Sunday, 20 May 2018

Walking Well Hall in the April of 1844

Well Hall in 1746
Walk along Well Hall Road which runs from the High Street north to Shooters Hill  on a sunny day and  it is a pleasant enough trip which starts with the church takes in the Tudor Barn and the Progress Estate before finishing with the common and the woods.

Had you done the same journey in the spring of 1844 it would of course have been very different. Back then it consisted of some farms, a posh house and a collection of cottages with the odd pond and lots of open land.

These were a mix of arable, meadow and pasture land with the woods stretching off north and east bordering Shooters Hill.

Here were agricultural labourers, a blacksmith, some “middling families” and an assortment of others who made their living from teaching to tailoring.

And it is these people’s lives in this small hamlet north of Eltham High Street that I want to explore.

Well Hall House, 1909
1844 is a good point to start because in that year the tithe map and schedule had been published which detailed who owned the land, who rented it and the use it was put to along with its value.

So just north east of the Pleasaunce was Andrews Meadow which was a six acre plot of meadowland farmed by Samuel Jeffryes and owned by Sir Gregory Page Turner and a little further north and on the land that would become the Well Hall Estate was Bridge Field and Eleven Acres which confusingly was actually 26 acres of arable land.

Now there is no reason for me choosing these two fields over others except that I am drawn to any piece of land with my name and to the field where our old house now stands. All of which is a bit self indulgent and so back to the inhabitants of Well Hall.

Baptismal record of Charlotte, daughter of Samuel and Frances Jeffryes, 1837
As ever it is the people of property that we know most about and two of these were Samuel and Frances Jeffryes.

We know their children, where the family lived, something of how they made a living and even how Samuel voted in the key Parliamentary elections of 1837 and 1847.

Now the picture is not complete and there is much research still to be done but there is enough for a story.

Samuel was born in 1803 and came from Shropshire.  Frances was five years younger and had been born in Wales. Their early married life was spent in Shropshire in the village of Sutton where they had five children but by 1837 they were in Eltham and it was here that Frances gave birth to another eight who were all baptized in the parish church.

Burial record of Samuel Jeffyres, 1867
At one point in the late 1830s they lived in Well Hall House which was that large eighteenth century house beside the Tudor Barn but were on what is now Eltham High Street quite close to the church by 1844.

He variously described himself as a “farmer” and a “gentleman” and in the 1840s farmed over 250 acres north of the High Street much of which boarded Well Hall Lane.  And despite moving to Westminster both were buried back in the parish church.

It would have been a short walk from their home on Eltham Street to the church but a slightly longer one from there down to Well Hall for their route would have taken them west past the church to what is now Sherrard Road down past the big pond in Homefield and then on by twists and turns to Well Hall House the home of the Reverend Charles Gulliver Freyer and a short walk on to the six houses a little beyond Kidbrook Lane occupied by John Evans and six other families.

And beyond this just open fields up to the common and Shooters Hill, which is all to the good given that this is fast becoming just a travelogue.

Location; Well Hall, Eltham, London

Pictures; map of Well Hall in 1746, Engraved by Richard Parr, surveyed and published by John Rocque, 1746 IDEAL HOMES: A History of South East London, the Universiyuy of Greenwich,  Well Hall House from The story of Royal Eltham,  R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, remaining images from the parish records of St John the Baptist

Kemp’s Corner on the corner of Barlow Moor and Wilbraham Roads .......... sometime in the early 1960s

The name Kemp’s Corner is not so familiar now but once and until quite recently it was the place you arranged to meet up.

In that pre-mobile age when arrangements to meet someone had to be done in advance and then stuck to
Harry Kemp’s chemist shop was the perfect spot.

Not only was it on the corner of two busy roads with plenty of bus stops but there was a large clock above the shop.

Harry Kemp had opened his shop in the early years of the 20th century, had another one on Beech Road and was one of our three councillors who were elected in 1904 after Chorlton along with the other three townships had voted to join the City.

It continued as a chemist well into the century and is now the HSBC.

All of which makes this picture quite a find.  It is one I haven’t seen before and I have to thank Mark Flynn for permission to reproduce it.

Mark as a vast collection of picture postcards .

Pictures; Kemp's Corner, circa early 1960s courtesy of Mark Fynn

*Manchester Postcards,

Of gas masks and foot tunnels ........ a story from Roger Callow

I recall finding a boxed gas mask in our shed at Greenvale Road in the mid fifties when I was about 6 years old and taking it indoors to ask my mum about it but when my father saw me with it he went ballistic and snatched it away from me and put it in the dustbin. 

Nothing more was said about it and I can only think that it had brought back some bad memories for him which leads on to the next story which I learnt from him when he was in his nineties.

