Archives and local history
We have over 500 years of Lewisham history, with our earliest record dating from 1476.
Lewisham Heritage is open to all who want to find out more about the borough's past. If you want to know more about family members that lived in Lewisham, find out more about the history of your street or a particular building, or anything else, we will do our best to assist you.
The London Borough of Lewisham was formed in 1965, combining the boroughs of Deptford and Lewisham. Our collection includes a variety of materials relating to the Council, its predecessors and the local area.
We have an extensive collection of historical maps, street directories, electoral registers, school records and photographs. Some of our collection materials can be accessed online, others will need to be ordered in advance.
We are always adding to our collection and we are happy to discuss any donations you think could have a home with Lewisham Heritage. If you are unsure, contact us.
Based at Catford Library, our reading room is a space for historical research.
You can use the archives reading room for:
- exploring family and community history
- learning about your local area
- developing your research skills
- looking up the history of your home or street
What you can find in the reading room:
- historical maps
- local history books
- microfiche records (this includes newspapers, a selection of baptismal and marriage records)
- electoral registers
- free online access to FindMyPast, Ancestry UK and The British Newspaper Archive
No food or drink is permitted in the reading room and that bags must be left in the lockers provided. Pencils are to be used for making notes (no pens).
Using our service
To use the resources available at Lewisham Heritage, you must have registered for an Archives Card. You’ll then need to register and book an appointment, within our opening times which are listed at the bottom of the page.
Geographical areas we cover
The London Borough of Lewisham includes the ancient parishes of St Margaret, Lee and St Mary, Lewisham, also the parish of St Paul, Deptford (the ancient parish of Deptford was divided in 1730 into the parishes of St Nicholas and St Paul. The parish of St Nicholas is now in the London Borough of Greenwich).
The borough also includes the following districts: Bellingham, Beckenham, Blackheath, Brockley, Catford, Crofton Park, Downham, Forest Hill, Grove Park, Hatcham, Hither Green, Ladywell, New Cross, Southend, Sydenham.
Most of modern-day Lewisham was in the county of Kent until 1889 when the London County Council was formed. The New Cross area of Deptford was in Surrey. Deptford was in the Greenwich Registration District. Lee and Lewisham were in the Lewisham Registration District.
You are welcome to take photos and copies of historical materials for research purposes.
If you wish to publicly use images that are part of our collection, you will need to complete a self-service photography permit as part of your visit – this can be obtained on site.
If you are interested in licensing our images for broadcast or editorial use, please contact us to discuss licensing fees.
Lewisham has its own way of recognising its rich past – with its maroon plaque scheme. Several plaques have been erected over the years by groups and individuals, highlighting people such as Margaret and Rachel McMillan and the Battle of Lewisham.
The scheme is currently being refreshed and we would welcome suggestions highlighting the borough’s diverse history. Submit and find out more information on the Lewisham Heritage website.
We regularly work with local schools, colleges and community groups: it is possible to book visits outside of our opening times for larger groups. If you have specific needs, please contact us.