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.