Attempt to de-list Elmhurst Cottage

Elmhurst Cottage
Elmhurst Cottage

An application has been submitted to the Royal Borough of Greenwich to remove Elmhurst Cottage from the council’s Locally Listed Buildings list. If successful this would remove the protections given to buildings on the list, and ease the way for redevelopment of the 0.3 Acre site. It was submitted by a local company, Building Design & Services Ltd., but appears to be on behalf of a company named Broadberry International Limited. There is no indication as to the reason for the request, but I suspect it is not out of academic concern for the historical accuracy of the local list.

The heart of the case to remove Elmhurst Cottage from the list, which is laid out in a Heritage Statement prepared by HeritageCollective and submitted with the application,  appears to be twofold: that the cottage was not built until 1895-1896 and that it was too humble for important historical people such as the Lidgbird and Dallin families to live in.

The evidence presented that the cottage was not built until 1895-1896 relies on part of a hand-drawn map that was submitted with an 1889 planning application for a new stable on a property further down Shrewsbury Lane. The map, which is part of catalogue item MBW/BA/39056 in the London Metropolitan Archive, is shown below followed by the equivalent area from Alan Godfrey’s 1894 OS map, which clearly shows Elmhurst Cottage. The hand-drawn map does not include a number of buildings that are shown in the OS map from just 5 years later, and has a number of inaccuracies in the shapes, orientations  and positions of the buildings compared to the Ordnance Survey map. For instance, it does not include the huge Haddon Hall, just over the lane from Elmhurst Cottage. Haddon Hall also appears on Alan Godfrey’s 1866 and 1914 maps, so it was certainly there in 1889. The size, shape and outbuildings of the large house named Elmhurst are not captured accurately on the 1889 map, nor are those of the Homestead. In fact it is an amateur map intended to show where a new stable would go, not to show the size, shape and location of neighbouring buildings.

It is clear that the 1889 hand-drawn map is not conclusive evidence of the presence or absence of Elmhurst Cottage, or of the date it was built. The Heritage Statement includes a snippet of the 1894 OS map mislabelled as being from 1896, plus a part of the 1866 OS map mislabelled as being from 1889. If nothing else the presence of Elmhurst on the 1894 map shows that it was there before the 1895-1896 claimed.

Map from HeritageCollective's Heritage Statement about Elmhurst Cottage
Map from HeritageCollective’s Heritage Statement about Elmhurst Cottage
Snippet from Alan Godfrey’s 1894 Ordnance Survey Map of Shooters Hill
Snippet from Alan Godfrey’s 1894 Ordnance Survey Map of Shooters Hill

The Heritage Statement provides no evidence that a wealthy family such as the Lidgbirds or the Dallins would not have lived in a cottage such as Elmhurst Cottage other than some information from a directory of 1910 about who lived at the cottage. This is many years after the Dallin family lived at Elmhurst.

The Heritage Statement quotes a passage about the history of Elmhurst Cottage from an e-shootershill post about buildings of local interest, however it fails to include any of the more detailed information about the historical associations of the cottage in a later post about Elmhurst. This cottage is one of the few reminders of the families – the Lidgbirds, Dallins and Jacksons – who shaped Shooters Hill. Colonel Bagnold also lists a number of senior military people who lived at Elmhurst: Col. Shipley; Lord Ribblesdale; Col. Foster; W Fitzhardinge; Col. Wooley-Dod; Col. Murray-Smith; Major Barstow; Col. F. Watts-Allen. A rich local history.

Why is someone trying to de-list Elmhurst Cottage now? Who knows – the applicants haven’t given any indications of their plans, nor have they talked to neighbours of Elmhurst Cottage,  who first learned of the attempt to de-list when they got the Royal Borough’s letter. Although it seems clear that the cottage has been sold because it is no longer up for sale, the Land Registry has not yet been updated with the new owner’s details. HeritageCollective produced the Heritage Statement for Broadberry International Limited. No company of this name comes up in a search of the Companies House web site. and a Google search only gives a British Virgin Islands company for which the last information is 2007. It seems unlikely that Broadberry Data Systems, Broadberry Consulting or Broadberry Care Solutions have moved into property development, so the plans for the site remain a mystery.

The notice about the application gives details about how to comment:

Any person who wishes to make representations to the Royal Borough about the application should do so in writing (via email or post) by 08-Sep-2015 to building-conservation@royalgreenwich.gov.uk or to Planning Department, 5th floor, Woolwich Centre, 35 Wellington Street, Woolwich, SE18 6HQ

It is also possible to comment on-line on the planning pages for the application. The Royal Borough of Greenwich web site includes information about how buildings get on the local list, as well as the list itself.

8 Replies to “Attempt to de-list Elmhurst Cottage”

  1. I have commented elsewhere on the inaccuracies of the maps and I see you have come to the same conclusions, which shows what a shoddy job “Heritage Collective” have done. What amazes me is that they have made a subjective statement regarding the desirability of the cottage as a place of abode for someone from a grand family, then compound this silliness by stating that a piece of tenuous evidence from a much later date proves the statement to be conclusive. The “research” has been very sloppy, selective and full of errors. The John Lidgebird they cite (“High Sheriff of Kent”) as you know, cannot have been the one who built Elmhurst Cottage, as he died, quite possibly a lunatic, in 1771. His son, Henry inherited the estate and he continued the building work at the Arsenal. As you have written before, it seems likely that he had at least two sons: Henry Lidgebird Junior and John Lidgebird are mentioned in conjunction with the building works into the 1840s. Now, a memorial tablet in St Nick’s states that Henry died, unmarried, in 1820. As you also discovered, he died intestate and there followed nine years of litigation, after which the estate was divided between two distant relatives: Mary Dallin (again, not the one referred to by Heritage Collective, but her mother) and Ann Wilding. It is notable that neither Henry Junior nor John inherited any of the estate. It does not seem inconceivable, therefore, that the two were illegitimate. This is certainly a better explanation as to why John would live in a humble dwelling on part of his father’s former estate, than the nonsense suggested by “Heritage Collective”. Out of interest, Hilly, have you looked at the Kentish Independent for 1976?

    1. That’s an interesting thought about the younger Lidgbirds, have you come across any records of them? I haven’t looked at the Kentish Independent, sounds like a walk down to the Heritage Centre is required.

  2. A former occupier of the cottage has been asking local people. She contends that the cottage was not rebuilt and is the original old building. I seem to recall a newspaper article about an exact replica being built, which would account for the oldy-worldy materials. I suggested she look for the article in the Kentish Independent, but I think she may live in Somerset. I can’t find any local Lidgebirds on Ancestry or FindMyPast. The St Nick’s parish records have been digitalised, so perhaps the name has been persistantly mistranscribed. Of course, the sons will have been baptised with the mother’s surname/s if they were illigitimate. I’ve started to draft my representations, but will wait to see whether you find anything at the HC.

    1. I scanned through all the 1976 Kentish Independents yesterday and couldn’t find any mention of Elmhurst Cottage. Wonder if it could have been a different newspaper?

    1. However, I have found other John Lidgbirds in Plumstead, both contemporaneous and later than Sir John. As Sir John had only one child and, as the surname is uncommon, one would assume that the other John Lidgbirds are relatives – although, perhaps, with less claim to the estate than Mary Lidgbird and Ann Wilding.

  3. I’m trying to think of another local paper at the time. I think another popular one that covered this area was the Bexleyheath Observer, which is held on microcfiche at Bexley Archive Centre. They also have the News Shopper for a greater range of dates than Greenwich.

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