First Aid Post

In 1939 a First Aid Post was built on the triangular plot of land at the corner of Sherwood Park Avenue. Kent County Council had already planned to erect a Maternity and Welfare Clinic in the Blackfen area and so it was agreed that they could be permitted to use it as a clinic in Peace Time. Not far away a Cleansing Station and Ambulance Station was built at Willersley Park.

There were quite a few public shelters, including trenches underneath the gardens of The Oval for 316 people. I spoke to someone who remembered chasing his friends around the tunnels as a boy, but it seems no-one ever actually used them as a shelter during air raids. Like many shelters dug in the ‘Black Fen’, they frequently flooded!

British Legion, Blackfen and Lamorbey branch

On Remembrance Sundays the British Legion would hold a parade at the Woodman before marching to the Holy Redeemer Church for a service. The Blackfen and Lamorbey Branch of the British Legion was formed in April 1937 to stand for the interests of ex-servicemen and at its peak membership was over one thousand. The branch finally closed in 2001 when membership had fallen to sixteen. There is still a Royal British Legion cross at Holy Redeemer Church in memory of those who fell serving their country.

Public air raid shelters in Blackfen

During 1938/39 there was a real fear by the authorities that if war broke out, bombing raids would cause mass casualties. Trenches were dug in parks to protect the public if they were caught out in a raid and couldn’t get to their own shelters.

Trenches were dug at right angles to each other, with earth walls reinforced with sandbags and a corrugated iron roof covered with a layer of soil. The roof was raised about a foot above ground level. They were not particularly safe. A direct hit or even a nearby bomb would probably collapse the whole shelter. They were also very unpleasant – smelly, unsanitary and waterlogged.

By October 1939 there were public shelters built or planned at The Oval, Penhill Park, Marlborough Park, Holly Oak Park and Willersley Park. The shelter at The Oval was designed for 316 people, but it immediately flooded and extra drainage had to be constructed. However, it seems no-one ever actually used the shelter during air raids. In Blackfen, people tended to have gardens with Anderson shelters (or if not, Morrison shelters), so they were much less likely to have to use public shelters in parks, unlike in London where most people didn’t have gardens. And most shelters dug in the ‘Black Fen’ were never going to be much use as they were often flooded.

As always, vandalism was a problem. There was damage and thefts from trenches in Holly Oak Park on 5 and 6 February 1940. Tools were stolen by five boys who were caught and charged, appearing in court on 20 February.

Today there is no trace on the surface of the trenches at The Oval. The entrance, which would have been in between the two rectangle sections, was blocked up.Oval_google satellite 2018_shelter

Cllr John Cronin

John Cronin was one of many people who came to live in Blackfen in 1931. He had lived in Islington but rents there were rising dramatically. At that time there was no Bexley Labour Party group and Cronin became committed to establishing one. This was a time when the trade unions were growing in importance and many of the new residents had an interest in politics.

Cronin became councillor for the Falconwood Ward in 1937 and later for St Michael’s Welling. He worked hard to assist those in need – some people who moved to Blackfen had over-reached themselves and couldn’t afford rents, food or clothing. When Cronin became Mayor in 1947 he and his wife Ellen regularly had to attend ceremonies and dances but they couldn’t afford extravagant clothes and as Mayoress, Ellen held her ‘at home’ at Danson Mansion rather than at their bungalow.

During the Second World War Cllr Cronin’s home became a centre for the distribution of gas masks and his garage was used by teams of builders repairing house roofs to store their tools. As one of the few people in the area with a telephone, he placed it by an open window so people could stick their hand in and use it. He was an ARP Warden and his duties included enforcing blackouts, directing people to shelters when the sirens sounded, reporting bombings and helping with the aftermath of an air raid.

John Cronin died in 1986 aged 84.

ARP warden recruit

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!

 

Lt-Gen. Sir Giffard Martel, KCB, KBE, DSO, MC

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”.

NPG x83846; Sir Giffard Le Quesne Martel by Bassano

Lt-Gen. Sir Giffard Martel (from National Portrait Gallery)

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.

World War II: Remembering…

On 7 March I’ll be giving a talk to Lamorbey and Sidcup Local History Society about the effect of the two world wars on Blackfen and how the district changed dramatically in the inter-war period from a hamlet surrounded by fields to a busy residential district.

This is an opportunity to remember residents of Blackfen who lost their lives. During World War II there was significant bombing in the area.

Civilians killed in Blackfen by World War II bombing:

5 Feb. 1941: Thomas Reynolds, aged 37, council employee and fire-watcher, Blackfen Road

5 Feb. 1941: Cecil Vinten, aged 28, Blackfen Road

29 Jan. 1941: Norris Jenkins, 73, Blackfen Road

16 June 1944: Herbert Hipwell, 66, Ronaldstone Road

16 June 1944: Ernest Ingram, 67, Blackfen Road

22 Nov. 1944: Charlotte Pope, 70, Orchard Rise East

22 Nov. 1944: William Payne, 57 and his son, Private Ernest Payne, RAF, 21, Orchard Rise East

22 Nov. 1944: Grace Fagg, 34 and her daughters Jean, 13 and Doris, 11, Orchard Rise East

22 Nov. 1944: Jessie Bines, 72, Orchard Rise East

8 Feb. 1945: Mrs Maud McDonald, 41 and her daughter, Beryl, 12, Berwick Crescent

8 Feb. 1945: Mrs Eliza Deamer, 38 and her son Eric, 13, and daughter Iris, 6, Berwick Crescent

8 Feb. 1945: Mrs Frances Havers, 79, and her daughter Mrs Alice Martin, 49, Berwick Crescent

8 Feb. 1945: Roland Foster, 9, Days Lane

Residents of Blackfen killed on active service during World War II:

Sergt Pilot Cyril William Henry Smith, RAF, son of Frederick and Nellie Smith of Raeburn Road, killed on 4 August 1941, aged 23, when the Spitfire he was flying crashed in Dorset. He is buried in Eltham Cemetery.

Leading Seaman Ernest Henry Regnier of HMS Harvester, son of Louis Alphonso Simon and Marie Regnier of Wellington Avenue, died at sea on 11 March 1942 aged 25. (Remembered on the Sidcup War Memorial).

Flight Sergeant Robert Edward Doddington of 203 Squadron, RAF Volunteer Reserve, son of Mr and Mrs James Robert Doddington of Raeburn Road, died in Egypt on 5 October 1943 aged 23. (Remembered on the Sidcup War Memorial).

 

poster-2017-3