Friday, 18 March 2011

Visit to 127 Deptford High Street, Formerly Nolans Clothes Shop.

I had the pleasure to meet Terry the proprieter of the shop which was once called Nolans's. Terry has been present in Deptford for many years and it was great to talk to him about the people and places he remembers on the High St. We started discussing the story, listed below, regarding the tunnel beneath his shop. He kindly agreed to let me go down into the cellar and view the tunnel entrance. I was surprised when Terry lifted a hatch by the till in the shop, which was the cellar entrance! It was a bit of a squeeze but we both got down there and I took the following photos.

The cellar entrance
Entrance to the tunnel now bricked up

Any ideas what these curious hinge type fixings were for??

Shop Owner  "Terry" My thanks to him for allowing me to disturb his business and go exploring.
Reproduced original posting for infomation.
In the early part of 1978 a survey was carried out at the request of Nolans Clothes Shop, No 127, by the proprietor Mrs Order. The purpose was to examine alleged tunnels under the shop which ran east to deptford Creek, or a Pub, or the place of Nelson's assignations with Lady Hamilton in Albury Street. A trap door at the front of the shop gives access to a series of cellars under the whole building, some of which were blocked and one which had a barreled roof and could be the begining of a tunnel leading directly under the street.It was described as being about 6ft high, with a stone rubble floor. There was a rectangular manhole leading to sewers beneath which were said to flood. The tunnel terminated in a brick wall at approximately the edge of the outside pavement. The bricks were of mixed stock and red bricks, with no obvious signs of great age, and were probably contempoary with the building which seemed from map and visual evidence to be c. 1844-50, contempoary with the adjacent Catholic church. It was noted  there was nothing on site on the 1844 tithe map but earlier maps 1800-33 may show buildings but were to small a scale to be confirmed with any certainty. There was a similar tunnel which had been blocked more recently and was said to lead from the indentical adjacent shop. It was discovered to have been blocked in by the owners of the shops across the street. The tunnel at No 127 seemed to be an extention of the cellars, and without pulling the wall down, there was no evidence of it going any further other than the edge of the pavement. If it did originally cross the street it would presumably join the cellars of the opposite shops. Does anyone know of underground tunnels in Deptford?

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

History of Albury Street. Part 4.

The original leases and recited leases show that eleven houses or sites mentioned, seven were probably built or developed by Thomas Lucas, and his will implies that he built another thirteen. Four were definitely by other craftsmen, two by the bricklayer, John Bone of Deptford, one by the masons Reyalls and Pearce, and one more apparently by Pearce alone. Lucas was building on his own account from first to last. Although described as a bricklayer, it is not quite clear where he physically built any of the houses himself. It is clear from the quantity of work on which he was engaged, especially after 1713 when his contract on the new church began, that he would have been forced to employ craftsmen to work under him.

