George William Staples

Blackfen’s oldest pub is re-opening on Thursday after a refurbishment. But who was George Staples (the pub name since 2008)? George William Staples was born in Knockholt, Kent in 1791. In 1814 he married Jane Maria Godsave and they had three children. George worked as an inn keeper and a wood dealer. He rented woodland in Bexley and was the landlord of the Blue Anchor pub in Bridgen 1838-1841.

In 1838 George Staples bought a cottage on the north side of Blackfen Road which he rented out. In 1845 he built the Woodman Inn (naming it after his occupation) and he lived there with his wife, a domestic servant and two lodgers. He also built more cottages alongside the pub which were rented out, providing an income for his family.

George Staples died on 24 January 1859. His widow Jane and their son William continued to run the Woodman for some years afterwards. Their son Michael ran the Tower Inn (later the Railway Tavern) in Bexley village.

In 1931 the Woodman Inn was rebuilt to serve the large number of new residents who had just moved to the area.

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Lamorbey House

The history of the Lamorbey Estate is closely intertwined with the history of Blackfen.

In 1608 the Goldwell family’s Lamorbey estate included a 54 acre farm at Blackfen. This later got passed around as fortunes rose and fell. In the 18th century landowners bought up parcels of land to convey their wealth, political power and social status. William Steele enhanced his Lamorbey estate by buying up land in Blackfen in 1745. But it worked both ways: when Robert Owen Jones died and his Blackfen home was put up for auction in 1861 a key selling point was the fact that the property adjoined big estates like Lamorbey and Danson. Estate agents were at work even then!

And when Blackfen’s Church of the Good Shepherd was built in 1967 it was Lt-Col G. I. Malcolm of Poltalloch (a descendant of the Malcolms of Lamorbey) who laid the foundation stone.

The Grade II listed Lamorbey House (now the home of Rose Bruford College) is open to visitors as part of Open House next Saturday 22 September 10am-3pm. https://www.bruford.ac.uk/news-events/events/lamorbey-house-part-of-open-house-london/

Lamorbey_House

 

The Parish Workhouse

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This building in Bexley village was once the parish workhouse. The Pickett family of Blackfen ended up here in 1835, most likely because James Pickett could not find work. Esther Pickett made a complaint to the authorities about repeated harsh treatment towards her six children. She was summoned to give evidence but the officers, including the vicar of Bexley, did not believe her and he had ‘great pleasure in reporting… that she deserved the severest reprehension’. Years later the vicar reported that the Master of the Workhouse had been dismissed from other jobs for ‘great cruelty’. His wife was sacked from Dartford Workhouse for drunkenness and ill-treatment of children. The vicar admitted that the Pickett case had been a whitewash.

James Pickett died in 1841 leaving behind a family with no source of income. Blackfen was not an easy place to survive if you were poor. Esther later moved to Bexleyheath to be with family who lived there.

Blackfen in 1822

While carrying out my New Year’s Resolution of having a bit of a tidy up/clear out, I was looking over my Blackfen research papers (I have boxes and boxes of them…), and I came across a copy of the Survey and Valuation of all the Rateable Property in the Borough of Bexley taken on 11 April 1822. It provides a fascinating snapshot of the Bexley area at that time.

Blackfen at that time was just a tiny hamlet. Its inhabitants consisted of:

BLACK FENN

James Townsend: house, garden and orchard (owned by James Townsend)

Edmund Newsted: house, garden and orchard (owned by James Townsend)

Thomas Tyler: farm house, barn, yard, stables, garden, orchard, arable and meadow land (owned by Lord Sidney)

Robert Ingram: farm house, yard, barns, stable, garden, arable and meadow land (owned by Messrs Day)

Thomas Warde: house and garden (owned by John Johnston, Esq.)

William Smith: house and garden (owned by John Johnston, Esq.)

Staples: house and garden (owned by John Johnston, Esq.)

Newsted: house and garden (owned by John Johnston, Esq.)

Foster: house and garden (owned by John Johnston, Esq.)

Near Black Fenn, on Danson land, were the Whale family living in a cottage with stable and garden. This fascinated me at the time because whale jaw bones had been discovered when Westwood Lane was made up in the 1930s. I had no idea what whale jaw bones were doing there and wondered if it was anything to do with this family named Whale!