London 2012: Next Stop, George Lane!
GEORGE LANE CONFUSION
Some controversy arose just before my trip as to where I lived at the time of my birth. My brother Sig had gone to London some 12 years ago and brought back photos (which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen) of the home where my mom and dad lived in during our time in London.
I did not remember the house number exactly but thought it was 6 George Lane which when googled turned out to be on a block covered in townhouses. Problem? Sig said it was a detached home and definitely not a townhouse. Talking to my cousin Christine she confirmed my brother’s contention that it was certainly not a townhouse but a detached home. So maybe I had the wrong street altogether. Additionally the birth certificates I sent for had not arrived. Not a very encouraging thought on the day I am heading out to the UK.
HOSPITAL, NO… REGISTRY, YES!
I had hoped things would clear up when I went to the hospital both Christine and I were born in. But Lewisham Hospital was a dead-end. Construction blockage! No records available! See you later! I would need to go the Registry in Lewisham. Thank you very much!! (See Part 1 for my Lewisham Hospital Adventure https://theworldoflu.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/london-return-to-roots/)
But my disappointment was short-lived. Turns out the Lewisham Registry was next door!
As you can see it is a rather small building. Entering you come up to the main counter quite quickly. I was greeted immediately by a registry clerk. I explained my situation. The clerk responded that she couldn’t give me that information flat out. Yes the residential address of my parents was available but it could only be given to me in document form. How long to get a document I asked. Clerk said I would have to come back in a few days to get it. Dead end?
Undeterred I continued my plea explaining that I had sent out for my Birth Certificate and had not received it though it had been at least 4 weeks ago. And all I really needed was the address. I took a deep breath and proceeded with my “in the beginning I was Adam” story (https://theworldoflu.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/in-the-beginning-i-was-adam/) hopeful that I could sway her some way. Of course I said, I was now Chris (grin!) and she could easily verify that because Christopher is listed on the birth certificate as a baptismal name. She was listening a little more intently… this was not your run of the mill birth certificate sob story! I told her I knew the full birth name on the certificate was Adam George and I knew my Mom’s maiden name and Dad’s name and gosh, even the street name. Sheesh, I just needed the house number!
It seems that another lady, the head clerk, was also listening and once I had communicated my mom and dad’s names she had slipped out a side door and was soon in the room with an old ledger that was quite wide. She flipped through the pages like some wizardly official rifling through a Hogwarts ledger, asking me to confirm the birth date. Then stopped at a page with beautiful fountain pen ink scrolled names… my heart jumped when my eyes alighted on the cursive “Christopher George”. She said, are you confident of the street name? My mind raced… could I have been wrong all these years?!? No I couldn’t have been. I blurted out, yes! She said, you’re right… 158 George Lane it is. As she said it I saw the penned entry upside down 158 on the ledger and knew my quest was safe!
ON TO GEORGE LANE!
Freshly energized I stepped out of the Registry and started snapping photos of the building and additional shots of the hospital. I walked from the newest to oldest sections of it as posted in Part 1 London 2012: Return to Roots – https://theworldoflu.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/london-return-to-roots/. Below is the map of my route to my first ever home!
Below is a similar map but definitely not Google, Bing or MapQuest! It’s High Street and George Lane in Lewisham circa 1894! The Lewisham Union Workhouse is seen on the hospital side of High Street! See Part 1 to see a photo of the Workhouse entrance. I think it’s pretty cool that the two maps bear distinct similarities especially the route I would be walking. During 1894 – 1895 a new addition would be built and the Workhouse would become the first iteration of Lewisham Hospital. A brief history of Lewisham can be found online along with this map at http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/lewisham/assets/histories/lewisham
When I left the Registry I was aware that George Lane was on the bus route as a stop before the hospital but what I did not know was that George Lane would have a serious right hand turn to it. I got a little disoriented at the fork in the road and had to ask a delivery truck driver how the street had become Radford Road.
Regaining my bearings with his help I arrived at my destination. 158 turned out to be a duplex home and sad to say it was in a bit of disrepair. The home attached to it was nicely painted and kept while this corner unit was in serious need of paint!
It was drizzling again as I walked up George Lane but as I looked around the rain stopped and the sun came out.
Unfortunately the door did not offer much of an encouragement but having looked at the home next door I was able to image this space painted and cleaned up. When it was time to bring the preemie home decades ago this was the door Mom and Dad would have brought me through.
My mom and dad have both passed away, my dad over 30 years ago. My mom last year on the same day my brother Rick died years earlier, July 24. Memories flooded my mind as I stood at the door and I thought… I wish I could have shared this moment with her. I would have loved to have heard the stories of London that she never told. Photos have a way of awakening memories.
This address, 158 George Lane appears on another document that I missed seeing before I came to London. It’s my Mom and Dad’s wedding invitation. A reception was to be held after the ceremony at the grandparents residence on 158 George Lane. My brother Sig had found it after my mom died and gave me one.
Some serious work was done on this place… I noticed the different colored brick on left and wondered what needed to be closed up or was that the original brick? The door at the sharp corner was obviously added but when I had no idea. Definitely got the dish network system going strong with three attached to the building. How many people were living here? I wish I had time to knock on the door on the left. Someone was home but I would have to leave too soon.
Felt like a paparazzi sneaking around the residence. Maybe people thought I was some kind of thief casing the joint! That thought quickly became quite laughable as I re-accessed the shape of the home! Anyway the place was for sale so I could have been some real estate agent getting my own pics of the place to show a client.
It had a backyard… I must have played out here… I learned to walk here and lived out a portion of my terrible two’s in the yard! I know for sure that my mom would have stuck me out in the pram as an infant no matter how cold to get some fresh air. It was an interesting custom I heard that she would do. Getting fresh air was important, not matter what!
So I swung around to the back alley/driveway to get a better picture of the back side of the house. The place seemed covered in a canopy of greenery. But I got a couple of shots, one of the dormers of the top floor. Did I get my own room before we moved?
Green, green, green… oh there’s the back of the house! Love the chimney… lots of fireplaces in the homes in Lewisham and London, of course.
Don’t want to leave but get a nice picture of the brick wall (wonder how old?) and couldn’t help getting the for sale sign. Hope somebody fixes it up so when I come back again it will look really, really nice!
Getting ready to leave I snap a picture across the street. George Lane was here before 1894. Lot of history… Wonder what it looked like back then.
Turned to head back to down George Lane. At the end of the street is the fork in the road. More like a sharp left to continue on George Lane from here.
One last shot of the For Sale sign and the house as I head out to look for the church I was baptized in.
**Postscript – As I was looking over this post I saw something I had not noticed before in one of the pictures… the photo of the homes across the street… I had not noticed that they too were duplexes and if I am seeing it correctly they are the same type of homes as 158. So this is what my old home could look like and… could have looked like! As I look back at the photos of 158 I can picture it being painted and fixed up. The bay window on 158 looks very similar to one of the bay windows across the street. Nice revelation! Leaves me with a good feeling. My brother said my mother spoke of a white house and now I can picture it! CL