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.


Anonymous said...

I think those apparently bricked up windows were built that way. The brick within the window frames appears to be the same colour and age as the rest of the brick on the side of the house. I suppose they were probably built like that as decoration to break up the big blank brick wall that would have been there otherwise

Transpontine said...

I guess you're right, presumably it would have been difficult to put windows in this wall because the fireplaces/chimneystacks are at this end of the building.

betamatt said...

Actually, it's probably due to the window tax.

Transpontine said...

I doubt it, the window tax was abolished in 1851 and this house was probably built in the 1890s.

Alice Edge nee Scott said...

The large house (mind you, they are all pretty large in this area!) at the junction of Pepys Road and Musgrove Road, the subject of the bricked up windows, was probably requisitioned and used as the Food Office after the war, where I went with my Mum to collect our new ration books. This entailed waiting around for ages and my lasting impression of the house is of floors covered in thick brown linoleum. I don't know if it was administered by the town hall or the Ministry of Food. It also dispensed National Dried Milk in tall silver and blue tins as well as orange juice concentrate for children up to 5 years of age - green ration books.

Tamsin said...

An interesting revival of an old post! And a fascinating extra snippet from Alice. A couple of up-dates. The reservoir site has now been developed by St. James properties, but they were compelled to produce a design fairly in keeping with the surroundings (chimneys not in the right place but constant battling was wearisome so that slipped by, as did late amendments when the original wall collapsed which resulted in what is effectively a gated community). And there is now a brown plaque in place near the site of the Brownings' cottage. (Lovely exchange in the correspondence when Robert Browning reports on a sneering reference by Wordsworth to Telegraph Hill - and Elizabeth leaps to its defence.) However, having transcribed and copy-edited recently a history of New Cross there are a couple of inaccuracies. The school had a far more interesting history - being originally founded in Monmouth - and the statue of Robert Aske (in Code stone) comes from a previous site in Hoxton. Troutbeck Road is Edwardian, not 1930s. Almost completed before the outbreak of WW1 put an end to the building works - the final two houses being finished after the war ended. An area developed much later than the rest of the hill as the site of this road, and what became the New Cross Tram depot, was a property on a long lease to a stubborn old lady who would not surrender the lease to the Haberdashers nor conveniently die. This and more history and architectural insights can be picked up on the two walks scheduled for Sunday 24th April - the first, a general one starting at 11am from St Catherine's Churchyard, and the second, exploring New Cross Gate and Hatcham, setting out from beside the restored gas lamp by the White Hart at 2pm. More details on the Telegraph Hill Festival wegsite.