Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Open House 2018 Highlights of Lewisham and Deptford

Open House weekend 22-23 September 2018 is an annual event when members of the public have an opportunity to explore and learn about some of London’s most interesting architecture and design. The event has grown from year to year and with it the number of buildings you can visit. Here are a few highlights from the Lewisham and Deptford area focusing on buildings not usually open to the public. For visiting details, please see the Open House website 

Designed by Trevor Dannatt (OBE) and built in 1972 the building lies within the Blackheath Conservation Area. It might be the only Quaker meeting house in the Country built in the concrete brutalist style. The main meeting house is square on plan, chamfered at the corners, which evokes a medieval chapterhouse.

A 2015 report for the Quaker Meeting Houses Heritage Project, describes it as a ‘Brutalist jewel’ and of ‘exceptional aesthetic value’. Although the building is relatively recent, the Blackheath Meeting goes back to the 17th Century in Deptford and Woolwich. Peter the Great visited the Deptford Meeting house in Deptford High Street. That meeting house is now demolished but there is a plaque on the site above the Salvation Army shop.

Boone’s Chapel, Lee

A Grade I listed, single-storey building attributed to Sir Christopher Wren and built in 1683. Built in red brick and Portland stone details to the window architraves. This former chapel it was restored in 2008 as a studio and exhibition space with Heritage Lottery Funding and support from the London Borough of Lewisham, livery companies and the support of local residents through the Lee Manor and Blackheath Societies. One of only two Grade I-listed buildings in the borough of Lewisham (the other being St Paul's, Deptford).

Sayes Court, Deptford

Home of John Evelyn diarist, gardener, early ecologist and writer and contemporary of Samuel Pepys. 2018 marks the 200 year anniversary of the publication of Evelyn’s diaries which are an invaluable historical source of information on the arts, culture and politics of a turbulent time. It is also the birthplace of the National Trust. Long queues are expected.

The Master Shipwright’s House, Deptford

This private house is the oldest standing building of the former Deptford Royal Dockyard. It was the home and office of the master shipwright since 1513 and was remodeled in the 18th Century. A Grade II listed property, it would have had views of the whole dockyard and is one of the few remaining parts of the dockyard left. If it looks familiar to you it may be because the property is used as a film location.

The Deptford royal dockyard and manor of Sayes Court, London: excavations 2000-2012 by Anthony Francis is a lavishly illustrated book which traces the yard’s development as it evolved and expanded to keep pace with the demands of technology and empire. Available on reference in the Local History and Archive Centre.

Walter Segal Self-Build Houses, Honor Oak Park

Walter’s Way is a close of 13 self-built houses constructed according to a method developed by Walter Segal. Based on traditional timber methods, it eliminated the need for bricklaying and plastering, thereby creating easy-to-build, ecologically sound properties. In the 1970’s Lewisham Council made three sites available, partly in response to the demand for housing. After his death in 1985 a trust was set up in his name to popularize his methods. His best known follower is Kevin McCloud presenter of Grand Designs, Channel Four TV series. With many people unable to buy their own home, could Walter’s Way be the answer for some?

The self-build book-how to enjoy designing and building your own home by Jon Broome and Brian Richardson is available on reference in the Local History and Archives Centre.

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian, Local History and Archives Centre. Email:local.studies@lewisham.gov.uk

Saturday, 25 August 2018

The Maxwell Confait Murder

The investigation into the murder of Maxwell Confait led to a major review into how suspects are treated by the police, especially children and vulnerable people. A cause celebre, it came to be seen as a classic miscarriage of justice.

The Crime

The Fire Brigade was called to 27 Doggett Road, Catford at 0121 hours on 22 April 1972. A body was found.  It was that of Maxwell Confait a 26 year old mixed race man from the Seychelles. A gay (?) transgender (?) prostitute, Confait preferred to be called Michelle and was well-known in the local area. He frequented the Black Bull Pub (now Fox and Firkin) and the Castle (now Bar Nuvo). He had been strangled.

