Lee, Lewisham

An aggregation of several formerly separate settlements situated south of Blackheath and east of Lewisham

Manor House Gar­dens

Lee was first men­tioned in Domes­day Book, with the same spelling as is used today, although there have been vari­ants dur­ing the inter­ven­ing peri­od. The name means ‘wood­land clear­ing’.

St Margaret’s church was built at the east­ern end of Bel­mont Hill in the late Mid­dle Ages and became the focus of the first ham­let in the parish. The next was in the Old Road area, where Pent­land House was built in the mid-1680s. This is now a stu­dents’ hall of res­i­dence. The Manor House was built near­by around 1771 and was sold in 1796 to Sir Fran­cis Bar­ing, co-founder of the Bar­ing Broth­ers bank­ing house. The house lat­er became a mil­i­tary col­lege and is now a pub­lic library, with 14 acres of gar­dens and a lake behind.

Lee Green and the Tiger’s Head pub­lic house lay to the east. Farms and labour­ers’ cot­tages were the sole occu­pants of what was then the recent­ly defor­est­ed area fur­ther south.

St Margaret’s was rebuilt in 1814 as Lee became a pop­u­lar retreat for City mer­chants because of its ‘healthy and pleas­ant sit­u­a­tion’.

From 1825 Lee New Town cov­ered the gar­dens of Lee Place, around Lee Church Street and Boone Street, giv­ing shel­ter to those who pro­vid­ed ser­vices for the wealthy res­i­dents here and in Black­heath Park. In response to the very rapid growth of the dis­trict a new St Margaret’s church was built across the road from its pre­de­ces­sor in 1841. The ruins of the old church remain.

Lee sta­tion opened in 1866, stim­u­lat­ing con­struc­tion of hous­ing for the mid­dle class­es to the south of the dis­trict. By the out­break of the First World War, the whole of Lee was crowd­ed with sub­ur­ban dwellings. The jer­ry-built slums of Lee New Town were demol­ished in stages from the 1930s to the 1960s, aid­ed by wartime bomb­ing, and much of that area is now occu­pied by coun­cil hous­ing.

Although its grand­est hous­es have most­ly gone, many Geor­gian and Vic­to­ri­an ter­races sur­vive and Lee has not been over­ly mod­ernised except for the con­ver­sion of the larg­er hous­es into flats. Lee acquired a cer­tain trendi­ness in the 1960s and a hint of this remains today.

Sir Edmond Halley, who gave his name to the comet, is buried in the graveyard of the old St Margaret’s church.

Stanley Unwin, publisher of The Lord of the Rings, lived in Handen Road.

The Man with the Twisted Lip lived in Lee, in the Sherlock Holmes story.

Postal districts: SE12 and SE13
Station: Southeastern Trains (zone 3)


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