History of Sidcup

Sidcup is often chosen as an example of the typical 1930s London suburb, but this ignores the fact that it has a long and interesting history.

The oldest surviving references to the area are from the reign of King Henry III (1216 – 72), but it was probably settled long before this. Indeed, the word Sidcup is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words set (‘fold’ or ‘flat’) and copp (‘a hill top’). So Sidcup meant something like a ‘fold in the hill’ or a ‘flat hill top’.

There has been a settlement at Sidcup since 1254, and the small hamlet was properly established by the late 1600s, sandwiched between the older villages of Foots Cray and Halfway Street. It grew slowly throughout the following two centuries to become a cluster of houses around the Black Horse Inn, which was established in about 1692, and the forge at the top of what is now Sidcup Hill.

During the 18th and 19th centuries the area became very popular with the landed gentry and a number of substantial houses were built, including Foots Cray Place (1754), Sidcup Place (1743) and Lamorbey (1744). Foots Cray Place was of particular importance since it was the home of the one-time Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nicholas Vansittart, Lord Bexley, between 1822 and 1850. The house burnt down in 1949 but the foundations and some of the gardens are still visible in Footscray Meadows, near All Saints Church.

The Hollies, now a private housing estate, was originally an old estate with a mansion called Marrowbone Hall. The new house and its outbuildings, built in 1853, were subsequently bought by the Greenwich and Deptford Board of Guardians in 1902 and turned into the Hollies children’s home and school, which it planned to be ‘a model home for orphans’.

By the time of the first Ordnance Survey 25” Edition in 1862, the area of the High Street between the Black Horse pub and the junction with Station Road boasted a police station, opened in 1845, and some terraced housing in Church Place. The Kent Directory for 1858 also lists a grocer, wood dealer, shoemaker, beer retailer, blacksmith, tailor and carpenter amongst the shops in Sidcup.

However, it was the coming of the railway in September 1866 as part of the Dartford Loop Line that dramatically spurred Sidcup’s growth. In tandem with housebuilding came the development of local amenities and services. Gas lighting arrived in 1882, mains drainage in 1883, followed by electricity in the early 1900s.

1882 seems to have been a key date for the area, with the cottage hospital in Birkbeck Road, Sidcup National School and the second St John’s Church all built in that year. (The present church was built in 1901.)

Soon after this, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, came the large-scale suburban development so typical of Sidcup today. Developers such as New Ideal Homesteads Ltd moved in to buy up large areas of land that had formerly been part of the great estates of the area. These were subdivided into plots and road upon road of affordable, good-quality housing was built to cater for middle-class commuters wanting to move out of London in search of a better quality of life in more ‘rural’ locations.

Many streets were laid out in the area north of the traditional heart of Sidcup around the High Street as the development engulfed Lamorbey and surged northwards towards Blackfen and Blendon. Typical of this type of development was the Penhill Park Estate around where Penhill Park now is.

In 1933 you could buy a three-bedroomed, semi-detached house with ‘large gardens front and back’ on this estate for 395 freehold.

The saturation of the area with housing had grim consequences after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Sidcup was right on the route of the German bombers and rockets as they flew towards central London and as a result the area suffered extensive damage, particularly in 1944 from V1 and V2 rockets.

The Sidcup area today is very much a product of the extensive building during the 1930s but some older buildings do survive to give a hint of the earlier history of the area.

See historic maps of Sidcup