The Village High Street.

When we talk of The Village we naturally think of the High Street as the centre of village life, with tradesmen, shops and public houses serving the Manor Houses and Estates and the workers on those estates. The central figure was the Village Squire, the last of whom in Beckenham was Cornelius Lea Wilson, who died at Village Place in December 1911 at the age of 96.

Starting at the lower end of the High Street there were:-

BECKENHAM LODGE which stood at the junction of Croydon and Beckenham Roads. Up to about 1810 it was occupied by the Banyer family, then by Hulbert Wathen who, in 1842, sold to John Woolley. The grounds extended along Beckenham Road as far as Queens Road with the front entrance by Westfield Road, and the estate Bailiffs cottage was one of a pair which stood on the present comer of Elm Road, opposite the Baptist Church. In the grounds were some Cedar trees which gave the name to Cedars Road when the house was pulled down for road developments.

VILLAGE PLACE, formerly THE CEDARS again because of the Cedar trees in its grounds, was built in the early part of the 18th century by William Davis on the site of a former house. The grounds extended along the back of the High Street as far as Church Hill with the Beck flowing through part. An old map shows parkland extending to Kent House and marked 'Beckenham Park'.

Alderman Richard Lea resided at Village Place, and in 1828 Col. Samuel Wilson, who in 1838 was Lord Mayor of London, a J.P. for Kent and Westminster, and Harbinger to the Queen. Later the Lea family intermarried with the Wilsons to give us the Lea-Wilson family connection familiar to many 'Old Villagers'.

The coach of Squire Lea Wilson was a familiar sight in the Village, and on Church Hill there stood a Gazebo, used as a lookout for the coach returning from London, via Lewisham. In 1926 this Gazebo was purchased by Mr. T.W. Thornton and re-erected in his garden off Kelsey Square where it remained until destroyed in the development of Thornton Dene, off Greenways.

Village Place was used as a Military Headquarters during the first World War and was demolished in 1920 when the Rectory Estate was developed, The Drive being part of the old mansion drive. The parade of shops in the High Street was called Cedars Parade.

ELM COTTAGE stood opposite the entrance to Village Place, and was so called because of a large Elm tree in the grounds, measuring nearly 15 feet in circumference and standing 100 feet high. Tradition says that this building once stood in Wickham Road and was moved brick-by-brick to the new site!

Rev. Andrew Brandram, M.A., Rector of Beckenham from 1838 to 1850, lived there at one time, but later Mr. Legg used the building as stables for the local horse-bus. In 1900 the Cottage was used as a Territorial Headquarters for the Volunteer Corps, from which some men went to the Boer War; and it was also used by the Territorials up to the time of the first world war.

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0 # Ray Burden 2016-02-14 14:44
The licensee of The George was James Whelller and not Wheeler. I know because he was my great great grandad. His son took over after him.
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0 # Mal Mitchell 2017-11-08 18:58
I've yet to rediscover the original map from 1723 that Borrowman drew from, but later maps and plans in the British Library illustrate changes in the High Street. Francis Motley Austin who it seems was a great uncle of Jane Austin, owned land to the rear of the George and perhaps the George itself in 1809 though he must have leased it. Beckenham Lodge appears on an 1809 map as 'The executors of Lawrence Banyer'. Property annotation seems to show that the Burrells were landlords of most of the south side of the high street. Though a Mr Jackson and Poole Esq. owned sites approximately where village way is today. In 1776 John Cator had acquired some sites on the north side of the high street and of course the long lost rectory opposite the church designed by Robert Adam was approximately behind Marks and Spencers.
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0 # Mal Mitchell 2018-05-29 19:08
The 1825 Act of Parliament acquired by John Barwell Cator lists among the Cator properties The George Inn and the Crooked Billet in Penge. As it appears that Peter Burrell/Baron Gwydyr owned most of the south side of the high street up to his death in 1820 the full details of the disposal of his properties are little known? Baron Gwydyr's father, another Peter Burrell , son of Amy Burrell, exchanged Woolsey's Farm, Clay Hill for the Old Manor house in 1757 with Viscount Bolingbroke, but by 1809 it is shown on an estate map as belonging to Mr Hoare. I'm guessing that either or both Peter Burrells either lived at the old manor or Langley Place/Park as they styled themselves 'of Langley'. They also had the property in Whitehall still named Gwydyr House and as MP's for Haslemere would want to be near Westminster.
The estate maps of the Cator estate for 1833 and later show them owning land to the north of the town extending to Penge and Sydenham and Southend, Others such as the Hoare family and Goodharts must have acquired most of the south side.
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0 # Mal Mitchell 2018-07-18 14:04
The George Inn was at some time between 1760 and 1806 one of the properties owned by John Cator. It may have remained part of Cator property until 1825 or so. John Cator also owned the Crooked Billet in Penge and the Green Man at Southend which he later exchanged with the Forsters for a mill and land in the 1790's.
The Three Tuns was owned by the Burrell's up until Peter Burrell/Lord Gwydyr's Beckenham estates were sold after his death in 1820.
This is extracted from map evidence found in the British Library. one landlord/tenant of the Three Tuns renamed it the London Coffee House during the 19th Century, I believe a photo exists somewhere.
Some of the land behind the Greyhound was at one time owned by Francis Motley Austin of Sevenoaks. He is reputed to be a great uncle of Jane Austen. His land holdings also included some area near Churchfields Road and at Bellingham. (from map evidence on the Burrell estate maps in the British Library dated 1809.)
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0 # malvin.mitchell 2019-01-15 15:37
The 1723 Burrell map which Borrowman copied has resurfaced thanks to the tireless research of Keith Baldwin of Shortlands. To be precise the 1723 is a bit worse for wear but is copied by pidduck in 1735. The maps are in the possession of the Burrell family. Keith and I have photos of the maps. Another map in Kent archive from 1736 of properties belonging to Thomas motley shows Thornton's corner as a property called The Mead with formal rectangular water features. These were later relandscaped into a more irregular lake as the Cedars. The village pond was moved and reshaped several times being approximately in front of the current closed public convenience (inconvenience). The series of maps now rediscovered show a pictorial chain of change of both structures and owners. The Burrell maps illustrate the change from ownership by the Tolsons and Tilly's of several sites to the Raymond family and the acquisitions of John Cator have been more comprehensively traced by Keith Baldwin .
The various date related snapshots are perhaps best described by a timeline approach.
Thomas Motleys property descended via his daughter to Frances Austin thence to Frances Motley Austin. These included Elmer's End farm and Thayer's farm.
The maps also show several lesser landowners.
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