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.

The Three Blackbirds

Public houses are often the oldest surviving buildings. Someone recalling a walk from Danson Road to Avery Hill in 1913 said, “we walked along the Blackfen Road, which seemed to be in the heart of the country. There were fields on each side of the road where sheep were grazing and on the left we could see the countryside for quite a distance. Apart from a few small cottages, the only buildings we passed were two public houses, The Three Blackbirds and The Woodman”.

The Three Blackbirds was licensed as far back as 1717 (says Jim Packer in his book, Bexley Pubs) but was virtually rebuilt after a fire in the 1890s and has had later extensions.

The bus is going from Bexley to Piccadilly Circus. This route was not meant for local journeys but for excursions for Londoners into the countryside.

Three Blackbirds 1900

The Kingfisher at The Jolly Fenman

On 6 March 1957 a new pub opened in Blackfen: The Jolly Fenman. It had three bars: the Kingfisher Lounge, the Saloon Bar and the Public Bar. On the walls were paintings of geese and ducks as well as a specially commissioned painting ‘The Kingfisher’ by Edward Ward, RA. (I wonder what happened to that painting?). There had been a competition to name the new pub, and the winner was Mr Robert Tidy of Curran Avenue who got a £25 prize and the honour of drawing the first pint of beer.

A few days after the anniversary of the opening of the pub, thanks to a great find at the Animal Protection charity shop in Blackfen, I became the proud owner of a framed 1977 price list from the Jolly Fenman. A pint of bitter would set you back 32 pence, and a bottle of Babycham 23 pence. That day, 10 March, would have been my dad’s birthday, so I was thinking of him stood looking at this price list which was hanging in the pub! I would love to know where it has been residing for the last few years and why it has suddenly surfaced.

The Woodman, 1845-1931

The original Woodman Public House was built by George Staples, a publican and wood merchant, in 1845. At that time there were only nine families living in the hamlet of Blackfen, so he must have been catering for the passing trade on the road from Eltham to Bexley. After his death in 1859 his wife and son took over the running of the pub. There was a tradition that Charles Peace, a notorious burglar around southern London, frequented The Woodman and treated all the customers to a drink. (He was put on trial and executed in 1879).

From 1914 the landlord was John Alfred Harvey, a retired slaughterman who was known for keeping a pet goose. By 1930 it was clear that the old pub no longer met the requirements of the district – farmland was being sold off and hundreds of houses were being built. The new Woodman Inn was built in 1931, erected behind the old one so that business could continue – this explains why the present pub is at an angle facing the crossroads.

Listed buildings of Blackfen

LOCAL LIST

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).

STATUTORY LIST

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!

 

Smartening up nicely

At 10am on Saturday 22 April a group of volunteers met to paint the railings and weed the pavement along Woodman Parade in Westwood Lane, Blackfen. We were joined by Rt Hon. James Brokenshire, MP and Councillors Louie French, Cafer Munur and Lynn Smith. Despite the rain (how unlucky!) we carried on and it has made such a difference in just a couple of hours.

Thank you to Raw Hair Salon for the tea/coffee and biscuits! We will return soon to continue the job.

And happy 2nd birthday to The Broken Drum!

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Happy New Year 2017

2016 saw quite a few changes in Blackfen, some good and some bad. But let’s look on the bright side and hope that 2017 will see lots more good things!

Bexley Council removed Blackfen Library from its core library service. The library is now managed by New Community Church. It still has a range of groups and activities, plus a community cafe.

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Blackfen lost both of its banks: Barclays Bank at the corner of Wellington Avenue and Lloyds Bank in Gloucester Parade. Customers now have to travel to other town centres or use online banking, and it means there are two large empty premises in central Blackfen.

The good news is that a range of new shops have opened: Costa coffee shop and The Bagel Shop have added a different dimension to the cafés in Blackfen. The Beauty Lounge and The Little Gym might help with your New Year Resolutions. Posh Paws dog grooming parlour and Affix Windows may well bring in customers from further afield as well as from the local area. And opening soon is an indoor play centre and cafeteria.

Blackfen’s micro pub, The Broken Drum, celebrated its first year anniversary. Long may it continue!

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The Broken Drum: 1st anniversary

On 17 April 2015 a new micropub opened in Blackfen, The Broken Drum. One year on, and 16,000 pints later, the Broken Drum celebrates its first anniversary. The landlord has praised the sense of community from the regulars and hosted a weekend of celebrations.

Andy Wheeler told the Bexley Times, “We’ve offered 200 different ales, I don’t have one constant beer, I’m always changing, looking for local and national beers.”

Mr Wheeler explained the appeal for micropub regulars. He said: “It’s a breakaway from the noise of pubs or the restaurant-type pubs that just have a bar to drink at. We don’t sell lager, we don’t sell spirits and we don’t play loud music. People come in, enjoy a chat with each other and talk to people they don’t know. People can come in, chat and make friends, we have run three quiz nights and raised around £1,000 for the British Heart Foundation. We also donate to the Alzheimer’s Society, as the pub is named after a pub in Terry Pratchet’s Discworld book series. The author died from the disease last year.

Blackfen’s new micro pub, The Broken Drum, opens its doors

On 17 April 2015 at 5pm Blackfen’s new micro pub, The Broken Drum, opens its doors to customers. The property, formerly a nail salon, has been transformed into a tiny alehouse.

Broken Drum and Woodman Parade, 2015

Broken Drum and Woodman Parade, 2015

Father-of-three Andy Wheeler, a former computer programmer, told the News Shopper (23 March 2015) how he turned redundancy into the opportunity to pursue his dream of opening a micro pub. “I love my real ale and have been an active member of Bexley CAMRA for several years. So when I became redundant, opening my own micro pub became my next life challenge.” It has taken just over a year for Andy to find the premises, get the correct licences and planning permission and refurbish the former shop. The pub is named after the tavern in the Discworld series of books by the recently deceased author Terry Pratchett.

The Broken Drum is the Bexley borough’s third micro pub and follows the success of The Door Hinge in Welling and The Penny Farthing in Crayford.

Andy told the News Shopper: “I now hope to promote locals to relax and converse in a friendly atmosphere with good ale to drink. The premise behind micro pubs is that they sell mainly real ale, a little wine and cider, but no spirits and no lager. They encourage conversation and shun electronic games, TV, music and mobile phones. I’m hoping to sell pub snacks and the like.

Opening hours and ale lists can be found at www.thebrokendrum.co.uk.

Broken Drum almost ready to be opened in April 2015

Broken Drum almost ready to be opened in April 2015

 

Andy Wheeler with cake to celebrate the grand opening

Andy Wheeler with cake to celebrate the grand opening