Sunday, 12 June 2016

Looking at Eagle House in Eltham High Street sometime in 1874

Eagle House, 1909
Eltham has got to be lucky that so many of its fine houses built in the 18th and early 19th centuries have survived.

Of course as is ever the way the more humble dwellings of the families of agricultural labourers, tradesmen and craftsmen have long since been cleared away.

Many were unfit and will have had their time long before the last century was turned, but it is a shame.

And more so because few historians ever ventured to record what was still in their midst.  In the case of Eltham, the historian R.R.C Gregory makes references to to them and includes photographs of a few which in 1909 was all there was left.

Eagle House, 1874
Now before someone accuses me of wallowing in romantic tosh, no amount of nostalgia can hide the fact that many rural properties along with their counterparts in the cities were badly built, ill maintained and too small for the numbers who were forced to live in them.

Parliamentary reports commented on how the traditional wattle and daub cottages were damp, cold, were a prey to all sorts of vermin and lacked decent sanitation.

So I don’t think we should mourn their passing only wish more local historians had done their best to record them in detail.

Mr Gregory makes a passing reference to Jubilee Cottages and those in Ram Alley and Sun Yard and we know that those in Sun Yard were condemned as unfit at the beginning of the 20th century, but that is about it.

I suppose in their defence our historians took these properties for granted and could see little point in writing about them.

So time I think to draw on another fine house in Eltham.  This is Eagle House which still exists today at the end of the High Street and is now the Presbytery of Christ Church.

Eagle House, 1909
It dates from the 18th century but is in fact two buildings which can be best seen from the rear.

“The house to  the east is redbrick and is 18th century while the house to the west is yellow brick and is early 19th century, at which time the front was unified.”*

And in its time it was a big place, with sixteen rooms and an extensive formal gardens at the rear.

With his usual eye to detail Mr Gregory recorded that

“This is the house which faces Victoria-road and was the residence of the late Mr J A Scrutton.

At the end of the 18th century it was the residence of the Whomes family.  It was subsequently occupied by Mr. H.Latham, Mr. H. Baines, Mrs Lambert, Mr. G J Goschen (afterwards Lord Goshen, recently deceased),  Mrs Walrond, Mr, C Hampshire and Mr. C W Bourne.

Lord Goshen date unknown
The father of the late Lord Goshen Mr J Goshen- lived in the house that stands between Ivy House and the Roman Catholic  Church.  Here the future Lord Goshen spent his childhood.  It was afterwards the residence of Mr Knightly, who kept there a private school for young gentleman.”**

Now both Mr Baines and Mr Goshen rented land in the area around Roper Street and their stories are slowly emerging but more of them later, except to say that Lord Goshen was a Liberal politican who served in the governments of Gladstone.

The house of his youth is still standing and is the St Mary Centre at 180 Eltham High Street which dates from at least 1837.

All of which we shall return to along with Mr Baines, Mr Goshen and others who lived at Eagle House.
*Spurgeon, Darrell, Discover Eltham, 2nd edition, 2000
**Gregory, R.R.C., The Story of Royal Eltham, 1909
Pictures; Eagle House from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, detail showing Eagle House and grounds from the OS map for Kent, 1858-74, and Lord Goshen from Wikipedia Commons,,_1st_Viscount_Goschen

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