Friday, 29 April 2016

The Well Hall Pioneer Circle

Lynne has been researching the Well Hall Estate. She has come across an interesting group who met regularly …
In summer 1916 the women of the estate formed a Pioneer Circle, originally for Well Hall but later extended to Eltham as well. The purpose of the circle was to promote and distribute the Woolwich labour newspaper ‘The Pioneer’ but as part of this the women met weekly to discuss items of topical interest. They met in the house of one of their number, Rhoda Baillie, at 34, Prince Rupert Road. Other names that were mentioned in the newspaper include the Mmes Woodnough, Bromley, Webster, Cockham, Skidmore, Pope, Mayes, Scarlett, Jeavons, Banks Ginns, Walker, MacDonald, Stewart and Bell together with a Miss A Stringer. its possible that not all of these women lived on the estate.
And what a range of issues they covered! During the war period they covered topics ranging from food shortages to pioneers of the past and from the need for communal kitchens to Venereal Disease. In December 1917 they made a visit to the Rachel Macmillan Baby Camp in Deptford as part of discussions they had had on education generally and on nursery education specifically. The meeting often began with one woman reading a paper, sometimes by an authority on their chosen subject, followed by a discussion. The newspaper coverage of their meetings in the Pioneer reports their discussions and findings. There were however other activities. In 1917 delegates were sent to the Woolwich Labour Food Conference and they also began making contributions to an inquiry on house planning organised by the South Wales Housing and Development Association in the form of responses to a schedule of some 70 questions. The women not unnaturally felt strongly about the lack of school accommodation for the estate especially as many young children had a walk of twenty or thirty minutes. They passed a resolution about this which was sent to the London County Council Education Committee.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Here Come the Girls - Women in Wartime 1915-18

From Greenwich Time, March 29 2016

The lives and contributions of local women during the First World War are celebrated in a new touring museum launched next week.

“Here Come the Girls - Women in Wartime 1915-18” will tour libraries and community centres around the royal borough over the next six months, starting at Greenwich Library on Friday, April 8.

Based on a compilation of true stories, the project focuses on the women who worked at the Royal Arsenal (pictured), the nurses and the Voluntary Aid Detachments in the borough’s hospitals and temporary auxiliary hospitals, such as Charlton House, and the families living on the Progress Estate in Eltham.

Actors will take on tree mobile exhibitions - one based on nursing, one on the Arsenal and one on the life at home - to different venues where they will portray the stories about women on the Home Front during the war years.

Families will be invited to get involved, for example, packing yellow lentils into crisp posts - a way of portraying the way ammunition was packed into shells.

The project by the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust is funded thanks to a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Tracy Stringfellow, chief executive officer of the heritage trust, said “We are very excited to have been awarded a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support this local women’s project.  The role of in the royal borough during the First World War was vital to the war effort and this project allows us to explore their role in much greater detail with our local community.  With touring interactive performances and an online blog, families will get the chance to explore the lives and contribution of Greenwich women at war.”

Stuart Hobley, head of the fund in London, said: “The First World War transformed the role of women in early 20th century British society by drawing them into a wide range of employment, including, at Woolwich, some of the most hazardous jobs on the home front.”

The first performances are at Greenwich Library on Friday, April 8 and Eltham Library on Saturday April 9, both from 11am-2pm

Other venues include Severndroog Castle, Charlton House, which will be turned into a wartime hospital on July 28, and a summer fete with residents on the Progress Estate in Eltham on August.

The trust hopes to add more tour dates and join in other events in the borough over the summer.  For more details visit

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Wives as Joint Tenants

Interesting article from The Pioneer 22/11/1916 uncovered by

Good to read that the early version of the Progress Estate Residents' Association was forward thinking.

"Wives as Joint Tenants

The Pioneer 22/11/1916
The recently adopted constitution of the Well Hall Garden City Tenants' Association contains a claus requiring that its executive committee shall be composed equally of men and women.  Moreover, this representation of women on the executive committee is not dependant upon the vagaries of a vote at a general meeting, but is actually embodied in the constitution as an unchallengeable right belonging to the women.

Unfortunately men have not yet become accustomed to voting for women as they do for men, and it was felt that women's position on the executive committee should be safeguarded till that time arrives.  The association has, from its inception, admitted women to its membership on the same terms as men and has loyally endeavoured to allow them equally opportunity for expressing their needs and opinions.

This practical recognition of the moral claim of wives to be considered as joint tenants deserves our full appreciation.  

Legally, of course this wife has neither rights, nor responsibilities for the house she inhabits, although the majority of tenancies depend, in a very real sense, upon her existence and upon her fulfilment of necessary, though legally unrecognised, duties.  Most wives occupy their house about twice as much as their husbands, because the house in not only their living place, but their place of employment.  And it must be remembered that the house is a workshop to which no laws penetrate to regulate hours of labour and prevent sweating.  T'here is no legal enforcement of payment for the services rendered there."

