Saturday, 18 March 2017

Walking into Eltham in 1862

The parish church in 1860
So, yesterday I was with Bradshaw in 1862 on Shooter’s Hill and today I want to continue to explore one of the walks laid out in the Illustrated Handbook to London and its Environs.*

The book remains a wonderful snap shot of London in the early 1860s and for the curious 21st century reader here are descriptions on how to cross the city by foot, train and boat as well as what was on offer to the tourist of the period.

“For those who either have seen Woolwich, or prefer postponing their visit thither for a distant excursion, we can especially recommend a deviation from Shooter’s Hill down the inviting green lane that leads to ELTHAM, a pleasant walk of hardly two miles.”

And as you would expect the guide goes into great detail about the Palace, its history and its appearance in 1862 all of which I shall leave you to read yourself.

Partly because the guide does it so well and the publishers may jib at me stealing their book.

Suffice to say it makes fascinating reading and is a good contrast to what can be seen today added to which
I am sure there will be those who fall on the description and speculation about the ancient tunnels.

But for me I shall close with Bradshaw’s instruction to

“go and see Eltham Church; not that it is architecturally remarkable, but in the churchyard will be found a tomb to Doggett the comedian, who bequeathed the coat and badge still rowed for every 1st of August by the ‘jolly young watermen of the Thames.”

One he missed, Well Hall from a photograph taken in 1909
Now this is not as daft as it seems given that this was the old church and vanished not that long after the guide book was finished.

Now I do have to confess to a little disappointment in that this is all we get.

The fine large houses along the High Street and beyond do not get a look in, nor does that fine old pile at Well Hall which had been built in the early 18th century and would last into the 20th.

So having done the Palace and the parish Church our guide was content to announce that it was now time to “get back to Greenwich and go home by railway,” which does however open up the prospect of more walks courtesy of the guide to Woolwich Greenwich and Blackheath.

But these are for another time.

Pictures;  Eltham Church, 1860, & Well Hall 1909,  from The story of Royal Eltham,  R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, http://www.gregory.elthamhistory.org.uk/bookpages/i001.htm,

* Bradshaw’s Illustrated Handbook to London and its Environs, 1861, republished in 2012 by Conway 

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