Deptford Memorial Gardens in Lewisham are described on London Gardens Online in 2011 as consisting of ‘…three strips of formal gardens laid out on raised ground between the main road on the south side and a row of mid-C19th paired houses. At the northern end is the WWI war memorial, a Portland stone obelisk with figures of a soldier and sailor, which was unveiled in 1921. Today the gardens form a strip of lawn within which is a series of circular, rectangular or oval flower beds with seasonal displays. A path runs through the gardens and there are a number of seats. Yew hedges and shrubbery border the garden to the south and there are a number of ornamental trees, as well as lime and horse chestnuts. The border to Lewisham Way has a scalloped retaining wall…’. (NB: the location of the gardens on a Google map at LGO is incorrect.)
The Deptford Memorial Gardens were already in place as gardens in the map of London LXVIII, surveyed 1869-71, (detailed view here), and are just a few minutes away from Luxmore Gardens. On this map, however, there is a fourth section of garden – on the side of Breakspears Road, adjacent to what is now Lewisham College. This small section is still in place but not included in Deptford Memorial Gardens anymore. The road between the residential villas and the gardens was then called Wickham Terrace, whereas today it is both Lewisham Way (like the main road) and Lloyd Villas.
The section of gardens previously included is still a green space (on the left of the first picture below), with large trees, grass, and a shrub or two but it is no longer a ‘planted garden’. The original road between the gardens and the original buildings (which seem to be neglected) are also still in place. I wonder why this is not included in the Gardens?
These days the the gardens start from an entrance on the opposite side of Breakspears Road where there is a notice board and the raised ground is obvious – you have to mount steps into the gardens! The path is in place although in the map of 1869-71 it seems to run down the centre of garden; today it is towards one side. There is a varied shrubbery with trees down one side and a hedge, but it is box, not yew, and somewhat untidy. The original homes have gone, replaced with modern buildings.
The middle section begins at the traffic lights on the junction of Wickham Road with Lewisham Way. The red telephone box is a small book library for children’s books. It works like an honesty box and is well-used, just like another telephone box library further down the road to Lewisham – a lovely idea.
This central section is similar to the sections on either side, with a tree and shrub border on the side closest to the villas, a path alongside the border, and flower beds. The only difference is a raised, tilted flower bed in the centre.
The third section is separated from the central part by a pedestrianised, paved, circular opening and as I walked up the shallow steps there was the most wonderful scent in the air! I identified a choisya and a viburnum, but couldn’t recognise another scented shrub.
This section ends at the War Memorial where the final two houses, opposite the Memorial, are new buildings in the style of the original villas and they replaced a Congregational Chapel which was quite substantial on the map of London LXVIII, surveyed 1869-71. On this corner there is also a rather curious pillar, which looks almost like part of a drinking fountain.
The War Memorial was unveiled on 7 July 1921 and London Gardens Online says the designer was William Richards. However, other sources on the internet list William Wheatley Wagstaff as the designer. The inscription reads ‘…Deptford’s Tribute to Her Gallant Sons Who Were Faithful Unto Death 1914-1918…’.
Then I walked back on the opposite side of the main road as this is the best way of seeing the scalloped wall.
Deptford Memorial Gardens with its scalloped wall on the main Lewisham Way
Deptford Memorial Gardens in Lewisham is an interesting garden which feels quite different when you walk along its length to when you drive past, quickly, on the main road – well worth a visit!