Friday, 21 December 2018

A Christmas meal at Lewisham Military Hospital WWI

Christmas was often celebrated with official approval during the WWI as it was considered important to boost morale. In military hospitals like Lewisham Military Hospital, wounded soldiers would have been joined by army officers, nurses and doctors to celebrate the festive season. Wars were decorated. Food was often plentiful as this dinner menu card from 1915 shows.

Dinner menu Lewisham Military Hospital 1915 ©Lewisham Local History and Archives

The reverse of the menu card shows the programme with details of the evening’s entertainments. It reveals the titles of songs sung. The names of individual soldiers are listed making this archive item a rare record of ordinary men whose existence might otherwise have been lost to history. As such this simple menu is a snapshot of a moment in time in the First World War taken from a local perspective.

Dinner menu programme Lewisham Military Hospital 1915 ©Lewisham Local History and Archives

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian

Facebook: @LewishamHistory
Twitter: #LewishamHistory

Free History Tour St Mary's Church, Lewisham 26 January 2019

St Mary’s Church, Lewisham is the oldest building in the London Borough of Lewisham. Find out about it’s history on a FREE tour with local historian Julian Watson. No booking needed. Meet inside the church 11.00am. Tour takes approximately 2 hours. Saturday 26th January 2019. Suitable for all ages.

Entrance to St Mary's Church, Lewisham

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Dinner for One

Every New Year’s Eve millions of people all over Germany sit down to watch an 18 minute British comedy sketch called Dinner for One. 

It holds the Guinness World Records for the number of repeats having been shown on German TV every year since 1972.

Many people also enjoy this festive slapstick, by British Comedian Freddie Frinton in Denmark, Sweden and a number of other European countries. In Germany a stamp has even been issued in his honour.

Frinton plays a butler who helps his employer Miss Sophie celebrate her 90th birthday by impersonating long dead guests and downing their drinks until he is very tipsy.

This year it will be shown on British TV on New Years Eve by Sky.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Christmas Closure Local History and Archives Centre

The Local History and Archive Centre will be closed for the Christmas period on Monday 24th December 2018-5th January 2019 inclusive. The first drop in day after reopening will be Tuesday 6th January 2019.  Please note that staff will not be able to answer any telephone or email enquiries during this period beginning 12.00 noon 21st December 2018. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

In the meantime. We invite you to explore our collections online at (books and pamphlets) or (archives).

You can still follow us on Facebook @LewishamHistory, Twitter #Lewisham History and our blog for scheduled postings, including some special festive postings running most days while we are closed.

We are very grateful for your support over the past year.

Best wishes

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Remarkable Residents: Kwes

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders

15/15: Kwes

Kwes: Art work for record cover
Kwes (Kwesi Sey) is a record producer, songwriter, musician, mixer and recording artist from Lewisham.

Kwes is best known for his production and collaborative work with a variety of artists including Bobby Womack, Damon Albarn, ELIZA, Kelela, Loyle Carner, Micachu, Nao and Solange. He has also reworked several artists including Hot Chip, Metronomy, Lianne La Havas, Zero 7 amongst many others.

Born in 1987 he has been actively interested in pop music, since he was four years old it began in Lewisham in 1990, raised on a diet of Top of The Pops and the Top 40 Chart Show. On his seventh birthday, Kwes received a gift that rapidly accelerated his musical prowess – a keyboard from his grandmother.

In 2011 signed with Warp Records and in the summer of that year Kwes travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of Oxfam's DRC Music project. He was invited along by Damon Albarn to join a team of fellow producers and musicians that included Richard Russell, Actress and T-E-E-D.

In summer 2012 and early winter 2013, Kwes partnered with Go Opera and Peroni Brewery to create a series of opera concerts, entitled as Opera di Peroni. The project was staged live in various cities throughout the UK and had featured Kwes’ and Go Opera's take on selected arias from Verdi's La Traviata and Puccini's La Boheme and La Rondine.

Local History and Archives Centre.

Remarkable Residents: Maxi Priest

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders

14/15: Maxi Priest

Max Alfred "Maxi" Elliott (born 10 June 1961), known by his stage name Maxi Priest, is an English reggae vocalist of Jamaican descent. He is best known for singing reggae music with an R&B influence, otherwise known as reggae fusion. He was one of the first international artists to have success in this genre, and one of the most successful reggae fusion acts of all time.

Maxi Priest was born in Lewisham, the second youngest of nine brothers and sisters. His parents had moved to England from Jamaica to provide more opportunity for their family. His father was a steelworker in a factory, while his mother devoted her life to Christianity; she was a missionary at a Pentecostal Church and lead singer for the church choir, and as a youngster.  Maxi grew up listening to Jamaican greats such as Dennis Brown, John Holt, Ken Boothe and Gregory Isaacs as well as singers like Marvin Gaye, Al Green, the Beatles, Phil Collins and Frank Sinatra.

He was working as a carpenter when he was invited to build speaker boxes for the prominent Saxon International sound system. It wasn't long before his contacts there discovered that he could sing as well, and soon he was participating in live dancehall shows; in 1984, he and Paul "Barry Boom" Robinson also co-produced Phillip Levi's "Mi God Mi King," the first U.K.- born reggae single to hit number one.  

His first major album was the self-titled Maxi Priest (1988) which established him as one of the top British reggae singers.

