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This article is about the district in London, England. For other uses, see Sydenham (disambiguation).
Sydenham Avenue SE26.JPG
Sydenham Avenue
Sydenham is located in Greater London
Sydenham shown within Greater London
Population 28,378 (SE26 postcode area)[1]
OS grid reference TQ352714
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district SE26
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°25′31″N 0°03′16″W / 51.4254°N 0.0544°W / 51.4254; -0.0544Coordinates: 51°25′31″N 0°03′16″W / 51.4254°N 0.0544°W / 51.4254; -0.0544

Sydenham (/ˈsɪdnəm/) is a district of south-east London, England, within the London Boroughs of Lewisham, Bromley and Southwark. Located in Kent until 1889, when the County of London was created, Sydenham was historically a very affluent town and the Crystal Palace from the Great Exhibition was relocated to Sydenham Hill in 1854. Bordering Forest Hill, Dulwich, Crystal Palace, Penge, Beckenham, Catford and Bellingham; Sydenham today is a diverse area with a 2011 population of 28,378.[1]


A map showing the Sydenham ward of Lewisham Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916.

Originally known as Shippenham,[2] Sydenham began as a small settlement, a few cottages among the woods, whose inhabitants grazed their animals and collected wood. In the 1640s, springs of water in what is now Wells Park were discovered to have medicinal properties, attracting crowds of people to the area. Sydenham grew rapidly in the 19th century after the introduction of the Croydon Canal in 1809 which linked the Grand Surrey Canal to Croydon and a reservoir was constructed in Sydenham. However, the canal was never successful and closed in 1836[3] resulting in it being the first canal to be abandoned by an Act of Parliament. The London & Croydon Railway purchased the canal for £40,250 and quickly converted the alignment for a railway from London Bridge to West Croydon, opening in 1839. After the railway opened potential gas companies began to consider the Sydenham area with the Crystal Palace and District Gas Company having works at Bell Green, which continued production until 1969; a retail park now occupies most of the site.

The Crystal Palace

In 1851 the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park was housed in an immense glass building, called the Crystal Palace. In 1854 the building was bought by a private company, dismantled and re-erected in Sydenham Park (now called Crystal Palace Park). Exhibitions, concerts, conferences and sporting events were held at the Crystal Palace (until it burned down in 1936), and Sydenham became a fashionable area; many new houses were built. In 1872, the Children's Hospital, Sydenham opened. It closed in 1991, its services being now part of the University Hospital Lewisham.[4]

In 1860, the Walter Cobb department store at Lawrie Place, Kirkdale (now known as Cobbs Corner) opened, lasting until the 1980s. In 1884, Upper Sydenham railway station opened on the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway linking Crystal Palace to London Victoria via Peckham Rye.[5] The station and the line were poorly used despite new houses being built in the area, as passengers preferred to use other stations near-by Sydenham Hill (opening in 1863), Crystal Palace (Lower Level) and Sydenham which were on more direct routes. The ill fate of the Crystal Palace in 1936 saw patronage reduced and the route finally closed in 1954.

Sydenham was attacked by enemies during the Second World War. The gas works were a target, but were never damaged. The railway which ran through Upper Sydenham station was damaged, and some homes in the area were destroyed.

Local area[edit]

Sydenham is divided into several localities:

Apartment building on Sydenham Hill

Sydenham Hill in the Boroughs of Lewisham and Southwark runs alongside Dulwich and Sydenham Woods on one of the highest points of Greater London being 112 metres above sea level.[6] From here, the City of London skyline is visible. Sydenham Hill has an abandoned railway tunnel from the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway located within the Woods. Another railway tunnel (one of the longest in Britain being 1,958 metres) goes beneath on the Chatham Main Line with Sydenham Hill station at the London end serving both Sydenham Hill and the College area of Dulwich.

