Celebrating Charlton’s history: Should these SE7 landmarks be locally listed?

Rose of Denmark pub Woolwich Road Charlton
Could the Rose of Denmark pub be added to Greenwich Council’s Local Heritage List?

We’re grateful to Charlton Champion reader BECKY HOLMES for submitting this post on Greenwich Council’s consultation on the area’s historically interesting buildings.

Greenwich Council recently invited nominations for Local Heritage Listing – and has just opened a public consultation on the “architectural, historic and environmental” merits of the proposals. 

It says: “The purpose of the local list is to identify buildings, structures and monuments of local architectural or historic importance and to preserve their features of interest as far as possible.”

Interestingly, it’s the first time the council has received nominations from community groups and individuals, while be be considered alongside its own proposals. The Lee Forum and Positive Plumstead Project groups have both contributed.

Nominations include an eclectic compilation of buildings, details and structures – from bridges to pubs, to railway stations and lighthouses. “Local heritage listing is a way for local communities to identify and celebrate historic buildings which enrich and enliven their area.”

I found out about the heritage listing by chance, after getting in touch with the conservation team on the Charlton Riverside Heritage Consultation. It felt like the conservation effort should cross Woolwich Road and by a bit of luck this opportunity came up.

‘An underdog at risk of losing its identity’

I haven’t lived in the area for long but I already feel really protective over it – slightly unloved and riddled with traffic pollution, but with an amazing industrial heritage and lots of interesting details. It’s an underdog at risk of losing its identity due to over-development.

A few favourite local nominations include the Angerstein freight railway crossing and alley by Fairthorn Road – built in the 1850s by local landowner John Julius Angerstein so workers could better access Combe Farm, which sat at the bottom of Westcombe Hill (Angerstein’s collection of paintings funded the National Gallery). Locals still cross here everyday.

It’s modest and unpretentious and that’s why it suits the area so well – like something out of a Famous Five novel. It’s a breath of fresh air next to the concrete traffic jams of the A2. Despite walking through the dim alley at dusk, hoping that the person behind is a friendly commuter and not an axe murderer, I’d hate to lose it.

Similarly, the strip of old factory walls and old doors on Ramac Way have a time-worn feel to them. As the last factory walls standing, they feel like a poignant reminder of the need to preserve local industrial heritage and that this area hasn’t always been a place to buy stuff but a place where we made stuff – useful stuff! Transatlantic electrical cables, shipping propellors, batteries, Bakelite telephones as well as Airfix kits, the stuff of childhood dreams.

The Rose of Denmark pub also feels like an unsung hero. Its post-war styling is very evocative of the area and style of the old Valley ground.

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Characterful heritage buildings are at risk with all the new development – nowhere feels safe from redevelopment! Hopefully by adding more heritage spots, more people will appreciate the history of the area – and it might help encourage sympathetic development in the months and years to come.

Have your say on the architectural, historic and environmental value of the nominations.The consultation documents are available online here.

Comments on the architectural, historic and environmental merits of nominations should be given by email or post, by 5pm on 30 October 2018.
By email: planning.policy[at]royalgreenwich.gov.uk
By post: Royal Borough of Greenwich, Planning Policy Team, 5th Floor, The Woolwich Centre, 35 Wellington Street, London, SE18 6HQ

Find out more and view Greenwich Council’s current heritage list here.

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Charlton Assembly Rooms given Grade II listing by Historic England

Charlton Assembly Rooms
Part of the frontage of Charlton Assembly Rooms (photo: Neil Clasper)

The Assembly Rooms in Charlton Village have been given a Grade II listing by Historic England in recognition of the building’s special architectural and historic interest.

Opened in 1881 and funded by Sir Spencer Maryon-Wilson, whose family lived at Charlton House, the building continues to function as a community facility and is currently run by the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust.

It was used by Siemens for war production before being handed over to St Luke’s Church in 1946. But by the early 1970s, the building was under threat of demolition. It was saved by the Save Charlton Assembly Rooms Project, which handed the building to Greenwich Council in 1983.