Local History and Archives Centre.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Remarkable Residents: Erica Pienaar

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders

12/15: Dame Erica Pienaar DBE, FRSA

(born 20 March 1952) schoolteacher, educationist, Freedom of the Borough of Lewisham

Erica was born in Cape Town. On Christmas Eve 1954, her family chose to leave the country boarding a ship bound for Southampton. Her family quickly established themselves in Crystal Palace and has been loyal to her South East London ‘roots’ ever since. Erica’s family revered education; it was clearly understood that it was through a good education that one not only developed as a person but also gained control of one’s destiny.

 She began her career as a Science Teacher in 1973 and taught for 40 years in South East London. Until her retirement in September 2013, she was Executive Head Teacher of the Leathersellers’ Federation of Schools. The Federation was established in September 2008 in Lewisham and comprises three Colleges: Prendergast-Hilly Fields College, Prendergast-Ladywell Fields College and Prendergast-Vale College.

 In 2013, Erica was made an honorary Freewoman of the Borough, for her illustrious career in Lewisham. The Council agreed:

‘Her involvement in national and educational change has inspired countless educationists, teachers and students with resulting significant local and national impact. Her belief in our young people has shone through her work and has changed their futures.’

Erica was appointed a Dame on the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, for her long and distinguished career in education.

Local History and Archives Centre.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Remarkable Residents: Mica Paris

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

11/15: Mica Paris

(born Michelle Antoinette Wallen; 7 April 1969) 
is a British singer, actress and presenter on radio and television.

She was born in Islington and moved to Lewisham when she was about nine. She grew up singing in her grandparents' church and by her mid teens was making regular appearances with 'The Spirit of Watts' gospel choir. At the age of seventeen, she got her first break as a backing vocalist with the UK band Hollywood Beyond.
In 1988 she released her debut, platinum-selling album, 'So Good’ from which she had her first top ten hit, 'My One Temptation'. 

Mica Paris is one of the UK’s most respected female singers with a career full of Top 10 hit singles and albums worldwide. 2003 saw Paris being presented with the Gold Badge Award by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters for her special contribution to the British entertainment industry. In 2004 she was in the Top 10 list of the 100 Great Black Britons, which was compiled to celebrate the achievements and contributions made by the British Black community over the centuries. 

In 2007 she wrote an empowering book 'Beautiful Within,' to critical acclaim. Mica has extended her talents, acting in many dramas and performing in numerous West End musicals.

Local History and Archives Centre.

Did you know Agatha Christie was a VAD in WWI? Accounts of women’s nursing experiences in World War One

 Vera Brittain –Testament of Youth

First published in 1928, Vera Brittain’s account of her wartime experiences and how she became a pacifist was one of a handful of books which broke the silence over the First World War. She relates how she lost her brother, fiancĂ©e and friends while working as a V.A.D. (she trained at Camberwell). A passionate account, it stands as a moving memoir and epitaph for a “lost” wartime generation. Since it first appeared, it has become an ‘A’ Level literature text book, a television series (twice) and a film. Still resonating with successive younger generations, it has stood the test of time. Available in Lewisham Libraries.

Dorothea Crewdson- Dorothea’s War: a First World War Nurse tells her story

Born Bristol 1886, raised in Nottingham. 1911 became a VAD in British Red Cross and passed her exams the next year. She began by helping out at local hospitals or serving tea and buns to wounded soldiers on hospital trains. In May 1915, she was stationed in Le Treport, northern France and spent the rest of the war working in different field hospitals. Although not a fully trained nurse, the military was under great pressure to relax the rules and allow women like Dorothea to serve in  military hospitals in France. Despite over 40 military hospitals in France by April 1915, they could not cope with the high numbers of casualties. She began at No.16 Stationary hospital, Le Treport, France. In 1918, Dorothea was awarded the Military Medal for bravery. She died in France in 1919 while still working as a nurse after contracting peritonitis. Her dairies were published by her nephew in 2013. Available in Lewisham Libraries.

Erica Nadin-Snelling -Matron at War: the story of Katy Beaufoy (1869-1918)

Sister Katy Beaufoy was born in Birmingham and served in both the Boer War and was a QUAIMNs nursing sister then Matron on His Majesty’s Hospital Ships in World War I. She kept a war time diary of her service and excerpts have been published from 1915-1917, together with some letters to her family. The dangers of nursing service at sea are revealed as are the details of daily life. Katy was officially reported missing believed drowned after the hospital ship Glenart Castle was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat on 26th February 1918. Her medals include the Dead Woman’s Penny and the medal for reorganising the Queen of Italy’s nursing service. Available in Lewisham Libraries.

Agatha Christie –Autobiography.

Before she became a bestselling crime writer, Agatha Christie joined the VAD in 1914. She served in a Devon hospital in Torquay.

She began by doing first aid courses in early 1914 followed by practical work visits to local hospitals.
‘That was intimidating because the regular nurses, who were in a hurry and had a lot to do, despised us thoroughly.’

Initially she was a ward maid, a reserve force, before she became a V.A.D. She also had pharmaceutical lessons from a local chemist to help her prepare for examinations.

Later her medical service stood her in good stead. She worked as a hospital dispenser in World War II. Doubtless this is where she gained her knowledge of poisons which feature as a murder method in so many of her crime novels. Available in Lewisham Libraries.

