Interior of Good Shepherd Church prior to 1980's.

Interior of Good Shepherd Church prior to 1980's.

Holy Family Church, Grove Park.

Holy Family Church at the corner of Le May Avenue, Grove Park was destroyed by fire in the late 1980's and was the second church in the parish of Downham.

Holy Family Church at the corner of Le May Avenue, Grove Park was destroyed by fire in the late 1980's and was the second church in the parish of Downham.

Further information on the history of the parish

Click link for webpage or read main features below.

Moorside Road, Downham, London BR1

A utilitarian portal framed design of the 1960s.

Like the neighbouring Bellingham Estate, Downham was one of the cottage estates developed by the London County Council in the inter-war years. Built between 1924 and 1930 to plans by the LCC architect George Topham Forrest, it provided 7,000 new homes. The site for the Catholic church and school was acquired for £1450 at the heart of the estate, adjoining the large park called Downham Fields.

Mass was said from April 1927 at the Studio Club, by Canon William H. Monk, then financial secretary and resident at the Convent, Belmont Hill, Lewisham. The first resident priest was Fr Joseph Simmons (from December 1928). As at Bellingham, initial efforts were directed towards the building of a primary school, while a temporary church was erected. The first church on the site was a hall, erected at a cost of £1800 and used for the first time on 20 October 1929. The primary school opened on 26 August 1930, and the presbytery was in use by about 1932. Two extra chapels were added to the church in 1934 and 1935.

Building work for the present church started in February 1961 and the foundation stone was laid on 16 September 1961 by Bishop (later Archbishop) Cowderoy. It was largely complete by 1962 and was opened on 27 October 1963. The architect was Donald Plaskett Marshall & Partners and the builder was T. J. Nally of Connaught Construction Ltd. The cost was £40,000. Photos of a model of the church in 1961 show  a  90ft-high  tower  beside  the  west  front;  the  current  brick  stump  at  the southwest corner might be the remnant of the tower.

The sanctuary was reordered in the 1970s when the original altar was moved further west and a stained glass window was installed at the east end. The window had been brought to Downham from the Convent of St Philomena at St Mary Cray, Kent. The church was dedicated on 25 November 1984 by Archbishop Bowen.

The church is facing south; however, this description will follow the conventional liturgical orientation.

The church is a modern and functional building, built with a reinforced concrete portal  frame. In  plan,  it  consists  of  a  single  volume  nave  and  sanctuary,  with  a sacristy extension to the southeast. Originally, it appears to have had a tower to the south of the west front, which was either not fully built or radically shortened. The pitched roof has a short pinnacle above the sanctuary area.

Internally, there is a narrow one-bay lobby and a nave of six bays, followed by a sanctuary of two bays. Every second bay there is a gabled clerestorey window. There is an organ loft at the west end. Furnishings include the black marble sanctuary furniture of altar, tabernacle stand, lectern and font, as well as the east window. Originally, the east wall was part glazed, part panelled in wood until the current window was installed in the 1970s. The window was designed and constructed by Hugh Powell in 1965 for the Convent of St Philomena at St Mary Cray, from where it was moved to Downham. It is made from hand-made antique glass and epoxy resin with slate powder in a technique called ‘Resglaze’, invented by Powell.

Diocese: Southwark

Architect: D. Plaskett Marshall & Partners

Original Date: 1961

Conservation Area: No


Listed Grade: Not listed

Church of Good Shepherd until the early 1960's . Also some images of the Corpus Christi Procession in the 1950's

Pre 1963 interior of original church

Pre 1963 interior of original church

The site at Grove Park was purchased by the LCC in 1920 and named Downham in honour of the chairman of the LCC. It proved a most suitable name as Downham in old English means the hamlet on the hill. Over 6000 homes were built on a site that had previously contained two farms – Shroffold farm to the east and Holloway farm to the west. Downham was described when first built as a ‘cottage Estate’.  

 It was a low density estate with about 17 houses per acre.King George V and Queen Mary visited in 1927 to plant a tree in recognition of the LCC’s 17,000th dwelling at 165 Downham Way. Serious embarrassment was caused to the local councillors when it was discovered that the council workers had been given a half-day to honour the visit and the ceremonial spade and tree were locked in a council hut.

