East Wickham

East Wickham, Bexley

A former medieval manor that became part of suburban north Welling between the wars

geograph-3569828-by-Marathon - East Wickham Open Space

‘Wikam’ was first men­tioned in 1240 and the ref­er­ence almost cer­tain­ly indi­cat­ed a home­stead asso­ci­at­ed with an ear­li­er vicus, a Romano-British set­tle­ment that prob­a­bly stood on Watling Street. ‘Est­wycham’ was record­ed in 1284, the pre­fix dis­tin­guish­ing the ham­let from West Wick­ham, which lies nine miles to the south-west.

St Michael’s church is of 13th-cen­tu­ry ori­gin, although its west end was rebuilt in the 19th cen­tu­ry. William Fos­ter bequeathed funds for a school that was estab­lished on Upper Wick­ham Lane in 1727. Both the school and its build­ings sur­vive but in dif­fer­ent places: the school has moved to West­brooke Road, while its main build­ing and the schoolmaster’s house have been con­vert­ed for res­i­den­tial use. The farm­house at East Wick­ham Farm has a façade dat­ing from 1843 but, like the church, its tim­bers are much old­er.

In 1916 the Wool­wich Arse­nal erect­ed the East Wick­ham hut­ments, an estate of pre­fab­ri­cat­ed homes for wartime muni­tions work­ers, with ameni­ties that includ­ed a the­atre but exclud­ed decent san­i­ta­tion. Bex­ley coun­cil built 426 hous­es on the fields of East Wick­ham Farm in 1922, while pri­vate devel­op­ers laid out neigh­bour­ing estates.

Over a ten-year peri­od from 1928, three schools opened and a new St Michael’s church was built. The medieval church is now used by a Greek Ortho­dox con­gre­ga­tion and its brass­es and oth­er remov­able fit­tings have been trans­ferred to the mod­ern church.

Hidden London: Fanny on the Hill, pub sign, by David Anstiss

Dur­ing the 1950s the sur­viv­ing fields of East Wick­ham Farm were used as a land­fill site, pri­mar­i­ly for rub­ble from wartime bomb sites. An 84-acre area has since been lev­elled and plant­ed with grass, with part being left to grow wild – as shown in the pho­to­graph at the top of the page. The ameni­ty is prop­er­ly called East Wick­ham open space but is some­times known as ‘Fan­ny on the Hill park’, after a pub­lic house that stood near­by.

The pub was said to derive its name from a bar­maid at an ear­li­er hostel­ry who would shine a lamp to tell Dick Turpin that the coast was clear. How­ev­er, the orig­i­nal Fan­ny is more like­ly to have been Anne Muir­head, who ran the White Horse beer­house for about 20 years in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry. The Fan­ny on the Hill was closed by the author­i­ties in 2014 and has since been replaced by a small block of apart­ments.

The East Wick­ham ward has an over­whelm­ing­ly white pop­u­la­tion, with a high lev­el of home own­er­ship but low edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment. The large num­ber of pen­sion­ers accounts for the rel­a­tive­ly high aver­age age of 40 years.

The musician Kate Bush grew up at East Wickham Farm and continued living here with her family for some while after her early success.

Postal district and postcode area: SE18 and Welling DA16
Population: 10,858 (2011 census)
Further reading: Peter Tester, East Wickham and Welling, Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre, 1991


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* The picture of East Wickham open space at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Marathon, and the picture of the Fanny on the Hill pub sign is adapted from an original photograph, copyright David Anstiss, both at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.