These street guides have been largely gleaned from the various conversation guides available from the London Borough of Bexley.
Avenue Road retains much of its original character and was originally the driveway to a former Manor House, crossing parkland prior to the 19th century residential development. Avenue Road was laid out circa.1769.
In the 19th century the area known as Northumberland Heath, was a rural area with extensive orchards and a mill. In the second half of the century there was change as Erith began to grow partly because of its river and rail connections. Large suburban estates were being erected in Belvedere and Erith for the new breed of commuters into London, whilst a variety of engineering works at Erith became a major employer of local people. Houses for the middle classes started to be built up the hill out of Erith and onto Northumberland Heath. By the 1880s houses had been built in Mill Road, Bexley Road and Brook Street.
The two smaller terraces in the north of Brook Street date from 1882. The other four terraces were laid out in 1901 by Erith Urban District Council and the recreation ground dates from a similar period. The Duchess of Kent public house (1903) represents an evolution from an earlier public house (1860s) and a cottage that stood on this site.
Elm Road was built in 1870 following the line of an earlier footpath. The road between Chislehurst and Sidcup had previously crossed the edge of The Green, entering Sidcup High Street opposite the Black Horse Public House.
Erith Road has historically been, and remains, the main road transport route between Woolwich and Erith Town Centre. From about 1890 to 1910 the gathering pace of change in urban areas was such that it led to the creation of Victorian and Edwardian suburbs in places like Upper Belvedere and along Erith Road. These suburbs were dependent on public transport for access and were well linked to central urban locations. Proximity to shops, parks and other amenities, as those that at the time were found in Upper Belvedere village was essential to the new occupants on Erith Road.
As the village of Upper Belvedere evolved around Lesnes Heath, it centered on a location where several major transport routes and tracks intersected. Erith Road became a very popular location for the wealthy merchants of Woolwich and Erith who aspired to the rural idyll but could be close enough to the local centres of industry and
In the late 19th and 20th Centuries, Erith Road was developed in a fairly piecemeal fashion with large family villas being constructed alongside terraced properties and semi detached houses. Whilst the approach to planning was laissez faire it is noted that the Edwardians were highly sophisticated builders of new suburbs and their formulaic approach to new development led to spacious, bright and well-designed terraced properties, houses and villas.
The former Technical Institute building was designed by W Egerton and constructed in 1906. It opened in the following year as a Technical Institute and the next 30 years were marked by rapid growth. The college was recognised by the University of London for its courses in engineering just before the second-world war.
Although there is evidence of Bronze Age and Roman settlement in the Cray Valley, Foots Cray is known to have originated as a Saxon settlement. Its name is derived from Godwin Fot, an Anglo-Saxon landowner, who had a farmstead in the vicinity of the River Cray. The Saxon Charter refers to “land in Cray”.
The Domesday Book refers to this estate having a farm, eight villagers and four cottagers, suggesting a small village, and a water mill. The evolution of the village related its location on the main London to Maidstone Road, and in later years the adjacent country estates of Pike Place, later Foots Cray Place. Many villages grew where roads forded rivers, and this was a factor in the growth of Foots Cray. The 1769 map of Kent shows a ford across the River Cray, with a pack horse bridge to the south of the ford on the approximate line of the present bridge. Another important factor in the growth of the village was its location at the junction with the route along the Cray Valley to Orpington.
The River Cray had a strong flow of water and over the years a series of water mills were developed along its length, including at Foots Cray. The last mill at Foots Cray was an important and substantial building providing much local employment. It was built in 1767 and used for paper making, and by 1851 it was employing 110 adults and 60 children. It was demolished in 1929. The site, to the north of the Seven Stars, retains part of the original old mill pond.