Five sites were sold for church purposes and the first Good Shepherd Church (a temporary building),was built in 1928 and served the community until our permanent Church was built in 1961 and opened for Mass in 1963.

 Our community has come a long way from those river-side Londoners who were most reluctant to come and live in the country. As families settled in the area, it became a pattern for children and then grandchildren to marry and remain within the parish. This helped to create a great bond and sense of belonging among our parishioners. With the sale of council housing in the 1980’s and the huge influx of many nationalities to our area from the 1990’s, we have become a most cosmopolitan community and through our Church and our schools, we have engendered a warm welcome and a sense of belonging to so many, from so many different backgrounds.

 During the millennium year we discovered we had over 50 different nations represented in our parish community and that has further increased in recent years.

Here is the beginning of the Corpus Christi Procession from the Convent of the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy which made its way through the streets of Downham and paused at various temporary altars while led in the singing by three parish bands who would visit the parish for the festivities.

Here is the beginning of the Corpus Christi Procession from the Convent of the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy, in Somertrees Avenue,  which made its way through the streets of Downham and paused at various temporary altars while led in the singing by three parish bands who would visit the parish for the festivities.

Corpus Christi Procession circa 1950's
Corpus Christi Procession circa 1950's


The background shows our current church which opened in 1963 with a large tower dominating the landscape. The tower had a short history and became a safety hazand in the 1970's and was reduced to the small stump which you can still see today at the edge of the carpark.

Good Shepherd Primary after a bombing raid during WWII

Good Shepherd Primary after a bombing raid during WWII

Monthly Parish Magazine 1934

 This page is taken from a monthly publication edited at Campion House, Osterley. This magazine was composed of learned articles by leading Catholic writers of the day. Each subscriber received a copy of the magazine with an insert of local parish news. This kept the costs to a minimum. the monthly cost was 2p per copy or 2/- a year.

This edition was April 1934 and gives an indication of the activities in the parish at that time. It also includes information that the debt on our newly built primary school was £9974.

See link for Good Shepherd Church sanctuary pre-1986

The Bromley Band returned to Good Shepherd Downham when a new hall was built in 1990 and remained until the new millenium when the Band moved to Bishop Justus College Hall, Bromley Common,  where facilities were available to store the larger instruments. The Band continue to support the Catholic parishes of Lewisham deanery by providing musical accompaniment at our Procession through Hither Green Cemetery on Remembrance Sunday.

Images of the Old Good Shepherd Church.

which served the community from the establishement of the parish in 1928 and the building of this first church in 1929.

This church was replaced by our current church with the corner stone dated 1961 and opened in October 1963.

These images are from a series of nine postcards that were published in the 50's/early 60's. Many families have a few in the series but this is the first complete set I have seen.

Thanks to Aileen Chimonides (nee Blake) for donating this set to us.

Images of Good Shepherd Primary and the Presbytery.

Images of Presbytery and School in the 1940's.
GS school 1
GS school 2
GS school 3

Local History of Downham


By The Underground Map in Catford, Downham, Lewisham  September 14, 2020

The Downham Estate arrived on the scene in 1926, but its name originates in 1914 when the London County Council (LCC) agreed to build three large housing estates. The land was acquired in 1920. Downham covered the lands of two farms, Holloway Farm to the west and Shroffolds Farm to the north. Before the Estate was built, there had been little building south of Whitefoot Lane – many local residents took weekend walks over the ’Seven Fields’.

The name ’Downham’ derives from Lord Downham who, as William Haynes Fisher was a former chairman of the LCC. Many of the roads took their names from Tennyson’s ’Idylls of the King’. Other roads took their names from places in Devon.

By summer 1930, 6000 houses had been completed by builders Holland, Hannen & Cubbits. An additional section of just over 1000 houses was developed at Whitefoot lane in 1937 by builders Higgs & Hill and generally known as ’North Downham’. On completion, some 30 000 people lived on Downham’s newly built Estate. Generally people commuted to work elsewhere. A cheap “workman’s ticket” from Grove Park station became available from November 1928.

