Beckenham Hill, Lewisham
A station and road located between Beckenham Place Park and Bellingham
This was Stumps Hill when John Cator acquired and rebuilt Beckenham Place in 1773. The main house is a stone-built Palladian block of seven by four bays, with a curved feature on the garden side and a projecting wing on the entrance side. Much of the mansion’s extensive parkland was sold off for (eventual) development in 1857.
The Catford loop line was built in 1892 by the Shortlands and Nunhead Railway Company, an offshoot of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. The company opened a station at Beckenham Hill, even though the area was almost entirely unpopulated, and for many years this was said to be “the quietest suburban station of all.” Unusually for the line, the main station building was constructed on the same level as the platforms, which were sheltered by a pair of generous canopies. Large forecourts were provided on each side of the road to provide turning space for horsedrawn vehicles.
Only a handful of dwellings had appeared on Beckenham Hill Road by the early 20th century and the locality remained peacefully rural until the London County Council’s Bellingham estate spread in this direction in the 1920s. The LCC acquired Beckenham Place and its surviving parkland in 1927 – and the remainder of the neighbourhood was suburbanised soon afterwards.
The distinctively circular Roman Catholic church of the Annunciation and St Augustine was built in 1934. The church stands at 88 Beckenham Hill Road, almost opposite a pair of stone lodges at one of the entrances to Beckenham Place Park. At the last local government boundary change Lewisham council became responsible for the whole of the park, which constitutes the largest green space in the borough.
Beckenham Place mansion later served as a clubhouse for Beckenham Place Park public golf course until the course closed in 2016. The Friends of Beckenham Place Park run a visitor centre on the mansion’s ground floor on Sunday afternoons.
The park was awarded a £4.9 million lottery grant in 2014. The golf course has since been converted into gardens, open spaces, wildflower meadows and a wooded wetland habitat – and a 283-metre-long swimming lake opened in July 2019. Within days the lake was closed so that ‘improved safety measures’ could be put in place.
In 2017 Phoenix Community Housing built 60 ‘extra care’ flats for affordable rent next to its existing properties for older people at Hazelhurst Court, on Beckenham Hill Road. The scheme won a RIBA London award.
A strip of Stumpshill Wood survives at the southern end of Beckenham Hill Road, opposite the council-built Beckenham Hill estate. Though its name suggests a history of coppice management, Stumpshill has a high forest structure – and its mature and veteran oaks represent the largest collection of old trees in Lewisham. Ash, field maple, beech, hornbeam and sweet chestnut are also present.
The original members of the rock band Status Quo – as they were later to become – got together in 1962 at Sedgehill School, which is located to the north-west of the Beckenham Hill estate.