21 April 2021

20th Century History of Forest Hill

 

Recording of the discussion that took place on 20th April 2021 with panelists:

Pip Wedge lived in Forest Hill from 1928 to 1954, including most of the Second World War, and assisted people when Forest Hill station was bombed. He will be joining us from Canada where he has lived since 1965.

Angela Finch is part of the Finch family who have been trading in Forest Hill since 1947. Finches currently focus on bikes, skiing and extreme sports, but once they were one of the largest removal firms in London.

John Hodgett moved to Forest Hill in 1949 when he was two years old, and has lived in the area ever since - in a variety of different streets. John remembers many of the old shops around Forest Hill, some great concerts at the Glenlyn Ballroom in the 1960s, and taking steam trains direct from Forest Hill to Brighton.

12 April 2021

Lewisham Local Plan Consultation

 
The Forest Hill Society has responded to the Lewisham Local Plan Consultation. While broadly supportive of the draft LLP, we would like to see some changes in priorities on some specific issues and these are described in the submission. We also feel some elements should be more precisely articulated all to bring a clear vision for the Forest Hill area over the next twenty years.

The Forest Hill Society’s (the Society) response to the Lewisham Local Plan (LLP) stems largely from the Forest Hill Station and Town Centre Master Plan (Master Plan) created in 2016 in partnership with the Society and Forest Hill-based Discourse Architecture. This Plan focussed on the urban renewal of the town centre particularly around Forest Hill Station and embodied many of the LLP’s Strategic Objectives, particularly around economic growth and housing and are reflected in this submission.

“We have a once in a 100 years’ opportunity to shape the centre of Forest Hill, reflecting the needs and aspirations of people who live and work in the area.”

Included within the response is consideration of:

  • Forest Hill Station and Town Centre
  • Site Allocations in Forest Hill
  • Public Realm Issues
  • Cultural Heritage Issues
  • Environmental and Local Green Space 
  • Aircraft Noise and Flight Paths

You can read the full submission here.

08 April 2021

Town Centre Planting

Springtime in Forest Hill, so it’s planting/tidy-up time:
If you would like to join in some light community gardening we meet in front of the main entrance to Forest Hill station at 2.30pm on Saturday, 10th April. Gloves are essential, and a trowel, although we do have some spares.

No experience needed, but please note that because of the proximity to moving traffic this event is not suitable for small children. We look forward to meeting new gardeners as well as old.

How it started, ten years ago in 2011:



 

01 April 2021

Forest Hill Tunnel Bypass to Open in April 2023

While the high street has suffered under lockdown over the last year, underneath the high street the Forest Hill Society embarked on a top-secret project to radically improve the future of Forest Hill town centre.


In April 2020 a small group of local residents started digging the tunnels to enable the South Circular to travel beneath the town centre, providing a pedestrianised surface level shopping, with all the traffic going underground from Dulwich Common to Waldram Park Road.


Three sites were chosen for the secret tunnel entrances to begin the three sections of tunnel; the former site of the Coop - once rumoured to become a hotel - has been turned into the eastern entrance tunnel, the western tunnel entrance has started from the car park of the former Harvester, and a mid-point tunnel had begun from the former Fairlawn nursery site on Waldenshaw Road. Until they are connected, the three separate tunnels have been nicknamed ‘Rod’, ‘Jane’ and ‘Freddy’. The first “break-through” is expected to occur in June this year, when Jane and Freddy will meet for the first time, completing the first half of the project.

 
At the Harvester site, volunteers have donned baggy jeans and beanie hats to smuggle out earth and have constructed a skate park as a distraction from the tunnelling.


Lockdown and Covid restrictions presented some difficulties for the mining volunteers, but the use of breathing apparatus and the three separate entrances, has allowed work to continue below ground with up to 18 people at any time while maintaining social distancing. Many of the volunteers are from the Forest Hill library, but the temporary closure of the library has meant that many have had spare time to devote to digging - it turns out library staff make excellent miners - and remarkably quiet. The school closures during lockdown allowed us to make use of child labour, with children as young as four able to enter the smaller tunnels sections before adults.


The entrances were strategically chosen to avoid the need to dig down very far to pass under the hill. The South London Clay is easy to dig through without the need for machinery and will yield important raw materials for the local pottery industry.  In fact, there is now so much clay available that local schools have been drafted in to produce hundreds of vases for families and friends.


The lack of heavy tunnelling equipment has been challenging, particularly the use of small garden appliances borrowed from local allotments. Yet, the hardest part of the project has been keeping it secret until this point, and before it was discovered by the authorities.


In total, the tunnel will run for one mile and will be tall enough for a double-decker bus. Air shafts will bring in air from Sydenham Woods, and exhaust gases will be vented from a chimney at the top of the Horniman Hill. Concerns of how fumes might affect Horniman Heights are expected to blow over, but they are being addressed at the highest levels.

