Maze Hill Traumas
“In a story far too long, boring and unpleasant to recount, my sewer’s collapsed and I’ve had to get a man (many men, actually) in. But coincidentally the collapse has raised a few questions about a plot of land next to the house, which the sewer runs through, and which apparently was bombed in the war. I was wondering whether you or any of your ghoulish friends might know about it.
I live in the area between Vanbrugh Hill and Maze Hill. If you look on a
map of it today or go down there it’s a mix of Victorian terraces and 1970s
built former council homes. Tyler Street and Walnut Tree Road both seem to have been cut in two by a mini-council estate, and in the middle is an open green area and a bunch of ugly garages. Somewhere in here is my problematic sewer.
My neighbour (who’s lived here years) told me that in the days of yore
Walnut and Tyler both crossed the area, only a bomb presumably intended for the docks on the Isle of Dogs dropped on it and wiped the intersection out. The crater got filled in and in the 1970s the council built new houses on it.
What I was wondering is if there really was a bomb, because I’ve not seen
any other signs of craters in Greenwich, why it was dropped here and what
the area used to look like – was anybody killed?”
The Phantom replies:
Susie – your neighbour’s dead on the money. Greenwich was bombed to buggery in the war. The Luftwaffe were generally after disrupting communications as much as possible – so they were aiming for docks (of which we had several) roads (check) railways (check) and, erm, military establishments (check.) We were also the ‘wrong’ side of London – so even if the nazis weren’t bothered with dropping anything on us per se, if they had anything left after bombing other places, they didn’t want to have to take them home with them, so they just dumped them on us anyway.
Why don’t we see more craters? Because they’ve been filled in – mainly with housing. Think of all the roads in Greenwich which have Victorian or even Georgian housing along them and all of a sudden, a modern, post-war block of flats in the middle. Voila.
By the way, they got rid of all the rubble from bombed houses by dumping it in the hills and hollows of Blackheath – which is why it’s flat as a pancake now instead of more like the little bit left at the top of Maze Hill all over.
But on to your particular neck of the woods, Susie. Yes – indeedy – there was a bomb at Maze Hill. There is a ‘bomb map’ that was created by the London County Council that I keep meaning to track down and actually purchase, but for now, unless they’ve taken it down in the past few weeks (which I doubt very much) there is a copy of the Greenwich part of it halfway up the stairs at Waterstones.
However – it was not a bomb that destroyed what was there before the garages.
When I started writing this post, I vaguely remembered a photo of damage from said bomb in David Ramzan’s Greenwich Centre of the World, (a very nicely written, mainly-photo volume) but when I pulled the book off the shelf and looked it up it was actually a double-page photo of a grisly train crash at the station. It would be worth getting a copy – or at least looking at in the library to see what was there before the ghastly garages.
But this crash was in 1958 – long after the war. If you look at the picture, you’ll see that Maze Hill was still a pretty damn big station in the 50s, with several lines and even sidings. Judging from the age of the ‘new’ buildings round there now, I would guess that the land was sold for housing much later than that. Probably yet another victim of the dastardly Dr Beeching.
Can anyone add anything to this?