Greenwich as it used to be....

Higher up the hill stood Westcombe Manor house which had been leased to Mr. Thomas Brocklebank. He was a self-made man, rich on timber and ship building at Deptford. He was the managing director of the General Steam Navigation Company. His lease for the house and the park of 55 acres was for a term of twenty one years from Christmas 1827 at £300 per annum.

He had formed The General Steam Navigation Company with his brother John, in 1820, for the operation of river steamers on the Thames, which was a very lucrative trade at that time. Their shipyards were at Deptford Creek, from where he launched his river boats.

Thomas Brocklebank and his family lived very well at Westcombe and he could watch his fleet sailing up and down the Thames. He was also a staunch Tory, and at every election would hold parties at the house. And there would be fairy lights draped from the trees. If the Tory won there would be fire works, and the Hall would be decorated with flags and evergreens.

Brocklebank's next door neighbour was John Angerstein, the future Liberal M.P., but politics did not interfere with their friendship or business dealings with each other. Brocklebank died in 1843, and his widow went to live at 13, Shooters Hill Road, and the big house was put up for sale.
The following notice appeared in the Greenwich Gazette:

"Mr. Herring, acting for the Executors, to dispose of the remainder of the lease of Westcombe. 55 acres of pasture, park, stabling, farm buildings and offices. Commodious residence approached from a lodge through finely timbered park...It is adapted for the reception of a merchant banker or man of opulence and is presumed to offer peculiar advantages to gentlemen desirous of possessing influence in the Borough of Greenwich with which t resident of such property would naturally command."

As the lease had only five years to run, there were no takers. The Page Estate who owned it would not agree on a new lease, so the house stood empty until 1855 when it was pulled down. The park became neglected and was used by local people for walks, picnics and other recreational purposes. It remained like that for thirty years, until the 1880's, when plots of land were sold off, and the whole area was developed and is now known as Westcombe Park.

© Albert W. Gearing

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