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian

Treating Tommy: a day in the life of a British Military Hospital in World War One

During the First World War, the military hospital day in hospitals like Lewisham Military Hospital usually began at 6.00am. If able, men would make their beds and wash themselves.

The men had to wear a special hospital uniform. This was a blue jacket and trousers, a white shirt and a red tie. You can see the men wearing hospital uniform in the photograph below.

Patients wearing hospital uniform at Lewisham Military Hospital. ⒸLewisham Local History and Archives Centre.

 Breakfast was at 7.30am. Porridge, tea and eggs. Eggs were often donated by local residents who kept hens. Presumably they were keen to support the war effort.

After breakfast, those patients who were able helped to clean up the ward and do the washing up. Hygiene was essential to prevent disease and infection. Dressings were also changed in the mornings.
11am. Doctor’s inspection. After this patients were free to exercise in the hospital grounds until 1.00pm when lunch was served.

Lunch was usually meat, vegetables and a pudding.

In the afternoon, patients would have free time. They might visit the local town or attend parties hosted by local charities. Concerts and gramophone recitals would also have taken place. At Lewisham Military Hospital some patients were even treated to a motor car outing!

Article from the Kentish Mercury. ⒸLewisham Local History and Archives Centre.

About 7.00pm patients were served supper. A typical supper would have been cocoa, bread and butter.

Most patients recovered and many would have been sent back to the front lines to continue fighting.
Others did not survive. On 25 May 1915, the Kentish Mercury reported the first funeral of a soldier at Lewisham Military Hospital.

First funeral of a soldier from Lewisham Military Hospital.ⒸLewisham Local History and Archives Centre.

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian, Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre.

Treating Tommy: from the Front Line to Lewisham Military Hospital in World War One

The First World War quickly produced devastating injuries on the battlefield which posed a real challenge to treat. Survival depended on quick medical intervention. The wounded were often moved several times.

Regimental Aid Post (RAP)

Initially, the walking wounded tried to reach the nearest RAP, while others were carried by stretcher bearers. RAPs were often set up in trenches or abandoned buildings typically, 2---300 yards of the front line. There, they would be treated by a regimental medical officer (RMO). The RMOs were qualified doctors but knew little about treating war wounds. RMO’s administered pain relief, anti-tetanus injection and a basic dressing. Sometimes stretcher bearers trained in First Aid helped out.


Evacuation began from the RAP and continued to advanced dressing stations (ADS) further away from the front line where soldiers could be treated. Casualty Clearing Stations (CCS) were next up the line and were the first static units a casualty would encounter. CCSs often moved, casualties being moved back to base hospitals in France and Flanders.

Medical personnel

As well as Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) doctors, military medical staff included the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS), the Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS) and the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) . Other ad hoc organisations not under military control such as First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and the Society of Friends –Friends Ambulance Unit, (FAU), Quakers and conscientious objectors, also made a contribution. QAIMNS sisters were sent to France in 1914 and their numbers increased after that as the need for experienced nursing staff increased.

Nursing staff and patients, Lewisham Military Hospital. ⒸLewisham Local History and Archives Centre

Hospitals in France and Flanders

There were two types of base hospital stationary and general. They were mainly located in large towns or ports, notably Boulogne and Etaples. Unofficial, voluntary hospitals supplemented these RAMC units but were not officially approved by the military authorities. The work was hard and time off for doctors and nurses was usually only given in cases of illness.


Transporting the wounded was a real challenge and barges were eventually used to transport men direct to hospital ships due to pressure on the railways. Once at a British port, casualties were transferred to an ambulance service train and sent to a receiving station. Receiving stations were local hospitals such as Lewisham Military Hospital. They were the last stop on a wounded soldier’s medical journey.

Lewisham Military Hospital

In 1915, the Lewisham Workhouse Infirmary was cleared to make way for expected wartime casualties. The hospital was then renamed Lewisham Military Hospital. It cared for officers, ranks and German POWs. It was headed by Dr Frederick Sherman Toogood who was given the temporary rank of Major with the Royal Army Medical Corps. The Hospital Workhouse Infirmaries were ideal for conversion into military hospitals as they often had gardens and other amenities for the staff and patients.

Lewisham Military Hospital had beds for 24 officers and 838 rank and file. They also had provision for shell-shocked officers. The first wounded arrived in May 1915, including some injured during the infamous gas attack at Ypres when chemical weapons were first used on a large scale.

The hospital treated those who needed more specialist treatment or who needed a longer period of time to recover.

The first patients would be walking wounded in cars followed by stretcher cases carried by ambulance.

Once at the hospital, the men would wash, uniforms fumigated and replaced with a hospital military suit. The hospital suit was a blue jacket and trousers with a white shirt and a red tie.
Patients details were taken and then they were taken to the wards.

After the war, the hospital reverted to civilian use in 1919. Eventually it became University Lewisham Hospital.

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian

Remarkable Resident: Ignatius Sancho

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

10/15: Ignatius Sancho

Ignatius Sancho (c.1729 – 14 December 1780) writer, campaigner, abolitionist, composer, shopkeeper.

He was celebrated in the late 18th-century as a man of letters, a social reformer and an acute observer of English life. He gained fame in his time, and to eighteenth-century British abolitionists he became a symbol of the humanity of Africans and immorality of the slave trade.

