Street by Street History
I’m moving to Woodland Grove in a few months. I’ve been looking online I can find almost zero historical information on this street.
Are you aware of any street by street resources that I might be able to follow up to learn a little bit more about this place?
The Phantom replies:
What a shame you’re not just a few streets over, Jim. If you lived in SE3 rather than SE10 then the answer to this would have been ‘yes.’ Neil Rhind has written the definitive history of Blackheath, street by street, over the last years, and the final volume in the Blackheath and Environs trilogy is due to be released soon. Westcombe Park, although it is ‘our’ side of the heath, counts as Blackheath, and is covered in the (rather rare) Volume II.
Sadly for you, Jim, Maze Hill and its surroundings are very definitely ‘Greenwich’, and much as I’ve been trying to persuade Neil to venture out from SE3, I’ve had no joy yet.
But that doesn’t stop the area being interesting. Woodland Grove as a street I know very little about but it would have been very close to Sir John Vanbrugh’s back garden. Or is it front garden? I can never work out which way his wild collection of five splendid follies faced. I’ve just been looking in the sprawling Phantom archives (even I get lost in ‘em…) and I can’t find the post I could have sworn I wrote about Vanbrugh’s ‘extra guest accomodation’ so I’ll try to put together one for you. In the meanwhile if you google within the site you should find a whole bunch of stuff on Vanbrugh Castle itself…
Given that a lot of the buildings in Woodland Grove are quite modern I did have a look at Londonist’s rather interesting map that Michael sent me the other day showing the sites of V2 rockets during the war (that’s one of the main reasons for modern buildings in the middle of largely Victorian houses round here) but the only one that’s showing near you is right up at Maze Hill Station, which we know about already (though I guess there could have been some other kind of incendiary device deployed…)
Other than that, a trip to Greenwich Heritage Centre should pay dividends. They have large cardboard boxes of photos, street by street (not always accurately labelled, I discovered…) and many other resources that the Phantom library can only dream of.
Something you might like to get involved with is the group that are looking after Woodlands. Don’t know what Woodlands is? It’s that tiny little sliver of – well – woodland, actually, tucked in behind Maze Hill station. It’s pretty much all that’s left of Vanbrugh Castle’s extensive grounds and the only reason it hasn’t been turned into yet more luxury apartments is that it is locked-in behind houses one way and a ravine the other (yes, you did read that right, a ravine, albeit a baby one. It’s the remains of an old quarry…)
It’s not open to the general public much – not least because you have to get into it via someone’s back garden, but a small group of dedicated volunteers, the Friends of Westcombe Woodlands, try to keep the jungle under control and look after it without regimenting it too much and they do occasionally open it up for nosy neighbours and inquisitive Phantoms. Interestingly they don’t mention Vanbrugh Castle on their site; perhaps it didn’t stretch that far after all. I’ll try to find out just how far those grounds stretched. In the meanwhile if anyone fancies telling me more about Vanbrugh’s follies I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise I’ll just do some legwork. It’s about time I did…
As usual, I’ve digressed from the original question. The answer is ‘no’, there isn’t a street-by street guide to SE10 as a whole (though if you are lucky enough to live in the Ashburnham triangle, there is one by Diana Rimmell – you can find it in the Visitor centre) Anyone who wants to write one will be trumpeted to the rooftops of Phantom Towers.
Wendy has forwarded this information for Jim, about her family who lived in Woodland Grove:
My Grandmother’s family lived at 11 Woodland Grove from before 1871 (can’t find them on the 1861, they were at Marsh Lane in 1851) until at least 1937 (see electoral roll on Ancestry). My Grandmother Ellen Mabel Lewis (nee Plowman) and her father Lewis William Plowman were born there. Her Grandfather Thomas Plowman committed suicide there in 1886 (but Jim probably would rather not know that!) when the poor law officers refused to increase the allowance he and his wife lived on – they were getting 6/- per week (he was blind). I have a picture of my Gt Grandfather, Lewis William Plowman when he was working on the building of the Greenwich Power Station, I believe he also worked for the General Steam Navigation Company as my Gran said he was a ‘Navvie’ and that is what their workers called themselves. My Grandmother had five brothers all born at 11 Woodland Grove and they all served in the first World War in France, Belgium and Palestine . Two of them Henry and Freddie, did not come home.