Tower Cottage, Culvers Avenue

A hidden delight

By Bob Steel

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Tower Cottage, Culvers Avenue' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Tower Cottage, Culvers Avenue' page

Tower Cottage stands off Culvers Avenue, and is to the best of my knowledge the last remaining surviving building associated with the Culvers estate. It was built around 1875 to accommodate a cistern to supply water for the estate including the three large houses on the estate: The Culvers, the Limes, and Wallington Cottage (or Culverside as it was also known). An artesian well to extract water from the chalk aquifer (water bearing rock) under London had been drilled here, and as then location was higher than the houses close to the river, the houses and other buildings could then be supplied by gravity.

The tower seems to have been purpose-built for some residential function (an original fireplace survives in the downstairs room), although the accommodation would have been very small. The building has very thick walls to take the weight of the cistern, and is handsome decorative brickwork as the pictures show. The well was capped and sealed a long time ago and its exact whereabouts is unknown. Until around the 1980s a small extension existed alongside the cottage, but this was demolished and replaced by a larger brick extension in 1990-91. Ten years later a conservatory was added.

This page was added by Bob Steel on 14/11/2011.
Comments about this page

I lived on the St Helier estate from 1944. A friend of mine lived near Culvers Avenue about that time. In conversation about St Helier, she recently recalled that there was a house or buildings referred to as the Spanish Homes - she believed the reason for this was that there were refugees from the Spanish Civil War living there. She also mentioned that there was a Cork tree growing nearby the building and we wondered if there was a connection. Does anyone know anything about these events?

By Irene McIlraith
On 29/03/2012

There is a tree in Culvers Retreat which has bark that looks like cork, so maybe that is the tree.

By John Wiggins
On 05/04/2012

The Spanish House was the name given to 'The Culvers' for precisely the reason you mention. I remember (vaguely!) the house being demolished in 1960. There's more about it in my forthcoming book 'River Wandle companion' which will be published soon, c. June 2012 The cork tree does indeed survive in Culvers Retreat...

By Bob Steel
On 10/05/2012

My mother was brought up in one of the big houses by her grandparents who lived at Culverside on the Wandle. There was also a Leather Factory run by her grandfather Louis Doerr.

By Tony Brown
On 19/02/2013

That's interesting Tony; I think my research for my book suggested there might have been a link between the Doerrs at Doerrs Mill (as some called it, but as you say not a real mill I doubt but simply a factory by the river) and Culverside. They were very close together i think? There's a pic of Culverside in the Sutton library collection.

By Bob Steel
On 26/06/2013

PS My comment about Tower Cottage being the last remnant of the estate is incorrect. Of course, there's Culvers Lodge in Hackbridge which we're campaigning to save. There's a Facebook page 'Save Culvers Lodge' where there's more information.

By Bob Steel
On 28/06/2013

There is also the remnants of the wall surrounding 'The Culvers' in the back alley of the shops at Wrythe Green.

By Mark Wicks
On 21/03/2014

Finally found this building, I went for a long walk and decided to work out where it stands. Beautiful!

By Robert Thomas Walker
On 17/04/2020

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