By kind permission of John King, Author
At the outbreak of the war in 1914, Grove Park was still a young community. It had started some forty years earlier following the opening of Grove Park station in 1871. From a small number of villa-type houses in Baring Road (then known as Bromley Road) and Chinbrook Road, the district expanded slowly. After the 1890s, the houses built tended to be more modest, although most of them were still aimed towards the middle classes. From 1883 the community was served by a Methodist Church in Burnt Ash Hill and from 1886 an Anglican Church, St Augustine’s in Baring Road. There was also a cluster of shops surrounding the station and a hostelry, the Baring Hall Hotel. The district was very select and, not surprisingly, there was some opposition in the 1890s to the building of a workhouse for Greenwich; but it was built.
In 1914 Grove Park was still growing. Its centre was, of course, the railway station which, a few years earlier, had been enlarged to permit the doubling of the main line to the coast. H C Trigg, the Station Master, lived in a house adjoining the station yard.
The train service was operated by steam locomotives at approximately half-hourly intervals with a scheduled time of 18 to 20 minutes to London Bridge. A coal distribution business was operated by George Hind froma wharf at the station. Adjoining the station frontage onto Baring Road in what was known as Grove Park Terrace, was the estate office of Charles Durbin, the drapers Vincent & Radford and newsagent/tobacconist John Dowden. Adjoining the station on the north side, but with the frontage on Chinbrook Road, was Grove Park House where the former Superintendent of the Line of the South Eastern & Chatham Railway Company, William Thomson, resided.
Facing the station was the Baring Hall Hotel which was adjoined by the baker Bert Ewens, the dairy shop of Edwards & Sons and the Sub-Post Office under George Jordan. The post was collected eleven times a day between 08 20 and 23 50; post boxes were also situated in Chinbrook Road and Somertrees Avenue. Next to the post office came the grocer H W Ford, greengrocer Caleb Hawes and the office of local builder Albert Durbin (he was the father of Charles whose office was nearly opposite).
The houses stretched from the shops southwards towards, but not reaching, the boundary with Bromley. In Chinbrook Road houses lined both sides of the road. Amblecote Road, a turning off Chinbrook Road, was still being developed and some of the newer houses were still vacant. Luffman Road (then Fairfield Road) was still only partly developed and among its residents were local builders Edward Wooton and Thomas Backhouse. To the north side of the station, there were a number of big houses on both sides of Baring Road, but they were not continuous and stopped on the brow of the hill as if to suggest that the communities of Grove Park and St Mildred’s did not want to meet yet. There were still fields in Baring Road and these were used to graze the cattle of Edwards & Sons who controlled Burnt Ash Farm at the northern end of Baring Road and Thomas Clark whose Butterfield Dairy, also in the adjoining parish of St Mildred’s, lay nearby in the street of that name that was later to be renamed Waite Davies Road.
Marvels Lane had not been developed for residential purposes in the same way. Apart from the group of several dwellings called Sydenham Cottages and the fewer Claypit Cottages on the other side of the road, there were none of the villa-style houses. A major departure had been the flats opposite the Workhouse.
Rather ugly, by 1914 they were still not all occupied. There were also some shops in Marvels Lane opposite Sydenham Cottages. There were two farms in Marvels Lane, Durham Farm and Hope Farm Dairy, the latter being quite small. There was also Somertrees Avenue with big houses and parallel to Baring Road.
The two communities were separated by fields which included those of Melrose Farm whose farmhouse stood (and still stands) in what later became Ashdale Road. There were, however, a small number of more modest houses adjoining the Methodist Church in Burnt Ash Hill. Of the two roads linking Baring Road and Burnt Ash Hill, Coopers Lane, although a long-established road, had only recently had houses built along it; several were still not occupied in 1914. Heather Road was also a recent development. The houses were modest in style but still aimed at the middle classes.
In 1914 the two churches, St Augustine’s in Baring Road and the Methodist in Burnt Ash HiII,were both very much at the centre of Grove Park life. Certainly the activities at St Augustine’s were flourishing and typical of a village with numerous committees and Societies. Some Grove Park people still went down the hill to St Mildred’s while the Baptists went to the South Lee Tabernacle.
There were also some educational institutions in Grove Park. The main school was Mayfair House, being basically a primary school and private, but there was also a small one under the guidance of Mrs Pamflett at Stokesby in Chinbrook Road, otherwise known as Sally Bugs. Probably not many of the children in Grove Park went down the hill to Baring Road to the London School Board school next to the Baptist Church and Burnt Ash Farm; it did not enjoy the best of reputations. For secondary education, many of the Grove Park children went down the hill to the private Modern High School in Burnt Ash Hill near the Crown public house but in the adjoining parish, to Quernmore at Sundridge Park, or to Eltham College in Mottingham. The latter community was similarly separated from its neighbour by fields either side of Grove Park Road which had not long been made up. The only other educational institution was St Michael’s in Baring Road, one of the original big houses and for some years a National Society Hostel for Church of England students. The students, thirty in number and all girls, were training at Goldsmith’s College, New Cross.
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