Thames Tributary Cray - Bexley

Tributary to Darent, itself a Thames Tributary
The Cray continues to flow North East
TQ 49511 73603

The centre of Bexley - Bexley Village - and with a station on the loop line into Dartford.  The village is based round a mill on the Cray and a road junction, continually choked with traffic.  Opposite the mill stands the old church with cottages and a large sign for the still working gravel extraction site to the rear. Along the bank of the Cray are still small works, some in the buildings of the old brewery. There is a rather smart little High Street with almshouses, meeting hall and pubs.

Post to the west Brigden
Post to the north Bexley
Post to the east Coldblow
Post to the south Mount Mascal

Albert Road
In the 1920s small council-house estates were built in Victoria Road -as the southern part of Albert Road was then known.  Prviously it was Building Fields and before that Upper Webbs Field.
63 Black Horse pub. Cosy back street local. Open-plan bar. Built 1859 by well digger Vincent Brown plus four cottages. 1860s leased to Kidd brewers who later bought it. Had private and public bars and a club room.

Two main roads meet here and ford the Cray. The name is to do with box trees. ‘Byxlea’ 814 in an Anglo-Saxon charter, ‘Bix’ 1086 in the Domesday Book, that is 'wood or clearing where box trees grow', from Old English. The box used to be abundant in the south of England - Does this imply that the village was a clearing in woods distinguished by the presence of a box-thicket. A description of Bexley is given in a charter of 814 when it had ten plough lands and from the 11th to the 16th it developed round the court lodge, on the site of the present Manor House. In 814 the King of Mercia had granted it to the Archbishop of Canterbury and from the late 14th they leased it out. It would then have been riverside woodland clearing with fields. In the Domesday Survey a church is noted which must have stood on the site of St. Mary's, while of the three mills referred to, one may very well have been on the same spot as the watermill in the High Street. In 1623 William Camden gave the Manor to Oxford University. At the beginning of the 1930s Bexley was still a village surrounded by countryside.

Bourne Road
1/3 shops were the Strict Baptist Chapel of 1846 which had moved across the road in 1905. The main shape of the chapel, oriented north remains.
11 Ypsilanti, Reffell brewer lived here from 1890. It had a gable, and urns on the projecting ground floor. It was subsequently a post office.
12 Bexley Village Library. Tile work. The original entrance was to the south. An unpretentious building, now too small for modern needs, but it was designed in 1912 by Edward Maufe who designed Guildford cathedral.
17/19 Old Bexley Business Park. 1860s; flanking the driveway to the former buildings of Reffell's Brewery, 1874 to 1956. 17 which has the bow window was a shop, backed by two brewery towers and a storehouse stood alongside. 19 has a pediment and were offices. There is a water-tower behind. This was the Premises of Messrs. Owlett & Son. Ancillary buildings on the entrance road. Brewing stopped in 1954.
2 K6 Telephone boxes
54/64 Victoria Homes almshouses of 1897. This has a pedimented central building with two wings and Terracotta along the roofline.
66/70 Bexley National Schools. Two separate buildings in industrial use since 1974. The Teacher’s house has a tablet 'Built 1834'. Behind are two original schoolrooms and a school-hall. It is stock brick with gables. Built with the aid of a grant from the National Society whose object was to provide schools for the children of the working class? The Religious Instruction was to be in accordance with the teaching of the Church of England. In 1883 St. Mary's old south porch was removed – it had a room above which is said to have served as a schoolroom.
5 Driveway to the Pharmax chemicals factory.
5 electricity generating station At the end of the site by Weir Road for Bexley Council Tramways. 1903 with round-headed windows.. It was built near the river because of the water, but it was a long way from the trams
Bourne Works. Before 1866 this was the Kent Brewery, and the terrace of buildings were stables and malt houses. Mostly demolished by railway building in 1866.
Bexley Brewhouse. Old maltings, which became a brewery. Built 1807 and demolished 1844. An Old wall remains south of the Baptist Chapel and around the Thanet Road car park.
Cray House. Probably built for the mill owner. Excavation behind the house uncovered remains of a tile-built oven and hearth associated with a pottery of c. 1300. There were also Fragments of two pottery roof-ventilators.
Flint footings associated with medieval pottery. The site adjoins the west side of the river.
Old Bexley Baptist Chapel. 1905, Sunday school and chapel with variety of window shapes and gables. The interior has much of the original wooden furniture, including pews, pulpit rostrum, and hammerbeam roof. An inscription on the front records that the original chapel on another site was built in 1846, restored and the schools built in 1893. The present building dates from 1905.
Print House
Bexley Postal Sorting Office. Domestic building of 1891 with hipped gable and bargeboards. Fronted by single storey post office.
Prospect Place.  8 cottages built 1846. No 5 was Dowsetts Beerhouse pub called the Black Horse built to the rear, By 1951 it was The Mayfair Tea Rooms.

