22 December 2010

PopUp Updates

If you made it to PopUp Forest Hill, then you may have been lucky enough to participate in Jeni Johnson's Messy Maker event or Katrin Heuser's Yoga Gestalten. If not, fear not! They are both running new sessions in the New Year.

Peace, Prescence, Power

with Katrin Heuser, Rosanna Gordon, Maggie Richards
Join us for a nourishing day of yoga and meditation on Saturday 22 January 2011 from 10am to 4.30pm to help you move out of the January blues into a space of health and happiness.

Winter is typically a time of lethargy on one hand, and busy mental activity on the other, planning resolutions and rethinking our lives. Do you feel your best right now, at this transformative time of new beginnings?

This day offers a chance to stop, rebalance and find yourself through physical exercise, reflection and relaxation. It can help you become grounded, energised and open to the gifts the new year wants to give you.

Cost is £50 per person (£40 if booked by 31 December). For full details, see www.yoga-gestalten.co.uk/workshop.

Messy Makers

Jeni Johnson is a painter who lives and works from her studio on Havelock Walk. She is starting up art workshops for pre-school children on Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons from 1.30 till 2.15pm at Havelock Walk, and a morning class on Friday mornings from 10.45 till 11.15 at the Honor Oak Pub. She will also be running art clubs for children in school holidays.

Classes are £6 per session (siblings half price) but if you pay a term in advance it's £5 per session (siblings half price). The early spring term starts week beginning 17 January 2011 and will run for 5 weeks. Booking is needed as places are limited.
Please contact Jeni on messymakers@hotmail.co.uk.

A Traveller's Tale

With recent reports that ridership on the East London Line has increased from 40,000 per day in June to 70,000 in October, we thought we would see how the morning commute had changed since the introduction of the Overground services. Are trains any less crowded? The Chair of our Transport Committee, Andrew Reid, decided to see for himself.

08.14 – Honor Oak Park Station. My wife and I boarded the rear carriage of the 08.14 Southern service to London Bridge. She took the last available seat and I was left standing with a number of others. The back of the train was not overcrowded but I was told the front would be. Certainly, the opening of the Overground has relieved pressure on Southern services and, whilst pretty full, the service is generally acceptable except when they run short trains.

08.24 – New Cross Gate. I needed to change onto the Overground at New Cross Gate. I found I couldn’t get on the packed 0824 to Dalston Junction from Crystal Palace and was left, with others, on the platform. The next train, the 0832, had come from West Croydon and was also packed – this time, no doubt, with the lucky people of Anerley and Penge who have seen their service level triple from 2 trains an hour to 6. We all just managed to squeeze on at New Cross Gate but we left people standing on the platform at Surrey Quays. Frightening that this service, open for just 6 months, is already running beyond capacity during the morning peak. Opening the service to Clapham Junction in 2012 will result in more trains running on the core section of the East London Line – but will more travel options reduce congestion? I doubt it.

08.37 - Canada Water. I found I was standing on the train just opposite the single escalator down to the Jubilee Line platform. The carriage emptied in a flash as passengers sprinted for the escalator in order to avoid the crush and get to the front of the queues for Jubilee Line trains. There were queues to board trains in both directions with staff valiantly trying to get the doors closed and the trains despatched as people shoved to get on their way to work. I didn’t envy them and didn’t join them. I made my way back to Forest Hill station to confirm that, despite all the promises, the lights on the northern side of the subway were still not working!

Rest assured, the Transport Committee is doing what it can to improve the lot of Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park travellers. If you have any comments or issues you would like pursued, please email me at Andrew@ForestHillSociety.com.

17 December 2010

The Englishman who Posted Himself

by John Tingey

This recently published book describes the exploits of a little known but endearingly eccentric Forest Hill resident. The local historian, Steve Grindlay, has been reading it.

In 1898 Willie Reginald Bray began a detailed study of the Post Office Guide which contained the regulations defining what could and could not be sent through the post.
Bray decided to put these regulations to the test and so he posted, mostly addressed to himself, a wide variety of unwrapped items including a shirt collar, the sole of a shoe, a bicycle pump, a turnip and a hat. Eventually he posted himself, and the long-suffering postman dutifully delivered him to his home in Devonshire Road.

Bray then turned his attention to autographs. He posted thousands of personal requests to the famous, infamous and largely unknown ranging from Churchill, Hitler and Santa Claus to the station master at Forest Hill station. Bray declared himself “The Autograph King” and few could dispute this. He sent out over 32,000 requests and received some 15,000 responses.

Reggie, as he preferred to be known, was born in Stanstead Road in 1879 and educated at St Dunstan’s College. His family moved to Devonshire Road in 1899 and in 1912 Bray moved to Queens Garth, Taymount Rise where he lived until 1939.

This meticulously researched book (in which Steve played a small part) describes Bray’s life in Forest Hill, and lists many of the challenges that he set the postal service. It is beautifully illustrated with many examples of both the objects that Bray posted and the autographs that he collected.

The book is available from Kirkdale Bookshop, 272 Kirkdale (020 8778 4701) and further information is available from the publisher and elsewhere  online.

16 December 2010

Chair's Report

Thank you to everyone who came along to the AGM in October and to those who volunteered for the various committees. 

With budgets being cut, we’re relieved that the new swimming pools appear to be secure. However, the Horniman’s future is less clear. Although the Department for Culture, Media and Sports has ring-fenced the funding for the Horniman Museum until 2015, it is one of seven non-national museums for which they are hoping to find alternative sponsors by April 2011.  Contrary to initial rumours, there is no question of cutting these museums adrift without any financial support in the unlikely event that no new sponsorship arrangements can be found, but it will be difficult to arrange equivalent funding.
On the transport side, it has just been announced that the Thameslink programme will go ahead in its entirety but that the rebuilding of London Bridge will not be complete until 2018, instead of the original 2015.  This is a mixed blessing; a long term benefit with the Southern services from Croydon being replaced by direct Thameslink trains through to St Pancras (via London Bridge), but the delay will make it more difficult to get the Charing Cross service reinstated.  We will continue to lobby for this.

We have had a meeting with Tfl, LOROL (the people who run the new train service) and various politicians to discuss the Red Route.  There have been some changes as a result and a promise to move and fence off the commercial bins outside the station which should improve the appearance of the station forecourt. 

I know many of you prefer traditional methods of communication, so you can write to the Society at: Forest Hill Society, c/o 2 Perry Rise, LONDON,  SE23 2QL.  For those who are internet savvy, we are in the process of adding PayPal as a means for payment of your subscriptions; we will add the appropriate button to the website as soon as this is available.  If you have not paid your membership since October, then your membership is due now.  Please contact Belinda at the above address or email Belinda at membership@foresthillsociety.com if you are not sure whether your subscriptions are paid up. 

Wishing you a very festive holiday.

Little Russets!

How do you celebrate the birth of a child?  Sara and Tom Russet came up with a very special idea which benefits the whole community.

On the 13 June our first child, Nell Margie Russet, was born. Trying to think of an apt way to celebrate her arrival we happened upon the idea of planting a tree.  We wanted to bring our name into the equation so we decided upon a Russet apple tree. Living in a flat with little garden space, we thought that Albion Millenium Green was the perfect location as it is a lovely public space that we could visit even if we had to move away and the tree could be part of a bigger, community project. To this end we have ordered two trees which will arrive in the last week of January. As we need to clear the undergrowth towards the back of the orchard prior to our planting, it looks like we'll probably do it the first weekend of February.

Photo Competition

Horminan Gardens

SE23 is so photogenic with its great views, green spaces and varied architecture. So early next year, we’ll be launching a photo competition with the best pictures being made into a 2012 Calendar.
Horniman Clock Tower

We’re still finalising the details. In the meantime get your cameras ready for those dramatic winter shots of Forest Hill glistening in the snow.
Gridlock on Honor Oak Road

As you can see, some of our members have already sent us their photos.

