High Pavement pt 4 – up to Lee Bridge

Long and Lazy Lewisham – part 8: 73-83 High Street

Top image: The Clock Tower and the shops on Lewisham High Street up to Lee Bridge (image from ebay Jan 2021)

Unlike most of the sections of Lewisham High Street that we’ve already covered in this series, this last stretch between Tower House and Lee Bridge (the junction with Belmont Hill, Lee High Road and Lewis Grove) hasn’t really evolved physically since it was first built up as a set of shops towards the end of the 19th century, replacing some of the remnants of the old more village-like Lewisham. Unlike the rest of the “High Pavement”, the ground-floor shops have also remained separate units – not merged into larger department stores like Chiesmans and Strouds.

From the village to the High Pavement

There were a few buildings around Lee Bridge from the late eighteenth century – when the area to the south (between Lewis Grove and the market area of the High Street) was still an open space, known as Watch House Green, and when none of the buildings we have covered so far in this series existed.

Ordnance Survey map of 1799 showing buildings in pink around Lee Bridge (image from British Library)

By the 1860s and the first Ordnance Survey maps of the area, the area was much more built up, but this section of road was still relatively lightly occupied compared with the new blocks to the north. The map below shows buildings clustered around the junction at Lee Bridge.

A more built-up scene around Lee Bridge in the 1860s, show buildings between Granville Terrace and Lee Bridge, and the White Horse pub marked PH to the east – map from NLS maps

At this stage, however, the buildings were still quite spread out. As we saw previously, south of Granville Terrace this white house sat in its own grounds into the 1860s – more like the large houses on the west side of the High Street at that time.

The south-eastern end of Granville Terrace and one of the buildings between it and Lee Bridge, c 1860s (image from Borough Photos: Lewisham)

At the same time, a building standing slightly further south-east, on the junction of the High Street and Belmont Hill, was known as Lee Bridge House. Neil Rhind tells us in Blackheath Village & Environs: Volume III that the shops at the Belmont Hill end of this building were occupied by bootmaker George Booker from 1853-79 and confectioner William Carter Towner from 1868, which dates the fine photo of their shops to the period 1868-79:

Lee Bridge House at the bottom of Belmont Hill, c1868-79, from L Duncan’s History of Lewisham

Rhind tells us that this building was then acquired by undertaker John Chappell and rebuilt in 1888 to become numbers 1-3 Belmont Hill. His company – which became Francis Chappell and Sons – occupied the site for nearly a century before moving across the road onto Lee High Road, where they still operate.

The block we’re looking at today is made up of six buildings, leading at the end into the Chappell site on the corner. It is made up of three quite different designs of shop and office buildings.

The classic view from the clock tower to Lee Bridge in the early years of the twentieth century (from pinterest)

Judging by the way that numbers 81 and 83 fit stylistically with Chappell’s new shop on the corner, it seems reasonable to assume that they were also built around 1888 as part of the same construction. Their neighbour at number 79 has the date 1886 on its façade and the Lewisham Council local listings document dates the block of 73-77 at around 1890, meaning that the whole run of shops was built in the late 1880s – just as Chiesmans and Strouds were coming to dominate the High Pavement, the shopping district that this new block extended down to Lee Bridge.

1914 OS map of the area around the clock tower and Lee Bridge, showing this block (from NLS maps)

Numbers 73 to 77

The first set of buildings, numbers 73-77, are the tallest part of this 1880s block. Their height looks natural now with Tower House next door and the whole block descending from that height down to match the smaller scale of the buildings at the bottom of Belmont Hill. However, when built they were considerably taller than their neighbours to the north.

High Pavement in c1906, showing the New Cross Equitable, the Metropolitan Boot Company and Morsons at numbers 73-77 (from ebay Dec 2020)

The buildings originally also had rather elegant dormer windows on the top floor, which sadly are no longer there. The appear in all the photos before the Second World War but appear to have gone by the 1960s. In the 1911 census, they were each listed as “1 block, shop and offices” and no residents were recorded, but at other times there were people living in the upper floors.

The block today (2021)

Number 73

The first occupier I could find for number 73 was the Singer Sewing Machine Company, who remained occupying the ground floor shopfront from the early 1890s until the 1960s. This American company was founded in 1851 and reached the UK in the late 1860s, opening a factory its first factory outside the USA in Glasgow.