Sancho grew up an orphan. At the age of two he was taken from West Africa to London where he was forced to work as a slave for three sisters at a house in Greenwich. During this time he met the 2nd Duke of Montagu, who lived in nearby Blackheath. He liked the young Ignatius and bought him books, and tried to persuade the sisters to educate him. After the duke’s death Sancho ran away from the house in Greenwich and persuaded the duke’s widow to employ him. Sancho worked in the Montagu household for the next 20 years, serving as Mary Montagu’s butler until the Duchess’s death in 1751, and then as valet to George Montagu, 1st Duke of Montagu, until 1773.

 In 1758 Sancho married Anne Osborne, a West Indian woman with whom he had seven children. After Sancho left the Montagu household, the couple opened a grocery store in Westminster, where Sancho, by then a well-known cultural figure, maintained an active social and literary life until his death in 1780. As a financially independent male householder, Sancho became eligible to vote and did so in 1774 and again just before his death in 1780. He was the first person of African descent to vote in a British general election. He is also the first known person of African descent to have an obituary published in British newspapers.

After his death in 1782 Sancho’s letters were published as 'The Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African'. They contained reflections on slavery and empire, as well as his own vexed experiences as a highly educated person of African origin living in London. Sancho was an avid reader and pursued a self-taught education, taking full advantage of the libraries at the Montagu house, as well as its constant stream of highly cultured visitors. When Thomas Gainsborough visited to paint the portrait of the Duchess of Montagu, he also had Sancho sit for a portrait. As well as appearing on the stage, Sancho was particularly productive as a composer of music. He published four collections of compositions and a treatise entitled 'A Theory of Music'.

Local History and Archives Centre.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Remarkable Residents: Doreen Lawrence

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

9/15: Doreen Lawrence OBE

Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon OBE is an anti-racism campaigner and founder of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in 1998. She received an OBE in 2003 for services to community relations. In 2012 she won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pride of Britain Awards and was made a life peer in 2013. In January 2016, she was appointed as Chancellor of De Montfort University. She is a member of both the board and the council of Liberty, and patron of hate crime charity, Stop Hate UK. 

Doreen Lawrence was born in Jamaica in 1952. She immigrated to England aged nine, and later became a bank worker. She is the mother of Stephen Lawrence, a British teenager who was murdered in a racist attack in Eltham in 1993. For many years, Doreen has sought justice for her son while creating a positive and dynamic legacy in his honour. She and Stephen’s father, Neville Lawrence, founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in 1998 to promote a positive community legacy in their son’s name.

A public inquiry into the handling of Stephen’s case was held in 1998, leading to the publication of the Macpherson Report, one of the most important moments in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain.  It led to profound cultural changes to attitudes on racism, to the law and to police practice.  It also paved the way for a greater understanding of discrimination of all forms and new equality legislation.

In 2000, she set up the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to help young people realise their ambitions to become architects. In 2008, the Stephen Lawrence Centre was opened in Deptford, giving thousands more young people an opportunity to nurture and use their creativity. In 2014 she was awarded Freedom of the Borough for her services to the borough.

The Council agreed: ‘To do one of these things in the wake of such a devastating personal tragedy would be remarkable but to do both indicates someone deserving of the highest recognition. The dignity and humanity that she has demonstrated makes her a truly inspirational figure for our borough.’

Local History and Archives Centre.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Remarkable Residents: Jimmy Hendrix

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

8/15: Jimmy Hendrix

(born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and rock legend lived in Hither Green in late 1966. Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Hendrix began playing guitar at the age of 15. In 1961, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and trained as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division; he was granted an honourable discharge the following year. Soon afterwards, he moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, and began playing gigs on the Chitlin' Circuit, earning a place in the Isley Brothers' backing band and later with Little Richard, with whom he continued to work through mid-1965. He then played with Curtis Knight and the Squires before moving to England in late 1966 after being discovered by Linda Keith, who in turn interested bassist Chas Chandler of the Animals in becoming his first manager. Within months, Hendrix had earned three UK top ten hits with the Jimi Hendrix Experience: "Hey Joe", "Purple Haze", and "The Wind Cries Mary". He achieved fame in the U.S. after his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and in 1968 his third and final studio album, Electric Ladyland, reached number one in the U.S.; it was Hendrix's most commercially successful release and his first and only number one album. The world's highest-paid performer, he headlined the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, before his accidental death from barbiturate-related asphyxia on September 18, 1970, at the age of 27.

Local History and Archives Centre.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Unknown Warriors-The Medical Front in Lewisham-exhibition at Lewisham library

A FREE Armistice themed exhibition at Lewisham library looks at the medical front in
Lewisham and the people-civilians and soldiers-who fought in it. The number of wounded was unprecedented and caring for them at home was a huge challenge for both the military and civilian authorities. The exhibition explains how the wounded were brought from the front line to Lewisham Military Hospital and how they were cared for. Nurses played a vital role. As well as caring for the wounded, some like Sister Daisy Ankers, kept autograph books to boost morale. Daisy’s autograph book has the names of many soldiers treated at Lewisham Military Hospital. Many were wounded during the gas attack at Ypres (April–May) 1915. Daisy’s autograph book was recently donated to Lewisham Archives and was the inspiration for the exhibition. It can be seen, together with colour reproductions of some pages, in a separate archive display in the Local History and Archive Centre reading room.