Upper Sydenham is also located on Sydenham Hill and is a part of the Parish of St Bartholomew. It is diverse both racially and in terms of income; the central section of Kirkdale was Sydenham's original High Street. Renamed "Kirkdale" in 1936, the area now has a small range of shops including Costcutter, Tesco Express, local pubs and off-licences. Sydenham School is located on Dartmouth Road with Forest Hill Library and Forest Hill Pools alongside Thorpewood Avenue. Green Flag awarded Sydenham Wells Park, the location of the once famous Springs is one of the largest parks within the postcode. Upper Sydenham is also the location of the Sydenham Park allotments, the Sydenham electricity sub station which had a major fire in 2008[7] and the Sydenham Hill estate.

Lower Sydenham & Bell Green is the location of Sydenham Community Library which was recently reopened by the local community after the Lewisham Council closed it. The Bell Green regeneration project is in its second phase with a new retail park which opened in 2013, on a site which was formally a gas works. The retail park is home to Currys PC World, B&Q, Toys "R" Us, Pets at Home, Sports Direct, Next (with Costa Coffee) and McDonald's among others. Sainsbury's have had a large store on one part of the site since the 1990s as part of the Savacentre brand and new residential apartments have also been constructed. The Bridge Leisure Centre is located on Kangley Bridge Road and Mayow Park is on the border with Forest Hill. Alongside the Hayes railway line and Lower Sydenham station, Lower Sydenham industrial estate houses the Clarkes of London coach company, City Link Beckenham and many other businesses as well as the Beckenham and Sydenham Cricket Ground.

Commercial area[edit]

Sydenham's commercial area begins on Kirkdale around Cobbs Corner, continuing onto Sydenham Road often known as Sydenham High Street. It houses many independent stores, including bookshops, cafes and a bakery. Chain stores include Boots, Budgens, Ladbrokes, Sainsbury's Local, Tesco Express, Lidl, Subway and Superdrug. The Post Office has a location and for banking, Barclays, Natwest, Lloyds Bank and Santander also have branches.


Sydenham has a very active community, with several groups concerning the local area. Sydenham Town is the local website for the suburb, where residents can also voice their opinions in an on-line form.[8] The Sydenham Society is a Civil society formed in 1972 to represent the local community. It holds local events, works with organisations and authorities as well as campaigning for improvements to the area.[9] Green Flag and Mayor of London Award winner, Sydenham Garden, was formed in 2002. It is a charity which is involved in improving the health of residents in the boroughs of Bromley and Lewisham.[10]

Sydenham with Forest Hill won a bid for the national Portas Pilot competition which provided a grant to improve high streets, extra money was provided from Lewisham Council and private developers.[11] Annually every summer since 2009, the Sydenham Arts Festival is held, where there are workshops, music, family activities etc.[12]

Conservation areas[edit]

Mayow Park was originally known as Sydenham Recreational Ground

Sydenham has seven Conservation Areas: Cobbs Corner, Dulwich Village (covering Crescent Wood Road),[13] Halifax Street, Sydenham Hill/Kirkdale, Sydenham Park and Sydenham Thorpes. Sydenham has the highest concentration of conservation areas in the London Borough of Lewisham[14]


A number of parks are within the Sydenham postcode. Mayow Park, Lewisham's oldest municipal park[15] and Sydenham Wells Park[16] are both Green Flag Awarded. Other open spaces in Sydenham include Alexandra Recreation Ground,[17] Baxters Field,[18] Home Park[19] and Kirkdale Green.[20] Riverview Walk is a nature conservation area[21] which runs along the River Ravensbourne from Catford. Additionally, located along the borders of Sydenham, there are Crystal Palace Park, Dulwich Woods, Southend Park[22] and Sydenham Hill Woods.