Although there were Roman settlements in Cray Valley, there is as yet no evidence of Roman roads. However roads from Foots Cray to St Mary Cray, Blendon and Bromley were established by the 15th century. The road from Wrotham to Foots Cray was turnpiked between 1751 and 1752 and from Lee to Foots Cray bridge in 1781. The Tollgate was reputedly near Walnut Tree Cottage on Sidcup Hill. Stage Coaches called in at the Seven Stars or Tigers Head on their way between London and Maidstone.
The village tended to develop on the main road, with cottages spreading along Church Avenue (now Rectory Lane). Some of the best examples of Georgian houses in the borough stand in Rectory Lane.
As suburbia expanded and the use of the motor vehicle increased, a bypass was built to take through traffic out of Sidcup and Foots Cray. Industries developed and expanded alongside the Sidcup bypass and encroached on the historic centre of Foots Cray. However, within the suburban setting, Foots Cray has retained much of its village character.
Residential development began to the west of the Eardley Arms Public House with Gloucester Villas (eight homes) and Gloucester Road (six more) being built during the 1860s. These were large semi-detached villas set in good sized plots.
These houses were for the wealthier Victorian families possibly for the professional classes or for the managers or owners of the businesses which located in Erith and Woolwich.
Until the 19th century, the area comprised a major farm and the parklands of two country houses – The Hollies and Lamorbey Park. The farm and cottages were built along the roadway linking Sidcup to Avery Hill, with the junction of Hurst Road providing a meeting of routes. It was at this point the church and school/hall were established. The frontage of Halfway Street is unaltered and provides a link through to The Glade and the former historic Lamorbey Park Estate.
The existence of late medieval buildings on the southern side of Halfway Street suggest that the general settlement pattern has remained relatively unchanged. Some particularly old buildings remain dating from the 15th century.
In the 1920s, Halfway Street Farm stood where Lamorbey Baths are and the sorting office was then a row of cottages called Church cottages. Burnt Oak Lane too was about to undergo development into a road from a previous narrow lane skirting the edges of fields.
Heron Hill, which runs from Woolwich Road and the top of the Abbey ridge, was a well established route to and from the marshes and gravel was extracted in this area. A
past use now concealed by the northern recreation ground.
High Beeches is a cul-de-sac leading west from St James Way, Sidcup.
The area known as High Beeches is situated on formerly open farmland and was developed as a designed residential estate in the mid-1930s. This is key to its present day character.
The existing street pattern remains and defines the layout of today’s conservation area. The route of a historic path leading from the north lodge to the main house seems to have disappeared altogether.
High Beeches and its immediate surroundings were developed on part of the old North Cray Place Estate which was sold to ‘Capital & Counties Construction Co. Ltd.’ In 1934 the architect, William Alexander Harvey, and his partner, Herbert G. Wicks, were commissioned to design, houses and bungalows, to be built on the grounds of the estate.
The architects were based in Birmingham and utilising the ‘Arts and Crafts’ style, designed much of Richard and George Cadbury’s now famous Bournville, a pioneering model worker’s village community near Birmingham. Harvey and Wicks designed many of the original 315 houses, which former the residential core of Bournville. They also helped develop the Workers’ Housing Co-operative which developed a further 398 houses.
Old Ordnance Survey maps clearly show that before the North Cray Place Estate was subject to development, it was open fields. High Beeches runs parallel to a field boundary and St James’ Way appears to be a road or track. The block on the corner of High Beeches and St James’ Way does appear to be part of the original development.
The Spinney and The Grove date from this time as well.
HIGH STREET, FOOTS CRAY
Foots Cray High Street exhibits a more commercial character and has the usual attributes, such as adverts and facia signs, normally associated with a retail centre. It has evolved to include a succession of buildings, indicative of its changing uses and evolution over time.
At the eastern end of the High Street, the River Cray is crossed by a small twin-arched bridge which consists mostly of the original bridge, built around 1815. Although widened in 1909 the south side of the bridge retains its brick wall with stone parapet above the old brick spans of the bridge with a central breakwater, with stone dressing.
