Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Deptford ancestors and old Church Street

My great great grandmother, Sarah Reed, was born in Deptford in 1839. On the 1851 Census she is shown living at 101 Church Street, with her parents John (a 'carman') and Elizabeth (born Elizabeth Say), and her siblings John, William, Charles, Emma, Jane and Warren. Her parents had got married at St Paul's Church in Deptford in 1831, where Elizabeth had been baptised in 1808. Elizabeth's parents, Thomas Say (a bricklayer) and Francis Blackwin (born 1771), also lived in Deptford. They would have been my great great great great grandparents. So while I have only been living in New Cross for 15 years, I can say I have local ancestors going back more than 200 years!

Some parts of Deptford today would still be recognisable to them - St Paul's and St. Nicholas' Churches and much of the High Street. But Church Street itself, the earliest actual address I have for my relatives, has very little left from the 19th century with the exception of the Birds Nest pub, with older buildings also on the Broadway near the Church Street junction.

The street seems to take its name not from St Paul's, which was built in the 18th century, but from its older function as the route from the original Deptford settlement near to what is now Deptford Bridge to the parish church of St Nicholas', dating back to the 14th century.

Ideal Homes states that that in the 19th century Church Street was a main shopping street, and as late as the 1970s there were seemingly still significant shops there at the Broadway end (see final photo), but the last remaining older buildings (other than those mentioned above) were demolished in that period, making way for the Lewisham College building and some newer housing on the opposite side of the street. We can though get a sense of pre-demolition Church Street from photographs and paintings.

At the British Library site, there's a picture of the Old Roman Eagle pub and Assembly Rooms in 1841. Richard Carlile's The Republican magazine reported in 1825 that: 'A numerous meeting of the mechanics of Deptford was lately held at the Roman Eagle, for the purposes of establishing a Mechanics' Institution in that town, Dr Olinthus Gregory in the chair'. This led to the setting up of the Deptford Mechanics Institution on the High Street.

Ideal Homes has a picture of Deptford Theatre, which stood on the east side of Church Street, backing onto the creek (note windmill), and was at is peak in the early nineteenth century and closed in the 1860s. The theatre was next door to the Oxford Arms pub, which is still there today in its current incarnation as The Birds Nest.

Also from Ideal Homes is this 1922 painting of Deptford Church Street by Evacustes A. Phipson.

At the always useful Dead Pubs there are these two photographs of a Free House and Off License at 165 Church Street in around 1920. I think the dog might be my dog's great great great grandparent!
Matt Martin has a couple of great old shots at his True Londoner's Flickr photostream. The first shows the fire brigade in action at The Druids Head pub, located at 8 Church Street near the Broadway end. The pub was there from at least as early as 1840 through to the 1970s.

Finally there's this fine 1970s image of a policeman helping kids across the road, with Church Street stretching out behind them from the Broaway end. On the right is Gardiners store, and the chimneys of The Oxford Arms (now Birds Nest) can be seen behind.

Any other stories, memories or pictures of old Church Street very welcome - still can't even work out the 19th century numbering to guess where number 101 might have stood.
Obviously my detailed knowledge of Deptford geography before I moved round here is sketchy - where was the Deptford Odeon in relation to the photograph with the policeman?

(updated 13 April 2011 - see also Deptford Church Street 1881)


JP said...

The only shops in Deptford Church Street were built in the 1980s/90s where the old Odeon had stood. For someone claiming 200 years of association with Deptford that is a basic and credibility loosing error.

Transpontine said...

Er I don't think I was claiming to have lived here for 200 years, like I say I wasn't living here until the 1990s. I recognise that Church Street was not a major shopping street by the 1970s (though Ideal Homes does state that it and the Broadway were the main shopping streets in the 19th century), but are you right that were no shops in Church Street until the 1980s/1990s? Gardiners was on the corner of Broadway and Church Street wasn't it, and judging by the 1970s photo of the policeman there seem to be a few shops next to it stretchng down Church Street. Anyone out there remember?

Transpontine said...

