Blackfen School of Music, Dance and Elocution

Here is Woodlands Parade in Blackfen Road in 1934 (Sycamore Avenue can just be seen on the left). The house just past the shops had been a private school since 1928, where Mr and Mrs Ashdown ran The Blackfen School of Music, Dancing and Elocution. As well as normal school lessons, there were dancing lessons on Saturday mornings and typing lessons in the evenings. The school was very successful, with regular displays and competitions. Apparently for boys it was THE place to go on Friday nights if you wanted to meet a girl!

Woodlands Post Office 1934

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!

Sir Charles Martel visits Sir William Pryn

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!

 

James Lee of Strawberry Gardens

It’s difficult to imagine these days, but in the 1880s there were just fields here at what is now the junction of Westwood Lane/Blackfen Road. James Lee, a market gardener and florist kept ‘Strawberry Gardens’ here, and he lived in a rather run-down cottage with his wife Elizabeth. At that time it was still part of the Danson Estate. But the soil was heavy and three years of wet weather led to bad crops… and when his wife died he started to get behind on his rent – it was his wife who had kept the accounts. In April 1906 he went bankrupt, and Strawberry Gardens was taken over by Walter Cook.

Westwood Lane_Blackfen Rd 2018

Remember the burst water pipe in 2004?

In March 2004 a burst water pipe in Blackfen Road caused the flooding
of one hundred homes. Water levels rose to more than four feet and
people were forced to retreat upstairs, trying to lift their valuables above
the water. The most serious flooding was in Penshurst Avenue and Maple Crescent. Stranded residents were rescued by police dinghy and the Salvation Army dispensed hot drinks while Thames Water dealt with the emergency. Local schools were shut and Blackfen Road was closed for resurfacing, affecting business for shops. Some families had to be housed in hotels while their homes were repaired.

The incident was reported in the Evening Standard: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/sidcup-runneth-over-6946186.html

and BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/3505588.stm

Penshurst_burst water main_2004

Bankruptcy in 1819

On 16 March 1819 the London Gazette announced the bankruptcy of Richard and Robert Day. Their father, Richard Day, had purchased Blackfen Farm in the 1790s and rented it to the farmer, John Solomon, for £200 per year. But in 1819 the brothers, who were also co-partners in a seed-crusher and oil-broker business, got into financial trouble and the farm was put up for auction. The four-bedroom farmhouse was in 134 acres of land which was ‘abundant with game’. The farm was located to the west of Days Lane. However, ‘Dayes Lane’ is referred to in the records as early as 1681, long before the Day family’s association with Blackfen.

Recreation halls

There were once quite a few purpose-built recreation halls in Blackfen. With all the in-coming residents in the 1930s making a new life for themselves, organisations and clubs would hold their meetings in them. The Queenswood Hall (pictured here, next to the Co-op car park) was built in 1938 and used for dance classes and snooker. Later it became the home of the Queenswood Club, run by Mrs March, and hosted boxing matches. For a time it was a printer’s premises and is now occupied by a window company.

There were also halls above the RACS Stores (now Katie’s Playpen), behind Woodlands House (now Fenways Car Sales), the Lamorbey Labour Hall (now demolished for housing in Foxglove Close), and the Pop-in-Parlour in Sycamore Avenue.

IMG_2574

The Parish Workhouse

001

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.

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.

A long way to go to church

Until the late 19th century Blackfen was in the parish of St Mary the Virgin, Bexley (pictured here). Those who lived in Blackfen had to travel (most likely on foot) to Bexley village for baptisms, marriages and funerals and to attend services if they wished. That’s quite a hike!

The parish records show that on 4 April 1638 John Philips de Blackfen was buried at St Mary’s Bexley.

It was only when Holy Trinity Lamorbey was built in 1880 that people didn’t have to travel quite so far to get to church. Meanwhile, the north side of Blackfen became part of the parish of Christ Church, Bexleyheath.

St Mary's Church Bexley 1910