Grove Park, Lewisham

Grove Park, Lewisham

A mixed settlement of council and private housing, separated by the railway line from the Downham estate to the south-west

Hidden London: Baring Hall Hotel by Chris Whippet

This was dense wood­land in the extreme south of the parish of Lee until the ear­ly 18th cen­tu­ry. At that time, as local his­to­ri­an John King puts it, Grove Park “just did not exist, in name or real­i­ty.” There­after, the trees were cut down and most­ly used to make char­coal, hence the name of Burnt Ash Farm, which cov­ered most of the area. A small­er farm, near present-day Somertrees Avenue, was called Grove Farm. A short-lived brick­works oper­at­ed in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry and some of its bricks were used local­ly to build a num­ber of large hous­es.

In the ear­ly 1870s a sta­tion was built and a road was con­struct­ed to pro­vide a link to Mot­ting­ham, and both the sta­tion and the road were named Grove Park, after the farm. Through­out the rest of the cen­tu­ry a hand­ful of vil­las went up annu­al­ly as part of a mid­dle-class res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment pro­mot­ed by the Lib­er­al states­man Thomas Bar­ing (made Earl of North­brook in 1876, the year he returned from serv­ing as Viceroy to India) in con­junc­tion with the local devel­op­er John Pound.

Sev­er­al of the vil­las in this ‘artis­tic sub­urb’ were among the ear­li­est works of Ernest New­ton, who was lat­er to become one of the most impor­tant domes­tic archi­tects of the era – and pres­i­dent of Roy­al Insti­tute of British Archi­tects. New­ton also designed the Bar­ing Hall Hotel, which opened in 1882 and is shown in the pho­to above.

In 1902 Green­wich work­house was built in Grove Park. The work­house served as a bar­racks dur­ing the First World War and became a tuber­cu­lo­sis iso­la­tion hos­pi­tal in 1926. In the same year the rail­way line was elec­tri­fied and Lewisham coun­cil began build­ing its 44-acre Grove Park estate. The coun­cil bought Chin­brook Mead­ows for use as a recre­ation ground. The mead­ows are shown in the pho­to below:

Sports grounds and pri­vate hous­ing con­sumed Grove Park’s remain­ing dairy pas­ture and plant nurs­eries in the 1930s, although a pig and poul­try farm was sub­se­quent­ly estab­lished for wartime pur­pos­es. This sur­vived until the con­struc­tion of the Mar­brook estate in the 1960s, which fol­lowed a num­ber of small­er infill projects designed to address the post-war hous­ing short­age.

The suburb’s orig­i­nal sub­stan­tial vil­las have all been lost to rede­vel­op­ment. Pri­vate house­build­ing has con­tin­ued to the present day, includ­ing the rede­vel­op­ment of the for­mer Grove Park hos­pi­tal site.

Chin­brook Mead­ows were improved in 2003, with new paths, trees and sports facil­i­ties.

The Bar­ing Hall Hotel was set to be demol­ished in 2011 but was saved after a local cam­paign. Res­cued from a state of fire dam­age and gen­er­al dis­re­pair by new own­ers Antic Lon­don, it reopened in Decem­ber 2013. The pub was grade II list­ed in June 2018, both for its archi­tec­tur­al inter­est, “as a restrained, care­ful­ly-pro­por­tioned and elo­quent ren­der­ing of the ‘Queen Anne’ style,” and for its his­toric inter­est, “as one of a small group of pubs built along ‘improved’ lines in the 1880s and 1890s, which were pre­cur­sors to the improved pub­lic hous­es built in their thou­sands between 1918 and 1939.”

Just over 62 per cent of Grove Park’s pop­u­la­tion is white, accord­ing to the 2011 cen­sus – down from 80 per cent in 2001. The most pop­u­lous eth­nic minor­i­ty is of black African descent.

From 1894 to 1899 Edith Nesbit, author of The Railway Children and a founder member of the Fabian Society, lived in Grove Park in a house designed by Ernest Newton.

Postal district: SE12
Population: 14,648 (2011 census)
Station: Southeastern Trains (zone 4)
Further reading: John King, Grove Park: The History of a Community, Grove Park Community Group, 1982
and John King, Grove Park: Its History Revisited, Lewisham Local History Society, 2011
* The picture of the Baring Hall Hotel at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Chris Whippet, 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.