 


Flora Pilo, from the Network for Urban Transport Safety, said in a statement “Digging underneath TfL roads is not recommended and should be left to professionals, but would you be able to help with the Bakerloo Line extension?” 

The Forest Hill Society continue to look for new volunteers to join the digging, if you would be interested in helping, please email us.

* Press release issued by the Forest Hill Society on 1st April 2021. Some of the details in this article may not be valid on any other day of the year.

31 March 2021

Forest Hill History Panel

On Tuesday 20th April (7:30pm), the Forest Hill Society is organising a panel discussion on the 20th Century history of Forest Hill. We are bringing together a group of people who live or have lived in Forest Hill since the 1920s. They will share their recollections of Forest Hill before and after the Second World War and how the area, the shops, and the transportation system has changed over the last hundred years.




As well as our panel, attendees are encouraged to share their own memories or ask questions about how the area has changed.

The event will take place on Zoom and pre-registration is required via https://shorturl.at/xFOR2

29 March 2021

Tom Keating: The Forest Hill Forger


By Gary Thornton

Havelock Walk may be known for its community of artists, but 100 years ago, at the other end of Forest Hill, a small boy grew up to become the 20th century’s most notorious and gifted art forger, responsible for 2,000 fake painting by over 100 artists, many of which still hang undetected in galleries across the world.

Tom Keating claimed that his “Sexton Blakes” were his response to the corruption and vested interests he saw in art dealers and galleries, profiting whilst impoverished artists suffered and starved. In a practice meant to undermine these experts and give him a possible defence against charges of fraud, each painting contained a deliberate ‘time-bomb’ which gave a clue to its deception. He would write comments such as “You’ve been had!” on the blank canvas (revealed only under X-ray), deliberately use a modern pigment, or even add a layer of glycerine under the paint so that the painting would be destroyed when cleaned.

The early chapters of Keating’s fascinating autobiography, The Fake’s Progress, paint a detailed and affectionate portrait of the neighbourhood around Herschell Road, where he was born in 1917 in one of the 36 flats in a terrace of three-storey houses opposite St Saviour’s Church. It was then a poor working-class area of overcrowded and unsanitary dwellings, but where everyone looked out for everyone else. It was a nice enough place, writes Keating, better at least than the slums of the East End.

Keating’s father worked as a house-painter for the same building firm for 37 years, until the gas in his lungs from the Great War left him unable to work, and he was sent home with an hour’s pay in his pocket. The family were left to rely on the wages earned by Tom’s elder siblings for their survival.

Tom’s education started at Dalmain Road school, where he first found his talent for painting, although he soon ran away to Eltham, and spent three years living there with his grandparents. Returning to Dalmain Road, he passed the entrance exam for St Dunstan’s College in Catford. However, with his family unable to afford the fees, he left school for various jobs, selling parts for early wirelesses, and working as a barber’s assistant.

Called up to the Royal Navy for the Second World War, Keating married whilst at home on leave after his ship was torpedoed. After he was invalided out, the couple took a room in Sunderland Road. Ellen worked in munitions and Tom as a door-to-door salesman, selling Lazy Lady’s furniture polish. 

Then, in 1952, whilst studying at Goldsmith’s College, Keating met Albert Fripp, an art dealer on Dartmouth Road. Fripp’s business involved buying copies of Dutch flower paintings made by ‘little old ladies’ in Bromley, which he would age in an oven and sign before selling to West End galleries as period originals. When he realised that Tom — now living in Westbourne Drive — had a particular talent for restoring and copying paintings, he took him on, and Keating had found his vocation.

Tom scoured antique shops around Forest Hill, Sydenham and Dulwich for supplies of cheap old canvases and frames which would be the basis of his forgeries. Using descriptions found in old sale catalogues, and with meticulous background research, he would recreate ‘lost’ paintings by Dutch, English and Italian masters, French impressionists, and even German expressionists, which would then find their way into the hands of dealers, and were often authenticated using the very catalogues Keating had used to invent them in the first place.

In 1976, and by now living in rural Suffolk, he was charged with fraud when a collection of Samuel Palmer paintings in a London gallery were traced back to him, but the case was dropped when Keating fell dangerously ill. He recovered to become a minor celebrity, presenting a Channel 4 television series on the techniques of the Old Masters (Tom Keating on Painters), before he died in 1984 at the age of 66.

Since his death, the appreciation of Keating as an artist has risen, and his once worthless fakes now reach considerable prices. In a neat reversal of fortune, this has in turn fed a thriving market in counterfeit Keatings. Tom would probably have approved.

