30 November 2021

Christmas Quiz 2021


The Forest Hill Society invite you to the 2021 Christmas Quiz

Tuesday 14th December, 7:30pm

To register for the quiz go to Eventbrite.

Entry is free but donations to Lewisham Foodbank are encouraged:


23 November 2021

Tree Lighting and Carols in Forest Hill and Kirkdale

The Forest Hill Christmas Tree will be switched on Saturday 4th December shortly after 3:45pm with carol singing.

The Kirkdale Christmas tree will be switched on shortly after at around 4:30pm with more carols.

We are thrilled the Forest Hill tree will be decorated again this year by local designer Lee Jackson of Jackson Morgenstern Design.  That evening Lee will also feature on the new Channel 5 special: Incredible Christmas Trees and How to Decorate Them at 7:40pm.  Broadcast is currently scheduled for 7:40pm on December 4th but please check closer to the date for the exact time.

08 November 2021

Southern Rail Services – London Bridge to Victoria service update

 Plan to run service only during rush hours and at weekends

During lockdown, Southern services on the “loop line” between London Bridge and Victoria were suspended, leaving only two Southern trains per hour running between London Bridge and East Croydon. There was an expectation that the service would return to normal this autumn. But when the new Southern timetable was released two months ago, the loop line service began operating an intermittent service at weekends only.
A meeting with Southern to discuss the situation was convened last week with our local MP Ellie Reeves and the Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies. Present at the meeting from Southern were Olivia Barlow - Stakeholder Manager; Chris Fowler- Customer Services Director and Paul Codd - Stakeholder Manager for timetables.
The good news is that Southern intend to reintroduce services between London Bridge and Victoria on 4th January. However, this will only be a partial service, running throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday but only during rush hours on weekdays (7.30-9.30am and 4.30-6.30pm).
Train occupancy levels (which Southern presented at the meeting) show that passenger numbers remain stubbornly under 60% of pre-Covid levels. Southern also reported that they were suffering from significant staff shortages due to Covid-affected drivers having to isolate, and this is the main issue for reduced service, rather than budgetary constraints or train occupancy rates.
In the meantime, Southern’s advice is to travel to Norwood Junction and change there for trains to Victoria.

Flight Paths over Forest Hill

By Tim Walker

At the recent Forest Hill Society AGM the Mayor, Damien Egan, announced that the Council would henceforth engage much more proactively with Airports on the issues of flight paths and low aircraft over Lewisham. This is excellent news, and is something we have been campaigning towards for several years.

Where individual aircraft are flying to over Forest Hill isn’t always immediately apparent - London City and Heathrow Airports both overfly us at different times and in different wind conditions. It has been quiet during the pandemic but this summer noise returned and was all the more noticeable. The worst is in light east wind conditions when arrivals from both airports are overhead.

Two planes turn west towards Heathrow over SE London (at 4000ft) while another crosses their paths turning east towards London City (at 1700ft)

The Government seems intent on enabling airport and aviation expansion, and is putting its ‘Jet Zero’ policy forward to justify how climate change and aviation expansion can reasonably co-exist. A noise, emissions and climate emergency debate rages - a recent comment on that, from climate action charity Possible, said:-

Although the government’s recognition of the need to tackle aviation emissions is welcome, its scenarios to achieve net zero aviation by 2050 are fatally flawed. It relies on undeveloped, extremely expensive or unworkable technologies....

At the same time Government has just abolished the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise, which met with the Forest Hill Society several times in their brief 3 year existence as we worked to get our local double overflight problems onto the aviation policy agenda. And Heathrow night flights are to continue, exactly as they are, for at least three more years, giving us those late night and very early morning wakeups in SE London. John Doherty and I have been working with all this for some time now while representing the Forest Hill Society; this seems like a setback to us, and feels like very little progress at all.

But maybe these national issues are not for our local Society anyway. What can we actually influence? First, we’ve invested time meeting and putting our information and arguments to GLA Assembly Members, our MP’s and Councillors. Recently we have been delighted to see both Ellie Reeves MP and Janet Daby (MP Lewisham East who we met in a June Zoom call) ask questions in Parliament about flight paths, citing the low flying and unreasonable aviation noise experiences of Lewisham people.

