Beckenham Hill

Beckenham Hill, Lewisham

A station and road located between Beckenham Place Park and Bellingham

Hidden London: Beckenham Place

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.

Postal district: SE6
Station: Southeastern Trains (zone 4)
Website: Beckenham Place Park
The photograph of Beckenham Place at the top of this page was taken by Barry Marsh, posted at Flickr, and generously released into the public domain.