Sheenewood is built on the site of Sydenham’s fantasy renaissance palace – Westwood House. This started life modestly around 1720 as an Inn but was developed and redeveloped over the years culminating in John Loughborough Pearson’s design for Henry Littleton in 1881. Henry had made his fortune from Novello’s the music publisher and Westwood House and its Music Room played host to the musical stars of the Crystal Palace. Dvorak and Liszt both stayed and played at Westwood House.
Westwood House had a grand parade which closely follows the line of today’s Sheenewood from its entrance opposite Jews Walk to its exit in Sydenham Avenue (now Lawrie Park Avenue). Westwood House later became the Passmore Edwards Teacher’s Orphanage and was demolished in 1952 to make way for the Lewisham’s Sheenwood council estate.
Sheenewood, Sheenwood or even Shenewood? Lewisham Housing signs all agree it is Sheenwood. The street signs insist it is Sheenewood. John Coulter in his book on Sydenham refers to it as Shenewood. Top left sign is one of the few steel road signs left. A few years ago most street signs were replaced by plastic ‘Lewisham Blue’ signs. These new signs were less distinct and now faded by the sun together with the culminate effect of graffitti are now becoming unreadable.
The Lawrie Park Avenue entrance to Sheenewood is often blighted by dumped rubbish. TVs on this photograph (22/08) and shopping trolleys on the day the remaining photographs were taken (19/09).
This is a shame as just past the sign above are two rows of pleasant terraced bungalows facing each other and ideal for the elderly. You can see the larger flats at the heart of the estate beyond.
Rounding the bend after the bungalows we can see that some of the uninspired council housing is thankfully partially obscured by some remaining mature trees from the old estate. Notice the uniquitous use of Lewisham Blue on the garages and signage.
A close up of two of the signs from the preceding photograph. 47-85 Lawrie Park Gardens? That’s right when the estate was built the houses in Lawrie Park Gardens were renumbered and ta block of flats *in* Sheenewood (albeit with a view of Lawrie Park Gardens) were given Lawrie Park Gardens addresses. Or rather that’s wrong – some of these numbers are not here – but in the opposite direction – a ¼ of a mile away in the real Lawrie Park Gardens at the Lawrie Park Road end. Even after 50 years bemused friends, relatives and delivery drivers wonder aimlessly in the wrong street looking for the wrong number.
The estate has many prohibition signs and according to the box on the right the estate is CCTV monitored. Some residents must feel these unfriendly signs contribute to a prison like atmosphere.
Walking on towards Jews Walk one wonders about the architects who designed this. It lacks the quality and detail of the old or the elegant simplicity of building of the period. Did these people see how ‘modern’ could also be beautiful? At about the same time the Royal Festival Hall was being built only six miles to the north. The building at the end stands on approximately the same place at Westwood House.
A delicious surprise! Right in front of the ‘Westwood House’ block on an island of green is this cherub’s head spouting water. Even the broken concrete plinth can’t take away the beauty. Steve Grindlay supplied the following information:
The cupit is a relic of the former house. All that is left now is the base. It was put there by Littleton. The statue is of Mercury, and the face represents, I think, one of the oceans. Search for “Mercury” and “Giambologna” in Google images to see what it once looked like.
The end of the road. Looking out across Westwood Hill and down Jews Walk. A very different road with beautiful old buildings mostly well kept on the right and modern townhouses on the left – but more on that another time.
Finally looking back from Jews Walk towards the Westwood Hill entrance to Sheenewood. If you look up the road you might just be able to make out the island of green in front of block on which reclines our little cherub…..
The historical information about Westwood House was based on John Coulter’s account in ‘Sydenham & Forest Hill Past’.
The drawing of Westwood House was from an old Orphanage Christmas Greetings Card and the map is a part of an old print hanging on our wall.