Sydenham (//) is a district of south-east London, England, within the London Boroughs of Lewisham, Bromley and Southwark. Prior to the creation of the County of London in 1889, Sydenham was located in Kent, bordering Surrey. Historically, the area was very affluent, with the Crystal Palace being relocated to Sydenham Hill in 1854. Today Sydenham is a diverse area, with a population of 28,378 (2011 census) and borders Forest Hill, Dulwich, Crystal Palace, Penge, Beckenham, Catford and Bellingham.
|Population||28,378 (SE26 postcode area)|
|OS grid reference||TQ352714|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Originally known as Shippenham, Sydenham began as a small settlement, a few cottages among the woods, whose inhabitants grazed their animals and collected wood. In the 1640s, springs of water in what is now Wells Park were discovered to have medicinal properties, attracting crowds of people to the area. Sydenham grew rapidly in the 19th century after the introduction of the Croydon Canal in 1809 which linked the Grand Surrey Canal to Croydon and a reservoir was constructed in Sydenham. However, the canal was never successful and closed in 1836 resulting in it being the first canal to be abandoned by an Act of Parliament. The London & Croydon Railway purchased the canal for £40,250 and quickly converted the alignment for a railway from London Bridge to West Croydon, opening in 1839. After the railway opened potential gas companies began to consider the Sydenham area with the Crystal Palace and District Gas Company having works at Bell Green, which continued production until 1969; a retail park now occupies most of the site.
In 1851 the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park was housed in an immense glass building, called the Crystal Palace. In 1854 the building was bought by a private company, dismantled and re-erected in Sydenham Park (now called Crystal Palace Park). Exhibitions, concerts, conferences and sporting events were held at the Crystal Palace (until it burned down in 1936), and Sydenham became a fashionable area; many new houses were built. In 1872, the Children's Hospital, Sydenham opened. It closed in 1991, its services being now part of the University Hospital Lewisham.
In 1860, the Walter Cobb department store at Lawrie Place, Kirkdale (now known as Cobbs Corner) opened, lasting until the 1980s. In 1884, Upper Sydenham railway station opened on the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway linking Crystal Palace to London Victoria via Peckham Rye. The station and the line were poorly used despite new houses being built in the area, as passengers preferred to use other stations near-by Sydenham Hill (opening in 1863), Crystal Palace (Lower Level) and Sydenham which were on more direct routes. The ill fate of the Crystal Palace in 1936 saw patronage reduced and the route finally closed in 1954.
Sydenham was attacked by enemies during the Second World War. The gas works were a target, but were never damaged. The railway which ran through Upper Sydenham station was damaged, and some homes in the area were destroyed.
Sydenham is divided into several localities:
Sydenham Hill in the Boroughs of Lewisham and Southwark runs alongside Dulwich and Sydenham Woods on one of the highest points of Greater London being 112 metres above sea level. From here, the City of London skyline is visible. Sydenham Hill has an abandoned railway tunnel from the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway located within the Woods. Another railway tunnel (one of the longest in Britain being 1,958 metres) goes beneath on the Chatham Main Line with Sydenham Hill station at the London end serving both Sydenham Hill and the College area of Dulwich.
Upper Sydenham is also located on Sydenham Hill and is a part of the Parish of St Bartholomew. It is diverse both racially and in terms of income; the central section of Kirkdale was Sydenham's original High Street. Renamed "Kirkdale" in 1936, the area now has a small range of shops including Costcutter, Tesco Express, local pubs and off-licences. Sydenham School is located on Dartmouth Road with Forest Hill Library and Forest Hill Pools alongside Thorpewood Avenue. Green Flag awarded Sydenham Wells Park, the location of the once famous Springs is one of the largest parks within the postcode. Upper Sydenham is also the location of the Sydenham Park allotments, the Sydenham electricity sub station which had a major fire in 2008 and the Sydenham Hill estate.
Lower Sydenham & Bell Green is the location of the Sydenham Community Library, formally run and funded by the local council. Alongside to the library is Home Park and the Home Park estate. The Bridge Leisure Centre is located on Kangley Bridge Road, near to Lower Sydenham railway station and Sydenham industrial estate. The industrial estate is home to the Clarkes of London coach company, Beckenham and Sydenham Cricket Ground and many other businesses. Bell Green retail park houses the Sydenham Gas Works and a large Sainsbury's superstore, formally part of the Savacentre brand. Other retailers include B&Q, Currys PC World, Next (with Costa Coffee), Toys "R" Us and McDonald's among others.