OK JP so what I think you're saying is that the current shops on Church Street only date back to 80s/90s, not that there were never shops on the street before that. I have rephrased what I wrote to be clear, it's some of the buildings on the Broadway bit of the Church St junction, rather than Church St as such, that date back further.

I believe that the Odeon was on the opposite corner to Lewisham College, though that was before my time, but bit confused about where the Odeon was in relation to that photograph of the policeman which seems to have been taken before the Odeon was demolished (judging by the cars and clothes)

Sue said...

I think that is the Odeon behind (a boy stands with his back to us in the fire exit door entrance). Bob Humm (ex Crossfields) has some photos of the Odeon in his little book The Deptford Dossier which you can look at on – see what you think...

Sue said...

BTW, before Lewisham College moved in, the 'orrible redbrick monstrosity was the "Skill Centre"...

Bill Ellson said...

A pedant writes:

Your gg-grandmother is shown aged 12 on the 1851 census. The 1851 census took place on 30 March, so like 75% of those shown aged 12 she was born in 1838. To be precise she was born 30 June 1838 and baptised at St Paul's on 22 July 1838.

Frances Blackwin's St Paul's baptism register entry in March 1790 shows her parents (your gggg-grandparents) James (a bricklayer) and Jane living in Church Street.

I think Jess Steele set out in Turning the Tide that Church Street was the main shopping street until the 1820s when the Vestry decided to rename Butt Lane as the High Street and make it the main shopping street. Many shops and pubs remained in Church Street up until the road widening in the 1970s.

Church Street does take its name from being the route to St Nicholas, but I would think that it goes back long before the 13th century. The tower at St Nicholas is Norman and there may have been a wooden church before that.

I agree with Sue regarding the Odeon.

Transpontine said...

Good to say hello to you last week Bill. Thanks for taking the time to check this out, especially for taking my family history a further generation back. Good to know there were a couple of generations of brickies in the family, shame those skills haven't been passed down genetically so that I could actually do some useful DIY.

andy said...

And Maynards the sweet shop at the top end near Albury St/Creek Rd


andy said...

The Odeon was just behind the policeman..watched "Ferry Cross the Mersey" there back in the early 1960's.
I can also remember a statue of a big golden eagle on the parapit roof at the front.


Transpontine said...

Thanks Andy, I figured that was where the Odeon should be, but couldn't reconcile the pictures I've seen of it previously (e.g. with this picture. But think I get it now.

Sue, if you click on the photo to enlarge you can see a 'Gentleman' sign on the wall, wonder if that door was a public toilet adjoining the cinema rather than its fire exit?

magento themes said...

Yes you are right.This is due to population of that area.The number of houses are increasing.So, the look of the area is changing.Even some of the area which were just beginning of the locality, now they are in the middle of the locality.

Anonymous said...

The building behind the policeman was a public toilets which stood on a triangular shaped island. Also on the island was a tea stall right behind the toilets. The Odeon was behind this island.
There were quite a few shops dotted up and down Church Street, most of them the Broadway end, the rest of them were "local shops", such as newsagents, sweetshops and general stores.
The tower of St Nicholas indeed dates back to Anglo-saxon times when Deptford was in Kent. Could Church Street go back that far? It was probably green fields, although there may well have been a route from the Ravensbourne crossing where Deptford Bridge is now.

Jon said...

This (photo with the policeman) puzzled me too, but the 1971 1:2500 map on makes it fairly clear - co-ordinates 537295, 176965 - from that camera angle the toilet block obscures the odeon

paul lambert said...

I'm 60 now and as a child in the 1950s and 60s I used to visit my nan's small shop in Churst Street. It was near the Broadway end as far as I remember and opposite was a factory which used to have a Wrigleys chewing gum machine on the wallnear it. My grandad used to give me pennies from his small wooden till so that I could go over and get some. The shop used to have second hand books in the window(mostly paperbacks as I remember) nan used to sell them but offered customers a small reward if they brought them back and bought another one (part exchange I suppose ! ) She had lots of second hand clothes for sale, particularly demob suits, collarless shirts,second hand shoes socks and pants !! Some of the poorest used to come in for a complete outfit with spare collars to go with the shirts.Nan had a little cubicle by the shop counter where people got chsnged into their 'new' clothes. She always made them take their old ones away with them ! My email is if you want to contact me. Nan name was Maud Annand (used to be Taylor)

Anonymous said...

