This area guide covers Lee and Hither Green.
What’s it all about?
For many people Lee remains something of a well kept secret, deep in the heart of the borough of Lewisham, but it’s an area rich with history and a good selection of Victorian housing stock and new developments for house hunters to choose from. Add to this the relative ease of transport into central London and a choice of good schools, and it’s no surprise that residents want to keep this hidden prize to themselves. Bordered by popular Blackheath to the north and Bromley to the south, and with plenty of green spaces, Lee, Hither Green and Grove Park all offer a more affordable option for young families. A range of residents’ groups dedicated to preserving the area’s charms point to a community feel that is hard to manufacture, and their efforts have succeeded in restoring local landmarks and introducing tree planting projects. An influx of professionals and families with young children has seen a turnaround in the fortunes of Lee and Hither Green, and these local community organisations are thriving, with more cafes, bars and shops arriving all the time.
- St Margaret of Antioch church in Lee has one of the most handsome gothic revival interiors in London.
- Sir Francis Baring, one of the founders of Barings Bank, bought the Manor House in Old Road in 1792, and when the railway arrived in 1856 his family started developing the surrounding area.
- The position of the green at Lee was perfect for marching armies in need of refreshment. Wellington’s soldiers passed through in 1815 on their way to victory over Napoleon at Waterloo.
Architecture and property
Lee was a popular place for wealthy London merchants to live, and some large country houses were built here in the 17th and 18th centuries. Manor House and Pentland House in Old Road, and The Cedars, Belmont Hill, survive to the present day. Lee New Town was built from 1825 to house those working for the wealthy residents in the large houses springing up all around. In 1866 Lee railway station opened, which made it practical for a wider range of people who worked in central London to live in Lee and commute. Houses were built for these new settlers on what had been farmland, and most of the area was built up by 1914. Available property mostly consists of late Victorian and Edwardian bay windowed terraces, pre war semi detached homes and townhouses. There are also purpose built and studio flats, most of which are in period conversions. The railway slices the area in two, the northern half towards Blackheath being somewhat more sought after. Here you'll find the Lee Manor Conservation Area, filled with two storey pale brick houses and terraces, often with well planted gardens front and back.
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Eating: The Cafe of Good Hope on Hither Green Lane was set up in memory of teenager Jimmy Mizen, to raise funds for his foundation and to provide a place of work for young people. Pop in for brunch or for afternoon cakes. For a taste of Italy, head for local favourite Luciano’s for stone baked pizza and freshly made pasta dishes, or for something a little more unusual, check out Caspian for a taste of Persian cuisine, or Panas Gurkha with its Indian and Nepalese menu.
Drinking: The area around Hither Green remains largely pub free because of leases put in place by the Quaker house builder Archibald Cameron Corbett in the late 19th century, but one of the few is The Station Hotel, which has comfy sofas and acoustic music nights. Otherwise, locals make their way into Lee itself, where one of the most popular pubs is the Lord Northbrook, which offers an extensive menu, a fine range of beers and live music and DJs at the weekend.
Events and culture: The Hither Green Festival, with its craft fairs, quizzes, music nights and kids’ activities, has become a keenly anticipated annual event. The Hither Green Community Association organises film nights at the Hither Green Hall, and there is a wealth of culture in the shape of theatres, cinemas and museums just a short hop away in Greenwich.
- Ruby & Norm on Lee High Road has an eclectic selection of wares, ranging from vintage clothes to furniture and gifts. Kids and adults alike will love the Harlequin Party Shop, which has a costume for every need. For that special occasion, head to You Don’t Bring Me Flowers and enjoy a coffee while your bouquet is made up.
- Squeezebox players head for Allodi Accordions on Lee High Road, who offer a range of new and secondhand instruments, as well as providing a repair service.
- For everyday shopping, there is a large Sainsbury’s on Burnt Ash Road, a Lidl on the high street, and small Tesco in Grove Park and Hither Green.
- Colfe’s School has a leisure centre that offers a wide range of sporting and fitness opportunities, and you don’t need to be a member to visit. Hither Green also has Lewisham’s only 24-hour gym, Anytime Fitness.
- Manor House Library offers IT training as well as activities for the under fives.
The largest of the parks in the area is Manor House Gardens, which boasts a lake, playground, tennis courts and a cafe, while Edith Nesbit Gardens is a smaller green space with a playground. Mountsfield Park has a bandstand, football pitches, a bowling green and an ornamental garden. Once a year Lewisham Council hosts its People’s Day here, which brings a funfair, entertainers and kids activities to the park. For unspoilt land with no distractions, head south to Northbrook Park, given to the community by Lord Northbrook and formerly known as the Ten-Acre Field.
A planning application has been submitted for a £40 million regeneration of the Leegate Shopping Centre in Lee Green, owned by the developers St Modwen, to include an Asda store, housing, shops, cafes and new public spaces.
Rail: Trains from Lee reach London Bridge in 13 minutes, and in a mere 10 minutes from Hither Green, with easy access to towns such as Sidcup, Gravesend and Dartford in the opposite direction. Nearby Lewisham also offers access to the DLR.
Road: Roads tends to be busy in this area but the A20 gets you to Kent and beyond.
Bus: There are several buses that serve Lee, including the 160 (to Sidcup), 202 (to Blackheath or Crystal Palace) and 261 and 273 (both to Lewisham). The 225 to Canada Water runs through Hither Green, as does N171.
Cycle: There is a picturesque cycle route which starts at Hither Green station and heads over Blackheath before heading through Greenwich Park. The train station also provides sheltered bike racks.
Getting away: It’s under an hour to Gatwick by car, and getting out of London is easy with the M25 only 20 minutes away.
Primary education in the area is dominated by the Brindishe schools, Brindishe Lee in Wantage Road, Brindishe Green in Beacon Road and Brindishe Manor in Leahurst Road. There is only one secondary in Lee itself, which is the Trinity Church of England school, but there are choices further afield, such as the John Roan school in Blackheath, and Prendergast Hilly Fields College, a girls’ secondary school in Ladywell.
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