Old Sydenham Hill

The History of Sydenham from Cippenham to present day. Links to photos especially welcome!

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Old Sydenham Hill

Postby Falkor » 5 Nov 2006 20:46

I'm now living in Orpington (and I've updated my profile accordingly), although I still work at Crystal Palace and walk from there to Catford, via Sydenham each weekend as part of my exercise regime. Anyway, the main road I seem to like walking down is Sydenham Hill because of the following features:
1) The Wood and the wood (never knew about this shortcut in my younger years).
2) Lambeth Reservoir ruins.
3) Ravine in Mountacre Close.
4) Sydenham Hill Woods entrance off Crescent Wood Road.
5) Views from the back of St. Clements House.
6) Views from Woodsyre? I need to further explore this west side of the road for any potential views down this side of Sydenham Heights.
6) Dulwich Wood House pub (got Pissarro's painting of Lordship Lane station displayed inside).
7) Sydenham Hill Community Hall (Shotokan Karate is practised here).
8) Lammas Green Estate (very nice)
9) Dome Hill Park (very nice)
10) Red bricked house ruins (1 of my 2 childhood memories of Sydenham Hill Woods was exiting along the side of this building when it was still standing in the 80s).
11) More ruins of another house that stood next to Cox's Walk.
12) Very old brick houses still survive near the roundabout junction with Kirkdale.
13) Oh, I almost forgot about the Cedars and it's fantastic garden--complete with Volley Ball court!

This road obviously has a lot of history (anyone have any other information to add?), but the photographic record in the Coulter/Seaman books is sadly inadequate in my opinion. They show mainly direct close-up shots of some of the houses, but out of perspective with the rest of the road. I would love to see some more photos looking straight down the road or maybe at an angle--especially the northern side where many houses once lined the edge of the woods. I'm not even sure how far up these houses went or much about Sydenham Hill woods because my Godfrey edition of the Ordinance Survey maps is cut off before the roundabout or Lordship Lane station. Below is the only photos of Sydenham Hill I've found outside the aforementioned books.
Image

Image
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Postby Steve Grindlay » 8 Nov 2006 00:00

Difficult to know where to post this, as it relates to a couple of threads, so I'll put it here.

Although Sydenham Hill Woods and Dulwich Woods merge into each other they were not separated until after the opening of the Crystal Palace in 1854 and the creation of the high level line in 1865. Today they are managed by the Dulwich Estates and the London Wildlife Trust respectively. On the Dulwich side of the old railway line there is a line of green posts about 3 feet high - these mark the boundary between the two woods. After the re-building of the Crystal Palace the Dulwich Estates Governors (historically, their responsibility was to use the land in the Manor of Dulwich to raise money to fund the College) made plots along Sydenham Hill available on long leases and a series of very large houses was built. Between the junction with Crescent Wood Road and Cox's Walk there were seven houses. The Hoo was one of the largest. It stood almost opposite the present (modern) 36 Sydenham Hill. I noticed earlier today that if you stand at the boundary of 34a and 36 Sydenham Hill the woods opposite show an area of more recent growth with mature trees at either side, clearly indicating the site of the house.

The red-brick building you remember was a small surviving outbuilding of Beechgrove. The Beechgrove estate was the Estates Governors' last attempt to develop this part of their Sydenham Woods estate, and was resisted successfully by the Sydenham Society and other local groups. Between Beechgrove and the corner of Cox's Walk was Lapsewood, built by Charles Barry, architect of Dulwich College. He lived there about 1861-1871.

I believe that most if not all the leases for the houses on the Dulwich side of Sydenham Hill were for 99 years. This means that they would have expired in the 1960s/1970s. It seems likely to me, although I've not seen any proof, that the Estates Governors decided that they could make more money for the Foundation (as they were bound to do) by demolishing these houses as the leases expired, and replacing them with many more (comparatively) small,
modern houses.

The only book I know that deals fairly comprehensively with the wood is: "The Great North Wood - A brief history of ancient woodlands from Selhurst to Deptford" by LSC Neville, London Wildlife Trust (1987). When I get my computer working again I will upload a couple of pictures that haven't already been published of Sydenham Hill.
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Postby Rebelmc » 8 Nov 2006 00:30

That first picture interests me; it appears to show the view down Sydenham Hill from the Crystal Palace end, taken from the perspective of where the mini roundabout is today.

