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  • Mike Brown

A View From the Hill

New insights from an old postcard, by Mike Brown

We recently bought this postcard, showing the view looking south from near the top of Hilly Fields. It is postmarked November 1905. Such postcards were often on sale for long periods, so the postmark only gives us the latest possible date for when the picture was taken.

These early cards were usually made by local professional photographers. They were printed in small quantities, which meant that it was not economical to make a printing plate. Instead, they were produced in the photographer's darkroom. This means that the image can usually be enlarged without losing detail.

Look closely and you can just make out a building in the distance, on the skyline in the top left. This is the Crystal Palace (below).

The view to the top right shows One Tree Hill at Honor Oak. In front of it, we can see the cemetery, with two of its chapels, neither of which are there today. One of the chapels appears to have no roof. At this early date it is unlikely to be in ruins, so the chances are it was still being built -- perhaps one of the Friends of Brockley Cemetery can confirm.

I have made tracings of the photo enlargement, which makes it easier to identify some of the features.

The buildings in the foreground at the foot of the hill, in yellow, are very recognisable as the houses in Adelaide Road (it was not known as Adelaide Avenue until later). They were built around 1894/5.

To the west, in the Brockley Road opposite the cemetery, there are two large overlapping buildings, which I’ve coloured green. These are the first Brockley Road School buildings -- the school opened in 1894. In this diagram, the Infants’ School is on the right and Juniors' is to the left. The ornate bell-tower on the roof of the Junior School is very distinctive. The school keeper’s house is the small green building on its own.

Below is a view of the school as it was at that time, taken from the corner of Merritt Road. You can see the school keeper's house on the left, the juniors' building on the right and the infants' building in the middle.

Carrying on down the line of Brockley Road we come to the block coloured blue. These are numbers 352-360 -- just about recognisable today from the end elevation as the shops opposite Crofton Park railway station. There is no sign of the Rivoli at 350, a later addition which was built in 1913.

A little further down Brockley Road is a block coloured in pink. This is the group of shops on the eastern side, from (today) the Co-op on the corner, to the Post Office.

To the left of these, coloured orange, are the distinctive gabled fronts of the houses in Marnock Road. Only the first 20 houses appear to have been built, which means the photo can be dated to Autumn of 1895. These houses stand out because they are three-storey, unlike the two-storey houses in Merritt Road and Darfield Road. Some of the houses of those two roads are also visible.

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