All this has happened before, and all this will happen again

Tony doesn't live in Brockley, but is nonetheless so beguiled by the place that he has written this article - "Crofton Park and Brockley Green - A Micro-History" - based on his own research. At the end, he has a question, which he hopes BC readers can help with:

Stand on the corner of Sevenoaks Road and Brockley Road, and let me take you back to 1833. You’re now standing near the centre of the original Brockley - a small hamlet on the road into London. It’s described as a hamlet, because it has no church. It does however have a pub, The Castle (originally called ‘The Crooked Billet’ and later renamed the ‘Brockley Jack’), and looking north, you’ll see Brockley Hall, a large private residence. The Hall is just before the modern roundabout - the roundabout itself is on the site of a small village pond, after which the road splits - Brockley Grove to the right, Brockley Road straight on, although confusingly both roads at the time were known as Brockley Lane. Beyond that, it’s just fields until we reach Tanner’s Hill (now part of St John’s) in Lewisham.

To the south, the road curves sharply to left (at another village pond) and curves round Brockley Green, a small collections of houses round Duncan’s Farm. The modern Brockley Rise follows this curve.

Looking to the north, just ahead of you, is a footpath that connects the wells of Camberwell and Ladywell, and Sevenoaks Road now follows this path to the east. To the west, the path winds round the back of the pub, and you can still follow the line of the footpath as the alleyway connects Cypress Gardens to the bridge across the railway.

To the west, a short distance behind the pub, is the Croydon Canal, opened in 1809, but a financial failure. It will close in just a few years, in 1836.

With the closing of the canal comes the railways, and the beginning of considerable change for Brockley. The London and Croydon Railway (L&CR) purchase the canal and drain it, replacing it with train track. The oldest remaining houses in Brockley, on Coulgate Street, were built around this time in the area then known as Brockley Cross. It was here, in 1872, the new Brockley station was opened - and with new property development round the station, the centre of gravity of Brockley moved north, away from the sleepy hamlet of Brockley Green.

Brockley Green didn’t stay sleepy for long. By 1900, Stondon Park carried on the line of Brockley Road straight across the old farms and ponds of the Green, and terraces of Victorian houses were appearing between the road and railway. In 1886 Honor Oak Park station was opened, followed by Crofton Park in 1892 on the new ‘Catford Loop’ line. After this the old hamlet was lost, and the area itself became known as Crofton Park - a name invented by the railway company.

Some things still remained, though. The Castle had been renamed ‘The Brockley Jack’, although its days as a picturesque wooden building were numbered. The pub had long been associated with highway men (although with little evidence). Allegedly there was a staircase that could be removed, so the people hiding in the room upstairs would not be discovered. The pub’s sign was written on a whalebone, which is still exhibited in the pub, above the fireplace. There is also a whalebone, outside, on the high gable. The old building was condemned in 1898 and replaced by the current brick and stone building.

Brockley Hall survived a little longer. Dating from at least 1745, by 1900 the house was in the hands of the Noakes family, local brewers and owners of the Brockley Jack. The 1901 census shows Bertram Noakes living there with his five spinster sisters, Pauline, Elizabeth, Kate, Ada and Maude. Maude was the last survivor, dying in 1931. The property was then sold and demolished and the 1930s houses of Sevenoaks Road, Brockley Hall Road, Otford Crescent and others were built in its grounds.

My question is:

In the 1800s, if you lived in Brockley Green, where did you go to church? There's certainly no church in Brockley at the time, and all the local churches now seem to be Victorian?


Mb said...

The local paper, the Brockley Bugle, printed a number of increasingly bad tempered letters from Ebenezer Baker and Josiah Headhunter. They were incandescent about the canal being closed and the fact that there was no direct barge to Rotherhithe. They confidently predicted that this "railway" would prove a folly and no one would use it, it wasn't even "new" as it followed the route of the canal.

Ebenezer finally went insane and Lord Bullock signed the paperwork that would see him committed to Bedlam (this is pre NHS of course) where families would go to watch him smear excrement on the walls for their entertainment.

Robert said...

Nice article.

I think that the churchgoing folk of Brockley Green would have probably walked the short distance to St Mary's in Lewisham to go to church. I'm sure if you check the Parish records you may find parishioners of St Mary's from Brockley.

Robert said...

This is a good map of London Parishes. Crofton Park is just off the bottom of the map, but you can see enough to tell that it would have fallen within the St Mary's Parish.

Anonymous said...

"The pub had long been associated with highway men (although with little evidence). "

Sounds like the way some of the local vegetarians prattle on about The Barge

Tamsin said...

My immediate thought was St. Mary's. Rural parishes are quite big. The boundary of Camberwell was in One Tree Hill.

Anonymous said...

How old are the two churches in the area?

St Mary's in Ladywell is teh most likely church I imagine.

brockley gal said...

I would guess St. Mary's. Although in wiki it says St.John's in Lewisham way is part of the ministry of ravensbourne, and was built in 1855. Without the housing, one brother and five spinster sisters, an area of fields and farmland there was unlikely to be a big population. Am sure the church historians would know for sure.

brockley gal said...

I remember seeing info about Noakes on the wall in the Wickham, just did a quick Google search and it brings up Wickham Noakes, and history of the Wickham Noakes family in the brockley area. (Wickham should be on the preservation list)

herebedragons said...

Hi, Tony here, thanks for all the answers - it does look like they walked down the hill to St Mary's.

Perhaps you can all help me with another question about Coulgate Cottages. I'm still intrigued as to why they were built then - the date I've found for their buildig is the mid 1830s. However, by this time, the canal was in serious decline - so I'm surprised they invested in new canal-keeper's cottages. Maybe the dates I've found are wrong, or there's more of a story behind them.

Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Foxwell street on the west side of the station was originally a railway goods yard for the new London and Croydon railway that replaced the canal. Although I can find no date when it was built it is shown in the Charles Booth poverty map of 1898. it is believed to have been in place prior to that publication.

the road consisted of a caol yrad, on the left as you enter the street and a row of railway cottages for the workers. the cottages were only pulled down in 1990 to make way for the new development. It still has the original cobbled road under the tarmac put down by Lewisham and which can still be seen when the tarmac comes up during bad weather.

Interestingly what is now called John Stainer s was also shown in the 1898 map as a board school as well as the now demolished Maypole.

J.Barleycorn said...

I don't think the Coulgate cottages were necessarily for canal workers. The excellent website puts the nearest keepers house in Shardeloes Rd. It was still there in 1947.

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