Historic England says:

The Charlton Assembly Rooms, a community hall of 1881, designed by J Rowland in the Jacobean Revival style, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* a good example of a late-C19 Jacobean Revival style community hall, designed in an exuberant, thoughtful and richly decorated form;
* good quality materials are used to strong architectural effect, including red brick, terracotta and stone detailing;
* the exterior of the hall is little altered, and the interior retains its original plan and stage.

Historical interest:
* the assembly rooms illustrate the continued influence of Charlton House and the Church of St Luke with Holy Trinity on the community of Charlton during the late-C19 and C20;
* as an example of Victorian philanthropy, and the impact of a wealthy benefactor on community hall design.

Group value:
* with the Grade I Charlton House, through their shared Jacobean design characteristics and mutual benefactor;
* with the Grade II* Church of St Luke with Holy Trinity, with which it shares some classically inspired design characteristics, and through C20 use and ownership.

You can read more on the Historic England website.

18-32 Bowater Road
English Heritage has opted not to list 18-32 Bowater Road (photo: Neil Clasper)

Meanwhile, Historic England has issued a “certificate of immunity” for one of the former Siemens factory blocks by the Thames Barrier, 18-32 Bowater Road, meaning it cannot be given a national listing in the next five years.

Developer U+I plans to redevelop the site, keeping this building but demolishing adjacent 37 Bowater Road, as part of a scheme to build shops, offices and up to 520 homes. Both sites are locally listed by Greenwich Council.

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Talk about Charlton Village and the future of SE7 at the Charlton Society on Saturday

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Here’s the Charlton Society‘s chair, Carol Kenna…

Please join us in the first of the Charlton Society’s ‘HAVE YOUR SAY’ sessions. The aim is to strengthen the community’s influence over Greenwich Council’s planning and environmental policies.

The starting point for the session is Charlton Village – still the heart of Charlton. Our guest speaker will be Clare Loops, the council’s planning policy manager. 

To kick off the Council’s consultation process, we’ve asked her to tell us about its draft Charlton Village Conservation Area Management Strategy.

And that’s just the start! After Clare’s presentation, questions and a short tea break, we will split up into four groups for the ‘HAVE YOUR SAY’ session.

The groups will discuss not only the Village Conservation Area proposals but also what we like or dislike about Charlton as a whole, what’s special or unique about it, and how we see its future – from Shooters Hill to the River Thames. And don’t forget: this is a future that must take into account the avalanche of change happening all around Charlton.

Comparing notes together at the end of the session, we believe we can begin to lay the basis on which the community can help shape Council policy.

We look forward to seeing you at Charlton House.

The event’s open to all, and runs from 2.30pm to 5pm on Saturday 19 March.

The Conservation Area Management Strategy’s something all councils have to do with their conservation areas – they update them, take bits out, add new areas, and set requirements for what you can or can’t do if you own a property in the area.

This plan sees the council expand the area around Charlton Church Lane, Lansdowne Lane and Hornfair Park. You can find out more about what the council wants to do in this draft document. (The full, final document is released on Monday 21 March, so don’t take this version as gospel.)

If you’re at all interested in the history of Charlton, an accompanying document sets out the history of the area, and just why the area around Charlton Village is so special. It’s a hefty tome, quite different in tone from the usual council documents, and well worth a read. You’ll find a draft of the Character Appraisal here. (Again, a final version is released on Monday 21 March, which will supersede this one.) 

Want to see more? You can find out more about the borough’s conservation areas and read appraisals for other districts on the Greenwich Council website. Even more? Try Blackheath’s appraisal on Lewisham’s website.)

With the hugely important new Charlton riverside masterplan due to come after the mayoral election, the Charlton Society hopes Saturday’s event will start to get local people properly involved in the discussions about the area’s long-term future.

Local historical records ‘rediscovered’ at Charlton House

Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust have been in touch with news of a discovery in the cellar of Charlton House: 

WW1 History of Greenwich Borough uncovered as Charlton House’s Locked Vault is opened for the first time in memory.

Staff and volunteers at Charlton House in London have made an extraordinary discovery, in the cellar of the historic building.

