The name was Sippenham until the 18th century - the village of Cippa (an Old English name). It was a small settlement, a few cottages among the woods, whose inhabitants could graze their animals and collect wood on Westwood Common. In 1614 the leaseholder of the common attempted to enclose it, fencing off the land so that local people could not use it. Led by the Vicar of Lewisham, Abraham Colfe, the commoners took the case to court and won it. Eventually the common was enclosed between 1810 and 1819.

In the 1640s, springs of water in what is now Wells Park were discovered to have medicinal properties, and crowds would come to drink the waters. This led to the building of larger houses, perhaps to lodge the water drinkers. Wealthy people began to settle in the area.

In 1851 the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park was housed in an immense glass building, called the Crystal Palace. In 1854 the building was bought by a private company, dismantled and re-erected at Penge, close to Sydenham. Exhibitions, concerts, conferences and sporting events were held at the Crystal Palace (until it burned down in 1936), and Sydenham became a fashionable area; many new houses were built. They could be supplied with gas from the Crystal Palace and District Gas Company's works at Bell Green, which continued in production until 1969. A large store now occupies part of the site.

Open Spaces:

Archive Collection pages with connections to Sydenham:

People with connections to Sydenham:
C.S. Forrester (1899-1966), the author of the 'Hornblower' novels, lived in Longton Avenue in the 1930s.
Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer (1874-1922) lived in Westwood Hill in the 1880s. The swimmer
Linda Ludgrove, who won five gold medals at the Commonwealth Games of 1962 and 1966, lived at Sydenham Hill.

Pages with connections to Sydenham:

The Sydenham Society have their own website.

For more information pictures and maps, see our Ideal Homes webpages at

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