Race Night to Celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's 90th Birthday

June 11th 

Progress Hall, Admiral Seymour Road, Eltham

To sponsor a race or horse contact

Tickets only £12.50 from or 07599 610 262

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Progress Hall Easter Event 2016

A selection of Photos from the Progress Estate's Resident Association's Easter event held 19th March 2016 in the Progress Hall, Admiral Seymour Road, Eltham.  

The Easter event was well attended with Mrs Judy Smith M.B.E. judging the Easter hat competition. 

There were face painters and stalls with games for the children, a raffle and refreshments.

All Photos via Harvey Aspell

Easter hat competition was judged by Mrs Judy Smith M.B.E.

Rita, where did you get that hat?

Raffle prices with committee members

Easter novelties

Egg and spoon races

Friday, 18 March 2016

"Half Price Paradise"

Article on the Estate published in Guardian's "Space" magazine, March 2001

Half-Price Paradise

So, you thought you couldn’t afford life in a garden city?  Caroline Girling visits the Well Hall Estate, London’s least known but best value leafy suburb.  Photographs by Jason Orton

Click to enlarge
How often is it that you stumble across a proper secret, an undiscovered gem, a little pocket of 20th-century romance hiding in the suburbs?  Sure, we all love the beautiful houses of Chiswick’s Bedford Park, the clever cottages of Hampstead Garden Suburb and other offshoots of the garden city movement.  But who knows about Well Hall in Eltham.

The one thing we do remember is that this is where Stephen Lawrence was murdered.  The fact that the bus stop where he died lies on the arterial road in the heart of the place that embodies all the hopes and visions of early 20th-century idealists, somehow only heightens the sense of tragedy.  The Progress Estate, as it is now called, was designed and built in 1915 for munitions workers during the first world war.  The estate was meant to be a blueprint for mass housing in the future, a model of the “Homes Fit for Heroes” legislation, which was to provide soldiers returning from the first world war with appropriately Utopian, “garden city” homes.  It was done at breathtaking speed - 1,298 homes were designed and built in ten months flat - by HM Office of Works’ chief architect Frank Baines.  Baines was a remarkable man.  Within a day of being given the brief he had inspected the site, plotted the trees and hills around which he would run his lanes and paths and which clothe with houses.  The following day he worked through the night to produce the layout.  Within ten days the drawings and specifications for the first 40 homes had been issued for builders to tender. 

He could have put up rows of barracks.  Instead he built groups of cottages i a warren of streets designed to look “as if it had grown and not merely been dropped there”.  Maine’s vision was “to produce an architectural ensemble that seemed centuries apart from the age of total war”.  Walk the streets today and you  can still see his plan, as if freshly drawn.  The roads are as narrow as country lanes, the houses are closely grouped together, as if straight from a fishing village.  Paths tumble through archways between the cottages, which in turn have an endless variety of finishes: rough-cast render, half-timbering, weatherboarding, tile-hanging, colour washed rendering, brick and stone.  “Continuity, enclosure, contrast and surprise” were the cornerstones of the design.  It was meant to “unfold” before you, and it does.

Steve Crow, conservation officer with Greenwich Council, remembers darting through Well Hall when he was still in short trousers.  “I loved it as a child, because it had so many pathways and alleyways.  All the neighbours were aunties and uncles to me, and at Christmas we used to get together for parties in people’s houses.  And it was built so quickly.  You couldn’t imagine modern house builders being as quick.  The houses are very solidly built - no prefabrication - with four-panel doors, picture rails, skirting boards and cars iron fireplace surrounds.   No two houses are the same.  Even in a row which looks as if it is symmetrical, the internal detailing will be different - a fireplace across the corner in one house will be placed centrally in another.  There is a feeling that it was designed with great love and care.  There is no evidence of the material shortages which they must have had - some of the roofs were Westmoreland slate.”

The munitions workers who first moved here were considered key workers.  Many were women lured from domestic service by the better pay (a factory workers was paid four times as much as a parlourmaid), making shells for the western front.  It was a dangerous job - repeated exposure to TNT turned their faces yellow, earning the nickname “canaries”.  Sepia-tinted photographs kept by Crow show how Well Hall looked when the new arrivals came.  There are carts in the streets, boys in knee-length breeches and cloth caps, Edwardian women in long gathered skirts and starched high-collared shirts pushing basinettes.  “There were no shops and no pubs,” says Crow.  But there were home deliveries “I do remember basic groceries being delivered.”