Opening times: Exhibition 9-am-7pm (Tuesday-Friday), 10am-7pm (Monday), 9am -5pm (Saturday), 10am-4pm (Sunday). Autograph book Archive display Tuesday’s and Thursdays 9.30-12.45 & 14.15-17.45. Otherwise by appointment (

Venues: Exhibition 2nd Floor Lewisham Library, 199-200 Lewisham High Street SE13 6LG. Autograph book Archive display Local History and Archive Centre Reading Room, 2nd Floor Lewisham Library, 199-200 Lewisham High Street SE13 6LG.

On now until 31 March 2019.

Lewisham Military Hospital. ⓒLewisham Local history and Archives Centre.

Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre || Tel: 020 8314 8501|
Facebook: @LewishamHistory|Twitter: #LewishamHistory| 
Web: https://lewishamheritage.blogspot.com |
Lewisham War Memorials Wiki:

Women’s work in the First World War- Free Talk at Lewisham Library

Date & Time: Saturday 10th November. 11.00.

Venue: 3rd Floor Lewisham Library, 199-200 Lewisham High Street SE13 6LG.

Speaker: Dr Anne Logan, University of Kent

Women became involved in the First World War in many ways.  Some took up paid employment in nursing, manual work in war industries, or even agricultural labour. But many more engaged in varied forms of voluntary work.  This talk, illustrated with examples mainly from south-east England, surveys the many types of war-related work which women undertook between 1914 and 1918 and assesses its impact upon the position of women in society.

Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre || Tel: 020 8314 8501|
Facebook: @LewishamHistory|Twitter: #LewishamHistory
Lewisham War Memorials Wiki:

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Remarkable Residents: Sybil Pheonix

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

7/15: Sybil Phoenix OBE

The first black woman to be awarded the MBE in 1971 and then the OBE in 2008 for services to the community. A Methodist Minister and former Mayoress of Lewisham, she still runs a sheltered accommodation for homeless young women in Brockley.

In 1996, Phoenix was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Lewisham, and in 1998 was awarded the Freedom of the City of London.

The Council recognised: 'Her unique contribution over many years to community relations and the welfare of children in the borough; in particular, her pioneering multi-racial work in the fostering of teenagers, youth club leadership and hostel provision for girls, inspiring people of all ages with her generosity and spiritual strength.'

Local History and Archives Centre.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Remarkable Residents: Ian Wright

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

6/15: Ian Edward Wright 

Ian Edward Wright, MBE. Born 3 November, 1963, in Woolwich and raised on the Honor Oak Estate in Brockley.

A former professional footballer and television and radio personality - currently a studio pundit for BBC Sport, ITV Sport and BT Sport.

Wright enjoyed success with London clubs Crystal Palace and Arsenal as a forward, spending six years with the former and seven years with the latter. With Arsenal he lifted the Premier League title, both the major domestic cup competitions, and the European Cup Winners Cup. He played 581 league games, scoring 387 goals for seven clubs in Scotland and England, earning 33 caps for the English national team. Wright also played in the Premier League for West Ham United, the Scottish Premier League for Celtic and the Football League for Burnley and Nottingham Forest. As of 2016–17, he is Arsenal's second-highest scorer of all time and Crystal Palace's third-highest.

Local History and Archives Centre.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Remarkable Residents: Desmond Tutu

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

5/15: Desmond Tutu

Desmond Mpilo Tutu OMSG CH GCStJ
(born 7 October 1931)                                                         
South African Anglican cleric and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist.

In 1972 the Theological Education Fund of South Africa offered Tutu a job as their director for Africa. Its headquarters were in Bromley. The Tutu family  relocated to London and settled in Catford, living on Brownhill Road. Tutu became honorary curate of St Augustine's Church, Grove Park, 1972-1975.

He was awarded Freedom of the Borough of Lewisham in 1990. The Council paid tribute to his: 'Courageous non-violent struggle against apartheid and the inspiration he has given to oppressed peoples everywhere; and we take pride in him as a former resident of the borough. Above all we are recognising his human qualities: his courage and enthusiasm, his intellectual vigour and wit, his gentle care and compassion, and his resilience in the face of adversity.'

Local History and Archives Centre.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Remarkable Residents: Gabrielle

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

4/15: Gabrielle

Louise Gabrielle Bobb (born 16 April 1970) known professionally as Gabrielle, is an British singer and songwriter. Gabrielle grew up in Brockley, the oldest of four children.

She released her debut single "Dreams" in 1993 which topped the UK Singles Chart the same year. Other singles include "Going Nowhere", "Give Me a Little More Time", "Walk On By" and "If You Ever" – a duet with East 17. After a few quiet years Gabrielle made a comeback with "Rise", which became Gabrielle's second UK number one in 2000. "Out of Reach" from the soundtrack to the film Bridget Jones's Diary reached number four in the UK Singles Chart.

Gabrielle won two Brit Awards for Best Newcomer in 1994, Best Female in 1997 and was also awarded an Ivor Novello in 2008 for Outstanding Song Collection.  Over the years she has also picked up two MOBO awards, including one at the very first awards in 1996. ''Under My Skin'' is her first album in 11 years. During her incredible career she has sold over 10 million records.  

Local History and Archives Centre.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Remarkable Residents: Les Eytle

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

3/15: Les Eytle

James Leslie Hicks Eytle: Councillor, First Black Mayor in Lewisham, Freedom of the Borough of Lewisham

He served for 24 years as a Councillor, was Mayor twice (1984–85 and 1990–91) and Deputy Mayor once. Les passed away in 2010 after a long life serving the wider community of Lewisham.