For a few years now, I have been attending the London City Airport Consultative Committee, to keep Forest Hill and Lewisham on their agenda. I am pleased that Lewisham Cabinet Member Sophie McGeevor has also attended and has made it her business to strongly represent Lewisham’s interests there. Meanwhile I have also been attending the Heathrow Community Noise Forum, always trying to make sure that our very real issues with their flight paths over SE London are not drowned out by equally compelling issues from those living nearer the airport.

The next big issues that we can have any influence on in Lewisham are going to be the redesign of both London City and Heathrow flight paths. We need to make sure they coordinate their work, when there is little evidence of that in the past. Otherwise, we may end up with something similar to today or worse. I was invited to a workshop on flight path design principles at Heathrow in September. City Airport is expected to announce their development plans in December. We will be arguing for an end to double overflight from the two airports, and an end to the single low level concentrated arrivals path from London City, with introduction of alternative and rotating routes, so the same people don’t get the noise all the time.

London City Airport – current low altitude concentrated flight path over Lewisham

These are big issues not just for Forest Hill but for large parts of Lewisham and SE London. That is why we asked Lewisham to make preparations on behalf of all of us as these important flight path details are hammered out and consulted upon. Following recommendations from the Forest Hill Society the Mayor has confirmed that Lewisham Council will take up a place at the London City Airport Consultative Committee and the Heathrow Community Noise Forum. This will give officers regular up to date information on what is happening. We understand that the Council also plans to work closely with other SE London Councils, the No Third Runway Coalition and the Aviation Environment Federation, both non political bodies that will provide Councillors and Officers with high quality information to inform the Borough’s policy and timely responses to consultations and help them to influence flight path planning.

These are not big or costly things to do in themselves, but will help Lewisham to step up. We are delighted that Lewisham has responded by deciding to embed this work into the environmental health team, so that they can be best prepared at all times to contribute wisely on aviation issues where they affect Lewisham residents.

20 September 2021

Forest Hill Society AGM

All members and non-members are welcome to attend our AGM, which will take place at the Horniman Museum Pavilion (near the animal walk), on Wednesday 13th October at 7:00pm.   

We are pleased to welcome Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham as our guest speaker.   

The event is free to attend and there will be refreshments on sale.   

The AGM is an opportunity to find out more about what is happening in Forest Hill, to share your concerns and to shape the future of the Society. We would encourage all members to get even more involved by standing for the Executive Committee, or joining one of our committees focused on planning, environment, transport or communications. If you would like more details about getting involved, please contact claus@foresthillsociety.com

10 September 2021

Electoral Boundary Changes Proposed

By Gary Thornton

The Boundary Commission has published its initial proposals for changes to Parliamentary constituency boundaries which will be effective from 1 July 2023.

For the UK as whole, the total number of constituencies will remain at 650, with 10 additional seats in England compensated for by a reduction in the seats available to Wales and Scotland.

London will have 75 seats instead of 73. With some exceptions, the size of each electorate must be between 70,000 and 77,000.

For the Forest Hill area, the proposed boundary changes are significant. Currently SE23 falls into two constituencies. Lewisham West & Penge (which includes Sydenham, Crystal Palace, Clock House and Beckenham Hill), serves most of the area, with Lewisham, Deptford (which extends to the river just below Surrey Quays) taking in the roads north of the South Circular and west of the railway line.
Under the Commission’s proposals, Lewisham, Deptford will be renamed Deptford, and retain most of its existing boundaries, losing only Hither Green to Lewisham East.

The majority of SE23, however, will fall within a new Dulwich & Sydenham constituency. The southern boundary retains Beckenham Hill but will run further north from Lower Sydenham to Gipsy Hill, following the border of Lewisham Borough. The constituency will then be shared by Southwark council, rather than Bromley.