"Welcome Aboard"

Louise House Memories - Early Years Centre

Sylvia Maguire came across our work on the history of Louise House on our website. For almost 25 years, she managed the Early Years Centre which was housed in the rear building (laundry block). The Centre closed in August 2008 when the whole of Louise House was due to be demolished. She felt that no history of Louise House could be complete without a few words about the Centre:

The Centre served hundreds of local children aged two to five over many years.  Skilled and specialist support was offered to the children, many of whom had special educational needs and/or behavioural difficulties. Support was also offered to their parents and carers.  In 1984, when I started at Louise House, the ‘crèche’, was in the west end of the building.  The other room was a community hall offering sewing classes and childminder pop-ins.  Prior to my time, I believe that there was a luncheon club for the elderly. 

During the 80’s, few schools had nursery classes so the crèche provided pre-school education for the 3 to 5's.  We had an excellent reputation and long waiting lists.  Later, as nursery classes opened, we developed more specialised childcare to support the children who would find integration into a nursery class difficult.  I was told that the crèche had been opened post war, to care for the children of mothers attending the health clinic based in the front building.

Memories of Louise House

The Open Day at Louise House on Saturday 18t September was a real success with all our tours fully booked The highlight was meeting Ethel Roberts, whose mother and aunt had lived at Louise House in the very early twentieth century. Ethel accompanied by her husband, Ted, and her son, Stephen, was visiting the building for the first time and for her it was a deeply moving experience. She very kindly shares her highly personal impressions.

Florence King
Louise House has been a place of curiosity for me for most of my life and at nearly 85 years of age, it was high time my curiosity was satisfied.

The ‘Open House’ day offered me the chance to visit a place I had first heard about as a child. It was known to me and my brothers and sisters - six of us in all - as ‘the orphanage’ and it was our Mother and Aunt, Florence (left) and Eleanor King (below), who had been in ‘the orphanage.’ They were around ten and fourteen years old when they arrived there.

My Mother rarely mentioned her time at Louise House. On the rare occasions she did, it was clear to me, even as a child, that the memory was an unhappy one. My Aunt, who went on to become a headmistress and to receive an MBE from the Queen (see below) avoided the subject altogether and never told even her lifelong friends about her time there.

However, there was one particular conversation which sticks in my mind. I was about 14 years old and I was sitting in our kitchen with my Mother eating a boiled egg for breakfast. She told me that at Louse House the girls were given an egg for their meal as a special treat on their birthday! I thought even then that if an egg was a special treat, what must the meals have been like the rest of the time? She went on to explain that, when this rare treat happened, you would let your best friend dip her bread in your egg and she would let you do the same when it was her birthday.

My first impression of Louise House when I visited in September was that it was much smaller than I had imagined. The other overwhelming impression was that despite the passage of time, the building still had an air of sadness about it and I could only think of my Mother, Aunt and all those other young children living there, separated from their families. How many lonely tears were shed night after night? What made them happy? It doesn’t bear too much thinking about. After my visit and for the rest of the day I felt quite down and my consolation was that despite the unhappy start, my Mother had a large, loving family in later life who remember her with love to this day. Although my Aunt never married, she had a rewarding life and was loved by her family and those whose lives she helped in the years that followed.

Miss Eleanor Martha King, MBE was born in 1897 as one of six children. She was orphaned around the age of 10 years old and was sent to Louise House with her sister Florence. It is likely she had a much better education at Louise House than she would have had if her parents had lived.

Eleanor went into domestic service and on to study at Birmingham University from where she obtained a degree. She travelled and was, according to her niece, Ethel Roberts, “a confident lady, with a strong conviction that she had a job to do.”

She became the progressive headmistress of the Rosemary Street School in Bristol. The school was unusual for its time in allowing the parents to be involved, arranging camping holidays in the countryside for children and their parents. She also ran one of the first multi-cultural nurseries at a time when society was much less tolerant.

In 1953 Eleanor was awarded the MBE by the Queen in recognition of her outstanding service to the City of Bristol.  Miss King died in 1968 and in 1990 the City of Bristol erected a plaque in her honour on the Old Quaker Friars building in the

If you have personal information about Louise House, Stephen Roberts, grandson and great nephew of Florence and Eleanor King, would like to hear from you at stephenfroberts@gmail.com.

Honor Oak Station Improvements

Honor Oak Park footbrudge renovations

You may have seen that Honor Oak Park Station is looking a bit of a mess at the moment – especially compared with the other slick stations along the London Overground line. The good news is that Network Rail is bringing forward improvement works. This includes renewing the staircase to both platforms, repairing and redecorating the footbridge and resurfacing sections of Platform 2. The bad news is that this work won’t be finished before March 2011 at the very earliest.

The problem is that work was delayed whilst Southwark Council dealt with the waste dumped in the land behind the station. Only once this work has been completed can Network Rail begin the essential job of building a new retaining wall on Platform 1. The whole platform will then be resurfaced. However, landslip behind this platform is a long-term problem and we’ve been told off the record that the job could easily take a lot longer than predicted.

So, whilst the station is in a mess anyway, Network Rail is going to “use the opportunity to bring forward some planned improvement works for the benefit of our customers and to avoid another period of work in late 2011,” London Overground (LOROL) tells us. They go on to say, “This has taken some complex planning which has resulted in a slight delay in the works commencing in earnest.  We hope that you appreciate this short delay will minimise the overall level of disruption for station users.”
As for lift access to the platforms, our advice is don’t hold your breath….

Timetable Changes

No need to rush - there'll be another in a minute
From December 12th, we’re getting two additional trains at 17:24 and 18:24 from London Bridge to Honor Oak Park and Forest Hill.  Unfortunately, the slot for these trains is just three minutes after the previous Forest Hill train so it will make little difference to waiting times.  However, it does mean that if you want to make sure you get a seat, then these are excellent trains to aim for because there should be plenty of room on board!

There will also be a later train from Dalston Junction to New Cross Gate which is timed to coincide with the last Southern train from London Bridge (leaving Dalston Juncion at 00:15, Canada Water at 00:31) and in May 2011, all overground trains from Crystal Palace and West Croydon will continue to Highbury & Islington.

Forest Hill Walking Group

The Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies are planning to start a walking group next year. 

Each walk will consist of a four to six mile walk from points accessible from our railway stations and will be held on the first Saturday of each month.

If you’re interested, please contact quetta@ForestHillSociety.com or call her on 020 8699 2115.  Further details will follow nearer the time, but the proposed walks are:-

5 February 2011: London Bridge- Canary Wharf - option to Island Gardens.  Leaders: Andrea, Pat and Steve.
5 March 2011: Thames Path West - Richmond to Putney.  Leader: TBA
2 April 2011: Rainham to Purfleet LOOP. Leader: Quetta.
7 May 2011: Coulsdon South (Spring flowers) Leader:  Bev.
4 June 2011:  Otford.  Leader:  Bev/Annabel.
2 July 2011:  TBA
6 August 2011:  Waterway link.  Leader: Steve.
3 September 2011: Edenbridge.  Leader: Pat. 

Forest Hill Pools move into Final Stages

First Class Victorian Pool in Forest Hill

Lewisham Council has now appointed the principal building contractor for the new Swimming Pools. Construction firm, Wilmot Dixon, will take over the site early in the new year. This is very exciting news at a difficult financial time for the Council  and confirms the final go-ahead.

Hilary Renwick, Lewisham’s Head of Cultural Services, has confirmed that construction will start towards the end of January. The current timetable sees the main bulk of the building completed in May 2012, with completion and testing of the services from June to August.  The Council is hopeful that the new facility will open to the community in September 2012. This is a complex site and there are a number of areas which could delay completion, but it is still exciting stuff and fits in very well with the end of the Olympics.

