Dartmouth Road

0. As a road created c.1812 by the Lewisham Enclosure commissioners, more or less on the line of a track across Sydenham Common. 1843 map shows limited development of first 30 years. Road split very early into 3 parts: at the south end small cottages that became shops and were soon known as Sydenham High Street; at the north end Dartmouth Place, cottages that mostly also became shops & were sometimes called Forest Hill High Street; between them fields in which large houses were gradually built.

1. View from Kirkdale shows little cottage shops of the High Street, many still standing. The drinking fountain at the junction removed in 1950s.

2. 172, 170, etc in 1992, cottages probably of 1820s. The two cottages behind the shopfronts survive, but all beyond has recently been demolished & replaced by housing.

3. 245, 243, etc in 1989, also probably 1820s cottages, still surviving.

4. Cottages of the same kind continued to the Bricklayer’s Arms, but the further ones were bombed & have been replaced by the Dartmouth Service Station. One of them was George Jacob’s bakery (here c.1910) which was at 88 High St, later 211 Dartmouth Rd

5. Almost opposite was another lost shop, the British Boy Laundry, seen here decorated for Silver Jubilee of May 1935. This was also bombed & the site is now occupied by Forest Hill Court.

6. There have been 3 Bricklayer’s Arms. The pub was founded as a beershop in 1834 or a little earlier by James Munro, presumably a bricklayer, in a cottage no doubt very like the surviving ones nearby. This early 1920s photo shows the second building, perhaps c.1860 from the style.

7. That was replaced by the present pub in 1924. The brewers who had it rebuilt were Young’s, so it is probably not a coincidence that the architects were Young & Hall of Bloomsbury.

8. The old Sydenham Police Station is probably seen here during the Boer War, as the poster outside is calling for Army recruits. The station was built in 1848 and demolished in 1966.

9. The police station was next to the surviving York Villas (165-175) seen her in 1989. They were built in 1843, one of the first fruits of the transformation of the Croydon Canal reservoir into Sydenham Park. This was where the first section of Dartmouth Road ended and the middle section, mostly of large houses, began.

10. Next to York Villas, which can be seen mistily on the right, stood the Sydenham Wesleyan Methodist Church. It was built in the early 1860s, bombed during the war, and demolished in the 1960s, after 15 years as a warehouse.

11. The Wesleyan Church stood opposite Sydenham School, seen here c.1930. It was built in 1916-17, replacing 4 large semis that stood well back, on the same building line as Courtside. The new school was nearly commandeered by the War Office, but the LCC managed to keep the soldiers out. There have been numerous extensions since 1917, facilitated by bomb damage.

12. Opposite the northern end of the school stand 149-151, a pair built between 1843 and 1849. They are seen here in 1992.

13. Beyond Sydenham School & Courtside (to be examined in a moment) we come to Round Hill, one of the earliest substantial developments on the Common. This is Round Hill Cottage, on the corner, which probably acted as a lodge to the large houses behind in Round Hill itself. The photo was taken in 1968.

14. Round Hill House was built in 1824 for Robert Harrild, a manufacturer of printing machines. It was about to become a social club when this photo was taken in the 1920s. The house was demolished in the 1960s.

15. Harrild speculated in house development. Among his creations were the attractive pair numbered 88-90, seen here in 1989. They were built c.1840, and were known originally as Roundhill Terrace.

16. This 1969 aerial view illustrates a number of features in this section of Dartmouth Road.
a. Sydenham School replaced 4 houses that stood here, on the same building line as Courtside.
b. Courtside consisted originally of two large detached houses of the 1850s, Round Hill Villa (the nearer) and Newark Lodge, which was occupied by one of Robert Harrild’s sons. In 1922 Ted Christmas (of whom more later) acquired the houses and converted them into flats, building further flats between and to either side of the them. This has all come to be called Courtside, though Christmas himself only gave the name to the southern part. The rest he called Round Hill Flats.
c. Round Hill House had been demolished about 5 years before this. It stood here. On its lawn stood a unique garden ornament, the Wren spire of St Antholin’s Church, Watling St. Robert Harrild had his factory in Distaff Lane nearby & was churchwarden of St Antholin’s when the spire was struck by lighting and had to be replaced. Harrild acquired the undamaged top of the Wren spire and set it up in his garden at Round Hill.
d. The most obscure and almost secretive of the 3 Dartmouth Road churches is the only one that survives. The Providence Strict Baptist Chapel, tucked away behind Roundhill Terrace, was founded in the Forrester’s Hall in Raglan Street (now Clyde Vale) in 1902, but moved to this unpretentious new building in 1923.
e. The Holy Trinity Schools were opened in 1874. The original buildings survive, with modern additions.

17. 107 & 109 (seen here in 1991) were built in 1841 or 1842. They were not part of the Sydenham Park reservoir development, but their size and style must have been influenced by the ambitious plans for Sydenham Park.

18. Field on west side beyond Thorpewood Avenue was glebe land awarded to Vicar of Lewisham in 1812. It might have been developed as housing, like the glebe at Lee, but became instead the site of public buildings. Forest Hill Library, Lewisham’s second publicly funded library and the first to be purpose built, was opened in 1901. The architect was Alexander Robert Hennell. This photo was taken in 1910 or earlier.

19. Louise House, the girls’ home belonging to the charity known as the Forest Hill Boys’ and Girls’ Industrial Home, was built in 1890-1. It had previously been in Rojack Road. The new home was named after Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, who laid the foundation stone. The architect was Thomas Aldwinckle, who lived in Dacres Road. He gave his services free. The date of the photo is c.1913.

20. This 1917 photo shows Louise House again on the left, and Forest Hill Baths on the right. The baths were built in 1884-5, and were also designed by Thomas Aldwinckle.

