Showing posts with label local history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label local history. Show all posts

27 April 2022

Old Photos of Forest Hill from

 Nice old photos of The Forester’s Arms, currently know as the All Inn One


and the Forest Hill Hotel, including floor plan).






Forest Hill Station



Some film from 1964 driving up from Lordship Lane to junction with South Circular then down into Forest Hill and round under the railway bridge.
You may notice there are works happening down London road… nothing much changes eh?

(link takes you to relevant bit @ 3:10 ish but there may be more you notice)



From Facebook. 1971 apparently.



I saw this pic the other day which I thought was gorgeous. 1960 apparently



Here’s a blast from the past - Spiggy’s on Dartmouth Road


Here you go, it became a Dairy in 1927:

Some background here:

An old favourite!



In the 1870’s the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro painted Lordship Lane station from the bridge in Sydenham Hill Woods looking north at the Crystal Palace High Level Railway. What was open countryside then is all overgrown now, but there are a few visible pointers to the old railway track.

I’ve led walks for friends along the railway route from Nunhead to Crystal Palace a couple of times. Here’s an overlay of some current views with the painting to compare. The accuracy of his drafting, of the landscape and especially of the houses that are still there is, as you might expect, excellent.

In his painting, centrally we see the railway line, then the station buildings, just beyond them was a bridge over Lordship Lane heading into the current Horniman Nature Trail, at the back of Woodvale. To the right in the distance we see the hill on which Horniman Gardens now stand. In the near right foreground now stand the apartment blocks of the Sydenham Hill Estate. Finally, left of centre, the red house with the cream house left of it on the corner of Woodvale.



this pic appeared on Twitter recently, the original wooden bridge from which Pissarro painted Lordship Lane station. Don’t know the date - guessing around 1900 from the dress of the two children pictured?




Lordship Lane Station looking north in c. early 1920’s

Lordship Lane Station looking north in the early 1950’s

Photo from Brian Halford collection

Lordship Lane Station looking south during demolition in 1956
Photo by John L. Smith

The site of Lordship Lane Station looking north east in July 2007
Photo by Nick Catford

Aerial view showing the site of Lordship Lane Station - the platforms are shown in black. The arrow indicates the camera position and direction of the photograph above.

Click here for more pictures of Lordship Lane Station
Click here for pictures of Cox’s Walk footbridge south of Lordship Lane Station
Click here to see literature advertising the ‘Palace Centenarian’ - the last train


and this is one side of the station, a 2 storey building with steps up to platform level.



29 March 2022

Leslie Eveleigh − Pioneer of the Silent Film

By Gary Thornton

Born in Deptford in 1890, Leslie Eveleigh was one of the early silent film makers whose names have largely slipped into obscurity, but who still retain an important place in the history of British cinema. Eveleigh lived and died in Forest Hill and is buried in Brockley cemetery.

Eveleigh’s life is not well documented, although it is known that he served in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. His film career is best traced through the BFI historical archives. There, his first film credit dates from 1913, where he is listed as a cameraman on Sixty Years a Queen, a dramatised version of the life of Queen Victoria, based on the book of the same name by Sir Herbert Maxwell.  The film was made at Ealing Studios, which had been founded in 1902, and was directed by Bert Haldane, who made over 170 films in his short 10 year career. In 1915 Eveleigh is again found working with Haldane as photographer, this time on Jane Shore, another of the hugely popular historical dramas which were the mainstay of this early film industry. Jane Shore is notable for its scale − probably the first ‘epic’ British film, it used thousands of extras in its crowd scenes, and has been compared to D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation in its scope and ambition.
Although Ealing, Elstree and Pinewood are considered the hub of the British film industry, once Paul and Acres had made the first British 35mm film in 1895, studios began to appear all over the country, as creative talents sought to exploit the wonders of this new technology. From the creation of Gaumont in 1898 to the onset of the talking picture in 1929, many studios briefly flourished, then disappeared, as a combination of rising costs and the expansion of Hollywood meant that only the largest − such as MGM or Rank − continued to enjoy success. Of the 640 production companies registered from 1925 to 1936, only 20 remained in 1937.

One of these short-lived companies was British Filmcraft, which was founded in 1926 by Eveleigh and the film producer George Banfield, along with cameramen Bert Ford and Phil Ross. They took over Walthamstow Studios and operated from there until 1931.  Interestingly, their predecessors at Wood Street, Broadwest, also used studios at Southend Hall in Catford, located at what is now the junction between Bromley Road and Whitefoot Lane.