The Fox and Firkin pub (formerly The Black Bull), Lewisham High Street

Initial investigation

The police did not look very far. The first suspect was Winston Goode, the victim’s landlord and friend who lived at the same property with his wife Lillian and their children although the couple were separated. He denied any sexual relationship with Confait but admitted being jealous that Confait was planning to move out. Shortly afterwards he committed suicide by swallowing cyanide.

Confait confessions

On 24 April there were three more fires: along the railway line near Catford Bridge Station; a sports hut on Ladywell Fields and 1 Nelgarde Road (the next street).The police arrested three youths. Colin Lattimore aged eighteen but with learning disabilities, Ronnie Leighton, aged 15 and Ahmet Salih aged 14. The three were questioned without another adult present. Lattimore admitted to the murder but Salih confessed only to observing it.

The case went to trial at the Old Bailey where it received national media coverage. Despite the boys all having alibis for the time of death and claiming that the police had been violent to them in custody, Lattimore was found guilty of manslaughter, detained indefinitely, and sent to Rampton Hospital.
Leighton and Salih were found guilty of arson at Doggett Road and Ladywell Fields. Leighton was sent to Aylesbury Prison for life. Salih was sent to Royal Philanthropic School, Redhill for four years due to his age.


In July 1973, leave to appeal was refused despite disagreement between experts over the time of death. In 1975, the Home Secretary Roy Jenkins referred the case to the Court of Appeal. Following a high-level campaign led by Christopher Price, then local MP for Lewisham East, all three suspects were later found not guilty and freed by the Appeal Court. Lord Scarman criticised the original investigation for not emphasising the fact that there had been no struggle. This suggested that the victim knew his killer. He declared all three “innocent”. The Home Secretary then ordered a full enquiry by Sir Henry Fisher to look at the Judges Rules (i.e. how the police treat suspects, especially children and vulnerable people. Fisher made recommendations for reform but disagreed with Scarman finding two of the three defendants ” guilty on the balance of probability”.  As a result, the report had to be published as a “return to the House of Commons” to make it exempt from libel. A Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure followed.

The Confait confessions-book by the local MP
Christopher Price and Jonathan Caplan with picture of
Maxwell/Michell Confait on the cover.
Further inquiries

Another police enquiry led by Peter Fryer into the case made no arrests.  In 1980, a high-level police report by identified Douglas Franklin as the killer and Paul Pooley as a witness. It also and confirmed that the time of death was 48 hours earlier than stated at trial. Professors Cameron, Teare and Simpson had assumed rigor mortis started after the discovery of the fire. In fact, Professors Usher and Mant, forensic pathologists, found clear evidence that Confait had been dead for 48 hours and that rigor was wearing off. The report concluded that had the boys not been arrested, Douglas Franklin would probably have become a suspect at an early stage of the original murder enquiry. Shortly after his police interview Franklin committed suicide.


Eventually, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and its Codes of Practice (PACE) were passed and a system of “appropriate adults” were created. The Prosecution of Offences Act, 1985 was also passed. It took prosecution out of the hands of the police and into a new body; the Crown Prosecution Service. This Act also codified the prosecution process. The Brixton Riots (1981) and the Scarman Report were also key factors in passing these Acts.

PACE sets out rules and safeguards for policing. The most visible change was the requirement that all interviews with suspects in the police station are recorded. Less visible was the role of the “appropriate adult.” This means that an appropriate adult worker is appointed to safeguard the rights, welfare and effective participation of children and vulnerable adults detained or questioned by the police. They must be present for a range of police processes including interviews, intimate searches and identification procedures.

Maxwell Confit’s murder remains unsolved. Throughout the investigations and the ensuing publicity, the victim seems to have been forgotten. Another miscarriage of justice?

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian, Lewisham Local history and Archives Centre.
Email: local.studies@lewisham.gov.uk

Do you remember the case? Do you remember Maxwell/Michelle from those days? If so, Wall to Wall Media, the makers of a BBC2 documentary would love to hear from you. Please get in touch with Sandy on 020 7241 9319, or sandrine.tabalo@walltowall.co.uk.  All conversations and contacts will be treated with confidence and is not a commitment to take part in the documentary.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

History of St. Mary's Church, Lewisham - Exhibition Online

St. Mary's Church, Lewisham is the oldest building in the London Borough of Lewisham. 
The Lewisham Local History and Archive Centre presents a selected number of archives and books associated with the Church. 

