The London/Kent boundary - Crayford Town Centre

The London/Kent boundary - Crayford Town Centre
TQ 51505 74763

An area of central and suburban Crayford. The boundary here has only clipped the edge of modern Crayford - although Crayford's dynamic industrial past is shown here in the square - and despite this Crayford is an area, trust me, which industrial historians totally ignore.
The boundary itself climbs up through 20th century housing to skirt a great pit - now itself full of modern housing.

Post to the west Bourne Road
Post to the south Dartford Heath
Post to the east Maiden Lane

Boundary London/Kent/Bexley
The boundary follows parallel to North Road and slightly north of it
Later the boundary briefly dips back into the square to take in part of the area of Wansunt Pit.

The Bexley/London side of the boundary
River CrayOnce an important river. Rising in Orpington, it joins the River Darenth to flow into the River Thames. Recorded a in 798 and in 814, ‘Craie’ c.1200, is a Celtic river name from the British word for "fresh, clean', and also Old English - 'river spring, source'. The river gives its name to no less than six places along its length of which Crayford is the one nearest its confluence with the Darent and the Thames.

Bexley Lane
Crayford Baptist Church. 1867, with a big dramatic classical frontage. Opened by the famous preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who visited the town for the ceremony
Sunday School, 1858 – this was an earlier Baptist chapel.
38 early 19th house which was once called ‘Brooklands’.
56/62 a terrace of early 19th houses.
64 a late 18th

Bourne Road
Bear and Ragged Staff. There was a pub on the site at least by the late 17th, but the building on site now dates from 1925. Was oiginally known as the Half Moon renamed in 1728,  It has some timber-framed bays and ‘Tudor’ flourishes. The name relates to the badge of the Earls of Warwick. Taken over by Beasleys in 1886annd rebuilt in 1925.

Chapel Hill
A steep street built in 1865-75. Part of a mid 19th enclave

Fossilized remains of prehistoric animals have been found locally some of which are rare in Britain. It is the site of an Iron Age Settlement – and it has been speculated that this was Noviomagus. It is where the Roman Road crosses the Cray and archaeologists have found a double deck war galley and several burial urns. The site of the Battle of Crayford in 457 - the traditional date when Hengist defeated Vortigen and the Britons at a spot known as ‘Crecganford’, which is usually identified as Crayford. The village was already in existence before the battle with plough lands in the angles of the main track ways, which met at the Cray ford, and there would have been a settlement around the area of the current High Street. In the middle ages Crayford was also called ‘Earde’ an Old English word indicating a dwelling-place or habitation, and this name continued to be used down to the 16th. The name ‘Crecganford’ is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 457; ‘Creiford’ 1199, ‘Craiford’ 1202, ‘Crainford’ 1322, meaning 'ford over the River Cray’.
The ford was at the point where the Roman road from Dover to London - Watling Street - crossed the river.
Crayford was a centre of industry for hundreds of years. There was an early iron mill, as well as fabric printing and weaving introduced by Huguenot refugees at the end of the 17th . There was also flour-milling, barge-building, silk-printing and engineering. In the 19th there were chemicals, carpets, optical instruments, ivory knife handles, cars and leather. In the First World War 5,000 machine guns a month being made here at Vickers.
Bricks - North west Kent was a major source of London bricks in the late 19th . Rags and paper were brought from here by barge from London and the barges returned with bricks, Women and children picked through the rags and they were then puddled with water, local brick earth and some chalk to produce the yellow London Stock bricks which were sun dried or surrounded by burning brushwood.
Deneholes. There are many in the area; mostly of a shallow and single chambered. Roman pottery and flint implements were recovered from some. There were many in the brick field pits. some of the holes had been joined together in a later working.

Crayford Bridge
The Roman road crossed the Cray here. The road was clearly seen during work there in 1936. Roman boats were said to have come as high as this and one was found in the waterfall at Murgatroyd’s works
Crayford Bridge. The brickwork on the north side of the bridge is of 1938, and there are stone tablets - one with the date 1755 when a former bridge was built by the New Cross Turnpike Trust – one with the date 1938 - on the side a one saying 'widened 1920’.
Crayford Tannery. Large brick building opposite the Bear and Ragged Staff. The tannery had been established by Bowron Brothers in 1912. Sidney Bowron had devised a special skin splitting machine. In 1911 it was taken over by Murgatroyd who used Foden wagons and they sold it for general engineering to Galbraith & Co. in 1951. Closed 1960s.
Crayford Brewery was on the site
Bridge House with Tree of Heaven in the Garden