A further piece of good news is that the Council has invited all those on the stakeholder group to an initial meeting with Wilmott Dixon so that they can meet the Contractor's team and enjoy a celebratory drink.  Those of us on the Stakeholder Group very much look forward to continuing to work with the Council and its design team during the construction phase and hope to be able to influence the way that the building will be run and managed.

We will provide regular updates on progress from the New Year.  We are planning a series of interviews with different people involved during the project - from the architect to the site manager - so do let us know if there is a particular member of the team you are interested in hearing from.

Louise House

The other good news is that the contractors have requested to use Louise House, the former Girls’ Industrial Home, as their site office during the build. It may not be the most glamorous of uses for Louise House but it may have some long term benefit. The company says the parts of the building they use would be returned “in the same or better condition”. Importantly it would keep it in use and heated over two winters while the community continues to work with the Council to find a financially viable use for the building.

On further questioning, Wilmott Dixon confirmed that its tender includes redecoration of the areas occupied, services testing and enhancement, with Fire Certification and an allowance for building rates, service connections and consumption costs.

The old laundry block at the back will not be used.

A magical PopUp Night

Jazz at From the Forest Coffee Shop

Tibetan Monks trudging through the snow. Carols wafting out of the shoe shop. Drummers making Robert Stanford’s estate agents rock. Something very special happened to Forest Hill on Thursday, 2 December.
Our town centre was taken over by a ‘community happening’ that saw local businesses become mini performance spaces, local people transform empty shops into Christmas pop-ups, and local pubs and restaurants turn into community networking venues.
We had people sipping cocktails at the old Post Office, becoming rock and roll stars with full band and recording kit at the Hob and then relaxing with a massage at Carers Lewisham.
It all started when Hugh Dames mentioned the idea at our AGM in October. We thought it sounded exciting and ambitious so the Society got on board and worked hard with him to turn this idea into reality.
The snow, ice and cancelled trains forced us to make last minute changes to the schedule. But it all came together and there was a real buzz that night.
Hugh hopes the event “inspired the people of Forest Hill to see themselves as members of a vibrant and dynamic local community with great skills, shared interests, groups and associations, businesses and facilities that benefit us all.”
Richard Hibbert said “This is the largest event the Society has helped organise. The response was fantastic and people are already asking us when the next pop-up is happening!. A lot of people worked very hard in freezing conditions to make this event a success. We are very grateful to them and immensely proud that our community can do this.“

Find out more at popupforesthill.wordpress.com
Christmas Decorations at Stag&Bow

Sydenham Garden's new Resource Centre

Steve Bullock opens Sydenham Garden resource centre alongside Jennie Graham, Chief Executive, Jim Sikorski, Chair of Trustees; Christine Dow, co-worker; Paul Shoebridge, volunteer; Katie Hooper, staff

On the last weekend of November, hundreds of residents braved the cold to watch the Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock, open Sydenham Garden’s brand new resource centre.

For over eight years, the award-winning local charity has supported people in Lewisham and Bromley experiencing mental and physical ill health without having its own building from which to operate.

The charity has been fundraising to build the resource centre since 2005 and thanks to numerous grants and donations construction finally began in March 2010. The centre will provide much needed indoor space for therapeutic gardening and art sessions in the coming Winter months.

Chief Executive Jennie Graham says, “the building means we can expand the range of opportunities we provide for our service users.”

The building, which sits beside the garden and nature reserve, was designed by Architype to blend with the surrounding environment with sustainable features including a solar panel, thick insulation and a heat recovery system to reduce dramatically the heating requirements. It also has a bio-diverse roof to provide new habitats for wildlife.

Entrance to the garden is via a wooden access gate on Holland Drive, off Queenswood Road.  For more information about the charity, visit http://www.sydenhamgarden.org.uk/, contact it via email on info@sydenhamgarden.org.uk, or telephone on 020 8291 1650.

15 December 2010

Dates for Your Diary

Thursday, 16th December 11-2pm - Horniman Triangle hedge-planting. If you’d like to help restore the ancient hawthorn hedge, you are asked to pre-book by emailing Jessica.Kyle@lewisham.gov.uk.

Saturday, 15th January 11am-1pm – Crofton Park Assembly. St Hilda's Church Hall, Courtrai Road, SE23 1PL
Sunday, 16th January - 11– 3pm – Bring and Take at Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. See article for further details.
Sunday, 16th January 3pm – Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. Planning meeting for London in Bloom entry. See article for further details.
Monday, 17th January – 7.30-9.30 — Forest Hill Assembly. Sydenham Girls’ School, Dartmouth Road, SE26 4RD
Tuesday, 25th January – Burns Night. All Inn One, Please book directly 020 8699 3311.

Thursday, 17th February – Time and venue TBC. Perry Vale Assembly.

Forest Hill will Bloom in 2011

The Forest Hill Society plans to enter the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ section of London in Bloom 2011. With a February deadline for submission, the inaugural ideas and volunteers planning meeting will be held on Sunday, January 16th 2011 at 3pm at the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve.

The geographical limit – what “our neighbourhood” will cover – will have to be defined, but we will probably start modestly in our first year, perhaps limited to a small central patch to see how things develop. We might just start with the green area in front of Forest Hill station. But all decisions have yet to be made on what and where to plant; what sponsorship or funding we might attract and generally how we are going to proceed with this new enterprise. So input from the wider community is essential: this is YOUR Forest Hill so we need to know what you think about sprucing it up with flowers.

If you have ideas, this is your chance to be involved in beautifying Forest Hill and greening up our town centre. If you have green fingers and would like to get dug in, would like to learn, or just have some thoughts about what you would like to see, please contact quetta@foresthillsociety.com. Better still, come along on the 16th to help shape our entry.

With a little bit of work, Forest Hill will bloom in 2011.

Bring and Take Event - 16 January

This is a fun event to promote recycling, reuse and reduction of waste. Simply bring along any items you no longer need between 11.00 and 15.00 on Sunday 16 January 2011 and swap them for things you do - completely free! Articles should preferably be easily portable and in good condition. Items such as books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, plants, lamps, kitchenware, bikes and other unwanted goods can find a happy home.

Reaching New Heights

Some of you may have noticed the Christmas Tree in Forest Hill this year.

After last year's miserable effort (despite being very generously sponsored both financially and in goodwill by the local Winkworth office), we were determined that the tree should be one to be proud of and worked with Lewisham Council's Town Management Team and FHTA to ensure a great finished product this time.

Last Thursday a number of Forest Hill Society members met the Lewisham Lighting team and their cherry picker and proceeded to add baubles, tinsel and extra lights to the tree.

From this

To This

Our thanks to Winkworth for sponsoring last year's tree and buying lights for it, FHTA for the extra lights to replace those which were stolen, Liz Bannister and the Town Centre Management Team and Alan Agent and the Lighting Department for making this possible.

14 December 2010

Fuller Oyster Facilities available at local stations

After a year of lobbying, we have just been informed by TfL that passengers can now purchase a Monthly ticket on Oyster directly from the ticket office or Ticket Vending Machines at the London Overground stations on the Sydenham line. No longer will you have to go to London Bridge or a station north of New Cross Gate.

If a passenger requires an Annual season ticket on Oyster however, they can request it from the station but it would have to be collected the following day (or later). TfL apologised if staff have been advising passengers to travel to another station as this is not the case and LOROL has confirmed that the staff have been re-briefed them so this should not happen again.

While not ideal, this is at least progress.

10 December 2010

Pools Update from the Stakeholders Group

Last night (09/12/10), we had our first meeting with the team from Willmott Dixon, the construction firm selected to build the new Forest Hill Pools. Penelope Jarrett reports.

