A History of Brockley - Part 7: The Original Brockley Road

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

Upper Brockley Road

Upper Brockley Road, called Brockley Road until 1915, is a long road leading from Lewisham Way south to Brockley Cross. It is part of an old lane which led from Deptford Royal Naval Dockyard to Deptford Common, which was located near the present Brockley Cross, before continuing to Brockley Green.

Going from north to south:

The west side begins at Lewisham Way with The Parade, a group of shops of 1888, designed by John James Downes; a plaque reads ‘The Parade 1888 JJD’.

Then nos 2/24 are a fine group of small Italianate pairs c1850, with pediments on the ground floor windows and some good detailing (including wreaths). The group originally continued along the space now occupied by the rear of Myatt Gardens School, Rokeby Road.

Opposite, on the east side, is a small postwar office block, Rokeby House, on part of the site of the former Brockley Congregational Church, Lewisham Way, which was built 1854 and demolished in the 1960s. Next are three long and tightly packed terraces of tall houses, probably c1860, originally called St David’s Terrace – nos 1/11 and nos 13/23, with canted bay windows on the ground floor, and wreaths over the doorways; then nos 25/35, which are more Italianate in style with pedimented window-cases and no bay windows.

Further south, the west side of Upper Brockley Road formerly veered to the right towards Brockley Baptist Church (see below), but in the mid-1970s this part of the road was blocked to become part of the grounds of Myatt Gardens School.

The east side continues ahead to Ashby Road with nos 37/65, originally called Brockley Villas, a handsome and distinctive tall terrace, probably c1868, with nice round-headed windows on canted bays and balustraded balconies above; the terrace ends with no 67, originally called Brockley House, which is larger and has no bay windows. Opposite this group, Brockley Gardens, a suburban-looking terrace, was added in 1928.

At Ashby Road, Upper Brockley Road turns west before quickly resuming its route south, but a finger returns northwards along the old route past Brockley Baptist Church and the Rokeby Road junction before coming to an end at the grounds of Myatt Gardens School. In this short section are an Italianate group with excellent detailing - a detached house, a pair and a short terrace – as well as Brockley Baptist Church (see below), all of 1867 and originally part of Park Terrace (see below).

Now from Ashby Road southwards, first the west side:

No 76, the former Lord Wolseley pub, originally built c1870 as The Vulcan and renamed c1886, was converted to flats c2001. This is a very handsome building, with strong ground floor piers and fine Italianate windows on the upper floors.

There follows a series of Italianate terraces of the mid 1860s, completed by 1868; the terraces form a long group which is highly attractive overall, particularly when viewed together with the terraces opposite.

Now the east side:

The Wickham Arms, no 69, unlike the former Lord Wolseley opposite, remains a pub. It is a handsome building of 1862, with canted bays through both floors in the middle of the frontage (a notice to the side suggests a date of 1853, but this seems unlikely).

*Nos 71/93 were formerly a highly attractive terraced shopping parade, sometimes called The Forecourt, with steps up to a high pavement; they are Italianate, nos 71/83 built 1868-70 and nos 85/93 in the late 1870s. The parade was restored in 1979, but in recent years most shops have been converted to houses; three shops do still remain, but the change is a pity, as the shopping parade had the intimate atmosphere of an urban village.

There follows a series of seven Italianate terraces of the mid 1860s, completed by 1868. The first two terraces, comprising nos 95/111, originally called Ashby Terrace, are similar in scale to the former shopping parade. The next four terraces were originally called Clyde Terrace – the first two, comprising nos 113/127, are taller and grander, and the next two, comprising nos 129/143, are even grander, with end quoins. However, the final terrace, nos 145/157, leading to Geoffrey Road, is considerably less grand.

Brockley Baptist Church, 60 Upper Brockley Road, is a Victorian Gothic church of 1867, designed by Charles Gray Searle; an earlier Baptist church had been on the site, the New Cross Union Baptist Chapel of 1864. The detailing is chunky and elaborate, particularly in the porch and the three windows above; two great buttresses stick out through the gable. The interior (for access contact Pastor Glen on 020-8697 1256) has a low, false ceiling, inserted c1975; the upper floor, which is disused, has a magnificent and intricate wooden roof, a gallery all around, and the organ.

Charles Gray Searle (1816-81) was an architect of the mid to late Victorian period who specialised in designing nonconformist churches, in both Italianate and Gothic styles. In London, in addition to this church, the practice of C G Searle & Son designed churches at West Greenwich, Islington, Dalston and Finsbury.

In the lane alongside is the former Sunday School, a nice small Gothic building of 1878, with a dramatic Gothic window overlooking Vulcan Terrace, from where there is also a view of the rear of the church, in a more restrained Gothic style than the front.


Headhunter said...

Interesting to hear that as recently as the 1970s part of UBR was absorbed into the grounds of the school. Wonder what happened to the original Victorian villas that were originally where the school is now. Were they demolished or destroyed in WW2? Does anyone remember what shops there were alongside the Wickham Arms on "The Forecourt"?

NAT said...

Was there a greengrocer, and next door a wine shop, or have I imagined that, as something that really should be there? I dropped in to The Walpole once or twice in the eighties, but didn't pay much heed. Anyone?

Robert said...

My mother grew up on Rokeby Road, and has a pretty good memory of all
the shops on that parade, and has stories about the shopkeepers too. At
some point I'll get her to write it all down - then I can report back.

I think the houses were compulsory purchased by the council - there was no significant bomb damage there.

NAT said...

Meant The Wolsey, that parade was difficult to see from The Walpole.

Alan Speer said...

On the corner adjacent to the pub towards the Baptist Church, was an old lady who ran a grocery shop. Bessies. Always a cat lying around with a big block of cheese under a glass dome on display in front window alongside the eggs and I think she had a couple of live chicken there as well.

Upper Brockley Girl said...

Bessies shop stank of cats. Mr and Mrs Crawford had the sweet shop/café corner of Brockley Gardens, opposite the Wickham Arms, later the cafe was turned into a hairdressers. The Crawford sold the shop and it was converted in to a house. The barbers (Mr and Mrs Basett) was next door to the Wickham Arms, then Allen the butchers. There was another grocer/sweet shop, an Off Licence another Hairdressers. On the corner of Rokeby Road with UBR there was Laws the Electrical shop and Doctor Hill lived in the big mansion on the corner of UB road and Brockley Gardens now the site of Myatt Garden School. These are my recollection of UB Road in the 50's

Sandy said...

In the 50s the shops were Mr Bassett the Barber, Clarkes the butcher, Mr Beaneys perambulator fixing shop, he may have fixed other things but I remember Prams, Bowleys the Baker, The Off Licence, Mrs Nella then Mrs Dackham then Mrs Steers Sweet shop, Mr Light the Grocer, Mr Lewis Builders and Plumber, Astley Cooper the Chemist, Mr Earthrowl Furniture Restorer, Cockles the Greengrocer and Tippetts the Hairdresser obviously businesses closed people moved on and the shops reopened with different Names and Businesses, I can remember so much great to go back thanks.

hopcroft forum said...

Would be great to include all this local knowledge at the visual (hi)story exhibition on Brockley. More info here http://croftonhonoroakpark.neighbourhood.space/event/portraits-of-brockley-past-present-and-future/?instance_id=24.

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