The modern northern side incorporates a stone embossed “FOOTS CRAY” centrally on its northernmost edge.
IRON MILL LANE
The Conservation Area sits on the hill top above the centre of Crayford where a number of routes converge. St. Paulinus Church (Grade II* Listed), which was constructed from the 12th to 15th Centuries and restored in 1862 under the direction of Joseph Clarke, is the principal architectural and historic feature in the area.
As is often the case, almshouses were constructed close to the parish church on the south-side of Iron Mill Lane, what is known as Mrs Stables Almshouses, were erected in 1866 and extended in 1909. They are grouped around a square with the former Church Vicarage which also dates from 1866. On the north side at No. 9 to 11 Iron Mill Lane are the more formal row of Pim’s Almshouses, these were built in 1910.
An adjacent Landmark Building is the One Bell Public House (Grade II Listed) dating from 1770. There is some evidence that there was a public house at least 70 years prior to the building of The Bell Inn, as it was originally known. The Universal British Directory of 1792 noted that the Bell was the principal inn where the horses of the Gravesend Coach were changed. At that time the main Dover Road from London passed over Bexley heath, Watling Street and along Old Road.
LESNEY PARK ROAD
Originally the Lesney Park Road area formed parkland to the Manor House, Erith’s main country seat, with an area of 850 acres. The Wheatley Estate included the present Erith town centre. Avenue Road was laid out circa.1769 as an approach road to the newly constructed Manor House.
Significant growth in Erith did not occur until the North Kent Line reached Erith in 1849 (Erith Station opened on 30th July). Until then the area was relatively isolated and relied mainly on river transport. The arrival of the railway opened up the town and provided good transport links to and from London. This new found accessibility also helped promote a rapid increase in Erith’s population, which rose from 2,082 in 1841 to 8,289 in 1871. It also facilitated further industrial development in the area.
Lesney Park residential estate began to develop soon after the demolition of the Manor House in 1858. Some houses in the new roads were built in the early 1860s, but little
development occurred until the Wheatley estate was sold in 1874 for £170,000. By 1900 most of the Lesney Park residential area was developed. Firstly, along Bexley Road, and then along new roads at Park Crescent, Lesney Park Road and Avenue Road. This area urbanised with large detached and semi-detached houses along wide roads lined with grass verges and trees.
Whilst most of Bexley Road has since been redeveloped, the Lesney Park Road area has survived remarkably intact, with good examples of quality residential development dating from the 1890s to the 1920s, with only small pockets of later infill development.
The 1920s and 1930s witnessed the spread of suburban development around London and particularly along the main suburban rail network. This particular section of Longlands Road was developed in the mid to late 1920s by Cory and Cory (Builders) a local building company based in Eltham. The residential development is characterised by one of the finest examples of semi-detached housing of that period in the Borough.
As a result of bombing raids during the Second World War, Nos.161 to 173 (odd) Longlands Road were rebuilt in the late 1940s, but to their original design, and are now almost impossible to distinguish from the original dwellings.
The buildings in the conservation area have a memorable historic character and appearance deriving from suburban “Arts and Crafts” architectural styles and the use
of local building materials.
The earliest development in Sidcup spread along the High Street, which was the main route from London to Foots Cray and Swanley. Development around the junction of Station Road, Main Road, Elm Road and High Street began in the late 19th century. Within a few years, during the 1890s, new shops and houses were built along Main Road and on Hamilton Road and Stanhope Road to its north. This enclave of late 19th century houses has remained remarkably intact when compared to other areas of Victorian Sidcup.
As the 1920s progressed, so the newly laid out roads to the north of Main Road became lined with houses. These were mostly designed individually or in groups, creating a diverse area, the character of which benefits from the mature landscape made possible by generous building lines and large plots. Bomb damage explains some of the little plots whose scale and architectural finesse generally failed to meet the standards of earlier house builders. This provides an interesting picture of evolving suburban development in the form of mostly detached houses, creating an area of quality townscape.