The Council agreed: 'During his long association with the Council he has been instrumental in bringing about changes that have enhanced the Council's reputation as a leading authority in the UK. Les' legacy to Lewisham is tolerance, integrity, fairness and honesty and his work and career is best personified by the Council's motto Salus Populi Suprema Lex; the welfare of the people above everything else.'

Local History and Archives Centre.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Remarkable Resident: Desmond Dekker

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

2/15: Desmond Dekker

Jamaican reggae singer and songwriter famous for one of the first international reggae hits the 'Israelites' (1968). He lived in Forest Hill and Lee for a number of years. Whilst living in the area he had a massive hit with 'You can get it if you really want it' (1970). He was a great influence on the British reggae and ska music scene.

Local History and Archives Centre.

Remarkable Residents: Wozzy Brewster

Throughout October to celebrate Black History Month the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre will post our chosen 15 truly remarkable residents. People who were born in the borough or lived within its borders.

1/15: Wozzy Brewster, OBE FRSA

Spent over thirty years designing, shaping and delivering youth arts projects in theatre, new media and music. She has worked with hundreds of young people to help them achieve their creative goals. She provides them with invaluable guidance, knowledge and direction.

The Council agreed: 'She grew up in Deptford and has been making a difference to young people ever since, helping many of them become involved in music and arts. She founded the Midi Music Company and is still running it today. She has been a marvellous source of advice, encouragement and inspiration to many in Lewisham across all ages, demonstrating which she is an appropriate recipient of the highest award the borough can make.'

Local History and Archives Centre.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Open House 2018 Highlights of Lewisham and Deptford

Open House weekend 22-23 September 2018 is an annual event when members of the public have an opportunity to explore and learn about some of London’s most interesting architecture and design. The event has grown from year to year and with it the number of buildings you can visit. Here are a few highlights from the Lewisham and Deptford area focusing on buildings not usually open to the public. For visiting details, please see the Open House website 

Designed by Trevor Dannatt (OBE) and built in 1972 the building lies within the Blackheath Conservation Area. It might be the only Quaker meeting house in the Country built in the concrete brutalist style. The main meeting house is square on plan, chamfered at the corners, which evokes a medieval chapterhouse.

A 2015 report for the Quaker Meeting Houses Heritage Project, describes it as a ‘Brutalist jewel’ and of ‘exceptional aesthetic value’. Although the building is relatively recent, the Blackheath Meeting goes back to the 17th Century in Deptford and Woolwich. Peter the Great visited the Deptford Meeting house in Deptford High Street. That meeting house is now demolished but there is a plaque on the site above the Salvation Army shop.

Boone’s Chapel, Lee

A Grade I listed, single-storey building attributed to Sir Christopher Wren and built in 1683. Built in red brick and Portland stone details to the window architraves. This former chapel it was restored in 2008 as a studio and exhibition space with Heritage Lottery Funding and support from the London Borough of Lewisham, livery companies and the support of local residents through the Lee Manor and Blackheath Societies. One of only two Grade I-listed buildings in the borough of Lewisham (the other being St Paul's, Deptford).

Sayes Court, Deptford

Home of John Evelyn diarist, gardener, early ecologist and writer and contemporary of Samuel Pepys. 2018 marks the 200 year anniversary of the publication of Evelyn’s diaries which are an invaluable historical source of information on the arts, culture and politics of a turbulent time. It is also the birthplace of the National Trust. Long queues are expected.

The Master Shipwright’s House, Deptford

This private house is the oldest standing building of the former Deptford Royal Dockyard. It was the home and office of the master shipwright since 1513 and was remodeled in the 18th Century. A Grade II listed property, it would have had views of the whole dockyard and is one of the few remaining parts of the dockyard left. If it looks familiar to you it may be because the property is used as a film location.

The Deptford royal dockyard and manor of Sayes Court, London: excavations 2000-2012 by Anthony Francis is a lavishly illustrated book which traces the yard’s development as it evolved and expanded to keep pace with the demands of technology and empire. Available on reference in the Local History and Archive Centre.

Walter Segal Self-Build Houses, Honor Oak Park

Walter’s Way is a close of 13 self-built houses constructed according to a method developed by Walter Segal. Based on traditional timber methods, it eliminated the need for bricklaying and plastering, thereby creating easy-to-build, ecologically sound properties. In the 1970’s Lewisham Council made three sites available, partly in response to the demand for housing. After his death in 1985 a trust was set up in his name to popularize his methods. His best known follower is Kevin McCloud presenter of Grand Designs, Channel Four TV series. With many people unable to buy their own home, could Walter’s Way be the answer for some?

The self-build book-how to enjoy designing and building your own home by Jon Broome and Brian Richardson is available on reference in the Local History and Archives Centre.

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian, Local History and Archives Centre.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

The Maxwell Confait Murder

The investigation into the murder of Maxwell Confait led to a major review into how suspects are treated by the police, especially children and vulnerable people. A cause celebre, it came to be seen as a classic miscarriage of justice.

The Crime

The Fire Brigade was called to 27 Doggett Road, Catford at 0121 hours on 22 April 1972. A body was found.  It was that of Maxwell Confait a 26 year old mixed race man from the Seychelles. A gay (?) transgender (?) prostitute, Confait preferred to be called Michelle and was well-known in the local area. He frequented the Black Bull Pub (now Fox and Firkin) and the Castle (now Bar Nuvo). He had been strangled.