High Street
The new upper-middle classes of the Parkhurst Estate required smarter shopping facilities than had previously been on offer in the village.
Saxon iron spearhead of the 9th or 10th found in 1912 in a bed of muddy peat extending from the railway bridge to Bourne Road.
Oxford Terrace dates from 1878.
Railway viaduct. Built in 1866 as part of Dartford Loop Line. It is a series of brick arches which carry the line across the flood plain of the Cray plus a bridge over the High Street. The line at first bisected the High Street. .
1/3 & 7/9 Bexley High Street. Two late 18th pairs with brick front and weatherboarded rear; 1/3 have weatherboarded sides too. The Georgian cottages are brick in front but timber-framed behind.
2/28 Oxford Terrace, shopping parade 1878,
13/35 Styleman's Almshouses. 1755. A symmetrical terrace of 12 houses of 1755, low-lying and austere. Windows over doors 1961. Plaque 'Stylemans Almshouses erected in the year 1755', and sundial '1882 tempus fugit'. Erected under a trust by John Styleman, who lived at Danson, from 1695 to 1723. Raised brick band between the storeys, but no further ornament. John Styleman was a director of the East India Company who lived at Danson. On his death in 1734 he left instructions for the erection of twelve dwellings for the relief of poor families in Bexley. Each Midsummer Day the twelve families attended church where they occupied a bench boldly inscribed 'Styleman's Charity' and listened to a special sermon preached by the vicar who received two guineas for it. The twelve cottages remain and in 1961 they were modernised internally and extra windows inserted in the front and further internal reconstruction occurred in 1985,
34/36 brick pair 1787, with later dormers and 19th century shop fronts. Until c1834 it was the parish workhouse. Near the bottom of the upper floor windows can be seen ‘1787’ with the initials of parish vestry members.
38 The Railway Tavern, The oldest part of this pub is the recessed upper floor c1700 but apppears in a 1681 survey.   Previously called The Tower of London then The Tower Inn. Licenced from 1741 and then sold to Tasker. Altered when the railway was rebuilt. 
Clarendon Mews. Housing development of the late 1980s, in the grounds of Cray House. It includes enclosed Garden Square, the black timber oriel facing the approach drive, and the striking roof.
40-42 Co-op extensions. Sherds of medieval pottery were found in digging the foundations.
45 White Swan. Built 1866 on the site of cottages and a forge.  Liberal club opened next door and the landlord shot himself,Sold to the Phoenix Brewert, Kensington but in 1906 licence abandoned. Bought by Refflels, Bexley Brewery so sold local beer.n from 1907. Closed permanently 1908
48/68 shop terrace of 1966, following the slight curve in the road, with weatherboarded upper floors, S. F. Everson &' D. F. Searle’s. Yellow brick and white weatherboarding
57- 59 late c 17, with a hipped projecting centre. Late 17th in dark red brick with a two-storey porch. The date ‘1676’ is incised on a brick at the south-west corner
63 Freemantle Hall. 1894, with clock tower added in 1920. Still in use as a public hall. It has a red brick and terracotta frontage, with cement rendering. Extensively used for concerts, dances, dramatic performances, and other public gatherings. It has a stage, retiring rooms, and seating accommodation for 350 persons.
65 King's Head. Timber-framed pub, mentioned in 1681 survey. It is mainly the original building with 19th extension in front, modern restaurant. Licenced from 1713 and in 1757 taken over by Pettet, Dartford brewer.  Here 1814 a meeting was held at which a commissioner was appointed on the partitioning of the Heath – between Bexley and what was to become Bexley Heath.
67-71 cottages, early 19th, with modern shop fronts.
74 The George. Stuccoed pub. It was there by 1717, but its present frontage is from 1878 and recently extended to the rear.   Bare interior. In the 18th leased to Taskers, Dartford, brewery. then Stewart, Marsden and Nicholls and then Whitbreads from 1891.  
73 Hop Poles. Dated fro 1830 as the Three Bells.  In 1841 tap to Miskin's Bexley Brewery and some rear wall survives but brewery closed.Name changed to Hop Poles and run along with a wheelwrights. Miskin sold to Kidd who built a parade of shops. Gradually lost trade and closed in 1908.
75a Jolly Gardeners. Brewery Tap.  Used as a beer shop from 1818.Series of insolvent landlords and objections from local temperence enthusiasts. Became part of Wilmington Brewery 1870s. Then closed and now a restaurant.     