The team of four senior managers gave us a presentation starting with the 148 year history of the firm, pictures of pools they have built previously and other Lewisham buildings they have worked on: Hither Green Primary School, Crossways Academy and Goldsmith’s College.

In addition to the normal project team, they have a leisure sector specialist and they assured us they will be working closely with the architects, Roberts Limbrick. Lewisham Council
will also be retaining independent experts to monitor the building services.

The team presented diagrams showing how the phases of the build will progress. The enabling works will involve moving office workers into the first floor of Louise House, which they will refurbish to make it usable (roof and window repairs, making the electrics safe). There will still need to be temporary structures in front of Louise House to hold the toilets, showers, drying area and canteen for the operatives. These are too specialised to fit into Louise House, and it was also thought inappropriate to have muddy boots going in and out of the building all day.

Willmott Dixon told us they pride themselves on the good quality of the welfare provision
they make for their staff, a good health and safety record, their sustainable construction methods and engagement with the local community.

Sustainable construction includes working to an Energy Performance Certificate rating of B or above, using recycled materials in the building itself and diverting 85% of the waste from landfill (aim is for 100% in 2012). Some months after handover, they do a post-occupancy evaluation, which includes ensuring the occupants know how to get the best out of the building in the most efficient way.

Engagement with the local community includes communicating with local residents (e.g. Derby Hill Crescent, Salcombe House) over when work will be taking place and who to contact if there are problems, providing work experience for local schools, offering to support an associated community project (they will be looking for ideas here) and willingness to attend Forest Hill Society meetings if invited.

Expected Timetable
Commence 4/1/11, complete 23/4/12 i.e. 68 weeks.

This will be broken down into:
4 weeks - Enabling work
24 weeks - Demolitions and alterations to existing building
18 weeks - Substructure works
18 weeks - Superstructure and envelope works
25 weeks - Pool plant installation
36 weeks - Finishes
42 weeks - Swimming pool fitting out and testing
30 weeks - External works and landscaping

Mathematicians amongst you will have noticed that this adds up to considerably more than 68 weeks so I assume some of these activities will be taking place alongside each other!

After this date, Lewisham will supervise fit-out and commissioning in partnership with whomever has won the tender to run the new pools. They have already begun the tendering process and have a shortlist of interested parties who will be invited to submit business plans next year. They are optimistic about the quality of the tenders, and an opening date in the summer of 2012.

Meanwhile, they are thinking of placing information displays in the library and arranging further meetings and site visits for stakeholders if interested.

Penelope Jarrett
Forest Hill Society representative on the stakeholder group

28 November 2010

PopUp Forest Hill

We have been hard at work organising a Pop Up event for Thursday night, 2 December 2010.

What started off as an idea with small ambitions has rapidly grown due to the phenomenal response we have had. The Mayor will be at the former Post Office to open the festivities at 3 pm and with over 50 events at more than 30 venues, there is something for everyone between 3 pm and 9 pm.

Highlights include the reopening of the Post Office as "The Sylvan Post" for the night, a performance in the Library by Buddhist monks from the Tskeramo Monastery, Drumming lessons at Robert Stanford, live music at Wetherspoons, The Hob and All Inn One and making your own Christmas decorations at Stag & Bow. If you don't know where they are, have a look at the website.

Why not pop along to Alhambra Home and Garden, Bunka or The Fitting Studio for some Christmas bargains (and 10% on the night off if you mention PopUp Forest Hill) and then have a meal at Question Bar who are offering 20% discount on the night.

Nip over to popupforesthill.wordpress.com for details of all the activities and venues or click on the map below to download your own guide to What's on Where.

23 November 2010

A light at the end of the Underpass?

Some campaigns require a lot of noise and public protest; others require quiet but persistant lobbying. Improving the underpass at Forest Hill is one of the latter campaigns which Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies have been fighting for some time.

The main problem is one of ownership. Network Rail, TfL, LOROL and Lewisham are all involved in some way and getting all the parties talking to each other and agreeing their responsibilities, liabilities and how to proceed has taken several years; indeed the Mayor of Lewisham commented on the snail's pace of progress at the October meeting of his Cabinet.

However, we have recently heard from Lewisham's Deputy Mayor that the lights (installed by Network Rail as part of the works carried out when the footbridge was being replaced but later disconnected) will be reconnected by the end of this week and that Shirley Broughton has just been appointed as the (long promised) Project Manager.

Progress on the replacement panels and resurfacing may have to wait a little longer, but we will keep the pressure up.

Ed: The lights were finally connected on 2 December and the underpass is now one of Lewisham's bright spots

19 November 2010

Construction contract awarded for new Forest Hill Leisure Centre

Lewisham Council has just released the following announcement:

Work is expected to begin in January on building a new leisure centre in Forest Hill following the award of a construction contract to Willmott Dixon.

Roberts Limbrick Architects will work alongside Willmott Dixon to create the new complex with two new pools and other leisure facilities on the site of the former Forest Hill Pools. The existing Victorian frontage of Forest Hill Pools will be retained.

Facilities in the new building will include a 25-metre pool, a 16.7-metre learner pool, fitness gym, two studios, community room and a café. The new development will include facilities and access for those people with disabilities.

Councillor Alan Smith, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said: “I am delighted that we are now able to move towards the next crucial stage of this long-awaited facility.

“Willmott Dixon made an excellent and detailed bid and I have complete confidence that the company will meet the challenges demanded by this complex structural engineering project. The company clearly understood the constraints of the site and have taken an innovative approach to their site set-up.”

Councillor Chris Best, Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “This whole project has benefitted hugely from close collaboration and partnership.

“The final design was very much the result of a strong working relationship between the architects and the stakeholder group that was set up by the Council to liaise closely with residents. Together we found a solution that meets the needs of the local community and recognises the limited space available.”

“We have an excellent design provided by Roberts Limbrick Architects and now with Willmott Dixon on board we have an excellent construction company to build it.”

“The two companies will now work very closely together to deliver the new facilities. Willmott Dixon will start work on the site from January 2011 and we fully expect the leisure centre to be open to the public by the end of 2012.”

Mark Tant, Managing Director at Willmott Dixon, said: “We are delighted to be given the opportunity to create a fantastic new pool in Forest Hill. We’ve done a lot of work in recent years in Lewisham, such as Hither Green Primary School and Crossways Academy, and like those projects, we will aim to ensure our work benefits local businesses as much as possible through the sub contractors we use.”

16 November 2010

Perry Vale Fire Station - Planning Application

The Forest Hill Society has objected to the current plans for the development of the old fire station on Perry Vale. Details of the application can be read on Lewisham website and the full text of the Forest Hill Society's objection can be read here.

The key concerns for the Society are lack of social housing, concerns over parking and internal layout, and lack of gardens or amenity space for the 13 flats in the development.

13 November 2010

Order a tree, support a school

Horniman Primary School have arranged for a supply of Christams trees which will help raise money for the school.

This year they are offering Nordmann Fir Christmas Trees for sale which are a popular, high quality tree, often described as non-drop; this is not strictly true but the Nordmann Fir does retain its needles better than many varieties and has a very pleasant soft, deep green foliage, smooth grey bark and a good triangular shape.

To order a tree please contact Tom Dunn on 07932 354 476 by Friday 28th November.

Trees can be ordered in the following sizes / prices (same as last year) and will be available to collect from Horniman Primary School, Horniman Drive, SE23 3BP from 9 am on Saturday, 11 December 2010:

5 ft£35
6-7 ft£40
7-8 ft£45
The 6/7 ft and 7/8ft trees could be anywhere within those ranges.

