Upper Telegraph Hill Park

Upper Telegraph Hill Park is closer to where I live but I don’t know it! London Gardens Online tells me that ‘…Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham is in two parts, an upper park in the south, and a lower park in the north, divided by Kitto Road. It incorporates the site of one of the Admiralty’s C18th semaphore stations, which was in use until 1815, from which the park gets its name. The Managing Director of the Metropolitan Gas Co. decided that the area needed a park and £2,000 with similar amounts from the LCC and Greenwich Board of Works. With this money they bought the land from the Haberdashers’ Company.

The park opened on 6 April 1895 with a bandstand, ponds and elaborate walks, perimeter planting and a perimeter walk. A shelter and toilets were added later in the northern park, and tennis courts were built on the site of the semaphore station in the south part, which has magnificent views. And recently the park was restored through a grant from the HLF…’.

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The history of the park

Telegraph Hill used to be known as ‘Plow’d Garlic Hill’ but the name changed when a telegraph station was built on top of the hill in c.1795 and demolished c.1823. For many years the area was a market garden belonging to the Haberdashers’ Company. In the mid-1800s the Company then started to develop housing in New Cross, in the area around Eckington Gardens and Hatcham Gardens, and of course around The Hill, as Telegraph Hill Park is now known. The Company built high-quality housing on wide, tree-lined streets and most of the development was between 1870-1900.

Looking down Pepys Road today

The Company developed facilities for the new houses – a school, church, and a park. Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for boys and girls, named after a liveryman, Robert Aske, opened in 1875, and then the girls moved to a separate Haberdashers’ Aske’s girls’ school in 1891. Today the schools are in the top ten independent schools in the UK.

Haberdashers’ Aske’s School today

St Catherine’s Church was built in1894, but badly damaged both by a fire in 1913 and then again during WWII. Today it appears to be a thriving centre for the community: The Telegraph Hill Centre attached to the Church provides facilities for local people, as does The Hill Cafe which, together with The Telegraph Hill Festival generate funds for the Church and the Centre.

Telegraph Hill Park today

Overall, Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham covers 10 acres. LGO says that ‘…The southern part is overlooked from the north by the church of St Catherine, Hatcham; railings are along the east boundary, and to the east are terraced rose gardens laid out on the slope. It has oak, beech, thorn and hornbeam at the hilltop in the southern part…’.

Since LGO surveyed the park in 2012 it has changed in that I could not find the terraced rose gardens; there are railings around the park; and there are two public tennis courts. The many trees are still thriving. There are two gates into the park from Kitto Road, and another two gates on Drakefell Road. 

Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
The information board at the top end of Kitto Road
Telegraph HIll Park in Lewisham
The gate into Telegraph Hill Park from Kitto Road, near St Catherine’s Church

The Semaphore Station

LGO tells me that Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham is so-named because ‘…It incorporates the site of one of the Admiralty’s C18th semaphore stations, which was in use until 1815…’.

Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
The semaphore station c.1800 (http://www.bacchus.org.uk/html/telegraph.html)
Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
The tennis courts in the South Park, the site of the former semaphore station

This part of the park is for dog walkers, but there are also several benches for people to watch the tennis, look at the view, or just sit. 

The trees in the park

There are trees all round the borders of the park, and several in the ‘body’ of the park which creates a very soft and interesting feel to the area.

Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
Birch Trees in Telegraph Hill Park

Shrubberies in the park

The boundaries of the park are shrubberies, with varied plants, but they are not always in very good condition; nevertheless they add variety. I found Pampas Grass, Snowberries, Lilac, Cotoneaster, and Eleagnus amongst others.

Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
One of the shrub borders in Telegraph Hill Park

Sadly there is evidence of box caterpillar. 

Evidence of box caterpillar

The views from the top of the park, on a clear day, are amazing!

Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
London from Telegraph Hill Park
Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
London from Telegraph Hill Park
Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
One of the neighbouring streets of Victorian houses
Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
Walking in Telegraph Hill Park
Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
Walking in Telegraph Hill Park
Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
St Catherine’s Church hidden behind a border in Telegraph Hill Park

Unbelievably there are still active bees!

Telegraph Hill Park in Lewisham
Bees in the ivy!

Upper Telegraph Hill Park is yet another surprise in Lewisham! And yet another example of how local people, determined to make a difference, can care for their surroundings. HLF must be very pleased with the results of the grant given to refurbish the Park in 2005.

Further information
Pubs around The Hill
Telegraph Hill Centre
A visit to Telegraph Hill Park – very interesting article
Lewisham Local History Society

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