History of the Brickfield and Local Area
The shorter Account:
(History of Havelock Rec, affectionately known as the Brickfield)
The open space you see before you has only been like this since 1963, before that it was the scene of industrious activity, supplying bricks for the expanding suburbs of London.
From the 1860’s to 1934, clay and gravel was excavated from a huge pit, with the brickworks situated where Mornington Avenue and Waldo Road are now. The map of 1863 shows the brick works with a field to the east where the bricks were set out to dry.
When the clay was all exhausted the gravels underneath were taken out to be used, though we have found no record yet what for. During this time, there is a Coroner’s record in 1933 of a 28-year-old man, Frederick Lettington from Stanley Road, who died when the gravel slope collapsed.
After the death of J.J.Peill, the pit was purchased by the Gas Board, who seem to have used it to bury the waste products from their Town Gas plant, situated just the other side of the railway; part of that site is now occupied by Tescos. It’s not possible to find out from their archives what was put there, without paying a substantial fee.
In WW2 this area suffered in the bombing of the Blitz , the blocks of flats in Havelock Road mark the sites of two of the bombs. The Crooked Billet pub on Southborough Lane, half a mile to the north east, was destroyed by a V2 rocket (now a Harvester restaurant) and in what is now Jubilee Country Park, was the Thornet Wood Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Site, one of a defensive ring of gun sites encircling London during the Second World War. **
Much of the rubble from the bombing was placed in the pit, along with household rubbish.
Bromley Council provide a short history of Bromley Borough at this page.
With thanks to Tony Deary, who did vast amounts of research in the Local Studies area and the internet, Felix for his work, but most of all, to all the people who have composed and contributed their recollections of our park.
(photo thanks to BBLHS and Max Batten)
The notable event of the early Bromley railways happened just a quarter of the mile up the railway, at the bridge between Wendover Road and Murray Avenue: Max Batten explains about Bromley Railways and the events of Thursday 23rd October, 1882
To give an idea of what the working brick pit would have resembled:
|BGS Asset photos of our Brick pit when it was working, when it was called Peill’s Brick Pit, a decade before it closed. There’s more on our page Pictures Of Our Brick-pit Being Worked|
Brick workers were known as a rough bunch, and apparently no Friday night was complete without a fight and stabbing on Havelock Road !
These are from Ideal Homes website:
From Bromley Common Cricket Club’s site: “Bromley Common’s early cricket ground is believed to have been in the area of Brick-Kiln Lane (now Homesdale Road), where a connection can be made with the local game and the Norman family. George Warde Norman (1793 to 1882) mentioned in his memoirs that he played there. He was a member of a family which had extensive lands around the south of Bromley, including Bromley Common. The Norman family name is continued locally, with a large local park being named after the family.”
In 1892, Havelock road became notorious as the home of the man who attempted to murder two young ladies walking on Chislehurst Common one august afternoon, see our page here for more detail on the scandal, that was reported both in the Times and as far away as Canada and Australia..
In 1940 in particular, Havelock Road suffered considerable bomb damage in the Blitz. The block of flats now occupying numbers 24-41 Homesdale Road are the result of an aerial mine. This explosion also destroyed the chicken cabins at the back of 21 Havelock Road.
Another notable event in WW2 was the destruction of the Crooked Billet pub on Southborough Lane, half a mile to the north east, by a V2 rocket on 19th November 1944. Locals say that they were initially told it was a gas explosion, so they wouldn’t panic at the inexplicable damage from the unknown new weapon. It was the largest single incident for casualties in the old Borough of Bromley during the Second World War: 27 people were killed and dozens more were injured, many very seriously. The Crooked Billet was rebuilt in 1957 and is now a Harvester restaurant.
The British counter-intelligence had fed the Germans the mis-information that their V1 bombs were landing ten miles too far north, and the consequent adjustments meant that those that were not shot down in “bomb-alley” landed in this part of Kent. Just half a mile north, this side of the Crooked Billet, in what is now Jubilee Country Park, was the Thornet Wood Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Site, one of a defensive ring of gun sites encircling London during the Second World War. **
Much of the rubble from all the building damaged in the bombing was placed in the pit, along with household rubbish.
