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  • Writer's pictureCarol Harris

Brockley's Big House

One of the oldest features of what is now Crofton Park was the local ‘big house’, Brockley Hall, or, as it was known before 1850, Brockley House. It stood, as might be assumed, in what is now Brockley Hall Road. A dwelling of some sort has been on that site since at least Tudor times.

The earliest surviving pictures of the hall show a Georgian building but this had replaced an earlier building or buildings. We can get an idea of its grandeur in newspaper adverts between 1806 and 1813. The Morning Chronicle of 5 August 1806, offering the estate for sale describes; ‘A Compact leasehold residence, called Brockley's House, situate within one mile of Lewisham Church, in the neighbourhood of Forest Hill’; in June the following year, the Morning Post, advertises ‘a very desirable country residence, at Brockley’, and six years later, in July 1813, the London Star calls it, ‘A desirable leasehold estate, comprising a very eligible and commodious residence, planned for the accommodation of a gentleman's family, delightfully situate in a rural part of the county of Kent, near Brockley-hill, between Lewisham, Dulwich, and Sydenham, commanding pleasing and interesting views, with beautiful walks and rides in various directions, separated from the road by a close fence, enclosed with folding gates, and screened by thriving evergreen forest trees and fine grown timber, approached by a carriage drive encircling a lawn, planted with shrubs, flowers, &c.’

Together, these adverts give a detailed picture; on the upper two floors, there were seven ‘sleeping rooms’ -- four of them ‘principal sleeping rooms’ -- also a nursery and bedroom adjoining, all with ‘closets’.

In 1813 the first-floor bed-chambers were described as ‘excellent .. handsomely papered, of good proportions.' There were also dressing rooms, six attics and a storeroom.

On the ground floor were a ‘handsome’ drawing room; sitting room; library; a breakfast parlour, and an eating-parlour, ‘thirty feet by twenty feet, thirteen feet high, opening to a veranda the length of the front of the house, and looking upon the lawn.’ The ‘handsome’ entrance led to the entrance hall, while the basement contained; ‘suitable offices arranged on a superior plan of domestic convenience.’

Mentioned, almost as an afterthought, were the kitchen and butler’s pantry.

Outside was ‘a colonnade connecting the house with a conservatory stored with grapes. Inevitably there was also a stable yard, ‘concealed from the house, in which is a three-stall (later, four-stall) stable, two coach houses, with lofts, and a harness-room, also a laundry, and fruit room over.’

Brockley House was set in substantial grounds. The land included two kitchen gardens, one described as ‘part-walled, fully stocked, cropped, and planted’, and a gardener’s house ‘in an enclosed yard’.

Such gardens in the early 19th century had no flowers; they grew food for the house. What we would think of as a garden was represented by ‘a pleasure ground tastefully disposed, planted with a selection of choice shrubs’, and ‘laid out with taste, and excellent gravelled walks’.

The grounds also included poultry houses, a drying ground, ‘an orchard of more than two acres, planted with productive fruit trees’ which adjoined the garden. A paddock of rich land of about two acres and meadow land, containing in all upward of thirteen acres. And to cap it all, a brewhouse and a dairy.

Late in the 1840s, John Thompsett Noakes bought the estate. He had the house remodelled and expanded, and from then on it was called Brockley Hall

Here is a sketch of the estate, overlaid on today's layout. We know from today's residents of Brockley Hall Road that signs of the old estate occasionally re-surface during building or garden work. If you live on the site of Brockley Hall and find, say, a Noakes beer bottle, please let us know as we'd love to have it -- even an empty one!

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