Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Deptford Whale

On 23rd October 1842 a whale was sighted off Deptford Pier and caught and landed. It was identified as a 'Fin Back' whale, 14ft 6ins long and weighing 2 tons.

"On Sunday afternoon, between four and five o'clock, several watermen on duty at Bell-water-gate, near the Deptford Pier, observed a huge dark substance projecting above the surface of the river. The animal was moving down the river between the pier and the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital-ship. Five of them put off in their boat, and one of them, armed with a large bearded spear, commenced the attack upon the monster ..."

The whale was eventually loaded onto the pier where  "In a short time afterwards such immense numbers of persons congregated to gratify their curiosity that Mr John Taylor, the high constable of Deptford, was compelled to call for the aid of the R division of the police to keep order."

The whole event was recorded and published in the Illustrated London News. You can read the original on the web using our online subscription to the Illustrated London News 1842-2003. You can access this in any Lewisham library or from home with your library card number.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Open House London - what you can see in Lewisham

Open House London takes place on 21st and 22nd September, and this year there are 24 buildings and venues open for you to visit in Lewisham. These range from modern, contemporary buildings such as 22 Weardale Road and the Glassmill leisure centre to historic listed buildings such as Boone's Chapel and St Margaret's Church.

This year Convoys Wharf will also be open on Saturday from 11am to 4pm, with open access to the site of the proposed masterplan, an exhibition of the plan with architects and project consultants on site and a pop-up cafe.

Pick up a brochure from one of our libraries - available from next week - or check online at

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Lewisham Races in August 1836

Did you know that Lewisham once had its own races?  The Lee, Lewisham, Greenwich and Eltham Races were held on a course on meadows next to the main road on the lower side of Blackheath. In August 1836 The West Kent Stakes (worth 15 sovereigns), The Railway Stakes (worth 50 sovereigns) and the Greenwich Borough Cup (worth 50 sovereigns) were held there.

This comes from the sporting intelligence section of  The Morning Chronicle of 19th August 1836. One of the many newspapers that you can access on the 19th Century British Newspapers . This is one of the online resources available to all Lewisham Library Service members to use in a library or from home.

You can find out more on our website

The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Friday, August 19, 1836; Issue 20844

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

"Here then is Deptford ...." - Poem in Thankfull Sturdee's Reminiscences of Old Deptford

In 1895 Thankfull Sturdee published his Reminiscences of Old Deptford, a collection of 67 illustrations of the Deptford area reproduced from original art works and photographs. In the front he included a poem, but without any attribution. We'd like to find out who wrote it but haven't had any luck with our searches so far. If any one can help throw some light on this - please add your information below or email us at

Monday, 8 July 2013

Children of the Great War

Do you have a relative who fought in The Great War, served in the Ambulance Corps, in Munitions, or experienced the War on the Home Front? 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. As part of the commemorations Age Exchange invite you to share your family history and contribute to an international archive.

Age Exchange invites you to go along to 11 Blackheath Village on Tuesday July 16th, 11am - 4pm to share your unique family story, passed down through generations. Please also take with you any relevant photos, objects, and memorabilia for them to copy and photograph. Your story will be recorded and will become part of the touring exhibition, and theatre production, and will contribute to an international archive that commemorates the 100th  Anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War in 2014.

For further information contact:
Age Exchange,11 Blackheath Village, London SE3 9LA
Tel: 020 8318 9105

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Landing of the Queen's Presents

On 12th June 1842 an Arabian man-of-war 'the first that ever appeared in English waters' came up the Thames and moored off the Victualling Yard at Deptford. The vessel came from Zanzibar carrying presents from the King of Muscat for Queen Victoria - including four valuable Arabian horses.

You can find out more about this in the Illustrated London News which is available online in all of Lewisham's Libraries and which can be used at home, etc, with your library card barcode. All of our online services can be accessed from here -

Friday, 24 May 2013

Stephen Lawrence honoured with blue heritage plaque

A blue plaque has been put up as a memorial to Stephen Lawrence. Pic:
Pic: Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust
A Nubian Jak Community Trust blue plaque has been put up as a memorial to Stephen Lawrence.

EastLondon Lines writes:
 "Stephen Lawrence has been honoured with a blue heritage plaque in tribute to his life. Lawrence is the third person to receive this kind of memorial.

The plaque was  unveiled during a service led by Chairman of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, Symon Sentain and Doreen Lawrence, Stephen’s mother, at The Stephen Lawrence Centre in Deptford on May 21 ...."