The western boundary (currently marked by Sydenham Woods) will be extended to include all of Dulwich as far as Herne Hill. The Bromley side of the existing Lewisham West & Penge constituency will become part of Beckenham, and those currently in Dulwich & West Norwood will fall under a new Norwood constituency.

In terms of voter demographics, and based on the last general election results, the proposals are unlikely to change the local political map. All constituencies in the area — Lewisham Deptford, Lewisham West & Penge and Dulwich & West Norwood — returned large Labour majorities in 2019, as did Croydon North, which will form a large part of Norwood. The next general election though could see a new MP in Forest Hill, as Ellie Reeves in Lewisham West and Helen Hayes in Dulwich & West Norwood will have only one seat between them.

09 September 2021

Louis Drysdale – the Musical Professor of Westbourne Road

By Gary Thornton

In January 1906, a rather unremarkable boat left Kingston, Jamaica, bound for Bristol. Its passengers included the dozen or so members of the Kingston Choral Union, a local choir who specialised in spiritual, traditional and religious music. The singers were due to appear at an exhibition of ‘Colonial Products’ in Liverpool later that month, billed as a ‘Native Choir from Jamaica’, followed by performances in Swansea, Worthing, Whitby, Bridlington and Wrexham. Such was their success that the ‘Jamaica Choir’, as they became known, returned in 1908 for a further tour.
One of the two tenors in that 1906 choir was Louis Drysdale (‘Dri’), a carpenter’s son from Kingston. With the encouragement of the exhibition’s founder, ship-owner Sir Alfred Lewis Jones, he remained in England after the tour, studying at the Royal College of Music, where he trained under Gustave Garcia, one of the influential family of singers who had shaped 19th century Italian bel canto, and whose members included some of the finest singers of their generations, who had variously performed in premieres of operas by such as Rossini, Verdi, Donizetti and Bellini.

Drysdale’s ambition though was not to perform, but to become a vocal tutor, training opera and concert singers in the art of bel canto, the tradition he had inherited directly from the lessons of Garcia. Working initially as a tailor to support himself, he began to attract more and more students and soon established himself as a popular and accomplished teacher.

Dri had divorced his first wife in 1911, and when he remarried an English woman, herself a talented accompanist, the pair set up a studio at their home at 11 Westbourne Road (now Westbourne Drive). His reputation spread, and when in 1926 the American cabaret singer Florence Mills (at the time starring in Lew Leslie’s Blackbird revue) visited him for lessons, she was so impressed that she wrote to the editor of the New York Age, which in turn led to work from many other artists, eventually enabling him to set up further studios in central London and Margate.

During his lifetime, the ‘palatial’ studio setting at Westbourne Road became a haven for black singers and musicians, where the Drysdales welcomed and taught luminaries such as Paul Robeson — who spent many years in London during the 1920s and 30s — and Marian Anderson, the renowned contralto who would become the first African-American to perform at the New York Metropolitan. At a time when racial prejudice was often far too obviously on display, overseas visitors could be assured of a warm reception and accommodation for their stay in England.

In a few short years Drysdale — known affectionately as the ‘Professor’ — had become one of the most highly-regarded vocal tutors in Europe, a view shared by his close friend, the ground-breaking composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, as well as the many famous singers whose talents he had helped nurture and develop, and whose photographs and testimonials adorned the walls of his studio.

After a short illness, Louis died suddenly in 1933, aged only 49, and was buried in Ladywell cemetery, his missing grave and headstone most likely destroyed by stray bombs during WW2.

Long forgotten after his death, his story is recounted by the notable historian Jeffrey Green (www.jeffreygreen.co.uk), author of Black Edwardians.

More information from Black People in Britain 1901-1914 and the Jamaica History website (jamaica-history.weebly.com/).

Local Olympians

By Gary Thornton

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, held over to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will be especially memorable for each of the Team GB medal winners, who between them secured 65 medals, including 22 golds.