Guide to archive exhibits

1. Parish register

An example of charred parish register fragments saved from the ruins of the 1830 fire, mounted and preserved in Lewisham Archives. Such fragments show the vulnerability of historic documents and the need for conservation by professional archivists. Ref: SM1

2. Baptism Certificate, 1830

A sample Baptism Certificate for Jane Cox born in Lewisham 1830. It is signed by the then Vicar Augustus Legge. Ref: SM1/1/89

3, 4, 5Vicar's Account Book, including Glebe Survey, 1714. Letter of approval of sale of Glebe land for use as Public Baths, 1883. List of names of Tithe payers, 1778

The Church was an important landowner in Lewisham. As evidenced by this glebe survey of 1714 in the Vicar’s note book, list of tithe payers of 1778 and  letter of approval of the sale of glebe land for use as a public baths of 1883.Presumably the land in the glebe survey is the land sold for the public baths. The public baths (better known as “The Playtower”) were built in 1884 and granted Grade II listed status in 2004. There is currently a public consultation on the development and renewal of this historic building. Ref: SM1/1/94, SM1/1/97, SM1/1/96 

6. Posters for Consecration of Chancel, 1882-6

After the 1830 fire, the interior 
was rebuilt by public 
subscription and the current 
chancel rebuilt in 1881. The 
service was held on the 
Feast Day of the 
Annunciation (25 March). 
Appropriately for a church 
dedicated to the Virgin Mary, 
this day marks the visit 
(annunciation) of the angel Gabriel to Mary. Ref: SM1/1/78                 

7.Tower repair appeal, leaflet, 1907

The building work of 1881 did not include the tower which was also in need of repair. Following an appeal for funds, this was done in 1907. In his appeal, the Vicar refers to the history of the church tower.

8. Copy will of Abraham Colfe, 1788. 

Abraham Colfe (1580-1657) was Vicar of St Mary’s Lewisham from 1610 to 1657, founding Colfe's School, a reading or Latin school (1652) and five almshouses for the inhabitants of Lewisham. He later made provision for both in his will (shown here). Following wartime damage, the almshouses were demolished in 1958. The school later came to bear his name and still exists. Ref: SM1/6/14

9. Copy Will of Joseph Prendergast 1869

Dr. Joseph Prendergast (1791–1875) was Headmaster of Colfe's School 1831-1857. In his will he founded Prendergast Grammar School (now Prendergast Hilly Fields College) for 31 poor girls in Rushey Green, Catford. The school became comprehensive in the 1970s and moved to the current site in Hilly Fields in 1995. Ref: SM1/6/52

10. Print of St Mary’s Church, 1809

An early nineteenth century print shows the church after the 1776 rebuilding. Ref: SM1/9/2

11. Drawing of the exterior of the Church, 1764. 

A drawing c1764 of the old, medieval Church just before the 1776 re-building. The drawing was made about 1870-7 based on a drawing of 1764.

12. Photograph of parish clergymen, including Augustus Legge, c1880-12

n this photograph Legge (1839-1913) is shown seated third from the left. Legge was the Vicar of Sydenham (1867-1879) and then Vicar of Lewisham (1879-1901), where his brother was Lord of the Manor. During Legge’s vicariate the interior was remodelled and the chancel added. Legge later became Bishop of Lichfield,Staffordshire. SM1/1/133

13. Postcards

A selection of postcards from the Local History and Archive Centre collection showing old photographs, drawings and prints of the church. The churchyard has been enlarged at least twice, 1791 and 1817. Until Brockley and Ladywell cemetery was formed in 1858, the parish churchyard was the only burial ground. In September 2017, a Therapeutic Garden was opened in the grounds to promote well-being through gardening. It was featured in the BBC Gardeners’ World. Ref: PH79 8796, PH98 19-398, PC65 1211