Father worked at the Royal Arsenal throughout the war as one of the engineers who bored out the large naval guns and volunteered to became an Auxiliary Fireman (AFS) and fire watcher at the Arsenal.

Some of the tales he had to tell were quite horrific i.e. digging out workmates from bomb shelters that had suffered direct hits during the many bombing raids aimed at the works. I can only assume that the sight of the gas mask 2 brought back those bad times and accounted for his behaviour.

As he lived at East Ham for much of the war, his route to the Arsenal often took him through the foot tunnel when the ferry wasn't operating which was mostly after dark and his biggest gripe was how his way home through the tunnel was often impeded by the many people who took shelter there during bombing raids.

I can understand his frustration at this when you consider he would have to spend long hours on the roof of his workshop watching as the bombing raid moved slowly up the river targeting the many buildings and facilities that made up the Royal Arsenal which stretched for many miles downriver and his job would involve spotting what type of bombs were dropping i.e. incendiary or high explosive or a mix of both.

This often meant he would remain on the roof dealing with incendiary bombs that fell on on it but not knowing if a high explosive device may come down among them.

I can understand his frustration with the families in the tunnel when he would be looking forward to getting home after spending a night wondering if it may be his last night which it was for many AFS colleagues. His night did in fact come up when he was blown from his roof by a high explosive bomb and the ensuing injuries saw him off work for a little over 6 months and the fact that he was only paid for two weeks of that period, didn't help matters.

He often said that he and his fellow fire watchers most probably endured more high explosives being aimed at them than the soldiers on the front line.

©Roger Callow, 2018

Pictures; Heinkel He 111 over Poland, September 1939 from the German Federal Archive featured in  Heinkel He 111 Wickipedia , Woolwich Foot Tunnel circa 1916, courtesy of Kristina Bedford from  Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford, 2014, Amberley Publishing

“Perhaps forgettable but not forgotten” ....... another unremarkable building joins so many

Dickinson Street is that narrow one that takes you from Portland Street into St Peter’s Square.

The bit up by the square has been closed for a while but is now open and not to miss an opportunity Andy Robertson took a stroll down to see what was changing.

Now I always look forward to a new collection of pictures from Andy because like the famous box of chocolates, “you never know what you are going to get”.

Although that does have to be qualified slightly by saying that while the subject matter might vary, the quality and historic interest is always spot on.

So here we are at the junction of Dickinson and George Street with a building Andy describes as “forgettable but not forgotten”, and it is so unremarkable that in the years I have walked past it I don’t think I have ever given it much of a glance.

But Andy being Andy recorded it back in 2016 when the sign above the door, hinted that its days were numbered.

And two years on that number has been called and all that is left is a space.

I could go and look up the planning applications to see what has been approved for the site but I won’t, leaving you instead with the before and now set of images.

Location; Dickinson Street, Manchester

Pictures; Dickinson Street, 2016 & 2018 from the collection of Andy Robertson

The Cranes of Salford ...... number 6 ....... Media City

From the series the cranes of Salford

Nothing more to say.

Location; Salford

Pictures; Media City, 2017, from the collection of Andrew Robertson

Travels with Friends ...... no.3 .... Mr Stephenson’s amazing locomotive

I say Mr Stephenson’s amazing locomotive, but it was of course a replica, and just as much fun.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Steam Expo, Manchester 1981, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

From cave to castle and on to a high rise ............ the story of houses and how we used them

I never think you can get enough of the history books written by R.J. Unstead in the 1950s.*

This one comes from Black’s Junior Reference Books** and was published in 1958.

It was not one that I was given as a child but I rather wish I had because in just 80 pages it offers a clear and comprehensive description of houses from earlier times up to the mid 1950s.

It is paced full of interesting information on the style and construction of houses, along with the possessions that could be found in them and much about how people used their homes.

And above all it is the excellent collection of line drawings of everything from castles and cottages to windows, furniture and how the house moved from being a communal place to a more private residence of just one family.

It is also a book I often go back to as a starting point for ideas, and pictures of the everyday domestic objects from a 19th century kitchen range and copper to a Tudor  four poster bed and Roman Hypocaust.

It isn’t that I couldn’t find these elsewhere but there is a pleasure in leafing through the pages and coming across some old favourites.

Not that this is just a sad slide into nostalgia, instead it is a celebration of when history books for young people were informative, fun to read and just jolly good books to have around.

I suspect also they were embraced by teachers and librarians in those post war decades when education and schools were themselves undergoing profound changes.

So once again it’s a thank you to Mr Unstead and I rather think I will go looking for a few more.

Pictures; from A History of Houses, R.J.Unstead, 1958