And for Forest Hill, these games will also be remembered as the first gold medal for one of our local athletes. Alex Yee followed his silver medal in the triathlon by anchoring the mixed relay team — also comprising Jessica Learmonth, Jonny Brownlee and Georgia Taylor-Brown — and obtaining the gold medal. Although Alex grew up close by in Brockley, he attended Stillness Infant School, so here in SE23 we can claim at least part of him as one of our own.

The 23-year-old first attracted attention when he won the 2012 Mini London Marathon and took gold for Lewisham in the London Youth Games, where he competed in cycling and the aquathlon. He recovered from a serious cycling injury in 2017 and began competing in the triathlon in 2019, finishing second in his first event, and winning his first World Triathlon Championship Series in Leeds earlier this year. 

Local artist Lionel Stanhope was also quick off the mark, commemorating Alex’s success with an addition to his Brockley sign:


There are few past Olympians from Forest Hill, and we have to look to our neighbours to bask in their reflected glory:
Tasha Danvers attended Sydenham Girls’ School. A finalist at Sydney in 2000, she won bronze in the 400m hurdles at Beijing in 2008.

Lesley-Ann Skeete was born in Sydenham and ran in the 100m hurdles at Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992.

Duncan Goodhew lived at Wells Park Road in Sydenham during the 1980s. He famously won gold in the 100m breaststroke and bronze in the 4x100m medley relay at Moscow in 1980.

Linda Ludgrove lived on the Sydenham Hill Estate, and took part in the 4x100m relay and the 100m backstroke at Tokyo in 1964. Linda also won 5 gold medals and 1 silver at the Commonwealth Games of 1962 and 1966.

Photo: Linda Lovegrove, Nederlands: Collectie / Archief : Fotocollectie Anefo

Victor Gauntlett was born in Forest Hill in 1884, but after his family emigrated, he represented South Africa in the 1908 London Olympics, playing in the men's singles and reaching the quarter finals of the men’s doubles.

Richard Barnett was born in Forest Hill in 1863 and finished fourth in the Men's Free Rifle 1,000 yards in the 1908 London Olympics. He later served as the MP for St Pancras South West.

These, and other Lewisham Olympians, are recorded in the London 2012 legacy website,

Tewkesbury Lodge Folly

By Sheila Carson

This Folly tower, also known as the Bayer's Folly or the Forest Hill Folly, is medieval in appearance and can be found in the garden of a private house next to the Honor Oak covered reservoir. It sits on the ridge of Forest Hill at what is possibly its highest point of about 104 meters above sea level. Its position is shown on the map below (from the 1913 Ordnance Survey map). The tower is approximately 10 meters high including the staircase turret. From the top there are spectacular views of London in every direction. The Folly was built in the grounds of a large mansion in Honor Oak Road, Tewkesbury Lodge, which was built around 1855.


The Folly is Grade II listed by Historic England and constructed of random sized undressed ironstone blocks in a warm ochre colour. The tower is octagonal with a narrow spiral staircase contained within a turret which abuts the tower. There are concrete dressings such as quoins (corner blocks), a drip moulding at first floor level, a bow tell moulding at second floor level and a corbel table supporting a parapet which may have originally been crenelated. A section of the parapet over one of the octagonal sides collapsed many years ago. There are rooms on the ground and first floors and a flat viewing area at the top enclosed by the now incomplete parapet.

The original entrance door was badly damaged when the Folly suffered a fire and the door frame still has some burn marks on it. The door was first replaced with a pine one and more recently a hardwood one. The door has a hood mould which continues over the windows on either side. There are three pairs of windows on the ground floor. One pair either side of the door and one pair at the rear of the tower. Each of these windows has elliptical lintels which are reminiscent of the Tudor period. The room on the first floor is lit by four large windows with three smaller ones in between. These windows are of a different design to those on the ground floor being rectangular and housed in plain chamfered frames. There are also four slim windows in the turret which give some illumination to the spiral staircase within. The windows were vandalised many years ago so the glass and lead glazing is not original.