27 March 2021

Public Service Broadcasting

By Claus Murmann

The Forest Hill Society’s communications committee thought it would be interesting to spotlight local artists in the Forest Hill area, and there was a rumour that a band called Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) were based in SE23. Since I happen to be a fan, I reached out to J. Willgoose, Esq., one of the band, on Twitter, and to my delight he offered to answer a few questions. 

If you’re thinking “Who are PSB?” then check out the ‘The Race for Space’ album, especially if you’re into anything related to the history of Sputnik, through to the Apollo landings. The album contains fantastic historical storytelling via archive recordings blended with synths. Check out his ‘best kept secret’ about SE23 below and you’ll see he’s posted some pictures of local owls on his Twitter @jwillgoose_esq.

Q: Describe PSB to someone who’s not familiar with the band.

We write new music based on old source material, essentially — we started off using only audio samples from public information films, archive footage and propaganda (especially for our 2012 release ‘The War Room’), but over the years it's diversified to include poems, oral history, fragments of melodies and even some original lyrics. I think we write, essentially, narrative albums, using music to tell a story.

Q: Which song (or album) would you recommend as a PSB starter?

I'd say the ‘The Race For Space’ is the most popular, because space is such an imagination-catching topic, and the source material for that record was very strong indeed.

Q: Best kept secret in SE23?

The local birdlife, I think. I've always loved birds, but I've got better at recognising them by their calls, which means I also see a lot more. In 2020 I've seen kingfishers, green & great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatches, goldcrests, blackcaps, long-tailed tits and our new local resident, the peregrine falcon. I even saw an owl recently. This is all without having to walk more than a mile from my front door, so I think we're very lucky to have so much wildlife on our doorstep.

Q: Do you shop locally — what’s your favourite local shop?

We try to, yes. One of the few benefits of the past year has been being on foot in the neighbourhood more and noticing how many new local shops are springing up and, it seems, flourishing. We've also started using the independent book shop Moon Lane Books more recently. As for pubs, there are loads of good ones (and a couple of dodgy ones). The Dartmouth Arms, the Blythe Hill Tavern and the Chandos are all good pubs that I enjoy visiting. Hopefully, all our locals will come through the other side of this in okay-shape.

Q: Have you ever been recognised whilst out and about in SE23?

No, thank god. I was walking down my street once and noticed that the man coming towards me was wearing one of our t-shirts, but, thankfully, he sailed right on by. It's nice to be anonymous.

Q: What new music are you looking forward to in 2021?

There's a new Mogwai album imminently — other than that, I'm keeping my head down for the moment, trying to finish ours. I don't listen to much new stuff when I get to this phase of finishing something as I just don't have room in my head. I'm looking forward to getting this done though and then being able to relax with music again, properly.

Q: Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties have been great in 2020 — Which ones (aside from the PSB’s!) were your favourites? Have these helped to promote music and support artists during lockdown?

I loved the British Sea Power’s 'The Decline of British Sea Power' one, The Avalanches’ ‘Since I Left You’ and The Flaming Lips’ ‘The Soft Bulletin’. I've lurked for quite a few more of them but I think those are the ones I got actively involved in. All three are very important records for me. 

Q: Did you record your solo ‘Late Night Final’ album this year from home? Do the neighbours ever bang on the walls? 

Yes, I've mixed all our records so far at home, and ‘Late Night Final’ was no different. We're on a corner so I think I'm relatively safe, plus I don't listen at insane levels.


26 March 2021

Back from the Brink: Trees of Significance


By Quetta Kaye, Environment Committee chair

At the top of the hill in the Horniman Gardens, near to the Butterfly House, there is a prehistoric park. Next to the model of the 75 million-year-old Velociraptor among the ferns, Cycads, Horsetails, Ginkgo and Monkey Puzzle is a specimen of the brilliant green Wollemi Pine.

The Wollemi Pine, which first appeared during the Cretaceous period around 90 million years ago, was thought to be extinct until 1994 when a specimen was found in the Blue Mountains of Australia, from which seeds were taken, distributed to specialised botanical institutions around the world and germinated. Now an example of this prehistoric survivor has had a chance to live again … in our Horniman Gardens’ prehistory patch.


Elsewhere, near the beautiful Victorian conservatory, is another magnificent survivor from prehistory: the Chinese (or Dawn) Redwood. This Redwood holds an interesting place in the history of palaeobotany as one of the few living plants known first as a fossil record until, in 1944, living trees were discovered in China. There are several specimens in the Horniman Gardens.

How lucky we are to be able to enjoy these throwbacks from the time when dinosaurs walked the earth, and when flowering plants had yet to develop. These are our direct contacts with the past, to be enjoyed in the present and, we hope, to survive for future generations. Significant trees indeed!

 

 

Scientific names of the trees mentioned:
Cycads (Cycas revoluta), Horsetail (Equicetum hyemale), Ginkgo  (Ginkgo  biloba), Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria Araucana), Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis), Chinese Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides).