02 November 2010

A penny for the Guy?

picture by drm91

It's that time of year again and this year marks the 405th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, so where should we go to celebrate and enjoy the displays? There are displays on both Friday and Saturday nights, and if you are keen, you might be able to visit four displays due to our excellent transport connections.

Southwark Park

When: Friday 5th November 2010 Gates Open: 18:00
Display: 19:00
Admission: Free
Getting There: Overground to Canada Water

The Southwark fireworks display is nicely traditional as it actually takes place on Bonfire Night itself, November the 5th. In addition to the host of roman candles, waterfalls, comets and mortars, the Southwark fireworks display will have family friendly atmosphere sure to keep the kids well entertained. So dig out those hats and gloves, wrap up warm and head to a great fireworks display knowing full well you won’t be charged on the door. The event starts at 6pm, but the fireworks don’t start until 7pm so make sure you’ve picked yourself a prime spot by then – you won’t want to miss any of the great show.

Further details

Crystal Palace Park

When: Friday 5th November 2010. Gates open 18:00
Display: Children’s display 19:00, main display 20:30
Admission: £5.00 for adults, £3.00 for kids aged 5 – 13. Kids under 5 go free.
Getting There: By train to Crystal Palace or Penge West or by Bus routes 176 and 197

As well as the two fireworks displays, Crystal Palace Park is also playing host to a family funfair where kids can try out a variety of exciting rides. Traditional food and drink is also available at the Crystal Palace fireworks display, including autumnal treats such as a hog roast.

Further Details

Blackheath Fireworks

When: Saturday 6th November 2010
Display: 20:00
Admission: Free. Donations welcome on the night.
Getting There: 185 or 122 to Lewisham or alternatively, avoid the crowds and watch the display from Blythe Hill.

Lewisham's official display, paid for by the council. This event grows in popularity every year and attracts very large crowds. Refreshments and food stalls will be available throughout the evening and you can make the most of a complete night out with family and friends. Kids can also have a go on the rides at the family friendly funfair.

Please remember that it is illegal to bring fireworks (including sparklers) onto the heath, so leave your own fireworks and sparklers at home and enjoy the spectacular display safely.

Further Details


When: Saturday 6th November 2010. Gates Open: 18:00
Display: 20:00
Admission: Adults £5.00, children under 16 £3.00. Kids under 5 go free
Getting There: Bus route 194 from Sydenham or 354 from Penge West. SatNav:BR3 3PW.

Beckenham's Bonfire Night (organised by the Beckenham Round Table) returns to the Croydon Road Recreation Ground and will includes a funfair, complete with fairground rides for the little ones.

Further details

Brockwell Park

There will be no formal fireworks displays in Brockwell Park this year as Lambeth Council have decided to save money and concentrate on Clapham Common instead.

Further details

Lord Mayor's Fireworks

When: Saturday 13th November 2010
Where: River Thames, between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge
Display: 17:00
Admission: Free
Getting There:Train to London Blackfriars

If you miss all the events this weekend (or have not had your fill of fireworks), fear not! The Lord Mayor's inaugral parade takes place the next weekend and finishes spectacularly with a gigantic fireworks display launched from a barge located between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge on the River Thames. The fireworks display, which starts at 5pm, marks the end of the show and the beginning of a new mayoral year. It is widely expected to be one of the most stunning fireworks displays of 2010.

Further details

27 October 2010

Save Sydenham Library

The Mayor of Lewisham is considering closing five of Lewisham's libraries; Blackheath, Crofton Park, Grove Park, New Cross and Sydenham.

Friends of Sydenham Library believe that this is short-sighted and that the social cost of closing the libraries will be greater than the savings.

They know that the Council is facing tough decisions as a result of the Government's funding cuts, but strongly feel that closing the libraries is a knee-jerk decision that is wrong-headed and short-sighted. Many people support the campaign - nearly 20,000 people have signed the petition opposing the closure, which is roughly one tenth of the electorate in Lewisham.

They believe that the social and financial cost of closing the libraries will be far greater than keeping them open and that more and more people will come to rely on the libraries in the difficult times ahead.

Friends of Sydenham Library want to see the libraries remain open with similar or longer opening hours and continue to be run by professional staff; innovative, creative and original use of library buildings and resources should be able to improve the service, adding to their usage and income and involving the communities that depend on them.

They will be marching from Crofton Park Library to Lewisham Town Hall (in Catford) on Saturday, 30th October. The plan is that it will be a light-hearted event with everyone wearing brightly coloured clothes; anyone wishing to dress up as a book character will be most welcome. Bring whistles, drums or anything that will make a noise.

If you can attend, meet at 12:15pm outside Crofton Park Library and be ready to set off at 12:30. The aim is to arrive at Lewisham Town Hall by 1:30pm for a rally and speeches. Crofton Park library is at the junction of Brockley Road and Darfield Road, right next to Crofton Park rail station. The library is also served by bus routes 122, 171, 172 and P4.

If you cannot make the march, but want to register your protest, please write to Sir Steve Bullock, Lewisham Town Hall, Catford. SE6 4RU or by email to steve.bullock@lewisham.gov.uk

26 October 2010

Chair's Report 2010

It has been a busy year for the Society with active campaigns being run for the pools, trains and Tyson Road. Some of these have been more successful than others, but my thanks goes to all those who have volunteered their time, expertise and support.

This year has seen various improvements to the Town Centres, with a new footbridge and lifts at the station, four new coffee shops, repairs to the pavements, removal of some railings and the introduction of two hours' free parking in the Pearcefield Avenue car park as well as the extension of the Conservation Area (with stronger enforcement powers) and the arrival of the new London Overground service, which seems to have improved capacity and many people's commute.

After eight months of correspondence, we finally managed to arrange a meeting with TfL London Streets – the agency responsible for the South Circular – to discuss improvements that could be made in both the short and long term. This meeting was also attended by Jim Dowd MP, Deputy Mayor Allan Smith, local councillors and Peter Kalton from LOROL. We will be following up on this to make sure that changes are implemented.

We also managed to persuade TfL to allow the planting of the planters outside the station. Our thanks must go to Shannon's Garden Centre who have generously donated their time, expertise and plants. The Environment Committee also supported FHTA in the removal of many wheelie and commercial bins from the pavements which has generally improved the ambience.

Many successful events have been organised by the various committees, including those run by the 23 Club (especially the Burns Night supper), a trip to Brogdale to see the apple blossom, the May Day celebration on Albion Millenium Green, a picnic on the South Circular, Open House at Louise House as well as our first stall at the Forest Hill Day. My thanks to all those who baked cakes and staffed the stalls at Forest Hill Day and Blythe Hill Fields.

Looking forwards to the next year, our priorities will be the pools development, effecting change in Forest Hill Town Centre, revitalising the underpass and improving the environment. I am excited to welcome some of the new members who have expressed a desire to join the Executive.

We also need to do a better job at promoting ourselves and increasing our membership numbers. If we are not responding to your needs, we need to know. It is up to all of us to encourage our friends and neighbours to join so that we can more fairly represent the views of our community.

The Executive Committee has met formally on seven occasions this year, although there has been extensive communication and correspondence between meetings.

25 October 2010

Planning and Development Report 2010

The role of the development committee covers two main areas; the first is to review and comment on planning applications in the area and the second is to keep up with other local issues or initiatives, related to proposals that affect the physical environment of Forest Hill and Honor Oak.

The list of planning applications that we have commented on over the past year is covered below. We try to comment (for clarification, in support or objecting) on schemes that we think are important for the area as a whole and as such we don’t generally comment on smaller householder applications for extensions or smaller works. We are interested in trying to encourage good proposals that reinforce the strong character of Forest Hill and that help keep the town centre and other high street areas busy and vibrant. With the extended Conservation Area we are also interested in trying to make sure that this helps form a framework for high quality proposals within this central area, and is not ignored.