The building in the foreground on the right looks to be what is now the Astra Palace Hotel, with the building behind it (unfortunately obscured by trees, but showing 5 chimney pots) being 'The Hurst', AKA #4 Sydenham Hill, which was still standing when I came to Sydenham Hill in the early 70s, but had clearly been left derelict for some years; when I knew it, it looked like something out of a Hammer Horror movie!

The two men on the left are standing roughly where the bus stop is today, and I can't quite work out if the tracks in the road are just cart/carriage ruts, or if some of them are tram lines, although, if there are tram lines there, they must have experimenting with the early form of carrying a current in the rails as there are no overhead lines.

Interesting to see the row of gas lamps, along with the telegraph pole in the background and to the right; was that carrying telephone or electricity cables?

Can't pin down the date exactly, but if the car is contemporaneous, it looks to be c1908.
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Postby Steve Grindlay » 8 Nov 2006 10:57

You're spot on with that, Rebelmc. All I can add is that I'm pretty sure the marks in the road cannot be tramlines as they never made to to this part of Sydenham.

The other picture shows the opposite end of Sydenham Hill, looking towards the Sydenham Hill/Kirkdale roundabout. I think the wall beyond the pillar box (which is still roughly in the same position) is that of Castlebar. The house in the distance is Holly Brow, near the roundabout, and the cyclist is approaching the entrance to Cox's Walk.
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Postby Rebelmc » 8 Nov 2006 21:51

I wonder what the chances would be of finding out who the motoring pioneer was?

He was obviously a man of not inconsiderable substance, as motoring was an expensive business in those days, especially as most cars came from abroad then (I think the one pictured is a Renault), but he would also appear to be something of a sportsman, as that car looks stripped for racing.

No lighting equipment, mudguards or even windscreen (also no discernable numberplate, but that may be irrelevent), all of which would be fairly unusual even then; anyone who could afford a car then could also afford for it to be well equipped.

Interestingly, although the motor industry was only around 10 years old at the time of the picture, cars were more common than you might think; as early as 1905, a Paris taxi company placed an order for 1500 vehicles from Renault, and in 1907 the same model became the standard taxi in London.
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Postby Greg Whitehead » 9 Nov 2006 14:55

That driver seems to be going at quite a lick, very brave of that photographer standing right in the path !

Steve, do you know much about what I believe is called Eliot Lodge? You know the one, the large house that stands at the roundabout of Sydenham Hill and Kirkdale?

@ Falkor - how do you fancy a walk that side of Sydenham this weekend? Taking in Sydenham Park etc, which you have stated you haven't done yet.

For me, the view from that roundabout has to be the finest in London, bar none.
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Postby Falkor » 10 Nov 2006 01:44

Although Sydenham Hill Woods and Dulwich Woods merge into each other they were not separated until after the opening of the Crystal Palace in 1854 and the creation of the high level line in 1865. Today they are managed by the Dulwich Estates and the London Wildlife Trust respectively. On the Dulwich side of the old railway line there is a line of green posts about 3 feet high - these mark the boundary between the two woods.

That makes sense... I've never thought about how the railway line would have affected access to the woods, nor why they merge but are named alternatively Dulwich/Sydenham Hill depending on which entrance. This is the kind of information I was looking for, but couldn't find anything in my books. This nature reserve is a major feature of Sydenham, and info about it should be published. The map at the Crescent Wood road entrance, which I photographed on the 15th of last month, is about the only informative source I've come across. However, not even this info is available in any book/internet website I'm aware of...

Between the junction with Crescent Wood Road and Cox's Walk there were seven houses.

:shock:

The Hoo was one of the largest. It stood almost opposite the present (modern) 36 Sydenham Hill. I noticed earlier today that if you stand at the boundary of 34a and 36 Sydenham Hill the woods opposite show an area of more recent growth with mature trees at either side, clearly indicating the site of the house.

The ruins of that Victorian folly is the 2nd of my 2 childhood visions/memories of Sydenham Hill Woods; how could anyone forget these "old chapel" like ruins? People often gather here, intrigued, and have a general chit-chat. Is there no photos of The Hoo or the other 6 houses besides the one I've already seen closest to Cox' Walk? The house that got painted red is the main one I would like to see... The garden of The Hoo with the original complete folly is something I bet everybody else would love to have seen, but if a photo existed, I'm sure it would have been published by now? This is sort of like the tourist part of Sydenham if you know what I mean... Good observation BTW!