Kent Brewery.. Behind the pub,closed in 1864 fir the railway. 
77a c1912 with iron finger signboards pointing to 'Dartford' and The Crays'.
81 The Millers Arms. Jolly pub.  Beer sold here in 1855 by Henry King. Called Hare and Hounds and name changed in 1855.  Taken over by Gravesend brewery, Russells, and demolished. Rebuilt and owned by Kidds and then Charringtons. 
82/84 early 19th, though considerably altered, with modern shop fronts.
85 Brewery House for Kent Brewery. Late 18th origin with a late 19th shop front
95 Thomas Shearley Court. A tower by the railway viaduct of c1990 for housing development.
96 Cray House, brick Georgian house, probably 1775. Later extension left,
101 small mid 18th house, with a projecting pedimented central bay.  
106/8 fanciful house 1888 decorative detail and coach archway
107/115, terrace of early 19th cottages, in two groups under two separate roofs. 
111/5 may conceal early 17th structure.
110/112 mid 19th
117 Brook Cottage. Centre and left section were a coach-house and stables for Highstreet House, c 1860-70, Right extension 1970s. In the wall are sections of the original Tudor boundary wall of Highstreet House.
123 Highstreet House, brick Georgian house built in 1761 by John Thorpe, the antiquary, on the site of an older Tudor house. The roof of this is visible to the rear. There is a plaque to: 'John Thorpe, historian and antiquary, lived here c 1750-1789'. The manor house was sold by Sir John Spielman, the Dartford paper manufacturer, to Camden, who bequeathed it to the University of Oxford for the endowment of a professorship of history. It was partly rebuilt about the middle of the 19th and later used as a private nursing home.
Bexley Bridge across the Cray. Built 1872, the first road bridge, probably late 18th
Brick shed of 1844,
Fire-engine shed, with pantiled roof, adjoining the churchyard; 1761. The iron railings partly original.
Mill Cottage, late 18th, though much altered.
Mill Row, development c1989 of six shops under the arches of the railway viaduct
Old Mill, pub 1972. Replica of weatherboarded corn-mill c1779, burned down in 1966. It was a Domesday mill site. In 1255, the miller, Auxellus, was censured for allowing the escape of a suspected murder. Hasted described it in 1797 as 'the corn mill belonging to the Lord of the Manor'. The last building on the site dated from 1779, with a low breast shot waterwheel which powered four pairs of millstones. Used to grind barley and maize, no flour having been ground here since about 1910. It was owned by the Cannon family 1839 -1907. A steam engine was installed in 1884, the tall chimney was built by a Mr. Hart who fell from the top whilst doing repairs and lived to tell the tale as his fall was broken by the roof of the engine house. After the Cannon family sold it the mill was used for making sacks. In 1925 an iron wheel was installed weighing three tons. This set up such dangerous vibrations as to threaten the safety of the building and had to be abandoned. The mill was burnt down on 12 May 1966 and was replaced by the Old Mill PH, a pub with a mill theme. Note lucarne, or hoist-house for lifting sacks to an opening below. In the ground floor bar is a wooden water-wheel and the River Cray below, the building destroyed in 1966 dated from about 1779 and that date was carved on one of its beams.
Star Beerhouse. 1841. probable off licence
Park House. Early 19th detached villa with a substantial gabled extension to the east and another to the west, and a barge-boarded porch from the late 1890s.
Peat bed between railway and Bourne Road. Saxon spearhead found in 1912
St.Mary's Church. Church on the site at the time of the Domesday. There is early 12th carved decoration on the arch over the south door. It was rebuilt in the late 12th and has a 13th spire and a 14th chapel with a few old stones left in them to convince of its genuineness. The spire is two stages and shingled, octagonal in the top half, pyramidal below, on a cornice with brackets. On cornerstones at the southeast corner of the nave are the remains of five small medieval scratch-dials, either sundials or used to indicate the times of mass. The round-headed arch over the doorway suggests that Norman walling is incorporated. The east bay, clearly later than the rest by the tighter packed flints, has an early c14 window in it and an internal stringcourse, wholly renewed, goes round the walls. Three sedilia, stepping up towards the East, with continuous mouldings that look c15 rather than anything else. Heavily restored by