Sydenham Arts[edit]

Sydenham Arts is a local charitable organisation,[23] promoting the arts for the local community, which provides free and ticketed cultural events at several festivals through the year.[24][25][26] In June 2016, former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion, who spoke at Sydenham Arts Festival in 2011, was quoted saying "Sydenham Arts Festival is exemplary: packed with high-quality speakers from elsewhere, but also fully alive to and supportive of things growing close to home. It means that imaginable adventures can combine with imaginative confirmations - just as they should. Long may it flourish." [27]

Notable buildings and structures[edit]

Drinking fountain erected to commemorate the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria
  • Sydenham is the home of St Bartholomew's church, (1827–1832), at the end of Lawrie Park Avenue, featured in Camille Pissarro's painting of 1871. The building was designed by Lewis Vulliamy.
  • Park Court Sydenham, (1936), by Frederick Gibberd, pioneering modernist development of residential flats on the estate on Lawrie Park Road adjacent to the famous Crystal Palace Park.
  • Six Pillars, (1934–35), by Berthold Lubetkin, on Crescent Wood Road, a villa strongly in the spirit of Le Corbusier with eponymous six pillars at street level.
  • Cobbs Corner, takes its name from a draper’s shop at 291-307 Kirkdale run by Walter Cobb. The shop grew into a large department store catering to the gentry of the area. Interesting imposing dome where you can find the date on the building.
  • 180 and 182 Kirkdale, built in the 1850s in Gothic style, with Tudor doorcases.
  • 168–178 Kirkdale, three pairs of Italianate houses built around 1862. Number 174 was briefly the home of the conductor August Manns.
  • Memorial to Queen Victoria (1897), baroque-style memorial celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Restored for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee and designed by Alexander Hennell, a Sydenham resident and architect.
  • Jews Walk, it is believed that a wealthy Jewish resident planted a row of trees to define the boundary of his walk from the Common. Numbers 2,4 and 6 are classical villas dating from the 1840s. Karl Marx's daughter Eleanor lived on Jews Walk. On 9 September 2008 a blue English Heritage plaque was placed on the house to commemorate this fact.
  • Halifax Street, beautifully preserved street with houses dating from the 1840s. Of notice are in particular the closeness of the houses, the length of the street and the size of the gardens.
  • The Kirkdale Building, previously the Sydenham Public Lecture Hall, was built in 1861 by Sydenham resident Henry Dawson.


Sydenham contains two secondary schools, the private Sydenham High School and Sydenham School. Both of these schools are exclusively girls' schools.

There are five are non-religious primary schools in Sydenham (Alexandra, Adamsrill, Eliot Bank, Haseltine and Kelvin Grove) and three religious schools (St. Michael's, St Philip Neri and St. Bartholomew's Church of England). Near Sydenham are secondary schools which include residents of Sydenham in their catchment area. These include Forest Hill, Harris Crystal Palace, Harris Girls Academy Bromley(Cator Park) for Girls and Sedgehill Schools. There are no colleges in Sydenham, but Sydenham and Forest Hill schools have a joint sixth form.


According to the 2011 census, the SE26 postcode area had a population of 28,378, with 13,714 males and 14,664 females.[1]

Famous residents[edit]

Sir George Gove English Heritage Blue Plaque at Westwood Hill


Southern and London Overground trains at Sydenham

Sydenham is served by National Rail and London Buses for its public transport. Sydenham is located in Travelcard Zones 3 and 4.

Railway stations[edit]


The area is served by routes 75, 122, 176, 181, 194, 197, 202, 227, 352, 356, 363, 450 and N63 linking Sydenham to Central London, Lewisham, Catford, Croydon, Bromley, Shirley, Elephant & Castle, Blackheath, Forest Hill, Penge, South Norwood and Grove Park.[49][50][51][52]


The South Circular Road passes close by in Forest Hill. High Street improvements being funded by Transport for London from September 2012 are making the increasingly busy Sydenham Road (A212) more user friendly. So far, Kirkdale to Mayow Road has been completed, with Mayow Road to Kent House Road currently, as of December 2013, being upgraded. The Kent House Road to Bell Green section is still waiting for funding to be found.[53]


The River Pool at Lower Sydenham

Sydenham is approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) to the south east of Charing Cross. It is also at the centre of many of south London's major shopping districts being 3 mi (5 km) south of Lewisham, 3.2 mi (5.1 km) north west of Bromley and 3 12 mi (5.6 km) north of Croydon.

