Jolly Farmers pub, Lewisham High Street

Above: The Jolly Farmers pub is adjacent to Lewisham Hospital.

As you walk around London, if you have a keen eye, you become aware that many of the smaller, more interesting pubs are rapidly vanishing. According to the Standard Newspaper (19 April 2017), ‘the number of pubs in the capital decreased from 4,835 to 3,615 between 2001 and 2016’. That is an alarming statistic. As the corporate image marches forward, the smaller pubs are driven out of business and London sees even more ‘Slug and Lettuce’ and ‘All Bar One’ pub names. Their names contribute nothing to keeping alive the history of an area.

A small pub standing beside Lewisham High Street – at No 354 – retains its simple name of the Jolly Farmers. Why they were jolly is not known. Clearly, Lewisham is not well-known for farmland today, although it was a different scene until the 1920s.

Several pubs in London have ‘Jolly’ in their name. There was a Jolly Gardeners pub in Lambeth, which is now called the Zeitgeist  (at 49-51 Black Prince Road – nowadays usually called Vauxhall). There is a Jolly Gardeners pub in Putney (61-63 Lacy Road) and another Jolly Gardeners pub in Wandsworth (214 Garratt Lane).

Continuing the ‘Jolly’ theme, there used to be the Jolly Waggoners pub in Rotherhithe (at 11 Rotherhithe Old Road) but that no longer carries its old name. It is now called Whelan’s.

Another ‘Jolly’ name was that of the New Jolly Caulkers in Rotherhithe (126 Lower Road). It was also called ‘Jolly Caulkers’ and ‘The Caulker’. At a later time, it was called ‘The Yellow House’. Whatever it is known as now, it has lost all touch with its earlier interesting name which referred to the men known as caulkers who repaired ships. They applied caulk which consisted of fibrous materials driven into the wedge-shaped seams between boards on wooden boats or ships. It was an appropriate name for a pub that was so close to the Surrey Commercial Docks where, in Victorian times, ships often needed to be repaired.

If you are thinking that this blog is rather digressing from the title, you would be right. Nevertheless, it is of interest that so many pub names should carry the name ‘Jolly’. Returning to Lewisham, the Jolly Farmers is not particularly old, being built in 1892. The pub has gone through a phase of being renamed the Elephant, the Hogshead and the Jordan but is now back with its original name. It keeps alive the fact that at one time in the 19th century much of the land behind the houses in Lewisham High Street was mostly agricultural.

The Jolly Farmers pub has done well to continue in business. Its near neighbour, the Coach and Horses pub (323 Lewisham High Street) was very much larger and is now closed, probably permanently. Another pub, much further east, was the George Inn, Rushey Green, which was closed by 2008 and the site was redeveloped for housing and a shop.

Continuing the rural theme, not far away was, until recently, the Spotted Cow pub (at 104 Hither Green Lane). It was closed about 2007 and was converted for residential use. In Catford is one of Lewisham’s oldest pubs – the Black Horse and Harrow pub. This very large building has the name along its exterior. It is another very rural name. After a period of being closed, it reopened in 2019 with the wacky name of ‘Ninth Life’. According to one local newspaper, ‘The new space will provide a multi-level pub, a food market and a nine-room immersive theatre experience and full festival vibes.’ Whether that is is good or bad remains to be seen.

The point of writing about the Jolly Farmers is to try to link up the Coach and Horses which was clearly a stop beside a coaching route passing through Lewisham and its farmland. The George Inn, on the same route, was also used as a coaching inn. At one time in the not too distant past, the visitor could obtain a ‘pint’ in the Spotted Cow or Black Horse and Harrow. The farming scene was clearly set by the names of the local pubs. As it has turned out, the Jolly Farmers is the last name to keep the rural theme alive in this part of London.


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Lee – A Quick Look Around

Above: Mural under the railway bridge near Lee Station.

