Tuesday 4 January 2011

History of Albury Street. Part 3.

Only three contemporary leases for Union Street have been discovered. Two are leases for empty plots and one is a lease of a plot with a house already built on it. A further three deeds recite original leases and altogether they provided dates and modes of construction of ten houses in Union Street and for a further eight adjacent sites or completed houses. It has not unfortunately been possible to identify all the houses or sites mentioned in these leases; nonetheless they do give an admirably clear picture of how Lucas’s building speculation developed and what was his part in it, and of his relations with the builders and tenants. This information is supplemented by Lucas’s will written in 1734/35, the greater part of which is taken up with bequests to his wife, Thamer Lucas, and to his surviving children of property in Union Street in which he has retained an interest.

In owning the freehold, albeit mortgaged to Loving, of the strip of land, James Brown’s land on Evelyn’s map of 1623, Thomas Lucas differed from builders in the centre of London. There, it was usual for builders to take lease of a site for development, and once they had completed their building operations, to give up their interest in the site. Being his own landlord, Lucas retained an interest in the land on which houses had been built after they had been assigned to purchaser or otherwise leased. Forgetting the small scale of the operation, Lucas foreshadows the big developers of the nineteenth century. He laid out a road running down the middle of the land from Butt Lane (Deptford High St.) to Church Street leaving a strip about fifty two feet in depth either side on which the houses were to be built. The plots were let off in most cases at eight pence per foot frontage per annum for a lease of 99 years. This was a very low price in comparison with those in London notwithstanding the shallow depth of the plots, and must reflect the differences between metropolitan land values of those in Deptford. The houses were built one or two together, occasionally more, either by Lucas or by other craftsman who took a 99 year lease from him at a peppercorn rent for the first year. The width of the plots varied depending on the amount of money available to the builder or on the supposed requirements of their clients. The narrowest plot was thirteen feet wide and at the other end of the scale five single plots were over thirty feet wide. The builder of each house was responsible for the paving of the roadside but the roadway itself was built-up by Lucas apparently as late as 1709. The construction of the road was rather primitive being made of gravel and dentre stone, or drainage channel running done the middle of the street. The roadside was paved with Purbeck Stone http://www.purbeckstone.com/ and posts were set up to keep off the carts. There was no continuity of building in Union Street. The houses which Lucas built were spread up and down both sides of the street and those know to have been built by other builders were, at least on the south side of the street, intermingled with Lucas’s. In the same way the order in which plots were leased was haphazard. Building started at several points in the street and although houses tended to be erected on the east side of completed structures, it was not a continuous process.

In spite of these irregularities, Thomas Lucas was able to enforce a striking regularity of appearance on the houses whether they were built by himself or by other craftsman. Lucas made this conformity a condition of the leases which he granted to other builders.

No.19 Union Street, south side (Now renumbered to 34 shown here) was built by two masons, John Royalls or Ryalls and Robert Pearce or Pears under a lease of the 25th July 1709. They were to build or cause to be built at their own cost ‘one good brick tenement the front storey to be ten feet clear and lay the front with good grey stocks in such manner as the said Thomas Lucas hath to lay six feet in depth and the whole front of the said house with good purbeck stone and sett posts to keep the carts off at such distance as the rest of the posts are and to pave before the front of the said house as far as the said Thomas Lucas doth’. Royalls and Pearce were to have the benefit of the house on the west, one of a pair then being built by Lucas for Mr. Thomas Rowbotham, a dancing- master, for a party wall on condition that they should provide the same benefit to Lucas should he build next on the east side where a plot was already staked and marked out for building. In this way, Lucas controlled the depth of the cellar and the height of the ground storey. He ensured that the front elevation should conform to those of the houses he had already built himself and that it should be constructed of bricks of his own specification. Nowadays ‘good grey stocks’ would be described as brown but were then so named in distinction to the bright red bricks used for arches and decorative dressings.. The house built by Royalls and Pearce survives and the adjacent house built by Lucas for Rowbotham survived until recently. A photograph of them shows that Lucas’s intention that Royalls and Pearce should conform to his elevation was completely fulfilled. To the front elevation of the two houses is nearly identical and the only clue to there having been built separately is the straight joint between them.

