Town Boundaries

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

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Town Boundaries

Postby Falkor » 16 Jun 2007 12:15

This may seem like a stupid question, but how can I find out where the Dulwich, Forest Hill, Catford, Bellingham, Southend, Beckenham, Penge and Crystal Palace boundaries are surrounding Sydenham Town? :oops: Does it have something to do with parishes or post codes? We often talk about boundary stones and foreign territory, but how did all this come to be?
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Postby kennyb2 » 20 Jun 2007 13:14

there is [was] an iron Beckenham parish boundary marker in Parish Lane opp Penge lane, I`m sure I remember others in the area, Alexandra rec ground, possibly in Mayow park, almost certainly Crystal Palace park, look for dome topped iron markers, about 6 ins wide 2ft high, stuck in odd corners
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Postby Steve Grindlay » 23 Jul 2007 16:48

Here is a brief explanation of boundaries; I could go on at length, but wouldn't want to bore people :wink:.

The earliest boundaries are, as you say, the parish and manor boundaries, whose origins are often lost in the mists of time. Lewisham is an ancient parish. It included Sydenham, Forest Hill, the southern part of Brockley, Southend and Catford (but not Deptford, Lee, New Cross or the northern part of Brockley). St Mary's church (opposite Ladywell Leisure Centre) was the parish church. When St Bart's was opened in 1831 it was a chapel of ease to St Mary's, built to save Sydenham residents the journey to the parish church at Ladywell. In 1854 St Bart's (and Christ Church, Forest Hill) became parishes in their own right, the first of many created from the original Lewisham parish. Recently, of course, this process has been reversed and parishes have been merging. This reflects the expanding population of the 19th century and dwindling church attendance more recently.

Another ancient boundary divides Kent (where we were) and Surrey. When the London County Council was created in 1889 we ceased to be in Kent and became, officially, part of London. <Bacon's 1880 map> shows the Kent/Surrey boundary from "Oak of Honor" in the top right to the Sydenham Hill/Westwood Hill roundabout and beyond.

Throughout most of our area the parish, manor and county boundaries follow the same route, along the ridge of the hills from the oak on One Tree Hill to the roundabout at the junction of Westwood Hill and Sydenham Hill. It follows Horniman Drive, Eliot Bank and Sydenham Hill. This is, more or less, the present boundary between the London Boroughs of Lewisham and Southwark.

At the Westwood Hill roundabout the parish boundary then goes east, across Charleville Circus to the Border Oak then on towards Lower Sydenham station. Today this is the boundary between LB Bromley and LB Lewisham.

These boundaries needed to be defined carefully; parish boundaries in the 18th and early 19th century, the Board of Works boundaries in the later 19th century and the Borough boundaries from the 20th century were important in deciding, amongst many things, who was entitled to receive poor relief, who was responsible for maintaining the highways, and to whom one had to pay rates or council tax.

Postcodes were designed by the GPO solely to facilitate the delivery of mail. The whole of SE London was originally simply "London S.E.". In 1917, when women letter sorters were employed to replace the men who had gone to war, the system was refined by the creation of sub-districts, eg SE26, SE23. It is important to remember that these sub-districts were created solely to help with the sorting and distribution of mail. Each sub-district had its own delivery office (in Silverdale for SE26, in Devonshire Road for SE23). Postcode boundaries rarely, if ever, coincide with other boundaries.

Mostly people decide for themselves where they live. If it is amongst a small group of houses surrounded by fields it is easy enough to say you live in Sydenham, or Bell Green, or Perry Hill, or Perry Vale or Forest Hill. But as the fields were covered with buildings and the hamlets merged into each other it became less easy to define. I suppose that is why so many people, although not me, define where they live on the basis of a system designed to help postmen deliver letters more efficiently.
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Postby Falkor » 25 Jul 2007 22:24

Thanks for your reply, Steve! You would have been good as a school teacher because you seem to have a real knack of explaining things clearly and concisely. Due to my poor English skills, I struggle with every paragraph in typical History books, such as Rochester Castle or even Romans For Dummies. I guess I must be lower than a dummy for not understanding that book. My favourite book is Sydenham and Forest Hill Past because John Coulter is also very good at explaining things. I have to rate both of you; Sydenham and Lewisham is lucky to have historians of such calibre. In my current town of residence there is no detailed history books available. We are not blessed with an online community or forum, or anything. It's sad... no illustrations survive for any of the old manor houses. I could go on, but it's just too depressing. Sydenham has a lot to be proud of!

Here is a brief explanation of boundaries; I could go on at length, but wouldn't want to bore people

I'm surprised that more Sydenhamites aren't interested in this topic of boundaries, as it's useful to know exactly where one lives in relation to the edge of Sydenham/Forest Hill, and the exact point of transition between one town to another. I find it fascinating myself, but then I've always been a bit eccentric.