Charlton House, part of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, has ‘rediscovered’ historical records and leather bound documents relating to the local area, and dating back more than 150 years.

Hidden deep in the basement of Charlton House, the vault containing the records has been locked since before the building was handed over to the Trust 8 years ago. Amongst the items discovered inside is the First World War Memorial Book for the Borough, containing the names of local men who served during the 1914-1918 war and a 100 year old log book for the local church – St Luke’s, which details all services and is annotated with significant events such as the Silvertown Explosion.

Tracy Stringfellow, Chief Executive of Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust explained: “We don’t know exactly how long it is since the vault was last opened, but the documents inside are very exciting and likely to be of significant interest to local historians and genealogists”

The Trust plans to display the discoveries at their forthcoming Great War exhibition, which takes place at the Greenwich Heritage Centre in February.

The documents and books will now be examined by preservation experts to ensure that their condition does not deteriorate.

There’s not been much information available on progress with Charlton House since it was quietly transferred to Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust in 2014, so we’re glad to hear that things are happening, and hope to see more video updates from the Heritage Trust. A shame, though, that their latest finds aren’t going on display in Charlton House itself.

Charlton ghost sign uncovers long-lost Arthur Cooper wine merchant

Bramshot Avenue
Work to convert a corner shop in Bramshot Avenue into a house has revealed a sign belonging to a long-gone chain of wine merchants.

The ghost sign reveals the old off-licence on the corner of Wyndcliff Road used to be part of the Arthur Cooper chain of wine merchants, which by the 1970s was a 300-strong chain of stores, mainly across southern England and south Wales.

Arthur Cooper wine merchant

Part of the Courage brewing giant, the name fell into disuse by the 1980s and the chain seems to have been all but forgotten about.

If you remember this as Arthur Cooper, it’d be great to hear your memories. You can still bid for some Arthur Cooper wine coasters on eBay…

(Thanks to Tweeter @CDPL1 for pointing me in the right direction on Arthur Cooper.)

Do you have photos of the Charlton Park prefabs?

54/366 Palaces for the people?

An interesting museum has opened in Catford – the Prefab Museum, which is open until May on the Excalibur Estate and recreates the atmosphere of these temporary homes erected in the 1940s. See the Prefabs – Palaces For The People website for more.

But while the Catford prefabs survived for decades, those in Charlton are long gone. Carol Kenna of the Charlton Parks Reminiscence Project has a question:

“The CPRP project was told about the prefabs that were along Canberra Road backing into Charlton Park this was up to the end of the 1950’s. During the project we could never trace any photos of this. I have now been contacted by a gentleman who lived in one of the prefabs asking if we had any photographs.

“Could you ask your other readers if they have any, whether they would accept them – if they do – being passed on and also added to the Parks website.”

If you have any photos, drop Carol a line via the project’s website.

(Photo of Catford’s Excalibur Estate courtesy of Clare Griffiths on Flickr.)

Charlton history: The story of High Combe

High Combe

Ever wondered why there’s a blue plaque on the stately-looking house next to Our Lady of Grace School? Charlton Champion historian Peter Bone tells the tale of High Combe, which stands on Charlton Road…

In the 19th century, Charlton Road, between the Village and the Standard was lined with grand houses, mansions and villas. Most were demolished in the late 19th century to make way for new streets, homes and a growing population. The names of some of these lost houses – Eastcombe House, Little Combe, Bramhope Lodge, Springfield and Mascalls – were used to name the new streets that replaced them.

One of these grand houses, originally called High Combe, has survived. It’s now known as 145 Charlton Road, between church and school of Our Lady of Grace, and is now the church’s presbytery,

High Combe was built around 1825 in the fashionable Regency style. It’s a Grade 2 listed building, thanks to the pairs of rounded bay windows at both front and back, the central Doric porch and the original double door with rounded panels and fanlight above. You can read the full details on English Heritage’s website.

The house now looks a little overshadowed and cramped between the church and school, but a map from 1870 shows a grand sweeping drive in front of the house with entrances approximately where the church and school now stand.