Upper Sydenham and Sydenham Hill is located on the large Norwood Ridge formed of London Claygate beds deposits; Sydenham Hill is one of the highest points in London at 367 feet (112 m). Sydenham Hill Wood is a nine-hectare[54] nature reserve located west of Sydenham Hill Road, along with Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf course. The hill was once covered by the Great North Wood which covered all of Sydenham, Norwood, Woodside, Gipsy Hill etc. In the 19th Century it was home to the spa and health resort of Sydenham Wells.

The western parts of Sydenham, from Upper Sydenham and Forest Hill towards Crystal Palace Park is a more leafy, suburban area with some parts like the Lawrie Park and Thorpes areas being more affluent than others. Lower Sydenham at the bottom of more gentle slopes being east of Upper Sydenham, south of Forest Hill and west of Bellingham. The River Pool, a 5.1 mi (8.2 km) tributary of the River Ravensbourne straddles the east of Lower Sydenham along the Hayes railway line.


The nearest Met Office climate station is based in Greenwich Park:

Climate data for London (Greenwich)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.0
Average high °C (°F) 8.3
Average low °C (°F) 2.6
Record low °C (°F) −10.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 51.6
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 10.8 8.5 9.6 9.4 9.0 8.3 8.0 7.6 8.5 10.7 10.1 9.9 110.4
Average snowy days 4 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 16
Average relative humidity (%) 81.0 76.0 69.0 64.0 62.0 60.0 60.0 62.0 67.0 73.0 78.0 82.0 69.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 49.9 71.4 107.1 159.8 181.2 181.0 192.1 195.1 138.9 108.1 58.5 37.4 1,480.5
Source #1: Record highs and lows from BBC Weather,[55] except August and February maximum from Met Office[56][57]
Source #2: All other data from Met Office,[58] except for humidity and snow data which are from NOAA[59]



