Historic lamp posts

A local history article

The Princesses Theatre

The Princesses Theatre was built by Vickers for the benefit of their greatly increasing workforce. A foundation stone was laid by Princess Christian (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) in 1916. The stone can still be seen in a wall on Waterside, Crayford. The Theatre opened in July 1916 with a grand opening ceremony.

It was destroyed by fire in December 1916. Vickers promised to re-build and the new building was officially opened on 23rd July 1919 by the Duke of York (later King George VI). With the rebuilt Theatre came the two lamp posts.

The rebuilt Princesses Theatre in Crayford with the two lamp posts
The rebuilt Princesses Theatre with the two lamp posts

Surprise guests at the event were John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown who a month previously had flown a modified Vickers Vimy non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, thus winning the prize of £10,000 offered by the Daily Mail newspaper.

When the Theatre closed in 1956 it had been the Ritz Cinema for the previous five years. The lamp posts, which stood outside, were rescued by the Braddon family, who ran an engineering business next to the Theatre.

The Lamp Posts

The lamp posts were relocated to Braddon’s Garage on Bourne Road. Originally black, at some point (1960s/1970s) they were repainted with a white background and the details, such as the palm leaves, were picked out in different colours.

The Scottish Ironwork Foundation confirmed that the lamp posts were produced by Walter Macfarlane & Co. at the Saracen Iron Foundry in Glasgow. The design is listed in the 6th edition of their catalogue and dates to c1882.

The lamp posts are included in Locally Listed Buildings and Structures in the London Borough of Bexley of Architectural or Historic Interest.

Design for the lamp post from the Macfarlane catalogue
Design for the lamp post from the Macfarlane catalogue

The Garage

Pre-1900 - The Bourne Road Garage site was occupied by St. John’s Church. It was moved to Bexley for a while, and then to Iron Mill Lane, Crayford, ending its days as All Saints Church.

1920s – The Braddon family began a car hire business in Erith.

1930s – Edwin Henry Braddon, the founder, opened an engineering business at Waterside, Crayford.

Mid-1930s – The business outgrew its premises with the expansion of Braddon’s Haulage.

1938 – Braddon’s Garage opened at the Bourne Road, Crayford, site.

1940s – The business was subject to the needs of the war. Drivers were called up. Petrol use was controlled and workshops at the garage were utilised for castings from the Vickers Works at Crayford. The founder’s son, Edwin Frederick Braddon worked at Rochester during the war, building Sunderland Flying Boats.

1958 – Bourne Road Garage Limited was incorporated.

1960s and beyond – The business continues to thrive. Among many awards won was a weekend trip to Egypt on Concorde!

The Restoration

The condition of the lamp posts has deteriorated over the years and management at the Garage decided to undertake their restoration. In addition to their own funding of this job, a generous donation was received from The Rotary Club of Crayford, which had raised that particular sum of money from one of the many activities associated with the Alcock and Brown Centenary celebrations in 2019.

July 2021

Text and images: David Gillham and Janet Hearn-Gillham

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