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 (‘purpure’ in heraldic termi­nology) 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
Website: 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.