all things London local government – LCC Municipal – mainly to be found on Twitter, but I was mistaken – so if you posted it do tell me so that I can properly credit you!
  3. On a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland
  4. Some cropping happened with this photograph ….. the warning is for an electricity sub station
  5. Hendon & Finchley Times 24 March 1933