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History of Catford

  • council: Lewisham
  • phone code: 020
  • postcode area: SE6
  • county: Greater London

Catford is an ancient place name, which goes back in documents as far as the reign of Edward I, and is the name of an old manor dating back to the 13th century.

It may also owe its name to a ford over the River Ravensbourne, and some sources say there were wild cats around the area. Catford as the name of a particular suburban district crossed by the South Circular Road is of more recent origin. It may date no earlier than the building in 1875 of the offices of the Lewisham Board of Works (which in 1900 became the Town Hall), or from the building of the original parish church of Catford in 1887.

During its early years, Catford was mostly a scattered hamlet, wooded and waterlogged with some farming. Much of the parish would have been liable to inundation from the River Ravensbourne whenever there were heavy rains. At Catford was one of the many mills on the Ravensbourne, probably one of the eleven recorded in Domesday, and known in the 13 th and 14 th centuries as Fordmill. It stood on the western side of the river, on the left hand side of the road going towards Catford Hill.


The Catford shopping centre was built by Owen Luder in 1974, incorporating the Catford Mews and Milford Tower housing estate. A large black and white cat is draped over the entrance sign on Rushey Green.

Catford Today
Catford's rich history has fed into the vibrant diverse town centre that it is today. The area is bordered by Downham, Forest Hill, Lewisham and Lee. Catford town centre is a busy shopping centre, with indoor and outdoor markets, selling everything from fruit and vegetables to clothing and plants. Catford is the civic heart of Lewisham borough and so is frequented by many visitors. The Broadway theatre can be found in the heart of the town centre, an important centre for cultural entertainment in south east London, pulling in international and local talent. There is a wide choice of restaurants, cafes and bars, with several featured in Time Out. The town centre is also close to Mountsfield and Ladywell parks and the Ladywell running track.

Regeneration and Development
There are many exciting opportunities planned for the Catford area. Under new planning laws an Area Action Plan will be used as a key tool for regenerating Catford town centre. The Catford Town Centre Area Action Plan will set out a comprehensive set of policies and proposals for the ongoing redevelopment and regeneration of Catford Town Centre. It will provide for major redevelopment opportunities including significant housing development and traffic/transport infrastructure changes. The closure of the famous greyhound stadium in 2003 will be developed into housing and mixed use development, including social and affordable housing.

Lewisham Borough's famous residents, past and present
Danny Baker (Broadcaster)
Kate Bush (singer/song-writer)
James Callaghan (Labour Prime Minister)
Sir James Clark-Ross (polar explorer)
"Big" Jim Connell (socialist)
Ernest Dowson (poet)
Alfred "Titch" Freeman (cricketer)
Gabrielle (singer/song-writer)
Sir Isaac Hayward (politician)
Glenda Jackson MP (politician & actress)
David Jones (painter & poet)
Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen (TV presenter)
Spike Milligan (comedian & writer)
Mica Paris (singer/song-writer)
Sybil Pheonix MBE (community worker)
Doris Stokes (medium)
Terry Waite (Archbishop's Envoy)
Max Wall (comedian)
Ian Wright (footballer)


For more information
For more information on Catford and its history please refer to the following publications, all available at Lewisham Local Studies Centre in Lewisham Library:

The Changing face of Lewisham by Stephen Byrne (1965)

Lewisham Borough Council: London

Images of London : Lewisham by John Coulter and Barry Olley (2003)

Tempus Publishing Ltd: London

Lewisham Past and Present by John Coulter (2001)

Sutton Publishing: Swindon

Discover Sydenham and Catford by Darrell Spurgeon (1999)

Greenwich Guide Books: London

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