James Lee of Strawberry Gardens

It’s difficult to imagine these days, but in the 1880s there were just fields here at what is now the junction of Westwood Lane/Blackfen Road. James Lee, a market gardener and florist kept ‘Strawberry Gardens’ here, and he lived in a rather run-down cottage with his wife Elizabeth. At that time it was still part of the Danson Estate. But the soil was heavy and three years of wet weather led to bad crops… and when his wife died he started to get behind on his rent – it was his wife who had kept the accounts. In April 1906 he went bankrupt, and Strawberry Gardens was taken over by Walter Cook.

Westwood Lane_Blackfen Rd 2018
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Strawberries

Strawberries

Blackfen homegrown strawberries! Does anyone else grow strawberries in their garden? Blackfen has a tradition of growing them. James Lee grew them at ‘Strawberry Gardens’ (where Gwillim Close is now) until he went bankrupt in 1906 after bad crops due to 3 years of wet weather. Blackfen Farm also had a strawberry field where RACS Stores (now Katie’s Playpen, a chemist and off-licence) was later built, and according to the farmer’s granddaughter, they were the juiciest she’d ever eaten.

Former RACS Stores which opened in 1931. Before that, the site of the strawberry field at Blackfen Farm

Former RACS Stores which opened in 1931. Before that, the site of the strawberry field at Blackfen Farm