The red-brick building you remember was a small surviving outbuilding of Beechgrove. The Beechgrove estate was the Estates Governors' last attempt to develop this part of their Sydenham Woods estate, and was resisted successfully by the Sydenham Society and other local groups. Between Beechgrove and the corner of Cox's Walk was Lapsewood, built by Charles Barry, architect of Dulwich College. He lived there about 1861-1871.

Now, that's more like it! I think this topic is turning out to be one of Steve Grindlay's best contributions to the forum, as all this vital information is sadly missing from the scrolls; the history of Sydenham Hill Woods hardly gets a mention in the Coulter/Seaman/Alcock books. As Steve has sort of pointed out to me, information is sometimes deliberately omitted from books to make them a more interesting read; there's a fine line between too little and too much info, although Sydenham Hill Woods really should have been given higher priority in my opinion. That Charles Barry House is the only one I've seen photographed in one of the Sydenham and Forest Hill books.

The only book I know that deals fairly comprehensively with the wood is: "The Great North Wood - A brief history of ancient woodlands from Selhurst to Deptford" by LSC Neville, London Wildlife Trust (1987). When I get my computer working again I will upload a couple of pictures that haven't already been published of Sydenham Hill.

Nice one, Steve! I'll try and find that book next time I'm down the library, unless it's for sale on the web somewhere... I would be delighted to see any photos! I've been having PC troubles too. Mine suddenly stopped working the other night--been backing up the hard drives all day. I've got another computer, but it's barely living inside a cloud of dust with only 2/3 fans working, although I better not bore you with the full irrelevant details. I don't know when to shut up sometimes. :) Anyway, I hope you sort out your computer soon!

The building in the foreground on the right looks to be what is now the Astra Palace Hotel, with the building behind it (unfortunately obscured by trees, but showing 5 chimney pots) being 'The Hurst', AKA #4 Sydenham Hill, which was still standing when I came to Sydenham Hill in the early 70s, but had clearly been left derelict for some years; when I knew it, it looked like something out of a Hammer Horror movie!

You've lived/in Sydenham longer than me then, Ian! Would loved to have seen that building--must have been a sight!

Interesting to see the row of gas lamps, along with the telegraph pole in the background and to the right; was that carrying telephone or electricity cables?

You guys are spotting a lot of interesting details in these photos that I had previously overlooked. It's always good to get several people's interprations before one can truly appreciate such historical views.

The other picture shows the opposite end of Sydenham Hill, looking towards the Sydenham Hill/Kirkdale roundabout. I think the wall beyond the pillar box (which is still roughly in the same position) is that of Castlebar. The house in the distance is Holly Brow, near the roundabout, and the cyclist is approaching the entrance to Cox's Walk.

I was a bit confused by this photo, but your paragraph makes a perfect caption there, Steve! Cheers for that... I think I'll save this topic...

That driver seems to be going at quite a lick, very brave of that photographer standing right in the path !

:lol:

@ Falkor - how do you fancy a walk that side of Sydenham this weekend? Taking in Sydenham Park etc, which you have stated you haven't done yet.

I'm still working the afternoon shifts on Sundays, so there wouldn't be enough daylight for a proper walkabout, unless you mainly just want to do a bit of exercise? I'll try and book a morning shift for next Sunday or the one after (whenever convenient for you), so I can finish at a more reasonable 1:30pm. Anyhow, I always walk home through Sydenham regardless of the daylight/weather, although it's always good to have a bit of company from a fellow enthusiast like yourself. Sydenham Park I know pretty well; it's Sydenham Park Road I've yet to adventure down, which leads to The Peak. This is just another entrance to St. Barts school apparently, but looking at the maps, there was once an old house roughly around this area called Peak Hill Lodge.
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Postby The Eagle » 10 Nov 2006 06:42

Greg Whitehead wrote:
For me, the view from that roundabout has to be the finest in London, bar none.


In my opinion the finest view of London is from the front of the club house at Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Club, you can see the whole of London from West to East and if you go into their restuarant (members only :wink: ) or on the balcony which is accessable from the outside, this gives an even better view.
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Postby Steve Grindlay » 10 Nov 2006 13:08

Greg Whitehead wrote:Steve, do you know much about what I believe is called Eliot Lodge? You know the one, the large house that stands at the roundabout of Sydenham Hill and Kirkdale?


