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A Straight Line Walk Across London
by Paul K Lyons
13 - From the Plough and views along the Croydon Road to the founder of Barings Bank
Having been sidetracked more than enough, I return to Plough Lane, walk north a little way, and find Beddington Library housed, temporarily, in one room (it's waiting to move into the Phoenix Centre), with only two chairs for adult visitors (which are occupied). Nevertheless, I park myself on the smallest plastic chair I've ever seen outside of a doll's house, and consult the local history books.
Opposite the library, on a triangle of land between two one-way branches of Plough Lane and Croydon Road (the A232), stands The Plough pub. The first proof of an inn here dates to 1743 - an indenture refers to 'a newly built inn by the Sign of the Plow where formerly stood an inn . . . together with the garden, orchard, yards . . . and also all rooms, chambers, brew house, outhouses, buildings'. At this time, the outbuildings may well have included the remains of an older establishment. By 1780, the Plough Inn appears in land tax records; and, in 1859, it was a part of the extensive estates sold by the Carew manor that year. In the catalogue of sale, the inn's ground floor was described as comprising a passage, bar, several parlours, two tap rooms, kitchen, dairy, and 'mangle room'. On the first floor was 'a club room', 'six good bedrooms', and 'a water closet'; on the second, servant rooms; and, in the basement, 'good cellerage'. The yard was described as having double entrance gates and coach house, stabling for nine horses, three loose boxes and saddle room, all brick-built and tiled, plus a granary and skittle alley. The pub's landlords are known to have leased the land directly to the west (extending some distance towards the road now called Sandhills) where there were some caves and two entrances in the bank of sand directly opposite. This is where the landlords are said to have stored casks of liquor, and where smugglers were reputed to have gathered.
Just before the turn of the 20th century The Plough was rebuilt, according to a design by architect J. T. Barker, for £5,516. However, the former coach house still exists in the stable yard. It has a blocked-up window in the northeast end through which hay would have been hauled from carts in the yard below. Unusually, the pub has large balconies (including one on the second floor), but today these can hardly be considered a useful feature: who would want to sit and view the scene along the Croydon Road for long? The pub sign used to carry an illustration of horses working in the fields and the words 'God Speed The Plough' underneath, but a new sign was created for the pub's centenary in 1998 based on the sign of the zodiac. On one side, birds are flying in formation, above a field, in the pattern of the zodiac sign; on the other, there's the same scene at night without the birds but with the The Plough constellation showing.
My route takes me a hundred yards along the Croydon Road, north into
Hilliers Lane, and up a set of steep narrow steps to a street at a higher
level called The Brandries. I pass an old brick wall, not much loved or
noticed I suspect, but which could date from the 19th century, and also
a very large window-rich creamy-white house, peppered with front doors on
at least three sides and at several heights. The external paint work is
not in good condition, nor is the garden cared for. On the front wall, a
circular plaque provides the following information: 'Heritage in Sutton.
Camden House. Brandries Hill House, later renamed Camden House, is recorded
in the mid-18th century in the possession of the Walton family, connected
with the East India Company. A later tenant, Sir Francis Baring, 1790-6
was chairman of the company and was also the founder of Barings Bank.' While
he was living at Brandries Hill House, Baring was helping to finance the
British war effort against revolutionary France. He was a follower of the
Scottish political economist Adam Smith, and an adviser to several prime
ministers including William Pitt the Younger. His baronetcy was awarded
for services to the East India Company.
A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting
by Paul K Lyons
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