The Fox and Firkin pub (formerly The Black Bull), Lewisham High Street

Initial investigation

The police did not look very far. The first suspect was Winston Goode, the victim’s landlord and friend who lived at the same property with his wife Lillian and their children although the couple were separated. He denied any sexual relationship with Confait but admitted being jealous that Confait was planning to move out. Shortly afterwards he committed suicide by swallowing cyanide.

Confait confessions

On 24 April there were three more fires: along the railway line near Catford Bridge Station; a sports hut on Ladywell Fields and 1 Nelgarde Road (the next street).The police arrested three youths. Colin Lattimore aged eighteen but with learning disabilities, Ronnie Leighton, aged 15 and Ahmet Salih aged 14. The three were questioned without another adult present. Lattimore admitted to the murder but Salih confessed only to observing it.

The case went to trial at the Old Bailey where it received national media coverage. Despite the boys all having alibis for the time of death and claiming that the police had been violent to them in custody, Lattimore was found guilty of manslaughter, detained indefinitely, and sent to Rampton Hospital.
Leighton and Salih were found guilty of arson at Doggett Road and Ladywell Fields. Leighton was sent to Aylesbury Prison for life. Salih was sent to Royal Philanthropic School, Redhill for four years due to his age.


In July 1973, leave to appeal was refused despite disagreement between experts over the time of death. In 1975, the Home Secretary Roy Jenkins referred the case to the Court of Appeal. Following a high-level campaign led by Christopher Price, then local MP for Lewisham East, all three suspects were later found not guilty and freed by the Appeal Court. Lord Scarman criticised the original investigation for not emphasising the fact that there had been no struggle. This suggested that the victim knew his killer. He declared all three “innocent”. The Home Secretary then ordered a full enquiry by Sir Henry Fisher to look at the Judges Rules (i.e. how the police treat suspects, especially children and vulnerable people. Fisher made recommendations for reform but disagreed with Scarman finding two of the three defendants ” guilty on the balance of probability”.  As a result, the report had to be published as a “return to the House of Commons” to make it exempt from libel. A Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure followed.

The Confait confessions-book by the local MP
Christopher Price and Jonathan Caplan with picture of
Maxwell/Michell Confait on the cover.
Further inquiries

Another police enquiry led by Peter Fryer into the case made no arrests.  In 1980, a high-level police report by identified Douglas Franklin as the killer and Paul Pooley as a witness. It also and confirmed that the time of death was 48 hours earlier than stated at trial. Professors Cameron, Teare and Simpson had assumed rigor mortis started after the discovery of the fire. In fact, Professors Usher and Mant, forensic pathologists, found clear evidence that Confait had been dead for 48 hours and that rigor was wearing off. The report concluded that had the boys not been arrested, Douglas Franklin would probably have become a suspect at an early stage of the original murder enquiry. Shortly after his police interview Franklin committed suicide.


Eventually, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and its Codes of Practice (PACE) were passed and a system of “appropriate adults” were created. The Prosecution of Offences Act, 1985 was also passed. It took prosecution out of the hands of the police and into a new body; the Crown Prosecution Service. This Act also codified the prosecution process. The Brixton Riots (1981) and the Scarman Report were also key factors in passing these Acts.

PACE sets out rules and safeguards for policing. The most visible change was the requirement that all interviews with suspects in the police station are recorded. Less visible was the role of the “appropriate adult.” This means that an appropriate adult worker is appointed to safeguard the rights, welfare and effective participation of children and vulnerable adults detained or questioned by the police. They must be present for a range of police processes including interviews, intimate searches and identification procedures.

Maxwell Confit’s murder remains unsolved. Throughout the investigations and the ensuing publicity, the victim seems to have been forgotten. Another miscarriage of justice?

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian, Lewisham Local history and Archives Centre.

Do you remember the case? Do you remember Maxwell/Michelle from those days? If so, Wall to Wall Media, the makers of a BBC2 documentary would love to hear from you. Please get in touch with Sandy on 020 7241 9319, or  All conversations and contacts will be treated with confidence and is not a commitment to take part in the documentary.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

History of St. Mary's Church, Lewisham - Exhibition Online

St. Mary's Church, Lewisham is the oldest building in the London Borough of Lewisham. 
The Lewisham Local History and Archive Centre presents a selected number of archives and books associated with the Church. 

Guide to archive exhibits

1. Parish register

An example of charred parish register fragments saved from the ruins of the 1830 fire, mounted and preserved in Lewisham Archives. Such fragments show the vulnerability of historic documents and the need for conservation by professional archivists. Ref: SM1

2. Baptism Certificate, 1830

A sample Baptism Certificate for Jane Cox born in Lewisham 1830. It is signed by the then Vicar Augustus Legge. Ref: SM1/1/89

3, 4, 5Vicar's Account Book, including Glebe Survey, 1714. Letter of approval of sale of Glebe land for use as Public Baths, 1883. List of names of Tithe payers, 1778

The Church was an important landowner in Lewisham. As evidenced by this glebe survey of 1714 in the Vicar’s note book, list of tithe payers of 1778 and  letter of approval of the sale of glebe land for use as a public baths of 1883.Presumably the land in the glebe survey is the land sold for the public baths. The public baths (better known as “The Playtower”) were built in 1884 and granted Grade II listed status in 2004. There is currently a public consultation on the development and renewal of this historic building. Ref: SM1/1/94, SM1/1/97, SM1/1/96 

6. Posters for Consecration of Chancel, 1882-6

After the 1830 fire, the interior 
was rebuilt by public 
subscription and the current 
chancel rebuilt in 1881. The 
service was held on the 
Feast Day of the 
Annunciation (25 March). 
Appropriately for a church 
dedicated to the Virgin Mary, 
this day marks the visit 
(annunciation) of the angel Gabriel to Mary. Ref: SM1/1/78                 

7.Tower repair appeal, leaflet, 1907

The building work of 1881 did not include the tower which was also in need of repair. Following an appeal for funds, this was done in 1907. In his appeal, the Vicar refers to the history of the church tower.

