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History of Brockley

  • council: Lewisham
  • phone code: 020
  • postcode area: SE4
  • county: Greater London

Brockley is yet another town centre within the borough of Lewisham with many stories to tell. Brockley is home to a vibrant, young, creative population, many hailing from Goldsmiths, University of London and Camberwell arts school. They are attracted by the imposing Victorian properties as inspiring spaces to live and work.

Today the town centre comprises 100 small businesses including some great independent cafes with art spaces and regular gigs, a vintage clothes shop, a gift shop, holistic centre and some great little restaurants.

Brockley was once a small, somewhat isolated, hamlet.  Broc is the old English word for badger and the name Brockley either means wood where badgers are seen or “Broca’s woodland clearing”. 

Industrial development arrived in 1809 in the form of the Croydon Canal running from Croydon to Bermondsey.  This was later filled in and replaced by the London and Croydon railway line which runs through the original canal cutting between Brockley and New Cross Gate train stations.

The area remained largely agricultural until the 19th Century when the Wickham and Tyrwhitt-Drake families developed the area, building the semi detached houses, villas and terraces that remain to this day and give Brockley its unique identity and sense of place.  This area was designated a conservation area in 1974.

Hilly Fields was saved from redevelopment in the 1880-90s by local activists alongside the Commons Preservation Society.  Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust helped this cause and in 1896 it was finally transformed into the beautiful open space it is today.  The park was a regular meeting place for the Suffragette movement between 1907 and 1914.  This history of community spirit and activism remains strong, with the Brockley Cross Action Group working tirelessly to preserve and enhance Brockley.


Some of 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)
Sir Barnes Wallis (inventor of the Bouncing Bomb)
Gary Oldman (actor)

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