The earliest boundaries are, as you say, the parish and manor boundaries, whose origins are often lost in the mists of time. Lewisham is an ancient parish. It included Sydenham, Forest Hill, the southern part of Brockley, Southend and Catford (but not Deptford, Lee, New Cross or the northern part of Brockley). St Mary's church (opposite Ladywell Leisure Centre) was the parish church. When St Bart's was opened in 1831 it was a chapel of ease to St Mary's, built to save Sydenham residents the journey to the parish church at Ladywell. In 1854 St Bart's (and Christ Church, Forest Hill) became parishes in their own right, the first of many created from the original Lewisham parish.

It's interesting that there are all these "mother parishes" since ancient times with a burst of "daughter parishes" being established inside them post 1830s. Looking at a parish map, it seems all ancient parishes fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, with no gaps in-between. Therefore, I would have assumed that all ancient parishes were established at the same time in history? But then the building of the associated churches are sometimes centuries apart, unless they replaced a previous building, so could it be that the first church building of each ancient parish took place around the same time? The answer to this is most definitely "No", but I don't think it's such a daft question looking at those maps of ancient parishes; there is no gaps anywhere to say a plot of land doesn't belong to any parish.

If the origins of Lewisham Parish--like many--are lost to the ravages of time then how do we know where the boundaries lie? Based on my previous paragraph, I bet if I knew the boundaries of all the surrounding parishes I would then automatically know the boundaries of Lewisham, although there must be a more full-proof way of finding out.
When St Barts and Christ Church parishes were established inside the Lewisham parish, how did they enforce the new boundaries between Sydenham, Forest Hill, Brockley and Catford, and most importantly, where are they? I assume the South and West boundaries of Sydenham that Steve already described are based on the same boundaries of ancient Lewisham for this corner?

As a side note, were the boundaries established only once the St Barts Chapelry had become an official parish; if so, did the parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials being performed there fall under Lewisham parish all the while St Barts was merely a Chapel of Ease? In other words, if I saw a baptism performed in St Barts, in 1840, I would expect it to state the location inside the register as the ancient parish of Lewisham, as Steve states the parish of Sydenham had not been officially established until 1854. This question is not important to the topic of boundaries, but would nevertheless be interesting to know the answer.

It seems that before Sydenham and Forest Hill got their own "daughter parishes" inside the ancient "mother parish" of Lewisham, these areas contained the following townships (villages and Hamlets) and place names:
-Manor Of Sydenham (Place House, surrounding farmland, including Perry Hill)
-Perry Slough (Perry Vale and Perry Rise)
-Bell Green/Sydenham Green
-Westwood (woods at the western edge of Lewisham)
-Forest Hill (Honor Oak Road)
Sydenham Town seems to have started life 1 or 2 centuries after the Domesday book was compiled--considering it's not mentioned in there--based on the Place House estate and Perry Hill areas. When the manor ceased to be, Sydenham was then used to describe the area of Bell Green then Sydenham Road. Eventually, when all the Westwood trees were felled, this part of Lewisham became named Sydenham Common, and "Sydenham" had started growing! But then Forest Hill started growing and eating up the northern fringe of Sydenham Common. We're now left with 2 competing towns who seem to hate each other. We love to tell SE23 folks that most of their land was once in Sydenham, but then we owe everything to Lewisham.

Was there any other Manors in or around Sydenham besides the Place House estate? Can the boundaries be traced for any of the places/townships listed above? I know I've seen a map of Sydenham Common in the Lewisham Local Studies, which could be used to find out the boundaries of this. But is there any estate maps for the Manor Of Sydenham? Even if there was, would the shape have constantly been changing due to plots of land being bought and sold by the generations of occupants?

Another ancient boundary divides Kent (where we were) and Surrey. When the London County Council was created in 1889 we ceased to be in Kent and became, officially, part of London. <Bacon's 1880 map> shows the Kent/Surrey boundary from "Oak of Honor" in the top right to the Sydenham Hill/Westwood Hill roundabout and beyond.

Another map to add to the list! That boundary line is interesting... Along Sydenham Hill, it seems to run at the western edge of the road. Down Eliot Bank, however, it runs through the center for the most part; based on this, are we able to deduce the following?
-A couple living in a villa on the western side of Sydenham Hill (houses are built away from the road and boundary) would be refused marriage at St. Barts because they didn't belong to the parish?
-The maintenance of the road, Eliot Bank, was a shared responsiblity of Sydenham and Dulwich parish?

I suppose that is why so many people, although not me, define where they live on the basis of a system designed to help postmen deliver letters more efficiently.

