Lewisham Central at night
|Population||60,573 (Ladywell, Lewisham Central, Lee Green and Blackheath wards 2011)|
|OS grid reference|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Lewisham (//) is an area of southeast London, England, 5.9 miles (9.5 km) south of Charing Cross. It is the principal area of the London Borough of Lewisham, and was within the historic county of Kent until 1889. It is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London, with a large shopping centre and street market.
Lewisham was a small village until the development of passenger railways in the 19th century. Lewisham had a population of 60,573 in 2011.
The earliest written reference to Lewisham — or Saxon ‘liofshema’ - is from a charter from 862 which established the boundaries with neighbouring Bromley
Lewisham is sometimes said to have been founded, according to Bede, by a pagan Jute, Leof, who settled (by burning his boat) near St Mary's Church (Ladywell) where the ground was drier, in the 6th century, but there seems to be no solid source for this speculation, and there is no such passage in Bede's history.
As to the etymology of the name, Daniel Lysons (1796) wrote:
"Leofshema" was an important settlement at the confluence of the rivers Quaggy (from Farnborough) and Ravensbourne (Caesar's Well, Keston), so the village expanded north into the wetter area as drainage techniques improved.
King Alfred was Lord of the Manor of Lewisham, as is celebrated by a plaque in Lewisham Library.
The Manor of Lewisham, with its appendages of Greenwich and Combe, was given by Elthruda, King Alfred's niece, to the Saint Peter's Abbey, Ghent in a Charter dated 18th September around 918, of which Lewisham then became a cell, or an alien priory. This grant is said to have been confirmed by King Edgar in 964, and by Edward the Confessor in 1044, with the addition of many privileges.
In the mid-17th century, the then vicar of Lewisham, Abraham Colfe, built a grammar school, a primary school and six almshouses for the inhabitants.
In the 17th century the Manor of Lewisham was purchased by George Legge, later Baron Dartmouth. His son William was raised by Queen Anne to several positions of honour and trust, and was a member of her privy council; and on 5 September 1711, was ennobled as Viscount Lewisham, and Earl of Dartmouth. His grandson George, Lord Dartmouth, obtained the privilege of holding a fair twice a year, and a market twice a week, upon Blackheath in the parish. The fair used to be held on 12 May and 11 October, but in 1772 it was discontinued, (except for the sale of cattle) by the Earl of Dartmouth, as lord of the manor.
The village of Lewisham had its nucleus in its southern part, around the parish church of St Mary, towards the present site of University Hospital Lewisham. The centre migrated north with the coming of the North Kent line to Dartford in 1849, encouraging commuter housing. The Official Illustrated Guide to South-Eastern and North and Mid-Kent Railways of June 1863, by George Measom, describes Lewisham as follows: "Lewisham Station, situated on the slope of an eminence amidst picturesque scenery, beautiful green meadows rising abruptly to the summit of the hill on the left, dotted with handsome residences and gardens, while the Common is seen intersected by various crossroads and studded with country inns and houses on the low ground or valley to the right. The area of the parish is 5,789 acres... Lord of the manor, the Earl of Dartmouth to whom it gives the title Viscount."
Lewisham was administratively part of Kent until 1889, and then formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham in the County of London until 1965.
The town centre was hit by a V-1 flying bomb in 1944: there were over 300 casualties including 51 fatalities, and it devastated the high street, which was fully restored by the mid-1950s. This horrific event is commemorated by a plaque outside the Lewisham Shopping Centre (opened in 1977). The plaque was on the pavement outside the Marks & Spencer store in the main shopping precinct. However, suffering wear and tear, the local authority arranged for it to be mounted to the façade. In 1955 Sainsbury's opened a store in Lewisham which was reported to be Europe's largest self-service supermarket, with 7,500 square feet of retail space, although the one now incorporated in the 1977 shopping centre is much smaller. The area at the north end of the High Street was pedestrianised in 1994. It is home to a daily street market and a local landmark, the clock tower, completed in 1900 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The police station, opened in 2004 to replace the station in Ladywell, is one of the largest in Europe.
Lewisham Cricket Club was one of the most prestigious London sides during the Victorian era. From 1864 they played at Lewisham Cricket Ground, which lay north of Ladywell Road, until its closure later in the 19th century. Lewisham Swimming Club was also very successful, with several of its members representing England at water polo and other gymkhana events. During the First World War, Lewisham Hospital's infirmary became the Lewisham Military Hospital, and during the Second World War the hospital was hit by a V-1 flying bomb, which destroyed two wards, injured 70 people and killed one nurse.
Lewisham is also the site of one of the worst disasters on the British railway network in the 20th century. On 4 December 1957 a crowded steam-hauled passenger express headed for the Kent coast overran signals at danger in thick fog near St Johns station and crashed into a stationary electric train for the Hayes branch line. The force of the impact brought down an overhead railway bridge onto the wreckage below. An electric multiple unit about to cross the bridge towards Nunhead managed to pull up in time. Ninety passengers and crew died in the accident.
In 1977, the Battle of Lewisham saw 500 members of the National Front, who were attempting to hold march through the area, and their police escort, attacked by more than 4000 counter-demonstrators.