So, where is Lee and where is its centre? Although it appears to be a simple question, it is not that easy to be precise about the answer. If the question was ‘What is the centre of Camberwell?’ almost everyone would almost certainly answer ‘Camberwell Green’. A similar question about Greenwich would return the answer ‘The dreaded one system beside the ‘Cutty Sark’. In the case of Lee, the answer is not so straight forward because the original village of Lee was rather spread out.

Derivation of the Name

The place-name Lee comes from the Old English word ‘leah’ meaning a meadow – in this case, an open space near a wood. The open space was probably a natural one and not a man-made clearing. The earliest recorded mention was in the Domesday Book (1086) which describes Lee as ‘a small area of cultivation set in extensive woodland’. The Manor of Lee was a historic parish of the Hundred of Blackheath and existed up to 1900 when it was merged with the parish of Lewisham to create the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham. The manor does not seem to have had an early manor house which may account for the sprawling nature of the layout of the village.

Lee Parish Church

There has been a parish church at Lee from about 1120. Its site was some distance west of Lee Green, on the north side of the road, where it changes its name from Belmont Hill to Lee Terrace. Between 1813 and 1830 an attempt was made to rebuild the medieval church, by the architect Joseph Gwilt. It was found that the foundations of the old church were incapable of supporting a new building and the plans were abandoned. The ruins of the old church are still standing in the medieval churchyard on the north side of Lee Terrace.

A new church was built between 1839 and 1841 on the south side of Lee Terrace. It was built in a simple early Victorian style to a design by a Norwich architect John Brown. That church is still in use, surrounded by its own churchyard.

Above: Map showing the places named in this article. [CLICK ON THE MAP FOR A LARGER VERSION]

Lee Green

Lee was a Domesday manor, with its village green – still known as Lee Green today – at the intersection of Lee High Road and Eltham Road (both part of the A20) and the other two roads – Lee Road and Burnt Ash Road. Although that location is still called Lee Green, the original village green has long since vanished. It is occupied by shops and housing. By the way, Burnt Ash Road, which changes its name to Burnt Ash Hill further south, was so-called because it led to a hamlet known as Burnt Ash.

It could be said, therefore, that the centre of Lee was once Lee Green although the village clearly extended from the parish church to the green. Lee Green has two pubs facing each other – one called the Old Tiger’s Head and the other the New Tiger’s Head. The latter is now [2019] closed and is unlikely to open again as a pub. Lee Green is a good starting point but the story is rather more complicated. While there were a few houses at Lee Green which are shown on John Rocque’s small scale map of 1746 (the earliest map of the area), there were even more houses to be found along the southern side of Lee High Road. That road is not named on Rocque’s map but the houses are clearly shown.

Lee Manor House

In 1772 a large house was built on the site of a medieval farmhouse on land to the south of Lee High Road for Thomas Lucas, a merchant and treasurer of Guy’s Hospital. What is now Manor House Gardens (along with a pond and ice-house) were formally laid out about 1773. Lucas died in 1784 and in 1796 the house was purchased by Sir Francis Baring from, Eliza, the widow of Thomas Lucas. By that date Eliza had married John Julius Angerstein, becoming his second wife after his first wife died. Baring, the founder of the famous City bank, later bought the Manor of Lee and the large house became known as the Manor House. In 1902 it opened as a public library and the gardens became a public park, which is still the case today.

Modern Lee

We now turn to what we will call ‘Modern Lee’ – meaning development of the land in the middle of the 19th century. Rocque’s map of 1746 shows nearly all the land as open fields, a state of affairs that was to continue until well into the 19th century. In 1866 Lee Station was opened and this was followed by house-building at Lee Green. Over time, Burnt Ash Road and Burnt Ash Hill were covered with housing. Farmland slowly disappeared and the ‘centre of gravity’ of Lee shifted from Lee High Road towards the station. In fact, modern Lee also extends east from Lee Green, towards the large roundabout where the Yorkshire Grey pub used to stand. The fate of the Yorkshire Grey was to become used by McDonald’s.