Basil Champneys in 1883 with an exterior faced in flint but leaving basically medieval windows. Font with a bowl dated 1684, on a medieval stem. The Chancel Screen is by Champneys. Pews with names of three large mansions in the area. Absolutely crammed with monuments: Thomas Sparrow 1513; Brass of a civilian; memorial to Sir John Champeneis, 1590 a hanging monument with small kneeling figures; Anne Travels 1679, a cartouche, of London standard; Sir Robert Austen, 1687 of a standing marble monument without figures; Lady Mary Cosein Tablet of c. 1700, with the inscription written on a cloth held up by two frolicking putti; John Styleman 1734. A large hanging monument one with cartouches of arms pinned to a pyramid was erected after 1750 by Annis. The Rev. Henry Piers, vicar from 1737 to 1770, was a convert of Charles Wesley's and his pulpit in the church was open to the Wesleys and Whitefield.
St.Mary's Churchyard. A few yards behind the Fire-Engine Shed set in the wall backing onto Highstreet House, is a memorial to Catharina Thorpe who lived there and died in 1789. The fossil stone beneath was brought by her husband from Green Street Green and placed over the body, presumably to deter grave robbers - hence the injunction "pray disturb not her ashes.” The wall separating the house from the churchyard is Tudor in part. Tomb-chest to Payne family 1603. Several neo-classical tomb-chests.
Lychgate early 18th century with roof supports six oak posts. Originally it was at the south corner replaced by an elaborate lychgate of 1891, with Gothic tracery, by Basil Champneys.
Lych-gate medieval now along the churchyard path originally stood at the main entrance, but was removed in the 19th century when the present one was built. It deteriorated in its next position towards the cemetery, so in 1983 was dismantled a second time, restored and rebuilt here. Note the traces of medieval red colouring still remaining. It is an interesting timber structure, the roof supported on six oak posts braced to the wall plates in a traditional manner surviving from the Middle Ages. Its original purpose was to shelter the coffin and mourners during the opening part of the funeral service - Old English lych - corpse. Perhaps John and Charles Wesley walked through this gate in its original position when they visited Bexley on several occasions between 1737 and 1749 at the invitation of the vicar, Henry Piers. Charles Whitfield preached in the church more than once, as did George Whitefield in 1739, but he was prohibited from doing so again later on account of his Calvinistic views, whereupon he preached in the open at Blendon to a congregation estimated at about three hundred
The medieval vicarage stood until 1776 not far from the south side of the church. John Thorpe, the famous Bexley antiquary, knew it and left a description. “The parsonage-house stood opposite the upper gates of the churchyard; and was one of the most ancient edifices of the kind in this diocese. It doth not appear when it was erected; but from the form and style of its architecture, was judged to have been in or about the time of Edward IV. It was built chiefly with chestnut, and consisted of many strong punchins with diagonal pieces of timber, and plastered between. In front there was a porch, which had a large door with a wicket, which opened to a court or small square. The principal entrance to the house was by an ancient door in the left wing to a cloister-like passage with strong perpendicular open bars, which led to the hall, etc., and over the passage was a gallery leading to the best, or what was called the painted chamber, from the ceiling ornamented with stars. The door in the right wing led to the brew house, washhouse and other offices. The girders or main beams of the house were very large; and some of them had an astragal and hollow, clumsily worked with the chisel and gouge, by way of ornament, small planes not being in use at that time; and the gable-ends of the house and porch were likewise ornamented with carved Gothic cornices of oak and chestnut.'
Unexploded bomb near allotments in marsh near tidal stream
United Reformed Church. A Victorian church 1890 by George Baines. Miniature steeple alongside the north front, the dormer to the east, and the tiny bellcote. Gauche little ragstone. Spire an overgrown pinnacle.
Victoria Homes built in 1897 – the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. On the foundation stone it is recorded that it was laid by Sir Robert
War Memorial. Cross of 1920, in front of a triangular green field, once called