With British Filmcraft, Eveleigh was elevated to director, sharing duties with Banfield on a number of productions through the second half of the 1920s. Although the company made only a few feature-length films, they made numerous short films and serials, including six films featuring the detective Sexton Blake, and a further series on the life of Dick Turpin, filmed on location in Epping Forest.

Perhaps his best known work is a 20 minute short film, The Lady Godiva (1928), based on Tennyson’s poem. Thanks to the work of the BFI archive, a restored version of this is available, the story filmed on location in the historic medieval centre of Coventry, later destroyed during the Blitz, and starring Gladys Jennings as Lady Godiva.

Scene from The Lady Godiva (1928 − BFI)

The advent of the talkie, Hitchcock’s Blackmail (1929) usually considered the first British example, sounded the death knell for many silent film-makers. British Filmcraft’s last production (and Banfield’s last film) was made in 1930, and Eveleigh has only one further final film credit, an advertising documentary for the manufacturer Mabie Todd & Co., Making a Swan Pen in 1940, released after his death.

As a young man, Eveleigh had married Nellie Evit in Thatcham in 1913. He is recorded as living in Kentish Town in 1930, but they subsequently settled in Forest Hill, at 6 Woodcombe Crescent. In a rather macabre turn of events, however, Eveleigh met an unfortunate end by his own hand, aged just 49. The Birmingham Mail of 4 December 1939 reported that Sydenham police had received a hand-written letter from him containing a garage key. When the local sergeant attended the scene, he found Eveleigh kneeling behind his car, with the exhaust and his head both covered by a mackintosh. The ignition was on but the engine was no longer running. The death of his wife just a few months earlier appeared to have led to his suicide, and the coroner ruled that he took his own life while the balance of his mind was affected by ill-health.

Thanks to Mike Guilfoyle from the Friends of Brockley & Ladywell cemeteries for alerting me to this story. Mike has recorded a series of fascinating podcasts on other cemetery residents (including Louis Drysdale) which can be found here:



6 Woodcombe Crescent (photo by May Teo)

09 September 2021

Louis Drysdale – the Musical Professor of Westbourne Road

By Gary Thornton

In January 1906, a rather unremarkable boat left Kingston, Jamaica, bound for Bristol. Its passengers included the dozen or so members of the Kingston Choral Union, a local choir who specialised in spiritual, traditional and religious music. The singers were due to appear at an exhibition of ‘Colonial Products’ in Liverpool later that month, billed as a ‘Native Choir from Jamaica’, followed by performances in Swansea, Worthing, Whitby, Bridlington and Wrexham. Such was their success that the ‘Jamaica Choir’, as they became known, returned in 1908 for a further tour.
One of the two tenors in that 1906 choir was Louis Drysdale (‘Dri’), a carpenter’s son from Kingston. With the encouragement of the exhibition’s founder, ship-owner Sir Alfred Lewis Jones, he remained in England after the tour, studying at the Royal College of Music, where he trained under Gustave Garcia, one of the influential family of singers who had shaped 19th century Italian bel canto, and whose members included some of the finest singers of their generations, who had variously performed in premieres of operas by such as Rossini, Verdi, Donizetti and Bellini.

Drysdale’s ambition though was not to perform, but to become a vocal tutor, training opera and concert singers in the art of bel canto, the tradition he had inherited directly from the lessons of Garcia. Working initially as a tailor to support himself, he began to attract more and more students and soon established himself as a popular and accomplished teacher.

Dri had divorced his first wife in 1911, and when he remarried an English woman, herself a talented accompanist, the pair set up a studio at their home at 11 Westbourne Road (now Westbourne Drive). His reputation spread, and when in 1926 the American cabaret singer Florence Mills (at the time starring in Lew Leslie’s Blackbird revue) visited him for lessons, she was so impressed that she wrote to the editor of the New York Age, which in turn led to work from many other artists, eventually enabling him to set up further studios in central London and Margate.

During his lifetime, the ‘palatial’ studio setting at Westbourne Road became a haven for black singers and musicians, where the Drysdales welcomed and taught luminaries such as Paul Robeson — who spent many years in London during the 1920s and 30s — and Marian Anderson, the renowned contralto who would become the first African-American to perform at the New York Metropolitan. At a time when racial prejudice was often far too obviously on display, overseas visitors could be assured of a warm reception and accommodation for their stay in England.