Hi Just been reading this page for the first time, I used to live in Deptford during the 1950/60's.

I agree, the area behind the policeman is where the Odeon was, and to the right of the policeman was a large shop which was on the bend of the corner and the shop was called Nobles, a fantastic toy shop, part of it was a musical instrument department.

I have been looking to trave my grandparents their surname was BEAVIS, They lived somewhere in Church street during the 1940's. They had at least three sons, John, Fred and Thomas and perhaps Bill.

Anyone know of this family. I would love to hear.

Andover lady

bob hopkins said...

the building behind the policeman were the public toilets they were on a island and behind them was the odeon the 47 bus would come out of the high st down around the island then pass the toilets and on the way to lewisham pass carrington house

Jack said...

what a fantastic site, all got different memories of Deptford, I note that nobody has mentioned the old Broadway cinema, the tea stall by the toilets at the top of deptford high st,Timmy Connel and all the old timers,talking about there time on the Moor. most had done a lagging a carpet or a nevis!!!!!that should sort the wheat from the chaff. I used to drink in the Mechanics and the City Arms before going in Manze for pie and mash. good old days? Jack

Anonymous said...

I remember walking past Carrington House to the Broadway to get the bus to school in Greenwich. The toilets were on an island, where I had to get the bus, the Odeon was on/near the corner. The place is nothing like it used to be, hard to remember how it did look. I had heard that the large eagle got nicked, not sure how they got it down? I lived down Grove Street for a while in the late 60's when Pepys was built and worked in Palmers Wharf which was part of Convoys, I would walk down Grove Street and enter Convoys via the back double gates before you got to the pub (can't remember the name of the pub)It's still there I believe. There was also a timber yard down Grove Street, with a dock to let the barges in, from the Thames. I loved Deptford, there was a pub down Church Street that we all used to frequent, we would walk up to Creek Road and go home, those were the days, when you could walk everywhere in safety.

K.Williams said...

Does anyone know of a Family called Vane lived in Armada Street from about 1890-1950

Anonymous said...

Posted somewhere else on this frank Rossi ice cream was my grandad. They moved to wooton rd near Lord clyde. 3 daughters still alive ones my mum. 2 of them in their 80's one in late 70's.
Loads of deptford memories, went to start Joseph's scool in the high St/cross field street.

I can be contacted on

Essexboy Essex said...

My ancestor Thomas Say also a bricklayer was born 1818 and lived in church St too.
He married in 1838 ? Stepney and that's where my ancestors grew up in Bethnal Green but changed the occupation to master cabinet makers

paul lambert said...

If you look at the photo showing the policeman helping the children cross the road, well just to the right of his head is a white painted shop front. My nan, Maud Annand run this as a second hand shop

Glenn Bradford said...

Do you think that your ancestors with the family surname of Say have anything to do with Sayes Court of Deptford , a manor that was passed to Geoffrey De Say's widow in the 1400s but was seized by parliament of Charles I and given to the browne family.
It just seems a coincidence that the surname of Say existed there afterwards

Glenn Bradford said...

My ancestor Thomas Say born circa 1818 was I think brother to Elizabeth, he was a bricklayer christened in Deptford from Church Street but later moved to Spitalfields from where my family came from moving out towards Bethnal Green where his eldest son became a mastercabinet maker. There were still some Says that were bricklayers.
But bricklayer's work was long and tedious, if you can imagine bricks were delivered by horse and cart along an uneven dirt road and not neatly on pallets unlike today

Glenn Bradford said...

I'm also directly related to that family through my mother.
Thomas Say born 1790 Deptford was my gggg grandfather.
Thanks for the other information on the blackwins , my ancestors moved to spital fields around late 1830s