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Joined 08-05-2007
Posted on Thursday, 10 May, 2007 - 03:58 pm:   

Iíve just joined the forum and was scrolling through recent threads. I noticed Stevegrindlayís recent historical tour of the area and recognised quite a lot of his photographs of local sites.

I lived in Forest Hill until around 1969-70 and although I am now living in Kent I have very fond memories of the Honor Oak area. I went to Fairlawn Primary school and then to Forest Hill Boys school. My dad was a local United Dairies milkman and as a boy I helped him serve Honor Oak Road, Westwood Park, The Hermitage, Hornimans Drive, Liphook Crescent, Ringmore Rise, Tewksbury Avenue and Canonbie Road.

I could often be found in Hornimans Park and gardens and recall bands in the bandstand, working drinking fountains and steam trains running along the bottom of the park, parallel with Wood Vale. At one end of the park, the line crossed by bridge to Sydenham Hill, with a small newstand below (where I would purchase my weekly Beano and Dandy comics!) and at the other end (of Wood Vale) it crossed by bridge to continue to run along Brenchley gardens.

The Victorian house I lived in was originally number 21 Honor Oak Road and it stood exactly opposite the junction with Hornimans Drive. However it was later renumbered to 127 and was eventually demolished shortly after I moved. It was replaced by a block of apartments which stand today. I note the remaining Victorian houses heading towards Benson Road still remain.

I can remember the large blocks of flats which are located between my old house and the junction with Tyson Road actually being built, but I wonder whether anyone can remember the large imposing house with pillared front entrance which the flats replaced? As a boy I played in its vast, overgrown back garden which was notable for its giant Redwood tree, which because of its towering height, could be seen from a great distance. I recall it was quite a landmark and was most upset when it was felled to make way for the flats. My mum tells me that she thinks the house belonged to a captain?

The large property which stands opposite the flats (is this now called Hamiltonís?) was in my time a language centre and prior to that was owned by a family with the surname Scala, who I understand had purchased the property following a win on the sweepstake!

I also understand that the ground upon which Fairlawn Primary school stands in Honor Oak Road was previously the Burma Oil Company.

Finally, do they still ring the handbell at closing time in Hornimans Park?!!!
Joined 26-02-2006
Posted on Thursday, 10 May, 2007 - 11:17 pm:   

Interesting post... and giving a very visual glimpse of what we see as familiar too.

And yes, they do still ring the bell at closing time in the Horniman Gardens. Makes me smile when I hear it since it seems like such a blast from the past.
Joined 08-05-2007
Posted on Friday, 11 May, 2007 - 02:30 pm:   

They still use the bell? That's great! Even when things change visually, familiar sounds and smells can still take you back years.

I had several blasts from the past when looking through Stevegrindlay's photographs. In particular, I can remember the original interior of Sainsburyís with the mechanical scales and ringed weights (in pounds and ounces!) sat upon marble topped counters. Even in the height of summer, all that marble struck cool. I would stand on tiptoe and watch the staff pat butter and slice bacon on a very dodgy looking slicing machine.

If cinema was your thing then you could leave your bicycle propped up outside the Capitol all day and it would still be there when you came out. In fact you could park your car or motorbike outside in the road too because there were no yellow lines.

Just to the left of the arched entrance of Forest Hill station was a small tobacconist and although Iíve never been a smoker, I can clearly recall the wonderful array of pipes and the intoxicating smell of pipe tobacco.

At the bottom of Davids Road, where the old canal used to be, (just opposite the public loos!) there was a tea stall run by a guy we all called Pop. For a pittance you could huddle up around the counter on a bitter winters day and get a delicious hot dog (sausage) sandwich with brown sauce, all washed down with a large, steaming mug of tea.

Since I helped to deliver the milk to the houses in Honor Oak Road, the photographs of Ashbury Cottage, Hill House etc are pleasantly familiar. I recognise those steps! But there were once many more great and very interesting houses along this road that have been demolished and replaced by flats and apartments. Our deliveries of milk were often made around the back of these properties (the so called tradesmanís entrance) and enabled us to not only marvel at the architecture, but also to glimpse some truly beautiful back gardens. Arched roses, hollyhocks and honeysuckle abounded.

But perhaps the one thing above all that sticks in my mind was that you could never escape the sound of the railway, particularly in the wee hours of the morning. From my bed in Honor Oak Road I could clearly hear the rhythmic beat of steam engines hauling their lumbering loads of clanking freight wagons throughout the night. I always wondered what they were carrying and where they were taking it. On occasion I would get up and peer out across the rooftops from my attic window and by the moonlit smoke of the engines, follow their laboured progress along the back of Devonshire road.
Joined 24-03-2004
Posted on Friday, 11 May, 2007 - 03:04 pm:   

Thanks for the wonderful memories.

Do keep posting!
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Friday, 11 May, 2007 - 04:50 pm:   

There are some wonderful pictures of Forest Hill on the Sydenham forum: sid=196162ee60bfbbf8d0df34be994ca9cb

They are attempting to trace the route of the canal and work out what was at Forest Hill station when it was a canal.
Joined 08-05-2007
Posted on Monday, 14 May, 2007 - 10:40 am:   

Thanks very much. I'll put my thinking cap on and see what else I can remember! There seems to be a lot of interest in the canal and it would be great to know more about its route through Forest Hill. It's really nice to see these old photographs for the first time. Thanks again.

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