The wall mural has been painted onto one of the two brick abutments supporting the railway line beside Lee Station. That bridge crosses Burnt Ash Hill. If you are wondering why a heron was included in the mural it is because the River Quaggy flows nearby – crossing Lee Green and also flowing through Manor House Gardens. Herons are still to be seen beside the Quaggy, particularly at the lake in Manor House Gardens. The River Quaggy, which is normally nothing more than a tiny stream, is a tributary of the River Ravensbourne which it meets near Lewisham Station. The Ravensbourne then flows northwards to the Thames, at which point it is known as Deptford Creek.


COMMENT – End of the Academic Year

The Summer term started in April with a selection of blogs relating to Poplar (which includes Canary Wharf), followed by a selection of topics about Greenwich and Woolwich. Now that the academic year is at a close, we can use the months of August and September to ‘shake off’ the constraints of term time and free ourselves from the six-year plan of study. While we have been following the Know Your London plan, other things have been going on in London and the author has also found a few other ‘little gems’ of information that can now be included.

A Brief Guide to How the Blogs are Indexed

The blogs can be used in one of two ways. Firstly there are those of you who are ‘signed up’ to receive email notifications and who read each blog as it is published. Secondly, now that there are a large number of blogs online, many people find a particular blog due to searching for a particular place name. Either way, the blogs are certainly being looked at and that is just what was intended.

The Website began in September 2014. At first, the blogs appeared without any particular plan – other than each blog is tagged with the original Metropolitan Borough to which it relates. By September 2015 a plan was devised to structure the publication of the blogs and that has been refined with time.

If you only read the blogs because they appear in your inbox, you should be aware that all the blogs are indexed online. Use any one of the emails and just click on the dark blue heading. That will take you to the same version online. When a blog is published, it is sent out automatically by email. It may, however, have spelling errors which are later picked up an corrected in the online version. Down the right-hand side of the Webpage are indexing tags that allow the reader to select a particular area – like Lambeth – and find all the blogs relating to that area.

As time goes by, the system becomes more comprehensive. It is, therefore, all the more important to read the blogs from the Website because you can then use the indexes to find out related information.

The blogs are derived from a six-year series of lectures that were given on the history of Inner London and repeated many times. The blogs present only a small selection of the original long list of places that were included in the lectures. Each blog derives from the lectures but has been brought up to date before publishing online.

As the blogs build up, they are all related to a structure which can be summarised as . . .

Inner London Boroughs – eventually there will be a blog explaining each Inner London Borough. There are eleven of these. In addition, there is the City of London and the City of Westminster.

City Areas – because of its complexity, the City of London is sub-divided into 13 Areas of Study. Each of these will eventually have its own blog – called an ‘Overview’.

Westminster Areas – this has been sub-divided into seven Areas of Study. There will be an ‘Overview’ blog for each one.

Inner London Boroughs – each Area of Study is described under the original smaller Metropolitan Borough, with an ‘Overview’ blog for each one.

Area Descriptions – within each Area of Study there are often lesser areas which will have a blog called ‘A Quick Look Around’. There act as an ‘Overview’ but for a smaller piece of land.

Places of Interest – are many and varied. Examples are interesting buildings, parks, castles, palaces, offices, houses or anything that deserves a blog being written. All these blogs are tagged to the name of an ‘Overview’ and (if there is one) a name with ‘A Quick Look Around’ at the end of it.

Using the above rules, it should be possible to easily find how a particular place of interest relates to the rest of London. This is important because the author is keen that you get to ‘Know Your London’.


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Ironmongers’ Almshouses, Mottingham

Above: The main entrance gates to the property.

The Ironmongers’ Almshouses, also known as the Sir Robert Geffrye Almshouses, were originally established in Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, in 1712. The money was provided in the will of Robert Geffrye who died in 1703. The almshouses were in use until 1912 when the Ironmongers’ Company decided to move the residents into new premises in Mottingham Road. The old almshouses in Shoreditch later become the Geffrye Museum – a museum showing the various styles of furniture throughout the centuries, up to the present day. Until the middle of the 20th century, Shoreditch was well-known for being the centre of the furniture trade, along with numerous timber merchants dealing in hardwoods. There were also many companies supplying veneers.