In a few short years Drysdale — known affectionately as the ‘Professor’ — had become one of the most highly-regarded vocal tutors in Europe, a view shared by his close friend, the ground-breaking composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, as well as the many famous singers whose talents he had helped nurture and develop, and whose photographs and testimonials adorned the walls of his studio.

After a short illness, Louis died suddenly in 1933, aged only 49, and was buried in Ladywell cemetery, his missing grave and headstone most likely destroyed by stray bombs during WW2.

Long forgotten after his death, his story is recounted by the notable historian Jeffrey Green (, author of Black Edwardians.

More information from Black People in Britain 1901-1914 and the Jamaica History website (

21 April 2021

20th Century History of Forest Hill


If you are unable to see the recording in this post, you can view it on YouTube.

Recording of the discussion that took place on 20th April 2021 with panelists:

Pip Wedge lived in Forest Hill from 1928 to 1954, including most of the Second World War, and assisted people when Forest Hill station was bombed. He will be joining us from Canada where he has lived since 1965.

Angela Finch is part of the Finch family who have been trading in Forest Hill since 1947. Finches currently focus on bikes, skiing and extreme sports, but once they were one of the largest removal firms in London.

John Hodgett moved to Forest Hill in 1949 when he was two years old, and has lived in the area ever since - in a variety of different streets. John remembers many of the old shops around Forest Hill, some great concerts at the Glenlyn Ballroom in the 1960s, and taking steam trains direct from Forest Hill to Brighton.

31 March 2021

Forest Hill History Panel

On Tuesday 20th April (7:30pm), the Forest Hill Society is organising a panel discussion on the 20th Century history of Forest Hill. We are bringing together a group of people who live or have lived in Forest Hill since the 1920s. They will share their recollections of Forest Hill before and after the Second World War and how the area, the shops, and the transportation system has changed over the last hundred years.

As well as our panel, attendees are encouraged to share their own memories or ask questions about how the area has changed.

The event will take place on Zoom and pre-registration is required via

29 March 2021

Tom Keating: The Forest Hill Forger

By Gary Thornton

Havelock Walk may be known for its community of artists, but 100 years ago, at the other end of Forest Hill, a small boy grew up to become the 20th century’s most notorious and gifted art forger, responsible for 2,000 fake painting by over 100 artists, many of which still hang undetected in galleries across the world.

Tom Keating claimed that his “Sexton Blakes” were his response to the corruption and vested interests he saw in art dealers and galleries, profiting whilst impoverished artists suffered and starved. In a practice meant to undermine these experts and give him a possible defence against charges of fraud, each painting contained a deliberate ‘time-bomb’ which gave a clue to its deception. He would write comments such as “You’ve been had!” on the blank canvas (revealed only under X-ray), deliberately use a modern pigment, or even add a layer of glycerine under the paint so that the painting would be destroyed when cleaned.

The early chapters of Keating’s fascinating autobiography, The Fake’s Progress, paint a detailed and affectionate portrait of the neighbourhood around Herschell Road, where he was born in 1917 in one of the 36 flats in a terrace of three-storey houses opposite St Saviour’s Church. It was then a poor working-class area of overcrowded and unsanitary dwellings, but where everyone looked out for everyone else. It was a nice enough place, writes Keating, better at least than the slums of the East End.

Keating’s father worked as a house-painter for the same building firm for 37 years, until the gas in his lungs from the Great War left him unable to work, and he was sent home with an hour’s pay in his pocket. The family were left to rely on the wages earned by Tom’s elder siblings for their survival.

Tom’s education started at Dalmain Road school, where he first found his talent for painting, although he soon ran away to Eltham, and spent three years living there with his grandparents. Returning to Dalmain Road, he passed the entrance exam for St Dunstan’s College in Catford. However, with his family unable to afford the fees, he left school for various jobs, selling parts for early wirelesses, and working as a barber’s assistant.

Called up to the Royal Navy for the Second World War, Keating married whilst at home on leave after his ship was torpedoed. After he was invalided out, the couple took a room in Sunderland Road. Ellen worked in munitions and Tom as a door-to-door salesman, selling Lazy Lady’s furniture polish. 

Then, in 1952, whilst studying at Goldsmith’s College, Keating met Albert Fripp, an art dealer on Dartmouth Road. Fripp’s business involved buying copies of Dutch flower paintings made by ‘little old ladies’ in Bromley, which he would age in an oven and sign before selling to West End galleries as period originals. When he realised that Tom — now living in Westbourne Drive — had a particular talent for restoring and copying paintings, he took him on, and Keating had found his vocation.