The original part, nearest to the road, was built about 1853. In common with many large houses in the area built before the reservoir, it had a well. The large additon, furthest from the road, was built about 1870, over the well. It has been suggested to me that there is still evidence of the well beneath the floor of one of the rooms in the extension. The house was converted into flats during the 1930s.

I agree with The Eagle about the view from the clubhouse. I was very fortunate to be invited to lunch there a couple of months ago, and it realy is spectacular. Co-incidentlly, the cover of the current (November) issue of Living South gives a flavour of this view, although much narrower than the 180 degrees or more that you actually get. Almost as good are the views from Canonbie Road (though the surroundings are less scenic) and One Tree Hill.
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Postby Steve Grindlay » 10 Nov 2006 14:04

Falkor, I have a few pictures of Sydenham Hill which might interest you. I will put them on flikr when things are back to normal.

Some information has been published about the woods, and should be available for reference at Southwark Local Studies Library. Over the years I've gathered a folder of material such as leaflets, nature trails, campaign material to save the woods and so on. They were mostly published by the London Wildlife Trust or a group formed in the early 1990s called the Friends of the Great North Wood who, despite their name, concentrated almost exclusively on Sydenham Hill Woods.

By the way, I don't believe the Folly was ever complete; I've been told it was built as a picturesqe ruin, although I can't remember where I heard this.

A couple of points about the motoring picture. Rebelmc wonders whether the pole was a telegraph pole or for electricity cables. I think the former. Electricity was then produced by the Crystal Palace District Electric Supply Company (see Falkor's fascinating pictures of their works in another thread). Their cables were underground and a dozen or more of the manhole covers still survive in the streets around Sydenham and Forest Hill. Right at the top of the pole is a weather vane (more easily visible in my own copy). Also, against the wall on the right, in line with the car and the first lamp-post, is a boundary stone, placed there in 1903 to mark the boundary of the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham. That still survives.
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Postby Falkor » 12 Nov 2006 20:06

The original part, nearest to the road, was built about 1853. In common with many large houses in the area built before the reservoir, it had a well. The large additon, furthest from the road, was built about 1870, over the well. It has been suggested to me that there is still evidence of the well beneath the floor of one of the rooms in the extension. The house was converted into flats during the 1930s.

By the way, I don't believe the Folly was ever complete; I've been told it was built as a picturesqe ruin, although I can't remember where I heard this.

Interesting info there... thanks! :o

Falkor, I have a few pictures of Sydenham Hill which might interest you. I will put them on flikr when things are back to normal.

Nice one; I look forward to it! :)

Some information has been published about the woods, and should be available for reference at Southwark Local Studies Library. Over the years I've gathered a folder of material such as leaflets, nature trails, campaign material to save the woods and so on. They were mostly published by the London Wildlife Trust or a group formed in the early 1990s called the Friends of the Great North Wood who, despite their name, concentrated almost exclusively on Sydenham Hill Woods.

Would love to check out your collection... I will look into getting a train up to London Bridge to try and find this Local Studies Library, although I get butterflies in my stomach whenever I pass Guy's Tower. :shock: I was born in Southwark you see... :wink:
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Postby oicur0t » 17 Nov 2006 11:26

We've recently moved to the area and spend a lot of time in the woods, so this thread is fantastic! We've often wondered about the history of it.
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Postby Keef » 17 Nov 2006 14:10

For those of you who've never used it, flickr.com is a fantastic site where people post their photos.

If you visit http://www.flickr.com/search and search for photos tagged Sydenham, you get some nice results, including some really nice shots of the woods.
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Postby Falkor » 18 Nov 2006 20:41

Keef wrote:For those of you who've never used it, flickr.com is a fantastic site where people post their photos.

If you visit http://www.flickr.com/search and search for photos tagged Sydenham, you get some nice results, including some really nice shots of the woods.

Members of this forum have been using that site to upload their photos recently, but I had no idea it could be searched, so thanks for posting the link. Indeed, there is some nice photos of the woods--just nothing historical showing old Sydenham Hill.
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Postby kenny b » 28 Nov 2006 00:46

I`ll be back with more on these woods, one time gardens, or I`ll be up all night, what a fascinating forum!
I knew them when they were houses and lived in.
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