The Hill

Telegraph Hill is an area just south of New Cross in the London Borough of Lewisham in southeast London, England. The hill rises to around 30 metres and was formerly known as Plowed Garlic Hill, a relic of the days when the area was covered by market gardens owned by the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, one of the ancient livery companies of London.

Telegraph Hill gets its current name from a semaphore telegraph station constructed on the summit of the hill circa 1795. The signalling station was one of the points from which news of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo was flashed to London. It was removed in 1823. The poet Robert Browning at one time lived at the foot of Telegraph Hill.

Telegraph Hill, City View

In the late 19th century the Haberdashers decided to develop the hill for housing. The company had already built terraced housing on its land nearer New Cross Road when it commissioned a study of the development potential of Telegraph Hill in 1859. The surveyor recommended ‘the erection of dwelling houses of a high standard’ on wide tree-lined streets, and so the Telegraph Hill we know today came to pass.

St Catherine’s, Hatcham

Situated on the crest of a hill overlooking Telegraph Hill Park and with wonderful views down towards the river, St Catherine’s was built in 1893-94 to designs by Henry Stock (surveyor to the Haberdashers’ Company).

St Catherine’s is a large church, substantially built, in brick with Ragstone facing and Bathstone weathering stones and window surrounds. The nave is spanned by timber trusses and the roof slopes are finished with Westmoreland slate or Welsh slate. The church has some early English tracery and comprises nave, aisles, chancel, chapel, choir vestry, priests’ vestry, organ chamber and small undercroft. It is in the centre of a largely residential area of fine houses with various schools and colleges.

St Catherine’s was badly damaged in 1913 by fire which was blamed (probably wrongly) on suffragettes and damaged again by an incendiary bomb in 1940 when the congregation moved across the road into Aske’s Boys’ School whilst partial re-roofing took place.

In 1972 the western end of the church was incorporated into the Telegraph Hill Centre. The Centre was designed by Gordon Cook to provide a meeting place and resource centre for the local community, it is still very much used today. The former St Catherine’s Library (now used by Aske’s) and housing on St Catherine’s Drive also form part of the complex.

St Catherine’s today has a diverse congregation, reflecting the diversity of the local community. The Church and Community Centre offer a network of people and activities to sustain the community and welcome new people to it.

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