Of the total of forty original houses built by 1717 in Union Street, the surviving deeds indicate how building advanced for sixteen of them. Of these sixteen houses, one was probably built in 1705. Three more houses were built in 1708 with a further plot staked out for building, and in 1709 three more still were built with another plot staked out. So, by the end of the first decade of the eighteenth century, ten of the sixteen houses had been completed. Three more houses followed by 1711, one more by 1713, and the last three were completed by or in 1715.

The latest assignment discovered is recited in a marriage settlement of 1759. It refers to No.7 Union Street, south side, the leasehold of which was assigned by Thomas Lucas to Valentine Goodman for 99 years on the 20th October 1715, when the house was described as ‘all that new brick messuage or tenement premises …..Containing two cellars..... two lower rooms…. two chambers and two garrets (Room within the roof of a house, an attic)…..’ The house filled the gap between two others already complete and occupied towards the west end of the street. There is no strong reason to suggest that this was the last house built, although by 1717, with forty houses built and occupied, Lucas had nearly finished his development. These houses include seventeen on the north side of the street, running from the corner of Butt Lane to No.23 (No.43) with a gap between numbers 6 and 8 and others not yet discovered, and with Nos. 21 and 22 later to be built from one house.

On the south side, there were twenty three houses running without a break from the corner with Butt Lane, No.1 to No.23 (No.42). The remainder of the street ran between the back gardens of houses facing onto Church Street. They were no part of Lucas’s development, but came to him with the parcel of land in 1704/05. What ever intention Lucas may have had to continue building in Union Street to the east, was probably frustrated by difficulty in raising money, and by lack of time since, from 1713, he was employed by the Commission for Fifty New Churches, first in Deptford but after 1718 in Stepney.

South Side of Albury St on the right looking east to Church Street. 1910?

Part 3 extract from A Quiney's paper on Albury Street 1979.


You may be aware a major BBC2 series charting the history of the secret streets of London is in the making and is planned to be screened sometime in 2012. One of those streets will be Deptford High Street. Century/Halcyon Heart Films  have contacted me and asked if I could post the following information.

Century and Halcyon Heart Films are an independent production company who are currently making a major new documentary series for BBC2 which will chart the history of six London streets. One of the programes will focus on the history of Deptford High Street. We are currently collaborating with several businesses on the street to build up a picture of the past 120 years. Having been a shopping street for almost two centuries we're sure every shop and building will have a fascinating story, so we're keen to speak to people who have lived or worked in the area about their memories. The questions we want to ask are quite straightforward: How long have / did you live in Deptford? Do you know anything about the history of the high street? What are your memories of the pubs and shops there? And if you lived close to the street, or knew the residential streets nearby, do you remember them before they were demolished in the 1960s and 1970s? Even if you no longer live in Deptford, if you used to know it well we'd really like to hear from you. At this stage, it’s purely for our research and there’s no obligation to appear on television. However, in the coming months we would like to interview people for the documentary. We think it’s going to be a fascinating project – and even if you don’t think you’re going to be interested in appearing on television, it would be great to have a chat with you.  If you can contact us at your earliest convenience, we’ll be sure to get back to you. It goes without saying that everything we talk about will be treated in the strictest confidence, and will not be passed on to anyone outside our team. We so hope that you’ll consider taking part in what is going to be a very exciting project. You can email me at historystreet@centuryfilmsltd.com or give us a call on 020 7378 6106. We'd love to have a chat and answer any questions you might have. For more information you can also see our website … www.oursecretstreets.com

Best Regards,

Jaime Taylor
Century Films/ Halcyons Heart Films

Your local Deptford bloggers would also love to hear your stories as well, and invite readers/ followers to post their comments and stories on the Deptford blogs, or alternatively email them so that we can post them up. In this way we can ensure that stories which never get further than the cutting room floor are recorded, posted for all the community to enjoy. I think its only right that we offer everyone the chance to have their voices heard as well as helping Jaime out with research for the programme.

Marmoset  http://crossfields.blogspot.com/ and the Deptford Dame at http://deptforddame.blogspot/ have already made a start. I would also like to invite people to do the same here. You can post directly in the comments (with an email address if possible) or email me at  axelgs1@yahoo.co.uk