Wednesday 11 June 2014

Eltham's history through its architecture

Listening to Pam Hildrew at the Library at the Eltham Centre
We went along tonight to the final talk in the successful 'Eltham Entertains' series. In 'Home is where the Heart Lies' Pam Hildrew gave a fascinating talk on how buildings reflect historical developments and the architectural styles of some local houses that reflect the history of Eltham.

Pam has trained as a London tour guide and now works as a yeoman guide at the Old Royal Naval College. Her fascination with history shone through as she gave a chronological run through Eltham from the early days of the time when Eltham Palace was built, all the way through to the between-the-world wars suburban developments.

Corbett's Eltham

We learnt that Eltham enjoyed a glorious rural past and later had magnificent villas and houses being commissioned by wealthy gentlefolk. The advent of the railway brought greater interest from further a field. The first prospective (rather than commissioned) houses were built by teetotal MP and philanthropist Cameron Corbett on the 340 acres of Eltham land which he had purchased.  His Edwardian Corbett houses proved popular and are still in demand today. 

One little nugget I picked up was about the attempt to individualise these houses as far as possible - look at the 'keystones' above the doorway arches and notice how on many Corbett houses they have different faces above them, often alternately male and female (in fact we spotted this on our walk back home, on the stretch of Grangehill Road opposite the Gordon Primary School entrance).

We heard about the incredible history of the Progress Estate, built on former farm land, with its current roads reflecting the original field boundaries which is why so many of them are curved. Our knowledgeable speaker also covered Severndroog Castle, Theobalds Cottages in Avery Hill Road, Green Lanes, impact of the great fire on window regulations, the houses in Court Road and Southend Crescent, the flamboyant Avery Hill gatehouse and so much more!

My young daughter, a history buff, came with me and I was impressed by the copious notes which she took. I should say that we unfortunately missed the early part of the talk.

Well done to Pam Hildrew, and to Eltham Arts for organising this wonderful series of talks. I hear that a Music Festival is next on the horizon...