Bellingham Green in SE London on the Bellingham Estate is a large housing estate built by the London County Council on farmland in south East London in the 1920s. This estate narrowly predates the nearby Downham Estate and both surprised me by their relatively late development on what was countryside in London.
Building the Bellingham Estate
In Mediaeval times this area had been the Manor of Bellingham and it is perhaps surprising that in the early 20C it was still countryside. Bellingham Farm was one of the farms in this area. The LCC bought Bellingham Farm and part of White House farm in 1920 and the estate was finished in 1923 – very quick progress indeed! The aim of the estate was to provide good quality housing for people after WWI, particularly those living in slum areas in Deptford and Bermondsey. It seems that the vision of the LCC in building the estate was similar to that which motivated the LCC to build the Downham Estate. Bellingham Farm House itself was only demolished in the 1930s and it is probably remembered in Farmstead Road.
‘…the estate is laid out on cottage-style principles on a semi-formal plan with Bellingham Green as a central open space onto which 6 tree-lined roads converge. Other landscaping on the estate includes avenues of trees, grassed areas, and playing fields…London Gardens Online, April 2012
The houses of built of brick and I thought there was a pleasing amount of variation. I found interesting details such as doorways, brick details under gables, placing of windows, and inward facing buildings at crossroads. Little greens off the main roads (grassed areas) are still in place. Sadly some of the roadside trees have disappeared to create parking spaces for cars. Both the playing fields are still in use. The housing around Bellingham Green in SE London strikes me as very enterprising and concerned for people, perhaps more so than some current housing developments.
The allotments behind the houses
On Google maps I can see large areas of green behind the houses and I believe these are allotments. However, the general public can’t access the allotments, and the gates from the streets are locked.
Renovation of Bellingham Green
In 2001-03 Lewisham Council renovated Bellingham Green which had been neglected for many years.
‘… The new layout included new play facilities, seating, landscaping with rocks, shrubs, and pergolas near the south entrance. A circular area with grass in the centre surrounded by stone globes may be the former site of Hamish Horsley’s sculpture, which was much vandalised from the time of its commission…’.London Gardens Online, April 2012
The sensory garden is delightful, even in the winter!
Exercise facilities & children’s play area
A fierce looking exercise area stands on one side of the green, next to a ball court. Both are bright and cheerful and seem to be in very good condition. On the other side of the Green is a fenced play area and a covered play hall for young children under five years. These facilities also seemed to be well cared for.
St Dunstan’s Church
Sir Charles Nicholson was an architect who specialised in church architecture and memorials and he designed St Dunstan’s Church. The Church was built in 1925 but it remains incomplete. During the General Strike in 1926 the entire workforce went on strike in support of the miners. Apprentices built the east wall but the chancel and vestry were never built. Today this means the church is lacking facilities. A second church, The United Reformed Church, stands on the opposite side of the green.
Mills on the River Ravensbourne
‘..The names of some of the roads on the Bellingham Estate recall the former mills on the River Ravensbourne, such as Knapmill, Grangemill, Fordmill…’.London Gardens Online, April 2012
There were eleven corn mills on the River Ravensbourne in the 11C. In the 17C John Evelyn bought a mill on the river, Brookmills, which was demolished in the 1850s. Mumfords flour mill still stands in Deptford, but it is an empty building today. It will probably be developed as flats, at best, and at worst it will be demolished. Ford Mill was a corn mill, close to today’s Catford Bridge Station. The Armoury Mill stood in Lewisham, near today’s Tescos. In Victoria times it became The Silk Mills.
Bellingham Green in SE London is a pleasant green space in the centre of an interesting 1920s housing estate in the Borough of Lewisham. The developers wanted to create a ‘village’ estate and a ‘green’ community. And so it seems a pity that today many of the houses look neglected, and their small front gardens are unkempt. It is not in line with the LCCs original intentions of a ‘garden estate’.
- ‘Sunstone’ by Hamish Horsley, 1988 :https://boroughphotos.org/lewisham/bellingham-green-park-sun-stone-sculpture-3/
- History of Bellingham: https://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/bellingham/
- The development of Bellingham Estate: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwisqZje-8jtAhWIQkEAHb2AB4AQFjABegQIBBAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Flewisham.gov.uk%2F-%2Fmedia%2Ffiles%2Fimported%2Fbellinghamlocalhistory.ashx&usg=AOvVaw1R_a7Pwutu8Selka-zhg0W
- St Dunstan’s Church in Bellingham, historical information: http://archive.southwark.anglican.org/thebridge/0011/page05.htm
- Interesting files and information: https://riversandpeople.com
- The Addison Act: https://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/our-key-themes/tracking-welfare-reforms/resources/homes-heroes-today-brief-history-housing-london