Shopping facilities came to the the New Bromley Road in 1926, followed by centres at Grove Park, Burnt Ash Lane and one adjacent to the Downham Tavern. The Downham Tavern was the only public house built on the area owned by the LCC. It was for some years considered the world’s largest pub, containing a Dance Hall, Beer Garden, two Saloon Bars, a Public Lounge, a Lunchroom where service was by waiter only.

When Downham was first built, it was regarded as a showpiece. A Lewisham official guide from the 1930s described Downham as a ’Garden City’.

By 1960, the first LCC houses were being put up for sale as local policy changed. The area was split between two London boroughs in 1965 – the northern majority became part of Lewisham. Around Southover, the London Boroough of Bromley took over.

Life in Downham before the Second World War

The Downham Estate started to be built in the 1920s on farmland on the border of London and Kent. It was built by the London County Council to re-house families from the overpopulated parts of Central London, Bermondsey, Deptford, the Elephant & Castle and the East End, where the living conditions and polluted air exposed them to tuberculosis. It was believed that the pure air of Downham and well-planned houses would solve many problems. Some people welcomed the move but others did not want to go and live “out in the sticks”.

The houses were built in red brick and all their roofs had red tiles. All the houses had front and back gardens. They had privet hedges between the pavement and the front gardens. Most of the houses were in blocks of six and eight. The end houses on each block had a side gate that lead to the back garden. On the corners of the roads the council maintained small gardens that were planted with shrubs.

The houses were of two storeys. There were a lot of different designs. Some houses had two bedrooms with the bathroom and W.C. on the first floor. On the ground floor there were two rooms and a kitchen. There were some houses that had three bedrooms on the first floor, and on the ground floor one living room, a kitchen and a bathroom with a W.C. To get hot water for a bath, a copper, which was made of iron, had to be lit in the kitchen. One could use wood or coal in the fire. The water had to be pumped from the kitchen to the bathroom. The pump was worked by hand.

The interior decoration consisted of distemper on the walls of the bedrooms and whitewash on the ceiling. There was wallpaper on the walls of the sitting room, staircase and hall. The walls in the kitchen had no plaster but the bricks were painted.

The houses had gas lighting and the cooking was also done by gas. In the living rooms were fireplaces, which also heated the ovens in the kitchen. This was very handy during, and after, the war because the gas was often cut off so families were able to cook meals in the oven.

When the council estate was built, the people in the private houses in Bromley objected to it, so they had a wall built across Valeswood Road and Alexandra Crescent. This meant that the people on the estate had a long walk to Bromley Hill if they wanted to catch a bus to Bromley.

Trams ran along Downham Way. The tramlines started at Grove Park and the trams finished their journey at Victoria. On Downham Way there were two sets of tramlines and at Bromley Road there were two sets of three tramlines. That was because on Downham Way the trams got their electric power from the overhead cables and on Bromley Road the power was in a conduit under the third track. When the trams reached Bromley Road the tram driver would get out of the tram and manually disconnect the overhead power and then he would slip a large electrical conductor, which was called the “shoe”, under the tram and connect it to the middle track. When the driver did that the locals called it the Changeover.

Trams were not comfortable to ride in. They rocked from side to side and to get on a tram one had to walk into the middle of the road in order to board the tram.

Every Saturday morning there was a black and white, silent, movie show at Wesley Halls. The local people called Saturday mornings at Wesley Halls “The Tuppeny Rush” because it cost two pennies to get in.

                                1970's image                                                                                            2023 image

History of the Workhouse / Later Grove Park Hospital on Marvels Lane.

St Joseph's Convent.

Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy.

Somertrees Avenue,

Grove Park.

This building and its additions acted as a convent for the sisters and an orphanage under the auspices of the Southwark Catholic Children's Society.

The Sisters were actively involved in the life of the parish with a sister acting as Principal at Good Shepherd Primary and similarly at St Winifred's in Lee.

The Sisters hosted many of the parish events in their extensive gardens.

The convent backed on to the Holy Family Church.

The Sisters closed the convent in the 1980's and moved to a smaller convent in Mottingham.

The area eventually was given over to housing.