25 March 2021

News from St Christopher’s, Your Local Hospice

 
By Suzy Fisk, Communications and Marketing Lead, St Christopher’s Hospice

At St Christopher’s Hospice we have been serving the community of South East London for over 50 years since our founding by hospice care pioneer, Dame Cicely Saunders, in 1967.

From our main building in Sydenham, and another in Orpington, we offer high-quality palliative and end-of-life care for the boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark. The aim of palliative care is to help people live well until they die; it’s not just about care for the very final days of life. Last year the hospice provided care and support to over 7,500 local people in need: from gym sessions and art therapy to complementary therapies, social work and welfare support, end-of-life care and bereavement support.


St Christopher’s aims to be both part of the community and for the community, and never has this been truer than in the last ten or so months. We have felt so appreciated and supported by our local community, just as our staff and volunteers have been finding new ways to safely keep supporting local people, despite the difficult circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak.

So much appreciation has been shown to our staff and volunteers, and the practical support that we received as the pandemic began to be felt in 2020 was overwhelming. From simple messages of thanks for the care that people have continued to receive through to donations of ready meals for staff, to the wonderful response that we received to our Emergency Appeal while we were forced to temporarily close our 26 charity shops and curtail fundraising events — thank you so much to everyone who have been behind us.

Meanwhile, at St Christopher’s, we continue to provide care and support for over 1,100 local people every day, despite the challenges. Our care teams, wearing PPE to keep everyone safe, have looked after patients and families both on our wards and in the community, where the vast majority of our care takes place. In fact, last year, over 14,000 visits were made to people’s homes or care homes. Where possible at the moment, however, teams use video consultations or telephone calls, to reduce the risk of infection by connecting people virtually.

To support our community, over Christmas 2020, volunteers with our Community Action Team delivered 175 gift bags, filled with small treats and presents donated by our staff and volunteers, which were given to isolated and vulnerable local people in their homes.

Despite these difficult times, we are also pleased to have something to look forward to in 2021. If you have travelled down Lawrie Park Road recently, you will have seen that our impressive new education building is nearly finished. St Christopher’s Hospice is a nationally and internationally recognised provider of palliative care education, and our new, purpose-built building will mean that we can offer our facilities for community use, as well as use state-of-the-art teaching facilities to support local families who want to learn how to better take care of a loved one at home. The building will be officially opened later this year, and we look forward to welcoming everyone inside.

At St Christopher’s we have over 500 dedicated staff and over 1,200 talented volunteers who make it the wonderfully positive, compassionate and skilled place that it is. However, St Christopher’s is a charity, and it costs £23 million every year to keep running our wide range of services. Around a third of this funding comes from the NHS, and the remaining £15 million has to be fundraised with the help of our community.

If you would like to offer your support, especially while we are facing lower income due to the temporary closure of our charity shops and curtailed fundraising events, you can give to the hospice in many ways, such as through donations, gifts in Wills, or volunteering. At the time of writing, our charity shops were closed but, when we are able to safely welcome you back inside, you can also support us by donating goods to one of our 26 high street shops, and perhaps finding a lovely bargain while you are in there! We sincerely hope that we will be able to see you soon.

Forest Hill Library Garden

By Lauren Goddard

After months of passing by the empty green patch behind the Forest Hill Library, and speculating about its emptiness, Harwood and I decided to go to Lewisham Council and apply for community garden funding. Fortunately for us, the council and the library were on board and we have begun to work on the space in the hopes of welcoming the community to an all-seasons edible community garden — once it is safe to do so of course. 

We have both worked and volunteered across a broad scope of local private and communal gardens over the years, including mental health gardens, and we have seen first-hand the absolute magic that comes from gardening alongside a group of people. It is now well known that horticulture has an incredible effect on mental well-being, but it also has the ability to enable a community to form from people who may never have met each other otherwise. 

As we come from a therapeutic-horticulture background, we want to offer a warm and welcoming space to members of the community who may have become isolated due to the pandemic. By scheduling session times with a set number of volunteers and providing personal gloves, a hand-washing station and strict tool disinfection we will be able to offer assurance that the garden accommodates social-distancing requirements and is as Covid-safe as possible.

So far, we have gathered advice from various contractors and green charities on how to make the most out of the small space whilst also making it as accessible as possible given its sloping topography: elongated raised beds will be incorporated into the slope whilst flatter paths will be carved out to wind around them.

Our main aim is to grow edible and medicinal plants, along with some ornamentals to lift one’s spirits. We want to share the unbeatable joy and satisfaction that comes from sharing and eating crops that you have grown yourself. The space will demonstrate ways to grow your own food, even if it’s just on a windowsill or balcony, and we know that we’ll all be sharing lots of crafty growing tips amongst us!