Stephen Lawrence honoured with blue heritage plaque
Posted from EastLondon Lines

Friday, 17 May 2013

First World War: then and now - HLF launches small grants scheme

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has launched First World War: then and now, a £6 million small grants programme to help communities mark the Centenary of the First World War.

HLF is making at least £1 million available per year for six years until 2019. It will provide grants between £3,000 and £10,000 enabling communities and groups right across the UK to explore, conserve and share their First World War heritage and deepen their understanding of the impact of the conflict.

Successful projects will include:
  • researching, identifying and recording local heritage
  • creating a community archive or collection
  • developing new interpretation of heritage through exhibitions, trails, smartphone apps etc
  • researching, writing and performing creative material based on heritage sources
The new programme can also provide funding for the conservation of war memorials.

HLF has already invested £12 million in projects – large and small – that will mark the Centenary of First World War. If a group have a project idea to mark the Centenary of the First World War, an online application pack is available from the First World War: then and now page. If a group needs a grant of more than £10,000 for a First World War project, it can apply to HLF through its open programmes.

HLF-funded First World War projects
The tragic story of the Accrington Pals regiment inspired young people to create a short film about the Lancashire battalion. The film recounts the attack on Serre in 1916 that claimed the lives of most of the battalion’s soldiers and the impact on their families.  (Award £11,200)

Volunteers in Huddersfield are researching the history of rugby league, in particular the impact the war had on their local club. They are learning about the life of star team player Douglas Clark and the recruitment efforts aimed at enlisting rugby players.  (Award £99,800)

Local people in the Wylye Valley are finding out how this rural community was transformed during the early months of the First World War when a six mile site of temporary army camps were set up to train soldiers to fight in France. The largest village in the valley then had a population of 50, and the influx of trainees totalled 24,000.  (Award £18,000)

The Diamond War Memorial project revealed that the men commemorated on the monument in the centre of Derry-Londonderry were from both Unionist and Nationalist backgrounds. This discovery challenged perceptions about identity, and the monument itself is now viewed as a shared landmark in the city.  (Award £49,800)

Black families in Liverpool have been researching their roots and uncovering fascinating stories of about how their ancestors were involved in the First World War. The project will produce a collection of oral histories and potentially a range of objects and archive material that will enhance the collection at the new Museum of Liverpool.  (Award £10,000)

Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre holds a large range of primary material and resources relating to the First World War, and the boroughs of Deptford and Lewisham during the early part of the 20th century. For further information or discuss how we can support a project please email us at, call us on 020 8297 0682, or drop in and visit.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Barnes Wallis, the Dambusters Raid and New Cross

70 years ago today at 9.28pm on 16 May 1943, the first of 19 Lancaster heavy bombers lifted off from RAF Scampton at the start of the Dambusters Raid on the Ruhr dams in Germany.  Immortalised by the Dambusters film and famous theme tune the bombers used the 'bouncing bomb' invented by  Sir Barnes Wallis - a New Cross resident from 1892 - 1909. 

Barnes Wallis was commemorated by the unveiling of a Lewisham Maroon Plaque at his former home at 241 New Cross Road on 29 September 1984. You can see images of the unveiling on our Picasa web album site

The wording of the plaque reads "Sir Barnes Wallis C.B.E. F.R.S., 1887-1979, Pioneer of aircraft design, lived here, 1892-1909"

Monday, 22 April 2013

Truth and Transition

SEE3 writes -
"Louise Green, a final year graphic design student at UCA Epsom, has made a short documentary on Sydenham entitled "Truth and Transition of the High Street".

In this short documentary, the local shopkeepers and residents of Sydenham discuss these questions in search for the truth, each with diverse opinions. Why and how is the landscape of the high street changing? What do people believe is currently occurring? What does the future hold?

An accompanying book is available from Sydenham Community Library or copies can be purchased by contacting Louise on She would also like your comments on the documentary, which you can leave directly on YouTube or send by email."

Truth and Transition
Posted from SEE3

Friday, 15 March 2013

Afghan Hound Racing 1958 - British Pathe News video

In November 1958 dog breeder Jean Briggs was given permission to try out her dogs at New Cross Stadium by the Greyhound Association. British Pathe have the video which you can see on their site - Afghan Hound Racing

Afghan Hound Racing - British Pathe newsreel

Friday, 8 March 2013

Five Hundred Years of Deptford and Woolwich Royal Dockyards

Deptford is writes:
The Royal Dockyard, Deptford
from an engraving dated 1793.
Lewisham Local History & Archives collection

"The Naval Dockyards Society are holding their Annual Conference at the National Maritime Museum on Saturday 20 April.  Five Hundred Years of Deptford and Woolwich Royal Dockyards will mark the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the Thames yards by Henry VIII and will be opened by Dame Joan Ruddock, MP for Lewisham Deptford ...."