Singer’s name clearly visible on the awning at number 73 early in the twentieth century (image from Delcampe.net)

They were not the only people in the building, however, which was also used by the New Cross Equitable Building Society around 1900. According to contemporary adverts, the society was founded in 1866 and based at 470 New Cross Road. In 1903, this ‘High Pavement’ location was advertised as a branch office.

Advert for the New Cross Equitable Building Society, Kentish Mercury, 4/12/1903

In 1901, there were also a number of private residents in the upper floors. Boot repairer John Smith and his daughter Mary lived on the first floor. Above them were Blackheath-born greengrocer Frederick John Benjamin, his wife Mary Ann, their five children and a servant; this family remained in the local area over the next few decades, first in Myron Place then at 5 Rennell Street into the 1920s. Their fourth floor neighbours were also local: skin (i.e. leather or fur) dresser William Percy Daniel Allen had married Elizabeth Jane Churchman at St John’s church in Deptford in 1881 and lived at number 73 with five of their nine children in 1901.

From around 1907 to the mid-1920s, the Building Society had been replaced on the first floor by the West Kent Catholic Literary & Social Club. At some point they were joined by the East Lewisham Liberal Association on the second floor. By 1941 the upper floors were apparently occupied by Borough of Lewisham Chamber of Commerce and a Richard Trigg & Co, blouse makers, who worked across numbers 73 and 75 (see below).

In 1960, Singer were still there, but now joined by the North Lewisham Conservative Association (the constituency had a Conservative MP from 1959-66) and by chiropodists Sybil and Ernest Edward Ceeney. The couple had married in 1939 and are both listed in that year’s National Register as chiropodists in Forest Hill, Ernest also a lecturer in anatomy for London County Council and an ARP (Air Raid Precaution) first-aider. In 1958, he published his An Introduction to Shoe Fitting – described by the Technical Book Review as a “new and vitally important textbook”.

Ernest Ceeney’s Introduction to Shoe Fitting (image from Amazon)

Although the Ceeneys appeared in the 1958 electoral register at 73 High Street, they were not living there. Wilfrid Leslie and Katherine Frances Moneypenny were, however. After marrying in 1936 at St Peter’s church in Lee, cinema manager Wilfred and clerk Katherine Shaw moved to number 73 Lewisham High Street around 1948 stayed until at least 1959.

Singer remained until at least 1968, when the area flooded, since when number 73 has been home to Radio Rentals in the 1970s, a shop apparently called “DER” in 1990 until at least 1992, and more recently Mojo Hair and a series of off-licences on the ground floor. Upstairs, the upper floors of 73-77 have been home to solicitors’ offices since the 1970s, including Dodd Lewis (of whom more below) and currently BH Solicitors.

Number 75

The first occupiers I could identify at number 75 were the Lewisham Fancy Bazaar in the 1892 Directory and 44-year-old caretaker William Cox from Oxfordshire in the 1891 census. Little information is available about either of them

In 1894, the property appears in the electoral register for the first time in the name of James Dearling. Having earlier lived at 67 Lee High Road, where he was recorded as a printer (compositor) aged 58 in 1891, Dearling appears to have lived with his wife Isabella and their children at 3 Rhyme Road (the site of which is now covered by the Lewisham Centre) while he was qualified to vote at 75 High Street, according to the 1898 electoral register.

By 1896, the shopfront of the building was occupied by the Metropolitan Boot Company, who also advertised for a salesman at the address in the Brockley News, New Cross and Hatcham Review on 20 March that year. The company had already opened shops across London – entries for Harrow Road and Old Kent Road are listed in a 1895 London commercial directory, and in 1896 for Clapham, Wandsworth and Camberwell, in addition to Lewisham. As a ghost sign of theirs says, they had “Branches Everywhere”, in the capital at least. Their shop in Lewisham only lasted ten years, however; while a number of shops are in a 1908 directory, 75 Lewisham High Street is no longer among them.

Meanwhile, living above the shop the census recorded five households in 1901: laundress Elizabeth Nicholls from Basingstoke with her 19 year old daughter Lydia, a domestic servant; labourer William Paine and his wife Eliza, a child and a step-child; carman William Herrin (or Herring) with his wife Mary, his step son and their 3 sons; carman Francis R Scott, his wife Amelia and their two daughters and a son; and at the top of the buildings lighterman James Cooper, his wife Eliza, and their daughter and two sons.

