Thursday, 26 May 2011

History of Beechgrove, Sydenham Hill

Beechgrove was near Cox's Walk, opposite Lammas Green. A stretch of garden wall along Sydenham Hill survives. The house was built about 1862. The first occupant, William Patterson, was an East India merchant and he called his new house “Singapore”. After a couple of years he decided “Beechgrove” was more appropriate. Patterson lived there until his death in 1898.

The next two occupants have entries in the Dictionary of National Biography. By 1911 Samuel Herbert Benson had moved from London Road, Forest Hill to Beechgrove. Benson had been invited by John Lawson Johnston (another local person) to become the advertising agent for Bovril. He is regarded as the originator of modern advertising campaigns by using advertisements to engage potential buyers rather than merely informing them. His company was eventually absorbed by Ogilvy & Mather who were, allegedly, the inspiration for the advertising agency in the television series “Mad Men”.

Benson was followed at Beechgrove by Sir William Watson Cheyne who lived there from 1919 to 1921, a distinguished surgeon who was assistant to Joseph Lister and, later, President of the Royal College of Surgeons. During his time at Beechgrove he also served as an MP.

In 1922 Frederick Aubrey Norris moved into Beechgrove. He was an engineer whose firm, F A Norris & Co, made iron staircases, particularly fire escapes. In 1930 Norris moved to Eliot Lodge, Kirkdale and Miss Rose Ellis moved into Beechgrove. She had moved out by 1932 when Lionel Logue and his family moved in. In time Logue’s children left home, his wife died, the house became too large and expensive to maintain and, in April 1947, Logue moved to a flat in Knightsbridge.

The house seems to have been unoccupied until, on 17 June 1952, it opened as Beechgrove Home for the Aged Sick, run by the Red Cross to provide nursing care for patients who had been discharged from hospital but still needed medical care. When the Home closed in 1960 the house remained unoccupied again until it was demolished in 1983.

Several sources suggest that the folly in Sydenham Hill Woods was once in the grounds of Beechgrove. This was not the case. It was in the grounds of Fairwood, the house immediately to the south of Beechgrove. Fairwood was built in about 1862 and the first occupant was Alderman David Henry Stone, Lord Mayor of London. Shortly after moving to Fairwood he commissioned James Pulham & Son to build the folly. Pulhamite garden ornaments are now highly regarded and a number have been listed by English Heritage. There are at least two other surviving examples hidden away in gardens along Sydenham Hill.

Beechgrove now is little more than an overgrown pile of rubble although a section of the garden wall survives to its full height along the boundary with Fairwood and remains of the greenhouses can be seen along the boundary with Lapsewood to the north.

3 comments:

jill rodger said...

I was born and lived as a child in 36 Sydenham Hill and recall Beechcroft and FAirwood. It is my belief that the folly is actually in the grounds of The Hoo which was demoloshed in the early 60's. Our house was bought by Lewisham council in 1965 and demolished by them they built a childrens home or something similar on the site which is disused and The house had a lovely garden as well as being a classic victorian house. A man who called and said he was from the British Museum described our house as 'A Victorian Monstrosity' well maybe?/ Our amily name was REEVE next door aat 38 was The Manor House where teh Kennedy's lived until that atoo was knocked down and Lammas Green built in the late 50's. There were some cottage opposite our house, next to where the Hoo had stood that remained for a few years afterwards, I think they weer servants houses fo rthe Hoo or one of the other big houses Fairlawn or Beechcroft. Is there still a property at the end of Coxes Walkat its junction with Sydenham Hill?

JILL RODGER NEE REEVE

Steve Grindlay said...

Thanks for your comments, Jill. I was most interested to read that you lived at 32 Sydenham Hill. That means, I suspect, that your father was Thomas Dalby Reeve who, my records suggest, lived there from about 1927. Was he, by any chance, related to the man of the same name who was Mayor of Margate during the 1870s?

You mention the folly. The article above, on Pulhamite, quotes from the 1877 catalogue published by the company where they say they built a feature for Alderman Stone. He lived at Fairwood between 1864 and 1869. That fact, and evidence from maps, leaves little doubt that the folly was in the grounds of Fairwood.

The house next to Cox's Walk was demolished, I think sometime during the 1970s.

Paul N Sheppard said...

I must take issue with the comment that Beechgrove closed in 1960. My grandmother was there after fracturing her hip and although I cannot be exact about the year it must be between 1968 and 1979 - certainly after 1960!!Furtsal