The Hollies was a villa built in 1853/4 for the Lewin family on the site of an earlier Tudor house, and set in substantial grounds. In 1901 the Greenwich and Deptford Board of Guardians purchased the estate and set up a self-contained village for poor children, using the mansion as the administrative centre. The open parkland setting was a revolutionary idea in comparison with many contemporary orphanages. Separate accommodation was built for boys and girls, the cottages and blocks named after different trees. Among the amenities were a school, infirmary, laundry, gymnasium and bakery. From 1965 onwards the home was gradually closed down, and the estate developed for private residence but with much open space retained. The mid-C19th house and stables, together with early C20th buildings, were largely converted, within the setting of mature trees and vestigial parkland.
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The Hollies was a villa built in 1853/4 for the Lewins, originally a farming family, who purchased an estate at Halfway Street in c.1782, but who may have farmed here prior to this. The estate that Richard Lewin bought included an earlier Tudor house, called Marrowbon or Marrowbone Hall. This is known to have been owned by a family by the name of Lamen or Lamming in c.1720-c.60 and then by the Crawley family in 1769. It is shown on an old map in 1799 as Bone Hall but the name was probably changed to The Hollies in c.1810 after Richard Lewin's death. His elder brother, Captain Lewin, preferred to live in a less isolated estate cottage by the main road but Richard Lewin's son Thomas lived at The Hollies although his wife apparently had objections, principally because of its distance from a market town. A survey of 1839 lists Thomas Lewin owning the house and 80 acres of garden and woodland, with a further 200 acres which he leased to farmers, and more than 20 houses and cottages. The family lived at The Hollies until the death of Thomas in 1843, and although the Lewins continued to own the estate they do not appear to have lived here. The old house appears to have been pulled down to build the current house in 1853/4, which included stables, an ice house and summerhouse, and in c.1855 was leased to a family called Brown, who lived here into the 1880s, the land farmed by Harry Brown until c.1888.
The next tenant of The Hollies was a Mrs Raymond but after her departure it was empty until 1898 when the estate was purchased by George Woodman. Woodman, who lived in Mottingham, was Sheriff of London in 1904/5 and knighted in 1905. In 1899 he sold the 62-acre site to the Greenwich and Deptford Board of Guardians who set up a self-contained village in the grounds for over 500 poor and destitute children. The foundation stone was laid on 10 April 1901 by the Chairman of the Guardians, Mr John Anderson, and the architects of the project were T Dinwiddy and T Norman Dinwiddy. The home opened on 30 October 1902 and was initially known as The Greenwich Children's Home, later as Lamorbey's Children's Home, and many of the poor children it housed came from Greenwich. A school was built in Burnt Oak Lane, opening in October 1903, and among the other amenities were an infirmary, laundry, store, gymnasium, swimming pool, boot makers and bakery. The girls' cottages, each housing 15 girls of between 4 and 16 years old, were named after different trees, each having its appropriate tree on the lawn near the cottage, such as Acacia, Almond, Cedar, Chestnut, Elder, Elm, Hawthorn, Hazel, Laburnum, Laurel, Lilac, Maple, Mulberry, Myrtle, Olive, Palm, Pine, Poplar, Rowan and Sycamore. There were five boys' houses, 3-storey blocks that housed 50 boys, also named after trees: the Oaks, the Limes, the Firs, the Beeches and Ash, and 12 infant boys were housed in Walnut and Willow Cottage. The administrative offices were in the mansion, The Hollies. Boys were trained in boot-making, tailoring, gardening, plumbing and baking, the girls in laundry-work and needlecraft. The open parkland setting was a revolutionary idea in comparison with many contemporary orphanages.
In 1930 it was taken over by the London County Council and renamed Sidcup Residential School, but reverted to Lamorbey Residential School; in 1950 it became The Hollies Children's Home. Until 1929 much of the land around the home was owned by Sir George Woodman who had purchased 167 acres around the farm. This was eventually sold for development after his death in 1929 and from the 1930s modern housing began to encroach on the boundaries of the children's home. In 1965 it passed to Southwark Council, who ran the home until its closure in 1998 although from 1965 onwards the home was gradually being closed down, and it has since been developed as private housing comprising some 300 homes. However, the new development has been designed to harmonise with the historic environment and large areas of parkland were retained as open space, and the most important original buildings refurbished and converted to apartments.
The street pattern and layout has developed in line with the evolution of the landscape from rural grounds of a large mansion, through its life as the campus of a Children’s Home to the current residential development. The original house had been reached via a long drive from the west and east, and the Children’s Home was approached in a similar way. The early C20th site plan had a central block of communal buildings flanked by two wings of dormitory blocks. Residential conversion and adjacent new housing development has led to the creation of new internal roads such as Rowanwood Avenue and Acacia Way. White Oak Gardens now provides access by car to Willersley Avenue but the earlier road to Halfway Street has become a footpath. In the centre of the site the mansion remains, now renamed the Manor House, and nearby are the old stables, with to the north a series of buildings of c.1901. These contained the Gymnasium and the former swimming pool of the children's home, which is now part of a sports centre, The Hollies Countryside Club, available to residents and members. The water tower that served the complex has been converted into residential accommodation, and is known as the clock tower.
The redevelopment of the grounds is a mixture of new and refurbished Edwardian buildings with much open space. At the main entrance in Burnt Oak Lane is an Edwardian Lodge, and there are other entrances from Willersley Avenue. In 1999 the Hollies Residents' Association (HRA) was established to act as a forum to represent the views of residents to those with responsibility for the estate, including Countryside Properties plc, Solitaire and LB Bexley. In 2002 The Hollies Children's Home Reunion Group was set up as a service to keep memories alive for former residents and their families. In 2008 Countryside approached the HRA and other parties to explore bids for taking over the freehold and thus responsibility of running the leisure centre and maintaining the open spaces.
LB Bexley, The Hollies Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan, November 2009; Local Studies notes and research guides; Paul Krawczynski and Dr John Mercer Brief History on the website of The Hollies and Lamorbey Children's Home Reunion Group (www.hollieskids.co.uk)