Lewisham shopping centre: A look around as redevelopment plans move ahead

With Lewisham shopping centre’s days numbered and the town a sea of construction for various towers and new-builds, what better time than a cold, overcast January day to capture some of its splendour.

And so that’s what I did, with plans to redevelop Lewisham shopping centre knocking around for some time now with owner Landsec running a consultation into plans late last year. Another edifice that lasted around 30-40 years and is now little but a distant memory is perhaps an apt site, as two blocks sit in the heart of the shopping centre.

Pieces of Berlin Wall in centre

The centre opened in 1977 and saw comprehensive refurbishment in the 2000s, losing some iconic features in the process. Memories of visiting as a child are of tiles. Lots of tiles. On floors and walls in every inch of the place. Always dimly lit. And C&A. It left its mark in the memory. C&A less so. It’s now much like any other mall, but back then it seemed vastly different to, say, Bexleyheath, which was also atmospheric in its own way and very much of its time. Both are now sanitised and pretty forgettable. Or maybe I’m just older, and to local children this place will linger long beyond the time it comes down.

As it appears today

It’s certainly brighter now with more natural light and lighter materials used on ceilings, walls and flooring.

Original tiles live on in places

While little is clear in a public consultation on future plans from the centre’s owner Landsec, the company’s financial results last year did reveal plans for 2,500 homes. And this got me thinking – much like in Woolwich – that now would be a good time to start to document a bit more of it before it comes down.

Art deco on High Street abuts 1970s shopping centre beside

The Centre is an edifice built above and around older buildings with entrances on Lewisham High Street as well as to the “rear” that paid little acknowledgment to its surroundings.

650 new homes on right. Black façade opposite

Why would it? When built a bloody great roundabout existed on that side. Things, though, are rather changing.

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All the new homes rising to that side of the centre will see a central thoroughfare from Lewisham station to the town centre, and currently people are presented with a brick wall when meeting the shopping centre.

View from crossing which will sit in front of future through-route

This image shows the pedestrian route running through 650 homes and shops, and the crossing that already exists opposite the shopping centre:

Main route from station to town centre run through Lewisham Central

The shopping centre also includes the Citibank tower, which for many years was Lewisham’s tallest tower and a local landmark. It’s a place where a number of residential conversion plans have come and gone since Citibank disposed of the site.

Façade detail

With yet another application last year, presumably the idea still remains. They’ll need to fix the exterior as those concrete panels are not in great shape..

There’s a certain simplistic elegance to the building, which is made apparent when faced with the cluttered, somewhat messy façade of a tower rising over the road.

Completed façade on corner a mish-mash of material and colour

It was built in a time when London’s population was declining, car use was king and people were expected to drive in as the local population declined. The opposite of today.

Lewisham Gateway tower upon completion

Thus there’s a multi-storey car park, which is a timewarp of design with decades-old signage and now accessible on foot – if not for cars on upper floors. The desolation didn’t exactly appear inviting and I half expected a security guard to start barking at me, but no one did.

Should I be here?

With the Get Carter theme reverberating in my ears as I wandered around glimpsing elevated walkways, I wandered around a couple of now-vacant floors of parking at the top.

There wasn’t a soul around as construction abounded beyond:

Head down the ramp and another empty floor of parking spaces lie waiting.

Decades-old signs remain up here. Bold typeface and faded yellow lights still work beckoning nobody:

More recent branding hangs nearby. Both designs are now surpassed. Note the 1990s sign to the rear:

One ramp suggests additional floors were planned at the car park, as it meets a solid wall.

Ramp to nowhere

Views up here show skyscrapers and changes all around from most sides.

Various Lewisham towers – new and old – can be spotted:

Through the wire mesh

Walkways from the car park to Citibank tower offer a striking image:

Tower to right. Concrete cladding not in great shape

A view looking directly up linking the car park and former Citibank tower which would have seen workers dashing from the car park to the tower.

Turn around and views of servicing roads and delivery bays abound. This is the rear end of Lewisham High Street, with decades of buildings of various hues weaving and merging together:

The concept of shopping centres such as this may be on life support, but the service bays on the roof does greatly help at street level:

One single lump of a building will be replaced by a number of structures with permeable walking areas upon redevelopment.

Main High Street entrance

Another office to flat conversion can be seen:

Towers across the site are a given if 2,500 homes are the target. The trend of shopping centres is now well past, and open-air streets are back. Much like Woolwich Exchange which offers a glimpse of what to expect:

Woolwich Exchange

And so it won’t be long until this is gone:

It won’t be next month or even next year, but in five years this area could all look radically different.

One given is the main route from the station passing through Lewisham Central will continue into some sort of square, with a link then extending to the High Street.