Sydenham's main commercial area begins on Kirkdale around Cobbs Corner, continuing onto Sydenham Road, often known as "Sydenham High Street". It houses many independent shops, including a bakery, bookshop and several restaurants. Furthermore, Sydenham is noted for the number of independent coffee shops. Chain stores include Boots, Nando's, Lidl, Morley's, Sainsbury's Local, Subway, Superdrug and Tesco Express. There is a Post Office branch, many estate agents and for banking, Barclays, Natwest, Lloyds Bank
Since the Transport for London and Lewisham Council funded high street upgrade in 2012-13, there is now a monthly market located within the pocket squares, known as "Queensthorpe Square" and "Venner Square". The Greyhound pub reopened in 2017 and several new businesses are expected to open in 2018-19.
Sydenham has a very active community, with several groups concerning the local area. Sydenham Town is the local website for the area, where residents can also voice their opinions in an on-line form. The Sydenham Society is a Civil society formed in 1972 to represent the local community. It holds local events, works with organisations and authorities as well as campaigning for improvements to the area. Green Flag and Mayor of London Award winner, Sydenham Garden, was formed in 2002. It is a charity which is involved in improving the health of residents in the boroughs of Bromley and Lewisham.
Sydenham with Forest Hill won a bid for the national Portas Pilot competition which provided a grant to improve high streets, extra money was provided from Lewisham Council and private developers. Annually every summer since 2009, the Sydenham Arts Festival is held, where there are workshops, music, family activities etc.
Sydenham has seven Conservation Areas: Cobbs Corner, Dulwich Village (covering Crescent Wood Road), Halifax Street, Sydenham Hill/Kirkdale, Sydenham Park and Sydenham Thorpes. Sydenham has the highest concentration of conservation areas in the London Borough of Lewisham
A number of parks are within the Sydenham postcode. Mayow Park, Lewisham's oldest municipal park and Sydenham Wells Park are both Green Flag Awarded. Other open spaces in Sydenham include Alexandra Recreation Ground, Baxters Field, Home Park and Kirkdale Green. Riverview Walk is a nature conservation area which runs along the River Pool from Catford. Additionally, located along the borders of Sydenham, there are Crystal Palace Park, Dulwich Woods, Southend Park and Sydenham Hill Woods.
Alongside Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Woods is the Dulwich and Sydenham Golf course, dating back to 1893. Located on Lawrie Park Road, there is the Sydenham Tennis Club, while the Beckenham and Sydenham Cricket Ground and the Lewisham Indoor Bowls Centre are both located in the Lower Sydenham industrial estate.
Sydenham Arts is a local charitable organisation, promoting the arts for the local community, which provides free and ticketed cultural events at several festivals through the year. Their mission is to provide, promote and advance the Arts for the benefit of the public, in particular people who live, work and are educated in Sydenham and surrounding areas. In June 2016, former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion, who spoke at Sydenham Arts Festival in 2011, was quoted saying "Sydenham Arts Festival is exemplary: packed with high-quality speakers from elsewhere, but also fully alive to and supportive of things growing close to home. It means that imaginable adventures can combine with imaginative confirmations - just as they should. Long may it flourish."
Notable buildings and structures
- Sydenham is the home of St Bartholomew's church, (1827–1832), at the end of Lawrie Park Avenue, featured in Camille Pissarro's painting of 1871. The building was designed by Lewis Vulliamy.
- Park Court Sydenham, (1936), by Frederick Gibberd, pioneering modernist development of residential flats on the estate on Lawrie Park Road adjacent to the famous Crystal Palace Park.
- Six Pillars, (1934–35), by Berthold Lubetkin, on Crescent Wood Road, a villa strongly in the spirit of Le Corbusier with eponymous six pillars at street level.
- Cobbs Corner, takes its name from a draper’s shop at 291-307 Kirkdale run by Walter Cobb. The shop grew into a large department store catering to the gentry of the area. Interesting imposing dome where you can find the date on the building.
