Friday, December 09, 2011

117 Lewisham Way

At Utrophia (120 Deptford Hight Street) this month there's an exhibition/series of events called Deptford Soil 'an exhibition of work by local artists whom have an affiliation with the McMillan Herb Garden, a non profit making organisation who run creative workshops for young people in the Deptford area.The exhibition celebrates differing aspects of Deptford culture and illustrates the personal creative processes born from residing in SE8'.


Tomorrow night (Saturday 10th, 7 pm start) they are showing some films with live music, including:

- Hide and Seek - a 1972 Children's Film Foundation production set in Deptford and starring a young Gary Kemp.
- Deptford's 'Jack in the Green' 2006-2011
-'Gone House Ghost House/117 Elegies' 2005 - a split screen with live sound track from RABBIT.

Free entry.

I saw Rabbit performing  live with the '117 Elegies' film at the Old Police Station in New Cross back in March (pictures below are from that performance). The film documents 117 Lewisham Way, a Victorian villa demolished in 2006 and known in its last period as 'The Elephant House' when squatters living there decorated it with an elephant art work salvaged from Goldsmiths.


The film was made by David Aylward and Tom Scott-Kendrick, the musicians in Rabbit. The duo rehearsed at the house, as it was Tom's family home when he was growing up. Essentially the film consists of shots of various details around the house - the staircase, the windows, the door handle, rust, crumbling brick. It's quite poignant, a record of years of labour and living that had created a space soon to be swept away.


The house was built in 1849/50 on what had previously been grazing fields rented out to a farmer (Samuel Shepherd) and owned by Augustus Hamilton. It was originally known as Durham Cottage, and its first occupants had moved in by April 1850. This was a family, Mr Jabez Garrett, his wife and their son and two daughters aged between 1 and 7. There were also two servants, aged 23 and 14. Mr Garrett was a 32 year old warehouseman (wholesaler) in Woolwich and had been involved with the business since his early twenties. By 1861, the Garretts had moved out and Elizabeth Hawkins, proprietor of houses, moved in with her 18 year old son, Henry Young, a lighterman (operating small boats to offload merchandise from large ships onto shore).

Ten years later, in 1871, the house was lived in by a family made up of Mary Jennings, 45 and wife of an unnamed civil engineer, with her widowed sister Frances Harley, 50, one young niece still at school, Mary Ann Spicer, and another niece it would appear, also called Mary Ann but with a different surname and possibly a servant. By 1888, the house was occupied by Andrews William, a tobacco pipe-maker.

Four years later, in 1891, a larger family moved in, with 47 year old Herbert Tiffin, a Solicitor’s clerk, his wife Eliza, daughter Florence (24) and sons Charles (22, also solicitor’s clerk) and Herbert (17, clerk to a grocer). There were also four smaller daughters, aged 10 and up. Ten years later, in 1901, Mr Edward Berryman, 45, printer engraver and stationer, had moved in with his wife Sandra, of the same profession, their 13 year old daughter and their one servant. During this time, the Cottage was renamed Withdean Lodge, probably after a place in nearby Surrey.



In 1907, a Miss Pearce moved in, possibly with William A Brunfield, whose entries appear regularly over the next few years, and possibly with a Frederick Pearce, furniture dealer, who may have been her son as his first entry in the records only appears in 1925. At roundabout this stage, the house was divided into two units, 117 and 117a Lewisham High Road. Up until 1930, 117a was occupied by Agar Francis, FRHS, seed merchant but additional entries also appear for Alfred Alvarez (1910) and, subsequently, Arthur Edward Brown and Robert William Anderson (1921).

In 1930, the entries for 117 disappear and one must assume that the house was left unoccupied for a short while. 117a disappears for good and there is no more suggestion thereafter that the house was divided into two. By 1931, Walter and Minnie Jane Booth moved in with Ada Janes, and two additional entries were recorded in 1938 for Giles Winnifred and, in 1947, with Walter apparently gone (war casualty?), two lodgers, Frederick Sibley and Eleanor Vanner.

For a period in the Second World War, the house was used at the South East London Synagogue when the synagogue in New Cross Road was destroyed by a Nazi bombing raid (see earlier post).



Michael and Rosemary Scott moved in in 1953, and had a succession of student lodgers over the years. Tom tells me that these were often art students from Goldsmiths, as his mother was an artist herself. He thinks artist Bridget Reilly may have stayed there for a while, and the Lewisham-born painter/forger Tom Keating is reputed to have done some of the decorating.

After the family moved out, it fell into further disrepair having a final flurry as the squatted ‘Elephant house’. Most people didn’t realise what they were losing until they saw it being demolished in November 2006 – replaced with a block of flats (see pictures at Brockley Central). But you can at least see it on film on Saturday night.

(thanks to Claude St Arroman for sending the historical research on the house's history of occupation.  The two house photos were sourced from Flickr so long ago I can't remember where I found them. If they're yours and you would like a photo credit let me know)

3 comments:

Sarah Crofts said...

What a pity that members of Fowlers Troop and the Deptford Jack in the Green were not invited to this. It would be good to see the film.

Transpontine said...

The Jack in the Green film was on continuous show as part of the Deptford Soil exhibition. It is based on footage from the 2006 Deptford procession and is quite abstract/experimental rather than a straightforward documentary. So you may or may not have been able to spot yourself! I am sure David Aylward can let you have a look at it sometime if you get in touch with him Sarah (email me if you don't have his details)

GuillermoBlogeado said...

the elephant's head was not salvaged from goldsmiths, it was picked up from the bin after a final year's exhibition.

I was one of the squatters there, helping with the vegan community food night, and enjoying the cafe and the music jams. also trying to get by in London while I studied my degree...