In the final years before the First World War, number 73 hosted house furnisher Robert Hills (in 1907), who soon moved to Catford and then Essex, and costumier Thomas Elliott (in 1911). It was also the first headquarters of the South Suburban Photographic Society. The Society was formed following the idea of a combined south London society covering the districts not already covered by the South London Photographic Society. An an organisational committee held its initial meeting at 27 High Street on 6 February 1907, attempting to bring together photographic groups across Lewisham, Deptford and Greenwich boroughs. Their second meeting, a month later, was held at their new premises at 75 High Street.

The inaugural meeting of the wider society was held on 24 April at Avenue House, Avenue Road, Lewisham (another location now covered by the shopping centre) where the meeting rooms were bigger than at number 75. The meeting was told that the society already had 101 members. Its president Francs James Mortimer presented the society’s first lecture that night; he was a leading figure in photography in London, the editor of the Amateur Photographer and Cinematographer and several books, he also presided over the 1913 Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom.

In September 1908, the Photographic News reported that the society had outgrown its original premises and moved to the ‘Plough Hall’ “next door to the Plough Hotel” in Lewisham High Street, capable to holding 200 people. Around eighty people attended its ‘Opening meeting’ on 2 October, and around 40-50 meetings over the following months.

Advert for the Photographic Society’s opening meeting, Kentish Mercury, 27/9/1907

At their AGM in April 1908, they claimed that, with 168 members, this was the fifth largest photographic society in England (after Hull, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool). They were still meeting at Plough Hall in 1922, when they merged with the Catford Camera Club.  The joint society lasted until the 1980s and some records of its final years are held by the Lewisham local archives.

Advert for Lydalls on High Pavement, Brockley News, New Cross and Hatcham Review , 10/7/1908

Around the time of the photographic societies’ merger, several long-term commercial residents of 75 High Street arrived. Lydall and Sons, the stationers whom we have met occupying a shop in what was becoming the Strouds section of the High Pavement (later Tower House), moved from number 71 to number 75 around 1918. At first they shared with a financiers Lambtons’ Ltd.

By 1925 Lydalls were joined by the Hospitals’ Welfare Society for Lewisham, Deptford and Greenwich, which appears to have been best known for its summer shows, including one – apparently its first – at the Den “kindly lent by the Directors of Millwall Football Club” in 1919:

Hospital Welfare Society for Lewisham, Deptford and Greenwich meeting advert in the Bromley & West Kent Mercury , 30/5/1919

In 1921, the Daily News reported that the society’s baby show at its annual show (now at Perry Farm, Southend Pond, Catford) was the largest in England, with over 1,300 babies entered. So many that the organisers were not able to see and judge all of them – much to the distaste of the mothers. In March 1934, the Belfast Telegraph reported the sad news that the baby show was to be cancelled after 14 years, owing to the bad-feeling it caused among the competing mothers, who apparently harangued the organisers wanting to know “what was wrong” with their babies when they didn’t win.

An excellent 1920s/30s photo in the National Archives (which is copyright protected but free to download at present, if you sign in) clearly shows both Lydall’s and the society there. In 1925, they were joined by wholesale mantle and robes manufacturer Charles Planker who lived in Greenwich.

By 1936, another tailor, Richard Trigg and Co, blouse maker, had arrived and remained until the second world war. As noted above, this company appears to have occupied space in numbers 73 and 75. Richard and Ada Beatrice Trigg are listed in the electoral register for the property, while their abode is listed in East Dulwich Grove, SE22.

After the Second World War a number of other companies are listed there including chemical company Aerox Ltd in 1950 and Sanders and Co Jewellers in the 1960 Directory.  The electoral register gives us a few additional families, including Leslie J Frost and his new wife Mabel (nee Taylor) who married in Deptford in 1947 and lived at number 75 from 1948 into the early 1950s. They were followed by George and Eileen Broom, from 1958.

Singer at number 73, Sanders at 75 and Abbey National at 77, around 1960. Note the loss of the ornate dormers. (Image shared on twitter by LoveSE4)

A London City Archive photo from 1974 shows a shop called “Just Parts+” on the ground floor, which was replaced by the late 1980s by the Halifax Bank (visible in the 1980s photo below and a 1990 photo on flickr). Later came a Tara Travel, from around 1992 and into the early twenty-first century, since when the ground floor has been occupied by Subway. As with number 73, the first floor was occupied by Dodd Lewis.