- 180 and 182 Kirkdale, built in the 1850s in Gothic style, with Tudor doorcases.
- 168–178 Kirkdale, three pairs of Italianate houses built around 1862. Number 174 was briefly the home of the conductor August Manns.
- Memorial to Queen Victoria (1897), baroque-style memorial celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Restored for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee and designed by Alexander Hennell, a Sydenham resident and architect.
- Jews Walk, it is believed that a wealthy Jewish resident planted a row of trees to define the boundary of his walk from the Common. Numbers 2,4 and 6 are classical villas dating from the 1840s. Karl Marx's daughter Eleanor lived on Jews Walk. On 9 September 2008 a blue English Heritage plaque was placed on the house to commemorate this fact.
- Halifax Street, beautifully preserved street with houses dating from the 1840s. Of notice are in particular the closeness of the houses, the length of the street and the size of the gardens.
- The Kirkdale Building, previously the Sydenham Public Lecture Hall, was built in 1861 by Sydenham resident Henry Dawson.
- Sydenham Community Library is a Carnegie Library built in 1904.
There are five non-religious primary schools in Sydenham (Alexandra, Adamsrill, Eliot Bank, Haseltine and Kelvin Grove) and three religious schools (St. Michael's, St Philip Neri and St. Bartholomew's Church of England). Sydenham contains two secondary schools, the private Sydenham High School and the state Sydenham School. Both of these schools are exclusively for girls. Forest Hill (for boys) is just outside Sydenham across from Mayow Park. Other secondary schools close by include Harris Bromley (for girls), Harris Crystal Palace, Sedgehill and the private Dulwich College. There are no colleges in Sydenham, but Sydenham and Forest Hill schools have a joint sixth form.
- John Arnott — footballer
- John Logie Baird — inventor of both the first publicly demonstrated colour television system, and the first purely electronic colour television picture tube
- George Baxter — inventor of colour printing, lived on Peak Hill from 1860 till his death in 1867. Has a memorial at former Christ Church, Forest Hill.
- Bill Bradley — cricketer
- Thomas Campbell — poet
- Connie Fisher — singer and actress, winner of the BBC TV program How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?
- Bud Flanagan — music hall singer/entertainer, died in Sydenham
- Denis Gifford — comics and film historian
- Wilfrid de Glehn — painter, was born in Sydenham
- W. G. Grace — England's greatest cricketer
- George Grove — of musical dictionary fame
- Rolf Harris — was a key figure in the Sydenham Society
- Norman Hunter — writer and creator of Professor Branestawm
- Kazuo Ishiguro — Literature Nobel Prize winner, Booker Prize winning novelist, wrote The Remains of the Day in Sydenham.
- Shivani Kapoor — Indian model, cousin of famous Bollywood sister actresses Karisma & Kareena Kapoor
- Prof Edmund Albert Letts FRSE,— chemist born here
- Linda Ludgrove — Commonwealth gold medallist swimmer
- Eleanor Marx — daughter of Karl Marx, lived and died in Sydenham
- Sandy Powell — three-time Academy Award winning costume designer
- John Scott Russell — naval architect who built the SS Great Eastern
- Dame Cicely Saunders — founder of the modern hospice movement
- Ernest Shackleton — the Antarctic explorer
- Francis Pettit Smith — one of the inventors of the screw propeller
- Charlene Soraia — alternative singer/songwriter, born and grew up in Sydenham
- Jason Statham — film actor
- David Wiffen — singer/songwriter, born in Sydenham in 1942
- Bill Wyman — member of The Rolling Stones, grew up in Sydenham
- Tsakane Valentine Maswanganyi — Opera singer, she first came to public notice as a member of the world-famous opera band Amici Forever
- Lionel Logue CVO, an Australian speech therapist and stage actor who successfully treated, among others, King George VI. He lived in a villa named Beechgrove from 1933-1940
- Flora Klickmann — editor of the Girls Own Paper from 1908 to 1931
- Richard Jefferies, the naturalist and author, lived at 20 Sydenham Park (a blue plaque indicates the house)
- Kelly Brook, the model and actress once shared a home with then boyfriend Billy Zane in Lawrie Park Road
- Billy Zane, the Titanic Hollywood movie star once shared a home with then girlfriend Kelly Brook in Lawrie Park Road
- David Bowie Bowie spent five years living in Sydenham in his early adult life
- Margaret Lockwood star of Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938)
- René Lalique, according to Henri Vever, Lalique studied at Sydenham Art College between 1878-1880
- Sydenham for London Overground and Southern services to London Bridge, London Victoria, East & West Croydon, Clapham Junction, Caterham, Shoreditch High Street and Highbury & Islington. This is the busiest station, with up to 12 trains per hour off peak and a usage of 4 million passengers in year 2015-16
- Sydenham Hill and Penge East stations for Southeastern services to London Victoria, Brixton, Bromley South and Orpington.
