Showing posts with label louise house. Show all posts
Showing posts with label louise house. Show all posts

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.

18 August 2017

06 October 2016

Janusz Korczak Talk and Walk

The Forest Hill Society is delighted to welcome Wojciech Lasota, Bartosz Pieliński and Julia Dmeńska from the Polish Korczak Foundation to talk to us about Janusz Korczak and his connection to Forest Hill. The event will take place at 5pm-7:30pm on Friday 21st October at Louise House (which Korczak visited 105 years ago).

Prior to this we will have a guided walk by Steve Grindlay from Horniman Museum, starting at 4:30pm and walking from the Horniman to Louise House, tracing the path of Korczak, and arriving in time for the formal talk.

We realise this is a slightly odd time for an event, this is due to the availability of the speaker. But we couldn't pass up this great opportunity to hear more about this amazing man, and his links to Forest Hill.
To find out more about Janusz Korczak see our previous article.

26 September 2016

Forest Hill Society AGM

The Forest Hill Society’s Annual General Meeting will take place on Thursday 20th October, 7:30pm at Louise House (Dartmouth Road, beside the Library) in the rear building.

This meeting will provide further information about the plans for the Library, Louise House and hopefully news of some progress on Dartmouth Road Improvement Works.

It is also your opportunity to stand for the Executive Committee or get more involved in the activities of the Forest Hill Society. We look forward to seeing you there!

19 September 2016

V22 at Louise House

 By Tara Cranswick, Director of V22
In 2013, V22 was proud to have won the tender for a long leasehold of Louise House from the London Borough of Lewisham. Occupation of the premises in Forest Hill commenced in 2014 after extensive repair works were undertaken, after which the main building has been fully let to artists ever since. We have been very pleased with the feedback we have received about how helpful it is to have such provision in the neighbourhood for local artists, and our tenants who have moved to the area have reported how welcoming the community has been and how much they have grown to like the area. As envisioned, we have artists at a variety of stages in their careers, from Turner Prize nominees to those just starting out.

V22 has engaged with the local community extensively since moving to the area. We have made contact with traders, businesses, organisations and individuals. Past, current and proposed future works have been informed by this community engagement, which has generated a fantastic response to our ideas and plans which have come about as a result.

In 2015, in partnership with SEE3, V22 was successful in applying for funding from the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund. We were also successful in our application to the Arts Council England’s Small Capital Grants programme for the redevelopment of Louise House.

With this funding V22 have been able to:
Renovate the ground floor of the rear building of Louise House (the Laundry) as an exhibition space, community studio, small café and events space and start the development of a community garden
Redesign and build the front garden of Louise House to form a single space with the adjacent library

V22 were very pleased to open these new spaces at Louise House at a Community Open Day in July. It was wonderful to get positive feedback from the community and to celebrate with those who have contributed to making these works possible. The Open Day was followed by a six-week Summer Club hosting a variety of screenings, talks, workshops and family events. The Summer Club will become an annual event.

Part of our aim for the Summer Club was to engage with future partners for the Community Studio. This is a space in the old Laundry building at the rear of Louise House, which will be used to host a variety of community-focused events throughout the year. One of our largest partners will be the Forest Hill Library and its anchor tenant, The Philosophy Foundation — but we are also in discussions with a local art teacher who wants to run regular children’s classes, a yoga teacher who wants to host her sessions there, and a storyteller who is interested in hosting regular events.

We really want to engage with the local community about how the Community Studio and garden are used going forward and are looking for people interested in running events or workshops in the space. It might be coffee mornings, language classes, adult learning sessions of all kinds, pilates, crafts… the list is a long one. The space could accommodate a variety of events or activities from purely commercial ones — like product previews, a Christmas party venue for local businesses or a location for filming (which would all contribute to the costs of running the space) — to entirely not-for-profit initiatives. So, whatever your budget or idea, whatever your interest, we would love to hear from you; please email katherine [at]

One of the great things about knowing we will be in Louise House until the year 2141 is the ability to plan long-term partnerships with our neighbours. Thank you all for your support thus far!

22 May 2016

Bid for Forest Hill Library

The Forest Hill Society, together with Forest Hill Traders Association, and V22 (who run artist studios in Louise House) have formed a consortium to take over Forest Hill library as a community library. Our consortium bid for Forest Hill Library is now available online for you to read and discuss. We have removed some sections containing financial data and personal information, but we are sure that this version will give you an idea of our bid.