The settlement was built along part of the historic track called “Whitehall Lane”, which was constructed to serve the Howbury Farm and provide access to the marshes and River Darent. The railway village was built to the east of “Whitehall Crossing”, a level crossing on the North Kent Line, immediately north of the extensive engine sheds it was built to serve.
Whitehall Lane to the east of this crossing was renamed Moat Lane, when the railway crossing was closed. Oak Road was built to the south, immediately adjacent to the engine sheds. Moat Lane forms a through road, whereas Oak Road is a cul-de-sac. Roads were laid out to a planned pattern parallel to Moat Lane and the railway with rows of houses all aligned parallel to these roads creating strong building lines.
Local archaeological finds indicate continuous occupation from before Roman times.
The parish of North Cray was in existence prior to the Doomsday Book. The earliest inland settlements in the London Borough of Bexley are thought to be related to the river valleys. As settlements developed along the valley of the River Cray, North Cray Road developed as the main route linking the villages, which formed a small winding country lane prior to the widening and straightening of the 1960s.
The village grew very little, originally as a result of its remote location, the lack of a turnpike road in the 18th century and its distance from railways in the 19th century.
Subsequent designation of the area as Metropolitan Green Belt secured its rural setting from development that may otherwise have followed the road widening. The village did indeed decline at times and some former cottages are known to have fallen derelict, the area having reverted to woodland.
The winding lane of North Cray Road was the main route along the Cray valley. However, as private car ownership and use increased and businesses in the area developed, traffic problems and congestion followed. The winding lane with no footpaths was considered inadequate in the 1960s, when it was straightened and widened to form the dual carriageway that exists today. This involved the demolition of many of the original properties on the eastern side of the road through North Cray Village. A timber framed hall house was carefully dismantled and later re-erected at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum near Chichester in West Sussex. Many properties on the western side of the original road remain, together with two short cutoff lengths of the original lane.
To the east of the village is open countryside, protected as metropolitan green belt. To the west is Foots Cray Meadows, where an ornamental five-arch bridge of brick and flint (1782) still survives across the River Cray. On the perimeter of the meadows is St James Church, founded in Saxon times. Although rebuilt and enlarged in 1852 and further extended in 1870, the church still retains 15th Century features.
The open landscape of the meadows provides the backdrop for the conservation area. Leafield Lane is surrounded by woodland and includes significant mature trees.
OLD FORGE WAY
This development occupies the grounds and orchard of a former large house known as The Grange, which was adjacent to a forge fronting Rectory Lane. Old Forge Way was designed by Kenneth Dalgliesh in 1936. The houses were designed to give the appearance of being built/added to over a number of years.
Prior to suburban development, the land was mostly farmland with associated rural buildings, crossed by two roads, Parkhill Road leading towards Eltham and Upton Road leading to the hamlet of Upton and linking to Watling Street. Within three years of the railway arriving at Bexley in 1866, suburban development commenced with the first houses completed on Upton Road South and Parkhill Road. Several examples of these early houses remain on Upton Road South.
The conservation area represents an early example of suburban development related to the expansion of the London commuter rail network, built between 1869 and circa 1885 for the more affluent London commuters.
PRIESTLANDS PARK ROAD
The earliest properties in Priestlands Park Road were completed by 1897, but it took half a century for the completion of its other houses. By reason of its curving layout, it broke free from the grid-iron pattern of earlier housing developments.
RECTORY LANE, FOOTS CRAY
Rectory Lane, formerly known as Church Lane, is relatively narrow in places and is enhanced by several attractive buildings of different architectural styles and scales. The “lane” provides the transition between the urban village core and the rural countryside beyond.
RED HOUSE LANE
This area of Bexleyheath was rural farmland until the mid 19th Century, within the small hamlet of Upton. Small cottages of late 19th Century origin still survive at Hogs Hole
Cottages 1-9 Red House Lane and 44 Upton Road.