- Lower Sydenham station also is served by Southeastern but with services to London Charing Cross, London Waterloo East, London Cannon Street, London Bridge, Hayes and Lewisham.
The area is served by routes 75, 122, 176, 181, 194, 197, 202, 227, 352, 356, 363, 450 and N63 linking Sydenham to Central London, Lewisham, Catford, Croydon, Thornton Heath, Bromley, Shirley, Peckham, Camberwell, Elephant & Castle, Blackheath, Forest Hill, Penge, South Norwood and Grove Park.
The South Circular Road passes close by in Forest Hill. High Street improvements being funded by Transport for London from September 2012 are making the increasingly busy Sydenham Road (A212) more user friendly. So far, Kirkdale to Mayow Road has been completed, with Mayow Road to Kent House Road currently, as of December 2013, being upgraded. The Kent House Road to Bell Green section is still waiting for funding to be found.
Sydenham is approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) to the south east of Charing Cross. It is also at the centre of many of south London's major shopping districts being 3 mi (5 km) south of Lewisham, 3.2 mi (5.1 km) north west of Bromley and 3 1⁄2 mi (5.6 km) north of Croydon.
Upper Sydenham and Sydenham Hill is located on the large Norwood Ridge formed of London Claygate beds deposits; Sydenham Hill is one of the highest points in London at 367 feet (112 m). Sydenham Hill Wood is a nine-hectare nature reserve located west of Sydenham Hill Road, along with Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf course. The hill was once covered by the Great North Wood which covered all of Sydenham, Norwood, Woodside, Gipsy Hill etc. In the 19th Century it was home to the spa and health resort of Sydenham Wells.
The western parts of Sydenham, from Upper Sydenham and Forest Hill towards Crystal Palace Park is a more leafy, suburban area with some parts like the Lawrie Park and Thorpes areas being more affluent than others. Lower Sydenham at the bottom of more gentle slopes being east of Upper Sydenham, south of Forest Hill and west of Bellingham. The River Pool, a 5.1 mi (8.2 km) tributary of the River Ravensbourne straddles the east of Lower Sydenham along the Hayes railway line.
The nearest Met Office climate station is based in Greenwich Park:
|Climate data for London, elevation: 25 m (82 ft), 1981–2010 normals|
|Record high °C (°F)||17.2
|Average high °C (°F)||8.1
|Daily mean °C (°F)||5.2
|Average low °C (°F)||2.3
|Record low °C (°F)||−13.2
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||55.2
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||11.1||8.5||9.3||9.1||8.8||8.2||7.7||7.5||8.1||10.8||10.3||10.2||109.6|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||61.5||77.9||114.6||168.7||198.5||204.3||212.0||204.7||149.3||116.5||72.6||52.0||1,632.6|
|Source: Met Office Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute|
The Beast of Sydenham of 2005, was a large, panther-like black animal, which had been spotted around the area, and attacked a man. The beast was said to be 6 ft in length and 3 ft in height. According to The Literary Miscellany, "John Hussey of Sydenham died in 1748 at the age of 116 years. For upwards of fifty years his breakfast had been balm-tea (lemon balm) sweetened with honey; and his dinner had been pudding; by which he acquired regular health".
The David Bowie song Can't Help Thinking About Me was written about his time living in Sydenham
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sydenham.|
- Sydenham.org.uk Community Forum for SE26
- Sydenham Info Community information for SE26
- SE26.life forum for Sydenham
- SEE3 Town Team Portas Pilot website for Sydenham/Kirkdale/Forest Hill
- Sydenham Arts Official website of Sydenham Arts Charity.
- Sydenham Society Local community group.
- Historical images of Sydenham