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  • Mike Brown

Advantage Crofton Park

A gap in a map and how a modern development got its name.

In 1880 the Land Development Association, a mutual housing project, began building ‘Overie Park’, on land to the north of Adelaide Road (changed to Adelaide Avenue in the 1930s), and to the east of Brockley Road.

In July 1885, newspaper adverts promised, ‘The prettiest, best built, and most conveniently arranged Houses in the suburbs are being erected on the Overie Park Estate at Brockley.’

There were some special features: ‘The sons of residents on this estate are entitled to public school education at [a reduced rate of] six guineas per annum at the West Kent Grammar School, now being erected thereon’. This school building is now the oldest part of Prendergast girls school, on Hilly Fields.

Residents could also play tennis on the new courts specially built on the estate.

These tennis courts were situated in the space between St Margaret’s Road, Adelaide Road, and Brockley Road. At first access was from any of these roads -- the 1896 OS map clearly shows a gap in the shops. Today, the gap is filled by Nos 15 and 15a (now Crofton Books and Heat hairdressers) -- these shops would not be built until just after the turn of the 20th century. The gap is filled in the OS map below, which is from 1916.

By 1886, the Caledonian Lawn Tennis Club was thriving, often taking part in local tournaments. The club was also well-known for annual concerts held in its grounds.

In 1906, for example, ‘The grounds were tastefully decorated and illuminated at dark with hundreds of fairy lamps. On this occasion the stage was erected half-way down the field, and very prettily decorated with art muslin and fancy paper by the ladies of the club.’

In 1909, the club announced a new badminton club, to provide ‘some pleasant recreation for the winter months’. The club would play on three courts in St. Cyprian's Hall (now the Co-op, opposite Adelaide Avenue), one evening each week throughout the winter.

By 1939 the club boasted ‘All-weather courts’. Membership was not cheap -- fees for the seven months of the winter season, October to April, were 25s. (£1.25), roughly a quarter of a working man’s average weekly wages.

The outbreak of WW2 in September of that year meant the end for many such suburban clubs, as younger men were conscripted into the armed forces, and tennis courts and sports grounds were dug up for air raid shelters or other war-related purposes.

Not so the Caledonians. In October 1939, the club announced that ‘in spite of the present difficult times, [it] would continue to operate with the two hard courts during the winter … New members will be welcomed, especially those from the ranks of old friends in neighbouring clubs who, not so fortunate as the Caledonian Club, have found it impossible for their clubs to continue.’

A year later, on 17th October 1940, at the height of what was called the Battle of London, Nos. 15, 17 and 19 Adelaide Avenue were destroyed in air raids.

Nearly six months later, on 16th April, 1941, about 450 enemy aircraft made the heaviest raid thus far on London. Among many local incidents, two parachute mines landed near the courts; one at the junction of Brockley Road and Adelaide Avenue, and the other close by on Adelaide Avenue itself. The remaining houses next the club grounds, Nos 1 to 13, were so badly damaged that they were later demolished. The grounds and pavilion were also badly damaged. With so much to be repaired or cleared , the tennis courts were no priority and would have been left until well after the war was over.

We haven’t found out any other further references to the club until April 1951, when the premises and grounds were bought by the RAFA (Royal Air Forces Association) as a club house, to be called the “Roundel Club”. (This was the name of the circular identification symbol painted on the wings and fuselage of RAF aircraft.) At weekends for the next few years, members and friends worked on reconstruction and redecoration.

In March 1990, the Brockley Society newsletter said that the Roundel Club had applied for outline permission for housing on the site, with access beside flats in Adelaide Avenue.

The site today is made up of low-rise flats in Roundel Close; the road name first appeared on OS maps around 1990, although the roadway is shown at least a decade earlier.

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