Thursday, 1 June 2017

On Court Yard in 1911 with Mrs Morris and memories of Eltham in the 19th century

I am looking at number 25 Court Yard, and there in the picture are Mrs Annie Morris and her sons David and Harold.

I don’t know the date but I reckon it will have been sometime around 1911 because in that year David would have been 33 and Harold 24 which pretty much fits with their appearance in the picture.

And there is much more that this image can help us about the history of Eltham.

Number 25 was a five roomed house just past the Crown on Court Yard and it was one of twelve houses running from the pub to a slightly grander set of houses.

The first five or so properties commanded rents of 4 shillings a week and it was here that Mr and Mrs Morris moved sometime in 1900.

This was number 17 Court Yard, but with two years they had moved to number 25 and paid 2 shillings and sixpence in rent.

Either way this was an improvement on Ram Alley where they had lived and which had been condemned as unfit for habitation in 1895, a decision which meant little given that they were still standing in 1930.

These twelve were a mix of four, five and six roomed houses which were home to a mix of occupations including a caretaker, baker, porter, a butcher and two gardeners along with house painters, a general labourer, domestic servant and retired carpenter.

On the surface just your average range of jobs, but of course they reflect the changes that were beginning to push Eltham out of its rural past into something closer to what we know today.

And so while Annie’s husband had been a carpenter one of her sons worked at the Woolwich Arsenal.

She  was a cook and may have worked for Captain North at Avery Hill and through her life we have a snap shot of what Eltham had been and what it was becoming.

Her grandfather had set up a farrier’s business in Eltham in 1803 on what is now the Library, and “attended the old Parish Church in his leather apron.”*

She had been born in 1848 at 4 Pound Place and recalled that when she was young “Eltham was but a village and children and young people then were forbidden by their parents to be out after dark. When Mrs Morris was two years old a Mrs Miller kept the school in Back Lane. 

The old inns and taverns of Eltham are still of the same identity except for structural changes.”*

Now there is much more of Mrs Morris’s memories and in due course I will come back to them.

Pictures; from the collection of Jean Gammons

*Eltham District Times, June 1931

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