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Charles G. (Charles George) Harper.

The Brighton road : the classic highway to the south online

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| | Ship" and back | 6 51 7|
| | | |
| " Sept. 6. |E. Dance cycled to Brighton and back | 6 49 1|
| | | |
| " " 9. |R. C. Nesbit cycled (high bicycle) to | |
| | Brighton and back | 7 42 50|
| | | |
|1893, Sept. 12.|S. F. Edge cycled to Brighton and back | 6 13 48|
| | | |
| " " 17. |A. E. Knight " " | 6 10 29|
| | | |
| " " 19. |C. A. Smith " " | 6 6 46|
| | | |
| " " 22. |S. F. Edge " " | 5 52 30|
| | | |
| " " |E. Dance " " | 5 52 18|
| | | |
| " Oct. 4. |W. W. Robertson (tricycle) " | 7 24 2|
| | | |
|1894, June 11. |W. R. Toft " " | 6 21 30|
| | | |
| " Sept. 12. |C. G. Wridgway " " | 5 35 32|
| | | |
| " " 20. |Miss Reynolds cycled to Brighton and back | 7 48 46|
| | | |
| " " 22. |Miss White cycled to Brighton and back | 7 6 46|
| | | |
|1895, Sept. 26.|A. A. Chase, Brighton and back | 5 34 58|
| | | |
| " Oct. 17. |J. Parsley (tricycle) | 6 18 28|
| | | |
| " Nov. |J. H. Herbert cycled backwards to Brighton | 7 45 0|
| | | |
|1896, June 26. |E. D. Smith and C. A. Greenwood (tandem) | 5 37 34|
| | | |
| " - . |W. Franks walked from south side of | |
| | Westminster Bridge to Brighton | 9 7 7|
| | | |
| " July 15. |C. G. Wridgway | 5 22 33|
| | | |
| " Sept. 15. |H. Green and W. Nelson (tandem) | 5 20 35|
| | | |
| " Nov. 14. |"Motor-car Day." A 6 h.p. Bollée motor | |
| | started from Hotel Metropole, London, at | |
| | 11.30 a.m., and reached Brighton at 2.25 | |
| | p.m. | 2 55 0|
| | | |
|1897, April 10.|Polytechnic Harriers' walk, Westminster Clock| |
| | Tower to Brighton. E. Knott | 8 56 44|
| | | |
| " May 4.|W. J. Neason cycled to Brighton and back | 5 19 39|
| | | |
| " July 12.|Miss M. Foster cycled from Hyde Park Corner | |
| | to Brighton and back | 6 45 9|
| | | |
| " " 13.|Richard Palmer cycled to Brighton and back | 5 9 45|
| | | |
| " Sept. 11.|W. J. Neason cycled from London to Brighton | |
| | and back | 5 6 42|
| | | |
| " Oct. 27.|P. Wheelock and G. J. Fulford (tandem) | 4 54 54|
| | | |
| " - . |L. Franks and G. Franks (tandem safety) | 5 0 56|
| | | |
|1898, Sept. 27.|E. J. Steel cycled London to Brighton and | |
| | back (unpaced) | 6 23 55|
| | | |
| " " " |P. F. A. Gomme, London to Brighton and back | |
| | (tricycle, unpaced) | 8 11 10|
| | | |
|1899, May 6.|South London Harriers' "go-as-you-please" | |
| | running match, Westminster Clock Tower to | |
| | Brighton. Won by F. D. Randall | 6 58 18|
| | | |
| " June 30.|H. Green cycled from London to Brighton and | |
| | back (unpaced) | 5 50 23|
| | | |
|1902, Aug. 21.|H. Green cycled from London to Brighton and | |
| | Brighton and back (unpaced) | 5 30 22|
| | | |
| " Oct. 31.|Surrey Walking Club's match, Westminster | |
| | Clock Tower to Brighton and back. J. Butler|21 36 27|
| | | |
|1903, Mar. 14.|J. Butler walked from Westminster Clock Tower| |
| | to Brighton | 8 43 16|
| | | |
| " May 1.|Stock Exchange Walk, won by E. F. Broad | 9 30 1|
| | | |
| " June 20.|Running Match, Westminster Clock Tower to | |
| | Tower to Brighton. Won by Len Hurst | 6 32 0|
| | | |
| " Aug. |Miss M. Foster cycled to Brighton and back | |
| | (motor-paced) | 5 33 8|
| | | |
| " Nov. 7.|Surrey Walking Club's match, Westminster | |
| | Clock Tower to Brighton and back. H. W. | |
| | Horton |20 31 53|
| | | |
| " - . |P. Wheelock and G. Fulford (tandem safety) | 4 54 54|
| | | |
| " - . |A. C. Gray and H. L. Dixon (tandem safety, | |
| | unpaced) | 5 17 18|
| | | |
|1904, April 9.|Blackheath and Ranelagh Harriers, inter-club | |
| | walk, Westminster Clock Tower to Brighton. | |
| | T. E. Hammond | 8 26 57|
| | | -2/5|
|1905, July 19.|R. Shirley, Polytechnic C.C., cycled Brighton| |
| | and back (unpaced) | 5 22 5|
| | | |
|1905, - . |J. Parsley (tricycle) | 6 18 28|
| | | |
| " - . |H. S. Price (tricycle, unpaced) | 6 53 5|
| | | |
|1906, Sept. 22.|J. Butler walked to Brighton | 8 23 27|
| | | |
| " - . |S. C. Paget and M. R. Mott (tandem safety, | |
| | unpaced) | 5 9 20|
| | | |
| " - . |H. Green (safety cycle, unpaced) | 5 20 22|
| | | |
| " - . |R. Shirley " " | 5 15 29|
| | | |
| " - . |L. Dralce (tricycle, unpaced) | 6 24 56|
| | | |
| " - . |J. D. Daymond " " | 6 19 48|
| | | |
|1907, June 22.|T. E. Hammond walked to Brighton and back |18 13 37|
| | | |
| " - . |C. and A. Richards (tandem-safety, unpaced) | 5 5 25|
| | | |
| " - . |G. H. Briault and E. Ward (tandem-safety, | |
| | unpaced) | 4 53 48|
| | | |
|1908, - . |G. H. Briault (tricycle, unpaced) | 6 8 24|
| | | |
|1909, May 1.|T. E. Hammond walked to Brighton | 8 18 18|
| | | |
| " Sept. 4.|H. L. Ross " " | 8 11 14|
| | | |
| " - . |Harry Green cycled Brighton and back | |
| | (unpaced) | 5 12 14|
| | | |
|1910, - . |L. S. Leake and G. H. Spencer (tandem | |
| | tricycle, unpaced) | 5 59 51|
| | | |
|1912, June 19.|Fredk. H. Grubb cycled (paced) Brighton and | |
| | back | 5 9 41|
| | | |
| " - . |E. H. and S. Hulbert (tandem tricycle, | |
| | unpaced) | 5 42 21|
| | | |
|1913, - . |H. G. Cook (tricycle, unpaced) | 6 7 4|
| - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |
|NOTE. - The fastest L. B. & S. C. R. train, the 5 p.m. Pulman | |
|Express from London Bridge, reaches Brighton (51 miles) at | |
|6.0 p.m. | 1 0 0|
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+ - - - - +




