19 September 2018

What a Busy Year It’s Been!

Over the past year, perhaps the most significant change to Forest Hill that the Forest Hill Society provided input on, was the improvement of Dartmouth Road. After being closed for construction for many months, and disrupting bus routes and access to shops, improvements — including wider pavements, additional parking bays and demarcated road-crossing zones — have resulted in a more pleasant experience for shoppers and smoother traffic flows.

Back in March, when we thought that the works were almost completed, the Society — together with Pauline Wright at Sugar Mountain, the Horniman Farmers’ Market and backing from Forest Hill Ward Assembly — organised a street party to bring people back to Dartmouth Road.

The street party was one of the most visible events organised by the Forest Hill Society in 2018, but also very visible has been the continued work on the flower beds and planters in and around Forest Hill station. As well as maintaining all of the existing plants, this year —with the help of local scouts — we installed a number of new planters on Perry Vale to complement the tyre towers we had already installed there. Adding all these plants and flowers continues to make Forest Hill a more colourful and welcoming place to spend time. My thanks go particularly to Quetta, Joseph, Sheila, John F, John W, Katherine, GoodGym and all the other people who have helped with planting and watering.

Earlier this year we organised a couple of walks through Sydenham Hill Wood, taking small groups of people to explore the flora, fauna and history of the local area (ably led by Alona and Andrew); and we have a similar walk planned for 23rd September, this time on One Tree Hill.

Other events included a hustings meeting for Lewisham's mayoral election, which we arranged with the Sydenham Society, and a Burns Night Supper at the All Inn One pub.

In addition, we worked behind the scenes on other planned changes for the local area. We responded to three consultations that threatened the future of our train services, the consultation of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone’s extension to the South Circular, and several planning applications for residential and commercial development in SE23.

Plans to demolish the Bell Green gas works were approved by Lewisham Council earlier this year, but they rejected pans for an Aldi store on the site. The Aldi application will now go to appeal at a public enquiry, to be held later this year.
We aided local residents in and around Sunderland Road and on Bampton Estate to oppose new flats that are inappropriate for their chosen locations. As a result, the Sunderland Road site now has a much more sympathetic scheme planned; and we await the council’s decision on the Bampton Estate scheme.

Alongside locally-based Discourse Architecture, we have been developing a long-term strategy for the future of Forest Hill’s town centre — especially the area around the station and the pedestrian connections between one side of the railway and the other. There are some great ideas in these proposals, but we now need to transfer them from the drawing board into reality.

All this work is made possible by members of the community, who together make a difference to the place we call home. We would love you to have your say and get involved in making Forest Hill an even better place to live and invite you to our AGM on 1st October.

Christmas Conservation Area

Edward (Ted) Charles Christmas was born in Lewisham in 1867. By 1871 his family was living above the stables of Prospect House, which is now 79 London Road (on the corner of Taymount Rise). Ted’s father was the gardener at Prospect House, and its garden extended from the rear of the house up Taymount Rise to St Paul’s Church. In his early years, Ted trained as a carpenter and then went on to install “sanitary plumbing”, electric bells, burglar and fire alarms, Lincrusta wallpaper and Roman mosaic tiles. However, his speciality was “artistic joinery” and there were, apparently, many fine shop fronts installed by him.

Throughout Forest Hill, Ted Christmas and his construction company built a number of houses and converted other properties to flats. Many of these houses form the basis of the Forest Hill Conservation Area, which includes properties on Thorpewood Avenue, Round Hill and London Road. Unfortunately, there has not been any protection for the houses in the Perry Vale area that form a key group of Christmas houses.

His best-known and one of the earliest developments is located between Perry Vale and South Road in Forest Hill. In 1901, he completed 108-116 Perry Vale: five substantial, detached houses called Linstead, Ashdale, Ulverston, Rosaville and Aberleigh in honour of his wife, Laura. A couple of years later, 131-153 Perry Vale were completed, their names spelling “Ted Christmas”. Round the corner, 72-64 Sunderland Road spell “Grace”, his daughter’s name. He also built houses in Gaynesford Road and several other groups of houses in this area. They are distinctive, and easily recognised.

As a result of concerns by local residents, Lewisham Council are now consulting on creating a new conservation area to recognize and protect these houses alongside a number of other architecturally significant buildings in the area. The conservation area would stretch from Perry Vale to South Road and from Sunderland Road to Church Rise — a small area, but one which includes some lovely buildings.

