History of the Borough of Lewisham

History of the Borough of Lewisham

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History of the Borough of Lewisham, by Leland L. Duncan

This book was first published in 1908, and covers the geographic area of what was then the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham, formed in 1900, and includes Lewisham, Lee, Catford, Hither Green, Forest Hill, Bellingham, Rushey Green, Southend, Honor Oak, part of Blackheath, part of Brockley, and part of Sydenham. It is a history of those places, and not a history of the borough.
The book covers the history from ancient times up to 1908. It is rich in the origins of street names and places, and includes much information on churches, topography, notable events, people of influence, and much more. 73 excellent photographs and illustrations are included, making it invaluable for the local historian, family historian, and others with a connection to the places mentioned.
This FamLoc edition is a slight modification; there have been changes to format and some punctuation. However, the grammar and prose has been faithfully retained, other than changes to a handful of typographical errors and the very few instances where clarity was required.

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Chapters and Contents of History of the Borough of Lewisham, by Leland L. Duncan

1908 Preface
FamLoc Preface
List of Illustrations
PART I: Geology:
Chapter I: The Geology of Lewisham and the Neighbourhood
Chapter II: The “Solid” Geology
Chapter III: The Superficial Geology
PART II: The History of the Borough:
Chapter IV: Early History to A.D. 1300
Chapter V: The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
Chapter VI: From the Sixteenth Century to the Present Time
PART III: An Itinerary of the Borough:
Chapter VII: From Blackheath to the Clock Tower
Chapter VIII:  An Itinerary Through Lee
Chapter IX: From the Clock Tower to the Vicarage
Chapter X: The Vicarage, Ladywell, Brockley and Honor Oak
Chapter XI: The Parish Church to Rushey Green
Chapter XII: Catford, Perry Hill and Forest Hill
Chapter XIII: Sydenham
Chapter XIV: Sangley, Bellingham and Southend
Our Local Authorities
References and Sources
Lewisham Antiquarian Society Publications
Notes to Text


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The name of Lewisham

Duncan tackles the origins of the name of Lewisham in History of the Borough of Lewisham. Here is an extract:

The first documentary notice of the place is in a grant made in A.D. 862, by Aethelberht, of Wessex, to Deightwald, the thegn, of land at Bromley. In this the bounds of “Bromleag” are given in Saxon, and are stated to run from Ceddanleag to Langanleag (Langley in Beckenham) and “Liofshema,” then to Wonstoc and Modingahema, &c., &c. In a charter by Aethelred, regranting this land, in A.D. 968, the same bounds are named, but Lewisham is styled “Leofsuhaema.” These early instances, which were overlooked by Philpot, Hasted, and other historians of the county, supply the clue to the derivation of the name, of which Professor Skeat has given the following explanation:
In the forms Liofshema and Leofsuhaema, the -a is only a case-ending. The phrase “Lēofsuhaema mearc,” as it is found in charters, means “the mark or boundary of the inhabitants of Lēofsuhām”; hāēma being the genitive plural of hāēme, a nominative plural signifying “men belonging to a hām or farm-stead.”
Liof is the Kentish spelling of Anglo-Saxon lēof. Leof is the modern English lief, which was once an adjective and meant “dear.” In Liofs-hēma, the s cannot be a genitive suffix, as that was -es, but it is the first letter of a second syllable; it stands for Līof-s.
In Lēof-su the second syllable is also incomplete; it stands for Lēofsu.
The middle portion of a name is often partially suppressed, as is Lem’ster for Leominster, and the like. Leof-su’ obviously stands for Lēof-suna, the genitive case of Lēof-sunu, which was a fairly common name, occurs in Kentish and Southern Charters and simply means “dear son.”
Thus the obvious sense is “Lēof-sunu’s home,” or a farmstead in which lived a man named Lēof-sunu (lit. dear son).
As for the pronunciation, the modern English Leveson, which is the modern English form of Leof-sunu, is pronounced Lewson. so in modern English Lewisham means Leveson’s-home; or, remembering that the genitive case of sunu (son) did not end in -s, but in -a (which now-a-days would disappear) it would more exactly be represented by “Lewson-home,” and this by contraction regularly becomes Laws-ham or even Lusam, as it was phonetically spelt in the seventeenth century.
Then popular etymology substituted the known name Lewis, for the form Lus, which had lost all meaning, and the -is of Lewis being now generally plainly heard, the form Lewis-ham has become fixed.

The name of Catford

History of the Borough of Lewisham has this to say on the origins of the name:

Catford is an ancient place name, which goes back in documents as far as the reign of Edward I, and is probably still older, as it was even then giving its name to a family of “de Cateforde.” At what period the Abbot of Ghent alienated the lands round Catford is uncertain – it was certainly prior to the reign of Edward I – but in the 13th century, Sir john Abel, who belonged to the family of Abel, of Erith, owned a considerable property in the district, together with the family of De Castello. Nicholas de Castello, Clerk of the Exchequer, in 1300 sold about 160 acres to Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, and the Bishop seems to have also acquired the Abel’s lands, so that at his death in 1311, amongst his possessions were lands and rents at Catford and Romburgh, in Lewisham, for which he paid quit rent to the Abbot of Ghent of 23s. 4d. and a plough share at Michaelmas.
This property coming to the Crown on the Bishop’s death, Edward III, in 1331, granted Catford to Sir William de Montacute, as a reward for having apprehended Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. In the same year Sir William, and Katherine his wife, purchased about 400 acres of land in Lewisham, and these, together with the Manor of Catford, they bestowed in 1338 on the College of St. Lawrence Poultney, in London, and the College continued in possession until its suppression in 1548. In that year Catford was granted with other lands to Henry Polsted, of Chileworth, and William More, of Loseley, in Surrey, for £2,034 14s. 10d. Henry Polsted’s son, Richard, dying without issue, the property came to Francis Polsted, his cousin, who in 1578 sold it to Brian Annesley, of Lee, another cousin, and from him it has descended to the Earl of St. Germans in the same manner as Brockley. Catford, historically, includes the St. Germans Estate at Hither Green (q.v.) and that in the Stanstead Road.

Blackheath and Sport

History of the Borough of Lewisham has much to say, as might be expected, about Blackheath and various gatherings, including the Peasants Revolt, but Duncan also mention Blackheath in relation to sport:

No account of Blackheath would be complete without some reference, however brief, to its place in British sports. Golf, football, cricket, all have flourished here. The Royal Blackheath Golf Club was the first club formed in the South of England, and is said to owe its origin to James I, who brought the game with him from Scotland. However this may be, it is certain that the club was a fully-organised body in 1766, since it possesses a silver club bearing the inscription, “August 16, 1766, the gift of Mr. Henry Foot to the Honourable Company of Goffers at Blackheath.” The course then appears to have been a five-hole one, altered in 1844 to seven holes. Nowadays the game is sadly restricted, owing to the crowded state of the Heath. An interesting portrait of Mr. William Innes, Captain in 1776, was painted by Lemuel F. Abbot, R.A., in 1790. He is attended by a Greenwich pensioner as a “caddie.” In Rugby Football Blackheath is entitled to a place of high honour, and the encouragement both football and cricket received in the latter half of the 19th century from residents on and around Blackheath, no doubt largely contributed to the popularizing of those games amongst the working classes. The more important clubs nowadays play on private grounds, but the lover of sport cannot survey Blackheath on a Saturday afternoon with any other feeling but that of satisfaction.

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