From then on, we will welcome local people for sessions and encourage participants to determine what we grow at the Library Garden and at home. By working together to grow, tend and share plants, we hope the same camaraderie and care will help us to navigate these difficult times as a community.

24 March 2021

Rubble, Frogs and Mince Pies: The December Workday on Albion Millennium Green

By Jorella Andrews, Chair of the Albion Millennium Green Trust

Saturday 12th December dawned fresh, cool and dry after a night of rain — ideal conditions for the work of digging and clearing we were carrying out on the Green, in preparation for planting a hedge along the Green's boundary with the recently extended housing development of Longfield Crescent. In fact, according to an 1870 map tracked down by Sheila Carson, Secretary of the Friends of Albion Millennium Green, we will be rejuvenating part of an old boundary line consisting of hawthorn trees that once ran from the railway line, along what is now the south side of the Green, up the south side of Redberry Grove, and on to meet Sydenham Park Road. 

Some of these trees are still living. We plan to reduce them in height and insert new hedging plants, between and slightly in front of them, with the aim of growing a new thick, mixed-species hedge. The hedge should provide food (hawthorn, holly and wild privet berries, rosehips, and hazelnuts) and nesting sites for birds, as well as sloes which could be foraged for gin-making. But before we can plant, we need to remove an expanse of bricks, rubble and lumps of cement that have been dumped onto the land over time and are now buried underneath it, shrouded by overlying brambles. Then we need to prepare the ground before planting next winter. 

On our workday, as we forked energetically into the earth and turned it over, we were conscious of the small lives we were disturbing: fleshy worms, wood beetles, spiders, slugs, and the acrobatic frogs, which would suddenly leap into view. We relocated the latter to a safe spot close to the Green’s pond.

We had a fantastic (socially-distanced) workout, cheered along by good conversation, coffee and mince pies. If this sounds appealing, look out for our next socially-distanced workdays on the second Saturday of each month. We meet at 10.30am in the area of the Green adjacent to Albion Villas Road. Bring gardening gloves and sturdy footwear. Even if you are only able to stay for an hour or so, we will gladly appreciate your company and your help.




A Year at the Lewisham Foodbank: A First-Hand Account

By Claus Murmann 

Early in 2020, as we were heading for the first lockdown, I answered a call for volunteer delivery drivers for Lewisham Foodbank — little did I know what I’d started. Naturally, as a keen cyclist, I asked if it was possible to deliver by bike. “Of course, we have a bike team too,” came the response from Caro, the foodbank’s volunteer coordinator and comms manager. My boss was happy for me to do one or two lunchtime sessions a week, so off I went. It’s fairly ad-hoc, informal and fun, riding around with a very diverse team of cyclists. We’ve been all over Lewisham and discovered new parts of town. It’s quite an adventure.


The serious side of this is that we see a lot of very needy people first-hand; doorstep delivery is the client-facing role. Often we’re going to very run-down housing estates;  doorbells are broken, people can’t answer phone calls as they’re out of credit, and homes are damp and mouldy. It’s really depressing to see the state of housing and meet people who struggle to look after themselves. Many clients seem to have found themselves suddenly homeless and in temporary accommodation due to the Covid pandemic, dazed and confused, stuck in limbo between jobs and before support kicks in — a common circumstance where the Foodbank gets involved. Probably the most crushing thing is that this evident poverty crisis is so hidden from everyday life; I’ve cycled past so many of these places on a main road without knowing what’s just around the corner. I hate to say it, but it does make me appreciate what I have, and on the other hand it makes me want to do more to help. That’s what kick-started me volunteering more and more of my time. During mid-year the foodbank was expanding its services so rapidly to cope with an increase in demand that it meant building a new warehouse for storage. Over a few afternoons we moved piles of canned peaches, tomato sauce and pasta and generally very heavy crates of non-perishable food. We built shelves, we stacked mountains of cornflakes and we piled toilet paper up high.

If you’re thinking of volunteering, drivers are often needed to make individual deliveries but also to move crates of pre-packed food parcels from the Forest Hill base at the Hope Centre on Malham Road to Deptford, Lewisham, Catford and Downham, in a hub-and-spoke model. Recently we’ve managed to work with the Cross River Partnership and Ecofleet cycle couriers to set up some Lewisham-funded green trial deliveries — fewer cars means less congestion and less pollution! Volunteers are also required to do regular restocking work as well as the huge logistical operation of putting together food parcels, which are packed and labelled with the correct dietary requirements.

Perhaps the hardest thing I’ve done is work the phones, which involves calling people to check addresses and dietary requirements, and whether they need nappies, period products, etc; and to ensure they would be home to receive their delivery. This can mean making 50-plus phone calls in 2 or 3 hours, and it’s emotionally draining. Many people are really grateful for the foodbank’s support and express it. Some are struggling and some want to tell you a story because they clearly haven’t spoken to anyone for a while. It’s difficult to keep moving through the referrals, as everyone deserves our time and help. People can even get downright rude because they didn’t get their preferred brand of Cornflakes (but that’s rare).

