London Gardens Online tells me that ‘…Wickham Gardens in Lewisham is a cul-de-sac off Wickham Road, the houses surrounding a garden that was protected under the London Squares and Enclosures (Preservation) Act 1906, which prohibited building on the enclosure.
History of the area
Bombing in WWII damaged much of this area, including houses in Wickham Gardens. The original Victorian houses stand on the north side of Wickham Gardens, but there are 1960s flats on two other sides of the Gardens.
The effects of the V2 bomb damage in 1945 on the houses is quite clear on the ground. Wickham Gardens was originally a green space surrounded by a semi-circular road. Three villas on Wickham Road backed on to the Gardens – I assume at the point where there is no wall. These were the Victorian houses bombed in 1945. And this is where new flats were built in the 1960s.
Wickham Gardens today
The central garden remains largely unchanged as an area of grass with shrubs and a number of trees, surrounded by the roadway… In 1928 the garden was described as: ‘Enclosed by a low wall with light iron railings on top. A well-kept and very attractive ornamental garden with lawn, shrubs and a few trees. Overlooked by small but well-tenanted dwelling houses.’ It was in the private ownership of a Mr A H Tarleton…’.
The description of Wickham Gardens in Lewisham in LGO (July 2006) is essentially correct but I did not expect what I found. There is still a low wall around three side of the central garden but the iron railings seen in 1928 on top of the wall have gone.
The ornamental garden of 1928 is also in the past because all I found were a few cyclamens, hiding in the leaves. There are indeed trees around the green, although on the whole they look quite young. However, the mention of ‘shrubs’ led me to expect something more interesting and attractive than the parasol-shaped, twiggy bushes around the perimeter.
A hidden country lane
As you drive into Wickham Gardens in Lewisham there is a small opening on the right which is one end of a small lane which links the Gardens to Harefield Road. The paving looks like the original setts or paving stones. This extraordinary little passage is quite hidden away and when you walk down the lane it feels like being in the countryside!
The surrounding area
Wickham Road, of c.1850, is the widest of the roads in Brockley, and the oldest. The area was under the bomber flight path to the London Docks which is why there was so much damage here. Houses near Wickham Gardens are probably similar to those destroyed in WWII.
Wickham Gardens is interesting, but slightly disappointing, but it was fun to find a country lane!