Well said!
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Postby Falkor » 26 Jul 2007 22:34

I've found a simple parish map of all the ancient parishes surrounding Lewisham, taken from the Philimore Atlas:
Image
The split down the center is the old Surrey and Kent boundaries, which Steve already mentioned.

I've also found a detailed map of all the ancient parishes within the London Borough of Bromley, including Beckenham, which is directly south of Sydenham.
Image
You can see the boundary between Beckenham vs. Penge and Beckenham vs. Hayes, West Wickham and Bromley in red.

Image
The black dotted line is the exact boundary between Beckenham and Sydenham.

Still need to find out the north and east boundaries of Lewisham, as well as the post 1830 boundaries created inside the parish, ie. Sydenham vs. Forest Hill.
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Postby mikej » 16 Aug 2007 20:56

Regarding the origin of parish boundaries, if you imagine (say) three villages established back in the dark ages, in a forest (most of England was forested) they would gradually clear the trees to create more farmland and provide wood for buildings. As the population grew, they would have to venture further into the wood to find spare land. Eventually, they would meet people doing the same from the next village. Somehow they would have to deicide on a boundary line between their parish and their surrounding ones. Once a year, many villages held a "beating the bounds" ceremony, where you would walk around the parish boundary. This was a way of teaching the younger people in the village where their boundaries were, in the days before maps.
If villages were close together, it follows that the parishes would be fairly small; in thinly peopled areas (as in mid Wales) they could be extremely large.
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Postby Falkor » 20 Oct 2007 22:31

mikej, your theory sounds very plausible. However, it's just occurred to me today that Manors and their boundaries might date back before the time of Parish/boundaries, and perhaps the manors had control over the parishes and even allowed them to be formed in the first place? One could speculate all day about what happened in the Dark Ages; we just don't know for sure.
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Postby mikej » 24 Oct 2007 11:20

Actually, what I was saying isn't a theory, it is what I studied at uni back in the 70s, and that is exactly how our villages developed. The manorial system dates from much later - after the Norman Conquest I think. If you study the Domesday Book (1086) you will see that over 90% of our current towns and villages were established by then. The feudal system was imposed from above later, so it would not have had much influence on parish boundaries, many of which were set in Anglo-Saxon times, well before 1066
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Postby Falkor » 24 Oct 2007 12:01

The Domesday book apparently doesn't record towns or villages, but instead, each entry describes a Saxon manor. The confusion lies in the fact that manors often share the same name as towns,villages and/or parishes. In other words, the entry for Lewisham in the Domesday book is The Manor Of Lewisham as opposed to Lewisham Village or Lewisham Parish.
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Postby mikej » 24 Oct 2007 17:57

Dear Falkor
If you read the article in Wikipedia on the Domesday Book (for instance), it indicates that settlements WERE covered - yes, you are right about the manors of course, but the other groups that made up the towns and villages were also mentioned in detailed so all could be taxed. That way historical geographers have been able to compare 1086 with today's placenames and hence that statistic that 90% of today's places were in existence by 1086, which is, I think, pretty amazing.
Best wishes
Mike
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Postby Falkor » 24 Oct 2007 19:21

Historians wonder why Chislehurst is not listed in the Domesday Book, but what they don't realise is that atleast half of it IS--under the manor name of "Sentling" in the Hundred of Ruxley! On this occasion the name of the manor did not share the same name as the local villages and parishes, hence the confusion.
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Postby perryman » 25 Oct 2007 01:27

Sydenhamites :lol:

Perhaps Sydenham should be twinned with Gomorrah?
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Re: Town Boundaries

Postby prehensile » 17 May 2017 20:50

Resurrecting this very old thread to ask: does anyone know what this marker is at the junction of Westwood Hill and High Level Drive? I've walked past it many times, but finally took a photo today. I'm guessing it's some kind of boundary marker, but beyond that I'm clueless.

Image
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Re: Town Boundaries

Postby Robin Orton » 19 May 2017 09:15

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_House_Estates. There is a similar stone marker on the footpath leading up from Kirkdale to Lammas Green; my understanding is that the houses there were provided by the Bridge House Estates.
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Re: Town Boundaries

Postby mikej » 18 Jul 2017 10:04

It's in a location on the boundary between Lewisham and Beckenham (now part of Bromley) so MIGHT be a boundary marker??

Boundaries do strange things - I find it amusing that Penge East station was in Beckenham borough! Obviously the railways came later than the boundaries.
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Re: Town Boundaries

Postby Gilliantrelease » 1 Feb 2018 15:32

There was a Toll Gate at the junction of Newlands Park (which was Penge Lane) and Tannsfeld road just by the shops. The boundary line was between London and Kent -today on the north side of Tannsfeld road you are in Lewisham and on the south side where the houses are you are in Bromley. Both now London boroughs. This Toll Gate would have been the same as the one in Dulwich today.
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