Sydenham Hill

Sydenham Hill, Southwark/Lewisham

A station, road and wood lying on the western edge of Upper Sydenham

Sydenham Hill - Low Cross Wood Lane

This part of Lon­don is filled with place names that begin with ‘Upper’ or end with ‘Hill’, but Syden­ham Hill ris­es high­er than most, top­ping 350 feet at the south­ern end of the road that shares its name. For this rea­son, it was cho­sen as the site for the Crys­tal Palace, which was rebuilt here in 1854.

The north­ern end of the local­i­ty is as much a part of Dul­wich as of Upper Syden­ham, and if Syden­ham had not had a strong rep­u­ta­tion of its own the sta­tion would prob­a­bly have been called South Dul­wich when it opened in 1863.

With the attrac­tion of the palace and the ben­e­fit of the rail­way, numer­ous vil­las were built on the hill, espe­cial­ly in the third quar­ter of the 19th cen­tu­ry, some of which were them­selves pre­ten­tious­ly pala­tial.

South of the sta­tion, Kingswood House was remod­elled in the 1890s as a stone-faced baro­nial cas­tle for the founder of the Bovril com­pa­ny. The grounds were sold for devel­op­ment after the Sec­ond World War and the house is now a com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre and events venue.

Hidden London: Six Pillars, Crescent Wood Road, by Christopher Hilton

Most of the oth­er large prop­er­ties in the Syden­ham Hill local­i­ty were demol­ished over the course of the 20th cen­tu­ry and replaced by hous­ing that varies great­ly in grandeur and aes­thet­ic qual­i­ty. The most archi­tec­tural­ly sig­nif­i­cant (though per­haps not entire­ly suc­cess­ful) struc­ture is a mod­ernist house on Cres­cent Wood Road called Six Pil­lars, which was built by Valen­tine Hard­ing of Berthold Lubetkin’s Tec­ton part­ner­ship for the head­mas­ter of Dul­wich prepara­to­ry school in 1935. Shown in the pho­to above, Six Pil­lars is grade II* list­ed and was refur­bished in 2003. It is (very) occa­sion­al­ly opened for pub­lic view­ing.

Shown in the pho­to­graph at the top of this arti­cle, Syden­ham Hill Wood con­sti­tutes a sur­viv­ing frag­ment of the Great North Wood that once stretched from Croy­don to Cam­ber­well. It pos­sess­es a rich mosa­ic of ancient and recent wood­land and is home to wood­peck­ers and war­blers, bam­boo and blue­bells. Dul­wich and Syden­ham Hill golf course lies to the north.

The television pioneer John Logie Baird lived at 3 Crescent Wood Road.

Postal district: SE26
Station: Southeastern Trains (zone 3)

 

* The picture of Six Pillars on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Christopher Hilton, 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.