X


We may now, somewhat belatedly, after recounting these varied annals of
the way to Brighton, start along the road itself, coming from the south
side of Westminster Bridge to Kennington.

No one scanning the grey vista of the Kennington Road would, on sight,
accuse Kennington of owning a past; but, as a sheer matter of fact, it is
an historic place. It is the "Chenintun" of Domesday Book, and the
Cyningtun or Köningtun - the King's town - of an even earlier time. It was
indeed a royal manor belonging to Canute, and the site of the palace where
his son, Hardicanute, died, mad drunk, in 1042. Edward the Third annexed
it to his Duchy of Cornwall, and even yet, after the vicissitudes of nine
hundred years, the Prince of Wales, as Duke of Cornwall, owns house
property here. Kennington Park, too, has its own sombre romance, for it
was an open common until 1851, and a favourite place of execution for
Surrey malefactors. Here the minor prisoners among the Scottish rebels
captured by the Duke of Cumberland in the '45 were executed, those of
greater consideration being beheaded on Tower Hill. It is an odd
coincidence that, among the lesser titles of "Butcher Cumberland" himself
was that of Earl of Kennington.

At this junction of roads, where the Kennington Road, the Kennington Park
Road, the Camberwell New Road, and the Brixton Road, all pool their
traffic, there stood, in times not so far removed but that some yet living
can remember it, Kennington Gate, an important turnpike at any time, and
one of very great traffic on Derby Day, when, I fear, the pikeman was
freely bilked of his due at the hands of sportsmen, noble and ignoble.
There is a view of this gate on such a day drawn by James Pollard, and
published in 1839, which gives a very good idea of the amount of traffic
and, incidentally, of the curious costumes of the period. You shall also
find in the "Comic Almanack" for 1837 an illustration by George
Cruikshank of this same place, one would say, although it is not mentioned
by name, in which is an immense jostling crowd anxious to pass through,
while the pikeman, having apparently been "cheeked" by the occupants of a
passing vehicle, is vulgarly engaged, I grieve to state, in "taking a
sight" at them. That is to say, he has, according to the poet, "Put his
thumb unto his nose and spread his fingers out."

