On the Street where you live - Carver Road and Half Moon Lane - by Ian McInnes

Following the less than successful attempts to develop the land to the north of Half Moon Lane between 1904 and 1906 (see the last newsletter’s article on Ruskin Walk), on 24th January 1907, the Manager reported “th at Messrs Bass & Blackmore, who will shortly complete their building agreement with the Governors for land in Burbage Road are prepared to take the building land between Half Moon Lane, Ruskin Walk, and the rear of the gardens on Herne Hill”. Messrs Bass & Mr Blackmore had been working on Nos. 63-81 Burbage Road since 1902, and the draft building agreement required them to construct and maintain, at their own cost, the proposed new road, “with sewer there under” and, within two years, to build up to 101 semi-detached houses on the whole site within five years.

The drawings for the first houses on Half Moon Lane were received early in May from an architect called E H Dance, of 185 Victoria Street SW. The Surveyor noted that “At my request, Mr Dance has seen his way to avoid the monotony of a long row of houses of similar design, by providing three different elevations which are herewith submitted, and lettered A, B and C respectively . . . . . . Mr Dance, has to my knowledge taken great pains with the view of meeting the Governors’ wishes in the matter of the varied designs of the houses, and I have pleasure in recommending the approval of the plans submitted.”

The Building Agreement was signed at the end of May and drawings of the smaller houses in Ruskin Walk were approved at the end of June. The front projecting bays and plinth were to be faced with red brick, the rest of the walls being covered with cement rough cast under a slated roof. The actual projected cost of the houses was £512, 15% more than the agreement figure of £450.

On 9th July the Manger wrote to the builders complaining that they were “shooting earth” (fly tipping) on the land, and, in reply, received a long letter saying that they had stopped but “they appeal to the Governors to allow them to make up the land in the rear of the site of their houses.” Apparently they were getting 1s a load and, “as they have made a loss on their houses in Burbage Road, they hope the Governors will allow them to take in as much as they require for levelling up the land on the understanding that they will, cover the site with good mould.” The Governors were unsympathetic.

Things got worse and, on 12th November, the Surveyor reported that the London County Council had rejected the proposed route of the new road noting “I understand that the LCC would sanction a road running from Ruskin Walk to Herne Hill, as giving more direct communication in the district. Personally, I consider the opposition of the LCC to the original scheme somewhat captious, but I am informed that they will not recede from the position they have taken on the matter.” The Estate appealed to the LCC Tribunal of Appeal, and finally won, but Bass & Blackmore had had enough and, when the Estate refused to renegotiate their agreement, they issued a writ claiming “(1) A declaration that they are relieved from further performance of their building agreement on the grounds that the Governors have consented to an alteration by the Tribunal of Appeal in the plan of the road, without Messes Bass & Blackmore’s consent; (2) a declaration that they are entitled to leases of all houses erected by them and not already leased; (3) an order on the Governors for the grant of leases in accordance with such declaration;(4) damages; (5) costs.”

The case began in the afternoon of Tuesday 12th April 1910, before Mr Justice Neville, and continued the whole of Wednesday. However, before the court sat on Thursday morning, a consultation was held with Counsel “which the Chairman, at the request of Counsel, was good enough to attend; and although so far as Counsel could gather the case was proceeding satisfactorily for the Governors, they strongly pressed the desirability of a settlement.” This desire to settle suggests that perhaps the case was not proceeding quite as well as the minute suggested and, on completion of the builder’s case, the following terms were agreed:

“Stay proceedings in the Action and Counter Claim without prejudice to the Defendant’s right to rent due under leases granted, or the lease to be granted as hereinafter mentioned, on the following terms:

  • The building agreement to be treated as at an end.
  • A lease of the house in Ruskin Walk being the 13th from the end (No. 44 Ruskin Walk) . . . The other hostage house, being the 14th from the end, to be taken by the defendants and kept by them as their own property.
  • The defendants are to take the hardcore brought on site by the plaintiffs and release them from any claim that they should remove any clay brought by them on the site.
  • The plaintiffs to be at liberty to remove any plant belonging to them
  • No costs on either side.”

The 14th house was No 46 and Bass & Blackmore attempted to buy it off the Governors to complete it. The Governors refused and tried to get other local builders to take it but without success until they approached C B Core. The Surveyor reported “In these circumstances I applied to C B Core of Dulwich Village, who is well known to most of the resident Governors as being reliable and reasonable in his prices, as I thought the Committee would wish to have some figures before them.” C B Core suggested £212, against the Surveyor’s estimate of £200 and he agreed to purchase No. 46 Ruskin Walk “now in carcass” for the sum of £200, and to completely finish the premises at his own cost “to the satisfaction of the Governors” and to accept a lease for a term of 99 years from Michaelmas 1910, at a ground rent of £7 10s per annum.’

Negotiations over the main site then began with the other builder who had been working in Burbage Road, Thomas Kingsman and, in December 1910, the Manager reported that “after considerable negotiations, Mr Kingsman has made an offer to take the building land in Half Moon Lane, recently surrendered by Messrs Bass & Blackmore”, the Governors having to agree to “construct at their own cost the proposed new road …., with sewer under”. The lease required 58 semi-detached or detached houses to be built on the land within five years with values as follows - Half Moon Lane (14 houses at not less than £750) and, in the proposed new road (44 houses to cost not less than £500 each). The Estate was looking for a ground rent for the site of £320, but it was finally agreed at £300.

By January 1912 the new road between Herne Hill and Half Moon Lane was finished - the contractor was Messrs Mowlem & Co, and Mr Kingsman asked the Governors to select a name for the road “as he is anxious to advertise the houses he is shortly to erect”. The Governors chose ‘Carver Road’ “in commemoration of the long period of service rendered by the late Canon Carver to the Foundation”. It was agreed by the LCC on 6th March.

Early in July 1914 Mr Kingsman assigned his building agreement to another builder, Mr William Marshal of St Brelade’s in Dulwich Village, and the latter continued to develop the site until September 1916 when he wrote to the Governors about suspending the agreement because of the War. He informed them that, on 14th July 1916, the Minister of Munitions had made an order under the Defence of the Realm Act requiring a licence for “commencing or carrying on the construction, alteration, repair, decoration, or demolition of buildings, except where the completed cost of the whole completed work in contemplation does not exceed £500 and does not involve the use of constructional steel.” The Governors sought clarification but in November 1916 Mr Marshall wrote again confirming that he had been refused a license to complete his building agreement, but would “be permitted to complete the four houses, Nos 34, 36, 53 and 57 Carver Road, now in the course of construction.”

Work recommenced in April 1919 with Mr Marshall telling the Governors that, because of the increase in costs and the scarcity of materials, he could not “afford to continue to put up houses of similar design to those already erected”. He submitted revised designs and the Governors agreed to the required changes. The development was largely complete by 1922.

Carver Road was seriously damaged by a V1 flying bomb that landed on the south side of the road at 9:00 pm on the evening of 10th July 1944 - 6 houses were demolished and 50 other badly damaged. Nos. 20-32 were demolished and rebuilt after the war in a very similar, but slightly simplified, style.

Carver Road’s other claim to fame was No. 7 - this is the house that Jim Callaghan lived in for a short while in 1967 when he resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer and had to leave No. 11 Downing Street in a hurry.