Sydenham Hill Wood (Southwark)
Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Woods to the west are survivors of the Great North Wood, which once covered large tracts of land here, a chain of oak woods and wooded commons that extended from Selhurst to Brockley. After 1787 Dulwich tenants lost their common rights following the Enclosure Acts, although the woods survived until the development of Crystal Palace following the Great Exhibition, which led to housing development. The steep slope of woodland running west from Sydenham Hill became the gardens of several Victorian houses, since demolished, their gardens are now back within the woodland. Although the gardens have disappeared, evidence remains in the form of exotic garden trees, and fragments of built features. Also within the woods is the disused railway track of the Crystal Palace High Level Railway.
- Site location:
- Sydenham Hill/Crescent Wood Road
- Type of site:
- Public Open Land
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- Special conditions:
- Woodland Bat Roost Project
- Public transport:
- Rail: Sydenham Hill. London Overground: Forest Hill. Bus: P4, 176, 185, 197, 202, 356, 363
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
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Full Site Description
Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Woods (q.v.) were part of the Manor of Dulwich, a much-used resource and managed. In the C16th coppiced areas became known as Dulwich Coppices. When the Manor was acquired n 1605 by Edward Alleyn, later founder of Dulwich College, he set aside 10 enclosed coppices surrounding the common and Sydenham Hill, reserving the wood and timber therein for the College; after his death in 1629 these coppices were leased, although by the end of the C18th the College appears to have taken back the management of the coppices. After 1787 Dulwich tenants lost their common rights following the Enclosure Acts, although the woods survived until the development of Crystal Palace following the Great Exhibition, which led to a spate of housing development. As a result the steep slope of woodland running west from Sydenham Hill became the gardens of several Victorian houses, since demolished. The gardens can no longer be identified, but evidence of their existence can be found in the woodland, including the remnants of a formal pool, a fake ruined arch with incised lines simulating stonework very much like those on the bridge in Buckingham Palace gardens, and the site of tennis courts. A number of garden trees including exotic species occur in the woods, such as a monkey puzzle and a cedar of Lebanon, one of the largest trees in the wood.
Pulham & Co. is known to have undertaken some work for Alderman Stone at Hill Wood in 1863 and 1866. The Pulham catalogue indicates that the firm worked extensively in this area in the 1870s; in Kingswood Drive, which may have been the garden of Kingswood House, there are Pulham-style remains. Also within the woods is the disused railway track of the Crystal Palace High Level Railway that ran from 1865-1954 and the bricked-up Crescent Wood Tunnel.
Sydenham Hill Wood has been managed by the London Wildlife Trust since 1982. The wood was for sale for development c.1988 but to date this has been prevented. Cox's Walk (q.v.) crosses through the woods, also managed by London Wildlife Trust.
S Festing, Garden History 16.1, 1988; Darrell Spurgeon, 'Discover Sydenham and Catford', (Greenwich Guide-books, 1999); John Archer, Bob Britton, Robert Burley, Tony Hare, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Southwark' Ecology Handbook 12, London Ecology Unit, 1989
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- Size in hectares:
- 25 (with Dulwich Wood)
- Site ownership:
- The Dulwich Estate, leased to LB Southwark
- Site management:
- London Wildlife Trust
- 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:
- Conservation Area name:
- Dulwich Wood
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Not known
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Yes - Metropolitan Importance (with Dulwich Wood)
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Other LA designation:
- Green Chain Walk; Local Nature Reserve