We believe that running a successful community library in Forest Hill will be about having the experience and skills necessary to manage and maintain a listed building, making the best and most appropriate use of the space to generate revenue, working with the community to provide essential support, volunteering time and community guidance, and staying true to a vision of providing community benefit and a valuable resource for learning.

Incorporating local residents and associations within a joint management committee to run the library will bring confidence that the local community is fully committed and involved with the continued running of the building. The community is the ideal seat for an ongoing dialogue on service provision, ensuring service provision remains current with local requirements, public engagement, and the long‐term development of community‐based services.

This partnership bid brings together V22's considerable experience of renovating, maintaining and transforming buildings, and operating them for arts and community benefit, with representatives from the Forest Hill Society, Forest Hill Traders’ Association, and experienced individuals. Together we bring considerable collective experience of building management, a deep‐seated local knowledge, a wealth of community contacts and goodwill, and experience of making civic improvements for the benefit of local residents. We believe this bid combines an exceptional team that will be well placed to provide library services; to find, motivate and manage the local volunteers so essential to running a community library; and to build upon the core services of a library to make it a true community space run for and by the community ‐ building upon the needs, interests and aspirations of the people of Forest Hill.

Read more at:

20 November 2015

Janusz Korczak and his links with the Industrial Homes in Forest Hill

20th November is Universal Children's Day, which marks the day in 1959 on which the UN Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. This declaration was inspired by the radical Children's Rights proposed by Janusz Korczak in the early 20th century.

To mark this day we are re-producing an article about Janusz Korczak by local historian and author, Steve Grindlay. This article was first published by the Lewisham Local Historical Society in October 2015.

The Warsaw Ghetto
On 1st September 1939 Germany invaded Poland. From mid-September Warsaw was besieged and by the end of September the city had surrendered. In November 1940 the Nazis created the Warsaw Ghetto, calling it the “Jüdischer Wohnbezirk” or “Jewish residential district”.

It was the most densely populated of all such ghettos created in Nazi-occupied Europe. Jews from Warsaw and beyond were rounded up and forcibly herded into it. The conditions were appalling, food and other essentials were very scarce and it was vastly over-crowded.

Amongst those forced into the Ghetto were Janusz Korczak and some 200 children and staff from the orphanage he founded in Warsaw about 30 years earlier. Korczak was a doctor, a successful author and teacher. When the Germans first invaded Warsaw he refused to recognise their authority and ignored their regulations. This led to him spending time in jail. Korczak received several offers from Polish friends who were prepared to hide him on the "Aryan" side of the city but he declined, as he would not abandon the children.

During the summer of 1942 the Nazis began “deporting” residents from the Ghetto. They were marched through the streets of Warsaw to the railway station, unaware of their final destination. In fact they were being sent to the Treblinka extermination camp. It gradually became clear to those still inside the ghetto that they were to be sent to their deaths. Towards the end of 1942 there was a lull in these deportations and it was during this time that resistance groups began to form. The decision by the Nazis, in January 1943, to continue the deportations led to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In total more than 254,000 people were taken from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka, and murdered.
Janusz Korczak was amongst those sent to Treblinka. On 5th August 1942 he, 12 members of his staff and 192 children were rounded up by the Nazis and marched through the streets of Warsaw to the railway station where they were forced onto the train to Treblinka.

One eyewitness remembered Korczak “marching, his head bent forward, holding the hand of a child... the children were dressed in clean and meticulously cared for clothes”. Another wrote, “He told the orphans they were going out to the country, so they ought to be cheerful. At last they would be able to exchange the horrible suffocating ghetto walls for meadows of flowers, streams where they could bathe, woods full of berries and mushrooms. He told them to wear their best clothes, and so they came out into the yard, two by two, nicely dressed and in a happy mood.”

As an educationalist and an author of popular children’s books Korczak had an international reputation. It has been claimed that the Nazis gave him an opportunity to escape from the train to Treblinka but he refused, again because he would not abandon the children.

This was the tragic conclusion to a story that began some thirty years earlier when Janusz Korczak visited a children’s home in Forest Hill.