Crayford High Street
The original line of the Dover Road
25 & 27/29 and 35 are probably early 19th.
25/35 the oldest group of buildings in the street. 31/33 is an 18th house, though the shop fronts are modern. Originally the entrance was from the rear, via the Lane. This was once the Co-op. was this the old manor house? The buildings are in such a poor state it is difficult to imagine it as a coherent whole
53 Duke’s Head.  Licensed in 1771. Part used as a smithy,  In 1859 leased to Norfolk Brewery,
90-100 Grove Place, A terrace looking down the street
Methodist Church. A modern building, replacing one, which was badly damaged during the Second World War. Now used as a mosque, although the brickwork cross above the main door remains,
The Crayford Arms, A pub of 1864 formed from a group of cottages. Belonged to Crowley Brewery, Croydon, then Reffels.

Crayford Road
Clock Tower. A red brick clock tower built by Dartford Rural District Council in 1902. It served the dual function as a sewage lift station and commemorating the coronation of Edward VII. At the second level is a clock faces on three sides. There is a small belfry on top. New clock machinery was installed 1994. And a new pumping facility in 1998.
Crayford Branch Library, built by KCC, Bexley 1965
Crayford Town Hall. A red brick building built by Vickers in 1915 as the canteen and mess for workers at the factory opposite. It was bought by Crayford Urban District Council in 1929 and used as the Town Hall until 1965, when the London Borough of Bexley was created.
Comet. The frontage is modern, but the part behind is the old Vickers Coach Station,
Vickers Coach Station. Single storey building built 1915 for Vickers’ coaches. Used to take workers to the Crayford factory. Now shops.
Tower Industrial Estate was the site of the original Vickers buildings 1903-10 when Wolseley-Siddeley cars were produced here. Very considerable remains of an industrial complex of the Crayford Industrial Estate behind the shops.
Acorn Industrial estate. An industrial area, with some interesting older buildings. It is on the later part of the Vickers works. A grassed square, which in the 1930s was surrounded on three sides by the works of Vickers-Armstrong but the buildings have replaced by more modem ones.
Vickers - The Maxim Gun Company, which made Maxim's machine guns, moved from Hatton Garden to Crayford in 1888 to part of the old Swaisland site. In the same year it amalgamated with the Nordenfeldt Gun & Ammunition Co, which had opened in Erith in 1887, to form the Maxim Nordenfeldt Gun & Ammunition Co. In 1897 they were purchased by Vickers and became Vickers Son & Maxim Ltd. They produced machine guns until the end of the Boer Wars. In 1903 they started production of the Wolseley-Siddeley motorcar, but in 1910 this moved to Birmingham. In 1911 the name of the firm was changed to Vickers Ltd, and in 1912 it resumed munitions production. In 1914 it began to manufacture aircraft, which were flown from Joyce Green Aerodrome on Dartford Marshes. At the peak of wartime production the Crayford works was employing 14,500 people. Production of aircraft was transferred to Weybridge and Southampton in 1919, and Wolseley Motors, were made here 1925-28. In 1927 Vickers amalgamated with Armstrongs to form Vickers Armstrong Ltd. and the manufacture of munitions resumed, after the Erith works closed in 1931. During the Second World War production was concentrated on machine guns and anti-aircraft fire control gear for the Navy and over 10,000 were employed here. After the war armaments works continued until the Korean War, but by the mid-60s works was precision engineering, fire- control equipment, box making machinery, hardness-testing machines, and bottling machinery. The works closed in 1980.
Swaisland Works. The estate covers the area of the silk and calico printing works of Charles Swaisland, which was taken over in 1893 by G. P. & J. Baker, but had covered a much larger area.
Rail sidings down to the works, extended on to flour mills and ply works.
Crayford House. Site of Swaisland’s home. This was opposite Town Hall.
Mulberry Tree brew house. Which made quinine beer against the ague.
Vickers Armstrong. Works. Opened as Maxim and Co. in 1884. In 1897 it was taken over by Vickers and by the First World War specialising in aircraft and later sporting guns, car parts and sewing machines. Vickers Son and Maxim, made Armstrong Siddley cars there, which were sold to Morris. Intensive gun and aircraft manufacture in the Boer War and both World Wars. It was a huge armaments factory dating from 1911 with single storey brick built machine sheds and two five-storey machine blocks in concrete. It became Vickers Armstrong in 1931 and did experimental work. From 1945 they made mixing machines, petrol pumps and harness testing equipment. The Works was later taken over by other manufacturers including Caterham Cars. Demolished 1980. Remains included the finishing shop near the entrance, and the chassis erecting shop (partly covered by corrugated iron); across the lane a series of parallel adjoining buildings which were repair shops, e shop, store-rooms etc. buildings on both sides of the road which were part of in the 1890s Maxim Nordenfeldt machine factory.
Rail line into the Vickers works opened in 1915. A mile in length and used three locomotives
Stone Ltd. Centre Works. Behind the Town Hall. Made lighthouse equipment.
Crayford Water Works. Modern buildings of 1960 on site of 1860 beam engine house. A single cylinder rotative engine from Harveys of Hayle built 1874 drove the original pumps, but there are no remains. The original buildings were demolished late 1950s. Modern Thames Water installation ex-Swan Lane Waterworks, F.Stoneham then Kent Waterworks 1867. Sidings for coal for the works. Alongside the original Waterworks Pumping Station of 1865
White Swan, Called White Swan or the Swan since the 17th Century.  By 1870s it was White Swan and Railway Tavern.  Owned by Dartford Brewery Co. but freeholder was a temperence advocate.  New pub built in 1981 by J.T.Davis.

