Ladywell Fields in SE London

Ladywell Fields in SE London is another of the wonderful public parks in the Borough of Lewisham. Lewisham is a busy transport hub and a densely populated area, and this means that the history of the area, and the preservation of historical green areas, can be overlooked, or disregarded. This park, Ladywell Fields, is one such area which may take visitors by surprise, and I am going to explore the park in two posts. Do follow!

History of the area

‘…Ladywell Fields is a public park formed from three historic fields, through which the Ravensbourne river runs. ‘Ladywell’ derives from the medicinal well recorded here in the C15th, which was named after the nearby parish church of St Mary, the fields forming water meadows attached to the church… This stretch of river was the site of numerous snuff and flour mills, and a moated farm house, Priory Farm, which was demolished in 1877 when the moat was filled in….

London Gardens Online, April 2012
Map of 1864, with Priory Farm at middle top (http://london1864.com/stanford74.htm)
Ladywell Fields near today’s station, 1872 (OS maps, NLS)
The park today (Google maps); the Ladywell Field in this post is on the R

The railway lines through the park

There are two railway lines through the park: the Mid-Kent line and the Catford Loop line. The Mid-Kent line line runs along the edge of Ladywell Fields between Ladywell Station to Catford Bridge Station. Catford Bridge Station opened in 1857 and it is the bigger of the two stations in Catford. The smaller smaller Catford Station opened in 1892 and today mainly serves Thameslink trains. This line runs diagonally across the park, between Crofton Park and Bellingham. Somehow the railway doesn’t harm the peacefulness of the park – curious!

Catford Bridge Station
Line between Ladywell and Catford Bridge stations

Creating the Park

‘…In 1889 the area between the Ravensbourne and the railway was purchased by the LCC and Lewisham District Board of Works, with further land purchased in 1891 and 1894, and it was opened as Ladywell Recreation Ground. Because the area was liable to flooding the river channel was straightened and enlarged, weirs were added, and the meadows were drained and landscaped…’.

London Gardens Online, April 2012

In 2011 a major renovation of the park was completed, winning a Living Wetlands Award for Lewisham Council.


The Northern Field at Ladywell station

Entrance to Ladywell Fields from the Ladywell Station
Entrance to Ladywell Fields from the station
Ladywell Fields in Lewisham
Panorama of Ladywell Fields
Lewisham Hospital across the park
Lewisham Hospital across the park

The River Ravensbourne

River Ravensbourne in Ladywell Fields
River Ravensbourne in Ladywell Fields
River Ravensbourne in Ladywell Fields
The path along the River Ravensbourne

Sports facilities

There are plenty of facilities for both children and adults in this field, and they are all well-used. Children were squealing on the swings and slides and adults were playing tennis on every occasion that I visited. Other people were walking, or jogging, and a few were sitting quietly and enjoying the scene.

And after exercising there is a cafe on site!

Cafe in the park

The River Ravensbourne divides this long field into two and if you cross the river hidden away next to Lewisham Hospital are more tennis courts and an athletics stadium. And here you cross the river and the railway line on a spiral stair to access the next field, the Middle Field, and continue along the Waterlink Way.

Railway and river crossing in Ladywell Fields
Railway and river crossing

Ladywell Fields in SE London is a huge open green space, nearly one mile long and covering 54 acres, in the centre of Lewisham. These lands have been open for over 1,000 years – ancient water meadows along the River Ravensbourne – and are a remarkable resource in a busy inner city. In the next post we will cross the river and continue onwards!

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