Thursday, January 30, 2014

1890s (?) map of Brockley/New Cross/Nunhead/Lewisham

A friend gave me this old Brockley-centred street map. It is printed one-sided on folded card, so was presumably a stand alone map to carry in the pocket rather than part of a book. But it is clearly one of a collection as it refers to other sheet numbers for adjoining maps.

But when was it printed? I am guessing late 19th century, probably 1890s. Most of the streets, railways and parks familiar to us now are already laid out, including Telegraph Hill Park which opened to the public in 1895. Strangely St Catherines Church in Kitto Road isn't shown, this too opened in 1895, so unless it has been mistakenly omitted the map must date to around that time (perhaps when the park had been laid out but the church not yet completed).  There are also other significant gaps, with hardly any roads shown in Brockley west of the railway line - no St Asaphs Road for instance. The houses there can't be any later than about 1910.

You can click on the map to enlarge. The section below shows the still extant Brockley footpath before the houses that now surround it were built, heading alongside Nunhead cemetery, following the line of Merttins Road and then across undeveloped ground to Brockley Road, then towards Ladywell via the grounds of Brockley Hall (a large home demolished in 1931). Note too the bandstand and cricket ground on Hilly Fields, now more often used for children's football.

A few other curiosities I noticed on main map (no doubt you will spot others):

- the bottom half of Drakefell Road was called Penmartin Road - now it's all Drakefell all the way down (apparently it was renamed in 1902, which again suggests this map dates to 1890s);
- part of Peckham Rye was still Homestall Farm - this was bought by London County Council in 1894 and incorporated into the park, with the farm buildings demolished in 1908; 
- there was a children's playground in the grounds of Goldsmiths.
- there was a fireworks factory by Honor Oak Park Station.

The existence of this coloured street map with a grid pattern at this early date may surprize those who have heard the popular myth that no such London maps existed prior to Phyllis Pearsall's  London A-Z in the 1930s.


Anonymous said...

I live on Vicars Hill and my house was built in 1910 - assuming the pink edges to the roads indicate they have been built on it might be that this map is post 1910

Transpontine said...

Maybe, but perhaps construction of some houses on Vicars Hill started a little earlier than your's.

Another clue is that the map shows the school on Hilly Fields as West Kent Grammar School (now Prendergast). This closed in 1905 and re-opened as Brockley County Grammar School in 1907.

Anonymous said...

yes, I'm surprised there isn't a printers date on the map, or something like that - obviously not though - but I suppose it like google streetview, it's frozen in time and you can only wonder when it might be updated.

Dansk said...

i would say its a a bit later - i was born on maclean road (bottom of the map) - and they were 1930s.. not sure they would have built the roads and waited 40 years before building anything.

still great map - thanks!!

Transpontine said...

Not sure - the houses in Maclean Road (then Maclean Street) do look 1930s, but compare with 1917 Kelly's Map where Maclean Street is also shown. Also on that map, St Asaph Road is shown, which again suggests my map predates 1917.

Transpontine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to agree with the 'around the turn of the century' - although what's shown on maps can be inaccurate (as the following shows)

This map shows -

"Southwark Water Works" - the Metropolitan Water Board was formed in 1903

"Board of Works" depot on Greenwich Road - the LCC was formed 1889

The St Olaves Union (later Bermondsey) workhouse off Ladywell Lane (not to be confused with the one that's now Lewisham Hospital) was built from 1897 and opened in 1900

The site that became New Cross Tram depot (now New Cross bus garage) appears vacant - this was built c. 1905

South of there, the extension of Arbuthnot Road from Peyps Road to Jerningham Road is not shown as existing on an 1896 OS map.

My 1911 Stanfords 'indexed atlas of the County of London' (which also uses a grid system) shows the area to the south west of Brockley Station as developed (the triangle of roads of Asaph Road, Avignon Road, Arica Road) - this map doesn't.

What's now the John Stainer primary school (then Mantle Road School) opened in 1884.

Unknown said...

The northern end of Ivydale Road wasn't completed until the late 1890s. It's also nearly identical to the Booth map dated 1898-99 on my wall

Alan Burkitt-Gray said...

You're assuming that everything on a map can be updated at once. Engraved maps were huge challenges to keep up to date, and I'd suggest that some of the older features and names were just left as they were, while newer features were added where possible.

I also have a number of highly detailed London maps from that era -- I think the story about the founder of A-Z just used great PR that everyone still believes 80 years later.

Transpontine said...

Yes of course you're right Alan, the map is not the territory and this discussion only highlights how we should treat maps as historical data with some caution. I guess that for commercial maps like this people would often take existing (out of date) maps and then add a few bits on rather than starting from scratch.

Alan Burkitt-Gray said...

Engraving a map was an expensive and time-consuming occupation. The only practical way before modern technology to update a map was to make changes to the engraving, which would have been on metal -- copper or zinc, mainly, I think. That would have meant flattening out some of the old grooves (which held the ink that would have transferred to the paper) and cutting new ones. So someone would have had to decide how much was economic to change.
Rachel Hewitt gives an excellent account of it all in her history of the Ordnance Survey:

On Pearsall, the Guardian trotted out the old myth yesterday so I wrote them a letter, which appears today:

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was H H Watson, Grocer, at 112 Brockley Rise, and lived round the corner at 3, Stillness Rd with his wife, 2 sisters, and 3 daughters. They were certainly there in 1934 (I have the photo!) and left in 1954. Anyone know anything?