The conservation area centres on Red House, designed for William Morris, the famous poet and artist, by his architect friend Philip Webb in 1859. It is a seminal Arts and Crafts building of enormous international significance in the history of domestic architecture and garden design. The building is constructed of warm red brick, under a steep red-tiled roof, with an emphasis on natural materials and a strong Gothic influence. The garden was designed to surround the house with a series of subdivided areas which still clearly exist, together with the adjoining orchard which now forms part of the garden. Inside, the house retains many of the original features and fixed items of furniture designed by Morris and Webb, as well as wall paintings and stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones.
William Morris built the house within a rural setting when he was about to marry, and saw this as an opportunity to make the building and decorating of it play a role in setting up a fraternity of artists, designers and craftsmen. The result can still be seen to this day as the house is run by the National Trust. It represents a memorial to a man of vision and artistic talent whose influence on modern and contemporary arts cannot be over-estimated.
Red House is a Grade I Listed Building. The street wall and gateway on Red House Lane are Grade II. On the north side with the entrance drive swinging past it is the old stables and coach house in the north east corner of the site. Grade II Listed. The wellhead to the south east of Red House is a Grade I Listed structure.
In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, development spread along Upton Road and all was engulfed by the tide of suburban development in the 1920s and 1930s.
The origins of the name give some sense of its antiquity. “Slad” is a Norse word meaning a place for the beaching of boats. In Saxon, the word “Slade” means low lying ground. “Green” refers to the verdant nature of the land. There was a Saxon manor at “Hoobury”, the current “Howbury”, located on marshy ground.
Before the building of the railway and the associated industrial development, this was an isolated low-lying area. When the railway was built, the area between Whitehall Lane and Slade Green Lane was used for market gardens and was known as “Cabbage Island”, a name that still survives.
The original settlement, Slades Green, as it was then called, clustered around “The Corner Pin” public house along Slades Green Road, to the north of the railway village. The main “railway village” was built by 1910 and remained almost unchanged to 1938. Most recent housing took place in the 1950s and 1960s.
An extensive land holding was acquired by the South-Eastern Railway, with the intention of building 350 houses for railway workers. Only 158 were built. The housing was to accommodate the large number of people employed servicing steam locomotives, at the large engine sheds built at Slade Green in 1900. These sheds were built to reduce congestion nearer London by enabling the transfer of locomotives from Bricklayers Arms and other engine sheds in south London.
At the time (1900) Slade Green depot, then called Whitehall Engine shed, was a modern facility designed to service 100 steam locomotives. It was located at the “end of the line” for (then anticipated) suburban services to Dartford, Sidcup and Bexleyheath as well as serving the extensive industrial sidings at Erith.
As was the practise of the time it was convenient and useful to have workers living near their workplace, hence the development of the “railway village”. Railway workers moved to Slade Green from other locations nearer London. For some time passes were issued for travel to Woolwich market from Slade Green, an indication of its isolation and lack of facilities.
The first phase of residential development by Messer’s Perry and Co. of Bow was 91 houses on Elm Road, Cedar Road and Hazel Road. However, when the Council first considered the initial designation of the conservation area these were excluded, as they were considered to have been much altered. Although, what is thought to be the 91st house, No.4 Moat Lane, the Shed Foreman’s house, which was built to a larger, more imposing design than the other worker’s houses, was included in the designation.
The second phase of railway worker’s house construction was initiated in December 1898 when tenders were invited to build 54 houses. Messrs Smith & Sons of South Norwood were the successful contractors. The order was later increased to 56 houses, comprising: Moat Lane 6 to 36 (even); Moat Lane 11 to 29 (odd); and Oak Road 1-16 (all); and Oak Road 17-43 (odd).
