While In my temporary home in the Crystal Palace Triangle, I decided to explore the view from my bedroom window. I identified the rear of “The Holly Bush”, “Randles the Jeweller” and Lawrence’s Vegetable market and then went on foot, around the corner into Westow Street, and then turned first left down Paddock Gardens into a congeries of small workshops and twitchels (or “snickets” or “gunnels” or whatever you Londoners call them).
I climbed up some wooden stairs and found a sort of artist “collective”, where, among others, stonemasons, potters and gilders were at work. This must have been the area that Audrey Hammond explored and wrote about and illustrated so well in “Crystal Palace – Norwood Heights: A Pictorial Record”, a book that I’d bought to cheer myself up when the roof blew off and the rains came down.
Although there are still little lanes and cut-throughs, the Paddock has long gone. What a shame our heritage is being destroyed in such a piecemeal fashion. It isn’t only the disappearance of “big” things that dismay me. Little things count also, colourful things that add to the tapestry of our shared history. I noticed recently that the glorious name “Queen of Sheba mansions” has been painted out from a handsome house on Central Hill. Above another satisfyingly well-proportioned house in Church Road, used to be written “The Workhouse” which now houses offices and has “Scorpio House” written above the door instead.
On page 27 of Audrey Hammond and Brian Dann’s lovely book there is a drawing of two urns above the first-floor windows of a shop in Westow Hill which showed that originally a hardware shop stood there where oil was stored in such urns. Although they were there when I was marooned in the billiard hall, they have since disappeared. What would it have cost just to make them safe and leave them there to excite curiosity?
While it’s good to see that not all the Victorian pubs have fallen prey to the fashion for silly names, I was really sorry to see the name “The Queens Hotel” erased from our collective environment. I wrote to the Manager and the Resident Direct saying that while I understood the desire to advertise the fact that the hotel now belonged to a franchise chain, couldn’t a gesture be made to a long and distinguished history by incorporating the original name in the new title, something like – “The Queens – a Quality Hotel”. Sheer indifference was the response for I never received an answer.
Do you know Lansdowne Place? It runs behind Tudor Road, between Fox Hill and Belvedere Road. The London Borough of Bromley had placed at the foot of each Parish Post at the end of this small backwater, steel plates which marked the boundary of what was a detached part of the parish of Battersea until 1855. What an unexpected and interesting piece of street furniture to come upon (and thanks to L.B,B. for doing it). Now one plaque has been prised off and stolen. Of what use is it to anyone? How sad!
T W Jenkins
Note. The name ‘Queens Hotel’ has been restored, and also the missing plaque in Lansdowne Place. Ed. 2012.
The Norwood Review Edition #152.