Archive for the ‘Buildings’ Category

James Geddes was born in the village of Ruthven, near Buckie, Banffshire on 17 June 1841, the eldest of ten children of John Geddes and Ann Dow. From an early age he felt a desire to devote his life to the work of the ministry, and he went to Hackney Theological College in London to prepare for it. He then accepted an invitation of the Bexleyheath Congregational Church (which had opened in 1854) to succeed Rev. John Adey. The Rev. James Geddes was minister there from 20th September 1868 to 1920.

Bexleyheath's Congregational Church in 1907

Bexleyheath’s Congregational Church in 1907

Geddes was a great preacher with “a style and a method all his own. His sermons were always interesting and always came home to the hearts and lives of his hearers. He had a wonderful gift of apt and forceful illustration.” He was also a great pastor, visiting the homes of his people, and he took a prominent part in temperance meetings.

Rev. James Geddes

Rev. James Geddes

Those people who remember him in his later years usually recall first his great skill as a reader and preacher, equipped as he was with a strong but not harsh voice that retained to the end the accent of his Scottish birthplace. Geddes was a figure known to the whole town, and he could often be seen striding along the road on the way to visit one of his ‘flock’ or to chase up those unfortunate people whose absence he had carefully noted during the previous Sunday’s services. To the children of the Sunday School he was a remote and perhaps revered figure, and his infrequent appearances at the school were guaranteed to cause a stir. He lived in a large house on Broadway, Bexleyheath, near Gravel Hill, with his wife Jessy Harriot and his three children, Jessie, James and Willy. Mrs Jessy Geddes was for a while in charge of a small enterprise that offered help to the poor mothers of the town who were unable to support their children on their own. Their daughter, Jessie, taught children in the ‘Bible Class’ of the Sunday School.

Mrs Geddes and daughter

Mrs Geddes and daughter

In 1911, on the occasion of Rev. Geddes’s 70th birthday, a new hall was erected, later renamed the Lower Geddes Hall, in recognition of the minister’s long and faithful service.

By 1913 Rev. Geddes was suffering from poor health but the church was reluctant to accept his resignation and instead it was decided to share his duties with a co-Pastor, Mr Aeneas Anderson. In 1919 Rev. Geddes suffered a bereavement in the family that affected him greatly, and in the same year Rev. Owen Evans took over as Pastor, although Geddes continued to be involved with the church. He lived in Freta Road. In 1920 Geddes moved to Eltham but even after retirement he still visited neighbouring churches and was welcomed by large congregations coming to hear him. “The secret of his wonderful ministry undoubtedly was tireless energy. He was a hard worker and gave himself up wholly to whatever he undertook to do… There was a solidarity and responsibility in his character which invited confidence. He was at the same time a sympathetic friend and a welcome visitor in times of bereavement.”

James Geddes died at the house of his daughter in Eltham on 23 February 1927 at the age of 86. He was buried in Bexleyheath Cemetery, alongside his wife who had died in 1911.

Many years later, in 1988, the church in Bexleyheath’s Market Place was demolished and a new United Reformed Church was built in its place. [The Congregational and Presbyterian churches merged to form the United Reformed Church in 1972]. Amidst significant town development at that time, the road was named Geddes Place and the new church was called the Geddes Place United Reformed Church.

Geddes Place URC in 2011

Geddes Place United Reformed Church in 2011


The Church on the Heath by Ian Crowe, a pamphlet produced by Bexleyheath URC in 1982

Obituary of Rev. James Geddes in Bexleyheath Observer 25 Feb. 1927 p9

Funeral of Rev. James Geddes reported in Bexleyheath Observer 4 March 1927 p13

Family history information from Jim McGill, descendant of John Geddes, brother of Rev. James Geddes.

1841-1911 census

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The Red House was built 1859-60 by the architect Philip Webb for his friend William Morris, the textile designer and artist.

Morris had wanted a countryside retreat and found land in Upton near the growing town of Bexleyheath. It was built in a Victorian Gothic style, and the interior was decorated by Morris, with help from his friends.

The Red House in Bexleyheath, a countryside retreat

Apparently Morris and his family were viewed with suspicion by their neighbours. They kept themselves to themselves, inviting their artistic friends to the house, and they did not go to church on Sundays. His wife wore her long hair loose, which was quite shocking for the time!

William Morris and his eccentric guests were often seen commuting between Abbey Wood railway station and the Red House in a wagon. (The Bexleyheath railway line was not constructed until long afterwards). A Bexley Civic Society plaque off Knee Hill now commemorates this journey.

Stone to commemorate William Morris’s commute from the Red House to Abbey Wood Railway Station

The Morris family only lived at the Red House for a short time, leaving in 1866. However, a bust of William Morris was installed at Bexleyheath’s Clock Tower in 1997 to commemorate the centenary of his death.

Bust of William Morris at the Clock Tower, Bexleyheath

The Red House in Red House Lane, Bexleyheath is open Wednesdays to Sundays. More information is at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/red-house.


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At midday on 4 June 2012, the Mayor of Bexley, Cllr Alan Downing, unveiled a commemorative plaque at the Clock Tower in Broadway, Bexleyheath. The plaque marks the centenary of the Clock Tower, which was built to commemorate the coronation of King George V.

The plaque, and the interpretation panel in front of the Clock Tower, were designed and installed thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund grant awarded to the Bexley Historical Society for the ‘Changing Times’ project.

