At the large Sycamore Tree
Stop 5 – Of the Crooked Billet, memories of Seeding Grass and steaming hot tip
Narrator: If you look to your left, between the houses, you can see the spire of St George’s church; the 1865 extravagant and classy centrepiece of the villa park, created in Bickley, by a George Wythes Esq. He was an eminent railway constructor who had made a fortune, in Essex and India, and then bought part of the manor of Bromley. He laid out an estate of high-quality suburban villas for the well-to-do city workers. Another mile beyond that is a pub called the Crooked Billet.
Narrator: The smaller of these two trees is an Aspen, often called quaking Aspen because their leaves tremble in the slightest breeze. This is because the stalks are long and flattened.
Rebecca: Bromley (and surrounding areas), were in the direct line to London for V1 and V2 rockets. The Crooked Billet was rebuilt on the site of one of the earliest V2 rocket explosions, on the 19th November, 1944. V2 rockets were launched into space and fell silently and vertically on their targets, so the pub and it’s customers – the pub was full at the time – had no warning. There was only wreckage left of the pub, and neighbouring houses were left gutted. 27 people were killed outright, and many others injured.
Jo, reading the memories of Mrs T Coombes, daughter of J. Pepper (Headmaster of Raglan Road Junior School 1941-59 and previously master in Senior Boys) in Raglan School’s Centenary 1889-1989. Something I shall always associate with wartime is seeding grass – it grew along every pavement and at the bottom of every fence This contributed to the general air of shabbiness in the streets. The houses mostly had peeling paint, gates leaned on their hinges or were propped open, and windows were obscured by sticky netting or replacement parchment, or were blacked out with old lino or impenetrable dark air raid curtains.
Jo, continuing: . The disused brickfield behind Havelock Road, which was used as a tip for industrial and household rubbish, was an irresistible adventure playground. We called it the Brickie and would sometimes wander there at lunch break and scramble about through the rubbish via little pathways, having to take care to avoid the more unpleasant patches.
Andrew, reading a memory from an Anonymous gentleman: Beneath the park is rubbish from derelict bomb sites during the war. It was always steaming hot. Some parts of the Rec sink (because of this) so it was deemed unfit to build on – I don’t know if the powers that be still know about this – heaven help us if they built on this ground and it started to sink! I thought I should tell you the history of this land as there are not many of us left in the road to tell this story
Narrator: Continue clock-wise along the perimeter of the park, but stay on the level without going down the slope.