Other local issues and initiatives over the past year include:

  • Forest Hill Pools

    The main issue for the year has continued to be the Swimming pools. Things have moved forward considerably over the past year and we have continued to take part in the Councils Stakeholder Group Meetings.

    After a good level of local debate and a public meeting in June the detailed proposals received planning permission in July of this year. Whilst we have some relatively minor concerns about the bulk and design of the building we are generally happy that this will be a very positive addition to Forest Hill and provide a much needed boost to Dartmouth Road.

    The old pools were demolished over the summer, leaving only the retained superintendent’s block and a large pile of rubble on the site. The Council is currently identifying a contractor to build the scheme and intend to start work on site early in the New Year. The Council are working towards opening the pool before the Olympics in August 2012.

  • Louise House

    Alongside the progress that has been made on the pools project the Council and a number of stakeholders have been trying to secure a future for Louise House, the listed building next door to it. In March the Council invited Expressions of Interest from Groups who felt they could take on the building. Two groups came forward, proposing to use the building an arts centre or community run serviced offices and nursery. The office and nursery scheme has been further developed by the Crystal Palace Community Development Trust (CPCDT), who is working with Lewisham Council to seek funding which will enable the project to move forward. In the current economic climate and against a background of public sector cuts this will be challenging. But there are hopes that the autumn round of Lottery funding will provide some support.

    In September the Forest Hill Society was instrumental in arranging for Louise House to be open for Open House London. This London wide weekend event sees a broad range of buildings open to the public and attracts a very wide audience. In collaboration with the Sydenham Society, the Friends of Louise House and Lewisham Council we showed over 100 people around the building, had an exhibition about the building’s history and also hosted an exhibition about Janusz Korczak.

  • Town Centre

    The other ongoing issue for the Society is the town centre. There have been a number of new shop and café openings, which we are really pleased to see, and we understand there are more in the pipeline.

    Over the year the Street Clutter report prepared for the Ward Assembly has been taken to the Council with a recommendation that something needs to be done to see this implemented.

Next Year...

Over the next year we are planning to focus more on the town centre and to keep a close eye on progress on the pools. We are also looking for suggestions of other buildings that we might be able to help get opened up as part of Open House 2011.

We would love to hear from you if you would like to get involved in the work of the Development Committee


This has been another busy year for planning issues, particularly with the Tyson Road planning appeal.

Back in October last year the council rejected the latest plans for the Tyson Road development. However, the developer appealed against this decision and in February 2010 there was a week long appeal hearing. The Forest Hill Society acted as a 'rule 6' party, allowing us to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses from the developer. With the assistance of local residents, Councillor John Russell, and John Hutchinson from the Sydenham Society, we presented a well constructed objection to this development. However we were up against a team of well paid professionals including the leading planning barrister in the country.
Unfortunately the inspector allowed the latest scheme, although the previous, larger scheme was rejected. The fact that one scheme was rejected and another was allowed shows how close this decision was. Following the general election one of the first acts of the new government was to strengthen protection for backland sites and it is possible that, had these rules been in force at the time of the inquiry, we would have had a different outcome. Hopefully future developments of this nature will be prevented by this change to planning guidance.

On the more positive side Forest Hill swimming pool was approved for partial demolition and redevelopment. Work on the new building should be starting this year and we can look forward to swimming in Forest Hill once more in 2012.

Other planning applications which the Society commented on:

SiteFHSoc submissionResult
109-111 Kirkdale (DC/09/72209/X)Objected (overdevelopment)Rejected
29 Ewelme Road (DC/10/74149)Objected (overdevelopment)Rejected
81-83 Dartmouth Road
(Latest: DC/10/75146)
Objected (loss of retail space)Rejected twice and approved third application with modifications
Horniman GardensApproved with reservations (too many trees in bandstand area and lines of sight round the new building)Approved and some of our concerns have been addressed (no trees in the bandstand area)
Phoenix Works
Objected (overdevelopment)
Approved on appeal
35 Sunderland RoadObjected (church in a residential area with noise issues)Gone to appeal
Hoarding on London RoadObjected (out of character with conservation area)Rejected
Former Post OfficeApprovedWaiting for decision
Flats above former post officeObjectedWaiting for decision
27 Shipman RoadObjectedWaiting for decision
74 Canonbie RoadRequested further informationWaiting for decision
Church on Manor Mount/David's Road/ Devonshire RoadWill be objecting
6 Church RiseWill be objecting

This record shows that the Forest Hill Society's concerns are often upheld by Lewisham planning department. We try hard to object on solid planning grounds and this approach gives us credibility when discussing planning issues.

Conservation Area

This year the Forest Hill Conservation area has been extended to include the swimming pool and half of Thorpewood Avenue as well as Benson Road. We had recommended that the conservation area should also include Round Hill, Tyson Road, and the Waldram Park triangle, but these recommendations were not accepted by the council. However, we were able to itemise a number of buildings that were worthy of local listing that have been accepted by Lewisham council.

Death on a Building Site

Although not a planning issue, we were shocked at the development of 14 Waldram Park and the tragic death of a person on the site in September. Whilst it is too early to be sure of the exact circumstances, we will be following the inquiry into this death and any contributing factors. We will also be paying close attention to 6 Church Rise which has a new application from the same developer.

Future Developments

Next year we can expect that plans will be submitted to redevelop Featherstone Lodge, the former drugs rehabilitation centre at the top of Eliot Bank. This is a fine building with large space to the rear. It was marketed as having 'potential for development' but, as a backland site, we will be interested to see any proposals for this site.

Environment Report 2010

Over the course of the last year the Committee has been working to try to support issues in SE23, by looking at:

  • Green spaces,
  • Conservation & streetscape
  • Leisure
  • Local history
We have been trying to raise awareness of green spaces through arranging events and support, where we can, for those many smaller “neighbourhood” green spaces which are run by volunteers.

FH Soc volunteers worked with Lewisham’s Nature’s Gym to prepare Albion Millennium Green (AMG) for the May Day planting of 13 fruit trees, with money obtained from the Ward Localities Fund. AMG is now thriving, with an increase in species diversity noted, including sightings of the rare Jersey Tiger Moth. The interactive Google map has now received 1500 hits. A “Friends of AMG” meeting is planned to discuss further work: clearing more undergrowth, the creation of a dew pond water feature, the need to renew the collapsed boundary wall with fence/tree planting and possibly organise a fundraising event. Anyone interested would be welcome to come to the meeting at the All in One Pub (along from the Perry Rise station exit) at 7.30 on Friday 29th October.

The E & L Committee has also been supporting the work of the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. Their programme of events includes a gardening group which meets every Friday morning and a Muddy Boots toddlers group every second Saturday morning. There was an Apple Day 3rd October 1-5.00pm, and a Hallowe’en (lamps and lanterns) event will be held in the afternoon on Sunday, 31st October.

Other activities have included an outing with Sydenham Society in April to Brogdale, the home of the National Fruit Tree Collection, and a guided walk around Sydenham Hill Woods with historian Steve Grindlay and Ashley from the Wildlife Trust.

We have also been highlighting the presence of the highly invasive Japanese Knotweed to the appropriate authorities when this has been reported to us. Please keep reporting this.

We have joined Lewisham’s Services Manager and the Forest Hill Traders’ Association in town centre walkabouts, identifying (as ex-Cllr Russell’s Street Clutter report had done) areas where improvements could be made, e.g. removal of the industrial rubbish bins which constantly line the main streets of the centre. It was agreed pressure should be kept on improving the town centre and that we should continue with the walkabouts, with another requested for this autumn.