As well as protecting these Christmas houses, the conservation area makes note of some important memorials in the graveyard of Christ Church on South Road. Of particular interest is the 15-foot obelisk memorial to George Baxter (1804-1867), the inventor of colour printing; and Joseph and Edward Tetley, the founders of Tetley Tea, which was just one of the tea brands owned by Forest Hill residents in Victorian times (another notable brand being Horniman Tea).

More information about Ted Christmas can be found on local historian Steve Grindlay’s blog at:

18 September 2018

Horniman’s New World Gallery

By John Firmin

Successive generations of families from Forest Hill and beyond have enjoyed the Horniman Museum’s collections and gardens. The museum has now brought together in its new World Gallery over 3,000 objects from around the world that explore the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

The World Gallery continues Frederick Horniman’s ambition “to bring the world to Forest Hill”. At the entrance to the gallery is a series of audio-visual digital installations that show people from the Horniman’s community groups, volunteers, collectors and anthropologists talking about objects that have personal meaning to them. Next to the displays are objects selected for their emotional resonances — can you connect with them? Just imagine what it was like 2,000 years ago using the black obsidian mirror on show, and peering at your image in its dark depths.

Next, you find yourself in the first of the five Encounters areas, each corresponding to a continent. Check out the head-hunter ornaments in the Asian area. Before the arrival of Christianity, hunting heads was essential if a man wanted to gain the respect of his community. Each would try to outdo the other in the extravagance of the ornaments they attached to their garments.

Across the aisle in the African area are fascinating objects from across the continent. Check out the monkey crossbow belonging to the Mbendjele people or the life-size camel with its carefully crafted saddle — do you think it would have been comfortable to ride? Have a browse around the Nigerian market.

In the Oceanian area, children will be fascinated by the projection of the ocean onto the floor showing fish swimming. Imagine travelling from island to Pacific island in the small canoe on show — it must have felt tiny to be in it at sea.

The focus of the American area is on native Americans and people of the Arctic. Listen to stories and touch the material used to keep polar hunters warm while they stalked their prey.

In the European area is to be found the Horniman’s own cloutie tree. In Britain in ancient times, scraps of fabric were tied to trees growing near sacred wells or springs as part of a healing ritual. You are invited to write down your wish and attach it to the tree — maybe it will come true! From Eastern Europe there are quirky Turon masks embodying the dark forces of nature — objects I associate with Africa rather than Europe.


The gallery culminates with the Perspectives area, which presents objects in a variety of categories such as Textiles and Curiosities. It poses questions about how we classify the world around us, who decides what a thing is and whose knowledge is important. You are invited to add your perspective on what you have just seen.

Flying above all these wonderful objects is a beautiful display of kites and banners hanging from the newly renovated ceiling vault. Collected and commissioned from Guatemala, China, London and beyond, these emblems signify our human instinct to come together in celebration, play or protest.

If you haven’t already done so, take yourself and your family to the Horniman to see the new World Gallery. It’s well worth the experience!

17 September 2018

A FFirm FFavourite in FForest Hill

We are Helen and Maya, the founders of Featured in Fifteen. As we’re local Londoners, we wanted to create a community arts movement that celebrated the FFabulous rich mix of creative talent that we have in Forest Hill. The FF concept was born around a table (in late May 2017), just before school pick-up. We sat and thrashed out ideas around “What would be our perfect night out?” The answer was an evening of interesting talks by various local curators, a drink with friends and somewhere not too far from home.

Since we both had a genuine respect for TED talks, the idea of providing an audience with more than one speaker (with a drink in hand) in a limited timeframe (15 minutes) felt like an interesting challenge for us — so that’s when Featured in Fifteen came to life.

So how does FF Function? We spend a lot of our time hunting down amazing people — which isn’t easy because a lot of these incredible people are not always on social media. We read, we watch and we spend time in and around our area, listening and engaging and opening ourselves up to unexpected conversations, which lead to nice surprises. We work FFuriously hard to select FFive features for each event, all from different creative disciplines, as we feel this adds to the intrigue and interest of the night. We then create a theme that binds the evening together. And that’s the FF Formula!

We make every event personal, with each of our themes coming from our own experiences and feelings, and this is what makes every FF evening unique. The people we’ve had the privilege to meet and to become connected to have enriched our lives and given us a new perspective on so many aspects of life and the wider world. Organising FF has been an incredible amount of FFun, laughter and FFriendship.

Looking back over our first year, we had no idea FF would become what it is today — a calendar event that our community looks forward to. To date we have curated eight events and featured 35 FFantastic, inspirational local individuals, and we’ve created a wonderful network of creativity that everyone involved feels connected to through FF.