Tom scoured antique shops around Forest Hill, Sydenham and Dulwich for supplies of cheap old canvases and frames which would be the basis of his forgeries. Using descriptions found in old sale catalogues, and with meticulous background research, he would recreate ‘lost’ paintings by Dutch, English and Italian masters, French impressionists, and even German expressionists, which would then find their way into the hands of dealers, and were often authenticated using the very catalogues Keating had used to invent them in the first place.

In 1976, and by now living in rural Suffolk, he was charged with fraud when a collection of Samuel Palmer paintings in a London gallery were traced back to him, but the case was dropped when Keating fell dangerously ill. He recovered to become a minor celebrity, presenting a Channel 4 television series on the techniques of the Old Masters (Tom Keating on Painters), before he died in 1984 at the age of 66.

Since his death, the appreciation of Keating as an artist has risen, and his once worthless fakes now reach considerable prices. In a neat reversal of fortune, this has in turn fed a thriving market in counterfeit Keatings. Tom would probably have approved.

23 March 2021

Fairlawn Auxiliary Military Hospital

By Sheila Carson

Not long after the outbreak of the First World War, the numbers of wounded servicemen arriving in England threatened to overwhelm existing military medical facilities. Many civilian hospitals were requisitioned for military use by the War Office. This included a large part of the recently opened King's College Hospital, which became the Fourth London General Hospital. As the casualties from France increased, the hospital was extended into the nearby Ruskin Park. Huts and tents were erected, and a wooden bridge was built across the nearby railway line to provide access.

The British Red Cross and the Order of St John of Jerusalem combined to form the Joint War Committee. An important part of the work of this committee was the setting up and organisation of smaller auxiliary hospitals to ease the pressure on large military hospitals. These formed the final link in the chain of evacuation for many wounded soldiers. A network of over 3,000 auxiliary hospitals spread across Britain. These varied greatly in size and included private houses donated by their owners. One of these was Fairlawn House.

Fairlawn House was a large mansion with extensive grounds and outbuildings, built between 1808 and 1816. It stood on the west side of Honor Oak Road in Forest Hill.  

When Fairlawn Auxiliary Military Hospital opened in November 1915 to provide convalescence for enlisted servicemen, it had 35 beds, later increased to 65. In 1916 the hospital was expanded with an additional house — Border Lodge in Sydenham — and again in 1917, when a large house in Manor Mount was added, providing a total of 174 beds.

The principal role of auxiliary hospitals was the care of convalescing patients. However, the term 'convalescent' must be understood in the military context. The expectation was that these soldiers would return to active service as soon as they were fit enough. The War Office was concerned that recovering solders might abscond if they were allowed to go home. These hospitals enabled soldiers to be kept under military control and discipline and they were required to wear a distinctive blue uniform.

Fairlawn Auxiliary Military Hospital was run by a Commandant and a Quartermaster who were resident at the hospital. There were eight trained nurses, supported by 14 full-time and 32 part-time voluntary nurses from the London 216 and 35 Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs). The VADs were usually comprised of women but might have included a few men who had not been called up for military service. Local doctors provided medical supervision. There would have been a cook, but most of the domestic work would have been undertaken by local volunteers.

Nursing convalescent patients required a very different skill set from acute nursing. The focus was on rehabilitation through exercise, relaxation, diet, rest and sleep. Patients at Fairlawn Auxiliary Military Hospital would have also been encouraged to do gardening. The hospital would have been equipped and supported by local fund raising, which would have also provided for the daily needs and comforts of the soldiers by supplying items such as playing cards, board games, walking sticks and slippers.

The hospital closed in October 1919, and of the 2,724 admissions during the war period there were no recorded deaths. However, 30 patients and five VAD nurses who returned to the war were killed. After the war a memorial bronze plaque presented by the VADs was placed in St Paul's Church in Waldenshaw Road. No names were listed on the plaque, but the inscription read "To the glory of God and in memory of the patients and staff of the Fairlawn Auxiliary Military Hospital who have passed away during the Great War." St Paul's Church was badly damaged by bombs in 1943 during the Second World War. Thereafter, it was demolished and the war memorial was lost.

Fairlawn House was destroyed by a V1 flying bomb during the Second World War which also caused extensive damage to neighbouring buildings. Fairlawn Primary School now occupies the site, and an annexe to the school was built on the site of St Paul's Church in Waldenshaw Road.

19 September 2020