At this time, there was a ‘wall’ built on ?[near Avondale Road], to keep the inhabitants of The London Corporation’s estate in Downham out of Bromley. Bromley was part of Kent until the boundary changes of 1965, so the houses in the area still have ‘kent’ in their addresses. At this time Orpington residents were given a vote as to whether they wanted to join the new borough or not.
Arthur Sheppeck recalled that bomb rubble from all over south London, for miles around, was put in the pit. In a similar vein, Andy posted in February, after visiting Wellington Road, “Met some very interesting people who had some very interesting stories. Including one retired builder who remembers working around the area, breaking down garages, which had asbestos roofs, filling a skip with the spoil and watching it being dumped in the landfill that is now Havelock Rec.”,
And, from another supporter: “Saw another lady who lives in Elliott Road… she used to live in Havelock Road. As a young girl, she remembers playing in the brickworks. Then it was filled in, and then grassed. She said they used to “have a big bonfire and fireworks on the field for a number of years…”.
One long-time local, Reg, from Bourne Road told me that when he was a boy he used to cut across the brickfield and through all the piles of dumped rubbish, when he lived in Cannon Road, to attend Raglan Road school. He and the other lads would look through the rubbish discarded from the little model railway factory, which was where Excel house now stands by the railway, between Homesdale and Godwin Roads. One teacher he particularly remembers is a Mrs Evans, They called her “Creeping Jesus” because she would appear silently behind them, when they were not attending to their school work, and hit them across their hands with a ruler. He remembers a bakers on Havelock Road that they frequented. Two families he remembers living in Havelock Road, and having loud remonstrations on Fridays nights, were the Crisps and Danhers. At that time, most pupils attended Raglan Road until they were 14, and some of their lessons were in one of the school extensions behind the Hayes Lane baptist chapel on Hayes Lane (I think it’s now a pupil referral centre). When they had to get back to the main buildings for the next lesson, and one of the horse drawn rubbish carts was coming up the hill, he and his friend would run out – without the driving spotting them – and hang on the back of the cart. Sometimes, when they got to the main road, a public spirited soul would tell the driver that the poor horse had two hanger-on at the back and they would have to jump off. Other times they would get a lift all the way to the Havelock Road entrance to the dump and then they only had one road to walk back down.
Finally, a contribution on our Facebook page from Jane Evans:
“My husband’s family sold the brickfield – we think late 1920s – have papers from buying not selling. Have some anecdotal stuff – not least mires with cart horses dead in them…”
A report from the Bromley Times, from 9 August 1963:
“Bromley’s new oasis … what was an ugly brick works and later a tip for the local Gas Board, has now been converted by Bromley Council in to an attractive stretch of grassland which, during the long summer weeks of school holidays, should be a boon for mothers in the Bromley Common area”
And, the Soviets had mapped us:
Thanks to Felix for finding this snippet from a map of London by the Soviets. They built up detailed maps of areas they were interested in, mostly to calibrate which roads they could drive a tank down.
In the first decade or so our field was used for football club training, but this had to be abandoned, when a piece of glass worked it’s way up from the landfill, and injured a player. The pavilion was then derelict for some years before it was first used for an after school club, then taken over by the current leaseholders. This was successful so the owners were able to revamp the building and extended to just over twice it’s original size, whilst fencing in the community’s car park.
After a while, the nursery also applied to extend over a third of the park to provide outside play for extended four-year-old provision, but the residents objected to this and the application failed. The parks division of the council informed (this) resident, at this point that, as far as he were concerned, the park was under-utilised, and if some way could be found to get revenue from it, then as much of it would be disposed of as possible. The park was renamed from The Brickfield to Havelock Recreation ground from this time.
In 2014, the Renewal Director at Bromley Council offered the (then) Education Funding Agency this park to be used to locate La Fontaine (academy) school, and in response, this friends group was formed, to campaign so that everyone can enjoy this park into the future..
** Our thanks to local historian Jennie Randall for helping us out with details of the Crooked Billet and the Thornet Wood battery; she has two books on sale, “Not Forgotten – The Crooked Billet” and “Jubilee Country Park – It’s History and Heritage”. They can be purchased at local WHSmith stores, visitor centres and libraries, please see the Instructions to purchase on Jubilee Park website for details. That’s not to say that we are ungrateful to Max Batten, Arthur Sheppeck, Felix Corely, Tony Deary for all their research and contributions too!
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