Duckett's Road
Named after a Mr. Duckett

Greyhound Road
Greyhound Stadium - Greyhounds. Incorporating Crayside Leisure Centre 1986. The first greyhound stadium was built here in 1932.
Crayford Stadium Rough. An area of rough land behind the Stadium, containing several wild plants rare in the London.

Green Walk
Almond blossom

London Road
This is the new road cut in 1840.
Duke of Wellington. Brick pub of 1853, with a tilted projection, which was the original entrance. 
4/6 Originally the premises of the Crayford Friendly Funeral Society. 1904, odd survival.
Lyle’s Mineral Water Works. Behind the Friendly Society building some industrial buildings, which were part of the premises, remain. Wine store from 1836. Crayford Wine and Spirit Stores 1882. Factory built 1902. Closed 1950. Now car repairs.
The Elms, home of Erasmus Wilson
Denehole. A shaft 25 ft. across and 10 ft. deep in a lawn
108 Lord Nelson

Lower Station Road
Wansunt Pumping Station. Well opened for the Kent Water Company. Tall narrow well head building 1933 in typical brick and flat roof style. Very tall central doorway with a lifting girder projecting from near the top of the fa├žade. Well head and a lifting gantry inside. The whole site is shielded by vast amounts of Leylandii and very very difficult to see into.
Denehole 1953

Old Road
The original line of the Dover Road
St.Mary of the Crays RC church. Built in 1842 through funding by Augustus Applegarth of Shenstone, himself a Protestant. Applegarth, was a 19th pioneer in the development and improvement of printing machines, and founded a printing works by the River Cray. Modern church from 1972 now on site
St.Joseph’s School. Modern school with older building at the back
The One Bell. A pub, which looks early 19th but built in 1770. It has two bays and a long swooping rear roof.  The Gravesed Stage stopped here.
172/6 formerly called The Limes. The core of this group is thought to be a 17th timber-framed house, hidden by later additions.

Orchard Hill
A steep, narrow road with a surface of stones set in concrete. Trees of Shenstone Park on one-side and terrace houses, built to house textile printing workers, on the other. Houses built 1867.
5, modern, breaks the pattern

Roman Way
Sainsburys super store on the site of the Heath Scientific Instruments factory

