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History of Lewisham

  • council: Lewisham
  • phone code: 020
  • postcode area: SE13
  • county: Greater London

In Saxon times, Lewisham began its humble beginnings as Oleofsa’s village. In 862 Lewisham was referred to as LIofshema mearc, then as Lieuesham in 918 and as Levesham in the Doomsday Book of In 1086. Abraham Colfe, Vicar of Lewisham from 1610 to 1657, founded a grammar school, a primary school, and six almshouses for the inhabitants of Lewisham in 1664.

In 1816 Lewisham was described as a rural village on the banks of the Ravensbourne that could only to be reached by a long coach ride.

In 1828 the Riverdale Mill was built and is the only one of the Ravensbourne mills still surviving today. The Riverdale Mill was initially a leather mill and then became a corn mill in the 18th century.

The first railway through Lewisham, the North Kent Line to Dartford, opened in 1849 and the present Lewisham station opened in 1857. In 1897 the Lewisham Clock tower was built to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.

The Lewisham Street Market started in 1906 Lewisham town centre was devastated by a flying bomb in 1944, but recovered by the 1950’s. In 1977 the Lewisham Shopping Centre was built and in 1994 the High Street in the town centre was pedestrianised allowing a traffic-free street market and an open space.

Lewisham today Lewisham’s rich history has fed into the vibrant diverse town centre that it is today. The area is bordered by Catford, Deptford, Greenwich and Hither Green. It is a busy shopping district with a good mix of chain and independent stores and Lewisham Shopping Centre, which is one of the biggest in South East London, and Lewisham Market. The market is open seven days a week with the Monday to Saturday market selling mainly fruit, vegetables, fresh cut flowers and a small range of non-perishable goods. The Sunday market is a general market selling non-perishable goods with up to 60 stalls. There is also an annual programme of themed markets, which include, French, Polish, International and a market made up of local traders.

On Lee High Road there is an eclectic mix of independent shops which include an Italian barbers, an accordion shop a Polish shop and fancy dress shop.

At the Ladywell end of Lewisham High Street a pet store, a selection of beauty and hair dressing businesses and a wide selection of specialist food stores can be found.

Lewisham Borough's famous residents, past and present include:

Danny Baker (Broadcaster)

Kate Bush (singer/song-writer)

James Callaghan (Labour Prime Minister)

Sir James Clark-Ross (polar explorer)

"Big" Jim Connell (socialist)

Ernest Dowson (poet)

Alfred "Titch" Freeman (cricketer)

Gabrielle (singer/song-writer)

Sir Isaac Hayward (politician)

Glenda Jackson MP (politician & actress)

David Jones (painter & poet)

Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen (TV presenter)

Spike Milligan (comedian & writer)

Mica Paris (singer/song-writer)

Sybil Pheonix MBE (community worker)

Terry Waite (Archbishop's Envoy)

Max Wall (comedian)

Ian Wright (footballer)


For more information on Lewisham and its history refer to the following publications which are all available at Lewisham Local Studies Centre in Lewisham Library:

The Changing face of Lewisham by Stephen Byrne (1965)

Lewisham Borough Council: London

Images of London : Lewisham by John Coulter and Barry Olley (2003)

Tempus Publishing Ltd: London

Lewisham Past and Present by John Coulter (2001)

Sutton Publishing: Swindon

Discover Sydenham and Catford by Darrell Spurgeon (1999)

Greenwich Guide Books: London

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