Inventory Site Record

Downham Estate - Downham Woodland Walk and Durham Hill (Lewisham)

Brief Description

The Downham Estate was built between 1924-38, an extensive LCC estate designed on 'garden city' principles. Named after Lord Downham, Chairman of LCC in 1919-20, the estate had long winding tree-lined roads and incorporated and preserved an existing tract of woodland from Whitefoot Terrace to Bromley Road. Now called Downham Woodland Walk it runs between the houses for over 1.5 km, and much of it is almost certainly ancient woodland, shown on maps of 1805. Also preserved as open land was the highest point in the centre of the estate and fields to north-west and south-west. Initially called Downham Fields, the site was renamed Durham Hill in the 1990s, as it was locally known and referred to on old maps.

Practical Information
Site location:
Churchdown/Downham Way/Moorside/Downderry Road
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Housing/Estate Landscaping
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Downham Woodland Walk: play area; dog exercise area; Nature Trail. Durham Hill: play area
Public transport:
Rail: Grove Park then bus; Beckenham Hill/Bellingham then bus.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.lewisham.gov.uk/inmyarea/openspaces/parks

Full Site Description

In the 1920s the area was known as Seven Fields and was a popular place for weekend outings. An earlier plan of 1920 by Lewisham, Deptford and Bermondsey Councils for a 4,500-house garden suburb here came to nothing. The Downham Estate was built to provide c.7,000 homes as part of the action to cope with housing shortages and inner city slum clearance after WWI. However, the rents proved too high for some of the early residents, many of whom were from the East End who had to move, finding 12 shillings a week for a one-bedroomed house too expensive. A resident of the estate was Richard Harrow, at 40 stone one of the heaviest men in the world. The LCC bought two farms, Shrofield Farm and Holloway Farm, owned by the Earl of Northbrook. The houses were laid out on long winding roads that originally had trees and grass verges, now largely lost to the pressures of car parking. The road names recalled Arthurian legends as well as English resorts and villages such as Ilfracombe, Bideford.

Downham Woodland Walk is part of the Green Chain Walk, which connects Beckenham Place Park with Hither Green Nature Reserve. From Durham Hill there are fine views across to Beckenham Place Park (q.v.), to Crystal Palace ridge, and to Croydon and beyond. A new Leisure Centre and outdoor sports courts are now adjacent to the park. There are a few scattered trees on the open grassland, some exotic species and some fine crack-willows and white willows. South of Whitefoot Lane is Whitefoot Recreation Ground (q.v.), former agricultural land that was once part of the estate of Southend Hall. This was also preserved when the estate was built and its southern boundary abuts Downham Woodland Walk. The Friends of Downham Woodland Walk is a group of local volunteers who meet each month to help maintain this area of ancient woodland.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; John Archer, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Lewisham', Ecology Handbook 30, London Ecology Unit, 2000; South East London's Green Chain Walk pack, 1998; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993).

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ388715 (Bromley Road) /TQ396721 (Woodbank Road) (539539,171750)
Size in hectares:
(Walk 3.7/Durham Hill 13)
Site ownership:
LB Lewisham
Site management:
Greenscene Department, Glendale Grounds Management; Friends of Downham Woodland Walk
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance, see note
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Public Open Space (Green Chain Walk). Durham Hill: Borough Importance II; Downham Woodland Walk Borough Importance I

Downham Estate - Downham Woodland Walk and Durham Hill

Downham Fields - Photo: Candy Blackham
Date taken: 08/09/20 14:51

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.