A pleasing Victorian suburb situated south of New Cross and west of Lewisham
Brockley’s name was first recorded in the early 1180s and probably meant ‘woodland clearing belonging to a man named Broca’. Alternatively, the ‘brock’ element could have indicated the presence of badgers or a brook.
A house called Forest Place was in existence by the late 16th century, and a village evolved in the vicinity of the Brockley Jack public house during the 18th century.
Following enclosure in 1810, Brockley Green Farm, Manor Farm and Brockley Farm became the dominant landholdings. The latter used Forest Place as its farmhouse. Brockley Green Farm belonged to the governors of Christ’s Hospital and was bought by the London and Croydon Railway Company in 1836.
From the late 1840s the Tyrwhitt-Drake family began to build large terraced houses for the upper middle classes in place of their market gardens in Upper Brockley, around the present-day hub of Brockley Cross. Forest Place was demolished around 1870 when the Earl of St Germans sold the adjoining land to build more housing for the professional classes.
Brockley station opened in 1871, Brockley Lane station (now closed) in 1872 and Crofton Park station in 1892. Hilly Fields was acquired by the London County Council and opened to the public in 1896, following a campaign led by housing reformer and National Trust founder Octavia Hill. Few households in the superior streets around Hilly Fields were without a ‘maid of all work’ at that time and this side of Brockley is now a conservation area.
Statutorily or locally listed buildings from the Victorian era include the Brockley Barge public house, the (former) police station on Howson Road and St Peter’s and St Andrew’s churches. The Brockley Jack was rebuilt in 1898 and its stables have since been converted into a highly regarded studio theatre.
Houses for the less wealthy were built west of Brockley Road, where subsequent redevelopment has left a variety of 20th-century styles, especially where the area merges with Nunhead. Parts of Brockley Road still have the air of a village high street although many of the shops have the low-rent appearance typical of much of inner south London.
Brockley has a high concentration of young singles, many living in subdivided houses. There are twice as many 20–29-year-olds and unmarried people as the national averages, and half as many pensioners.
Brockley Max is a community arts festival held most years at the beginning of summer.
Brockley has been home to music hall performer Marie Lloyd, humorist Spike Milligan (who joined the Young Communist League of Brockley), and GK Chesterton’s fictional detective Mr JG Reader.
The Brockley murals were painted in 1933–6 by Evelyn Dunbar and others at what is now Prendergast school. The buildings containing the murals are now grade II listed solely because of the high quality and rarity of these works of art.
Postal district: SE4
Population: 17,156 (Brockley ward, 2011 census; adding the Crofton Park ward takes the total population of ‘Greater Brockley’ to 32,093)
Station: Southern (zone 2)
Website: The Brockley Society
Blog: Brockley Central