Lodges and other properties on the Kemnal Manor Estate

Kemnal Manor Lodge (Maidstone Road)

Maidstone Road LodgeThe original lodge appears to have been on the Maidstone Road (now the A20, Sidcup bypass). The photograph on the right shows the house after the First World War. Click on the image to see the whole photograph.

We have identified some of the occupants from the census returns, though it is only mentioned in 1881.. Cornelius Weatherly, a local man from Orpington, was resident here in 1881. He was then aged 66, and lived with his wife Mary, aged 61, originally from Wickham, and their 22 year old daughter, Amelia. They also had living with them one granddaughter and two grandsons, Eliza Mary Peacock (9), Leonard William Peacock (11), and Walter Charles Peacock (6). The parents of these children are not identified. The lodge does not feature in returns after then, but must have been occupied before it was eventually demolished after the land near the A20 was bought by the Docks Labour Board.

Kemnal Manor Lodge (Kemnal Road)

The lodge 1894After Kemnal Road was extended to the Maidstone Road, this became the main entrance to Kemnal Manor, and a new lodge was built here. It was later referred to as Avenue Lodge. Robert Bottle (27) was the head of the household in 1881, originally from Brede, Sussex. His wife, Emma Harriet, was a year younger, and they registered their new born baby daughter, born in the same year as the census.

Charles Tidy was a gardener living in the Lodge in 1891. He was 33 and from Oxted, Surrey. His wife, Rose (32) was from Maidenhead, and they had three children with them: Rose (8), Daisy (5) and Henry (3), all born in Chislehurst.

In 1901 it is referred to as the coachman’s lodge, and is occupied by David Williams (37) and his wife Margaret (37).

The next, and last, residents, William and Maude Drage, (see below) were to be among Kemnal Road’s longest residents. The house was now called Avenue Lodge.


Kemnal Manor Garden Cottages

There were three families registered as living in the Garden Cottages in 1881, William Blackman, aged 55, from Preston , Wiltshire, and his wife Mary Jane, one year older, from Highway, Wiltshire, Alfred Hopkins, aged 30, from Waterferry, Oxford, and his wife Elizabeth, also one year older, from Escley, Herts, and Frederick Shults, aged 25, from Chislehurst, and his wife, Jane (26) from Coltishall, Norfolk, with their one year old son, Henry. There are also two lodgers, Harry Newman (24), from Elsworth, Cambs, and Alfred Seymour (34), from Harlow, Essex.

Garden Cottage 1950sIn 1901 there is a reference to the Gardener’s lodge, which appears to have been a new building. It was occupied by three Elizabeths. James Braizier (27) was a gardener from Ludgate Hill in London, and living with him were his wife (24) from St John’s Wood, their daughter (3) born in Sidcup, and his widowed mother-in-law (60) born in Farnham, all called Elizabeth. They were to stay here for some 10 years. In 1918, George and Louise Harling moved in and stayed here until 1924.

Evelyn Collyer and his wife Emma, and son Frederick, lived here from 1924, David Hart with his wife Matilda from 1934, and John and Emily Harding from 1937. William and Ellen Sellar were the last residents, moving in before 1945 and living here with their son Robert for another 15 years until 1959.

Cowman’s Cottage

Tom Townsend and his family are the only occupants we can find to the Cowman’s Cottage. He was born in Aston, and was living here in 1901, described as a stockman, with his wife, Jennie, their three children, and Tom’s brother Richard. Tom was 40, and his wife was 32. She was born in Dalston, London. Their children were Tom, aged 5, born in Blackheath, Harold, 4, and Owen, 7 mos, both born in Chislehurst.

Other properties

The houses on the west side of the north end of Kemnal Road were built after 1945, and we have not sought to trace their residents or histories.

The Bunker

A bunker was built in the grounds of Kemnal Manor estate after the war, and has since been converted into an unusual house.

The Glass House, formerly the BunkerKemnal Manor was requisitioned by the War Office in August 1939. It was not until 1951 that a bunker was built on the estate, adjacent to Kemnal Road. This was part of the Civil Defence arrangements during the Cold War. This bunker was one of four identical bunkers to house war rooms which controlled the five civil defence sectors into which London had been divided. It was administered by the London Fire Authority and the Civil Defence Authority, and had some twenty one rooms.

A local account was related in ‘The Cockpit’ in January 1996. “Soon after I came to live in Chislehurst in 1951, we watched the deep (30’-40’) excavations and then the actual building. There are very thick reinforced walls and no windows.” The account continues when a few years later the writer was shown around. “We were all taken inside and shown round by two men who said they came regularly to service the diesel engines driving the electrical generators, water and air pumps etc and to check food, water and fuel supplies. We were shown a map room, bunks, toilets, shower rooms, food, fuel and water storage; how air was filtered; radio (or was it telephone) communications equipment for contact with central government and other centres of regional government in the event of nuclear attack. We were told there was another such installation at Tonbridge (or Tonbridge Wells).

The Bunker’s life ended within a decade and it was abandoned, becoming something of an eyesore. Over the years a number of plans had been put forward for its use, including its use as a recording studio. Finally permission was obtained to convert it into the Glass House, a luxury house with a glass roof and central swimming pool carrying a price tag of £2.75m. It has since been nominated for a number of building awards.

The Drage family at Avenue Lodge

Bill in 1941Bill and Maude Drage lived at the Main Lodge to Kemnal Manor, on Kemnal Road for forty years. During this time it was named Avenue Lodge.

Maude in 1928They moved into the Lodge in 1936 after they were married, when Bill was appointed as butler to Lady Kemnal. Bill was 21 at the time, and Maude was 20. The appointment was a short one, since Lady Kemnal moved permanently to her holiday home, Storm, at Sandbanks, Poole, in 1937. Bill did look after the house while she was away, and occasionally had to drive down to Sandbanks on his motorcycle to delivery post and messages, but in 1939 the house was requisitioned by the War Office, and shortly afterwards Bill enlisted into the army. After the war he worked for the MOD based at Mottingham.

They continued to live at the Lodge for many years. Bill died in November 1974, and Maude stayed on at the Lodge for two more years. However following a violent burglary in July 1976 by two men with a shotgun, Maude felt vulnerable in the house alone, and moved out. She lived in Penge until her death, aged 86, in 1992. The house remained empty and was eventually demolished.

Their daughter Brenda was born at the house, and lives now in Orpington. Brenda took photographs of the Lodge and the house and residents, some of which are reproduced here, and remembers the house and the grounds, which were at that stage occupied by REME. She recalls that with so many young servicemen staying at Kemnal Manor, it was a fun place to be as a teenager!