I asked Caro how many food parcels Lewisham Foodbank gives month by month. She told me that in January 2021 alone they fed over 2,200 adults and children. This is a massive increase compared to 2019 and 2020. It must also be noted that Lewisham Foodbank isn’t the only food project in the borough.

So yes, please keep donating to the Lewisham Foodbank; money is great as specific bulk items can be ordered that are always needed. Donations can be brought to Hope Centre from Mondays to Fridays, or dropped in local supermarket boxes. The other thing you can give is time; volunteering has been a hugely rewarding experience and I’ve met the nicest people along the way. The foodbank will need more help as some of its existing volunteer team members head back to work after lockdown. You never know — you might find yourself sorting carrots with a cast member from The Crown or Poirot, doing logistics planning with a member of the Eastenders family or packing laundry capsules with a star from Death in Paradise. You could find yourself on a team with an award-winning BAFTA actor, recognise a voice from The Archers or even a bit of hoovering with a comedian often seen on QI.

To donate money or food please visit lewisham.foodbank.org.uk

23 March 2021

Fairlawn Auxiliary Military Hospital

By Sheila Carson

Not long after the outbreak of the First World War, the numbers of wounded servicemen arriving in England threatened to overwhelm existing military medical facilities. Many civilian hospitals were requisitioned for military use by the War Office. This included a large part of the recently opened King's College Hospital, which became the Fourth London General Hospital. As the casualties from France increased, the hospital was extended into the nearby Ruskin Park. Huts and tents were erected, and a wooden bridge was built across the nearby railway line to provide access.

The British Red Cross and the Order of St John of Jerusalem combined to form the Joint War Committee. An important part of the work of this committee was the setting up and organisation of smaller auxiliary hospitals to ease the pressure on large military hospitals. These formed the final link in the chain of evacuation for many wounded soldiers. A network of over 3,000 auxiliary hospitals spread across Britain. These varied greatly in size and included private houses donated by their owners. One of these was Fairlawn House.

Fairlawn House was a large mansion with extensive grounds and outbuildings, built between 1808 and 1816. It stood on the west side of Honor Oak Road in Forest Hill.  

When Fairlawn Auxiliary Military Hospital opened in November 1915 to provide convalescence for enlisted servicemen, it had 35 beds, later increased to 65. In 1916 the hospital was expanded with an additional house — Border Lodge in Sydenham — and again in 1917, when a large house in Manor Mount was added, providing a total of 174 beds.

The principal role of auxiliary hospitals was the care of convalescing patients. However, the term 'convalescent' must be understood in the military context. The expectation was that these soldiers would return to active service as soon as they were fit enough. The War Office was concerned that recovering solders might abscond if they were allowed to go home. These hospitals enabled soldiers to be kept under military control and discipline and they were required to wear a distinctive blue uniform.

Fairlawn Auxiliary Military Hospital was run by a Commandant and a Quartermaster who were resident at the hospital. There were eight trained nurses, supported by 14 full-time and 32 part-time voluntary nurses from the London 216 and 35 Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs). The VADs were usually comprised of women but might have included a few men who had not been called up for military service. Local doctors provided medical supervision. There would have been a cook, but most of the domestic work would have been undertaken by local volunteers.

Nursing convalescent patients required a very different skill set from acute nursing. The focus was on rehabilitation through exercise, relaxation, diet, rest and sleep. Patients at Fairlawn Auxiliary Military Hospital would have also been encouraged to do gardening. The hospital would have been equipped and supported by local fund raising, which would have also provided for the daily needs and comforts of the soldiers by supplying items such as playing cards, board games, walking sticks and slippers.

The hospital closed in October 1919, and of the 2,724 admissions during the war period there were no recorded deaths. However, 30 patients and five VAD nurses who returned to the war were killed. After the war a memorial bronze plaque presented by the VADs was placed in St Paul's Church in Waldenshaw Road. No names were listed on the plaque, but the inscription read "To the glory of God and in memory of the patients and staff of the Fairlawn Auxiliary Military Hospital who have passed away during the Great War." St Paul's Church was badly damaged by bombs in 1943 during the Second World War. Thereafter, it was demolished and the war memorial was lost.

Fairlawn House was destroyed by a V1 flying bomb during the Second World War which also caused extensive damage to neighbouring buildings. Fairlawn Primary School now occupies the site, and an annexe to the school was built on the site of St Paul's Church in Waldenshaw Road.

22 March 2021

Oh, Christmas Tree


By Jason Kee

The festive celebrations may have been muted this past Christmas, but the SE23 (and SE4) communities enjoyed some great festive cheer with this season’s Christmas trees.

