Darrell Spurgeon is a local historian, who has been writing books about South East London since 1990, producing guides to Greenwich, Woolwich, Chislehurst, Deptford, Sydenham and many other areas, which are available in local studies centres. Two years ago, he finished a short book about Brockley, which he never got around to publishing. So Brockley Central will be serialising his work on the site over the coming weeks.
The northern part, known as Upper Brockley, which was in the old parish of Deptford, contains a great concentration of impressive Victorian housing dating from the 1850s to the 1880s. The southern part, south of Brockley Cross, which was in the old parish of Lewisham, developed mainly from the 1870s on either side of Brockley Road, from the 1890s to the south of Crofton Park Station, and earlier, from the 1850s, in the extreme south, around Brockley Rise.
Brockley is recorded as a Saxon settlement in 952, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a small hamlet. Brockley Green, the site of the old hamlet and thus the historical centre of Brockley, was in the area now called Crofton Park.
The manor of Brockley was in 1189 granted to a Premonstratensian Abbey, founded c1182 on a site now occupied by Beverley Court, Breakspears Road. The abbey grounds included the site of the present St Peter’s Church, Wickham Road, and the manor extended as far south as Crofton Park.
The monks did not stay long, for c1205 they moved to Bayham Abbey, near Tunbridge Wells, though the order retained the Brockley manor until it was requisitioned by Henry VIII in 1526, a decade before the Dissolution. No visible trace of the Abbey at Brockley now remains, though in the late 19th century building work on the site of the former Manor Farm, Wickham Road, revealed the foundations of the refectory, as well as coins and fragments of tiling and glass.
The Premonstratensian Order (also known as the White Canons) had been founded in the valley of Prémontré, near Laon, France, in 1120 by St Norbert, later Archbishop of Magdeburg, Germany.
The Lane from Brockley
In the early 18th century Brockley was a rural settlement around part of an old lane which extended from Deptford to Brockley Green, with branches to Sydenham Common and to Ladywell. The lane started as Butt Lane (following the course of the present New King Street, Deptford High Street and Tanners Hill), then entered Brockley as Brockley Lane, along the line of the present Upper Brockley Road, and ran to Deptford Common, which was situated near Brockley Cross until enclosure in the early 19th century. The lane then continued as Brockley Lane via the present Coulgate Street and Brockley Road to Brockley Green.
The Green was picturesque and a popular resort, and remained so until the late 19th century. Here were the old Brockley Jack inn, predecessor of the present pub; Brockley Farm, with its pond, which continued as farmland until development from c1870 onwards; a few rural cottages; and the Brockley Hall mansion, which dated from at least the mid 18th century and was not demolished until 1932 (Brockley Hall Road is now on the site). And the Croydon Canal was not far away, at least until 1836, when it was acquired for the construction of the Croydon Railway, which opened in 1839.
Brockley Green extended on both sides of Brockley Road from the present Brockley Grove to the beginning of Brockley Rise. From Brockley Green the lane continued south to Forest Hill along the course of the present Brockley Rise, and another lane, also called Brockley Lane, went eastwards to Ladywell and Lewisham along the course of the present Brockley Grove.
The whole area remained agricultural, with farms and market gardens serving London, until the mid 19th century. Change came to Upper Brockley from c1850, more as an extension of residential development already taking place along Lewisham Way than as a direct result of the arrival of the Croydon Railway at New Cross Gate Station, on the western edge of the area, in 1839. Stations opened later further south had more impact - Brockley Station in 1871 and Honor Oak Park Station in 1886, as did stations on new lines - the former Brockley Lane Station (on the Greenwich Park Line) in 1872, and Crofton Park Station (on the Catford Loop Line) in 1892.
Brockley Green and Brockley Farm were laid out for housing from c1870, and residential development began to cover the whole area, though the Brockley Hall grounds were not developed until the 1930s. As one nears the South Circular Road and Forest Hill, development had started earlier, from the early 1850s.
Coming up in Part Two: The debut of the Drakes...