They were built in terraces of four and were much larger houses with six rooms. To the rear there was a two-storey annex, shared with the neighbouring house. The kitchen and a third bedroom was in this annex, leaving the ground floor as a parlour. these were known as ‘Parlour Houses’. Each had a small front garden with a much larger rear garden. Front gardens had oak fencing. What is particularly notable is that the houses and engine sheds were illuminated by electricity from the start.
The Railway Hotel (Tavern) was built by Perry & Co. of Bow to provide accommodation for railway officials and commercial representatives to the new depot. In 1899 the Erith Times reported the Railway Hotel was approaching completion, and a license had been granted to the South-Eastern Railway. The license passed to the Dartford Brewery in 1901.
It was not successful as a hotel and the name was changed to the Railway Tavern. Its use as a public house ceased and in 2005/6 the building was renovated and converted into flats.
Behind these lie Stanhope Road and Hamilton Road, which date from the 1890s. The houses here are close but semi detached with red brick walls banded in white bricks, moulded stone details and gables topping projecting bay windows. Each pair is detailed slightly differently from its neighbours, but this is done within a clear geometric discipline, creating a unified development of substantial character.
STATION APPROACH, OLD BEXLEY
Construction of the railway line, opened in 1866, cut the village in two but had little impact on street pattern except for the creation of Station Approach, the access to the
new railway station.
Station Road was developed with larger detached and semi detached houses of more individual character but with attention to detail. Station Road incorporates two important local landmark buildings:
Sidcup Community Church, which presents a prominent gable end to Station Road. It has been skilfully extended to the side along/adjacent to the public footpath, using good traditional materials.
Sitting almost opposite the Community Church is the other landmark building, the Bexley Music Centre, a relatively large two-storey, red brick and part render building, which creates a significant presence turning the corner of Victoria Road and Station Road, with its prominent corner turret and cupola.
Tanyard Lane is a historic lane marked on the 1840 Tithe Map and is bridged by the railway line.
Bexley witnessed suburban expansion in the 1920s and 1930s and the area is renowned for its large suburban estates of row after row of semi-detached and terraced houses. The Marlborough Park Estates area of Sidcup was typical with long roads of houses in uniform styles. The shops at the Oval, which were built in 1933 as part of the Marlborough Estate, meant easier shopping for the new residents to the area.
The Oval was designed as part of the, “New Ideal Homesteads’, Marlborough Park Estate”, an antithesis of the suburban norm, a reaction to the rigid row upon row of houses. The shops on the terrace reflect interest in the Arts and Craft style still popular in the 1930s when it was the prevalent influence on house design. The provision of this type of community infrastructure was typical of housing estates being built in the area at this time.
Whitehall Lane, built to serve Howbury Farm and provide access to the marshes and River Darent, was split into two when the railway was built. The name probably comes from the white painted walls of the house and moated enclosure. A railway village was built to the east of Whitehall Crossing, a level crossing on the North Kent Line, immediately north of the extensive engine sheds it was built to serve and this became Moat Lane, when the railway crossing was closed.
The houses in this conservation area were built in the 1930s as part of a planned development that included these two parallel avenues, Willersley Avenue and Braundton Avenue. Willersley Avenue, being a major access north-south access road was designed to be wider than Braundton Avenue. The unusual width of Willersley Avenue might be explained by a proposal to make it part of an inter-war planned London inner ring road. Willersley Close is a cul-de-sac in which four semidetached properties fan out around a central turning circle off Willersley Avenue. No 9 Willersley Close has been located outside the formal street layout presumably to maximise use of available land.
Willersley Avenue and Braundton Avenue were built by H. Smith and Company of Avery Hill Road, Eltham as part of Smith’s Hollies Estate, one of the principal estates built in the Sidcup and Blackfen area in the 1930s. Although the original planning applications for most of the dwellings were submitted in March 1932 and most houses are built in a chalet style, some of the house plans were subsequently altered and there are a few exceptions to the general uniformity of house design.