Number 77

The first recorded occupant of number 77 was confectioner HF Harrington, from at least 1892. The 1900 Post Office London Southern Suburbs directory lists Harrington Limited at eleven locations in South London, with this site listed first; others include Brixton, Wandsworth, Brockley and Forest Hill. They appear to have taken a liking to the number 77, with stores also located at 77 High Street, Putney, and 77 George Street, Richmond.

By 1900, the offices above Harringtons were occupied by two then-prominent Lewisham names: William C Banks and Charles Henry Dodds.

William Coppard Banks (1833-1910) was a Lewisham-born architect who lived at 10 Slaithwaite Road and had his office at 77 High Street – moving it from Gracechurch Street in the City of London. He was the son of another William Coppard Banks (1807-70). Neill Rhind refers to the Bankses (William senior and his sons William junior and Charles Edward Banks) as being the best known residents of Granville Mews – now Myron Place off Belmont Hill – along with a George Walter Gorrum (1825-1907): “The combined efforts of Gorrum and Banks made a considerable contribution to the appearance of parts of Blackheath over the years 1860 to 1910.” This influence extended into Lewisham. In addition to residential properties, William junior was the architect of the old St George’s Church in Perry Hill, which was demolished in 1999.

Notice of houses being building by William C Banks junior, prior to his move to Lewisham High Street – South London Press, 6/10/1877

Both families were also associated with 77 High Street, as George’s son Thomas Robert Gorrum lived there in 1901 along with his family.

Like Banks, solicitor Charles Henry Dodd was born nearby (in Lee); he also didn’t live at 77 High Street, initially residing at 287 Lee High Road and later at 10 Eliot Vale. He was a very prominent local citizen, serving as Mayor of Lewisham in 1921-23, and being closely involved with Colfe’s school and its alumni society. The society published a photo of him as mayor in 1922 and, on his re-election to that post in 1937, described him him as “one of the best known public men in the Borough.”

Charles Henry Dodd as Mayor in 1922-23 (from Lewisham, Brockley and Catford Directory via Ancestry)

Dodd had retired from his firm by the time the 1939 national register recorded him at his new home on Eliot Vale, but the company lasted much longer. James and Charles Dodd remained at number 77 until at least 2002 and successor firm Dodd Lewis remained there a few more years. As noted above, the firm occupied rooms across 73-77 into the age of google streetview; today, they exist only as part of another firm in Blackheath.

Numbers 73-77 on google streetview, Nov 2008 – showing Dodd Lewis on the second floor over a century after Charles H Dodd moved its predecessor firm into number 77.

Thomas R Gorrum was listed in the 1901 census as decorator painter on the third floor in the 1901 census. On the floor below Thomas Gorrum in 1901 was another decorator, 65 year old Jason Forbes, along with his daughter Emma Elizabeth. When he married in 1857, Forbes was recorded as a violinist but this does not seem to have lasted and over the remaining decades of the nineteenth century he was a decorator, living first on Lee High Road and then Horton Street before arriving at number 77.

Between 1900 and 1914, a small number of others are listed here alongside Banks and Dodds. From 1907 until around 1920, a Reginald Milton is recorded as working at number 77 as a blouse maker (living there at first he soon moved to Bankwell Road Lee). In 1907-08, they were also joined by Mrs Elizabeth Gower “servants’ registry office” and in 1911 by Francis Myhre & Co, electrical engineers.

After the First World War, they were joined by tailors Willerby and Co, who had moved from 200 High Street, and the Lewisham Chamber of Commerce. Both remained at number 77 into the late 1930s. In the 1920s, the offices must have been busy as they also housed the Lewisham & District Horticultural Society and another Banks – financier George Banks with offices there.

The 1921 census records a telephone cable joiner William D Bassett living at number 77 with his wife Daisy and their two young daughters. William grew up in Peckham and Catford and worked as a telephone linesman before military service in the Great War, which left him suffering from a kidney disease apparently brought on by exposure during training in Wimbledon.

