Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Looking down the High Street ....... revealing clues about the past

Down the High Street, 2015
This is one of those scenes of the High Street which will be so familiar as to warrant not even a second glance and give or take a few of the businesses along this stretch it is not so different from the one I remember, over fifty years ago.

But there are a few clues to an even earlier period and one helps tell the story of how this bit of Eltham developed during the last century.

It starts with that white fronted building which today is occupied by the pawnbrokers and Costa Coffee.

It dates from the 1720s and was Cliefden House which according to one source retains a fine carved staircase from the 17th century but long ago lost its front garden to a road widening scheme.*

It may have lost much of its more elegant past but at least it is still here unlike the even older and grander house just a bit further down the road.

This was Sherard House and I guess bits of it may still be there under the Nat West bank and in the just as  there might be the odd lumps of masonry from the Congregation Church which was replaced by Burton’s.

Sherard House, circa 1909
All of this I knew although I have to say in the time I have been away more than a few changes have broken cover and surprised me.

So I was unprepared for the news that the Greyhound pub had been partially rebuilt in 1978 or that Mr Burton had walked from the High Street to be replaced by a battery of people selling Big Macs assorted fries and apple turnovers.

Even more of a shock was the disappearance of Payne’s the outfitters, the demise of the Post Office on Passey Place and the demolition of the ABC cinema.

Such sneaky things seem to go on when you leave home.

That said the parish Church is still there its spire just visible on the sky line in the distance.

And if I wanted to be a show off I can reflect that what was Payne’s and is now delicio was occupied by Mr George F Benjafield, clothier in 1918.

His near neighbour at the the Greyhound Ernest Elms and across the road Mrs Dobell was stillliving comfortable in Sherard House.

Picture; looking west down the High Street, 2014, from the collection of Elizabeth and Colin Fitzpatrick and Sherard House, 1909 from The Story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 

*Discover Eltham and its Environs, Darrell Spurgeon, 1992

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