The Mayor of Bexley, Cllr Alan Downing, and Penny Duggan

The day started at 9.15 at the Civic Offices, from where the Civic Parade marched down the Broadway towards Christ Church. As the Boys Brigade band and other groups started off the parade, I was proud to be part of such a historic occasion. Not only was I part of an annual civic event, but this was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as well!

Christ Church was packed with people, and a service of hymns, speeches and readings (not forgetting a card trick by the Archdeacon of Bexley and Bromley) was finished with the national anthem. The church was decorated with flags and flowers of the Commonwealth.

The components of the civic parade regrouped and marched back up the Broadway to the Clock Tower. Hundreds of people had turned out to line the street, moving up towards Market Place for the ceremony. I was honoured to be present on the dais with the Mayor and the Deputy Lieutenant and to give a speech about the ‘Changing Times’ project. The Mayor then pulled a Union Jack which was covering the plaque. How incredible to be part of such a historic occasion.

The commemorative plaque is revealed!

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Recently converted into The Bank Restaurant and Bar, this building was originally the London & Provincial Bank, built 1915, and later Barclays Bank. The facade reflects the status of banks in the community at that time – high status, solid, a pillar of local society. The two upper floors were comfortable living quarters for the bank manager. The original strong room with high domed ceiling and carved vault door is now a private dining room.

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Pubs in the Broadway

The Duke of Edinburgh pub in Broadway in 1951. The cinema/bingo complex is now on this site.

Only a few of the old pubs remain dotted along the Broadway. Many have been lost.


The Rose first opened in 1834 but received war damage in 1941. A temporary hut was put on the site until 1955, when the pub was rebuilt.

The Prince Albert first opened in 1851 and still stands, although the terraced houses alongside it are gone and the roads around it are much wider and busier now.

The King’s Arms opened in 1843 and has undergone several refurbishments since then. Now the pub’s setting is dramatically different, with Arnsberg Way and Asda next to it.

The Golden Lion first opened in 1731 and became an important coaching and posting inn on the London to Dover road. The present building dates from 1901.

The Wrong ‘Un opened in 1994 and is named after a cricket term (the pub is built on land that was long ago a cricket ground).

The Furze Wren opened in 2002, originally named Lloyds No 1.


There are many lost pubs in the Broadway. Some of them are:

The Duke of Edinburgh was built in 1869. The pub and the adjoining houses were demolished in 1995 for the 9-screen cinema and bingo complex.

The Lord Bexley Arms was originally built in 1826. Next to it was Jenkin’s Library, a book shop and printing works. The whole row was demolished in 1979 for the Broadway Shopping Centre.

King’s Head in Market Place was built in 1840 and remained until 1987.

The Rat and Parrot opened in the building that was once the Broadway Cinema and later converted into a supermarket. It is now a Chinese restaurant.

Eagle, 1852-1960

The Kent Arms 1841-1925

Rising Sun, 1831-1869

Roberts Beerhouse, 1850s-1858

Howell’s Beerhouse, 1816-1930s

Pearman’s Beerhouse, 1841-1847

This information and more is from Jim Packer’s ‘Bexley Pubs’ and ‘Lost Pubs of Bexley, both published by Bexley Council.

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This is Jennings in 1950, another popular shop. It sold shoes, travel goods, toys, prams, nursery equipment and ‘fancy goods’. The building later became Sainsbury’s and now houses Robert Dyas and Specsavers. Do you remember it?

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Hides department store was in Broadway, Bexleyheath 1851 until 1979. It was a family business and sold a huge range of goods: carpets and linoleum, china, cosmetics, dress materials, furniture, haberdashery, hats, toys… Its delicatessen was very popular. It was demolished and replaced by the Broadway Shopping Centre.

Do you remember the shop? What did you buy there? Were you sad to see it go?

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During 1717-1857 convicted criminals were sent to Australia. Bexley Heath lay on the route to the ports of embarkation and so from time its residents witnessed the ‘sad and painful spectacle’ of the convict vans going through, full of prisoners under sentence of transportation.

When the Metropolitan Police was formed in 1829, Bexley fell outside its boundary. Policing remained the responsibility of the parish Constable, although there were two Bow Street horse patrols which moved about the district: “timid persons having to go to Bexley or some other place after dark used to wait for an opportunity to walk under the protection of a patrol” [Castells, 1910]. Later, the area came under the ‘R’ (Greenwich) division of the Metropolitan Police, and in 1840 a police station opened in a rented house opposite the XII milestone (near today’s Civic Offices).

A new police station was built in 1855 at 28 Broadway but this became inadequate. The next new police station was built at the corner of the Broadway and Highland Road and opened in 1907 (where Sainsbury’s car park is now; it was demolished in 1994).

In 1994, the present Bexleyheath Police Station opened at Arnsberg Way.

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Help us to create a timeline of the Broadway’s history from 1912-2012 by suggesting an item to go on it. All you need to do is nominate a date plus an event, character, location, shop or personal experience appropriate to that date.

To make a start: on 10 February 1989 the historic Market House, located next to the Clock Tower, was gutted in a mystery blaze. It was at the time owned by Bexley Council and leased to a tiling supplier, Mr Discount. It was one of Bexleyheath’s oldest buildings, dating back to around 1831. It had served as a grocer’s premises, Congregationalist Sunday School, mineral water factory and motor service station. [Sidcup Times, 23 February 1989]

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