Thornsett Road

Thornsett Road is a beautiful Victorian Road with elegantly designed semi-detached villas with stucco frontages.  As they look today is very similar to how they looked over one hundred years ago but without the electric street lamps, the parked cars and the double glazing.

The road was lit by gas lamps which a lamplighter would have had to switch on each evening. In the words of former resident and poet Walter de la Mare:

‘The lamplighter/Passeth along the darkling streets/ To light our earthly lamps.’

These roomy houses, with their large gardens front and back, must have been attractive propositions for those Victorians who wanted to move out of London into the relative rural areas of Anerley and Penge. What they would not have been fully aware of was the rapid building programme in progress over the entire area.

The road is a heritage focus because three very accomplished men lived there at different times: Thomas Crapper, George Daniels and Walter de la Mare. More detailed accounts of each are given on their separate pages under Penge People. Blue plaques are installed on each of their houses.

Thomas Crapper (1836-1910) was famous for developing sanitary ware, starting the first shop to sell such items commercially. His commercial empire survives today. He is wrongly credited with inventing the flush toilet. That honour belongs to John Harington as far back as 1596. Hence the term ‘John’ to refer to the lavatory. Crapper spent the last years of his life at 12 Thornsett Road.

George Daniels (1926-2011) was a famous horologist who is honoured for the ground-breaking invention of the co-axial escapement for mechanical watches. This mechanism enabled mechanical watches to be as accurate as electronic devices. The patent was sold to Omega. This made Daniels a very wealthy man. He lived in Thornsett Road for over twenty years until seeking a tax haven in the Isle of Man.

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956) was a remarkably popular and prolific poet and ghost-story writer who live in 14 Thornsett Road from 1912 to 1925. Many famous literary people visited the house over this period. His poem The Listeners was published in 1912 but written the year before while living at 5 Worbeck Road (now demolished). In all he lived in three houses in Anerley between 1907 and 1925.

All three men made significant contributions to society and richly deserve their blue plaques.