What’s it all about?
Forget the fibreglass black cat that welcomes you to Catford Shopping Centre, this is an area of London that has so much more to offer. Catford may be one of the last areas in this part of South East London to resist urban renewal, but if illustrious neighbours Brockley and Forest Hill are anything to go by, it won’t be far behind. Although plans to reroute the South Circular have been scrapped, an extensive regeneration of the town centre is still in the pipeline. Life away from the main drag is peaceful with residential properties that are mainly Victorian or Edwardian and some, including the delightful double fronted Victorian houses on Perry Rise, are protected as a conservation area. It’s still possible to get a reasonably priced house or flat, often with outdoor space, and during the summer a pleasant haze of BBQ smoke and garden chatter fills the area. Some fine views of London can be enjoyed from many of the local parks including family friendly Mountsfield Park, which also hosts the annual Lewisham People’s Day, a community focused festival, and there are excellent cycling and walking opportunities along the Waterlink Way.Catford locals are often fiercely proud of the town, and run a number of programmes including an orchard and a bird watching group in Blythe Hill Fields. And they are engaged in local issues, notably the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, that organises talks and events to raise money and awareness. Many Catford locals have lived here for generations and now share their community with first time buyers and young families looking for more space and affordable property.
- One legend says that Catford got its name because of the multitude of wild cats in the area. Others argue that it comes from a ford where cattle crossed over the river Ravensbourne, and some believe ‘The Cat’ was a local landowner’s nickname.
- Desmond Tutu, Ben Elton and the late Sir Henry Cooper are all past residents.
- Catford claims to be the home of the first British curry house.
Architecture and property
Catford was made up of small hamlets on agricultural land until the arrival of the railway in 1857, when homes began to be built for the affluent middle classes. A later wave of development came in 1892 when a second station and tram services began, blessing Catford with late Victorian and large Edwardian homes. Much of this housing stock was built by Scotsman Archibald Corbett, who bought 300 acres of virgin land to build new homes. He had a firm vision and the properties he built had both front and back gardens, were laid out in strict grid like patterns never far from a school and a row of shops, but with no public houses. Much of Catford was destroyed during the Blitz, and post war redevelopment was mainly in the Brutalist vein. Although this style isn’t for everyone, a fine example can be seen in Eros House, home to both commercial and residential properties. The most desirable properties in Catford are the Edwardian homes in the Culverly Road conservation area, although they rarely come on the market. Other period properties of interest are two 1930s housing estates, Bellingham and Downham.
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Eating & drinking: Catford’s wide selection of affordable restaurants makes it a great place for eating out with friends. A local favourite is Mekan, with its delicious Middle Eastern meze and pleasant setting. Another popular choice is Sapporo Ichiban, which serves excellent traditional Japanese dishes for very reasonable prices. After dinner, head to the recently revamped Catford Constitutional Club and take your pick from its rotating ciders and ales on tap, or join in with its regular pub quizzes or comedy nights. If that’s not for you, try the Riva Lounge for cocktails.
Theatre: The Broadway Theatre is one of Catford’s most beautiful buildings. Now Grade II listed, it was built in 1932 and is a great example of Art Deco design.
Cinema: After a successful trial pop up cinema, there are plans for a Catford Free Film Festival to be launched soon. It has also been announced recently that The Fellowship pub will be turned into a community venue thanks to a multi million pound grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Heritage: The Prefab Museum suffered in a recent fire. However, it has been discussed they are looking for new partnerships with the aim of re opening the museum in the near future.
- Catford Shopping Centre satisfies most locals’ shopping requirements, with its grocery stores and independent shops. Located on Catford Mews, the centre is topped by the area’s landmark fibreglass cat. The area has also been home to a popular street market since the 1880s, which sells fruit and vegetables, clothes, toys and plants.
- The family run Tony’s Butchers sells fresh meat and poultry as well as frozen fish, so it is possible to get all your shopping done here and in the market on the Broadway. Iceland, Tesco and Lidl are all within a ten minute walk of Catford station, and there’s a Chinese supermarket, too.
- There are two Costa coffee shops in the area, one on Catford Broadway, and the other on Rushey Green.
- Catford Library hosts a number of events for children, including a story and song session for the under fives, and regular Baby Bounce events.
- St Dunstan’s Sports Club, located on the eponymous school’s premises, is a 28 acre complex with indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, gym, football pitches and indoor cricket nets. Its Sports Bar is a friendly place to enjoy a drink with friends after a workout. Ladywell Arena Athletics Track is also close by.
- There are three large car parks by Catford Bridge station, and pay and display facilities on many streets in the town.
With its central location and stunning views over London, Mountsfield Park is an oasis of calm amid the bustle of Catford. A large space, it’s often used to hold big community events, and plans for a community garden, a new children's playground, and cafe are well underway. Ladywell Fields is most popular in summer, when locals can enjoy paddling in the river. Nature lovers can also enjoy the nearby Riverview Walk and River Pool Linear Park, a picturesque riverside walk through a conservation area.
Lewisham Council has proposed a series of ambitious improvements to the town’s amenities and transport links. In 2010 it bought Catford Shopping Centre, and is currently working on plans for its redevelopment. Barratt Homes is building a new development on the site of the one time Catford Greyhound Stadium with 589 properties, due for completion in 2017.This is part of the larger project to regenerate Catford town centre, with TFL currently considering extending the DLR from Lewisham to Catford and Bromley.
Rail: Catford and Catford Bridge rail stations both run services to central London. Travel to London Bridge takes just over 20 minutes from Catford and it’s half an hour to St Pancras International. You can also hop on the Overground at Honor Oak and Forest Hill, which is just 40 minutes from Shoreditch, and catch the DLR from nearby Lewisham.
Road: It takes 20 minutes to reach the M25, and the A205 South Circular runs through Catford.
Bus: Numerous bus routes serve the area, including numbers 75 (to Croydon), 122 (to Crystal Palace), 171 (to Holborn), 181 (to Lewisham), 185 (to Victoria), and 202 (to Blackheath). The N171 night bus runs to and from Tottenham Court Road.
Cycle: Enjoy the Catford to Borough Scenic River cycle route with great views of the Thames and Canary Wharf.
Getting away: Gatwick Airport is an hour’s drive away.
Catford has a wide range of education options across all age groups including independent schools and an academy. Rathfern Primary School is rated Outstanding by Ofsted. Holy Cross Roman Catholic Primary School is another popular choice, as is Prendergast Hilly Fields College for girls’ secondary education. For private schools, St Dunstan’s College has offered the International Baccalaureate as an alternative to AS and A Levels since 2005.
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