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.