8. Copy will of Abraham Colfe, 1788. 

Abraham Colfe (1580-1657) was Vicar of St Mary’s Lewisham from 1610 to 1657, founding Colfe's School, a reading or Latin school (1652) and five almshouses for the inhabitants of Lewisham. He later made provision for both in his will (shown here). Following wartime damage, the almshouses were demolished in 1958. The school later came to bear his name and still exists. Ref: SM1/6/14

9. Copy Will of Joseph Prendergast 1869

Dr. Joseph Prendergast (1791–1875) was Headmaster of Colfe's School 1831-1857. In his will he founded Prendergast Grammar School (now Prendergast Hilly Fields College) for 31 poor girls in Rushey Green, Catford. The school became comprehensive in the 1970s and moved to the current site in Hilly Fields in 1995. Ref: SM1/6/52

10. Print of St Mary’s Church, 1809

An early nineteenth century print shows the church after the 1776 rebuilding. Ref: SM1/9/2

11. Drawing of the exterior of the Church, 1764. 

A drawing c1764 of the old, medieval Church just before the 1776 re-building. The drawing was made about 1870-7 based on a drawing of 1764.

12. Photograph of parish clergymen, including Augustus Legge, c1880-12

n this photograph Legge (1839-1913) is shown seated third from the left. Legge was the Vicar of Sydenham (1867-1879) and then Vicar of Lewisham (1879-1901), where his brother was Lord of the Manor. During Legge’s vicariate the interior was remodelled and the chancel added. Legge later became Bishop of Lichfield,Staffordshire. SM1/1/133

13. Postcards

A selection of postcards from the Local History and Archive Centre collection showing old photographs, drawings and prints of the church. The churchyard has been enlarged at least twice, 1791 and 1817. Until Brockley and Ladywell cemetery was formed in 1858, the parish churchyard was the only burial ground. In September 2017, a Therapeutic Garden was opened in the grounds to promote well-being through gardening. It was featured in the BBC Gardeners’ World. Ref: PH79 8796, PH98 19-398, PC65 1211

Guide to exhibited books

14. The Parish registers of St Mary’s, Lewisham (being such portions as were saved from the fire of 1830), 1555-1750, with extracts from wills relating to the parish. Leland L. Duncan

n 1830 a fire damaged the interior and some of the parish registers were burnt. Fortunately, the noted local historian Leland L. Duncan used copies kept by the parish clerk and other notes to create this transcript of the registers from 1558 to 1750, which he published in 1891. Transcripts of historic documents and archival materials are useful because many of them are handwritten. Transcribing these primary sources helps us increase accessibility to historical records so that all of us can more easily read, search for, and use the information they contain. Ref: 929.3

15. The Parish Church of St Mary Lewisham, Kent, its building and rebuilding: with some account of the Vicars and Curates of Lewisham. Leland L. Duncan

First published in 1892, this classic account of the Church’s history was written by Leland L. Duncan (1862-1923), a highly productive local historian and antiquarian. He was born in Lewisham and lived his entire life in Lewisham. He also published a transcript of the monumental inscriptions in the church and churchyard in 1889. There is a plaque to him at 8 Lingards Road, Lewisham, SE13. Ref: 726.583

16. Census of Great Britain, 1851: particulars of the churches, chapels and other places of religious worship in the following districts:- Charlton, Deptford, Eltham, Greenwich, Kidbrooke, Lee, Lewisham, Plumstead, Sydenham and Woolwich. Public Record Office

The 1851 Religious Census was a unique survey of all identified places of religious worship then in existence, including Nonconformist and Catholic chapels and Jewish synagogues as well as Church of England churches. The surviving returns provide an invaluable snapshot of religious practice in the middle of the nineteenth century. As this census return for St Mary’s shows, Sunday attendance could be as high as 1,750. The church was obviously too small to accommodate a growing population. New sub-parishes were created and with them the demand for new churches. Saint Bartholomew’s church, Sydenham was built 1827-32, with St. Stephen’s following in 1863-65, St. Mark’s 1868 and St. Laurence’s   1886-7. Ref: 808.883

17. Diary and correspondence of John Evelyn. John Evelyn

John Evelyn (1620-1706) was an English writer, gardener and diarist who lived in Deptford from 1652. The entry for Christmas Day records he attended St Mary’s church. Ref: 726.5

Exhibition curated by:

Julie Robinson, Local Studies Librarian, Lewisham Local History Archive Centre
Felicity Croydon, Archivist, Lewisham Local History Archive Centre

Follow this link for a full list of Church of England Records held in the Lewisham Local History Archive Centre
Church of England Records in the London Borough of Lewisham Area