A History of Brockley - Part Two: Got to Love the Drake

Jerry: I hate the Drake! Maybe the whole thing was a scam. Anybody can just get engaged and get presents and just keep them all. Maybe they're on their way to Chicago tomorrow and do the whole thing all over again. 
- Seinfeld, The Handicap Spot

This is the second part of Darrell Spurgeon's guide to Brockley:

The land which is now the residential area of Upper Brockley came into the possession of the Drake family in the 17th century. Between 1844 and 1885 it was developed as two great estates - the Wickham-Drake Estate and the Tyrwhitt-Drake Estate. The Wickham and Tyrwhitt families had become linked through marriage. Most of the road names in the area mark family associations.

A relatively small area in the west, between the Goldsmiths College complex and Wickham Road, consists largely of classical terraces of the 1850s; in this area, St Donatts Road, Shardeloes Road and Malpas Road belonged to the Tyrwhitt-Drake Estate, Upper Brockley Road and Manor Avenue to the Wickham-Drake Estate.

Further east is the most dramatic part of Brockley - four long and wide north / south roads with large houses - Wickham Road, the widest, with the largest houses as well as the somewhat idiosyncratic St Peter’s Church, and Breakspears Road, in the Wickham-Drake Estate; then Tressillian Road and the shortest road, Tyrwhitt Road, in the Tyrwhitt-Drake Estate.

These roads were laid out by 1851, when the first two houses in Wickham Road were built; but development proceeded slowly, with only seven houses in Wickham Road completed by 1859, when the first houses in Tyrwhitt Road were built. Both roads had developed some way southwards by 1868, when the first houses in Breakspears Road and Tressillian Road were built. From that time development continued steadily until the early 1880s.

There are also groups of interesting (though usually more modest) houses in many of the roads running west / east across the estates. Some of the shorter roads, particularly Glensdale Road, Avon Road and Drake Road, are most attractive.

Architectural styles of Upper Brockley

Upper Brockley is the ideal place to study the evolution from the Italianate to the Gothic style in the mid to late 19th century.

Up to the mid 1860s the houses were predominantly Italianate, exhibiting classical revival features like decorated window surrounds with pediments and brackets, rusticated ground floors and basements, quoins, porches with classical columns, and the use of stucco. The style continued until the mid 1870s; examples can be seen in the northern parts of all the roads leading south from Lewisham Way.

From the late 1860s Gothic influences began to emerge and during the 1870s became dominant. The style can best be described as transitional, though it is sometimes termed eclectic, with both Italianate and Gothic influences co-existing.  For example, Gothic decorative features may be combined with Italianate round-headed or segment-headed doors and windows.

The variety is almost infinite. A typical house of this type is usually part of a pair but is sometimes detached. It may have a full width gable, a round-headed doorcase with strange capitals on columns, bay windows through one or two storeys, segment-headed windows, often with a fanciful window-head (sometimes jagged with decorated plasterwork), small balconies above the two storeys, and a decorated roundel in the gable. There may be variations on these features, and unusual decorative flourishes as well; in some cases the ornamentation is so extravagant that it has to be seen to be believed – look for example at 133/135  Breakspears Road and 98 Tressillian Road.

Few houses could be described as mature Gothic. The pointed arch, probably the most potent symbol of Gothic architecture, occurs in only a few Brockley houses – 55, 66/68 and 72/74 Wickham Road, the north side of Glensdale Road, 15 and 90 Breakspears Road, 69 and 96 Tressillian Road, 1 and 12 Tressillian Crescent.

Click here for Part One.