Hither Green

Hither Green, Lewisham

A part-gentrified satellite of Lewisham, situated south-west of Lee and east of Catford


clock-​​faced water tower
Hith­er Green hos­pi­tal’s clock-​​faced water tow­er, seen dur­ing the con­struc­tion of Merid­i­an South*

In the Mid­dle Ages this was the loca­tion of the sig­nif­i­cant ham­let of Rom­bor­ough, but it seems like­ly that the whole pop­u­la­tion – and the place’s very iden­ti­ty – was wiped out by the Black Death.

After its wood­land was cleared in the ear­ly 1600s this became an area of nurs­ery gar­dens and, from the 1780s onwards, of pros­per­ous mer­chants’ vil­las. Hith­er Green’s present name was coined around that time.

An old mean­ing of ‘hith­er’ was ‘being on the near or adja­cent side’, so the name dis­tin­guished the new set­tle­ment – which was near­er to Lewisham parish church – from Fur­ther Green, which was on Ver­dant Lane. The vari­ant spelling ‘Het­her’ has made occa­sion­al appear­ances – and this has led to the folksy use of the word ‘Heather’, for exam­ple in Heather Close – but that does­n’t alter the valid­i­ty of the ‘hither/further’ deriva­tion. The Lon­don Bor­ough of Lewisham’s coat of arms includes heather-coloured ele­ments in hon­our of Hith­er Green, which is mere­ly a heraldic pun.

A sta­tion and a fever hos­pi­tal opened at Hith­er Green in the 1890s. The for­mer stim­u­lat­ed the con­struc­tion of hous­ing for arti­sans and the mid­dle class­es and the lat­ter scared away the rich.

Near­ly 3,000 homes were built from the turn of the cen­tu­ry until the out­break of the First World War by Cameron Cor­bett, who also devel­oped Sev­en Kings and Eltham Park. The dwellings var­ied in scale from mod­est ter­raced hous­es to supe­ri­or detached prop­er­ties. Although the estate was short on ameni­ties, Corbett’s nego­ti­a­tion of cheap rail­way sea­son tick­ets for the res­i­dents ensured its suc­cess.

The Chilton­ian bis­cuit fac­to­ry oper­at­ed near the sta­tion from 1911 until 1925, when the busi­ness moved a short dis­tance east to neigh­bour­ing Lee.

After the Sec­ond World War the coun­cil erect­ed blocks of flats on estates like Het­her Grove, but many of these have already been replaced, main­ly because of their poor stan­dards of con­struc­tion.

In 1960 a rail freight depot opened south of St Mil­dreds Road, han­dling at its peak over two mil­lion tonnes a year of con­ti­nen­tal fruit and veg­eta­bles. In Novem­ber 1967 a train derail­ment at Hith­er Green cost the lives of 49 peo­ple.

Fol­low­ing the clo­sure of Hith­er Green Hos­pi­tal in 1997, its site was rede­vel­oped in two stages: first on the west, most­ly with com­pact hous­es, then on the east with a dense net­work of low-rise apart­ment blocks named Merid­i­an South (because it’s locat­ed due south of Green­wich Obser­va­to­ry). The hos­pi­tal’s clock-faced water tow­er was retained as a focal fea­ture, and is shown in the pho­to­graph above.* Imme­di­ate­ly north of Hith­er Green sta­tion, Bell­way Homes have recent­ly built apart­ments, stu­dios and 3‑bedroom town­hous­es on the site of the old bis­cuit fac­to­ry.

Postal districts: SE6 and SE13
Station: South Eastern Trains (zone 3)
Further reading: Godfrey Smith, Hither Green: The Forgotten Hamlet, self-published, 1997
Websites: Hither Green Community Association
Running Past: Lee & Hither Green history
* The picture of Hither Green hospital water tower on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Roger W Haworth, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.