The Docklands Light Railway was extended to Lewisham in 1999. Molesworth Street widened to create a bypass around the shopping area as part of the "Lewisham 2000" project, including sculptures by John Maine. This saw the demolition of the 1932 art deco Lewisham Odeon which had also provided a live music venue hosting artists from Johnny Cash to the Rolling Stones.
The 2010s and early 2020s saw the construction of many high-rise residential buildings around Loampit Vale and Molesworth Street. The former roundabout by Lewisham station was replaced with an "H" junction to release land for further private development. This was to be supported by the cancelled Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham.
In 2013 the Glass Mill Leisure Centre opened opposite Lewisham station with its façade defined by a large scale embedded kinetic artwork "Razzle Dazzle Boogie Woogie" by the artist Phil Coy. The project was awarded the Best Built Project – Community Scale Scheme in the London Planning Awards 2013/14.
The parish of Lewisham was governed by a vestry; and from 1855 until 1900 by the Lewisham District Board of Works, in combination with Penge. Following the London Government Act 1899, the County of London was split into 28 metropolitan boroughs in 1900. Lewisham, with the parish of Lee, became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham. In 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, the current 32 London boroughs were formed and today Lewisham is part of the London Borough of Lewisham.
Lewisham London Borough Council is based in Catford. The current directly elected mayor is Damien Egan. In the London Assembly, the London Borough of Lewisham is joined with the Royal Borough of Greenwich to form the Greenwich and Lewisham constituency, with the current Assembly Member being Len Duvall. For Westminster elections, Lewisham is covered by the Lewisham Deptford constituency, whose Member of Parliament (MP) As of 2021[update] is Vicky Foxcroft.
Lewisham's commercial area is one of the largest in south-east London. Lewisham Shopping Centre, opened in 1977, has 70 stores and is over 330,000 square feet. Shops include Marks & Spencer, W H Smith, Sainsbury's, H&M, TK Maxx, JD Sports, SportsDirect.com, Argos and Boots. The centre is between Molesworth Street (a dual carriageway section of the A21) and Lewisham High Street. Lewisham Market and the Central Library are outside the shopping centre in the High Street. Also part of the complex is the Lewisham House office tower, the tallest building in the borough and formerly occupied by Citibank. There are proposals to convert this brutalist skyscraper to flats.
Lewisham has a bowling alley and the Glassmill Swimming pool and Gym.
Lewisham has a number of parks, such as Hilly Fields and Lewisham Park.
For 14 years between 2001 and 2015, Lewisham was the only London Borough not to have a cinema. Lewisham once had many cinemas, such as the Lewisham Odeon. In 1930 there were 30 venues showing films. As of 2022, there is only one cinema operating in the borough: Catford Mews.
Opened in 1894, University Hospital Lewisham is a National Health Service, acute hospital run by the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust serving the whole London Borough of Lewisham as well as some surrounding areas. In July 2012 the government recommended that Lewisham's Accident & Emergency ward should be closed, with emergency provision transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, London. However, there was a strong campaign in Lewisham against the proposed closure, including a march on 24 November 2012, and a successful legal challenge. In July 2013, the High Court ruled that the closure of Lewisham A&E could not go ahead. In October 2013, the Court of Appeal ruled that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not have power to implement cuts at Lewisham Hospital.
Secondary schools in Lewisham include:
Lewisham station provides the area with Southeastern services to London Victoria, London Charing Cross, London Cannon Street, Dartford via Woolwich Arsenal, Dartford via Bexleyheath, Gravesend via Bexleyheath, Slade Green via Bexleyheath, Slade Green via Sidcup, Hayes and Orpington.
Lewisham station also provides DLR services to Bank via Canary Wharf.
Lewisham is served by many London Buses routes.
Lewisham London Borough Council's local development plan was intended to improve Lewisham's town centre to become a metropolitan centre to rival Bromley, Croydon and Kingston upon Thames.
There is a skyscraper adjacent to the shopping centre which used to be owned by Citibank until they moved to the Docklands which may be converted to residential.
There are four major development sites around on Loampit Vale:
Among those who were born or have lived in Lewisham are:
Almost all of the SE13 postcode district, which is associated with Lewisham is within the London Borough of Lewisham, except for the Coldbath Estate and part of the Orchard Estate along Lewisham Road, which are covered by the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The town includes areas such as St Johns and Hither Green, as well as Lee and Ladywell to the south and east.
The nearest Met Office climate station is based in Greenwich Park:
|Record high °C (°F)||17.2
|Average high °C (°F)||8.4
|Daily mean °C (°F)||5.6
|Average low °C (°F)||2.7
|Record low °C (°F)||−16.1
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||58.8
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||11.5||9.5||8.5||8.8||8.0||8.3||7.9||8.4||7.9||10.8||11.2||10.8||111.7|
|Average relative humidity (%)||80||77||70||65||67||65||65||69||73||78||81||81||73|
|Average dew point °C (°F)||3
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||61.1||78.8||124.5||176.7||207.5||208.4||217.8||202.1||157.1||115.2||70.7||55.0||1,674.8|
|Percent possible sunshine||23||28||31||40||41||41||42||45||40||35||27||21||35|
|Average ultraviolet index||1||1||2||4||5||6||6||5||4||2||1||0||3|
|Source 1: Met Office Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute|
|Source 2: Weather Atlas (percent sunshine and UV Index) CEDA Archive TORRO Time and Date
See Climate of London for additional climate information.