“Janusz Korczak” was, in fact, the pen-name of Henryk Goldszmit. He was born in Warsaw in 1878 and adopted his pen-name, from a character in a Polish novel, when he began writing in his early 20s.
Korczak described his own schooling as “Strictness and boredom. Nothing was allowed. Alienation, cold and suffocation.” When he was eleven Korczak’s world was shattered. For some years his father suffered severe mental health problems and after several breakdowns was sent to a mental institution, where he died. The family was brought to the brink of poverty by this. Korczak managed to complete his medical training and went into practice as a paediatrician. However, in 1910, he decided to give up his medical practice and found an orphanage.

For him this was a difficult decision to make. He realised that although medicine could care for the body teaching could develop the mind. He wrote, "What a fever, a cough or nausea is for the physician, so a smile, a tear or a blush should be for the educator." He realised that in an orphanage he could combine both medicine and teaching both “curing the sick child and nurturing the whole child”. The orphanage would be “a just community whose young citizens would run their own parliament, court of peers, and newspaper”. Korczak believed that children had a right to be treated by adults with tenderness and respect, as equals. They should be allowed, and helped, to grow into whoever they were meant to be. The "unknown person inside is the hope for the future”.

In January 1911, while he was making plans for the new orphanage, two close friends of Korczak died. He was much saddened by their loss and seems to have suffered a period of depression. This was not helped by his memory of his father’s death and his fear that such depression was hereditary.

Visit to Forest Hill
After the cornerstone of the orphanage was laid on 14th June 1911 Korczak left for England to visit orphanages but also, it has been suggested, to shake his depression. It was during this time in London that he visited Forest Hill where he was to have an experience that appears to have given him a clearer sense of the direction his life should take.

Horniman Gardens from the boating lake, looking up
the green slope towards the bandstand
Korczak had clearly been told about two children’s homes in Forest Hill and decided he should see them. He wrote a detailed account of the visit, describing how he took the tram from Victoria to Forest Hill. It seems he got off at Horniman Gardens, at the tram stop by the museum. He describes, “a park – lawns, a large lawn on a hill, the bandstand at the top seems small but on Sundays an orchestra of forty musicians plays there. On the green hill children are playing ball games. Lower down is a lake. Here they are launching boats and model ships. Behind a hedge one can hear the rattle of a train and see the smoke from the steam engine. A clock strikes the hour”. He also mentions a museum that housed a mummy. Little has changed except that the small lake has been drained, the railway line to the Crystal Palace closed in 1954 and the clock no longer strikes.

Korczak then walked towards the shopping centre where “the inhabitants can buy all they need”. Continuing along Dartmouth Road he came to “a larger and grander building – communal baths – a bath for two pennies, a swimming pool for one penny – with separate pools for adults and children”. He speculates on how much it cost to build and maintain the pools adding, “the parish paid towards it all, and some lord topped it up”. In fact the parish donated the land and the Earl of Dartmouth, who may well have donated some money, opened Forest Hill Pools in 1885.

However, the biggest surprise was the orphanage next to the pools, the Girls’ Industrial Home, known as Louise House. The director greeted him politely and showed him around "with no trace of German arrogance or French formality." He saw the laundry, the sewing room and the embroidery workshop. He also visited the Boys’ Home. Every child had a garden plot and kept rabbits, doves or guinea pigs. He noted that the children all went to school for formal education. He also mentioned the report books which still survive in the Lewisham Local History & Archives Centre. On leaving Louise House Korczak signed the visitors’ book “Janusz Korczak, Warsaw”. Unfortunately the visitors’ book does not seem to have survived.

Korczak was aware that a stranger from a distant country was not the sort of visitor that the homes were used to. He commented on how he felt the staff saw him: “Warsaw? A strange guest from far away. Why is he looking at everything with such interest? What is so special about this place? The school? But there are children, so of course there must be a school. The orphanage? But there are orphans, so they must have somewhere to stay. A swimming pool? A playground? But this is necessary. Yes, it is all necessary.”

In a letter written to a friend in 1937 Korczak explained: "I remember the moment when I decided not to make a home for myself. It was in a park near London. Instead of having a son I chose the idea of serving the child and his rights”.

Korczak was clearly deeply affected by his visit to the industrial homes. It seems that on his way home he returned to Horniman Gardens to ponder over what he had seen. He felt his own life had been "disordered, lonely, and cold," and decided that as “the son of a madman” and a Polish Jew in a country under Russian occupation he had no right to bring a child into the world. He decided that he would not take on the responsibility of marriage and a family but would instead commit himself to “serving all children and their rights".

