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.