Friday, 23 October 2015

The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 48 ............. the Evelina Mission Hall, a chair and a promise

The story of one house in Lausanne Road over a century and a half and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

The chair, 2015
Now I like the way that what seem to be totally random bits of the past come together to tell a story which in this case brings together a Mission Hall, an old chair and a promise.

What connects them is this chair which I am guessing must be at least a century old and in its time has travelled from Peckham to Eltham and on to Manchester and now resides in our dining room.

As far as I know it began life in the Evelina Mission Hall on Evelina Road close to where dad had worked for forty years.

I don’t remember the hall which was just past the railway arch on your left heading back towards Lausanne Road or when it was built but it will be sometime between 1896 and 1914 which I grant is a  dollop of history but it’s a start.

I know this because while it doesn’t show up on the OS map for 1896 it was there by 1914, listed in the Post Office Directory for that year.

There were plenty of similar halls in the area but by the mid 1960s if not earlier it was struggling for a congregation and closed.

And Dad always scenting a bargain came home with it one winter’s day in 1964.

By then we had moved from Lausanne Road to Eltham but it remains a little bit of the place where I grew up.

Now it may well be that there are people who remember the hall and if I am very lucky will have stories of attending the services there and perhaps even the odd picture.

But I doubt it such bits of our collective history vanish all too quickly although I did find a reference to the hall being bombed on September 7 1940.

According to the official records it took a direct hit from an explosive bomb just before 11 pm which “severely damaged the mission hall.”*

Given the time I doubt that there were any casualties and the hall must have been rebuilt which opens up a fascinating bit of research, all of which is for later.

That said there are so many unanswered questions of which how it survived the explosion, when it was made and by whom will I suspect never been answered.

And I have to say until recently I didn’t even know where the hall was, but guessing it was close to Dad’s garage on Brabourn Grove  it was fairly easy to track down.

The Mission Hall on Evelina Road, 1952
In turn I have to wonder if this was the location for his other great acquisition which were loads of those old wooden blocks which had formed the original road surface back in the 19th century.

Back then there had been a spirited debate about how roads should be surfaced with some favouring wooden blocks which it was argued would be quieter.

What I do know was that when they were finally lifted and arrived in our house in Lausanne Road they offered a superb fuel for the kitchen stove.

All of which may seem a long way from the chair so I shall close with that promise, which was that a long time ago one of my sons made a claim for the chair for the future.  He got in before his brother’s which means that at some point in the future our chair will be on the move again.

But I hope not for some time yet.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson 2015, and detail of the Mission Hall on Evelina Road, 1952,  courtesy of Southwark Council at

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road,

**London Blitz 1940: the first day’s bomb attacks listed in full, Simon Rogers, The Guardian Datalog, September 6 2010,

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