Saturday, April 05, 2008
Walking New Cross (4): Jerningham, Ommaney, Musgrove, Troutbeck and Arbuthnot Roads
Starting out from the bottom of Jerningham Road (opposite Sainsburys) we are in the Telegraph Hill Conservation Area. On the right stands Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham School, the girls school opened in 1891 to supplement the original school buildings higher up the hill in Pepys Road. Robert Aske was a haberdasher who bequeathed funds to the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers in 1688 - two hundred years later they bought land with it and built a school in his name on the site.
Everybody with a child within a five mile radius of this school has incredibly strong opinions about it - generally consisting of parents slagging it off while trying desperately to get their children into it. The school too has a very high opinion of itself, with Hogwarts-lite gowns and a school motto of 'serve and obey' which has not been altered in the light of twentieth century horrors inflicted by those who thought unquestioning obedience was a virtue. Still sometimes I have to remind myself - and would like to remind both the school and some of its critics - that it's only a comprehensive school in New Cross for god's sake.
Further up the road, on the corner of Ommaney Road, this wall features children's hand prints in white paint.
A bit further up again, on the left, is a secret garden or so I see it. Behind a barbed wire-topped wall trees and bushes are in bloom. In fact it's a reservoir, but for how much longer is unclear. Thames Water have sold the site to St James Homes (a company they originally set up) who have put forward plans to build housing there.
60+ people attended a public meeting in September 2006 to discuss alternative uses for the site, but I'm not sure what the current status of plans is.
Arbuthnot Road runs across Telegraph Hill all the way from Jerningham Road to Gellatly Road. The top end, between Pepys Road and Jerningham Road, features the original Victorian railings that most of the houses in this area would have had at one point.
In most other roads these have all but disappeared, apparently scrapped early in the Second World War when the government encouraged people to donate metal for the war effort.
There is further evidence of the war on Ommaney Road with the council blocks of Jerningham Court replacing war damaged housing.
Like Ommaney and Arbuthnot, Musgrove Road runs between Jerningham and Pepys. I have always been intrigued by the wall at this house on the corner of Musgrove and Pepys, it has what appear to be bricked up windows - but why?
Near the Jerningham Road end there are some Aske's school outbuildings, apparently built on the location of a house where the poet Robert Browning lived. In the 1840s, this was still set in countryside. Browning ‘could hear lambs bleating in the fields… From his window he could see the chestnut tree by the pond, the holly hedge along the lane, the shrubs in the garden and the fruit trees overhanging the garden wall’.
It was from here that Browning sent love letters to his fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett prior to their elopement, sometimes including a rose from the garden. There is a plan to place a plaque for Robert Browning somewhere on the school site, surprising that is hasn't been done before.
Troutbeck Road runs from Musgrove Road, a short street of 1930s housing which features a grade II listed building - this K2 telephone kiosk. There are two other similar boxes in the area, on Jerningham and Waller Road.
The Robert Browing information comes from 'Robert Browning’s London 1812 – 1889', Browning Society Notes, Vol. 19, 1989. This article identifies the location of the Browning family home as on the site of 4-6 Musgrave Road, now demolished like Browning's home before it.