If you haven’t been to a Featured night yet then please do make it to our next event on October 18th at The Signal pub in Forest Hill. Tickets are £10 and available via our website www.featured15.co.uk; please bring a FFriend and spread the word about our project whenever you can.

Friends of Mayow Park — Reflecting on 25 Years

By Alona Sheridan, Chair, Friends of Mayow Park

2018 is the 140th Anniversary of Mayow Park and the 25th anniversary of Friends of Mayow Park. In 1993 Lewisham Council’s parks department was far-sighted to see the potential value of having park user groups; thanks to their initiative, the Mayow Park Users’ Group (MPUG) and others were set up.

The first MPUG meeting was held on 20th April 1993 at Forest Hill Baths. Lewisham Council appointed Gordon de Langley as the liaison officer for the group. It was a time when parks all over the country were in decline, and Lewisham Council encouraged local people to form park users’ groups as a positive effort to try to reverse the decline into the longer-term future.

Around 1998, along with many other park user groups around the country, the name of the group was changed to Friends of Mayow Park (FOMP).

Back in the early days of MPUG the park still had an aviary, a full-time park keeper and gardeners who maintained its well-kept flower beds. The aviary was removed in the late 1990s, and FOMP are seeking photos of it for their archives. Budget cuts over the years have resulted in our current part-time park keeper being shared with another park.

Even in the early days of the Friends, the main topics of concern were about litter, dog fouling and the state of the paths. After years of patient waiting, funds became available and, in June 2016, major works were carried out to resurface the worst paths.

Since 1999, FOMP have celebrated Tree Dressing (an ancient pagan custom) on the first weekend of December. Originally, an ancient oak in Mayow Park with a long horizontal branch was decorated annually, but in recent years the community orchard has been the preferred venue.

The first trees in the community orchard were planted in March 2012 by a large team of volunteers and more were planted in 2016, bringing the total to 18 trees. FOMP now hold an annual Apple Day in mid-October to celebrate the orchard — giving park users an opportunity to taste different varieties of apples and to get to know all the fruit trees, and to enjoy story-telling and other family activities.

The Friends also organise tree walks, bat walks, and volunteer workdays in the orchard and at our herb beds.

15 September 2018

Forest Hill Community Library Approaches Its Second Anniversary

By John Firmin
Time flies but it’s been two years since our library was saved by a community consortium comprising V22 — the arts organisation based in next-door Louise House, the Forest Hill Trader’s Association, the Forest Hill Society and several local individuals concerned by plans to close the library.

Since then, the library has flourished. At the end of 2017, the number of visits each month was 15 per cent greater than a year earlier and in 2018 consistently exceeds 11,000 every month. Book borrowing is also healthy, particularly by the under-11s. This is very evident in the Summer Reading Challenge, which aims to get kids using libraries and reading during the summer holidays. In 2017 Forest Hill had more children take on the challenge than any other library in Lewisham except the main central library itself, and we had more children complete the challenge than any other community library. More than 250 children gained a medal for reading six books. Over 430 children signed up to the challenge and we are well on the way to achieving the target set by Lewisham libraries. It’s great when children become library members for the first time in order to tackle the challenge.

Forest Hill Library is open and staffed for longer than any other community library in the borough and, with the exception of Blackheath library, issues more books per square foot than any other library. It is an incredible success story on so many fronts.

Securing the future of the library was a major motivator behind the community bid in 2016. But the library is far more than just a source of books. For many people it is vital as a means of engaging with the digital world and, regardless of the day of the week, the 17 computers in the library are busy. Activities for under-5s run every Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon (never have I seen so many buggies in one place!); Origami classes take place on Saturdays; a reading group meets once a month; and the library arranges speakers for the Lively Minds Group on the first Monday of each month.

The library’s success owes a great deal to everyone who so generously supported the community bid, to the management team of Simon Higgs and Stephen Bruce and to all the volunteers who keep the library open 66.5 hours each week. Being a library volunteer is a rewarding experience. Seeing the joy on young faces when they tell you about the book they have just read for the summer challenge gives you a warm feeling. When you help the lady who had just lost her husband use a computer to deal with the things that he had always handled, you know you have made a positive difference in someone’s life.

We pay the bills by renting rooms and hiring out the back room for meetings, and with support from Leaf and Groove in Dartmouth Road, which turns donations of books and vinyl records into cash for the library.

