Friday, 6 January 2012

The Number 273 Route

Petts Wood Station to Lewisham Station
Thursday January 5th 2012

Happy New Year to all our followers and random visitors, and thanks again to Tim for setting up an index and generally giving the blog a fresh look. 

Back on the road after the holidays and 10AM found Jo, Mary and Linda 'raring to go’ if slightly puzzled on leaving Petts Wood Station where the ‘little bus’ signs, (not unlike our new smart logo) suggest exiting the other way. However, after some judicious texting we met in time to catch this small 1 door only bus, which only runs 3 times an hour.  

It seemed appropriate to be in SE London on the days following the final conviction and sentencing of two of the Stephen Lawrence killers, as SE London had been the setting and background to the whole shameful saga. The route today was not going to take us directly through Eltham, but Mottingham en route is not very far from Eltham and all of SE London has long been tainted by this incident.

Petts Wood clearly sees itself still as a Kent village as the sign by the bus stop shows – it also comes with a handy key so I can tell you the White Horse is for Kent, the Galleon for King Henry’s warships built at Deptford from Petts Wood Oak, the local Petts family’s coat of arms and the eclipsy looking thing for Mr William Willett who gave us daylight saving.
The 273 waits alongside the R2 and an eager passenger, en route to her day centre, was keen to tell me it would take her all the way there. I suspect Petts Wood likes to hark back to its importance as a timber supplier in Tudor times by building all its post war (1920s) housing in a distinct pseudo-Tudor style  - not only the restaurants opposite the station but whole streets of semis were all half-timbered. 

The 273 follows Poverest Road and then effectively what must be the Cray Valley along Cray Road which is lined with substantial industrial units – Sun Chemical and Allied Bakers for example. A man boarded clutching his beer can (this was 10.10 in the morning) and regaled the largely empty bus for some stops to come.

The route 273 follows the Route 61 to St Mary Cray and then up Leeson’s Hill – Jo felt the trip overall was developing a banking theme but we doubt that Leeson’s Hill was named for the Rogue Trader of that name.  The 273 had few takers so we progressed swiftly on, passing the remnants of  woods still there in place names, and as the homes became ever larger and more detached with the occasional private road we knew we were approaching Chiselhurst. The Bullshead Hotel stands close to some very large late 19th century homes called Warren Wilton and Chesil House, now all subdivided or business premises.

After the Duck Pond complete with duck house came the Queen’s Head (she was anonymous or at least unidentifiable) which was promising us a Psychic Night – do they offer ‘free spirits’ Jo wondered? (Some old jokes are best left to die.) White Horse Hill, our route for leaving Chiselhurst behind, usually offers excellent panoramas but on a single decker the best we could manage today was the last of the front of house mounted Santas before they get tidied away for another year.

Very soon we were on the  Mottingham Estate built by the LCC post World War II to rehouse the folk who were blitzed out of their homes during the war. I had a colleague who remembers moving down from Elephant and Castle as a young child and certainly her children never knew any other life than outer SE London.

In the streets between Mottingham and Grove Park we could glimpse the Shard between gaps in the houses. The bus was by no means crowded but certainly we had taken on more passengers through the 2 big estates than before. To be honest the bus did some serious and confusing  ‘looping’ through Grove Park, often through some quite narrow streets, with the odd brave sortie out onto the bigger mainer roads such as Baring Road – our second banker of the day.  The bus continued with a hail and ride section close to Horn Park before we rejoined Baring Road and headed towards Lee Green. However the 273 has a mind of its own and again it branched off at the Lord Northbrook pub – this was to be Jo’s third banker but as Northbrook started out as a Baring perhaps that only makes two? Anyway he was Lord Northbrook of Lee and there is still one sitting in the House of Lords, which is a testament to the enduring if dubious powers of the hereditary peerage system.
 Anyway the pub has been nicely restored and the bus turns down Southbrook Road, which delighted us with its lovely double fronted well-proportioned homes. We were able to admire these at some leisure as we ran into 2 dust carts - one for recycling and one for rubbish - and it took a while to negotiate a route through but then we were passing Hither Green Station. Close by Bellway are developing some new homes (handy for the railway you  might say) but it was a bit of a puzzle as to why they were called ‘The Old Biscuit Factory’. This  is usually taken to mean the old  Peek Freans (Chocolate Bourbons etc) factory in Bermondsey – though the 225 bus which stops at Hither Green would take you to Bermondsey this seems a rather spurious link.   

After picking up our last raft of passengers we took a turn along Manor Park – a very grand and broad avenue lined with substantial Victorian homes so it is then rather an anti-climax to come onto Lee High Road, which is gradually being refurbished. But it has a way to go.

Unlike most other buses which terminate in the bus area next to Lewisham station the 273 goes just beyond and tucks in neatly in a small parking slot in front of Tescos, and that is where our tour of outer, and quite rural SE London stopped, having taken just under an hour from Petts Wood.  


  1. Peek Freans weren't the only biscuit factory in the area. There was indeed a rival at Lee. I used to pass it daily on the train but now I can't recall the name. Carrs? Caledonian? I'm probably wrong, but I do seem tio recall a 'C'.

    Thanks for povoking the inaccurate memories.


  2. The biscuit factory in Manor Lane SE13 was the Chiltonian Biscuit Factory, the site next to Hither Green Station was, I believe from my childhood days, a warehouse. Chiltonians owned several sites around Hither Green, sadly, all traces as well as the sweet smell of baking biscuits has, sadly, gone. Chiltonians were later taken over by Peak Freens which saw the closure and subsequent demolition of the factory. The warehouse survived for longer in use as a plastic piping distributors and later a Builders Centre .