The design of the new premises in Mottingham was in neo-Wren style by George Hubbard, probably modelling them on the design of Morden College – a large complex of almshouses which stand on Blackheath. The Mottingham almshouses are set back behind a large lawn. When the new almshouses were built, Mottingham was completely rural and it must have seemed to the residents that they were being moved to the heart of the countryside.

The almshouse residents used the premises until 1972 when they were transferred to a third site which is at the small town of Hook, in Hampshire. The almshouses at Hook are self-contained flats.

The old almshouses at Mottingham passed first to the Greater London Council (GLC) and later to Bromley Council. They are now known as the Geffrye’s Estate – affordable housing run by Affinity Sutton. Although the elegant terrace is private housing, it is easy to view it from the roadside, through the large wrought iron gates.


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Mottingham – A Quick Look Around

Above: The Porcupine in Mottingham – an unusual name for a local pub that closed in 2013 and is likely to be demolished.

Mottingham is an unusual location. In case you are unfamiliar with parts of the old Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich, have a look at a street map – either an old A-Z Street Atlas or on Google Maps. If you find the place-name ‘Woolwich’ (beside the Thames) then work your way due south, eventually reaching Eltham. To the south of that runs Court Road which crosses the A20, called Sidcup Road. The crossroads where those two road cross marks the location of Mottingham. Look again and Mottingham Station is just to the north.

The name of Mottingham was first recorded in AD 862 – the earliest date for any settlement in the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich and, indeed, within the London Borough of Greenwich. The name means ‘Moda’s homestead or farm’. Although it was a settlement – probably the large farmhouse of an estate – the people living there did not increase to the extent that it became a hamlet or a village. The area lay within the Manor of Lewisham until 1290 when it passed for the Manor of Eltham. Like other places in Inner London (and across England), it became a ‘lost settlement’ and its use as a place name virtually died out. Anyone living there in the 18th century would probably have described where they lived as being ‘to the south of the village of Eltham’.

Many locations in London that regard themselves as a ‘place name’ today often developed an identity due to the coming of the railways and the need to give each station a name. Station names have always been geographic and they are responsible for several place names that are in use today. By the 1830s Mottingham was regarded as a hamlet with few houses and mainly farmland all around. When Mottingham Station first opened in 1866, it was called ‘Eltham’ because there was no station near the centre of Eltham. In 1892 it was renamed ‘Eltham and Mottingham’ and it was not until 1927 that it became ‘Mottingham’. To complete the story, there was no station at Eltham until 1895 when it opened as ‘Eltham Well Hall’. A second station called ‘Eltham Park’ opened nearby in 1908. Surprisingly, today’s station called ‘Eltham’ did not open until 1985 when it replaced the other two earlier stations which were demolished.

In a way, although Mottingham was regarded as a hamlet, it was the station name that gave the location a boost. Having already mentioned Sidcup Road, suburban development did not begin until after that arterial road opened in 1923. To the locals, it is often referred to as the ’Sidcup Bypass’.

In terms of development, one thing usually leads to another. Mottingham remained a hamlet until 1884 when the parish of St Andrew was created and the hamlet became a parish. The church was built in 1897 by Edward Clarke. A burial ground was not permitted until a later date. The church stands beside Court Road – the part of Court Road that is to the south of Sidcup Road.

A short distance from the church – in Mottingham Road – is the Ironmongers’ Company Almshouses built during 1912. The original homes were in Shoreditch became the Geffrye Museum after the almshouses moved to Mottingham. The Mottingham houses are now privately owned residences.

Another building that should be mentioned is a large school called Eltham College. It moved to its present site – centred on an 18th-century mansion called Fairy Hall – in 1912.

Finally, the unusually named Porcupine Inn was once the ‘heart of the village’. It is (at the time of writing) waiting to find out its fate. As a pub name, it is very common. There have been few in London. The name probably relates to a family coat of arms. The Porcupine Inn at Mottingham goes back a long way, having existed since the 17th century, probably from 1688. It is shown and named on Rocque’s small scale map of 1746. The present pub was rebuilt in 1922 and continued in use until it was closed in 2013, for the site to be redeveloped. The local residents have put up a good fight against its demolition but, as the picture shows, its chances of survival are slim.