21. The Baths in 1901, draped in black for the death of Queen Victoria. Even the Lewisham Council minutes went into mourning, with a black border round each page.

22. This photo, taken just before the First World War, shows the point where the middle and northern sections of Dartmouth Road overlapped. On the right the gates in the foreground (of 107-109, seen earlier) mark the end of the domestic section and the beginning of the commercial. The shops between 107 and Clyde Vale were built in 1865. On the west side, after the interruption by the 3 public buildings, the large houses continued as far as Derby Hill.

23. Beyond Raglan Street (now Clyde Vale) began one of the oldest sections of Dartmouth Road, the irregular group of cottages known as Dartmouth Place or Dartmouth Row – but quite a contrast to Dartmouth Row at Blackheath - which occupied the rest of the east side, ending at the Dartmouth Arms. They began to be built almost as soon as the common was enclosed c.1812. The wooden cottages that ran north from Raglan Street (seen here c.1897) were among the earliest.

24. . This view of the shows the cottages more clearly, with their improvised shop extensions built over the front gardens. These were the old 79 to 63. The Temptation Warehouse at 67-69 was not offering any very sinful temptations: it sold chairs.

25. A third view of the wooden cottages, again in the 1890s. They were all rebuilt by Ted Christmas of no.55 (of whom more soon) from 1899.

26. Some of the new Christmas shops in 1913 or a little earlier.

27. And in 1927. On the left the front garden walls of the big houses on the west side.

28. And in 1963. Gemma di Roma was at 73, so the two shops beyond [CHECK} are on the site of the Temptation Warehouse.

29. A general view of the Ted Christmas rebuildings from the north, a photo taken from the corner of Derby Hill.

30. Because at this point the residential and commercial parts of Dartmouth Road overlapped, the 6 large houses north of the baths had a belt of trees to protect them from the noise and inquisitiveness of the bustling shopping street, and behind the trees this private road giving access to their front gates. It was destroyed when Salcombe House was built in 1967, 4 years after this photo was taken.

31. Beyond the 6 large houses replaced by Salcombe House were 3 more, extending to Derby Hill. The last two (originally a semi-detached pair) were converted into a single large dwelling in the 1880s by Louis Behrens, a German merchant. He called it Newfield House. This c.1895 picture still clearly shows the original 2 houses. It was replaced by Kingswear House c.1967.


33. Edward Charles Christmas, the son of a gardener, set himself up as a builder and decorator here at 55 Dartmouth Road in 1888. This was one of the original semi-detached Dartmouth Row cottages, which here were brick built, not wooden like the ones further south. Working steadily up Dartmouth Row Christmas got around to rebuilding his own shop in 1903.

34. For Christmas the chief attraction of the cottage was probably the ample space behind where he was able to set up various workshops. This was his first workshop, at the bottom of the garden, hard up against the two end houses of Clyde Terrace, seen in the 1890s.

35. As Christmas gradually rebuilt the cottages of Dartmouth Row as shops, he reduced the length of their gardens, and used the land at the bottom to build larger workshops. He needed these as his business and workforce grew considerably after 1900 when he began to work on his major development in and around Perry Vale. Here are the 100 men and boys of the Christmas firm in the yard behind the new 55 Dartmouth Road c.1905.

36. Beyond Derby Hill the west side of Dartmouth Road became commercial as well, but the first building was the Sydenham Baptist Church, seen here c.1905. It was the Sydenhan rather than Forest Hill Baptist Church because it was formed in Wells Park Road before moving here in 1857. The church was demolished in 1977 and replaced by Heron House. The building beyond the church was known as Derby House. The one beyond that was a solicitor’s house until it became the London, City, and Midland Bank c.1900.


38. William Hood and his son sold china and glass from 47 Dartmouth Road from the 1850s until 1911. When this photo was taken c.1905 the firm had taken over 45 as well. The two shops became the Forest Barn pub, later the Malt Shovel, in the early 1980s.

39. The Bird in Hand was founded in the late 1850s, probably by George Tye, one of a well-known Forest Hill family. This photo is c.1920.

40. The Bird in Hand appears again on the right of this photo, taking at some moment of patriotic demonstration during the First World War. Day’s Umbrella Shop was at no.31 from the mid 1880s.

41. Thomas Campion sold men’s and boys’ clothing at 27 from c.1890, and briefly also shoes at 29, before selling that business to Freeman, Hardy, & Willis. The shops with the ornate first floor windows, from 27 to the Dartmouth Arms, were built in 1864 on the former garden of the pub. This photo was taken c.1903.

42. Ten years later much the same scene on the right, except that the shoe shop had become a sweet shop, but on the right the major change that 18 & 20, formerly an ironmonger’s shop, had become a cinema. It was called the Picture Playhouse when opened in 1910, but was the Empire Picture Theatre from 1912 until it closed in 1914.




46. The Supply Co. was run by Arthur E. Rowed, portmanteau maker, when this photo was taken c.1910. The shop is now divided into two, as 10 & 10a, one offering acupuncture, the other costume hire.

47. The London & South Western Bank, one of the forerunners of Barclays, had its Forest Hill branch at 4 Dartmouth Road from the early 1870s until 1910, when a new Barclays Bank was built on the corner of London Road. The old bank still survives, greatly altered, as a shop.

48. The Dartmouth Arms was one of the first buildings to appear on the enclosed Sydenham Common, in 1815, and it immediately became one of the leading institutions of the new suburb, even giving its name for a time to the station. The pub was rebuilt in 1864, when the shops to the south were built over its garden. The architect of the pub and the shops was John Wilson Walters of 18 Adam Street, Adelphi. I doubt whether the Adam Brothers would have approved.


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