I have photographed many street name plates over the years – certainly hundreds, maybe even more. They form a link with the history of the area and help to remind people of the origins of the locality. The name plate above had clearly seen better days but its poor state and the fact that it was partly covered in ivy seemed to add to its charm. It was taken just in time because only a few weeks later the local council replaced it with a shiny metal one which would hardly be appropriate for talking about the area’s local history.
Above: Google map for the area around Perry Vale, showing the three streets named ‘Perry’. The RED dotted line shows the approximate extent of the Perrymount estate and the RED rectangle shows the site of the house called Perrymount.
Perry Vale is the name of a road in Forest Hill. The line of Perry Vale is shown on John Rocque’s map of 1746 and named as ‘Perrys Low’. On John Cary’s Map of 1786 it is also named ‘Perrys Low’. In 1802 the name was given as ‘Perry Slough’. When the name ‘Perry Vale’ was first used is not known for certain. Today, not only is there Perry Vale but also Perry Rise and Perry Hill (see the Google map).
The name ‘perry’ refers to orchards where pears are grown. Today the three streets just mentioned are beside the very fields where orchards were once situated. At one time the land around Mayow Road was full of orchards which extended north to Catford Hill. Many fruits were grown there but principally they were apple orchards and pear orchards.
Above: Late Victorian Ordnance Survey map showing Perrymount (house) and the estate shaded in green.
Just off the east side of Mayow Road was an estate with a large residence called Perrymount – whose name continued the same theme. It can be seen on the Victorian Ordnance Survey map section. The old house is surrounded by a large estate. One field has what looks like small circles set out in six rows which represents an orchard. Looking at the map it is not possible to tell whether the trees are apples, pears or another fruit. To the SW of the orchard is the large house marked ‘Perrymount’. The house stands at the end of a curved drive that leads off Mayow Road. Beside the drive is the lodge which would have been lived in by a gate-keeper. To the north of the house are several cross-hatched areas which represent greenhouses. Although only a map, it represents a country estate and gives a clear idea of how things were at the time. It is all we have as a record because there are no pictures or prints that were ever made. In those days such estates were almost self-sufficient with the cook sourcing most of the vegetables and fruit that was grown on the land around where the large house stood.
Almost all of that estate now lies buried under additional streets lined with houses. The large house called ‘Perrymount’ has gone and its site also lies under more modern houses. By chance the land of the greenhouses and the orchard became a private sports centre in the 1930s. When that closed in the 1980s, the land was taken over by the London Wildlife Trust as a nature reserve protected by the local council. A few of the trees from the eastern side of the orchard on the old map are now part of a large hedgerow and they still bear some fruit although the trees are far too old to be very productive. By looking at the fruit we know that the orchard was mixed fruit – some apples and some pears. They are the last evidence that the area did indeed grow pears on the land. It is surprising that, after all this time, Perry Vale still has just a small fragment of evidence from the days when it was a well-known area for growing the pears, after which it is named.