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St Nicholas, Plumstead

Above: Although now surrounded by a built-up area today, it still looks like a village church.

One of the surprises for a visit to Plumstead is the old church. While its surroundings are rather built up, the church, set in its ancient churchyard, still has the appearance of a building from a country parish. Essentially, the building has its origins in medieval times. The church dates from 1178, built on a spur of chalk, projecting northwards from the high ground of Plumstead Common. The south aisle was originally the nave of the church and remains from the 12th century. The transept was added in the 13th century. The church is one a very few in London with such early features.

The present church remained the parish church for Plumstead until 1853, when the new church of St Margaret, Vicarage Road, was used. The newly built church was consecrated on 25 April 1859. In 1864 St Nicholas became a District Church and St Margaret the parish church of Plumstead. In 1966 decay of the church fabric caused St Margaret’s to be closed and services were then held at St Mark. St Mark’s Plumstead was built in1901 and demolished in 1974. It was expensive to maintain and was also considered to be unsuitable for modern needs.

Sadly, the church of St Nicholas suffered damage, being bombed during the Second World War. It was restored in 1959. The church stands at St Nicholas Street, which runs north off Plumstead High Street. It is surrounded by a large churchyard.


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Plumstead – A Quick Look Around

Above: Houses lining the road on the edge of Plumstead Common.

For many people who drive or take the bus, travelling east from the centre of Woolwich, Plumstead is the rather narrow High Street lying on low ground with Plumstead Station at the end. While it is undoubtedly true that this unassuming thoroughfare is Plumstead High Street, it is by no means all that Plumstead has to offer. Plumstead is really in two parts – the low ground (nearer to the Thames) and the high ground (further to the south). Almost any turning off the south side of Plumstead High Street rises steeply to meet the high ground which is covered with extensive common land.

The derivation of the name Plumstead is a simple one. The first syllable is because it was a place where plum orchards were once a common sight. Its name derives from those plum orchards in the area and the name means ‘plum homestead or farm’. There is even a local road called ‘Plum Lane’. The first recorded mention was in AD 960 when the owners were the Abbot and monks at the Abbey of St Augustine, at Canterbury, in Kent. The inland Manor of Plumstead was also mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086). All trace of the manor has gone but the village of Plumstead lives on.

Plumstead High Street is part of the ancient ‘low road’ leading east from Woolwich, through the inland settlement of Plumstead and ending eventually to Erith. Erith – pronounced as if the first syllable was written ‘ear’ – was another ancient settlement beside the Thames. Erith, by the way, is situated in the London Borough of Bexley.

It is evident that Plumstead High Street was where the old village of Plumstead developed. The ancient parish church of St Nicholas is still to be seen on the north side. The church dates from 1178, built on a spur of chalk, projecting northwards from the high ground of Plumstead Common. The south aisle, originally the nave, remains from the 12th century.

The more southerly part of Plumstead is situated on high ground. Plumstead Common Road leads east from Woolwich Common, beside Winn’s Common, where its name changes to King’s Highway. The commons – like all the others in London – derive from being ancient open land on which peasants working for a manor were entitled to graze their animals. Not all commons have survived through almost a millennium since the time of the Domesday Book but Woolwich Common, Plumstead Common and Winn’s Common are good examples. Any building on this land is prohibited by draconian laws drawn up in Victorian times. An unusual building on Winn’s Common is the remains of an old windmill which has been incorporated into a building known as the Old Mill pub.

Plumstead developed as an inland village with very few homesteads situated to the north. Between what is now Plumstead High Street and the Thames was a large swathe of land that was known as Plumstead Marshes. The land was not particularly swampy but its tendency to flood on very high tides meant that the land was unstable and it remained mainly open and unused right up until the 1960s. It seems that the land was always in a marshy state. When archaeological digs were taking place on the land along the proposed route of Crossrail, large pieces of timber were found in the ground in 2013. They are believed to be from the Bronze Age, which means that they are about 3,000 years old. The timbers have tool marks on them and they are believed to be the remains of tracks or causeways over the marshes. They would have been used by prehistoric hunter-gatherers to cross the marshy land in the Woolwich and Plumstead areas.