Korczak’s own childhood had been difficult. When he was eleven his father became mentally ill and died in a psychiatric hospital and at the time it was thought that such illnesses might be inherited and this must have played on Korczak’s mind. At the time he visited Louise House Korczak was thirty-three, almost the age his father was when Korczak was born. He returned to Warsaw with a clear vision of what he should do and how the orphanage should be run. In 1912 the orphanage opened, with Korczak as director.
Korczak believed that children had their own personalities and their own paths to follow. The role of a parent or a teacher was not to impose other goals on a child, but to help them achieve their own. Children had rights and their views should be listened to. The children in his orphanage were encouraged to write their own newspaper and they were involved in discussing and agreeing the rules. "Out of a mad soul we forge a sane deed," he wrote in later years. The deed was "a vow to uphold the child and defend his rights."

Korczak's ideas influenced the development of free schools such as Dartington Hall and A S Neil’s Summerhill in the 1920s and there was even a school in Sydenham influenced by his ideas, the Kirkdale Free School at 186 Kirkdale. It opened in 1964 and closed in the 1980s. Korczak’s work on children’s rights was also used as the basis for the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child which is used to this day by governments around the world.

Louise House and Shaftesbury House
The industrial homes that so impressed Janusz Korczak during his visit to Forest Hill developed from the Ragged School movement of the mid-19th century. Whereas the Ragged Schools offered a basic, free education to destitute children and sufficient training to enable them to earn an honest living, the children still lived in what were often appalling domestic conditions.

However there were some who believed that such children could only prosper if they could leave “the destitution of parents or influence of surroundings, which were very likely to lead them into a life of crime”. They should be “rescued from the perils of the street, fed, clothed, housed, educated and taught a trade”. The industrial homes, often established in pleasant locations, provided that refuge; they were intended to provide a “home” for children who had no home.

A group of local philanthropists felt that Forest Hill offered a suitable environment for such a home. Funds were raised and a small house at 17 Rojack Road, between Stanstead Road and Rockbourne Road, was acquired. The Boys’ Industrial Home opened on 3rd May 1873 for “the reception and industrial training of destitute boys”. At that time it could accommodate just six boys.

The home was funded by donations from local people. These included F J Horniman who made an annual donation of 18 guineas (almost £1500 today), sufficient to support one child for a year. Under the terms of his will this was to continue after his death. Forest Hill’s other important tea-merchants, the Tetley family, were also generous donors together with several dozen other local people. Clearly, founding the home was the initiative of wealthy and benevolent Forest Hill and Sydenham people.

Each application for entry to the home, usually from a sponsor or parent, was considered by the Industrial Homes committee. They decided whether those who applied for admission were likely to benefit from their time in the home. They would accept only those children who were aged between 7 and 10 and whom they knew to be “destitute or the children of poverty-stricken parents” and would not consider anybody who had already become involved in serious crime. Where possible “a small weekly sum [was] expected from the parents” according to their means. During his visit to Louise House Janusz Korczak wondered why an affluent area like Forest Hill needed an orphanage but, of course, very few of the children were actually from Forest Hill.

By 1875 the house next door, 16 Rojack Road, became part of the boys’ home. At this time the boys were training to be shoemakers. Their wares were sold to help raise funds for the home, which, in 1875, raised £63 (more than £5,000 today). The boys also chopped and bundled firewood and this too was sold.

For their formal education the children attended local schools, initially Christ Church National School, Perry Vale and Holy Trinity National School, Dartmouth Road but when the non-denominational board schools opened the girls attended Sydenham Hill School (now Kelvin Grove School) and the boys went to Rathfern Road School.

By 1881 the need for a home for girls was becoming apparent and so it was decided to make arrangements for the reception of “a few of these little waifs, who are without doubt on the verge of moral and spiritual ruin”. No. 16 Rojack Road was adapted and on 20th July 1881 was opened as a Girls’ Home by the Earl of Shaftesbury. In the same year a further two houses, 3 and 4 Rojack Road, became boys’ homes. By this time there were 22 boys and 11 girls being cared for. By 1880 it was already clear that these houses were inadequate and that there was a need for larger and better-designed homes. A building fund was set up to achieve this.