[Sidenote: KENNINGTON GATE]

Kennington Gate was swept away, with other purely Metropolitan turnpike
gates, October 31st. 1865, and is now to be found in the yard of Clare's
Depository at the crest of Brixton Hill. It was one of nine that barred
this route from London to the sea in 1826. The others were at South End,
Croydon: Foxley Hatch, or Purley Gate, which stood near Purley Corner, by
the twelfth milestone, until 1853; and Frenches, 19 miles 4 furlongs from
London - that is to say, just before you come into Redhill streets. Leaving
Redhill behind, another gate spanned the road at Salfords, below Earlswood
Common, while others were situated at Horley, Ansty Cross, Stonepound, one
mile short of Clayton; and at Preston, afterwards removed to Patcham.[6]

Not the most charitable person could lay his hand upon his heart and
declare, honestly, that the church of St. Mark, Kennington, which stands
at this beginning of the Brixton Road, is other than extremely hideous.
Fortunately, its pagan architecture, once fondly thought to revive the
glories of old Greece, is largely screened from sight by the thriving
trees of its churchyard, and so nervous wayfarers are spared something of
the inevitable shock.

The story of Kennington Church does not take us very far back, down the
dim alleys of history, for it was built so recently as the first quarter
of the nineteenth century, when it was thought possible to emulate the
marble beauties of the Parthenon and other triumphs of classic
architecture in plebeian brick and stone. Those materials, however, and
the architects themselves, were found to be somewhat inferior to their
models, and eventually the public taste became so outraged with the
appalling ugliness of the pagan temples arising on every hand that at
length the Gothic revival of the mid-nineteenth century set in.

But if its history is not long, its site has a horrid kind of historic
association, for the building stands on what was a portion of Kennington
Common, the exact spot where the unhappy Scottish rebels were executed in
1746, and where Jerry Abershawe, the highwayman, was hanged in 1795. The
remains of the gibbet on which the bodies of some of his fellow knights of
the road were exposed were actually found when the foundations for the
church were being dug out.

The origin of Kennington Church, like that of Brixton, is so singular that
it is very well worth while to inquire into it. It was a direct outcome of
the Napoleonic wars. England had been so long engaged in those European
struggles, and was so wearied and impoverished by them, that Parliament
could think of nothing better than to celebrate the peace of 1815 by
voting a million and a half of money to the clergy as a "thank-offering."
This sum took the shape of a church-building fund. Wages were low, work
was scarce, and bread was so dear that the people were starving. That good
paternal Parliament, therefore, when they asked for bread gave them stone
and brick, and performed the heroic feat of picking their impoverished
pockets as well. It was accomplished in this wise. There was that Lucky
Bag, the million and a half sterling of the Thanksgiving Fund; but it
could not be dipped into unless you gave an equal sum to that you took
out, and then expended the whole on building churches. And yet it has been
said that Parliament has no sense of the ridiculous! Why, it was the most
stupendous of practical jokes!

[Illustration: KENNINGTON GATE: DERBY DAY, 1839. _From an engraving after
J. Pollard._]

[Sidenote: HALF-PRICE CHURCHES]

Lambeth was at that time a suburban and a greatly expanding parish, and
was one of those that accepted this offer, and took what came eventually
to be called Half Price Churches. It gave a large order, and took four:
those of Kennington, Waterloo, Brixton, and Norwood, all ferociously
hideous, and costing £15,000 apiece; the Government granting one moiety
and the other being raised by a parish rate on all, without distinction of
creed. The Government also remitted the usual taxes on the building
materials, and in some instances further helped the people to rejoice by
imposing a compulsory rate of twopence in the pound, to pay the rector or
vicar. All this did more to weaken the Church of England than even a
century of scandalous inefficiency:

Abuse a man, and he may brook it,
But keep your hands out of his breeches pocket.

The major part of these grievances was adjusted by the Act of 1868,
abolishing all Church rates, excepting those levied under special Acts;
but the eyesores will not be redressed until the temples are pulled down
and rebuilt.

Brixton appears in Domesday as "Brixistan," which in later ages became
"Brixtow"; and the Brixton Road follows the line of a Roman way on which
Streatham stood. Both the Domesday name of Brixton and the name of
Streatham are significant, indicating their position on the stones and the
street, _i.e._, the paved thoroughfare alluded to in "Brixton causeway,"
marked on old suburban maps.

