SE7: Down the Valley

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SE7 is Charlton. There is a fragment of an old village in Charlton. Sadly this is not one of the most attractive of London’s villages, as we shall see, although it does have one rather special gem.

We start our walk at Charlton Post office which is at 10-12 Charlton Church Lane. Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is almost immediately ahead of you on the left.

Stop 1: Charlton Station

Charlton station was opened in 1849 by the South Eastern Railway on the North Kent Line. As we have heard in SE4, the first line here went through Blackheath and it was only later in 1878 that the more direct route via Greenwich was. The two routes diverge just west of Charlton.

The station here shows little sign of being Victorian. It has a single storey modular ticket office and some modern canopies over the platforms.

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This really is not a very welcoming station.

On the north side of the tracks is this strange canopy.

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I think this dates from the time of the 2012 Olympics when Charlton was used as an interchange point where you could change from trains to buses to get you to the arena at North Greenwich (which we now call the O2). This was part of that bus interchange.

And there are signs today to explain how you can make that link, but I guess few people use this route to get to the O2.

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Continue past the station until you reach the junction with traffic lights. Our next stop is just on the corner here.

Stop 2: The Antigallican Hotel

Now here is an intriguing name for a hostelry – the Antigallican.

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At first I misread it and thought it was anti Galician, but no this is not against people from North West Spain. Note there are two “l”s and one “i”. So it is anti Gallic which means anti French. There was a movement in the 18th century against the import of French stuff and this is where the name originates from.

Here is a link which explains more about Antigallican

http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2011/12/antigallican/

It is hardly a great name for a hotel which might cater for foreign visitors some of whom might well come from France. Now perhaps the name of this place is in the spirit of these post Brexit times.

Retrace you steps back up past the station and soon after that take a left turn into Floyd Road. As you get to a T junction you will see our next stop peeking up behind the houses to your right.

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Here we have another example of a major sporting venue rather unsuitably located in a residential area. To get a better view take a left at this junction and walk a little further along to see one of the entrances to Charlton Athletic Football Club

Stop 3: Charlton Athletic Football Club

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Charlton Athletic Football Club was founded in June 1905 when a number of youth clubs in south-east London joined together to form a single team.

The Club first played at this location in 1919. The site was a disused sand and chalk pit. It is not in a valley as such and it perhaps got its name “The Valley” because it looked like it was in a valley.

The club has almost continuously been here since 1919, apart from one year in Catford, during 1923/24 when they were in discussion about a merger which fell through, and seven years (1985 – 1992) when they shared a ground mainly with Crystal Palace but also latterly with West Ham United. The departure from the Valley was triggered by the closure of the East Terrace after the Bradford City stadium fire and the wish of the ground’s owner to use part of the site for housing. The move was very unpopular locally but after much toing and froing the club finally returned to the Valley in December 1992.

Charlton’s fans are commonly called The Addicks. There seem to be two schools of thought as to the origin. One relates to the mangling of the pronunciation of athletic as ‘addock” and the other (more probable) is relates to the story of a local fishmonger, Arthur “Ikey” Bryan, who rewarded the team with meals of haddock and chips.

Retrace your steps along Floyd Road and at the end turn left. Our next stop is a little way up the street on the left.

Stop 4: Number 67 Charlton Church Lane

This house has one of the two English Heritage blue plaques in SE7.

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It was placed to commemorate this was the home of Italian writer Aron Ettore Schmitz (1861 – 1928) who used the pen name Italo Svevo. He lived here 1903 to 1913.

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No I had not heard of him either…

But apparently he is considered a pioneer of the Psychological novel in Italy and is best known for his classic Modernist novel La Coscienza di Zeno (1923).

Keep walking uphill along Charlton Church Street.

Stop 5: A little shelter

At the end of the street there is an open space and right by the junction, there is this little shelter.

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Go inside and you discover it contains a water fountain – or rather did. As ever these things no longer work. And it is not as old as it looks.

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It actually dates from 1902 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII and was put up by the local bigwigs the Maryon-Wilsons – more of whom anon.

From here you can see the contrasts that are Charlton village – off to the right as you came up the hill was a large estate of blocks of flats, but ahead is the 17th century Charlton House which we shall come to and to the left is the village church, which is our next stop.

Stop 6: St Luke’s Church

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There has been a church here since the 11th century. But the one we see today dates from 1630, according to architectural guru Pevsner, although there was some further rebuilding in 1840 and 1873. The church is listed as grade II*. It has a lot of monuments, of which the most significant is that of Spencer Perceval, the British Prime Minister assassinated in 1812. We came across him when we were in Ealing, W5.

Just across the way from the church is just a fragment of the old village, and of course the obligatory pub.

Stop 7: The Bugle Horn pub

This pub originates from the late 17th century, although the frontage is of a later date.

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The name is perhaps a reminder of the Horn Fair which was held on 18 October each year. It had a reputation for lawlessness and rowdiness (didn’t they all?) and was closed down in the 19th century. Or maybe the pub’s name is just a reminder that this was a stopping off spot for coaches.

