Plumstead History Books

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Welcome to the Plumstead History Books page of FamLoc. To help with building a knowledge of the local history of particular towns, we have included pages especially dedicated to displaying the available local history books. Indeed, here at FamLoc, we are in the process of editing out of print local history books and republishing them, so making them available to all, wherever in the world you might be.

There doesn’t appear to be any specific Plumstead history books, but certainly Records of the Woolwich District, volume II, originally published in 1890 and recently republished by FamLoc, contains a great deal of information on Plumstead local history.

Records of the Woolwich District vol. II, by W. T. Vincent

This was originally published in 1890, and covers Abbey Wood, Bexley, Charlton, Eltham, Erith, Kidbrook, North Woolwich, Plumstead, Shooters Hill, Welling, and Wickham, as well as additional topics on Woolwich. It includes over 200 illustrations, plus 45 photographic portraits of local men of influence. The book includes many old maps, is rich in the main institutions of churches, schools, charities and industries, and also includes topography, and notable events, making it invaluable for the local historian, family historian, and others with connections to the area around Woolwich.
This FamLoc edition is a slight modification: there have been changes to format and punctuation. However, the grammar and prose has been faithfully retained, other than changes to a handful of typographical errors and the very few instances where clarity was required.

Below is just a sample of Plumstead extracts from Records of the Woolwich District, vol II:

Plumstead Plan 1720, from "Records of the Woolwich District."

Plumstead Plan 1720

Vincent includes the above map in “Records of the Woolwich District volum II,” and adds:

The map was probably prepared for Mr. John Michel (who died about 1736), to show his estate in the Manor of Plumstead. It is wanting in some details, large portions of the parish in which the Manor had no concern being left blank, and roads in which it had no interest being cut short in a tantalising manner, but it is tolerably clear and apparently reliable so far as it goes, and it furnishes us with some interesting facts. I make the following notes:

Near the Warren gate (1) stood Burrage House, not shown here. That it existed is beyond all question, but Queen’s College in this sketch ignores most of its neighbours.
The land of Sir John Conyers was added to the Warren about the middle of last century.
The house on the north side of Plumstead Road occupies the position of the storekeeper’s residence. It may have been the residence of Sir John Conyers.
The long road marked (2) is now called Vicarage Road, and has borne the names of Deadman’s Lane and Brambleberry Lane.
At (3) is the head of Griffin Manorway. Here is now Plumstead Railway Station.
I can find no trace or remembrance now of either The Hare or the Almshouses.
Water Lane (4) is now Cage Lane. A brook from Plumstead Common Slade ran across the high road. The plan at this spot is a little obscure, owing to a crease, and I can only conjecture that three houses or the Three Horses Inn stood here.
At the foot of Skittles Lane (5) is now the White Hart Estate. The White Hart, a tavern, was burnt down about eighty years ago.
The Vicarage is now the Volunteer Inn.
A large house, having the appearance of an old inn, even then spoken of as the Greyhound, stood at the corner of Skittles Lane until about 1865. The rain-water spouts were inscribed “T.W.E., 1644.”
The roads at Cage Lane and Skittles Lane were as we find them to-day.
At (8) is the Slade, with the branch roads, King’s Highway and Timbercroft Lane, diverging therefrom.
King’s Highway (9) is unchanged.
The indistinct road (10), now obsolete, has left remains near Woolwich Cemetery.
Swingate Lane (11), extending to Wickham, is now nearly extinct.
The Glebeland is the site of Speranza Street.
The Feathers Tavern is still extant.
Hog-trough Lane is now a footpath through land called “Little Bartletts.” The old name would be appropriate still.
The Old Manor House is shown in Wickham Lane.
“Boston Common” is a palpable error. The place was known as “Borstal” many generations before this map was drawn.
Stroud Green (12) is now known as “Shoulder-of-Mutton Green.
”The Catherine Wheel” at Shooters’ Hill is lost in the gloom of the past. The house opposite was probably a mansion, and afterwards became the Bull Hotel.
Plum Lane and Shrewsbury Lane (13), which undoubtedly constituted an old thoroughfare, do not appear upon the map.
The figure (6) marks the stream which bounds Plumstead at Brook Hill Road and (7) Woolwich Common.