If you would like to be involved as a volunteer, or support the library by donating to Leaf and Groove or becoming a “Friend” (£30 per annum) please contact Stephen Bruce at the library by emailing contact@FHLibrary.co.uk or calling 020 8244 0634.

Lively Minds at Forest Hill Library

On the first Monday of every month, Forest Hill Library hosts Lively Minds discussions for the over-50s. This is a small group that features a variety of guest speakers talking about a wide variety of topics and encouraging discussion amongst the group.

Since the library became a Community Library we have hosted a variety of discussions about such topics as local history, archaeology, Victorian sewage, improving local roads, philosophy, working for the intelligence services and lots more.

Find out more about the next series of topics at the library.

14 September 2018

A Treasure in Kilmorie Road

By Belinda Evans

Tucked behind houses on Kilmorie Road is the Young Lewisham Project, which many people in this area may not even know exists! It’s a community project that supports young people in Lewisham to become responsible and valued citizens.

Started as long ago as 1974, the project began when a group of local Lewisham residents were frustrated by the fact that some of the young people in their neighbourhood were getting into too much trouble, especially through stealing motorbikes. They knew it was largely because they were bored and had nothing to do, but just didn’t know how to tackle the problem. It was then that one of the residents came across a project in Birmingham that had set up a workshop for young people to fix motorbikes rather than steal them!

Together, the local residents turned one of their garages into a small workshop and encouraged local youths to come along and learn the basics of motorbike mechanics; and the Young Lewisham Project was born.

The aim of the project is to support young people to become active citizens, take responsibility, learn about the local community and understand how to improve their own surroundings; and to provide important links with other resources within the borough that support young people.

Programmes that take place each week at the workshop site include motorcycle and bicycle maintenance, woodworking, furniture restoration, art, gardening and allotment work. Residential trips and off-site activities also take place throughout the year and the programme works with up to 150 young people each year who are referred by partner agencies.

As with all charities in times of austerity, the Young Lewisham Project is always looking for volunteers to help maintain its success. Sometimes they need the help of volunteers in specific areas and are currently looking for someone who can commit for two or three days/afternoons a week to help with general administration —such as recording student information, collating information for funding reports and helping with general administrative tasks of the organisation.

There are also plans to run some evening classes to utilise the workshop space and generate income. If you are interested in finding out more or getting involved, or are inspired by what goes on, please have a look at their website at https://www.younglewisham.org.uk.

13 September 2018

Welcome to the Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness, and All Change in the Plant World...

By Quetta Kaye, Chair, Environment Committee

Thanks to the valiant efforts of a dedicated team of watering volunteers our plants in the town centre survived the heat wave, and the results of the RHS’s judgement will be known on September 20th, but autumn is fast upon us and so is the need to tidy-up and replant.

Saturday 6th October is the date for your diary, meeting at 2:30pm at the front entrance to Forest Hill station. The summer plants will be edited and spruced up and hundreds of daffodil bulbs need to be planted to create a brilliant display for next Spring, when you will have the opportunity to admire the results of your individual handiwork.

All are welcome, no experience is needed, but proximity to heavy traffic and parking cars means this event is not suitable for children. Please bring your own trowel/dibber and protective gloves, although we do have a few spares.

Treading a New Path in the Horniman Triangle

Last autumn, the Forest Hill Society proposed a scheme to the Forest Hill Ward Assembly to provide a new path across the Horniman Triangle Park (across the South Circular from Horniman Gardens). This path would link the Sydenham Rise entrance and café to the park’s play area.

For many years the absence of a path has made the field difficult to cross, particularly with buggies. After severe rainfall the field would become very muddy and difficult to cross, but it was not always obvious until too late!

With the support of the Forest Hill Ward Assembly, Lewisham Council and Glendale, a path has now been installed, making it easier to cross the field in all weathers.

Suddenly, the park seems that little bit smaller (but in a good way) with the café and toilets much easier to access. Hopefully the path will endure the ravages of Forest Hill winters and provide easier access for many years to come.

If you have other ideas about ways to improve Forest Hill please get in touch — we can work together to make them happen!

12 September 2018

First World War Memorial — Service of Commemoration

Forest Hill Team Ministry
Christ Church Chapel, South Road, Forest Hill
First World War Memorial — Service of Commemoration

You are warmly invited to join us at a Service of Commemoration to mark the re-installation of the First World War Memorial at 3 pm on Sunday 11th November 2018.

Many hundreds of local young men served in this most tragic and costly of wars and the War Memorial at Christ Church commemorates 68 of them from the Parish who lost their lives.