The tree decorating in Forest Hill outside WHSmith, organised through the Forest Hill Society, reached new heights in 2020 in both stature and decoration. For the second year in a row, local resident Lee Jackson, of design firm Jackson Morgenstern, designed and decorated the tree creating a flourish of seasonal reds, purples and golds.

However, there was little danger of a repeat of the great Forest Hill Hat Caper of 2019. This time, in the place of a Santa hat, three owls topped the tree and kept a wise vigil over Dartmouth and London Roads and the station’s forecourt. The owls were named “Hoot, Ann and Nanny” through a Twitter poll-beating stiff competition from “Blythe, Mayow, Horniman”, “Owly, McOwl, Face” and “Goldie, Frankie, Mervyn”.

The Forest Hill tree was big this season, but it was surpassed in height by a beautiful specimen on Perry Vale in the ‘Village’. Organised by councillors for Perry Vale ward, the tree’s decorations were kept simple and elegant, with strings of white lights. 

Christmas trees also appeared by Honor Oak Park and Crofton Park stations, and were graciously donated by Crofton Park’s Clickmas Trees. These trees were a real community effort with decorations and lighting provided by local residents themselves. Some may have noted that the HOP tree was topped by a mischievous little elf that had its own Twitter account. @HonorOakElf kept the Twitter followers among us amused with some friendly banter with @tweet_owls, a Twitter account manned by Hoot, Ann and Nanny themselves. 

Despite the absence of lighting ceremonies or carol singing this year, the Christmas trees of SE23 and SE4 brought great joy to kids and adults alike. Thank you to everyone involved in organising these trees during a very difficult time for the community. 

Forest Hill
Image: © Jackson Morgenstern Ltd
Crofton Park
Image: © Jane Martin
Perry Vale
Image: © SE23.life    
Honor Oak
Image: © Nicola Johnson

17 March 2021

Planning Application: Mast on the Pavement at the Esso Garage

There has been a recent application to install a 20m high monopole at the junction of London Road and Honor Oak Road, with cabinets on the pavement. Details of the application can be found on Lewisham Council website.

The Forest Hill Society has opposed this application:

We note a number of recent refusals for masts on similar pavement locations in the local area, most recently and locally DC/20/118720 at BLYTHE VALE, BELL GREEN AND PERRY VALE, SE6.

We believe the reasons for rejection of that application are equally applicable to this location that is within the Forest Hill Conservation Area and on an important pedestrian route between Forest Hill station and town centre, and the Horniman Museum.

The siting and appearance of the monopole would give rise to an overly dominant and highly visible development and the proposed cabinets would result in a visually cluttered streetscene out of keeping with local character of the area when viewed from London Road and the Forest Hill conservation area. The siting of the development would narrow the footway with the potential to impact pedestrian safety at a difficult crossing point and junction of the South Circular road.

This junction is not an easy crossing for pedestrians as there is no pedestrian phase on the lights, and the addition of cabinets and masts in this location will further obscure the sight of cars turning the corner on this busy junction.

We welcome the installation of 5G infrastructure around Forest Hill, but this should not increase street clutter and make pedestrian crossings more dangerous. There are a number of more suitable and less prominent locations for such a mast including council owned car parks and we hope that the applicant can work with the council to identify such locations.

[This application was refused by Lewisham Council]


16 March 2021

Forest Hill Society’s Members Help with Laptops for Schools

By Claus Murmann

At the turn of the year, I was chatting with John Doherty from our Transport Committee to see what, if anything, was new. “Oh,” he said, “I’m building laptops for one of Lewisham's schools.” He’d collected a few laptops from regulars at the All Inn One pub and had set about refurbishing them and re-installing Windows 10 and Zoom, so that they could be handed out to children who did not have access to technology at home or any way to interact ‘face to face’ with teachers during lockdown. The idea was to provide a stop-gap solution for some families while the school waited for national tech-supply programs to kick in.

Without quite realising what we were letting ourselves in for, I said why don’t we put this on our Forest Hill Society social media! Out went a couple of social media and forum requests for old laptops and tablets. We had a fantastic response, so much so that I had to start collating a spreadsheet with who was offering what and via what medium so I wouldn’t lose track. For more than a week I was messaging, emailing and then planning a cycle route around Forest Hill collecting up to five devices a day to drop off at John's house. John was almost overwhelmed, but he very jovially insisted it was all fine, and set about restoring machines and buying random licenses, parts, chargers and even keyboard decals from eBay. I heard stories of random screen and keyboard swaps, and all kinds of ‘surgery’.

We have now successfully refurbished over 27 devices including laptops, MacBooks and iPads — all repurposed and delivered. That’s pretty much equivalent to a whole new class online, plus a few more that were donated and used for spares.

