Look familiar? These roads are actually in Carshalton, Surrey. This estate was built by Charles Richard Leech who was also a linoleum maker. He had designed a floor-covering which was of improved quality and cheaper to manufacture than before, and his success meant that he could buy up large areas of land for redevelopment in the early 1930s. In Blackfen he built hundreds of houses on what had been Westwood Farm, Heaslip’s Farm and Queenswood and he also built houses in Old Farm Avenue, Sidcup and the Kingswood Estate in Swanley.
Leech’s 1930s houses and bungalows are still serving us well in Blackfen – although many have been extended and altered, but I would think the original lino flooring in the houses he built is long gone!
On this day, 15 April, in 1930 Brig.-Gen. Sir Charles Martel, CB and his wife Lilian, of Queenswood, Blackfen visited the home of Surgeon Rear Admiral Sir William Pryn of 3 Christchurch Road, Sidcup. Martel signed Pryn’s visitors’ book and indicated that the day on which the Martels were themselves ‘at home’ to visitors was Saturday.
In the early 1900s our area was a popular place to live for retired military families. I am always fascinated by the networking and friendships between them!
‘Gwillim Close’ is named after Thomas Walter Gwillim. He had been a newsagent in Woolwich but when his father died he had money to buy some land in Blackfen. In 1927 he wanted to build a huge development of houses on the north side of Blackfen Road but planning permission was denied because of access and drainage issues.
Instead he built a row of just seven houses in Blackfen Road approximately where the east part of Wellington Parade is now. He moved into one which he called Gwenlliant (after his sister), and this is the only one which survives, incorporated into the 1930s Wellington Parade. Its roof can be seen above the shop roof line.
For some years a dilapidated ‘haunted house’ remained where children would explore and scare each other! Gwillim’s land was later sold off but he is remembered in the road name ‘Gwillim Close’.
A locally listed heritage asset is a building or structure which is deemed to be of local architectural or historic interest and is included on the local heritage list drawn up by Bexley Council. There are several in Blackfen, and a few just outside which are so close it seemed a shame to omit them here. They make a positive contribution to the area’s local character and sense of place, and they are offered some level of protection by the local planning authority.
177-179 Blackfen Road (corner of Burleigh Avenue). Known as Westwood Cottages, or Maxwell’s Cottages, they were built in 1890 to house workers on Westwood Farm. A footpath led to the farmhouse which was at the site now occupied by the children’s playground at The Green.
George Staples pub, 271 Blackfen Road (formerly The Woodman). Built in 1931 by the architect, Kenneth Dalgliesh, it replaced an earlier pub on the site.
Edward VIII pillar box, Tyrrell Avenue. Only a small number of letter boxes were made during the short reign of Edward VIII in 1936 and after his abdication, most boxes bearing his cypher were modified or replaced. So a surviving one is a rare sight.
ARP warden’s shelter, Wellington Avenue, near The Oval. Used during the Second World War as part of a network of shelters for ARP wardens.
The Three Blackbirds pub, 118 Blendon Road. Licensed as far back as 1717, it was rebuilt after being gutted by a fire around 1900.
Blendon Lodge, 167 Blendon Road. The West Lodge, built in 1855/56 stands at the corner of Blendon Road and The Drive. It had four rooms and a garden and housed various staff of Blendon Hall which was demolished in 1934. (The East Lodge, built at the same time as the West Lodge, was at the corner of today’s Beechway and was demolished in the 1930s).
Listing of a building or structure on the national Statutory List marks and celebrates a building’s special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system, so that it can be protected for future generations.
The Chapel House, 497 Blackfen Road – Grade II listed. Decoration giving the impression of a ‘chapel’ was added to the cottage when John Boyd of Danson acquired the parcel of land on which it was sited.
Jay’s Cottages, 1, 2, and 2a Blendon Road – Grade II listed. Jay’s Cottages, originally known as Blendon Villas, have stood in Blendon Road since the early 18th century to house workers on the Blendon Hall estate. They still have a lack of rear windows which was intended to stop the inhabitants gazing over the grounds of the Hall and invading the privacy of the Hall’s wealthy residents!
On 18 March I’ll be giving a talk at Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre on ‘Who’s Who of Bexley’.
Of course I will be including some of the names from Blackfen who have been in Who’s Who.
Sir Vesey Holt, KBE, banker, lived at Queenswood, Blackfen from 1868 and later lived at Mount Mascal in North Cray. There is also Brig.-Gen. Sir Charles Martel and his son Lt-Gen. Sir Giffard Martel who both lived at Queenswood, Blackfen from 1910. Mike Rann lived in Blackfen as a child but emigrated to New Zealand and was Ambassador of Australia to the UK 2012-14. Audrey Slaughter lived in Blackfen as a child and became a writer and magazine editor. George Wallace, MP, later Lord Wallace of Coslany lived in Blackfen and it was his intervention that saved Queen Mary’s Hospital from closure in 1948. And Rev. David Silk who started his career in Blackfen went on to become Bishop of Ballarat in Australia.
To book a ticket and for more information about events at Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre, see http://www.bexley.gov.uk/archiveevents.
Giffard Le Quesne Martel, born in 1889, lived at Queenswood House, Blackfen after his family moved there in 1910. After attending the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers. He served in France from 1914 and took an active interest in the development of tanks. After the war he lived in Camberley, Surrey and he built a workshop in his garden where he built a prototype one-man tank which others later developed into the British light tank and machine-gun carrier. He also served in the Second World War in France, India, Burma and Moscow. He was described as “a remarkable officer and constitutionally fearless… a natural bruiser… with a deep hoarse laugh”.
It was when he was back in London in 1944 that he lost an eye in the bombing of the Army and Navy Club. He died in 1958: he was found dead, shot in the head, with the shotgun near the body.
His parents, Brig.-Gen. Sir Charles Martel and Lilian Martel, lived at Queenswood until 1931, when the estate was sold to the housing developer, C. R. Leech.