Cost: £40 (£35 students, senior citizens, unemployed)
(includes lunch – rolls, sandwiches, fruit, cake, tea and coffee 1.25-2.25pm)

The King's Dockyard was first built in 1513 and lies under the present Convoys Wharf site in Deptford.

Download the booking form.
Facebook: Naval Dockyards Society
Twitter: @navdocksoc

Five Hundred Years of Deptford and Woolwich Royal Dockyards
Posted from Deptford is

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Folly in Sydenham Hill Woods

fountain houseInteresting post in the Sydenham Society blog about 'Pulhamite' Victorian landscaped gardens in Sydenham

"In 2008 English Heritage published a guide to the work of Pulham & Co, who created artificial garden landscapes including grottos, temples, follies and fountains. The company also developed cement that bore a striking resemblance to natural stone and called it Pulhamite.

Pulham published a prospectus in 1877 that listed all the gardens they had worked on up to that date. Six of the gardens were in Sydenham and two in Forest Hill. The most interesting was described as “Hill Wood, Sydenham” where “Alderman Stone” commissioned two pieces of Pulhamite, one in 1862 and another in 1866 ...."

Read the complete post at ....The Folly in Sydenham Hill Woods
Posted from The Sydenham Society

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Sharing Heritage launched by HLF to support local heritage and history

Sharing Heritage is a new funding programme to help people across the UK explore, conserve and share all aspects of the history and character of their local area.

With a commitment from HLF of £3m each year, grants between £3,000 and £10,000 will now be available to groups who want to discover their local heritage.

HLF writes -
"This new programme follows the unprecedented success of last year's one-off HLF grant scheme 'All Our Stories', which ran in tandem with BBC Two's The Great British Story: A People’s History, presented by historian, Michael Wood. The scheme was four times oversubscribed and convinced HLF of people's appetite to get involved.

Projects are expected to cover a wide spectrum of subject matter but could include exploring local archaeology, a community's cultures and traditions, identifying and recording local wildlife and protecting the surrounding environment, collecting and digitising old photos, producing local history publications, conserving sites or items of local significance, managing and training volunteers, and holding festivals and events to commemorate the past.

  • Sharing Heritage is for any not-for-profit group wanting to explore their community’s heritage. For further information, view the Sharing Heritage page
  • All Our Stories was developed in response to HLF's Strategic Framework consultation with both the public and heritage sector. Based on this, HLF has made applying for funding simpler and easier for first-time applicants and community groups. Last year, All Our Stories grants were promoted through five BBC Learning events at flagship heritage locations and regional events across the UK which ran in tandem with BBC Two's The Great British Story: A People's History series which inspired people to get involved with their local heritage. These events provided opportunities for people to discover their place in history and uncover the history of their local area and encouraged applications to HLF.
  • The All Our Stories programme was four times oversubscribed with a total investment from HLF of £4.5m. Over 500 successful projects were announced in November 2012 and are currently underway.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Kaiser’s Own

Interesting article in Great War London blog about  the role of German born and/or naturalised Londoners including Lewisham residents in the Great War 1914-18

"The Kaiser’s Own:
... In 1916, Army Orders established two new battalions in the Middlesex Regiment. These would contain recruits who were British citizens but the children of immigrants from nations with whom Britain was at war; the men were promised that they would not have to bear arms against the enemy. The units were named the 30th and 31st battalions and they served only in the UK. Some additional similar Labour Companies were also formed in 1917 and served in France. The units were known (rather cruelly) by some as “The Kaiser’s Own”.

Several Londoners served in the 31st Battalion – which ended the war based in Croydon.

"Hugo Max Norman Hotopf was born in Northumberland in 1881, the son of Hugo and Johanna who were German immigrants naturalised as British citizens in 1895. By the start of the Great War he was married, living in Lewisham, and had a son – William Hugh Norman Hotopf, born June 1914. Norman was working as a dye expert for the rather Germanic-sounding Badische Company in Brunswick Place near Old Street ....."

Read more on the Great War London blog
Posted from Great War London

Thursday, 3 January 2013

James Elroy Flecker (5 November 1884 – 3 January 1915)

English poet James Elroy Flecker died on this day in 1915. He was born in Lewisham at 9 Gilmore Road, SE13 on 5th November 1884. His most famous works include "To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence" and "The Golden Journey to Samarkand".

He was commemorated by the GLC in 1886 and you can see details of his Blue Plaque on the London Remembers website

You can read his works on Project Gutenberg at Works by James Elroy Flecker