Friday, 15 April 2016

Calling in at the parish church on a spring day in 1851 at the start of our Eltham walk

The Old Vicarage from Well Hall Lane, 1833
Now I had planned on starting our walk up the High Street in the spring of 1851 at Sherad House which was roughly on the site now occupied by the Nat West Bank.

But that would be to ignore the church and the vicarage.

So like all best laid plans it has gone out of the window, and instead I am at the corner of Sherard Road which was where Well Hall Lane began.

All of which was a surprise to me given that I have always thought that Well Hall Road began beside the church and the old Burtons and ran north to the station.  But not so, once before the beginning of the last century it had a more devious route and before it was Well Hall Lane had been known as Woolwich Road “so called because it led to Woolwich.”*

And so standing by the beginning of what was Well Hall lane and is now Sherard Road, this is what we would have seen.  In the distance are the old church which was demolished in 1875 and the vicarage.

The Church, circa 1860s
Now the old church was not exactly the most elegant of places leading one writer to comment that it was

“A mean fabric, much patched and modernised; with scarce a trace of anything like good work, and from repeated alterations, the plan has become irregular.”**

But that belies the point that this was a working church at the heart of the community and which underwent alterations partly to reflect its growing use.

So I shall return to the description of the place
“The nave has a south aisle cased in brick, and a north chapel of stone, bearing the date 1667, with square headed, labelled windows, and a door of mixed Italian character.  

The chancel was wholly brick.  At the west end of the nave was a tower of flint, cased with brick, with large Buttresses and pointed doorway.  It was surmounted with a spire of wood, covered with lead (shingle).  

Inside the old Church
Galleries were carried all around the interior of the church, and a double one at the west end, with an organ.  The north chapel opened to the nave by three pointed arches, with octagonal pillars.”

Now at this point I have to confess that much of the story is not original research but comes from that wonderful book, The Royal Story of Eltham, by R.R.C.Gregory, which I will use again when we spend more time in and around the church its vicarage and actually begin the walk up the High Street.

Location; Eltham, Londson

*R.R.C.Gregory The Royal Story of Eltham, 1909

**Sir Stephen Glynne 1830, Churches of Kent

Pictures; from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,,

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