Brockley, Lewisham

A pleasing Victorian suburb situated south of New Cross and west of Lewisham

Ewan Munro - Brockley station

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.

The Brockley Jack
The Brock­ley Jack*

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


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* The picture of Brockley station at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Ewan Munro, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. The picture of the Brockley Jack on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Julian Osley, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, also made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.