David Blyce is 97 years old, and has lived on the estate all his life.  “My uncle and aunt were munitions workers, and among the first to move in,” he recalls.  “My parents moved in with them to start with.  I remember representatives from foreign governments being show it as an example of the best of British housing.  I married the girl over the fence.  Then, after the war, I came back here to buy my own house.”  He, and his wife Gladys form part of an elderly core contingent which has been here since the start. 
Click to enlarge

Frances Power is one of the younger newcomers, although she’s known the area for a while.  Her father grew up in a corrugated iron hut in Eltham, known then as the Eltham Hutments, but since demolished.  He would have loved to think that she would one day afford one of these homes.  Her two-bedroom cottage still has the tiny hooded fireplaces in the bedrooms, each one with a leaf motif.  “A lot of them didn’t have bathrooms but in the kitchen they had a table with a little kidney-shaped bath and sink.  Some had outside loos.”

Cute as it was, Well Hall proved not to be the blueprint of the future it was intended to be.  Though the average cost of each home was a quite luxurious £622, most other authorities cut costs and standards in both design and construction.  In fact the biggest legacy of estates such as Well Hall was the featureless, speculative sprawl and ribbon development that developers put up between wars, the very thing that neatly and economically planned garden cities were meant to combat.  And, like other “garden city” estates, Well Hall’s idealistic beginnings were gradually eroded during the 20th century.  Until 1950, residents rented from Progress Estate Ltd which was part of the Co-op, before ownership passed to the Hyde Housing Association.  But today two-thirds is privately owned.

Click to enlarge
A canny estate agent could certainly turn these pretty cottage with their half-hops and cat slide roofs, jettied windows and gable ends into conservation-area bargains.  A two-bedroom mid-terrace house with an upstairs bathroom costs £120,000 to £125,000; a three-bedroom house £150,000 to £160,000 (2001 prices).  Why, then are prices so low?  The reputation that Eltham has acquired since the Lawrence  murder might account for some of it, but not all.  Mostly, says Ian Skinner of Skinner estate agents, “it’s because Eltham is just not a high-price area, and the estate isn’t well known enough on its own.  Compared with fashionable parts of London it is very modest.”

It’s viewed as being the backside of London, closer to Kent then central London.  Yet it is perfectly commutable.  Trains run from Eltham station to London Bridge, Waterloo and Charing Cross in 30 minutes.  Were it transported to north London, Well Hall might have become as sought after as Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Monday, 7 March 2016

March 2016 Newsletter

MARCH 2016

Dear All,

As your new Chair I would like to say “Hallo” and I hope you are well. I was Vice Chair for 2015.   Rita, our outgoing Chair, is now Vice Chair and continues to Chair the Social Committee.

Our Centenary Year was a great success.   The eleven events we hosted raised our profile in Eltham and helped us to form working relationships with other organisations and businesses.   We intend to continue looking outwards; we believe it adds depth to our community, thus benefiting us all. 

We would never have achieved this level of success without the help of our committee members and a number of other Estate residents. Thanks, therefore, to you all.

This year will be a little quieter but we will still be holding four events, the first of which will be our Easter Eggstravaganza on Saturday 19th March.

Robert Ledgerwood


Family Fun

Saturday 19th March  2 – 4 p.m

Progress Hall

Admiral Seymour Road


Easter Hat Competition
Egg Hunt
Egg and Spoon Races
Face Painting
Craft Table
Stalls and refreshments

FREE ENTRY - Children MUST be accompanied by an adult.


This brass plaque is now on the wall inside the Progress Hall.   Simon Hughes, Conran Estate’s Managing Director, kindly agreed that his firm would pay for the preparatory work to turn our logo into a line drawing that was suitable for engraving.   Marc Cowcher of Munich Trophies, whose family are long-term residents here, manufactured both the plaque and the tree marker.    The tree itself was ceremoniously planted outside the Progress Hall by another long-term resident, Mrs. Dorothy Powell, on 24th October, 2015.  


The Hyde Group have recently introduced their Framework Agreements, under which businesses with a turnover of at least £1ml. per annum have been granted various maintenance contracts across all their properties.   As a result, Basham Property Services no longer maintain the communal front gardens on our Estate.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris Basham for the manner in which his firm not only managed this high-visibility contract for a number of years, but rectified the sub-standard work of a contractor Hyde, at one time, appointed in his place.   We wish him and his firm all the best for the future and trust the newly-appointed contractors will maintain his high standards. 


The Greenwich Community Directory provides information about the whole range of services available in the Royal Borough.   These include help at home, health and wellbeing, supported living and housing, carers, benefits advice and training and employment.  It also enables people to pinpoint their nearest GP, dentist and pharmacy.

Residents may contact the Directory at or telephone 020 8921 2304.