Archives at Home, House history, Housing

Archives at home, part 19

The theme of this year’s heritage festival was to have been Wandsworth’s homes and housing.  Luckily, the work our contributors took in researching their walks, talks, exhibitions and open days will not go to waste, as this year’s events will be postponed until next year.  However, we thought it might be nice in the meantime to explore some of the items in our collections which tie in to this theme. 

One of my favourite tasks as an archivist is exploring the history of a particular patch of land – seeing how it developed over the centuries, what it was used for, and – if it became housing – who lived there.  I often undertake this sort of research for school workshops, as I find looking at the microcosm of a school and its surrounding areas helps children undertake very practical tasks, such as interpreting maps; as well as more imaginative tasks, such as thinking about the different experiences of those who lived and worked on their patch.

In the context of house history, one school I thoroughly enjoyed doing this for was Broomwood Hall, which is located in Ramsden Road, Balham.  Broomwood Hall’s year one pupils are taught in a building which was once the vicarage of St Luke’s.  I spent a delightful morning with their year ones exploring not only the vicarage, but what was there before.  (And they must have enjoyed it – as I’ve visited their year one intake for the same workshop for the last two years!).

I like to start with the Roque map, so called after the cartographer, John Roque, who created it.  This map was surveyed between 1741-5, and covers London and parts of what was then Surrey.  We don’t have an original of this map, but we have a 19th century Stanford’s copy:

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Copy of the Roque map of 1741-5 with the position of the school indicated

I like this map because it is beautiful, but also because it shows us how rural the area was.  The children think about what kinds of crops were grown in the area, and what kinds of sights and smells they might encounter if they were to travel back there.

We can see that there was certainly a house on the site prior to the vicarage by looking at the 1865 ordnance survey map:

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Ordnance Survey Map, 1865

A look at the census record for this property from 1861 tells us that there was a lodge attached to Old Park House which housed the Ling family (the head of which was Henry Ling, the gardener of Old House):

The house itself was home to the Dent family, a family of four consisting of Villiers Dent; his wife, Susan; and their sons, Douglas and Villiers.  What was particularly fascinating to the children was that this household of four had six servants.  One of these servants was Ann Ling, who was doubtless the daughter of the Dent’s gardener.  On the night the census was taken, we can see the family have four visitors staying with them.

The first time we see St Luke’s Church in our map collection is in the 1894-6 Ordnance Survey map:

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1894-96 Ordnance Survey map showing position of vicarage

But it is not until the 1913-16 ordnance Survey map that we see the vicarage on the map:

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Ordnance Survey map, 1913-16, with vicarage highlighted

The children were rather delighted to discover who had lived in the house from the 1911 census:

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At this point, the minister is John Erskine Clarke, born in Calcutta, aged 83.  He has a visitor staying with him, as well as a house keeper, servant, house maid, and kitchen maid.  One class is taught in what was an attic room, and were delighted to think that their classroom was perhaps where Georgina, Thomas, Alice, or Em[?] had slept!

We talked about the sorts of jobs Georgina, Thomas, Alice, and Em would have done, and what their lives would have been like.  And some of us shouted out their names – though we didn’t get an answer back!

If you would like to know a bit more about the history of your house, while we have limited access to our collections at the moment, we are still answering enquiries!  Get in touch at Heritage@gll.org! 

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