Monday, 14 May 2018

Walking through Eltham with Darrell Sprurgeon, ... part one Well Hall

The first of a series featuring Discover Eltham.*

I am a great fan of Discover Eltham, so much so that I have two copies, and both are now battered and in need of tender care.

But that is what happens with guide books, if you use them it will show.

Sadly both the 1992 and 2000 editions are out of print and so here are short extracts from the book and the walks you can do.

Well Hall forms section F and is a gentle stroll from the Tudor Barn, up past the Coronet Cinema and the Church of St Barnabus through the Progress Estate and on to The Martyrs Church taking in the memorial to Stephen Lawrence.

Well Hall, 69, an attractive and fascinating building now called the Tudor Barn as well as the moat walls, a bridge and some gardens have survived from the grounds of the Tudor mansion of well Hall: all are now set in a pleasant park.

The state goes back to at least the 13th century.  In the early 16th century a mansion called well Hall was built by the Roper family on the moated site of an earlier house and some medieval structures may have been retained.  In 1733 the estate was purchased by Sir Gregory Page to add to his already extensive Wricklemarsh estate at Blackheath.  He demolished the Tudor house and built a large new mansion on the other side of the moat to the east.

The house was occupied by a succession of people some more famous than others and finally from 1899 to 1933 by the children’s writer Edith Nesbit.  

The house was badly damaged by a fire in 1926, and the whole site was acquired by the then Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich in 1929, to become the Well Hall Pleasaunce.

Nothing remains of the 16th century mansion bit the moat with its largely Tudor brick banks and the Tudor stone arched bridge to the east have survived.(69a)  There is a modern wooden bridge over the moat to the west.

Substantial sections of the original Tudor garden walls to the south have been preserved; in the westernmost walls five triangular headed niches (some blocked) which may have been bee-boles, can be seen.

The Tudor Barn (69b & 69c) now a pub, was part of the original Tudor complex of buildings.  Its original purpose is unknown but it was probably not a barn.  It is a well preserved redbrick building, facing the site of the main mansion across the north arm of the moat, an extension to the moat run along the west side of the building.  A coat of arms on the north side front bears the date 1568, but it is generally considered to date from earlier in the 16th century.

Original features include the patterned black brick, the chimneys stacks at the west end and the rectangular mullioned windows (some blocked) at the east end; the windows at the west end are 17th century.  On the east wall the monogram WR (William Roper) and Edith Nesbit’s bell can be seen.

The white column by the lawn facing the entrance is a sundial of 1941.

The interior is worth viewing especially for the Tudor fireplaces on both floors.  On the ground floor note at the west end an original Tudor brick fireplace, and a section of distinctive stone and pebble tiled floor (which was imported later).  The upper floor is dominated by the exposed rood timbers.  

Note the west end  an original Tudor red brick fireplace, and on the south side a wall a later Tudor stone fire place with fine carving.  

In the west wall is a stained glass window showing Thomas More and his daughter Margaret Roper, designed after Holbein’s portrait by Margaret Cowel 1949.

Next;  Coronet Cinema and the Church of St Barnabus through the Progress Estate and on to The Martyrs Church taking in the memorial to Stephen Lawrence.

* Discover Eltham and its Environ, Darrell Spurgeon, Greenwich Guide Books, 2nd edition 2000

Pictures; map from Eltham and its Environ,, remaining images courtesy of Scott MacDonald

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