There will be a booklet available which gives the details of all but one who have been traced: addresses, next of kin, ages, and date and place of death. Some names may be recognisable as grandfather or great uncle to those who still live in the area. The streets where they lived show that they and their bereaved families would have lived amongst us, as our neighbours.

Significant Developments Planned for Forest Hill

All Inn One Site

This summer, owners Julia and Richard announced that they would be selling the All Inn One on Perry Vale. All regulars to the pub will be sad to see them leave in April 2019 and will be concerned about the future of the pub once they leave.

The new owner is considering the best use for the site, but has told the Forest Hill Society that a pub will remain on the ground floor and return to the old name of The Forresters. Since pubs are now protected by law, any demolition proposal would require full planning permission from Lewisham Council — we will be watching this closely, and working with the developer to ensure continued community use of this site.

Artist’s impression of one possible rebuild of the All Inn One pub with residential units or a hotel above.

Co-op Site

Not far from the All Inn One, at the junction of Waldram Park Road (South Circular) and Stanstead Road, is the Co-op grocery store with a large forecourt which used to be a petrol station.

A planning application was submitted earlier this year to convert this site to a 5-storey, 90-room hotel. On the ground floor would be a convenience store, roughly the same size as the Co-op; however, without any car parking, the Co-op is apparently not interested in continuing to operate on the site.

The Forest Hill Society is supportive of this application in principle, but does have some concerns about service access for the hotel and store, and the on- and off-site parking ramifications for hotel guests, shoppers and neighbouring residents.

However, a large hotel in Forest Hill could be of benefit to the community — by bringing more people to the area who would use local restaurants and shops.

Portakabin Site

Between the Co-op site and the railway bridge to the west, on Waldram Crescent (South Circular), lies the Portakabin site. Proposals for its redevelopment currently feature around 21 flats with some form of commercial activity at ground floor level. The development would rise from 3 storeys close to existing buildings on the eastern edge, to 6 storeys overlooking the railway line.

Since this site has been under-utilised for too long, it is good to see this site, close to the town centre, being considered for redevelopment. The Forest Hill Society has spoken to the developers to encourage them to think creatively about the use of the ground floor space, as its location on the South Circular is not a good spot for pedestrian access. Given the site's proximity to the railway line and the South Circular, we have also asked them to consider every possible noise mitigation solution for the benefit of the flats' future residents.

01 September 2018

Forest Hill Society AGM

Monday 1st October, 7:30pm at Louise House on Dartmouth Road

Your chance to shape the year ahead for the Forest Hill Society. Tell us what you think is important for us to do in 2019.

There will be elections for the new executive committee. We are always looking for new people to join the executive committee or our teams working on Transport, Planning & Development, Environment, and Communications.

We are also please to welcome a guest speaker; Daniel Raven-Ellison from London National Park City, who will be talking to us about the campaign to recognise the value of green space in London.

Woodcraft Folk Return to Forest Hill

A brand new Woodcraft Folk Group is starting in Forest Hill this September, 2018.

The Woodcraft Folk; an educational youth movement, was founded almost 100 years ago in Forest Hill by Leslie Paul.  A plaque is hung outside his former home on Bovill Road, SE23, so it is fitting and exciting that a group is established where its original roots lie.

The Forest Hill group will meet on alternate Saturdays at the beautiful Dacres Wood Nature Reserve. The group is aimed at families with children, boys and girls, ages 3-5 (older and younger siblings welcome) to learn about big ideas through fun activities like singing, camping, arts and crafts, music, nature play and games. Subjects covered include caring for the environment, sharing, cooperation, nature conservation and much more.

Our aim is to have great fun, but also to try to develop children’s self-confidence and build their awareness of society around them.

A free taster session will run in September. To book a place please email foresthillwoodcraftfolk @ gmail.com

Forest Hill Woodcraft Folk Taster Session (free). Ages 3-5.
Saturday the 15th of September, 10.00 - 11.30 am
Dacres Wood Nature Reserve, Honeyfield Mews, London, SE23 2NH

History walk through One Tree Hill - 23rd September

Andrew Orford and Alona Sheridan will lead us on a history walk through One Tree Hill on Sunday 23rd September, 2:30pm. Meet at Honor Oak Park station.

Cleaning the Subway - Saturday 15th September

Saturday 15th September 2018, 10:30am.
Many hands make light work, and we can usually clean the subway in less than 50 minutes with a few people with sponges and your favourite household cleaning products. Please come along and lend a hand and be amazed at how clean the subway can become