Diamond Geezer Challenge 2: Penge

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Diamond Geezer: “Some so-called London websites never write about Uxbridge, Barking and Penge because their remit is geographically blinkered.” It is claimed London blogs rarely feature some of these places? I would like to correct this and write about Barking, Penge and Uxbridge on my blog. I admit I do take things literally but nevertheless have really enjoyed tackling this challenge 🙂

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As a matter of fact I’ve written about these places before so here they are again, with different topics this time!

This second installment is about Penge, I’ll admit I’m no expert of any sort on the locale although I do know it somewhat by way of the bus routes that run through the area (including the former no. 12 and the current 176,) as well as Penge East and West stations, Crystal Palace park (which I wrote about earlier this year) and also looked for clues to the whereabouts of a certain canal.

So what is it I could write about Penge? The oldest police station in London? Nah! Its many pubs. Not really my forte! Penge, which was once a hamlet belonging to far off Battersea, has several almshouses and that’s more like a subject I can write about. I quite like almshouses and perhaps that’s a bit of a bias, but on the other hand I dont know anything about Penge’s almshouses besides a quick glance from a bus passing by.

If you have never been to Penge, its almshouses are a must see. They’re all a short walk from Penge East station. The Watermens’ almshouses particularly are a feast on the eye.

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Free Watermen and Lightermen’s Almshouses, as seen from Penge High Street.

Penge has three groups of almshouses, which is quite unusual for any part of London (apart from Richmond.) I’m not talking about boroughs, but rather local places so in this case its not even the the Borough of Bromley but place specific Penge. The almshouses here are the Free Watermen and Lightermen’s Almshouses (1840), St John’s Almshouses (1863) and The Queen Adelaide Almshouses (1848).

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The Gentleman’s Magazine 1840

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Commemorative plaque on the side of the gate house in High Street.

As I understand it two of these are no longer almshouses so there’s just the Watermen’s that still serves as almshouses. Although these have their own road just off Penge Lane, there’s actually a gate house and pathway directly off Penge High Street, plus there is a splendid prospect too.

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Free Watermen and Lightermen’s Almshouses gate house and former entrance.

As one walks down Penge Lane the extent of the Watermen’s Almshouses becomes apparent. They are indeed fantastic. The buildings are spread along one side of the lane as far as the entrance to Watermen’s Square. As almshouses go these are classic, built of stone and brick, and intended to serve their occupants well.

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The Almshouses’ pair of water pumps. That on the left is now in Barson Close.

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The Metropolitan Charities: Being an Account of the Charitable, Benevolent, and Religious Societies. Sampson Low, 1844

The Free Watermen and Lightermen’s Almshouses had another entrance (that actualy makes it four) just off Barson Close. This is exactly the same as the one that leads off Watermen’s Square, however it seems to be lo longer part of the almshouses precinct and has thus been left to the elements. An architectural surprise is the rear of the almshouses on the north side which can be seen from either Barson Close or High Street is they have a classically styled rear. I dont know why that is, perhaps its due to the church’s proximity?

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The almshouses’ classically styled rear, seen from Barson Close.

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These animal statues holding plaques, which I think should have had inscriptions, are a lovely feature.

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The Free Watermen and Lightermen’s Almshouses coat of arms. This is replicated a number of times around the estate.

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Handbook to the environs of London, Vol 2, 1876

The Queen Adelaide Almshouses, also known as the King William Naval Asylum, are in St John’s Road, just behind the church. They’re not so apparent from the road but can be found in what is King William IV Gardens, a cul-de-sac. The houses were designed by Philip Hardwick and now private residences. Immediately obvious are the tudor style chimneys that grace their roofs.

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The Queen Adelaide Almshouses.

The Queen Adelaide Almshouses are built round a square that faces onto St John’s Road. Its not noticeable however there’s a cottage in the same style as the main buildings on the west side in a cul-de-sac. This presumably was where the caretaker lived.

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The date of construction (1848) on the almshouses seen at the rear side.

When I saw the name Philip Hardwick I knew there was a railway connection! This is none other than the famous architect who designed the much lamented Euston Arch. Hardwick designed lots of properties including the St Katharine Dock and Albert Dock (Liverpool) warehouses and several churches.

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The parish boundary marker post outside Queen Adelaide’s Almshouses.

The St John Almshouses are on Maple Road, a long thoroughfare that extends right through to Anerley. The buildings themselves are however almost right by the High Street, on the west side of Maple Road. Its a group of four likewise cottages with two terrace houses in the middle and semi detached either side. Architecturally they are not of any special merit, though they were designed by Edwin Nash, an architect of some note. Number eight is a rebuild, having being destroyed by a gas explosion in 1959.

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The Saint John’s Cottages name on a stone, barely visible from Maple Road.

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General view of the cottages from Maple Road.

Edwin Nash also designed nearby St John’s Church,which is actualy right next to the Free Watermen and Lightermen’s Almshouses. This somewhat unassuming church has architectural excellence in how Nash designed the roof with its timber arches, which are said to be reminiscent of medieval hammer beam roofs, whilst the spire and windows are of a style noted as being decorated.

The third installment in the series Uxbridge.

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