The headteacher of the school has told us that every device is making a difference to the families who received them. It has removed the stress on children of not being able to log in to their daily meetings, eased the issue of siblings and working parents competing for devices, and increased active engagement in online learning in every class. She said,

“I can't thank John and all at Forest Hill Society enough for what they've done. Their generosity in terms of time and money is overwhelming and has made a huge difference to our families.”

It’s not too late — we’ve figured out that the school’s Apple remote install will handle Zoom right down to iOS Ver 9; so, if you have any old iPads from the old larger connector generation lying around, we can maybe bring them back to life. Ditto any laptops that have a webcam, probably going back to 2010; let us know and we will still pick them up.

Some donors have been exceptionally generous and provided more than one device, and one or two very up-to-date tablets and laptops have emerged too.

Thanks to everyone who donated, including the All Inn One pub who contributed £100 for spares, and Finches and Sushi Garden; and a huge thank you to John who’s spent most of January knee-deep in technology. Forest Hill Society has matched the £100 in order to help purchase data SIMs and dongles for households with no Wi-Fi/Broadband.

07 February 2021

Crime Update

The local Safer Neighbourhoods Team have contacted us to warn that the local area is currently suffering from a slight increase in motor vehicle crime. You can read their guidance here.

 

Always lock it

Fuelling up or popping back into your house to get something are perfect examples of how easy it is to turn your back for a moment and forget your vehicle is unsecured. So get into the habit of locking your vehicle even if you’re only going to be away from it for a moment. If your vehicle has wing mirrors that fold in automatically when locked, ensure you lock it properly. Criminal gangs are looking for vehicles like these where the wing mirrors are still out because it is clear to them that the vehicle has been left unlocked.

Close windows and the sun roof to prevent ‘fishing’

Leaving windows and the sunroof open invites fishing for items through the gap by hand or with, say, a bent coat hanger, which could also be used to unlock a door for them to get in. Thieves can be ingenious. Don’t give them the opportunity.

Secure your number plates with tamper-resistant screws

The easiest way to change the identity of a stolen vehicle or avoid speeding tickets and parking tickets is to fit stolen number plates. Using security screws to attach your vehicle’s number plates makes it harder for thieves to get your number.

Fit locking, anti-tamper wheel nuts to secure alloy wheels

Stolen wheels are valuable, either as parts or for their scrap value. Using locking wheel nuts reduces the risk of your vehicle’s wheels being stolen. 

Secure anything that’s on the outside of your vehicle

Anything left on roof-racks, tailgate racks, holiday top boxes or in tool chests are easily stolen when the vehicle is parked. The use of cable locks, padlocks and self-locking tools chests, which are secured to the vehicle, makes them more secure, but still, don’t leave things in them if you can avoid it.

 

 

Take it with you or hide it

Your mobile phone, coins for the car park, sunglasses, packs of medication or other items that can earn quick cash are irresistible to the opportunist thief. Remember, the cost of replacing a window is often much more than that of what’s stolen. And it should go without saying that wallets, handbags, purses and credit cards should never be left in an unattended vehicle. 

Hide electrical items and leave no clues

Leaving sat nav mounts, suction cup marks on windows or cables on view gives it away that you have left a sat nav, smartphone or other device in your car. Even if they can’t see the sat nav or iPad they might still break in to see if it’s stored in the car, out of sight.

Tool theft from vans

Vans are often targeted by thieves for the tools stored inside. If you have to leave tools in a van overnight, it's a good idea to mark them clearly with your name / company name and address using paint pens and seal with a clear lacquer spray. Alternatively, you can use a variety of other property marking systems. Items that are clearly marked are less desirable and more difficult to sell on. Consider using a lockable cabinet within your van to store tools – a number of security rated products are available. Small cameras are also designed to record inside vehicles. Visit Secured by Design for more details. You can also take photographs of items of value, make a note of the serial numbers and consider registering them online at a property register site.

Park in well-lit and busier areas

It can take less than 30 seconds to break into a vehicle. Parking in well-lit areas and busy streets increases the chances of a thief being seen, so they’ll probably steer clear.

Take your documents with you

Having a vehicle’s registration and insurance documents could let a thief pretend to be the owner. Which means they could sell it on quite easily. So, never leave any documents in the vehicle.

Catalytic converter theft

The precious metal in catalytic converters has led to an increase in their theft. To keep yours safe, ask your car dealer if they can give you any advice on locks or guards that are approved by the vehicle manufacturer. Alternatively, try to make sure your vehicle is parked in a garage overnight, or if you have a commercial vehicle park it in a secure compound. If this isn’t possible, park in an area that’s well-lit and overlooked and try to park so that the convertor can’t be easily reached by potential thieves. Vehicles that sit high above the road are particularly vulnerable.