Heights will possibly top out at around 30 floors given precedents both with the 170s tower and those now rising a short distance away.

 

One day in a not too distant future simple things like having a muffin will be fondly remembered by many, though as ever, change is a constant – and never more so than in London.

As a private renter with a young family, the cost of living is extremely high.

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Thank you

John Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

9 thoughts on “Lewisham shopping centre: A look around as redevelopment plans move ahead

  • February 12, 2022 at 7:06 pm
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    I hope the mural at the Molesworth Street entrance will be salvaged and reused.

    Reply
  • February 12, 2022 at 7:32 pm
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    A minor pedantic point – the ‘bloody great roundabout’ didn’t happen until the early 90s (somewhere I have a copy of the Lewisham Council booklet about the roundabout and how it will solve all Lewisham’s traffic problems)

    The Odeon Cinema was on the Rennell Street / Molesworth Street site, and was still in business until 1982 (think it was demolished for the roundabout scheme), and three sides of it were Lewisham bus terminus until the new bus station (where the DLR station is now) opened in 1978, as in https://www.flickr.com/photos/mjrprestonbus/9483188153 (not mine)

    According to Mum, the Rennell Street bus inspector had an arrangement with the attendant of the now closed ‘ladies’ on Rennell Street to keep him supplied with tea – or if the weather was really bad, he would hide in the attendants’ room there (she must have made better tea than the attendant at the ‘gents’ next door.)

    My earliest memories of the Riverdale Centre (as it then was) must be round 1975 / 6 – Sainsburys opened in its current site before the rest of it was built, and you had to walk through the building site (wooden boards separated customers from the work) to reach it – the previous Sainsburys (which I don’t remember) was about where the High Street entrance is now – https://www.sainsburyarchive.org.uk/catalogue/search/sabra7l11331-image-of-132-136-lewisham-high-street-branch-exterior-and-market/ref/p645-london-lewisham-1326-high-street-1955-1975-sainsburys-branch/fbr/true/c/2 (Barratts Shop next door now Burger King.)

    Presume this was a deal done so Sainsburys could continue trading after their High Street shop was demolished.

    Reply
    • February 12, 2022 at 7:46 pm
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      Thanks for that I only remember the roundabout but now I think about it, it did look like a 90s design based on street furniture and crossings. Great to hear how it was before.

      Reply
  • February 13, 2022 at 1:05 am
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    Used to get the 151 bus to Lewisham back in the early 1980’s and if we were lucky we would see the hourly show with the character figures. I visited Father Christmas’ in the Army and Navy shop once when I was a child and often went in the Wimpy across from where the clock tower used to be before they repositioned it.

    Beatties used to have a model train in the window that I think ran around inside the shop as well. Always used to stop there and watch for a bit after leaving the Riverdale centre via the ‘black market’ exit and walking back through to the high street.

    Hated the new open brighter look of the Centre; I always preffered the original darker version and the floors were great for sliding on down the slopes to some of the entrances.

    I also remember waiting for the bus home at the old bus terminus before the roundabout was built.

    Reply
  • February 13, 2022 at 1:13 am
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    I’d like to add to my previous post that coming into Lewisham used to be really good, seeing the clocktower and the old footbridge across to the Army and Navy shop. Then they moved the clocktower and removed the bridge after Army and Navy got turned into massive police station.

    Lewisham not the same place anymore sadly.

    Reply
  • February 13, 2022 at 10:17 am
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    I worked in Citibank Tower from Sept 1976 to May 1999 and know the area well. Surprised the tower is still there. It was a great place to work in. Fond memories of the shops as well.

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  • February 13, 2022 at 11:06 am
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    The Bus Inspector’s name was Alf. I lived next to the Odeon above a gents clothing shop.

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  • February 13, 2022 at 1:20 pm
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    I still remember a distinct “Safari” feel about the shopping centre in the late 70’s/early 80’s. The waste bins looked like animals and you fed them your rubbish. There was also a children’s play area made up of various animals that you climbed. The tallest was a camel, and I don’t think I ever managed to get to the top! There were some great record shops at the very end (near Argos) that I used when I was a bit older!

    Reply
  • February 14, 2022 at 5:33 pm
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    @puddy_tat: the frontage of the Odeon cinema was on Loampit Vale right by a bus stop. I didn’t know anything about the footprint of the building and only ever experienced the front facing elevation.

    The roundabout was much better than the log jam that is the present layout. There is no discipline and drivers use any old lane and then attempt to cross traffic for the exit they want. I don’t understand why there isn’t a box junction to stop idiot drivers making it worse for everyone.

    @Jane: I don’t remember the 151, but perhaps it had gone by the time I moved to Manor Avenue (Brockley) in the mid-1980’s.

    Reply

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