St John’s Cottages

St John’s Cottages in Maple Road are a group of twelve one and half-storey cottages built in 1863/64 as a philanthropic development by Miss Dudin Brown for a 3% return. She was the daughter of John Dudin Brown, a local landowner and freeman of the Company of Watermen, who was instrumental in providing the land for the nearby Royal Watermen’s and Lightermen’s Almshouses, where his monument was erected in 1855. The architect for those almshouses was George Porter.

The architect and builder for the cottages was the same Edwin Nash who, in partnership with J. N. Round, had designed the Gothic Revival edifice of St John the Evangelist Church in Penge High Street in 1849/50. [There is some local dispute as to whether Edwin Nash actually did design these cottages. But Peter Abbott’s source book (Book of Penge, Anerley and Crystal Palace, Holgate 2002) states that he did. Local historian Martin Spence is also of that opinion.] Plans for the cottages were presented by John Warne of 2 St John’s Villas in 1863.

The Gothic Revival owes its origin to Augustus Pugin who, from 1830 onwards, sought to replicate in architecture some of the early English ecclesiastical style, which he thought was more spiritual, and his ideas influenced William Morris whose famous dictum was “never have anything in your home which is not beautiful or useful’.

Something of this Gothic style can be seen in the Penge East Railway Station building, itself nationally-listed at Grade 2. (Look at the angular window shapes and the decorative brickwork.)

Nash was a prolific designer of churches from 1840 onwards although not considered of the first rank. He fell out of favour as the century went on, being employed mainly to add flourishes to certainbuildings.

The design of the cottages is very simple and utilitarian with nothing whatever of the flourishes given to the church, almost as if Nash had designed them in a hurry and with the severest economy. Only the pointed windows evoke the Gothic style. There are two short terraces (1-4 and 9-12) and two sets of pairs (5+6, 7+8). An ornamental iron gate, circa 2004, adorns the entrance to the cottages.

The cottages are separated by an attractive rectangular garden which was once a roadway up to 1960. Simple in style they may be but they are also very charming in their little gated community and very much in demand as private homes.

For reflections on living in Penge see: Independent Property – More for your money life next to the dinosaurs