A successful link was established between FH Station’s Manager and Shannon’s Garden Centre with Shannon’s generously donating and planting up the flower tubs at the main entrance to the Station, but no progress had been made with the acquisition of planters for the station platforms.

Regarding lack of flower baskets on lampposts in the town centre, and the question of flower troughs on street railings, as the FH Society has decided to enter “London in Bloom 2011”, we will be concentrating on this in the Spring. The Horniman Museum has agreed to be involved as have the residents’ association of the Eliot Bank estate. A small sub-committee will probably be needed to concentrate on this project.

Future activities:
Future events will include organising a Community Open Day at Dacres Wood in March.

There is an opportunity to be involved in the restoration of the ancient hawthorn hedge at the Horniman Triangle, working with Nature’s Gym, on Thursday, 6th December 11.00-2.00pm. There will also be the installation of a stag beetle loggery with interpretation board, which should help promote and enhance Biodiversity in Lewisham.

Following a lead from “Dulwich going greener” we are looking at the possibility of holding a “give and take” day where unwanted items could be deposited and swapped, free of charge, for something which is needed.

We have discussed re-cycling generally, but have specifically suggested an electrical goods re-cycling point should be established at a convenient local point, possibly at Sainsbury’s car park and will continue for work towards this. We are also planning an Executive Committee visit to Lewisham’s recycling plant to see how the work is organised.

The Environment and Leisure Committee would welcome new members and their ideas for future activity. Our next meeting will be towards the end of November.

Transport Report 2010

It has been a busy year for the Transport Committee – and a memorable one for transport in Forest Hill.

Without doubt, the highlight of the year has been the opening of the Overground which with its bright and frequent trains has put us on the Tube map and opened up lots of new transport possibilities. We were worried about establishing lines of communication with London Overground management, but after a bit of persistence, now have excellent links to senor management and attend their passInger board meetings.

During the year, Southern has started holding passenger forums to tell travellers about their plans, and seek their views. I was able to attend the first of these, an all day event at a Gatwick hotel, and found it very worthwhile.

We campaigned hard for the retention of a decent level of service to London Bridge after the Overground opened, a campaign which included us handing over a petition to Chris Mole, Minister in the former government, in the presence of MP, Jim Dowd. We are delighted to see that Southern services from London Bridge in the evening peak are to be increased from December and believe that this validates our campaign. Sadly last Christmas saw the end of services to Charing Cross, but we continue to argue for the return of these whenever we can.

London Road was temporarily pedestrianised in the summer following the collapse of a sewer. It proved that closure of the South Circular, whilst inconvenient for some, does not necessarily cause the sky to fall in and the world to end! In fact we might campaign for more temporary road closures, perhaps to support Forest Hill Day.

A long battle to get Transport for London to listen to our many suggestions for improvements to the A205 through Forest Hill finally resulted in a walkabout with TfL managers one sunny September afternoon. They listened to our many comments and said how good it was to get out of the office and meet people who really understood their area. Now we just need them to act on the suggestions!

We have been invited to major TfL events including the Mayor’s Transport Summit, at which the future of London’s transport was discussed in depth, and have contributed to a study on smoothing traffic flow in London. Closer to home, we are in discussion with Lewisham Council about what can be done short term to minimise their over enthusiastic efforts to re-engineer Sydenham Rise.

We have been and are active on a number of other fronts as diverse as the refurbishment of our stations and, particularly the Forest Hill station subway, and the control (or lack of control) of the heating on P4 buses! Looking much further ahead, we have been making suggestions for the best route for a future extension of the Bakerloo Line. New members are always welcome to join the committee and can be sure that their ideas will be received with interest.

22 October 2010

Planning Applications: 6 Church Rise and 32 David's Road

The Forest Hill Society has objected to two planning applications this week.

David's Road is retrospective application for large banners and new landscaping in front of the church. You can read the submission by the Forest Hill Society here.

The application on Church Rise is to build a number of flats on the site where a house previously collapsed. You can read our response to the application here.

08 September 2010


Thursday, 21st October, 7.30pm – Forest Hill Society Annual General Meeting - at the Hob opp. Forest Hill Station.

Open House Weekend - 18th—19th September.

Saturday, 18th September, 11am-1pm - Perry Vale Local Assembly - Rockbourne Youth Club, 41a Rockbourne Road, SE23 2DA

Saturday, 9 October - Crofton Park Local Assembly – 11am-1pm; St Hilda's Church Hall, Courtrai Road

Saturday, 16 October - Forest Hill Local Assembly – 10:30am-1pm, Living Springs International Church, 8-10 Devonshire Road, SE23 3TJ

Monday, 22nd November - Perry Vale Local Assembly – time and venue to be confirmed

Louise House Open Day - a Journey into Forest Hill’s Victorian Past

What was life like for destitute girls in the late nineteenth century? How did Louise House inspire a visiting paediatrician from Poland? Could the building find a new community use in the 21st century?

On Saturday, 18th September, the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society will be organising tours of Louise House (between the library and the pools) where you can find some answers to these questions and look round a historic building which is normally closed to the public. This is part of Open House – London’s hugely popular architectural showcase. The doors will be open from 10am until 5pm.

Places are limited (for safety reasons) so you will need to BOOK a tour online at www.openhouselondon.org.uk. Tours will be for ten people every half an hour with some time at the end to look at the exhibition.

Louise House used to be a Girls’ Industrial Home providing care for destitute girls whilst they learnt skills (there is a laundry block to the rear of the building.) The foundation stone was laid by Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter, in 1890. Built in the domestic revival style, it is highly decorated externally but it has a utilitarian interior retaining the original floor plan.

It also has links with Janusz Korczak, the Polish/German/Jewish paediatrician, children's author and martyr whose visit to Louise House in 1911 inspired him to devote his life to the enlightened care of children.

He founded an orphanage in Warsaw, implementing many of the ideas he’d seen in practice at Louise House. On the morning of 6 August 1942, German soldiers herded the orphanage staff and 192 children towards the railway station with Korczak at their head. The group was forced onto a train bound for Treblinka extermination camp. That is the last that was heard of them.

View PDF of display boards from Louise House Open Day

Louise House – The Way Forward?

Louise House was listed at Grade II by English Heritage in August 2008. The building consists of a structure like a house with three large rooms on the ground floor, an unusual central staircase and three large rooms on the first floor. There are a number of smaller rooms towards the rear on both floors. There is a front garden, currently used for parking, and a rear garden which has mainly been surfaced as a play area. The rear garden has a long, single storey building which once housed the Laundry facilities, which has south facing windows.

Lewisham Council owns the building and has said that it may make it available either by transfer or on a long lease at a negligible rent to a community organisation which has a viable plan that benefits the local community. “Expressions of interest” where sought from the community between November 2009 and March 2010.

The Council is currently working with the Crystal Palace Community Development Trust (CPCDT) on its proposal. The CPCDT was set up in 2004 to help with regeneration projects in the wards surrounding Crystal Palace Park. The Trust has submitted a proposal to Lewisham Council for a refurbished Louise House to provide workspace particularly for start-up businesses. The main “house” would thus become a serviced office development. It is also interested in exploring ideas for refurbishing the Laundry as a community nursery with affordable places.

Since March 2010, Lewisham Council has funded a full condition survey of the buildings. Meanwhile, the Forest Hill Ward's Locality Fund has given CPCDT £4,000 which has been used to complete a Feasibility Study. This study indicated that the proposal for a serviced office and community nursery was viable both financially and in terms of the suitability of the building.

This has been taking place against the backdrop of the Forest Hill Pools development next door, which recently gained planning permission. The architects of the pools, Roberts Limbrick, have visited Louise House. In their plans for the pools, they have made provision for a common treatment of the “front garden” areas of the pools, Louise House and the Library which would seek to unify the Victorian frontages behind a common green treatment with disabled access to all three buildings. This is in the future, but the plans for the pools do not create obstacles to the eventual realisation of this part of the scheme.