The photo in the National Archives shows Willerby’s on the ground floor as the main shop-front in the 1920s/30s – and their illuminated signage is seen in the background of the opening of Tower House (around 4.10 in this video). The company remained until at least 1941 and later moved to 121 High Street. Also visible in the TNA photo is signage for the Chamber of Commerce upstairs and the Kleen-e-ze Brush Company, number 77 presumably housing the office of the latter’s local rep – perhaps recruited in response to this 1931 advert:

Kleen-e-ze Brush advert, Daily News, 4/11/1931

The company was based in Bristol and according to Grace Guides was set up in 1928 by Harry Crook. An 1984 article in the Daily Mirror reports that the company was still going strong then, under the stewardship of Crook’s widow Helena: “Kleen-e-ze, the door-to-door sellers of brushes and cleaners, more than trebled its profits to £311,000 last year. It has more than 4,500 agents – these days usually husband-and-wife teams selling on the doorstep in the late afternoon and evening.” They were long-gone from 77 Lewisham High Street by then, however: although they were listed in the local 1936 and 1941 directories, they were gone by 1960 .

Very ‘of its time’ advert for Kleen-e-ze products, Daily Mirror, 11/8/1935

In 1960, only James and Charles Dodds’ legal firm and the Abbey National Building Society are listed at the address. The Abbey National lasted there until at least 1974 – appearing in the London picture archive photo and images of the 1968 floods like that below. In the 1980s the ground floor was home to a hair and beauty saloon (possibly Stylistics? – see image below). By the early twenty-first century the ground floor housed a Herbal Inn and later Herbs and Acupuncture and, as it with its neighbours, the upstairs was occupied by James and Charles Dodd, later Lewis Dodd and then BH solicitors.

The flooded clock tower area in 1968, showing Sanders, Abbey National and Dunn & co (image from ebay Feb 2022)

Number 79

Number 79 stands alone in the middle of the block, its height somewhere between those of its neighbours and with its dormer at the top still being in place. It also stands out for pediments and stonework around the windows, contrasting with the brick of the main walls. It is also the only one that displays its date of construction – 1886.

This interesting photo from the first few years after it was built (predating the bank building on the corner of Lewis Grove) shows the triangle of pediment on the dormer and the first-floor windows in a darker colour than the rest of the stonework.

Earlier version of the views above – predating the clock tower, c1880s-90s, showing number 79 with darker pediments over the windows (image from Borough Photos: Lewisham)

Arthur Sharpe Tyers, his wife Emma and their children are the first residents recorded at 79 High Street, from around 1890. Arthur was born in Hertfordshire and Emma in Plumstead, where they married in 1871. He was an accountant, while Emma ran a ‘Berlin Wool depository’ at number 79 – previously she had run a ‘fancy goods’ shop at 16 “The Parade”, Lee High Road. After Emma’s death in 1897, the family appears to have moved to Ardgowan Road and later Hither Green Lane, before ending up in Essex (although Arthur is commemorated at Hither Green Crematorium)

By census day 1901, (Sarah Ann) Minnie Bond had taken on the fancy goods business at number 79, living there with her husband Walter and their two teenage children. They did not last long and by 1904 had moved on.

For the next two decades the shop housed a baker’s under different owners. The first appears to have been a George Morson (1904), followed by Thomas Kennard Aldous and then by Harriet Darvell and her son John. Aldous was recorded in the 1901 census as  a refreshment caterer, living on Lochaber Road in Lee; after his time at number 79 he appears to have set up a refreshment hall on St John’s Road by 1905.

H Darvell awning at number 79, probably in the early 1920s. Detail from a watermarked image on ebay Feb 2022

Born in Devon in 1844, Harriett Humphrey married Charles Darvell in Tiverton, Somerset, in 1874, and their son John Humphrey Darvell was born around a year later. By 1909, Harriet and John were running the bakery at 79 High Street. In 1911 Harriet lived at number 79 and her name appears in the local directory: Mrs Harriet Darvell and Sons. Meanwhile John ran another bakery at 1 King’s Parade, Staplehurst Road in Hither Green (now number 19).

Darvell and Sons bakery on Staplehurst Road, c1907 (image from Running Past blog post)

By 1920, the shops were both in John’s name (John Humphrey Darvell and Sons), presumably because Harriet had retired. John is listed at 19 Staplehurst Road in the 1921 census as “Baker, confectioner and sub post master”. Harriett was still at 79 High Street, accompanied by a ‘manageress’, Jane Ann Guthrie from Aberdeenshire, and a servant. However, John died in 1922, leaving his widow Lilian to take over the Staplehurst Road shop. In the 1925 directory, the address as listed as a baker’s in her name and a Post Office, but the Lewisham High Street shop was no longer in the Darvell name. Harriet lived until 1940, living with Lilian on Broadfield Road in the 1930s and as a patient at St Benedicts Hospital in Wandsworth in 1939.