During the 1960s Plumstead Marshes were to become the site of a new town – called Thamesmead – covering much of Plumstead Marshes and also extending over Erith Marshes as well. The development of thousands of homes at Thamesmead has meant that the road links around Plumstead have steadily become busier. While Plumstead has been served by its own railway station since 1859, the residents of Thamesmead only have buses for public transport.


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Severndroog Castle

Above: The side with the main entrance, seen in 1999 before it was restored.

Every now and then you come across a building or monument that relates to a location thousands of miles from London. Severndroog Castle is not a castle, it was built in stone as a three-sided folly within Castle Wood which is situated near the top of Shooter’s Hill (on the London side). It commemorates actions taken on the west coast of India during the 18th century.

Commodore Sir William James (c1721 – 16 December 1783) was a Welsh-born commander of the East India Company navy. He had run away to sea in 1732 and by 1738 was commanding his own ship and serving in the West Indies. In 1747, he joined the East India Company and was appointed commodore of its Bombay Marine naval forces four years later.

For about a thousand years, pirates had been attacking ships on the important trade route off the coast of India and from the early 1700s they established their fortress at Severndroog on the island of Vijayadrug. In 1755 William James headed for Severndroog with his warships and overpowered the pirates on 2 April, which led to the capture of the island and of their mainland fort. ’Severndroog’ is an English representation of the latter part of Janjeera Soowumdroog or Suvarnadurg, in Konkan, along the western coast of India, between Mumbai and Goa.

James returned to England in 1759, settling in Eltham (then in Kent). In 1765, he married his second wife, Anne Goddard, with whom he had two children: Edward and Elizabeth Anne. He became a Director of the East India Company in 1768 and was reappointed for most of the years until his death in 1783. He was frequently deputy chairman and was chairman of the directors in 1779. He became a governor of Greenwich Hospital and a fellow of the Royal Society for his contribution to navigation. He was created a Baronet in 1778.

William James died of a stroke at the wedding of his daughter, Elizabeth Anne, in 1783. He was buried at the church of St John the Baptist, Eltham. The following year, his wife Anne commissioned the East India Company architect, Richard Jupp, to build a memorial to her husband on nearby Shooter’s Hill. It was in the form of a three-sided building with castellation on top. It stands in Castle Wood. The Gothic-style structure is 63 feet (19 m) high and triangular in section, with a hexagonal turret at each corner.

The tower was used by General William Roy in his trigonometric survey linking the nearby Royal Greenwich Observatory with the Paris Observatory. A 36-inch theodolite (now in London’s Science Museum) was temporarily installed on its roof. This Anglo-French Survey (1784–1790) led to the formation of the Ordnance Survey. In 1848, the Royal Engineers used the tower for their survey of London.

Following Lady James’ death in 1798, the building passed through the hands of various landowners. In 1922, the tower was purchased by the London County Council (LCC) and it became a local visitor attraction with a ground-floor tearoom serving drinks and cakes. It was designated a Grade II* listed building in 1954. In 1965 a new authority – the Greater London Council (GLC) – took over from the LCC and in 1986, when the GLC was abolished, responsibility for Severndroog passed to Greenwich Council.

In 1988, the local council could no longer afford the building’s upkeep and it was boarded up. In 2002, a community group, the Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust, was established. In 2004, it featured in the BBC TV series called Restoration with the aim of gaining support for a programme of work to restore the building and open it to the public. In July 2013 work began on renovating the castle, funded by a £595,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant. It was officially reopened to the public on 20 July 2014.

The entire castle or just the William James room on the second floor can be hired for weddings, functions, private events and meetings. The castle is open to the public. From its elevated position, it offers views across London, with features in seven different counties visible on a clear day.


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