Guide to exhibited books

14. The Parish registers of St Mary’s, Lewisham (being such portions as were saved from the fire of 1830), 1555-1750, with extracts from wills relating to the parish. Leland L. Duncan

n 1830 a fire damaged the interior and some of the parish registers were burnt. Fortunately, the noted local historian Leland L. Duncan used copies kept by the parish clerk and other notes to create this transcript of the registers from 1558 to 1750, which he published in 1891. Transcripts of historic documents and archival materials are useful because many of them are handwritten. Transcribing these primary sources helps us increase accessibility to historical records so that all of us can more easily read, search for, and use the information they contain. Ref: 929.3

15. The Parish Church of St Mary Lewisham, Kent, its building and rebuilding: with some account of the Vicars and Curates of Lewisham. Leland L. Duncan

First published in 1892, this classic account of the Church’s history was written by Leland L. Duncan (1862-1923), a highly productive local historian and antiquarian. He was born in Lewisham and lived his entire life in Lewisham. He also published a transcript of the monumental inscriptions in the church and churchyard in 1889. There is a plaque to him at 8 Lingards Road, Lewisham, SE13. Ref: 726.583

16. Census of Great Britain, 1851: particulars of the churches, chapels and other places of religious worship in the following districts:- Charlton, Deptford, Eltham, Greenwich, Kidbrooke, Lee, Lewisham, Plumstead, Sydenham and Woolwich. Public Record Office

The 1851 Religious Census was a unique survey of all identified places of religious worship then in existence, including Nonconformist and Catholic chapels and Jewish synagogues as well as Church of England churches. The surviving returns provide an invaluable snapshot of religious practice in the middle of the nineteenth century. As this census return for St Mary’s shows, Sunday attendance could be as high as 1,750. The church was obviously too small to accommodate a growing population. New sub-parishes were created and with them the demand for new churches. Saint Bartholomew’s church, Sydenham was built 1827-32, with St. Stephen’s following in 1863-65, St. Mark’s 1868 and St. Laurence’s   1886-7. Ref: 808.883

17. Diary and correspondence of John Evelyn. John Evelyn

John Evelyn (1620-1706) was an English writer, gardener and diarist who lived in Deptford from 1652. The entry for Christmas Day records he attended St Mary’s church. Ref: 726.5

Exhibition curated by:

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian, Lewisham Local History Archive Centre
Felicity Croydon, Archivist, Lewisham Local History Archive Centre

Follow this link for a full list of Church of England Records held in the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre
Church of England Records in the London Borough of Lewisham Area

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Teacher who inspired England footballer Ian Wright has died

Sydney Pigden, teacher at Turnham Junior School on the Honor Oak estate, has died aged 92. Ian Wright who played for Arsenal and England, was one of Mr Pigden’s pupils. He later credited his former teacher as “the first positive male figure” in his life. He dedicated his autobiography A Life in Football to Pigden.

Ian Wright discusses his education with Sydney Pigden on You Tube

Sydney Charles Pigden was born at Sydenham on 25 April 1922 to a humble working class family.

Although an able pupil he had to leave school aged only 14 to help out with the family finances. His parents died the next year and he later gained his school certificate by studying at evening classes.

During the war he served in the RAF as a pilot. Mentioned in dispatches, he was demobbed in 1946 as a Flying Officer.

He trained as a teacher at Wandsworth Teacher Training College and then taught at a school in Catford before moving to Turnham.

The Local History and Archives Centre has a longer, hard copy, obituary in the Subject Files which is available on request.

Monday, 2 July 2018

From Workhouse to Well-being – a short history of University Lewisham Hospital

The 70th Anniversary of the NHS is a good time to look back on the history of our local hospital University Lewisham Hospital. Did you know that the hospital first began as a workhouse?

Workhouse origins

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries there was a large increase in poverty. In 1834 an Act of Parliament made it compulsory for parishes to form unions, and for each union to have its own workhouse. The union covering Lewisham was called the Bermondsey Union. Workhouses were large buildings which housed the poor and destitute and were deliberately designed to be horrible places to live. Work was compulsory.  Lewisham had a workhouse at least as early as the 1740’s and a new one was built in 1817. By at least 1865, the workhouse was mainly a hospital for the old. And in 1894 a separate infirmary was built. The following year medical staff quarters were built. Friction between the Matron and the Medical Superintendent soon followed. The authorities deemed Matron had been “insubordinate” but she refused to resign and the matter continued for some time. In 1897 the infirmary opened its doors to “lunatics” (as people with mental health problems were then labelled). The Workhouse Infirmary was the building that still stands as part of Lewisham Hospital on the left-hand side of an entrance arch. You can still see the workhouse coat of arms in red and white over the archway.