From the mid-1920s, the shop at number 75 was occupied by Lloyds Bank until at least the 1960s. In this 1979 photo in the London Photo Archive, the United Irish Bank were there and around ten years later, it appears to have been boarded up for sale. By the early twenty-first century, it had become a branch of Snappy Snaps.

Number 81

The final section of this block is numbers 81 and 83, which merge into the buildings at the bottom of Belmont Hill. These seem to have been built in an old-fashioned style for the 1880s, looking more like mid-century shops with their flat roofline and rather plain facade in contrast to the shops at numbers 73 to 79. As mentioned above the commonality of style with the Chappell building on the corner suggests they were built as a set in the late 1880s (and the Lee Bridge House photo above shows that they were not there in the 1870s).

The first occupant of number 81 is also to be found in the 1891 census. Walter Arthur Barnett was a ‘boot dealer’ who had previously operated from 14 “The Parade”, Lee High Road (next door to Andrew Tyers) and then just off the High Street at “17 ½” Granville Road (now Granville Grove). He was born in Walworth and in 1878 had married Amelia Bedford Lydall, one of the Lydall family of Lydall and Sons fame mentioned above. Amelia died in 1889, before the Barnetts moved to Lewisham High Street. Water Barnett did not last out the decade at number 81, moving away by 1901. (Incidentally, Amelia Lydall/Barnett’s sister married Gustave Benedetti, a photographer working on Lee High Road, demonstrating something of the social connections between local business families.)

By 1898, large Deptford-based drapers and ‘mantle maker’ Banks and Bryan had opened a branch at 81 Lewisham High Street. George B Banks’s mantle shop at 153-155 Deptford High Street having grown into Banks and Bryan, they quickly expanded to occupy a larger block there from 147 to 155 (the roofline of the shops there today, between Deptford Station and Ffinch Street, still suggests their history as part of a single building). By the turn of the century, they also had shops at 127-129 Deptford High Street and Walworth Road as well as Lewisham high Street. Seven years later, they had expanded to Leytonstone, Walthamstow, Woolwich and Chatham.

Banks and Bryan advert, Kentish Mercury, 9/1/1903

Sadly, George Bryan died suddenly in 1900, soon after they took on number 81; he and his wife are buried in Lewisham Cemetery. The company continued, however, and remained at 81 High Street until at least 1925.

Report of Geroge Bryan’s funeral – conducted by Francis Chappell – in 1900 – Brockley News, New Cross and Hatcham Review, 27/4/1900

At that stage, the building moved from cloaks to hats, with the arrival of G.A. Dunn and Co. According to a Building Our Past blog post, there were around 300 Dunn shops by the time George Arthur Dunn retired in 1929. Dunn had opened his first shop in Shoreditch in the 1880s and, as the blog post sets out, by the 1920s they were developing a distinctive style of shopfront: “Across the top of the doors and display windows, a band of transom lights was filled with stained glass, depicting the coats of arms of major British cities against a textured emerald green glass ground.” The original, more Dunn-style ornate frontage is visible in that National Archives photo but only the coats of arms lasted in the more modern shopfront in the photo below in the 1980s.

Dunn & Co still in residence in around 1988 (image from ebay Oct 2021)

In 1936 and 1941, architect James C Anderson  and a company called Commercial Union Assurance were also listed at number 81. After the war, however, it was ony Dunn & Co who remained – they stayed there through to at least 1990. A 1992 photo shows the word ‘George’ on the hoarding – possibly a rebrand of Dunns or maybe a different company. Either way, Dunn & Co as a whole closed down in the mid-1990s.

By the start of the new century, the shop was home to a branch of Alfred Hawes and Son, dispensing opticians (and makers of John Lennon’s famous wire-rimmed glasses). More recently, however, the ground-floor shop became home to the Chinese Medical Centre that still occupies the space. Another solicitor’s office occupies the upper floors.

Number 83

The final shop on this stretch of the High Street, neighbouring Chappell’s funeral director’s at the bottom of Belmont Hill, was operated as a grocer’s for nearly half a century by the Wilderspin family.