Opinions vary as to when the Folly was built (either around 1880 or about 10 years later) and who built it (Alfred Richards or Charles Bayer). Some sources say it was built about 1880 by Charles Bayer who made his fortune as a stay and corset manufacturer. However, Alfred Richards, a very wealthy barrister and probably the second owner of Tewkesbury Lodge, was living there at the time of the 1871 census and his death certificate states that he died in the house in 1887. So if it was built in 1880 Alfred Richards would have commissioned the project.

Charles Bayer appears to have bought Tewkesbury Lodge from the trustees of the estate of Alfred Richards in July 1889 and the 1891 census confirms that he was living there with his family. Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre hold the conveyance for this sale which might, if the Folly was built prior to the sale, be itemised in the document. However, at the time of writing it is not possible to view this document as the Centre remains closed to the public and it is not available digitally. So, if the Folly was built in 1890 it would have been by Charles Bayer.

At some point either Alfred Richards or Charles Bayer extended the grounds of Tewkesbury Lodge by purchasing a large area of land to the west and northwest of the Lodge's gardens. Charles Bayer was planning to leave this land and the Folly tower in his will to the London County Council as an extension to the Horniman Gardens. This would have provided an extensive area of grassland, bushes and trees for the public to walk in and enjoy the views over London. Sadly he died before this could be completed and his beneficiaries decided to sell the land which was rapidly built over to form the Tewkesbury Lodge Estate.

Many thanks to the owners, Sharon and Michael, for showing me the Folly, letting me climb to the top to see the wonderful view and being so helpful with information about it.

08 September 2021

Environment Update

By Quetta Kaye

Forest Hill station forecourt
General chasing — no, not a little-known military personage, but what has been happening over the last few months, which resulted in a meeting of interested parties (but without a representative of the Forest Hill Society) being held at the station the last week of July. It seems things are beginning to move in the right direction regarding the partial closure of the Forest Hill station car park. If finally approved this will mean a trial closure of the WH Smith side of the car park to allow pedestrians safe access, unimpeded by vehicle movements, with the hope that, if the trial goes without incident, we can then have permanent closure. In anticipation of positive action, we have applied for small grant funding from Lewisham’s Creative Change Fund to be ready to transform the area into a ‘parklet’ as soon as the go-ahead is given — with any luck later this year.

Good news, too, that following a complaint made in September 2020 (which apparently ‘went off the radar’) the collapsed wall in the forecourt next to the pavement is now on the books to be repaired. There is no news, however, on the repair or removal of the hulking loo despite representations to Lewisham Council.

The return of the plant life!
Weather-wise the extremes of hot, then wet, then hot, then wet again throughout spring and early summer have really stimulated plant growth this year, as can be seen in the luxurious greenery in parks, gardens and planters across Forest Hill.

But at Forest Hill station, two days before the judge came to inspect for the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ competition, the white rose overhanging the underpass had reached record measurements, the ‘danger’ hydrangea was in massive full bloom — and then they were cut down and removed, along with all the herbs in the herb container, when a decision was made by some unknown person that in order to tarmac the garden area on platform 1 ‘to relieve the rat problem’ all the plants should be destroyed.

An apology from Arriva for the removal of the plants which we had provided has been received by the Forest Hill Society, and some monetary compensation offered. Undeterred, as the picture below shows, volunteers have already been at work to regreen the area. Small planters have been replaced, the large herb container refilled, and as soon as new planters arrive, they too will be restocked. Meanwhile our wheelbarrow has been stolen from the platform 1 ‘secure’ gated area which had been left unlocked!

Clean air?
Have you ever wondered what the air in your neighbourhood contains? This picture was taken following the annual change of a filter in an air intake sited in the second floor flat of Frobisher Court, some 50 metres from Sydenham Rise — and opposite a park. Imagine what the air quality for someone actually living on the south circular road is!

Can you help?

Volunteers are always needed to support for the Forest Hill Society’s environmental work whether with our planting efforts, litter picking, adding street trees to our area, or to join in our campaigns to protect Forest Hill’s green spaces. Our work towards improving our air quality and our environment generally will continue in 2021 and 2022. No previous experience is needed, so please contact quetta @ foresthillsociety.com.