THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE
One of the oldest roads in the area, Brockley Grove was known as Brockley Lane in the 1600s. For centuries, it was a road through the Great North Wood. Much of the wood was cleared in the 1700s, to be replaced by brickfields, market gardens and farms.
One such farm was bought by John Thompsett Noakes in the 1840s. He was a successful brewer, supplying beer to pubs throughout south-east England, including the Brockley Jack. Noakes sold off some of the land and remodelled the farmhouse, renaming it Brockley Hall. The Noakes family lived there for nearly 100 years. The lodge at the entrance to the hall was in Brockley Grove, on the corner near to where Brockley Hall Road is today.
The first houses
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, other local farms were sold off for development. Agricultural prices had fallen, but as London expanded, landowners could sell the land for premium prices to housebuilders. Joy Farm, worked by the Umfreville family, was one of the last to go, between 1896 and 1901.
The farmhouse and outbuildings stood where Huxbear Street is today. You can still see where the road from the farm crossed Brockley Grove and carried on into the cemetery.
At first, the houses built in Brockley Grove were detached and known by names, but as more and more houses were built, numbers and terraces filled the gaps. The terraced houses on the north side of Brockley Grove were added in the 1890s.
The first residents
The 1901 census shows that the houses in Brockley Grove were occupied mostly by families. Many of the men were clerks -- in legal, commercial and government work.
n William Tuxford, an 18-year-old bank clerk living with his parents, sister and brother at number 11
n Alfred Melhuish, a solicitor's clerk, who lived next door at number 13, and
n John Haslam, a post office clerk at number 17.
Most of the adult women living in Brockley Grove were at home looking after children but among the exceptions was Emily Nash, aged 24. She was a book-keeper in a butcher's shop, and was the daughter-in-law of the Haslam family at number 19. The Carter family at number 25 is unusual in that they have a servant, Florence Ruffles, aged 20.
The Rogers family at number 15
Families were generally about the same size as today: two or three children were the norm. However, in 1901, 15 Brockley Grove was home to George and Charlotte Rogers (both aged 40), and their eight children, aged 2-16 years. George’s occupation is listed on the census returns as ‘copyist’. At that time, documents had to be copied by hand and many with neat writing found regular employment this way. George worked for many years for the Local Government Board, which was the local authority administering the Poor Laws and public health.
At the time of the 1901 census, the Rogers’ eldest son, also called George, was a clerk with the Board of Education. Ten years later, the 1911 census shows that the younger George was no longer living at number 15. Constance, aged nine, was a new arrival -- the ninth child of the family. The 1911 census was in a different form to earlier versions. Instead of a form in which professional enumerators filled in several homes per page, each household received its own form, to be filled in by the householder. The signature for this house shows that father George filled in the form, and so we also have an example of his very neat handwriting.
Most of the family were in work. Horace (aged 25) and Reginald (17) were commercial clerks, and Arthur (23) is an ‘abstractor class clerk’ with the Board of Education – employed to produce summaries of documents. Sydney (21) is an exchange inspector with the National Telephone Company, a British telephone company which was taken over the following year when the industry was nationalised under the GPO (General Post Office).
It is impossible to look at the 1911 census and not think about the fate of the older sons during World War One, which began just three years later in August 1914. In St Hilda’s church, a plaque on the wall says ‘in loving memory of my dear husband, Arthur Rogers. Killed in action on the Gallipoli Peninsula August 25th 1915, aged 27 years.’ It is probably a reference to Arthur, who grew up at number 15.