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Lewisham is a district in south-east Londonmarker, Englandmarker and the principal settlement of the London Borough of Lewishammarker. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.


It is most likely to have been founded by a pagan Jute, Leof, who settled (by burning his boat) near St Mary's Church (Ladywellmarker) where the ground was drier, in the 6th century. As to the etymology of the name, Daniel Lysons (1796) wrote:

"In the most ancient Saxon records this place is called Levesham, that is, the house among the meadows; leswe, læs, læse, or læsew, in the Saxon, signifies a meadow, and ham, a dwelling. It is now written, as well in parochial and other records as in common usage, Lewisham."
The electoral ward of Lewisham Central (red) within the London Borough of Lewisham (orange)
Lewisham town centre in 2005
'Leofshema' was an important settlement at the confluence of the rivers Quaggymarker (from Farnborough) and Ravensbournemarker (Caesar's Well, Keston), so the village expanded north into the wetter area as drainage techniques improved. In the mid-seventeenth century, then-vicar of Lewisham, Abraham Colfe, built a grammar school, primary school and six almshouses for the inhabitants. The Earl of Dartmouth became the (hereditary) Viscount Lewisham in 1711.

The village of Lewisham was originally centred further south around the parish church of St Mary, towards the present site of University Hospital Lewishammarker. The centre migrated north with the coming of the North Kent railway line to Dartfordmarker in 1849, encouraging commuter housing. Lewisham was administratively part of Kentmarker until 1889, and formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Lewishammarker in the County of London until 1965.

Lewisham's High Street is particularly long and wide for a London suburb .The town centre was hit by a V-1 in 1944 with over 300 fatalities. It devastated the high street, which was not restored to its former glory until the mid 1950s. This horrific event is commemorated by a plaque outside the Lewisham shopping centremarker (opened in 1977). The Sainsbury store in Lewisham shopping centre was briefly the largest supermarket in Europe. The store still exists today and is small by modern standards. 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, which was opened in 2004 to replace the station in Ladywellmarker, is officially the largest in Europe . There is also another large police station in nearby Catfordmarker. There is planned regeneration of Lewisham town centre. There is a single skyscraper adjacent to the shopping centre which used to be owned by Citibank until they moved to the Docklands.

Almost all of the SE13marker Lewisham postcode falls within the London Borough of Lewishammarker, except for the Coldbath Estate and part of the Orchard Estate along Lewisham Road, which are covered by the London Borough of Greenwichmarker.

Lewisham Cricket Club was one of the most prestigious London sides during the Victorian era. They played at Lewisham Cricket Ground from 1864, which lay north of Ladywell Road until its closure in the latter part of the 19th century. Lewisham Swimming Club was also very successful with several of its members representing England in water polo and other gymkhana events. The club still meets at Ladywell Swimming Baths, one of the public swimming pools in Lewisham which include Downham Health and Leisure Centre, the Bridge in Sydenham, Forest Hill Pools (closed for refurbishment) and Wavelengths in Deptford.

In 1977, the Battle of Lewisham." (actually in New Crossmarker) saw the biggest street battle against fascists since the Battle of Cable Streetmarker in 1936. Over 10,000 people turned out to oppose a National Front march which was organised on the back of increasing electoral success at that time.


Lewisham boasts three sixth form colleges called Christ the King Sixth Form Collegemarker, and Crossways Academy. Also, Lewisham Collegemarker itself has locations across the borough. Lewisham is also home to Goldsmiths College and the Laban Dance College (part of Trinity School of music).


Lewisham is a major transport hub, lying on the A20 road towards Dovermarker and at the start of A21marker to Hastingsmarker, with its own large bus station, railway stationmarker and the southern terminus of the Docklands Light Railway. London Underground lines run into the north of the borough at New Cross as part of the East London Line. The station is said to be re-opened as part of the London Overground network in Summer 2010, however there are currentily no plans to extend the New Cross branch to Lewisham or to other areas at the present time. The New Cross Gate branch however will be extended to Crystal Palacemarker and Croydonmarker.

Lewisham Rail Crash

Lewisham is also the site of one of the worst disasters on British Railways in the twentieth 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. John's 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. 90 passengers and crew died in the accident.

Notable former inhabitants


Edith Nesbit in The Wouldbegoods (1899) wrote:
In London, or at any rate Lewisham, nothing happens unless you make it happen; or if it happens it doesn't happen to you, and you don't know the people it does happen to.

Nearest places


  1. 'Lewisham', The Environs of London: volume 4: Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent (1796), pp. 514-36. URL: Date accessed: 03 October 2007.
  2. Lewisham London Borough Council - Lewisham town centre regeneration
  3. '1997': The Battle of Lewisham URL: Date accessed 21 February 2008

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