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History of Lee

  • council: Lewisham
  • phone code: 020
  • postcode area: SE12
  • county: Greater London

In Saxon times, Lewisham began it’s humble beginnings as Oleofsa’s village. In 862, Lewisham was referred to as LIofshema mearc and Lieuesham in 918.

In 1086 there was reference to Levesham in the Doomsday Book, described as follows:

‘There is arable land for 14 ploughs. In demesne there are 2 ploughs and 50 villeins with 9 bordars have 17 ploughs. There are 3 slaves (serfs) and 11 mills. There are 30 acres of meadow and woodland for 50 hogs.

Abraham Colfe, Vicar of Lewisham from 1610 to 1657, founded a grammar school, a reading (primary) school and six almshouses for the inhabitants of Lewisham in 1664.

In 1816 Lewisham was described as ‘a rural village on the banks of the Ravensbourne…only to be reached by a long coach ride’!

Around 1828 the Riverdale Mill was built and is the only one of the Ravensbourne mills still surviving today. The Riverdale Mill was initially a leather mill and then became a corn mill in the 18th century and early 19th century.

The first railway through Lewisham, the North Kent Line to Dartford opened in 1849 and the present Lewisham station opened in 1857.

In 1897 the Lewisham Clock tower was built
to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen
Victoria in 1897.


The Lewisham Street Market started in 1906, which is still a vibrant and thriving market today. Click here for more information about Lewisham market

Lewisham town centre was devastated by a flying bomb in 1944, but recovered by the 1950’s.

In 1977 the Lewisham Shopping Centre was built and in 1994 the High Street in the town centre was pedestrianised allowing a traffic-free street market and an open space.

Today, there are major plans to re-develop Lewisham town centre through the Urban Renaissance Regeneration project.

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