Fair Field.

Cross Lane
Narrow winding lane with rural character

Manor Road
Manor Lodge. lodge for the Manor House. Brick and flint, early 19th, with extensions to the left and rear.
Church hall 1980s
Manor Cottage c1870
Manor House. Early 18th on a basic structure of c 1536, brick extension c1800. It is east of St. Mary's Church, standing on the site of the medieval court lodge which in the 18th had been used as a farmhouse. For many years it was the home of Sir Guildford Molesworth the engineer.
Manor Farm. modern, with earlier outbuildings. A Granary on staddlestones moved to Hall Place in 1988.
Bexley Sand and Gravel Pit. Rear of Manor Farm. Opened post Second World War
St Mary’s Cemetery opened in 1857 as an overflow burial ground for the churchyard. Overgrown, and maintained as a nature reserve by the London Wildlife Trust. White stone tomb to Vice-Admiral William Stanhope Lovell, died 1859, under a holm oak - He was a midshipman at the Battle of Trafalgar.

North Cray Road
2 Listed
4-14 Listed
16 Listed
30 Listed
32 Listed
34 Listed
35 The Coach and Horses. Listed. Thomas Long had a licence here from 1762.  Taken over by Beasleys in 1875 and Ind Coope in 1978. In 1905 shooting gallery in the rear closed after complaints. Front steps built high to help stepping out of coaches.

Parkhill Road
St John the Evangelist. 1881. Large Gothic ragstone church by George Low. The spire added in 1890 now leans to the south. Bare interior, in spite of stencilling all over the walls and roof of the chancel. It was built to meet the spiritual needs of the new 'suburb' and a chapel-of-ease to St. Mary's
Penfold hexagonal pillar box. Late 1870s. Rare
68 Island House. 1880 castellated with bargeboarding.

Parkhurst Road
Parkhurst-Knoll Road estate on the western edge of the village. This development was intended for the city commuter. Built c.1878 -1881, made up of detached and semi- detached two-storey houses built in grey brick, with bay windows, some with highly ornate decorative features Built On the grounds of Parkhurst House and Marl House.
64 1881 gothic door
62 1878 castellated window
60 1881 gable and gothic window
50/52 bay windows
34-42 detached ornate villas 1879 with polychrome brickwork and mythical animals.

The Dartford Loop descends from Sidcup in a cutting as it descends to near sea level.

Salisbury Road
Salisbury Road Estate, next to the station in a field cut off by the railway line. It is mainly small leasehold semi-detached house
Butterfly Farm. Thus was established in 1905 by Leonard W. Newman. He bred moths and butterflies to be purchased by collectors, zoos and laboratories. The bushes and trees behind the house were covered in huge bags under which fed the larvae of many rare species. He died in 1949 aged 76 and the business was continued for seventeen years by his son L. Hugh Newman, the broadcaster and writer.

Station Approach
Bexley Station 1866 between Crayford and Albany Park on South Eastern Trains. Dartford Loop. The Main building is basically unaltered with a white weather boarded building on the down side, with cast iron railings. A smaller building on the up side is basically original as are the substantial platform canopies. Subway for track crossing. Locally listed. Signal box removed 1970. Subway for track crossing. Brick arches carry the line over the High Street.
Goods yard closed May 1963 and three sidings closed too
K6 Telephone Box
Railway Electricity Sub Station. 16.8 m long. 12.2 m high and 10.1m wide with three arched windows on each side wall. Contained two rotary converters driven by 3,300V ac power from Deptford Power Station. Supplied 660V dc power to the conductor rail. Installed by the Southern Railway upon electrification in 1926.

