Honor Oak is an inner suburban area principally of the London Borough of Lewisham, with part in the London Borough of Southwark. The name originates from Oak of Honor Hill, or One Tree Hill. The legend is that on 1 May 1602, Elizabeth I picnicked with Sir Richard Bulkeley of Beaumaris in the Lewisham area by an oak tree at the summit of a hill. The tree came to be known as the Oak of Honor. The tree surrounded by railings is an oak, and was planted c. 1905 as a successor to the historic one.
Honor Oak is a somewhat ill-defined geographical area, with debates especially regarding its the boundaries with Forest Hill to the south - the name Forest Hill is sometimes used to describe a wider area that includes most of Honor Oak.
One Tree Hill is the central feature of Honor Oak's landscape. It is at the northern end of a string of hills stretching from Croydon, previously part of the Great North Wood. In addition to its connection with Queen Elizabeth I, the hill is reputed by a long-standing rumour to have been the site of the final defeat of Queen Boudica by the Romans in AD61, while Dick Turpin is also rumoured to have used it as a look-out post. 
The beacon at the summit of One Tree Hill was erected to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George VI in 1935. It was subsequently used for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, her silver and golden jubilees and also at the Millennium. Beacons on the same site were used to give warning of invasion by the Spanish and later the French. The Hill was also the site of Watson's General Telegraph, a relay system established in 1841 linking London with shipping in the English Channel
In 1896, One Tree Hill was due to become part of a golf club, but there were riots and demonstrations by local people. This fell through, and later it was bought by Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell and made into a public open space by 1905.
One part of the open space eventually became a nine-hole golf course called the Aquarias Golf Club. It lies on top of the cavernous Honor Oak Reservoir, constructed between 1901 and 1909. When it was completed the reservoir was the largest brick built underground reservoir in the world and even today remains one of the largest in Europe. The reservoir now forms part of the Southern extension of the Thames Water Ring Main.
Between 1809 and 1836, a canal ran through Honor Oak as part of its route from New Cross to Croydon. It also went via Forest Hill and Sydenham. The canal was replaced by a railway line after 1836, and this now forms part of the line between London Bridge and Croydon. Honor Oak Park railway station opened in 1886 is on this line. Honor Oak railway station was opened in 1862 but closed in 1958 as part of the closure of the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway, originally built to take passengers to The Crystal Palace. The remains of the embankment of this line can still be seen, forming part of Brenchley Gardens.
In 2010 Honor Oak Park railway station became part of the London Overground extension, providing residents with direct links into Shoreditch and Highbury and Islington. As with neighbouring Forest Hill, Honor Oak is becoming increasingly desirable as a peaceful, leafy suburb with good transport links into the centre of town, and slightly lower-than-average property prices.
Amenities and entertainment
Honor Oak enjoys a number of well regarded restaurants and gastro pubs. The Babur Indian Restaurant has two AA Rosettes and has been described as "one of the best Indian restaurants in London" by The Independent newspaper. The high street has two cafes, the Hop Scotch cafe bar which features live music and Hills & Parkes, a deli that opened in August 2011, replacing a stall that had previously run every weekend next to the station. Hills & Parkes sells locally sourced produce. There is also a Spanish Tapas restaurant and a Sour dough Pizza Restaurant that opened in February 2014. The Honor Oak (currently closed for refurbishment) is the reincarnation of the old St Germans public house. The Chandos is a more traditional south London pub.
Political activist Jim Connell (1852–1929), author of 'The Red Flag', lived at 22a Stondon Park (which is on the border of Crofton Park and Honor Oak). He wrote the anthem while on a train journey to his home in December 1889 though there is a suggestion he may have been living in New Cross at the time.
Actor William Henry Pratt (1887-1969), better known as Boris Karloff was born at 36 Forest Hill Road.
Footballer Ian Wright grew up in the area, including on the Honour Oak Estate.
The comedian Spike Milligan (1918–2002), lived at 22 Gabriel Street, Honor Oak, and 50 Riseldine Road (which is on the border of Crofton Park and Honor Oak) after coming to England from India in the 1930s.
- Honor Oak Park Railway Station
- SE23.com - The local community website for Forest Hill and Honor Oak, London SE23
- Honor Oak Christian Fellowship Centre
- Walter Segal Self Build Trust
- The Honor Oak, Public House
- One Tree Hill Allotments
- Honor Oak Park Residents Association - useful information for local and prospective residents
References and notes
- "Forest Hill and Honor Oak Secrets". London Borough of Lewisham. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- Ben Weinreb, Christopher Hibbert, Julia Keay, John Keay (2008) The London Encyclopedia. London: Pan Macmillan.
- Aquarius Golf Club website
- "Honor Oak Reservoir". Mott MacDonald. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- "Babur Restaurant Review". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-12-10.