Monday, 5 December 2016

A little bit of lost Eltham, the house behind the bank on the High Street

Ivy Court today
This was the home of Harriet and Lydia Fry.  

They were born here in the 1820s and died here, Harriet in 1895 and Lydia in 1907.

Today it is hidden from view down a passageway beside the bank on the High Street.

But during their life time the property was situated in a long garden which fronted the main road with fine views back across the fields to Shooters Hill and the woods.

It was known as Ivy Court and had ten rooms.

As such it was a suitable house for a family of industry and property.

Their father was John Fry who described himself variously as a builder, carpenter, sawyer, land agent and appraiser and in 1833 he built Fry’s Buildings which were just north of the High Street.

They were twelve wooden cottages which faced east across the fields with longish gardens at the rear and were only demolished in 1957 to make way for an extension to Hinds Store and an additional playground to the old village school on Roper Street.

They were a decent size consisting of three rooms upstairs and two down.  And in 1837 were assessed for the land tax at £3 12shillings.

Ivy Court in 1909
It was these properties which allowed him to qualify to vote in Parliamentary elections and in the election of 1837 he voted for the two Tory candidates.

He was born in 1792 in Kent, possibly at Tunbridge and may have been in Eltham by 1818 for although I can find no record of his marriage to Henrietta she was from Eltham and their first daughter was baptised in the parish church in October 1819.

And this may be a clue to the date of our house which Darrel Spurgeon* suggests was sometime in the 1820s.

Only with the death of Lydia did our house vanish behind the old bank and pretty much out of the view and knowledge of many in Eltham.

It may briefly have come back out of the shadows with the demolition of the old bank but was lost again after the building of the Barclays Branch in 1932.

I would love to know more about its history and what if anything has survived of the original features and perhaps in time that will happen.

But in the meantime I shall resist that unhistorical assertion that here is a house that could represent the changes that have happened to Eltham.

The garden just during the construction of the first bank
True it once stood proud for all to see at the end of a long garden and did so for most of the 19th century, and during their long residence here the Fry sisters would have seen many changes, but so could lots of other people.

Nor was what happened to their home so different from those other even finer homes which were adapted for other uses and different occupants.

So I shall just close by reflecting that for me at least what was once lost is found.

*Spurgeon Darrell, Guide to Eltham, 2000

Picture; Ivy Court, from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, and picture of Ivy Court today courtesy of Jean Gammons

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