Stumble down the overgrown steps in the southeast corner of Hilly Fields and you are confronted by the curvy block – a mid-1950s crescent of flats, writes block resident Iain.
There are two things people know about this block. It looks a bit different- it’s moated and curvy. Also, the council tried to turn the residents’ shared garden into three big houses to sell on the private market.
Their justification was to raise over £2million for other housing projects. The gardens continue to be listed as a potential development site, but there have been no announcements for a couple of years now.
The original plan of overlooked private houses with their own (seized) gardens has since been quashed after the residents took action and campaigned alongside their neighbours. Even so the future of The green remains uncertain.
The Green’s past, however, is shared with much of the conservation area.
Renowned builders Jerrard & Sons created rows of imposing Victorian houses around Hilly Fields. Ornate but solid, among them were three houses on the footprint of the curvy block- one of which can be seen in the photo below- taken from the corner of Hilly Fields.
These houses stood until the night of July 27 1944, when a V1 rocket destroyed them, killing Rita Mary Cunningham- a 17 year old who was living at 95 Ermine Road with her grandparents.
The following day, another V1 hit an air raid shelter outside Marks and Spencer on Lewisham High Street, killing a further 51 locals.
For those few days, as the Nazis retreated in mainland Europe, their missiles were trained on Lewisham.
Rubble remained between Ermine and Embleton Roads for over a decade before Lewisham council’s architect, Mr M H Forward, built the development we have today.
It was a time when council house building was the norm and their imperatives were not wholly dictated by the market.
Mr Forward invited celebrated married architects Fry and Drew to build the now-listed Passfields Estate on the Bromley Road.
A few years later, clearly inspired, Mr Forward designed the curvy block. Archive documents show Fry and Drew were sought out by Mr Forward to provide guidance to the council on materials, procurement and design, to influence the large-scale home-building Lewisham required after the war.
What Mr Forward built featured pram sheds, garages, balconies for every dwelling and a crescent shape that focuses on the communal area at the bottom – which is also the site of an annual fun day the residents organise.
These features are no accident- the green in particular is not a piece of dead space, just waiting for deveopment.
When Passfields was developed, Fry and Drew sought to ensure that each dwelling had a view of trees and grass.
A reasonable ambition, in keeping with the houses in the nieghbourhood. But this was no longer a consideration when plans were made to take this grass and fence it in to provide gardents for expensive new builds.
Indeed, at a time when gentrification and housing is at the top of the political agenda, the semi-public green at the back of the house still provides a great space to connect the residents to green, and the block to the people and houses around it.
It would be a shame to lose it. If only people didn’t park on it.