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History of Bellingham

  • council: Lewisham
  • phone code: 020
  • postcode area: SE6
  • county: Greater London

Like Downham, Bellingham was an area in the County of Kent until the London County Council was formed.

The name means “the water-meadow belonging to Beora's people”. It was the name of the medieval manor in this area, and survived in Bellingham Farm. It was revived in 1892 as the name of a new railway station, then in open country, on the Nunhead and Shortlands Railway.

Again there were no houses and the area was farmland. Samuel Sheppard was the tenant of Bellingham Farm, which was sometimes known by his name.

The Bellingham Estate was built over these fields between 1920 and 1936 and about 2666 houses and flats were built altogether, but the actual farm buildings were not demolished until the 1930s, when Allerford Road was built on the site.

The second photograph is a view of the farmhouse from the east. Bellingham Farm lay on either side of the railway, south of Bellingham Station.

After the First World War the London County Council began to build large estates on the edge of the built-up area of London to ease overcrowding and assist slum clearance. Downham Estate , close to Bellingham , is a typical example.

Because there was plenty of land available, most of the dwellings could be two-story houses with gardens (rather than flats) interspersed with open spaces and trees. Provision was made for schools, shops, churches, parks and other amenities.

The land for the Bellingham Estate (Bellingham Farm and part of White House Farm) was bought in 1920, and building of the main estate was completed in 1923. Historical names were chosen for the roads. Some were connected with King Alfred, who was thought to have been lord of the manor of Lewisham. Others were the names of old houses, fields, and mills in the area. The inhabitants came from crowded inner London areas, mainly from Deptford and Bermondsey.

The extension south of Southend Lane was built between 1936 and 1939. Here more flats were built, for economy, and to meet the pressing need for housing.

Bellingham Station on the Nunhead and Shortlands Railway, opened in 1892. At the time it was in open country, but would have served the nearby community of Southend. Its existence meant that the London County Council would build the Bellingham Estate knowing that residents who worked in inner or central London would have transport to work.

Bellingham Today
Bellingham is bordered by Catford, Sydenham and Downham. Laying between Catford and Bromley, Bellingham is a localised town centre, selling everything from Children's Clothing to houses. Bellingham is close to Forester Memorial Park and Beckenham Place Park . Bellingham is a strong tight knit community and so has it's own local identity.

Regeneration and Development
There have been some exciting opportunities of late in Bellingham . Neighborhood Renewal Unit and Lewisham Strategic Partnership implementing many projects to the area which included Housing and Environment, Health, Crime and Community Safety, Neighborhood Management, Community Development, Children and Young People and Employment and Enterprise. Sure start are also a great asset that have been involved in the area of recent times.

Lewisham Borough's famous residents, past and present
Danny Baker (Broadcaster)
Kate Bush (singer/song-writer)
James Callaghan (Labour Prime Minister)
Sir James Clark-Ross (polar explorer)
"Big" Jim Connell (socialist)
Ernest Dowson (poet)
Alfred "Titch" Freeman (cricketer)
Gabrielle (singer/song-writer)
Sir Isaac Hayward (politician)
Glenda Jackson MP (politician & actress)
David Jones (painter & poet)
Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen (TV presenter)
Spike Milligan (comedian & writer)
Mica Paris (singer/song-writer)
Sybil Pheonix MBE (community worker)
Doris Stokes (medium)
Terry Waite (Archbishop's Envoy)
Max Wall (comedian)
Ian Wright (footballer)

For more information
For more information on Downham and its history please refer to the following publications, all available at Lewisham Local Studies Centre in Lewisham Library:

The Changing face of Lewisham by Stephen Byrne (1965) Lewisham Borough Council: London

Images of London : Lewisham by John Coulter and Barry Olley (2003)

Lewisham Past and Present by John Coulter (2001) Sutton Publishing: Swindon

Looking back at Lewisham : Courtesy of Lewisham Arts and Library Services local History Centre

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