In May 1884 a purpose built boys’ industrial home, Shaftesbury House, Perry Rise, was opened by the Lord Mayor of London in the presence of the Earl of Shaftesbury, who was patron of the home.
The architect of Shaftesbury House was Thomas Aldwinckle (1845-1920). Although he built hospitals and workhouses across south-east England, including the old Lewisham Baths, Brook Hospital and the water tower on Shooters Hill, and the important Kentish Town baths, he was very much a local architect. He lived in Forest Hill for almost all his working life and his house at 62 Dacres Road, which still survives, was almost certainly designed by him.

The boys’ home closed in about 1943 and the building needlessly demolished in 2000.

On 21st October 1889 Viscount Lewisham wrote to The Times announcing the decision to build a new girls’ home and laundry and appealing for funds. On 17th June 1890 Princess Louise laid the foundation stone of the new building on a site in Dartmouth Road. This was the building visited by Janusz Korczak in 1911. It is one of four significant buildings on this part of Dartmouth Road, three of them listed Grade II. The other buildings are Holy Trinity School, Forest Hill Library and Forest Hill Pools. They were built within 25 years of each other with a shared common purpose, the health and welfare of less advantaged people in Forest Hill, Sydenham and beyond. Between them they provided opportunities for education, religious instruction, exercise, cleanliness and learning a trade. Three of the four buildings are still in use for the purpose for which they were originally intended.

The history of the site on which these buildings were erected began in 1819 when Sydenham Common (500 acres of open land in Upper Sydenham and Forest Hill) was enclosed. Since time immemorial the common had provided local people with certain rights such as free access, grazing livestock, gathering firewood, hunting and holding fairs. After the enclosure the common was divided into small plots that were fenced to keep out trespassers. These plots were awarded to those who already owned land in Lewisham. Thus, as so often happens, the wealthy benefitted at the expense of the poor.

One of the beneficiaries of the enclosure was the Parish of Lewisham, which was awarded the large field on which these four buildings were to be erected. The field, which became known as Vicar’s Field, was originally let as allotments to those who had lost their common rights. As circumstances changed, the vicar (from 1854, when the parish of St Bartholomew was created, the freeholder was the Vicar of St Bartholomew’s Church) was persuaded to make parts of this field available for purposes he deemed to be socially worthwhile. During the early 1870s Vicar’s Field was one of the sites proposed for a public recreation ground but the vicar decided such a use was not a good enough reason to deprive the poor of their allotments so an alternative site was found, now known as Mayow Park.

However, the vicar did agree to make part of the field available for a church school and in 1874 Holy Trinity National Schools opened. This was followed by the pools in 1885, Louise House in 1891 and finally the library in 1901.

The foundation stone of Louise House was laid by Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne and daughter of Queen Victoria, on 17th June 1890. She retained an interest in the industrial home that bore her name for many years. Thomas Aldwinckle, who also designed Shaftesbury House and Forest Hill Pools, was the architect of Louise House.

The house remained a girls’ home (the word “Industrial” was carefully removed from the fascia across the front of the building in about 1930) until the mid-1930s. By 1939 it was occupied by Air Raid Precautions and after the war it became a maternity and child welfare centre. Louise House was closed and boarded-up in 2005 but is now being used as artists’ studios and its future seems secure. As a rare survivor of a purpose built industrial home that is still largely intact and also because of its significant link with Janusz Korczak English Heritage listed the building Grade II.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
By an extraordinary coincidence another heroic person who died opposing the Nazis also had links with Forest Hill. In 1933 Dietrich Bonhoeffer was elected pastor of the German Evangelical Church in Dacres Road, Sydenham and moved into a flat above the German school at 2 Manor Mount, Forest Hill. In 1935 Bonhoeffer, who strongly opposed the Nazis, decided to return to Germany where he became active in several anti-Nazi groups. Bonhoeffer was apparently connected with the assassination plot of 20th July 1944 when a group of military officers attempted to overthrow the Nazi regime by killing Hitler. Bonhoeffer was arrested and held in the Flossenburg concentration camp. On 9th April 1945, as American forces approached Flossenberg, Bonhoeffer and six others, who had also been involved in plots against Hitler, were executed.

The German Church in Dacres Road was bombed and had to be demolished. The new church, opened in 1959, was named in memory of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There is also a plaque on the house in Manor Mount where he lived and a statue of him on the front of Westminster Abbey, unveiled in 1998, celebrating him as a “protestant martyr”.