The Brixton Road, even down to the middle of the nineteenth century, was a
pretty place. On the left-hand side, as you made for Streatham, ran the
river Effra. It was a clear and sparkling stream, twelve feet wide,
which, rising at Norwood, eventually found its way into the Thames at
Vauxhall. Its course ran where the front gardens of the houses on that
side of the road are now situated, and at that period every house was
fronted by its little bridge; but the unfortunate Effra has long since
been thrust underground in a sewer-pipe, and the sole reminiscence of it
to be seen is the name of Effra Road, beside Brixton Church.

The "White Horse" public-house, where the omnibuses halt, was in those
times a lonely inn, neighboured only by a farm; but with the dawn of the
nineteenth century a new suburb began to spring up, where Angell Road now
stands, called "Angell Town," and then the houses of Brixton Road began to
arise. It is curious to note that the last of the old watchmen's wooden
boxes was standing in front of Claremont Lodge, 168, Brixton Road, until
about 1875.

There is little in the Lower Brixton Road that is reminiscent of the
Regency, but a very great deal of early suburban comfort evident in the
old mansions of the Rise and the Hill, built in days when by a "suburban
villa" you did not mean a cheap house in a cheap suburban road, but - to
speak in the language of auctioneers - a "commodious residence situate in
its own ornamental grounds, replete with every convenience," or something
in that eloquent style. For when you ascend gradually, past the Bon
Marché, and come to the hill-top, you leave for awhile the shops and the
continuous, conjoined houses, and arrive, past the transitional stage of
semi-detachedness, at the wholly blest condition of splendid isolation in
the rear of fences and carriage entrances, with gentility-balls on the
gate-posts, a circular lawn in front of the house, skirted by its gravel
drive, and perhaps even a stone dog on either side of the doorway! Solid
comfort resides within those four-square walls, and reclines in saddle-bag
armchairs, thinking complacently of big bank balances, all derived from
wholesale dealing in the City, and now enjoyed, and added to, in the third
and fourth generations; for these solid houses were built a century ago,
or thereby. They are not beautiful, nor indeed are they ugly. Built of
good yellow stock brick, grown decorously neutral-tinted with age, and
sparsely relieved, it may be, with stucco pilasters picked out with raised
medallions or plaster wreaths. Supremely unimaginative, admirably free
from tawdry affectations of Art, unquestionably permanent - and large. They
are, indeed, of such spaciousness and commodious quality that an
auctioneer who all his life long has been ascribing those characteristics
to houses which do not possess them feels a vast despair possess his soul
when it falls to his lot to professionally describe such an one. And yet I
think few ever realise the scale of these villas and their grounds until
the houses themselves are pulled down and the grounds laid out as building
plots for what we now understand by "villas" - a fate that has lately
befallen a few. When it is realised that the site lately occupied by one
of these staid mansions and its surrounding gardens will presently harbour
thirty or forty little modern houses - why, then an unwonted respect is
felt for it and its kind.

[Sidenote: BRIXTON HILL]

Brixton Hill brings one up out of the valley of the Thames. The hideous
church of Brixton stands on the crest of it, with the hulking monument of
the Budd family, all scarabei and classic emblems of death, prominent at
the angle of the roads - a _memento mori_, ever since the twenties, for
travellers down the road.

Among the mouldering tombstones, whose neglect proves that grief, as well
as joy and everything else human, passes, is one in shape like a
biscuit-box, to John Miles Hine, who died, aged seventeen, in 1824. A
verse, plainly to be read by the wayfarer along the pavements of Brixton
Hill, accompanies name and date:

O Miles! the modest, learned and sincere
Will sigh for thee, whose ashes slumber here;
The youthful bard will pluck a floweret pale
From this sad turf whene'er he reads the tale,
That one so young and lovely - died - and last,
When the sun's vigour warms, or tempests rave,
Shall come in summer's bloom and winter's blast,
A Mother, to weep o'er this hopeless grave.

An inscription on another side shows us that her weeping was ended in
1837, when she died, aged fifty-two; and now there is no turf and no
flowerets, and the tomb is neglected, and the cats make their midnight
assignations on it when the electric trams have gone to bed and Brixton
snores.

On the right hand side, at the summit of Brixton Hill, there still remains
an old windmill. It is in Cornwall Road. True, the sails of its tall black
tower are gone, and the wind-power that drove the machinery is now
replaced by a gas-engine; but in the old building corn is yet ground, as
it has been since in 1816 John Ashby, the Quaker grandfather of the
present millers, Messrs. Joshua & Bernard Ashby, built that tower. Here,
unexpectedly, amid typical modern suburban developments, you enter an
old-world yard, with barns, stables and cottage, pretty much the same as
they were over a hundred years ago, when the mill first arose on this


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Online LibraryCharles G. (Charles George) HarperThe Brighton road : the classic highway to the south → online text (page 7 of 18)