Monday, 5 June 2017

Walking Well Hall in the April of 1844

Well Hall in 1746
Walk along Well Hall Road which runs from the High Street north to Shooters Hill  on a sunny day and  it is a pleasant enough trip which starts with the church takes in the Tudor Barn and the Progress Estate before finishing with the common and the woods.

Had you done the same journey in the spring of 1844 it would of course have been very different. Back then it consisted of some farms, a posh house and a collection of cottages with the odd pond and lots of open land.

These were a mix of arable, meadow and pasture land with the woods stretching off north and east bordering Shooters Hill.

Here were agricultural labourers, a blacksmith, some “middling families” and an assortment of others who made their living from teaching to tailoring.

And it is these people’s lives in this small hamlet north of Eltham High Street that I want to explore.

Well Hall House, 1909
1844 is a good point to start because in that year the tithe map and schedule had been published which detailed who owned the land, who rented it and the use it was put to along with its value.

So just north east of the Pleasaunce was Andrews Meadow which was a six acre plot of meadowland farmed by Samuel Jeffryes and owned by Sir Gregory Page Turner and a little further north and on the land that would become the Well Hall Estate was Bridge Field and Eleven Acres which confusingly was actually 26 acres of arable land.

Now there is no reason for me choosing these two fields over others except that I am drawn to any piece of land with my name and to the field where our old house now stands. All of which is a bit self indulgent and so back to the inhabitants of Well Hall.

Baptismal record of Charlotte, daughter of Samuel and Frances Jeffryes, 1837
As ever it is the people of property that we know most about and two of these were Samuel and Frances Jeffryes.

We know their children, where the family lived, something of how they made a living and even how Samuel voted in the key Parliamentary elections of 1837 and 1847.

Now the picture is not complete and there is much research still to be done but there is enough for a story.

Samuel was born in 1803 and came from Shropshire.  Frances was five years younger and had been born in Wales. Their early married life was spent in Shropshire in the village of Sutton where they had five children but by 1837 they were in Eltham and it was here that Frances gave birth to another eight who were all baptized in the parish church.

Burial record of Samuel Jeffyres, 1867
At one point in the late 1830s they lived in Well Hall House which was that large eighteenth century house beside the Tudor Barn but were on what is now Eltham High Street quite close to the church by 1844.

He variously described himself as a “farmer” and a “gentleman” and in the 1840s farmed over 250 acres north of the High Street much of which boarded Well Hall Lane.  And despite moving to Westminster both were buried back in the parish church.

It would have been a short walk from their home on Eltham Street to the church but a slightly longer one from there down to Well Hall for their route would have taken them west past the church to what is now Sherrard Road down past the big pond in Homefield and then on by twists and turns to Well Hall House the home of the Reverend Charles Gulliver Freyer and a short walk on to the six houses a little beyond Kidbrook Lane occupied by John Evans and six other families.

And beyond this just open fields up to the common and Shooters Hill, which is all to the good given that this is fast becoming just a travelogue.

Location; Well Hall, Eltham, London

Pictures; map of Well Hall in 1746, Engraved by Richard Parr, surveyed and published by John Rocque, 1746 IDEAL HOMES: A History of South East London, the Universiyuy of Greenwich, http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/resources  Well Hall House from The story of Royal Eltham,  R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers http://www.gregory.elthamhistory.org.uk/bookpages/i001.htm, remaining images from the parish records of St John the Baptist

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