Cedars of Lebanon
Standing in front of you is one of three huge and impressive Cedars of Lebanon trees that remain today to the east of Foots Cray Meadows, by The Spinney and The Grove, some 250 years after they were planted.
They would have been saplings around the time in the late 18th century when renowned English landscape garden Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was redesigning the gardens surrounding North Cray Place.
Today, one is in The Spinney while the others are behind houses in The Grove. Not to be outdone, there is also such a cedar close to the site of the former Foots Cray Place.
These evergreen conifers, cedrus libani, are part of the pine family, native to the mountains of the Eastern Mediterranean basin. They became popular in the 18th century around country houses and sprawling manors in England. What makes this genus of cedar so special is its longevity and resistance to decay.
They can reach some 130 feet in height with a trunk at the base measuring more than eight feet in diameter. They produce cones at the age of about 40.
Cedar of Lebanon close to the site of Foots Cray Place. Credit: Willie Robertson
North Cray Place
Behind where you are standing was once North Cray Place, which sat close to the site of an old Elizabethan manor house, to the east of the River Cray and to one side of St James Church in what is now land occupied by the houses and gardens of The Grove and St James Way.
The manors of North Cray and Ruxley were given by William the Conqueror to his half-brother Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux.
The estate was bought by Jeffrey Hetherington in 1738. Thomas Coventry, a cousin to the Earl of Coventry, then inherited the estate in 1778. He added to the substantial house by having the grounds remodelled by renowned English landscape garden Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-1783). That work included the building of the Five Arch Bridge.
By 1936, it had been converted into a social club. Sidcup and Chislehurst Urban District Council began negotiations in 1939 for the purchase of land to the north of the house for use as allotments, sports pitches and open space. This was not completed until 1949. The house was demolished in 1962.
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