Both Janusz Korczak and Dietrich Bonhoeffer are regarded as heroes and martyrs of the holocaust who chose to die for their beliefs. That both should have such significant links with Forest Hill is quite remarkable and something we should celebrate.

Annual Reports and Management Committee minutes held at the Lewisham Local History & Archives Centre
Information from Marta Ciesielska and Bozena Wojnowska of the Warsaw Historical Museum, kindly translated by Adam Kawecki

19 March 2015

Funding awarded for improvements in Dartmouth Road

The bid for £113,000 from the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund has been successful. The bid was submitted by SEE3, V22, and Lewisham Council with the support of the Forest Hill society.

The funding will help improve public space on Dartmouth Road and will help to develop a long-term cultural strategy. Plans include animating the underused spaces outside Forest Hill library, Louise House and Forest Hill pools, to ensure they are a key feature of the place.

V22 have also received Arts Council funding to renovate the old laundry at Louise House and the rear garden. The plan is that in a year from now there will be an integrated space around the library, Louise House and the pools that will provide a welcoming area for a range of events, markets and other community activities.

This grant adds to the £600,000 from Transport for London for pedestrian and road improvements from the library to the junction with the South Circular. The initial concept design work is now underway to see how the public realm can be improved with views being sought on areas such as parking arrangements.

More details from the South London Press.

17 June 2014

Louise House Open Morning

Sunday 6 July 2014, 11am–1pm, Louise House (between the library and the swimming pool)
To mark the re-opening of Louise House as an Artists' Studio building, V22 will be hosting Open House and Morning Tea on Sunday 6 July.

V22 Louise House is a Grade II listed building. Formerly an Industrial Girls' Home it now houses fifteen artists' studios and an exhibition space. V22 would like to invite you to visit and join us in celebrating Louise House’s future as a new and exciting arts centre.

24 February 2014

February Newsletter: A new Artistic Hub for Forest Hill

V22 is Coming to Louise House in 2014. Annabel Fenwick spoke to  Reshma, V22 Programme Director about their plans...
Q. What is V22?
We are an art institution (set up in 2006) that supports art, artists and the development of both and promotes the value and positive impact of art on communities. We specialise in the collection of contemporary art, the production of exhibitions, events and educational initiatives, and provide artists’ studios and artisans' workshops.

Q. Who are you funded by?
V22 is based upon a unique shared ownership model, which aims to be sustainable, self-sufficient, and therefore independent. V22 has a diverse range of income: from its collection being listed on the ISDX-ICAP market, income generated from studios, and the support received from grant bodies including Arts Council England.

Q. I see you have three other studios in London including Dalston, Haggerston and Bermondsey - all known as creative hubs. Did you recognise something similar in SE23? Why did you decide to open in Forest Hill?

Traditionally, studio providers have been part of the archetypal regeneration cycle: studio providers by nature generate low income and are then consequentially priced out as they help to make areas more creative and attractive. This is a cycle we have been working incredibly hard to break free from by acquiring long-term leases and permanent buildings.

In this particular instance, we were lucky enough to be recommended Louise House by Arts Council England, who told us it was being put up for tender. We applied and won, and were so (and still are!) delighted, not only to have the opportunity of having a long term lease, but to have the guardianship of a very special building located in an incredibly active and creative community. These factors we believe will really help to build a strong community and cultural centre. We want to provide affordable long-term studios and encourage the creation of new relationships and networks amongst artists and creative organisations locally and nationally. Forest Hill is a great place to do this.

Q. When will you officially open at Louise House?
We hope to open the studios during early spring, although there is still some building work that needs to be done before that can happen. The public space at the back of the property we will be working hard on to get the first tentative things happening there in time for the summer. Then there is work needed on the gardens as we have some great plans for them. So I suppose the grand opening will be something we work toward, hopefully in partnership with many local people.

Q. What exhibitions are you currently planning for Louise House?
We are in the research and development stages of planning our summer programme, presenting a series of events in collaboration with artists and local groups and communities. We also we hope to launch a new educational initiative called Studio+ which will support young and emerging artists.

Q. What is planned for the community space?
 Firstly there will be a dedicated exhibitions and events space integrated into our educational initiatives; secondly a 'Community Studio' which can be used for a variety of activities ranging from art lessons, to workshops, to rehearsal space; and thirdly, a community garden which we would like to build in partnership with people from SE23 and which can be used for summer events and activities.

