QWAG are on the trail of a lost painting of the River Quaggy in Chinbrook Meadows.

It has to be admitted that the name Quaggy doesn’t enjoy the same cachet as its more illustrious brethren, the Cherwell and the Cam. Today it’s impossible to imagine a young suitor wearing blazer and boater punting upstream past Mottingham on a sunny Sunday afternoon, searching for an idyllic spot for a secluded picnic with his sweetheart. But cast your mind back over a century to late Victorian times and it becomes a lot easier.

An 1898 painting of the River Quaggy flowing through Chinbrook Meadows
At the time this view of the River Quaggy flowing through Chinbrook Meadows was painted in 1898, the area around what is now known as Grove Park was still mainly countryside. Numerous local farms supplied produce to the great London markets such as Covent Garden and Smithfield. It was a way of life that had remained almost unchanged for centuries. But with the arrival of the railways in the 1860s, the writing was already on the wall and within another 40 years the farms would be gone forever, buried beneath the suburban housing sprawl.

The painting, by artist H. Marsh, once belonged to Lewisham Council’s Parks Department but went missing many years ago during one of a series of moves. Fortunately it had been photographed by Lewisham Local Studies Centre. The photograph was recently unearthed by a QWAG member researching material for a project that aims to supply a set of displays for use as teaching aids in local primary schools. Using the River Quaggy as an example, these displays tell the story of how our attitudes towards rivers in built-up areas have changed over the years.

QWAG are keen to trace the lost painting. Please contact us if you can help. If you have any historical material or personal memories related to the River Quaggy that you think we may be interested in, we would also be delighted to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of Lewisham Local Studies Centre.

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