Thanet Road
St.John Fisher, RC, 1974.Built by Ivor Day & O'Brien of Bristol. Square-plan church under a two-stage pyramid roof ringed with a band of window. It forms an modern addition to the village with internal arrangement reflecting changes in liturgical practice

Tanyard Lane
Leads to area which was old gravel pit
Bexley Tannery. There in 1808 as a Tanyard, drying houses, and a Bark Mill. Closed when the railway was built in 1866.

Tile Kiln Lane,
Medieval tile kiln, 1971, probably owned by Lesnes Abbey

Upton Road South
Developments included large detached villas. By the early 1930s it was all ribbon development.
240 castellation 1869 with a tiny turret
234 elongated frontispiece
Upton Road Brickfield. W. Lee & J.Clark 1895

Vicarage Road
Ribbon development by the 1930s.
Vicarage. Became St. Mary's old people’s home. The Wesleys and Whitfield had often stayed there. The youngest of the Wesley sisters, Kezzie, jilted by Westley Hall in favour of her sister Martha, lived there for several years with the Piers family.
Browns Beer House. Opened 1831 by Mr, Brown in cottage built 1832. Later taken over by Longhurst who then opened various premises nearby as beerhouses
Garden sundial - Tradition records that the hymn 'Jesu, Lover of my soul' was written under a walnut tree in the vicarage garden. The sundial marks the spot and bears the initials of John, Charles and 'Kezzy' Wesley and of Henry Piers, together with those of an unidentified 'J.H.'. It was Piers who introduced Wesley to Vincent Perronet of Shoreham
6/8 cottages
St.Mary's Cottage conversion of mid 19th century stables; the weatherboarded oriel is modern.
Bexley Equestrian Centre
Electricity Sub Station
Artificial hill
Rising Sun pub. Built in 1843 by Miskin brewers.  Burnt down and rebuilt 1896. It has a Jug and Bottle, and a bagatelle room.
Sun Field. This was used to grow barley until about 1980, but was then left to regenerate naturally. Silver birch and variety of other species.
Grassy mounded field used for gravel working; the washery was very visible

Weir Road
Council power station

Williamson Street

Sidings to Crayford brick sidings

Barr-Hamilton and Reilly. Country to Suburb
Bexley official guide
Black Horse. Web site
Carr. A Spot that is Called Crayford
Cox. , Kent
Field. London Place Names
Goldsmiths. South East London Industrial Archaeology
Kings Head. Web site
London Borough of Bexley. Web site
London Transport. Country Walks
London Encyclopaedia
Nunns. Foots Cray,
Packer, Bexley Pubs
Packer. Lost pubs of Bexley
Penguin Kent
Pevsner. West Kent
Pevsner and Cherry. South: London
Spurgeon. Discover Bexley and Sidcup
St.John the Evangelist. Web site
Tester. Bexley Village


MAlc said…
Hi I am trying to work out where this cemetry is. Here is your text:
St Mary’s Cemetery opened in 1857 as an overflow burial ground for the churchyard. Overgrown, and maintained as a nature reserve by the London Wildlife Trust. White stone tomb to Vice-Admiral William Stanhope Lovell, died 1859, under a holm oak - He was a midshipman at the Battle of Trafalgar.
M said…
I think I remember it as being the extension at the back of the churchyard. When I get a free moment I will go to Bexley and look - not sure when that will be but will go.
Roy Humphrey said…
Hi Edith
This material is brilliant.

I can help with Malc's question on the Cemetery.

If you turn your back to the church and follow the public footpath opposite,you will soon see the gravestones in amongst trees on the left.,-0.080545&sspn=0.009414,0.019205&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Bexley,+Greater+London,+United+Kingdom&ll=51.439502,0.155453&spn=0.001179,0.002401&t=h&z=19
Unknown said…
Lovely site Edith. Links to your blog at my panoramio site

Also pics here of the Stanhope Lovell tomb.

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