Yesterday I visited the ‘Slavery, culture and collecting’ exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands which investigates the relationship between European culture and transatlantic slavery. It’s an uncomfortable truth that many ‘philanthropists’ commemorated for their associations with charitable causes generated their wealth from slavery.
And Blackfen is directly affected by this. Danson House was the lavish country home of Sir John Boyd who owned sugar plantations on St Kitts. He acquired the freehold of Danson Hill in 1759, had a new Palladian villa built and set about greedily acquiring parcels of land to enlarge his estate to display his wealth and social status – this took the boundary up as far as Westwood Lane and south of Blackfen Road, including the cottage which became the ‘Chapel House’. He travelled abroad, purchasing works of art for his villa. In later life he focused ‘on religious subjects and good deeds and administering local charities’.
Neill Malcolm inherited the Malcolm family fortune made in Jamaican sugar plantations and through marriage inherited Lamorbey House (now Rose Bruford College) in 1812. He extended Lamorbey’s estate by buying up surrounding parcels of land. The Malcolm family went on to endow the chapel at Holy Trinity, provided land for a new vicarage, supported the church school in Hurst Road, established another school in Burnt Oak Lane and built cottages for workmen. Although the family moved away from the area, it was Lt-Col G. I. Malcolm of Poltalloch, a descendant of the Malcolms of Lamorbey, who laid the foundation stone for the Church of the Good Shepherd in Blackfen Road in 1967.
Changes have been made to the management of Danson House. Bexley Council has taken over responsibility for Danson House from the Bexley Heritage Trust. According the Council website it will re-open spring/summer 2016 but it looks likely it won’t be open for as many days of the week as it used to be. Not sure where that leaves the tea room! It is proposed that the Borough’s civil ceremonies and registrations will be held at Danson House from September 2016 instead of at Sidcup Manor House.
Danson was opened as a public park in 1925 and was a popular place for meeting up with friends and family. There was an aviary containing birds near the Mansion, a boating lake, miniature railway and deck chairs for hire. A swimming pool opened on 25 July 1936, located on the southern edge of the park. There was a large rectangular main pool with an ornamental fountain, a paddling pool for children and a beginners’ pool. There was a cafe selling pots of tea and on hot summer days it was wise to get there early to avoid disappointment as queues would run all down the road.
Danson Pool 1936
Danson Pool 1950
Although the pool was much enjoyed by locals, the water was freezing cold, it was starting to decay and there were limited car parking facilities. A new indoor (heated!) pool was built at Crook Log (on the north side of Danson Park) and the Danson pool closed in 1979. It was demolished in the 1980s and grassed over.
Surprisingly, there are still some tiny remnants of the pool left in the park today. The location of the pool is on a high ridge to the south of the boating lake, near a park gate on the East Rochester Way.
Below are Google Earth images of the pool in 1960 and its location in 2014. (Click on the images to enlarge).
Some of the walls and wire railings are hidden in copses of trees.
Southern wall of Danson Pool in copse of trees, 2014. A road sign on the A2 (East Rochester Way) can be seen behind.