University Lewisham Hospital with the workhouse coat of arms above an entrance.

 The workhouse infirmary was often used by non-resident local women as a place to give birth. From 1904 children were issued with birth certificates giving the address of 390 High Street, Lewisham with no mention of the workhouse. Other workhouses did the same.

Many UK hospitals have similar histories of being housed in part in former workhouses.

1914 until 1948

During the First World War, the Workhouse Infirmary was cleared to make way for expected wartime casualties. The hospital was then renamed Lewisham Military Hospital. It cared for officers, ranks and German POWs. One of the nurses was Sister Daisy Ankers who will be the subject of a forthcoming exhibition at Lewisham Library. 

Lewisham Military Hospital.
After the war, the hospital reverted to civilian use with new buildings being built in 1925. The workhouse continued to operate to some extent until 1929 when the site was taken over by the London County Council and became a general hospital called Lewisham Hospital. In 1932 C block was built with 163 maternity and children’s beds. In 1935, HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, opened a new wing.

An NHS institution

After the NHS began in 1948, the hospital continued to expand. In 1954 Lewisham Hospital opened a premature baby unit for 12 babies. Building started on a new Outpatients block in 1956. In 1957, Lewisham was the second hospital to introduce a staff paging system. HRH Princess Margaret opened a new Outpatients Department in 1958 built on the bomb-site of one of the ward blocks hit in World War II. In the 1960s, new operating theatres were added together with a new Special Care Baby Unit, a new Antenatal clinic and an Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU). The ITU was the first in a District General Hospital in the UK. After a new Nurses Education Centre opened in 1971, the Macmillan Team treated their first cancer patient in 1982. 1987 saw the beginning of a redevelopment of the Hospital and another  redevelopment phase began in 1992 which included a new Women and Children’s wing. The 1990s  also saw the upgrading of the A&E Department, the Ladywell unit for mental health and the granting of University status in 1997.

During this time the hospital responded to local civil emergencies by treating casualties from the 1957 Hither Green and St John’s train crashes, and the Eltham crash of 1972.

Riverside Redevelopment

In 2007 Archbishop Desmond Tutu opened the Riverside wing as part of a third redevelopment programme to replace Nightingale wards with more modern facilities. Archbishop Tutu was asked to open the building due to his ministry in the Borough in the 1970s at St Augustine’s Church, Grove Park.
Construction of the ‘S’ shaped building which weaves around the Ravensbourne river to maximise the site space, was carried out by Carillon. It was the first major NHS building to generate some of its own power using photovoltaic roof panels.

Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign

In July 2012, the South London Health Care Trust responsible for running the hospital went into financial administration. A Government report that year recommended that the A&E unit should close and patients go to Woolwich instead. It also recommended that the maternity unit close. A strong and spirited local campaign quickly followed. Nobel Prize winner and Freeman of the Borough of Lewisham, Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke out against the move as did as Lewisham Council. 

In July 2013, the High Court ruled that the closure could not go ahead. And in October 2013, the Court of Appeal ruled that Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt had exceeded his powers as a Government Minister. He did not have the authority to make cuts at the hospital. The decision will have important effects as it affects how ministers can manage NHS finances.

In 2013, the hospital became part of the Greenwich and Lewisham NHS Trust.

The present and future

In January 2018, the Midwifery Unit Network made the birth centre a beacon site for its midwife-led birth unit. The hospital continues to provide a range of community health services in Lewisham.

As of 7 July 2018, the A&E and maternity units are still open. Jeremy Hunt remained the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with social care added to his portfolio, in January 2018, until July 2018 when he became Foreign Secretary. He was replaced by Matthew Hancock. 

Forthcoming exhibition: the Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre will present an exhibition on Sister Daisy Ankers and the Lewisham Military Hospital later this year. It will be part of the national events commemorating the First World War and women’s role in it as well as the Centenary of UK women's suffrage. 

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian. Enquiries: local.studies@lewisham.gov.uk