What have the Romans ever done for us?

BrocSoc has had a bumpy ride on BC, so we were keen to find out more about the society's history and achievements. With this in mind, BrocSoc member Kate Hinze has put together some information to highlight its work. Here's what she has to say:

The Brockley Society is one of the longest running and most successful community groups in London. Started in 1974, the Society is responsible for Brockley being the fantastic place to live that it is today.

If it wasn’t for the Society, there would be no Lewisham Art House, the police station would be entirely closed down, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link would be undermining our homes and St Peter’s Church, there would be buildings on the grassy knoll (Brockley Common) by the station (which the Wildlife Trust has now covered in wild flowers) and there would be no annual Hilly Fields Fayre. In fact, there might not even be a Hilly Fields or Prendergast School without the Society – in 1991 BrocSoc ensured the extension of the conservation area to cover the park so it would be protected from development.

Everyone who lives in the conservation area is automatically a member of the Society. Over the years, BrocSoc has welcomed people from outside the area who just want to take part in the community or seek advice on how to protect their own areas. The Society doesn’t turn a blind eye to anything in this neighbourhood.

These days the Society is a well-established presence in the area, supporting local residents and the on-going development of Brockley. Most importantly, we have the ear of Lewisham Council and attend the fortnightly amenities panel meetings, reviewing plans for the area and ensuring that this wonderful area embraces the new while respecting the old.

BrocSoc is YOU! If you want to make a difference or see a change, take part!

What has Brockley Society done in the 34 years since it was founded to make Brockley a better place?

• We constantly work with the council on planning and conservation matters;

• In 1974 we started a Midsummer Fayre, intended as a ‘village fete’, because people said ‘nothing happens in Brockley’. The Fayre is still going strong, second only to Lewisham People’s Day, run by the council and costing lots of ratepayers’ money. Brockley Society runs the Fayre at no financial cost to anyone, because a lot of hard work is done by many people.

• We started a newsletter, delivered free to every house in the conservation area. It has won several prizes and continues, three times a year.

• We were the first in the borough to collect waste paper. So recycling started in Brockley!

• We ran our own tree pruning service;

• We researched local history and set up two exhibitions and several talks;

• We campaigned to stop the demolition of St Peter’s Hall and helped to raise funds to maintain it as a community centre. We refurbished the building and helped run the centre with new activities. Sadly, it was sold in 2002.

• We were the first to realise in 1989 the devastation that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link would cause Brockley and south-east London. We battled against it, telling the government that it should be routed through north Kent, under the river, through to Stratford and St Pancras (to link up with trains from the north.)
In the end, this is what they have done!

• We campaigned against the boarding-up and sale of Brockley County School on Hilly Fields. We got the building listed and asked that a group of artists should caretake it until a suitable future use was found. Prendergast School soon took an interest and is now a very successful school on its new site.

• We campaigned against the closure and sale of Deptford Library and spent three years negotiating its use as a visual arts centre. When the council finally agreed, the artists, now homeless when Prendergast took over the school on the hill, moved into the listed library building and re-named it Lewisham Arthouse.

• We helped to set up Hilly Fields User Group.

• We spent 30 years arguing against residential development in the mews that would benefit only developers, would be detrimental to the character of the conservation area and would add to loss of water resources. The council now agrees. A Bill is going through parliament trying to stop development of gardens, currently designated as brownfield sites and therefore fair game for the developers. We are ahead of the field!

• We got an Article 4 Direction made for the conservation area, which includes not concreting over front gardens. This will also help preserve water resources.

• We got the council to increase the conservation area to include Eastern Road, Coulgate Street and the area around Brockley Station in 1991 and Vicar's Hill and Brockley & Ladywell Cemetery in 2005.

• We set up the first Neighbourhood Watch in London with Brockley Police.

• We got the Breakspears Arms closed because of drugs and robberies.

• We helped to set up The Brockley Sector Working Party to liaise with the Police.

• We were the first police station front desk in London to be run by volunteers. We still keep the police station open, making Brockley a better, safer place to live.

• As a Millennium project, we planned, designed, organised grants and oversaw the creation of the stone circle and sundial on Hilly Fields.

Whatever your view of BrocSoc's activities, this is a history to be proud of. There are some real improvements on the list from which many of us have benefitted. The Society is an asset to the area and its continued existence is in all of our hands - so let's hope its future is as busy as its past.
You can contact the Society via its website.