Among the terraced buildings of the Old Kent Road is a detached house, set back from the road and looking a little ill at ease in its surroundings. This building, later known as the Rolls Estate Office and now a church, was built in 1795 by Michael Searles. He and his son and grandson lived in the house and had their office here until the latter died in 1863.
All three Searles were surveyors to the Rolls Estate. Michael Searles was the son of a Greenwich surveyor and built developments in the Blackheath and Greenwich area as well as his work for the Rolls Estate. His surviving buildings include the Paragon in Blackheath and the Georgian houses of Surrey Square.
|Surrey Square, © Stephen Richards and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.|
The Rolls family were wealthy land-owners in Monmouthshire, Wales; but they also owned this valuable estate in the Old Kent Road and lived in The Grange, Bermondsey. The most famous family member was Charles Stewart Rolls, co-founder of Rolls Royce. He also has the rather less pleasant distinction of being the first Englishman to die in an aviation accident, when his plane crashed in 1910 during a flying display.