St Pauls 1750.
In fact his time would have largely been engaged managing the development rather than physically building it. The craftsmen whom he employed, bricklayers, carpenters, and joiners remain anonymous, as so does the carver of the brackets supporting the hoods to the doorways. The three craftsmen known to have taken building-leases are known only by name and have not been found elsewhere. One or two other contemporary craftsmen are connected with Union Street if only tenuously. First is Matthew Spray who died in 1742 bequeathing his house in Union Street to his wife, Martha, who occupied it until 1755. Spray, a bricklayer, built the church of St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich, between 1727 and 1739.
St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich
One could speculate that his house, No. 4 Union Street on the North side and one of the smallest in the street was given to him by Thomas Lucas in lieu of wages for his work in Lucas’s employment on Union Street and the church of St Paul. At all events, Lucas had disposed of his house and the freehold of the land on which it stood presumably to Spray, by the time he wrote his last will in 1734/5. Another Deptford bricklayer, Nathaniel Carter, appointed Thomas Lucas and his wife as the executors of his will, but the will has not been found and nothing more has been discovered about Carter. For other craftsmen employed working on Union Street, one may speculate amongst those who, like Lucas, worked under Thomas Archer on the new church. James Grove, a carpenter, and John Gilliam, a joiner, both of Greenwich might have assisted Lucas. Grove was appointed carpenter only three weeks after Lucas was appointed bricklayer, and worked closely with him providing for instance centering (Turning Pieces) for the brick arches of the crypt. Gilliam, who made the alter piece, pulpit, reader’s desk and clerks desk for St Paul’s Deptford, should be considered as the maker of the carved brackets on the Union Street doors, but there is no evidence to support the theory. Tradition has it the brackets were carved by ships’ carpenters but there is nothing specifically nautical about them. The carving is of high quality and of a type which appears in churches of that date. Financing the building of Union Street must have been a complicated proceeding for Thomas Lucas. Having satisfactorily mortgaged his land, his most expensive items were materials and labour. In 1706, he is recorded as having a tile kiln and in 1713, as bricklayer for the new church he was, initially at least, responsible for the supply of bricks. The bricks probably came from a local field but it is not known who may have owned it. Even if Lucas acted as his own supplier, he still had to pay for labour, both for brick makers and for bricklayers, and although he must have at least partly paid for them in money, he probably paid them partly in kind. He had adjacent to his own house at the south west corner of Union Street, and lying behind the street, a Malt House. It abutted the rear of the public house known first by the sign of the Swann’ and later as “The King of Prussia” a building that Lucas never sold. Beer must have appeared large among his payments in kind to his labourers. But its is also significant that Lucas’s daughter, Sarah was married to one Thomas Cells of St Paul Deptford, a shipwright but more often described as a distiller, and he inherited from Lucas an interest in the malt house, so one may surmise that gin as well as beer may have helped pay for the labour. It ahs already been suggested that Lucas may have given Matthew Spray, the bricklayer, a house in Union Street in return for work done by Spray for him. The possibility of Lucas building a house and exchanging it for materials arises since as early as 1706 the lease hold of two houses on the north side of Union Street was owned by Elias Wood a lime burner. Wood paid Lucas twenty four shillings per annum ground rent and while this small sum of money was probably paid in cash it is likely that the purchase price of the house may well have been paid in supplies of lime for making mortar.

Part 4 extract from A Quiney's paper on Albury Street 1979.

Ann Arthur's Discourse with the Devil in Flaggons Row. 1685

Friday, 4 March 2011


Daisy's War

When the blitz started when we were living in a terraced house in Greenfield St. in Deptford, and we had to have an Anderson Shelter built in the garden. The workmen brought it and they dug the hole and installed the shelter. Half of it was above the ground, but the floor was about four feet below ground. They fitted some benches, which were most uncomfortable, and water seeped in from the ground making it soaking wet most of the time, but we slept down there nearly every night throughout the blitz in 1940-41. At one time we didn’t even wait for the air raid sirens to go off because the raids were nearly every night.

There were an awful lot of houses damaged, and many of those that were not flattened had to be demolished because they were unsafe. When we went up the high street in the morning after a raid there were plenty of shops that had been hit and the big factory where they made parts for fire engines, was destroyed. The Surrey Docks were not far away, and one night they were badly hit. We could see the sky all red from the fires. My brother, Stan, had a friend who was in the auxiliary fire brigade and he got killed that night on the docks. It was very sad - his mother had already lost her other two sons and her husband to tuberculosis. On Blackheath, outside Greenwich Park gates, there used to be a huge hollow where the fair was set up every bank holiday. During the war they filled it right up with the rubble of the buildings that were destroyed, and now that part of the heath is flat.

Most of the raids were after dark. We didn’t always go down the shelters, but it was so tiring if the air raid warning went in the night. We three girls slept in one room downstairs. I was always on the end and I had to go tearing up the stairs to wake my father up and tell him that the alarm had gone, because he was deaf and didn’t hear the siren. Then we’d all go down the shelter. It was horrible to be woken like that night after night, and really tiring. We had a dog at the time and he soon learned what the sirens meant. For daytime raids, as soon as the back door was opened he ran out to be the first one down, and at night he slept there. Sometimes he took his bone down and woke us up gnawing away at it. Then we’d kick him to make him leave the bone alone.

The worst period was during the blitz, which lasted for 6 or 9 months overall. As the Battle of Britain went on the RAF knocked a lot of the bombers out of the sky, and then things were a bit better. On Blackheath there was a huge anti-aircraft gun called Big Bertha, which used to belt out at night, with batteries of searchlights trying to pick out the bombers. The searchlights all over the sky at night were spectacular to watch, until the sirens went: then we ducked down into the shelter. My father was usually the last one down, as he was deaf and stayed outside looking up at the sky, oblivious to the shrapnel falling all around and hitting the shelter roof. We had to shout at him to come down in case he got a lump of it on his head. I suppose quite a few people must have got killed with shrapnel.