The Name of Plumstead:

“In the first instance, however, we are led to inquire whence Plumstead derived its name, and meet at once a tough problem. Most of the authorities can find no better source than the “plums” which grew in its orchards, and we are bound to acknowledge that its soil has always given it a good character for the cultivation of fruit. Its productiveness and its proximity to the metropolis were advantages of which it seems to have made the most from an early date, advantages, moreover, which were shared to some extent by all this part of Kent. There is an old saw which says:

Kent is divided in three,
The first has health not wealth,
The second has wealth not health,
And the third has both in fee.

Thus explained by Mr. J. A. Sparvel-Bayly, F.S.A.:

“The first is East Kent, pleasant and healthy, but with much poor land; the second is the Weald and Romney Marsh, famous for fine pastures and rich farms, but extremely liable to ague; and the third is that part of Kent near London, where the situation is healthy, the soil good, and the inhabitants rich.”

At any rate, Plumstead was rich with orchards down to our own time, and it is an established fact that here the cherry was first acclimatised in England. It is also recorded that when “the pippin was brought from over the sea” in the sixteenth century, the delicious apple was first grown in Plumstead. The names of Orchard Road and Plum Lane survive in evidence of their origin, and the part of Plumstead Road for some distance below Burrage Road was known as Orchard Place long after the houses were built; the orchard behind it remained until after 1850.
Are we then to assume that its “plums” gave the name to Plumstead? Let us hear some more witnesses. Domesday Book settles the orthography, “Plumstede,” as early as 1086, and, unlike other parishes, the place has held its designation almost unchanged from the earliest periods. It is called “Plumsted ” by Weever in 1631; it is obviously misprinted “Plumstreet” in 1707 on the tomb of the Rev. Benjamin Barnett, at one time vicar of the parish; and it is described as “Plumstead” by writers in all ages. The second syllable, in fact, we have no trouble about, for the affix “stead,” however it be spelt, simply means a “place.”
The Rev. J. K. Walpole, who wrote a pamphlet while curate here, suggests a better origin than the fruity one. Here probably lived, he says, the people who collected from the wild geese and herons of the marshes the plumes to ornament the dames and gallants of the court, and quills for the scriptoria of the monasteries. It is to be noted that there is a tavern called The Plume of Feathers near the marsh, and this house bore the same name in 1720. The parish, therefore, may have been named the Plume-place or Plumestead.
The subject is, however, still open to discussion, and I may suggest several more solutions.”

Plumstead history books: Plumstead Plan 1720

Population: The following from Records of the Woolwich District gives an excellent insight into the increase in the population of Plumstead:

“In following the advancement of this parish the only figures on which we can base an estimate prior to the first census in 1801 are the registers of the baptisms and burials, and these are even less reliable than usual, in consequence of the large extent to which Plumstead Old Church and churchyard were resorted to by residents at Woolwich. However, they may be taken at a discount value.

Plumstead History Books: Population Table

 From these returns it may be gathered that, like its neighbours, Plumstead has had a healthy growth from the beginning, with occasional stimulations. In 1795 there were 120 houses in the parish, in 1801 they had increased to 214, and in 1810 the number was 320. The increase was almost entirely in the corner nearest the gates of the Royal Arsenal. The following are the population returns since the census was established:

 Plumstead History Books: Polulation Table

 In 1815 the assessment of Plumstead was £12,073. In 1881, the assessment was £92,326, and the number of rated householders 5,164. In 1889, the assessment was £168,788, and the number of ratepayers 8,281.”

More Plumstead History Books and Maps

We include other books of interest, as well as the excellent Godfrey maps of Plumstead.

We are always looking for more Plumstead history books, and welcome your suggestions.


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