Josiah Wilderspin was there from 1891, with his wife Elizabeth and three young children, along with her sister Emma working as an assistant in the shop. Josiah was from Huntingdonshire and by 1881 had moved to London – working as a grocer’s assistant in Woolwich. After marrying Elizabeth Moore in 1886, Josiah set up as ‘tea merchant and grocer’ at number 83 High Street. Interestingly he did this under the name Moore and Co – his wife’s family name. Whether this was due to Elizabeth or her family’s direct involvement, or if they played a financial part in the business, or simply because it seemed a better name than Wilderspin, I don’t know – but as Moore and Co the Wilderspins remained there until the 1920s.

Interesting photo of works underway under Lee Bridge and the High Pavement, showing Moore and Co (topped by a Bovril billboard) and Banks & Bryan next door (image shared by Running Past)

Josiah and Elizabeth were still resident in 1901, but by 1909 had moved to Richmond; by 1911 Josiah had moved to Hove and opened a new shop. In that year’s census, their son David Josiah Wilderspin is listed as ‘son’ of the head of household although he is the only resident listed (perhaps implying he considered Josiah still the head of household). He is recorded as an 18 year old grocer’s trader assistant, occupying one room. Also listed is “grocer’s manager” Edwin John Kelway, presumably running the shop with the younger Wilderspin’s assistance. Kelway, his wife Lizzie and their family occupied five rooms at number 83.

After war service in the Army Service Corps, David Josiah Wilderspin appears to have taken on the shop. In the 1921 census, he is listed – aged 28 – as a ‘retail grocer and tea dealer’ with his wife Ella Beatrice as his assistant. Moore and Co remained on the site until at least 1925. The interwar photo in the National Archives doesn’t clearly show the name of the occupier, but it does show the Bovril advert (apparently now illuminated) at the top of the building.

By the start of the 1930s, the shop had been taken over by florists F Coster and Co. They had previously operated at 206 Lewisham High Street (next door to the Prince of Wales cinema), first appearing there under this name in the 1913 directory. In 1920, the shops appears under the name John Lengman, a rough anglicisation of his owner’s surname Lengemann – possibly a rather daring move only two years after the end of the First World War and its anti-German riots. Both John (or Johannes) and his wife Freda were born in Germany and moved to the UK around the turn of the century. Johannes Lengemann appears in the 1901 census as a hairdresser in West Ham a few months before he married Freda Coster. In 1911 they were living in Chiswick and he is listed as a florist and hairdresser, while the 1921 census finds them living at 206 Lewisham High Street. The census records them as the Lengemanns, but by 1922 the shop was again listed as F Coster and Co. In 1932 John became a naturalised British subject (the laws of the day meant that this would have also applied to Freda); he is listed as having ‘no nationality’ at that stage, so presumably had earlier renounced his German citizenship. By then they were running the shop at 83 High Street and living at 41 Clarendon Road (now Clarendon Rise), variously using both Coster and Coster-Longman as their surname. By 1939 they were living at 74 Belmont Hill and although John died in 1940, the shop remained until at least 1951 (when it appears in an interesting postwar photo of central Lewisham), presumably run by Freda who lived until 1955.

In 1960, a branch of Michael King “The Personal Tailor” occupied number 83. In around 1957, adverts like the one below appeared in the press for their shop on Hammersmith Road, but the company appears only to have lasted until 1962.

The Personal Tailor advertising in the West London Observer, 15/11/1957

By the late 1970s, recruitment company Rite Staff limited were based at number 83. They in turn were replaced a decade later by a shop called Freckles (possibly a convenience store). The era of Google streetview has seen the site host Endsleigh insurance, the Turkish Bank and the current occupants Resta Coffee – as well as the obligatory solicitor’s firm upstairs.

Lee Bridge

And so we reach Lee Bridge – the junction with Lee High Road, Belmont Hill and Lewis Grove. As mentioned above the shop next to 83 High Street is 1-3 Belmont Hill, built by the Chappell family and used by them and their funeral directory company until the 1980s (replaced by J&J Jewellers and later a fast-food takeaway). Opposite it at the bottom of Belmont Hill is the White Horse pub. The other side of the junction is Lewis Grove and the imposing bank building – currently HSBC – where we shall start the next stage of our journey.

Interwar image of Lee Bridge looking south from Belmont Hill, showing Chappells undertakers on the right, the White Horse pub on the left and Dubois store at the top of Lewis Grove (image shared by LoveSE4 on twitter Dec 2020)
An earlier image looking east from Lee Bridge up Lee High Road, with the White Horse on the left (from The New Lewisham, 1966)

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