Lewisham (St. Mary)

LEWISHAM (St. Mary), a parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Blackheath, lathe of Sutton-at-Hone, W. division of Kent, 6½ miles (S. E.) from London, on the road to Tonbridge; containing 12,276 inhabitants. The name is a slight corruption of the Saxon Lewesham, "the dwelling among the meadows," anciently written Levesham. The parish, including the greater portion of the hamlet of Blackheath, the whole of Sydenham, Forest Hill, Brockley, Loampit Hill, and Loat's Pit, comprises 5490 acres, of which 100 are in wood; the soil is extremely rich, and the surface pleasingly varied. Its convenient distance from the metropolis, and its beautiful situation, have rendered Lewisham a favourite place of residence; and the neighbourhood is thickly studded with gentlemen's seats, many of which are splendid mansions, and with numerous handsome villas, the country residences of opulent merchants. The village extends about a mile along the high road; the inhabitants are supplied with water from a stream rising at the upper end of the village, and flowing through it. The county magistrates hold a weekly session on Monday.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £23. 19. 2.; net income, £946; patron, the Earl of Dartmouth. The church, rebuilt in 1774, is a handsome edifice, with a square tower at the west end; a portico on the south side is supported on four Corinthian columns: the altar is placed in a circular recess. The building sustained considerable injury from a fire, but has been restored. On that part of Blackheath which is in the parish are two episcopal chapels, viz. Dartmouth chapel, partly rebuilt and enlarged by Lord Dartmouth in 1839, and Dartmouth-Place chapel; the former in the patronage of the Vicar of Lewisham, and the latter in that of his Lordship. There are also episcopal chapels at Southend and Sydenham; and a district church, dedicated to St. Bartholomew, at Sydenham. The Independents and Wesleyans have places of worship. The Rev. Abraham Colfe, in 1656, devised certain estates in trust to the Leathersellers' Company, for the foundation of two schools; one for the classical instruction of 31 sons of the laity in the hundred, and one son of each incumbent in this and the hundred of Chiselhurst; the other for the education of 31 boys of Lewisham. A school for girls was instituted in 1699, to which Dr. George Stanhope, Dean of Canterbury, bequeathed £150, and Mrs. Stanhope £50. Dr. Stanhope, who distinguished himself as a theological writer, was presented to the vicarage in 1689, and was buried here in 1728. The poor-law union comprises 7 parishes or places, and contains a population of 23,013. Here was a Benedictine priory, a cell to the abbey of St. Peter, at Ghent; it was suppressed in the time of Henry V., and the site granted to the convent of Sheen. Lewisham confers the inferior title of Viscount on the Earl of Dartmouth.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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