The Beast of Sydenham of 2005, was a large, panther-like black animal, named Arak, which had been spotted around the area, and attacked a man. The beast was said to be 6 ft in length and 3 ft in height.[61][62] According to The Literary Miscellany, "John Hussey of Sydenham died in 1748 at the age of 116 years. For upwards of fifty years his breakfast had been balm-tea (lemon balm) sweetened with honey; and his dinner had been pudding; by which he acquired regular health".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Population for every postcode in England & Wales". ONS. Office of National Statistics. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "History of Sydenham". Ideal Homes: A History of South East London Suburbs. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Hadfield 1969, p. 374
  4. ^
  5. ^ Butt, R.V.J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Ltd. p. 237. ISBN 1-85260-508-1. R508. 
  6. ^ Hill Bagging: Tallest Hills of London Retrieved 9 June 2013
  7. ^ BBC News: Blaze at sub-station investigated Retrieved 9 June 2013
  8. ^ Sydenham Town: The Community Website For SE26 Accessed 30 July 2013
  9. ^ Sydenham Society: About Us Accessed 30 July 2013
  10. ^ Sydenham Garden: About Us Accessed 30 July 2013
  11. ^ News Shopper: Sydenham and Forest Hill win Portas Pilot funding 25 July 2012, Accessed 30 July 2013
  12. ^ Sydenham Arts Festival Accessed 30 July 2013
  13. ^ London Borough of Southwark: Map of Conservation Areas Accessed 30 July 2013
  14. ^ LB Lewisham: Map of Lewishams' conservation areas Accessed 30 July 2013
  15. ^ LB Lewisham Accessed 12 June 2013
  16. ^ LB Lewisham: Sydenham Wells Park Accessed 12 June 2013
  17. ^ LB Bromley: Alexandra Rec Ground Accessed 27 July 2013
  18. ^ including an extensive visual art trail, .uk/inmyarea/openspaces/parks/Pages/baxters-field.aspx LB Lewisham: Baxters Field Accessed 12 June 2013
  19. ^ LB Lewisham: Home Park Accessed 12 June 2013
  20. ^ LB: Lewisham Kirkdale Green Accessed 27 July 2013
  21. ^ London Borough of Lewisham: Riverview Park & River Pool Accessed 12 June 2013
  22. ^ LB Lewisham: Southend Park Accessed 12 June 2013
  23. ^ Team London on Sydenham Arts Accessed 14 March 2016
  24. ^ Sydenham Arts Accessed 11 March 2016
  25. ^ Sydenham Visual Art Trail Accessed 11 March 2016
  26. ^ Event Reviewed by The Arts Desk Accessed 18 April 2016
  27. ^ Bromley Times article including Andrew Motion quote Accessed 21 June 2016
  28. ^ Triggs, Roger (2001). The Men Who Made Gillingham Football Club. Tempus Publishing Ltd. pp. 44–45. ISBN 9780752422435. 
  29. ^ "BAIRD, John Logie (1888-1946) | English Heritage". Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  30. ^ "Sydenham Town Forum • View topic - Crystal Palace in Colour.". 
  31. ^ Lewis, C.T. Courtney. George Baxter (colour printer) his life and work. p. 72.
  32. ^ "Bill Bradley". Cricinfo. Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  33. ^ Campbell, Thomas (1907). The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell. Haskell House. pp. xiv. ISBN 9781410224156. 
  34. ^ "London's alive with the sound of Maria's success". Evening Standard. 2006-11-17. Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  35. ^ "Pub plans musical tribute to Bud Flanagan". East London Advertiser. Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  36. ^ Holland, Steve (2000-05-25). "Denis Gifford". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  37. ^ David Charles, Rose (2016). Oscar Wilde's Elegant Republic: Transformation, Dislocation and Fantasy in fin-de-siècle Paris. Cambridge Scholars. p. 39. ISBN 1443887633. 
  38. ^ "GRACE, W.G. (1848-1915) | English Heritage". Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  39. ^ "GROVE, Sir George (1820-1900) | English Heritage". Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  40. ^ Penrose, Justin (2014-07-06). "Rolf Harris home raided months before arrest after plumber found stash of child porn under floorboards". Mirror. Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  41. ^ "how I wrote The Remains of the Day in four weeks". Guardian piece by Ishiguro. 6 Dec 2014. 
  42. ^ "MARX, Eleanor (1855-1898) | English Heritage". Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  43. ^ "Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement, dies". BMJ. 2016-12-25. ISSN 1756-1833. 
  44. ^ "SHACKLETON, Sir Ernest (1874-1922) | English Heritage". Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  45. ^ "SMITH, Sir Francis Pettit (1808-1874) | English Heritage". Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  46. ^ Whitmore, Greg (2013-07-06). "Jason Statham: the career so far - in pictures". the Guardian. Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  47. ^ Wyman, Bill (1990). Stone Alone. Viking. p. 41. ISBN 0-670-82894-7. 
  48. ^ Station Usage, Office Of Rail Regulation Accessed 30 July 2013
  49. ^ TfL: Buses from Sydenham Accessed 30 July 2013
  50. ^ TfL: Buses from Sydenham Hill Accessed 30 July 2013
  51. ^ TfL: Buses from Lower Sydenham Accessed 30 July 2013
  52. ^ TfL: Buses from Upper Sydenham Accessed 30 July 2013
  53. ^ London Borough of Lewisham: Sydenham High Street Accessed 12 June 2013
  54. ^ Evans, Humphrey (28 December 2003). "Secret London: Sydenham Hill - The view from the bridge". The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  55. ^ "London, Greater London: Average conditions". BBC Weather Website. BBC Weather. Archived from the original on 28 February 2011. 
  56. ^ "August 2003 — Hot spell". Met Office Website. Met Office. Archived from the original on 28 February 2011. 
  57. ^ "Monthly temperature records by country". Met Office Website. Met Office. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  58. ^ "Greenwich 1981−2010 averages". Met Office Website. Met Office. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  59. ^ "NOAA". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  60. ^ "Heathrow Climate period: 1981−2010". Met Office Website. Met Office. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  61. ^ "'Big cat' attacks man in garden". BBC News. 20 March 2005. Retrieved 28 January 2007. 
  62. ^ Barkham, Patrick (25 March 2005). "Fear stalks the streets of Sydenham after resident is attacked by a black cat the size of a labrador". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 January 2007.

External links[edit]