Discover local history: Charlton Village street exhibition starts Saturday

Charlton Village 1970
Charlton Village in 1970. “The watchmaker, hairdresser and Fieldings before the cottages were demolished, the tree to the right still stands in Fairfield Grove”

From Saturday, the Charlton Society is hosting a street exhibition in The Village, with displays on 17 shops showing engravings and photographs of the village since 1775. If you can’t make Saturday, the exhibition will last until 27 November.

In addition, if you can spare time on a Friday afternoon, the society is hosting an open day on 30 October from 2pm to 4pm: “Members of The Charlton Society Committee will be in the Village outside The Village Green Grocers where they will hand out copies of a commemorative Year Book and a facsimile of Charlton Village and its Parks Walk, originally printed in 1984. We hope that Charlton Society members and residents will take the opportunity to walk around the Village and view the exhibition.”

Charlton 1775
A view from 1775, with St Luke’s Church on the left and the spire of Charlton House on the right

The society adds: “The Charlton Society has been operating virtually since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown and have produced this exhibition to highlight Charlton Village as a unique London village, thank our traders for supporting the community throughout the lockdown and demonstrate some of the activities that The Charlton Society has engaged in during its 50 years.

“The Charlton Society has been operating since 1969 in response to a growing concern at the level of modernisation that could threaten the special character of the Village. Never an enemy of necessary development The Charlton Society was established to awake interest in the special character of Charlton Village, to assess new developments with a view to bring the best to Charlton as a whole, to protect the neighbourhood from the excesses of development but support good design and improvement.”

The society has also been working on a “Save Our Village” action plan for the area. (See more information.)


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Lead thieves causing more damage to Charlton’s listed buildings

Charlton Summer House
The Summer House, with St Luke’s to the left

During the summer, we reported on lead thieves causing damage at St Luke’s Church in Charlton Village. Now two other listed buildings in the village – the Summer House and the Assembly Rooms – have been vandalised by ham-fisted thieves who have caused thousands of pounds of damage while trying to get hold of lead, some of it degraded.

It remains unclear whether they will be able to cover the damage on insurance – a major setback to efforts to restore the buildings. Thieves have also targeted St Richard’s church hall in Swallowfield Road.

The Charlton Society‘s RODEN RICHARDSON looks at why each building is important – and explains the damage done.

The Summer House
With its uniquely classical proportions, this 17th century Grade I protected gem of a building is part of the Charlton House Estate and hence in the care of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, which has recently been carrying out much-needed repair and restoration work. The spectacular curvilinear roof is covered in fine, graded slate tiles, with lead flashing along its 4 curved ridges. After storms in January 2018 and tree damage to the roof, the existing and unsatisfactory asbestos felt flashing was replaced with conservation-standard lead.

However, it wasn’t long before this was torn from all four ridges by thieves in a single operation. It was all replaced in early September this year at a cost running into five figures – a sum vastly greater than the stolen lead. But then, at 2am a few days later, the thieves attacked again. No doubt expecting another easy haul, this time they didn’t reckon with an alarm that had by now been installed and they only got as far as partially lifting a short section of the flashing on a single roof ridge, which the Trust was able to repair by the following evening.

Charlton Assembly Rooms
The damage done to the Assembly Rooms

Assembly Rooms
Completed in 1881 in red, handsomely decorative brick and terracotta, the Assembly Rooms were a gift to the local community from the Maryon Wilson family, the former owners and last occupants of Charlton House. Recently Grade II listed, and now the responsibility of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, the Assembly Rooms remain a great community asset which might have been lost if that same community hadn’t saved them from demolition in the 1970s. A highly ambitious restoration project at the time, one of the key tasks was to replace the domed, multi-facetted roof cupola. This highly skilled work was undertaken at a local college by students specialising in the traditional materials and techniques required. The cupola’s dome is covered in lead, and this has now become the Village’s most recent target for attack by lead thieves.

As the picture shows, they managed to prise some of the lead away until they were either caught in the act or because it was more difficult to remove than anticipated. Once again, the value of the lead is minimal when compared to the cost of restoration and repair work, which also involves the base of the cupola structure, the fine tiled roof that the thieves scaled to reach their objective and serious rainwater damage to the parquet flooring inside the Rooms, which, like Charlton House, have been closed since the onset of Covid-19.

Edward Schofield, visitor and operations manager at the trust, says that the attack comes at a time when the charity is working towards ways of safely and reliably reopening the trust’s buildings to the community. “This criminal damage goes beyond the basic theft of materials – apart from the disruption, the overall repair and replacement costs, not least for the extensive scaffolding required, will be considerable.”

St Luke’s
Built in 1630 – a little before Christopher Wren’s Royal Observatory a couple of miles or so away on the same escarpment – historic St Luke’s is one of London’s most compelling and attractive parish churches. Not immediately visible to the eye from the outside, the roof has two ridges forming a valley and it is from here and the gulley at the side that thieves ripped out lead coverings, causing extensive damage in the process, including to the interior fabric of the building. Churchwarden Rick Newman confirms that the amount stolen was minimal but that the cost of repair will run into the tens of thousands of pounds, considerably more than the limits imposed on claims for what is being deemed as “metal theft”. St Luke’s has ambitious plans for the repair and upkeep of the building – important and essential work on the unique castellated tower has already been completed – but with other works required, this theft and vandalism is a major setback.

It has just been discovered that lead has now also been torn from above the main porch and side door to St Richard’s Church Centre at the corner of Swallowfield and Sundorne Roads. Rick Newman describes the crime as “a frustrating addendum to the current epidemic of lead thefts in Charlton”.

For more information on The Charlton Society, visit charltonsociety.org.

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Closed White Swan pub becomes asset of community value again

White Swan
Mendoza bought the freehold to the White Swan in March 2015

The White Swan pub, which closed suddenly just before the coronavirus pandemic, has been registered as an asset of community value by Greenwich Council after a request by the Charlton Society.

The designation means that if the building is put up for sale, a six-month block can be put on the sale to allow a community group to bid to take it on.

It is the second time the pub has been given the status – six years ago the society successfully applied for the White Swan to be made an asset of community value, but the designation was allowed to lapse.

The pub’s owner, property company Mendoza, has insisted it will find a new tenant for the pub. Work has taken place on the site since the company repossessed the building in March.

A decision is due on a planning application by Mendoza to build a house on land at the back of the pub – shaving off a section of the beer garden to build an access road.

The village’s other pub, The Bugle Horn, was designated an asset of community value in June 2015, though that status expired last month.


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