What's it all about?
The borough of Lewisham has everything a modern Londoner needs: a large indoor shopping centre, bustling outdoor market, nine-minute links to London Bridge, a wealth of beautiful hilltop parks and interesting venues, shops, bars and restaurants to explore. Surrounded by Blackheath, Hilly Fields, Blythe Hill and Forest Hill, Lewisham town is a solid choice for those after transport links, shopping and civic amenities. However, the nearby attractions such as the Rivoli Ballroom, Blackheath’s open spaces and the trendy pubs and bars in Catford, makes the area a wonderful place to settle. It also lacks the overcrowded feel of some parts of London, so even travelling by car is possible. The roads are popular with cyclists too, with a well-used route into central London that bypasses the hills further to the west.
- Hosting live shows by Damon Albarn and The White Stripes, as well as providing the backdrop in videos for Tina Turner, Elton John and Oasis, the Rivoli Ballroom is a honey-pot for London’s retro dance set.
- The Hilly Fields Stone Circle was created to mark the millennium. It was constructed out of 12 granite boulders - believed to be an impressive 400 million years old - and shipped from Mount Struie in the Scottish Highlands.
Architecture and property
With 800 new homes within a stone’s throw of the train and DLR links, Lewisham Gateway is nearing completion. It will also provide shops, cafes, leisure facilities and a new town square. But it’s not the only development in the area. Next door is Catford Green development on the old greyhound stadium, with 589 new homes. There’s also a huge mix of other housing, from ex-council blocks to larger properties around Culverly Road and Blackheath, along with Victorian terraces and later developments.
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Eating: Once considered a ‘spit and sawdust’ sort of place, Lewisham now boasts a tapestry of new restaurants, bringing Asian, Turkish and African influences to the table. Sparrow’s husband-and-wife team exemplify this with their selection of beautifully presented food. Meze Mangal is said to be the match of anything on Green Lanes, while Nigerian restaurant Enish draws on the country’s rich culinary traditions to provide a spicy range of dishes, with the fish being a speciality.
Drinking: Lewisham has many pubs and bars. A short bus trip away in Brockley is the civilised Gantry French bar and restaurant, while the London Beer Dispensary in Crofton serves a range of craft ales. For kitsch décor and cocktails in jam jars, Jam Circus is your best bet. On a similar theme is Little Nan’s in Catford, located underneath the theatre. Alternatively, head to New Cross for a livelier night out, with its Goldsmiths students creating a constant buzz in pubs such as the Marquis of Granby.
Entertainment: Catford’s Broadway Theatre hosts Christmas pantos, comedies and concerts. If you want to dance the night away, the Rivoli Ballroom is a cherished treasure for locals, with its beautiful interior and regular retro nights. A bus ride away in Greenwich, you’ll find Oliver’s Jazz Bar, Up The Creek comedy club and the Odeon cinema. Free spirits may prefer the community-run Deptford Cinema, which also runs life drawing classes and mixology workshops.
Events: Lewisham People’s Day attracts 25,000 visitors to Mountsfield Park, with a mix of live music, funfairs and community activity. Now in its sixth year, Lewisham Fringe Festival puts on ground-breaking lasting up to an hour, leaving you plenty of time to share your views of the production over a drink. The Sydenham Arts Festival transforms the area into a hub of art and performance for two weeks every July.
- The award-winning Brockley Market has grown to be a regular staple of locals’ Saturday mornings. It’s not cheap, but the quality can rival Borough Market. There’s also plenty of good coffee, alcoholic drinks and street food to help you relax and enjoy the spectacle.
- For hip street food and drink on Fridays and Saturdays in the warmer months, head to Lewisham Model Market, located just outside the shopping centre.
- For live music, try The Fox & Firkin outside Lewisham fire station, which kept its name after the brewery was wound up in 2001. It now offers a range of ales and underground music almost every night.
- Lewisham’s 13 libraries host a huge range of events for children, including free film screenings, origami workshops and craft activities.
The parks, woodlands and open spaces around Lewisham rival anything in London. Blackheath and Greenwich Park are a 10-minute bus ride away, while Hilly Fields boasts stone circle, sand play area, free tennis courts and Park Runs every Saturday. The café sat on top of it all is cosy and friendly. Ladywell Fields has been ‘renaturalised’, meaning kids (and silly grown-ups) can paddle in the meandering Ravensbourne stream, running through the middle of the park. There’s also a skatepark, playground and café.
For something a little simpler, Blythe Hill Fields is an open grassland area with stunning views of London, Kent and Surrey to the south. The Waterlink Way is a cycle and footpath running from Lower Sydenham through Catford, Lewisham and Deptford to the Thames, which has been regenerated in the past ten years. Running alongside the Pool and Ravensbourne rivers through numerous parks and green areas, it’s popular with families and friends out for a stroll.
Lewisham’s excellent transport links will soak up the increased numbers resulting from the new developments. There are also long-term plans (2030 has been mentioned) to extend the Bakerloo line from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham.
Rail: During peak hours, Lewisham has 15 trains per hour to London Bridge (eight minutes), three per hour to Victoria (24 minutes), 10 per hour to Charing Cross (21 minutes) and 12 per hour to Cannon Street (21 minutes). Services also runs to Woolwich, Bexleyheath, Gravesend, Dartford, Sevenoaks, Orpington and Hayes.
Tube: The DLR has a branch with an end stop at Lewisham, running around 12 trains per hour to Bank.
Bus: Lewisham is served by a large number of buses both into London and out to nearby towns and suburbs. These tend to converge on Lewisham train/DLR station.
Road: It takes 20 minutes to reach the M25, and the A205 South Circular runs through Catford, just a few minutes’ drive from the centre of Lewisham.
Cycle: Quietway 1, launched in 2016, offers a cycle route from Waterloo to Greenwich via Deptford. Plans are underway for Cycle Superhighway 6 to provide a segregated cycle route through Deptford between Tower Bridge and Greenwich.
Primary-level options in Lewisham include the centrally located St Saviour’s Roman Catholic and St Mary’s Church of England, and St Margaret’s Lee Church of England primaries. The foundation Prendergast Vale School offers all-through education from age three to 16, and all-girls secondary Prendergast School is on an attractive Hilly Fields site and offers a co-ed sixth form. For further education, there’s Christ the King Sixth Form College and Lewisham Southwark College. In Deptford is Goldsmiths, University of London, world-renowned for its art department, and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
For more information on schools in this area, please see our education resource.
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