Station Road
Leads from Crayford Road past the railway station up to Dartford Heath. Was Swan Lane and an old Celtic track. Development started on the west side in the mid 19t. By the end of the century the western side was built up as far as the Heath. Later called Dartford Heath Road.
Royal Charlotte. Survivor of the early development. In 1854 and opened as the Royal George near the railway bridge. In 1864 sold to Dartford Miskins who rebuilt it on the current site and the name changed.   Pub on a strange corner site. 
78/82 terrace of cottages survivor of the early development
88 Survivor of the early development. Shoddy looking tacked on portico.
Coal duty boundary marker - a cast iron pillar of 1861. 1.24m high. Basal plinth .31m sq. Main column .24m sq. Above the base is written 24&25 VICT CAP 42. Two bold mouldings above on which is embossed a shield of the arms of the City of London. Above this is a finial of a flattened pyramid. At the foot is the maker’s name Regent’s Canal Ironworks London Henry Grissell 1861
Crayford Station. Built 1866 Between Dartford and Bexley on South Eastern Trains. Dartford Loop Line. Main buildings on the up side. Wooden with canopied platforms. During the First World War Crayford manufacturing industry led to railway expansion – Vickers guns, and aircraft. In 1969 the original timber buildings were replaced with CLASP building and since then replaced with a brick structure
Sidings led to a goods yard and a brick works, which closed in 1931. Yard closed in 1965.
Signal box removed in 1970.
Tramways going down south east and to Bowmans Road.
Dene Hole discovered and surveyed in 1935.
Observatory Works. Heath and Co. Founded in 1845. A foundry and factory were built in a row of cottages on Station Road. Scientific instrument makers – particularly for marine use and surveying. Two storey office block with a wooden hexagonal cupola, 2 storey manufacturing block, single storey glass works, foundry, optical store manufacturing building and packing sheds. Major fire, which closed it down in 1919 and demolished in the 1920s. Eventually moved to New Eltham and merged with Stanley’s. Sainsburys now on site.

Star Hill
Steep and similar in character to Orchard Hill and together with the houses along the north side of London Road form a mid 19th century enclave. The north side is probably c1860, its pavement consisting of a series of steps

Swaisland Drive
Leads straight ahead into the old Swaisland / Baker works, occupied by the Crayford Industrial Estate. Difficult to distinguish between their buildings and those of Vickers.
Swaislands. Silk printing works in 1810. Taken over by G.Baker in 1893 and the site expanded south of the river. Worked until 1925 when the site was taken over by Vickers. Production of rugs and carpets until 1963. Now part of industrial estate.
Terrace of two shored up cottages. The only old buildings. Three mid 19th century cottages, which may once have been Swaisland premises. In use as offices.

8-15 Princess Shopping Parade. Princess Theatre site. On the wall of the shopping parade built 1961, is a plaque reading: ‘this stone was laid by HRH Princess Christian 1916’. It was on the Princesses Theatre, built by Vickers in 1916 on this site. The theatre was rebuilt in 1919 after fire damage; it became a cinema in 1921, and renamed the Ritz in 1950. Demolished in 1957.
Rodney Hut. British Drama League founded.
Cray Gardens, a small green oasis with willow trees hanging the River Cray, laid out in 1938. On the east side of the river is a defunct drinking fountain, inscribed to 'S. A. Blackwood in grateful remembrance of Christian work in Crayford 1871-80'. Stevenson Arthur Blackwood was an evangelist preacher. He resided at Crayford Manor House, and was the father of Algernon Blackwood

Wolsey Close
Called after the cars made locally
A well-designed housing estate. 1980, with an ingenious of enclosed space

Barr-Hamilton and Reilly. From Country to Suburb
Bygone Kent
Carr. A Spot that is Called Crayford

Coal Posts. Web siteGeoffrey Whitworth Theatre. Web site
Goldsmiths. South East London Industrial Archaeology
Hamilton . The Industries of  Crayford
Kent Underground  Research. Newsletter
London Borough of Bexley. Web site
Pevsner and Cherry.  West Kent
Port of London magazine
Spurgeon. Discover Erith and Crayford

St. Mary of the Crays. Web site


Lesnes said…
Crayford is of great interest to me. I grew up there but my Grandfather came early in the 20th century to work at the flour mills. My father's first job was a gardener at Eardemont and it was he - and not the head gardener - as written in 'A spot called Crayford', who had been rolling the lawn the day prior to the dene hole appearing.

My uncle was a blacksmith and farrier at the blacksmiths in the High Street - what is now the car park of the 'Dukes Head.

Well done for recording some of the town's history.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Thank you for, as usual, an extremely informative post.
And for mentioning the tree of heaven and the almonds.

One note on "ivory knife handles" - "Crayford ivory" was actually an early form of plastic (actually celluloid). Not, fortunately, anything to do with killing elephants.

My father tells a story of how he and his school chums would aquire celluloid from the Crayford factory, wrap it in brown paper, set fire to this, and throw the resulting smoke bombs around at each other.

Popular posts from this blog

Bromley by Bow

South Norwood

River Lea/Bow Creek Canning Town