In July 2010, Louise House, the old pools frontage and the Library all became part of the extended Forest Hill Conservation Area.

CPCDT is working with Lewisham Council to seek funding which will enable the project to move forward. In the current economic climate and against a background of public sector cuts this will be challenging. But there are hopes that the Autumn round of Lottery funding will provide some support.

For more information on Louise House, visit www.louisehouse.notlong.com
For more photos of the interior, visit www.flickr.com/photos/tim_walder

Richard Hibbert, Chair of the Forest Hill Society, writes…

We hope you have all had a relaxing summer and are now ready to get more involved in the Society. Our AGM is being held at 7:30pm in The Hob on Thursday, 21st October and will be your chance to air your concerns and volunteer to join one of the four committees (transport, development, environment and communications). We are always looking for fresh ideas and willing people to help us tackle the issues which matter to you, the members; getting involved need not be a daunting prospect and will only take as much time as you want to spare. Please contact me on richard@foresthillsociety.com if you would like to find out more about any of the committees.

The Society covers the whole of SE23 and, ideally, our committees should be made up of people from the whole area. But the Crofton Park side of our patch is currently under represented even though we have plenty of members there. Crofton Park has received a double whammy with its library threatened with closure and the fire damage at Stillness School. I would particularly like to encourage members there to join the Executive so that their needs are addressed.

Most of you will have been affected in some way by the closure of the London Road stretch of the South Circular. Rather than moaning and fretting about the inconvenience, we decided to organise a little picnic on what we like to think of as our temporary Forest Hill Promenade. While not the most picturesque venue, it was fun to reclaim the South Circular for a few hours!

That section of the South Circular is now open again in time for the beginning of the school term but by the time you read this Newsletter a section of the South Circular further east, near the Co-Op, may be closed.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo: Stillness School fire. Photo © Rob Finn 2010

The Capitol

The Capitol is also taking part in this year’s Open House. Formerly the Capitol Cinema, it’s a Grade II listed building and a rare survival of a complete 1920's cinema in Art Deco style.

The architectural tour will take you behind-the-scenes to the largely untouched first floor area. Saturday, 18th September 10am-5pm. Sunday, 19th September 10am-5pm. Pre-book ONLY on 020 8291 8920.

Café Society

Whether you’re after a standard black coffee or an extravagant flat white, the stretch of road between Forest Hill Station and the Horniman has become a real meeting place for coffee lovers. We asked the owners to tell us the secret of a great coffee.

Lisa Etherington and Dan Shardlow at St David’s Café, David’s Road

The key elements to a great coffee are a fantastic roastery, a clean coffee machine, achieving the perfect grind/extraction and finally a great atmosphere in which to enjoy it.

Petros Yiannourkou at The Teapot, London Road

We all like our coffee just so and at The Teapot it’s about creating a cup of coffee that is received with love and satisfaction. We take the leg work out of grinding Guglielmo beans, carefully frothing the milk and creating a mug of joy that hits the spot.

Kollier Bangura at From The Forest, 1 Devonshire Road, opp Forest Hill Station

A great coffee is a blend of carefully selected beans made to the customer's requirements, taking into consideration the strength, texture and temperature. Then it’s served in a warm, comfortable environment with great service from friendly staff.

Hip Ngo at The Lemon Grove, London Road

A great cup of coffee is so many things - the quality of the coffee beans, the roast, the water softener and, of course, the skill of the coffee maker. Then it has to be served with a sprinkle of love!

Honor Oak Park Station

Work is slowly proceeding after the embankment threatened to subside onto Platform 1. Checks are being made to see if the earthworks that have been done have stopped the movement. Once a new retaining wall has been built, it will be possible to remove the existing steel piles. They will then carry out repairs to the canopy and the platform.

It looks like station users will have to endure the narrow platform for quite a while yet.

Forest Hill Conservation Area Review

The Forest Hill Conservation Area is going to be expanded after plans were approved by Mayor and Cabinet in July. At the moment, it covers London Road from the Horniman Museum to the station and all the shops on Dartmouth Road. It also extends along Wood Vale, Manor Mount, and a small section of Devonshire Road.

The new Conservation Area will be extended south along Dartmouth Road as far as Thorpewood Avenue; north along Devonshire Road including Benson Road and part of Ewelme Road; and east to include the railway bridge and 1 Waldram Crescent (the small house next to the railway bridge).

Suggestions made by the Forest Hill Society and others, which are not to be adopted, included extending the boundary east of the railway to include the Waldram and Rockbourne 'triangles', and including part of Tyson Road and more of Honor Oak Road.

Sixteen buildings or groups of buildings will be 'locally listed'. This requires the buildings to be preserved or enhanced wherever possible, but doesn't give any additional planning control. The buildings include the Dartmouth Arms pub, Forest Hill pools frontage, the Horniman bandstand, and various buildings on London Road and Manor Mount.

An Article 4(2) Direction will be made, for the purpose of preserving and enhancing the area's character. This means that houses within the Conservation Area will need planning permission to make alterations such as replacing windows or doors, retiling roofs, or painting the exterior.

Why Theatreland needs SE23

Do you remember the good old days when we had direct trains to Charing Cross? One group of people misses that late night West End train more than most - the theatre performers who find Forest Hill the perfect place to live. Forest Hill Society member, Mark Stevenson, who works with Teatro Vivo and Ampersand explains what makes SE23 so attractive.

My home is as near as you can get to Lower Sydenham whilst still officially being in Forest Hill and on my street alone I know several actors, musicians and dancers - Forest Hill is crawling with us. Look around the train into London and chances are you'll see an actor silently mouthing their lines on their way to rehearsals or a musician strapped to a large and very oddly shaped instrument case.

Straightforward economics play a part here. Performers want a place they can afford and where they don't actually have to live in a garret. That’s especially true if you're a musician who needs a large space for your instrument and tolerant neighbours when you need to practise.

Then there are the trains giving us easy access to the South Bank and the West End. Mind you, since we've lost the direct train from Charing Cross, one actor I know has chosen to cycle instead, cutting out the draughty wait at London Bridge.

It's helpful living in a community near other performers. You can try out ideas, share props, exchange scripts and have a moan about arts funding over a pint in the local pub.

Performers do like to stick together! As soon as a place is discovered (nice housing, leafy gardens, decent takeaways) the performers’ network swings into action to spread the word. If you ever need to get some information out there, just mention it to an actor - it's by far the best way to reach as many ears as possible!

As for performance spaces, there’s the Brockley Jack Theatre and The Albany in Deptford close to hand. The Catford Broadway has a great range of shows in their studio and main house, and London Bubble always make sure they visit Sydenham Wells Park with their outdoor summer show. We also now have the fabulous Arcola (in Dalston) within easy reach thanks to the East London Line.

Perhaps because of all this, there are now several theatre companies based in the area - 'Bold & Saucy', 'Spontaneous Productions', 'Teatro Vivo', and my own company 'Ampersand'.

I work mainly with companies that perform in non-theatre spaces. I directed Teatro Vivo's 'Supermarket Shakespeare' in Forest Hill Sainsbury's and Ampersand's 'Headlines' in The Dolphin on Sydenham High Street. Spaces that people use everyday get transformed into magical places. And audiences interact directly with the action - one lovely man coached one of our (tense) characters in the supermarket in relaxation techniques right in the middle of a scene; kids tell off our grown-up characters, elderly ladies have given advice on love.

For me, it feels like this is the theatre I want to make, where the community has as big a part to play as the actors, especially the community where we are most at home.

Photo: Teatro Vivo perform Supermarket Shakespeare in Sainsbury’s. Photograph by Tim Sutton.