A History of Brockley - Part 8: Wickham Road

This is the eighth part of Darrell Spurgeon's history of Brockley (click on the History tag for the series).

Wickham Road is the widest and most imposing of the four grand north/south roads of Upper Brockley. Here are some of the grandest houses, as well as St Peter’s Church.

The road was laid down c1850, earlier than the other grand roads. By 1860 the west side of the road had been developed in Italianate style as far as Ashby Road, and the houses opposite followed in similar style a few years later. By 1871 development had reached the railway bridge, and some Gothic influences had begun to appear. Further south, development continued in the late 1870s; many houses became more Gothic, though some retained an Italianate style. The road had become fully developed by 1881.

Wickham Gardens is a highly attractive close around a green, probably c1880. The houses, which are smaller pairs mostly linked at the rear, have been preserved to the north and to the west, whereas postwar flats have replaced the east (fronting Wickham Road) and south sides. The window pattern of the older houses is generally unusual, many houses having double height squared bay windows, and there are many extraordinary decorative features.

From Ashby Road to the railway bridge, occupying a site once part of the old Manor Farm, there is a series of large detached houses, including Chester House, no 25, of 1872, which has a tower with a pyramidal top, and shows a distinct Gothic influence. Sympathetic extension to the south of 1906.

The Red House, no 53, is unusual in this road, as it is in red brick and in Arts & Crafts style. The house was designed by Alexander Kersey in 1879, and has a fine timber porch, a large gable to the right, and a tall chimney at the rear. From 1967 to 2007 it was called Farnham House, and was a residence for students at Goldsmiths, University of London, see below.

Raymont Hall, a residence for Goldsmiths, University of London, occupies the remainder of the space between Harefield Road and Glensdale Road. Named after Thomas Raymont, Warden of Goldsmiths 1915-27, it comprises three large houses.

No 55, called The Manse, was acquired by Goldsmiths in 1964, and is a Gothic house with a positive pointed archway, c1878. No 57, called Edgcumbe, was acquired in 1919, and is a much grander house, also c1878, with unusual decoration around the doorcase, in a rounded pediment above an upper floor window, and on the gate piers. The largest building of the group, nos 59/61, on the corner of Glensdale Road, is a rebuild of 1961, to a design by Fielder & Tatnall, of a late 1870s pair.

Goldsmiths, University of London, was originally founded in 1891 as the Goldsmiths Company's Technical & Recreative Institute in a building, formerly the Royal Naval School, at the western end of Lewisham Way, and was incorporated into London University in 1904. It was later known as Goldsmiths College, and from 2007 Goldsmiths, University of London. It now occupies a great complex of buildings at the junction of Lewisham Way and New Cross Road.

Goldsmiths has for many years had a strong presence in Brockley. In addition to Raymont Hall and Surrey House (at the junction of Shardeloes Road and Lewisham Way, see above), Goldsmiths had until recently other residences at 53 Wickham Road and 4 Tressillian Crescent, as well as faculty buildings in St Donatts Road.

On the southern corner of Glensdale Road is Jasmin House, connected by walkways to Syringa House. These blocks of flats of the 1950s are discreet and have elegant Crittall windows, and are certainly more sympathetic than other such blocks in the road.

St Peter’s Church, Wickham Road. A very large, imposing and distinctive stone Gothic church designed by Frederick Marrable. Work commenced in 1867, and the church was consecrated in 1870; a temporary church had been on the site from 1866. Its location is on part of the grounds of the Premonstratensian Abbey, which moved to Bayham in 1207 (see Introduction; Beverley Court, Breakspears Road).

The west frontage is dominated by the three gabled doorways and the tower looming above; the tower owes its grandeur largely to the castellated octagon added by Sir Arthur Blomfield in 1891. Above the doorways is a course of small blind Gothic arches stretching right across the front. At the base of the tower is a triplet of lancet windows, and this is flanked by triangular windows of geometric tracery (ie with circles and foiled circles) above the side doorways. The detail of the frontage is compelling, and worthy of close study.

Frederick Marrable (1818-72) was the first superintending architect to the Metropolitan Board of Works, from 1856 to 1861, and designed their head office (demolished) in Carlton House Terrace. He planned Garrick Street, in Covent Garden, and designed the Garrick Club.  This church at Brockley is his finest surviving work.

Sir Arthur Blomfield (1829-99) was a leading architect of the Victorian Gothic revival. He designed the Royal College of Music, and Selwyn College, Cambridge. He built, restored and extended numerous churches; many were in London, including St John’s Eltham, which he designed. His most notable church work was the rebuilding of the nave and south transept of Southwark Cathedral.

The interior is imposing too. The nave is very wide with great Gothic arches covering the aisles as well; it is of light red brick, with bright red brick dressings over the arches. The chancel is vaulted, of polychrome brick, with a fine pattern of mosaics and tiles in the apsidal east end. There are two Gothic pulpits, and a fine marble font at the west end. The gallery at the west end has fine wooden carving in front and three Gothic arches behind.

There is a profusion of stained glass, added, mostly by Clayton & Bell, in the 1880s, and not part of the architect's concept. This originally made the interior seem rather gloomy; however, in 2006 its appearance was transformed by remodelling and redecoration to the design of Roger Molyneux Architects, including new seating and lighting (note the strange Gothicky lights), and solar panels in the roof. The Vicarage to the north is of 1958.

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