There are plans to rebuild the school over the next few years, so let’s hope that the new school will improve the setting of this fine historic house.

The history of High Combe and the people who lived there reflect some of Britain’s economic and military history through the nineteenth century.

One of High Combe’s first residents was General Sir William Congreve (1772 – 1828). Congreve succeeded his father (also called Sir William) as Comptroller of the Royal Military Laboratories at Woolwich where he was responsible for developing new weapons for the British army and navy.

William CongrieveIt was a period when Britain was a dominant military power and had acquired a large empire. As Congreve (pictured right) himself said “England is at war with one half of the world, and has the other half to defend”.

He is best known for inventing the “Congreve Rocket”; rocket powered explosive shells. These were used by British: against the French in the Napoleonic wars, in suppressing a rebellion against British rule of India, and against the USA in the Anglo American war of 1812 – 1814. The line in the American national anthem “And the rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air” describes an attack onan American fort by the British navy using Congreve’s rockets.

Congreve was also an MP for Plymouth, banker, entrepreneur, and prolific inventor of mechanical devices. He was a friend of the King George III (mad George) and equerry to the king’s son George, the Prince Regent (think of George in Blackadder III, but much more unpleasant).

Things started to go badly wrong for Congreve in 1826, soon after he married and moved into High Combe. In a time when capitalism was rampant and unregulated, he was accused of fraud in management of one of the many investment companies he formed. Difficult meetings with shareholders and questions in parliament followed and Congreve’s health deteriorated. He died in 1828 in France. He may have been convalescing from his illness, but many claim he was fleeing from angry shareholders. Congreve’s wife re married in 1835 and subsequently lived in the City.

It’s not clear who was at High Combe immediately after Congreve, but by 1851 General Sir George Whitmore (1775 – 1862) and his wife Cordelia were living there. Whitmore was born into an aristocratic family and joined the Army Royal Engineers at the age of 14. His postings over the next 30 years, to Gibraltar, Malta, Corfu and the Caribbean, reflect Britian’s military rivalry with France, Spain and America.

In 1840 Whitmore was appointed Commandant of Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and the lived near the Academy at Woolwich Common. I think it’s likely that Whitmore moved to High Combe when he retired. Cordelia Whitmore died in Charlton in 1857 at the age of 70; George died in 1862 aged 84.

An English Heritage blue plaque on the front of the High Combe commemorates its next resident, the eminent civil engineer William Henry Barlow (1812 – 1902). William Barlow was born in Woolwich. His father, Peter Barlow, was Professor of mathematics at the Royal Military Academy, and his older brother Peter Barlow junior (1809 – 1885) was also a civil engineer best known for developing tunnelling technology that was important in building London’s early Underground.

WIlliam Barlow's blue plaque

William Barlow was famous for the design and construction of railways, bridges and iron and steel structures during the golden age of railway building. From 1838 he worked on the Manchester and Birmingham Railway, and became Chief Engineer for the Midland Railway in 1844. He advised Joseph Paxton, designer of the Crystal Palace about the iron fame of the Palace. Between 1862 and 1869 he oversaw the building of the Midland railway from Bedford to London and designed the layout and construction of St Pancras Station (but not the ornate hotel in front of the station ). He served on the court of enquiry into the 1859 Tay Bridge Disaster, and designed the replacement bridge.

William Barlow retired in 1896 but continued to live in some style at High Coombe. The 1901 census lists 7 house servants living there as well as a coachman and a groom living in at stables in the grounds. The histories of the dozens of servants who worked at High Combe would tell a less glorious story about Britain in the nineteenth century.

William Barlow died at High Combe in November 1902 and his wife Selina Crawford Barlow died there a few months later. High Combe was purchased by a French Catholic Community of Sisters from Bordeaux: the Oblates of Assumption. A small chapel was established in the house, but the population of the area was growing rapidly and congregations grew.

The building of Our Lady Grace church in the grounds of High Combe began in 1905 and was completed in 1911. The sisters started a school in the High Combe stables. Plans were made to build a new school, but these were delayed by World War I, and a new school building opened in 1927.