The street by the pub is the heart of the old village. It even has the street name “The Village”, but it is sad affair. It has such potential but it is a not very pretty collection of down market shops and food outlets.

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As you go through what passes for the village centre, there is a red brick building on the right, which looks interesting but which Pevsner does not seem to acknowledge.

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I believe this was the Charlton Assembly Rooms, but not sure what it is used for now.

Keep going until you reach Charlton Lane on your left and on your right is an entrance to a park. Go down here.

Stop 8: Charlton Park

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This is Charlton Park and was once part of the grounds of Charlton House. Today this is largely given over to sports of one kind or another.

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There is a hut on the right which serves refreshments..

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It has amusing little pictures of various historic characters.

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Plus oddly the current queen.

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But we are not popping in here as there is somewhere else we should stop for tea.

Now you will be able to see the back of Charlton House from here.

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Head through the park towards in and go to the right of the main building.

Stop 9: Charlton House

The main entrance is on the other side from where you came.

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This is probably the best preserved early 17th century house in London. According to Pevsner, the house was built by Sir Adam Newton, tutor to Henry, Prince of Wales (eldest son of King James I) between 1607 and 1612. It became the home of the Maryon-Wilson family in the 19th century.

There was a baronetcy of Maryon-Wilson which can be traced back to 1661 but the title became extinct on the death of the 13th Baronet in 1978. Baronet by the way is a hereditary title passed down the male line giving the holder the title of “Sir” and his wife the title of “Lady”. Not to be confused with knighthoods which are just given for the life of the recipients.

The Maryon-Wilsons employed noted architect Richard Norman Shaw to restore the house and make some minor additions in the 1870s.

The house and grounds were used as a hospital during World War I and were bought by the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich in 1925. Today the house is used for community purposes.

Do go in if you can.

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In the entrance hall is a tea room.

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They do a nice line in carrot cake

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In adjoining room there are some information panels explaining the history of the house and its last owners (the Maryon-Wilsons). There is also some information about the Hornfair.

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The Maryon-Wilson family are commemorated in the names of a couple of local parks on land which was once part of their estate. Here is a very good website about the various parks in Charlton which gives potted histories about each http://www.charltonparks.co.uk/

But sadly we do not have time to see this side of SE7.

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Now head out and go to the right where you will see a tree with a metal fence round it and a brick building up a few steps. Go over there.

Stop 10: The Mulberry tree and the Summer House

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The tree imprisoned in the metal fence is a very old Mulberry tree, possibly dating from 1608. This was the time when King James I was encouraging the planting of such trees. the idea was they would provide food for silk worms and help create a source of English silk. Sadly this did not work out.

The brick building was built as a Summer House around 1630.

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Pevsner says that “There is no documentary confirmation of the traditional attribution to Inigo Jones [who built the Queen’s House at Greenwich and the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall]; but the complete absence of Jacobean frills at evidently such an early date make it quite justifiable.” So the best we can say is that this is possibly by famous 17th century architect Inigo Jones.

At some point this building was converted to become public conveniences.

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Despite the sign, it was not open during the time I was there (which was in the middle of the day)

Now at this point it is worth looking over the street and between the blocks of flats because you can get quite a nice view of Canary Wharf.

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Head along the main road away from the House and church. This is Charlton Road. Note the reminder of the Hornfair in the name of the street going off to your left.

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Our final two stops are quite a way along Charlton Road past the estates of flats.

 Stop 12: Number 145 Charlton Road

First on the right, just after a school, we are headed to Number 145 which is set back off the road by our Lady of Grace, catholic church.

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This is the location of the other English Heritage blue plaque in SE7. This commemorates that engineer William Henry Barlow (1812 – 1902) lived and died here.

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William Barlow was a civil engineer. He was engineer for the Midland Railway on its London extension in the 1860s and is best known for his design of the company’s London terminus at St Pancras.

He was actually a local lad having been born in Woolwich, where his father was employed at the naval dockyard. But he does not seem to have strayed far even once he was established, as tis is where he died.

Stop 12: Poplar Cottage, Number 80 Charlton Road

Then a little further on the left after the entrance to a sports ground, comes this lovely dark pink house with the name of Poplar Cottage.

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Pevsner comments that apart from St Luke’s Church and Charlton house, no buildings visibly of before the 19th century remain in the village centre. (The Bugle Horn pub is of late 17th century origin but was refashioned later) He goes on to say “The only rural survival is a sweet weatherboarded cottage some way to the west [at number 80 Charlton Road]” This is apparently of 17th century origin.

It is quite out of keeping with its surrounding but lovely nonetheless.

We are now at the end of our SE7 walk. Charlton has some nice bits with a magnificent Jacobean house, though a somewhat disappointing centre which could be so much nicer.

We are now some way from any useful rail station so you best bet is to get a bus either to Blackheath or North Greenwich for onward travel.