The Air Raid Wardens were very hot on lights, and we dared not have even a streak of light showing through the curtains. Even outside there were no lights: patrolling wardens would shout “Put that fag out” if we so much as struck a match. We were allowed to use torches, but we had to be sure they were directed towards the ground. When we went out it was pitch black at night, all the lights were off and you had to have a torch in the winter.

Despite the bombing and the blackout we still went out in the evening during the war. We went up the West End sometimes on the Underground, where people spent the night if they had no air raid shelter. I first saw “Gone with the Wind" in the West End. If the air raid sirens went off while we were in the cinema the film just carried on -we never left. Strangely enough we weren’t frightened; maybe a bit wary, but not really frightened. Sometimes you could hear the bombs going off outside, but after a while we ignored it, more or less. We had guns from the cowboys going off inside and bombs going off on the outside. A lot of people got killed that way, especially in night clubs, by not leaving during the air raids.

If we were caught in the street during a raid, it was a different matter – we ran for the nearest shelter. We always ran for cover if we were outside. In Deptford High Street there was a bomb shelter under a big shop- Burton’s, a clothing shop. Everyone out in the High Street when the sirens went off ran for that, and stayed down there until the “all clear” sounded. Most of the raids were at night, and in the morning on the way to work we could see what the bombs had done . The did a lot of damage - knocked down buildings, shops and everything, but Burton’s was never knocked down. There were some American troops in the area and they used to help with clearing up the bomb damage. By the time the war ended most streets around Deptford and Lewisham had buildings missing where the bombs had landed. It was amazing really that we came through it all. I’ve heard it said that the people who stayed at home suffered worse that the men who were in the army in some areas. The civilians took the brunt of it all.

Towards the end of the war my Aunt Martha moved to Adolphus Street, and there was an empty house next door and this one had 3 bedrooms. So we packed up our stuff and moved next. Although the war was coming to an end, there were still air raids and the Germans also sent over the “V” weapons, doodlebugs, mostly during the day. There were no warning sirens for those: the buzz would get louder overhead the bombs could be seen going through the air with a flame coming out of the end. The only time we were wary was when the noise stopped . Then we ducked for cover, because when the engine stopped the bomb was going to come down.

Once in Adolphus Street, when I was 19 or 20, I was sitting at home with my father when there was an almighty bang. I got down on the floor and my father got down on top of me to cover me up and we stayed there for a little while. When we got up the windows were all gone and the ceiling was down. There had been a land mine - they used to come down on parachutes - at the bottom of the street and 22 people were killed that night . All the houses round about had lost windows and some had their doors blown off. All our bedroom and living room windows went . We went to see what had happened after the “All Clear” sounded: it was dreadful to see the bodies lined up in the street waiting for the ambulances to take them away. We got off lightly by comparison: we were given dockets to get our sheets and curtains replaced and because the war was still on they came round and boarded over the windows. We had no daylight in the house for a while, until we could get the glass replaced.


I wish I’d kept a ration book. We were rationed to an ounce or two of cheese a week, there was a sweet ration, and a meat ration. It was impossible to buy an egg during the war. I don’t know why- there were plenty of new laid eggs in the shops before the war, and the hens must still have been laying, so I suppose the eggs went to the troops. The rest of us bought egg powder which was mixed with a bit of pepper and salt and milk, and whisked in the frying pan like an omelette.

Bread and potatoes weren’t rationed, but everything else was. Almost everything we bought, including clothing, we had to give up coupons, and there were dockets to allow replacement of bedclothes and other things destroyed in the raids. The only new furniture that was made was ”Utility” furniture, which was well made of good wood, but of a very plain and economical design.

The manufacturers were not allowed to make anything else. Rationing continued for a long time, even after the war was over. In fact rationing of a few things lasted into the 1950’s.

Utility Furniture

This is one of the best singular accounts of the bombing blitz of Deptford and the surrounding areas I have read. Find it here.....

'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at'

Where was this Off License?

This old photo shows an OFF LICENSE situated somewhere in Church Street, Deptford. Any clues as to where it was located.

Pre 1965 Photo of the Oxford Arms Church Street.

How it looks now. The brick pier is still there! even if the name has changed.
It will and still is known as the Oxford Arms.

A Deptford Firemans Funeral