We are yet to gain access to the lower ground area, but we hope this will make an excellent screening room (everyone in Forest Hill wants a cinema!) and hopefully a space which can also be used for theatre and possibly live music.

Q. What do you like about the area?
An abundance of creative independent initiatives; engaged communities and active local groups; great transport links; gorgeous architecture; fabulous cafes; and the very real sense of welcome we have been given.

The Forest Hill Society could not ask for better outcome for Louise House (located between Forest Hill Library and Forest Hill Pools). The building itself will not only be reinvigorated but crucially, by having a long term lease, the organisation can offer long term support to new and emerging artists in the area.

The exhibitions and events that V22 are planning will no doubt have a positive impact on both the community and the local cultural landscape. The Society welcomes V22 wholeheartedly.

Find out more about V22 at

01 August 2013

Louise House - A Hub for Art

We are delighted to say that we have finally heard who will be running Louise House for the next three years (and beyond, if successful).

V22 Collection is an art organisation, with a shared ownership structure, which specialises in the collection of contemporary art, the production of exhibitions, events and educational initiatives, and the provision of artists' studios and artisans' workshops. V22 currently runs three studio buildings in London, providing affordable workspace for over 400 tenants.

The first property, which they have managed since 2006, provides for 27 artists and is situated at the heart of Dalston’s creative district on Ashwin Street. The second, V22 Workspace, is a massive 142,000 sq. ft ex-industrial space in Bermondsey which they moved into in October 2010 and has over 380 artists and creative professionals working in the building, a large exhibition and events space, a community café and workshop space. They are proud of the collaborative and friendly community that has arisen there. Their third property opened recently in De Beauvoir, London, N1.

V22 believes that artists will always be at the forefront of contemporary thought. They aim to enable better connections into the wider art ecology through their shared ownership structure.

Louise House is situated on Dartmouth Road between the library and the swimming pool and is Grade 2 listed by English Heritage. The involvement of V22 in this site is another exciting opportunity for the development of Forest Hill and we look forward to working with them.

06 September 2012

Lewisham Council calls for Expressions of Interest in Louise House

Lewisham council is calling for people or organisations with sustainable solutions to bring Louise House, a grade II listed building which is situated on Dartmouth Road between Forest Hill Library and the newly re-developed Forest Hill Pools, into use to step forward.

Anyone interested in putting the building to good use will need to submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) by 21 September.

The council is looking to secure a viable and sustainable long term use for this landmark building; a use which is not only financially viable but which is also compatible with the adjacent public buildings.

Louise House is owned freehold by the Council and the successful tender would need to provide a sustainable solution to bring the property into use. Lewisham are not in a position to offer financial support to a bidder either by way of capital or revenue contributions.

Full details regarding the tendering process can be found by clicking on this link

08 June 2012

The Future of Louise House

The first stakeholder consultation meeting to find out about plans to invite proposals for the future of Louise House in Forest Hill is taking place on Wednesday 13 June 17.00-19.00 at Forest Hill Methodist Church, Normanton Street, London SE23 2DS.

Staff from the relevant Lewisham Council departments will be present and the agenda for the meeting will focus on an overview of the tendering process, with an opportunity to ask questions.

Please RSVP to if you would like to attend.

15 March 2011

Drop in to the Swimming Pool

Taken from Forest Hill Pools Resident Newsletter - March 2011

Following on from the ‘Stakeholder Presentation’ which took place on 9th December, which we believe was well received, two further ‘Drop-In Sessions’ for local residents have been arranged for 22nd March & 5th April 2011 between 5pm & 7pm.

This is an opportunity for you to meet the Willmott Dixon team and ask any questions you may have about the building works. A representative from Lewisham Council will also be there to answer any other questions you may have on the scheme.

The latest plans and Computer Generated Images of the new building will be on display for residents to view. Both sessions will take place in the 1st Floor Meeting Room in Louise House, which we are using as temporary office accommodation for the duration of the project and afford an excellent view of the site. The sessions are open to all local residents and there is no requirement to pre-book ... please just ‘drop-in’!

16 December 2010

Louise House Memories - Early Years Centre

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

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

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

Memories of Louise House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forest Hill Pools move into Final Stages

First Class Victorian Pool in Forest Hill

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

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

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

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

Louise House

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

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

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

10 December 2010

Pools Update from the Stakeholders Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penelope Jarrett
Forest Hill Society representative on the stakeholder group