7 People you probably didn’t know lived in Lewisham

We've scoured the borough's colourful history to bring you some names of note that once walked these very streets...


1. Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The anti-apartheid and human rights activist moved back to London in 1972 (he had previously lived in the city as a student at King’s College London) to take up a job offer from the Theological Education Fund (TEF), as their director for Africa. The Fund’s headquarters were in Bromley and Tutu and his family lived in Grove Park during his time in the position. Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his role in bringing about the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Kate Bush performing at the then Rose of Lee Pub, Lewisham in 1977

Kate Bush performing at the then Rose of Lee Pub, Lewisham in 1977

2. Kate Bush

A year before she shot to stardom with the iconic Wuthering Heights, an 18-year-old Kate Bush was around the pubs of South London in a Hillman Imp and Morris 1000 van. She was soon signed to EMI and moved out of her family’s home, into the middle flat at No.44 Wickham Road, Brockley. Her brothers were in the flats above and below. Her first show with her new record deal and new band was in front of a crown of twenty people at the Rose of Lee Pub in Lewisham, now Dirty South.


3. Novelist

Ok so you might have known about this one, what with his appearance on tracks like Lewisham McDeez, oh, and the fact that he served as Deputy Young Mayor of Lewisham when he was fifteen. Novelist’s work remains explicitly political, he is a member of the Labour Party, and an avid supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. Born and raised in Lewisham, he has been coming up in the Grime scene since he was seventeen and has been described as “the poster child for the first generation of real grime kids’ by DJ Logan Sama.


4. Alexander McQueen

Born in Lewisham to his mother, a social sciences teacher, and father, a taxi driver, McQueen was the youngest of six children. His achievements include being one of the youngest designers to ever receive the accolade of British designer of the Year, an honour he received four times. After his tragic death a memorial was held for the designer at St. Paul’s Cathedral with 2,500 guests in attendance, many famous faces among them.


5. Peter the Great, Emperor of Russia

Czar of Russia from 1682 until his death in 1725, Peter the Great’s modern and scientific reforms during the Enlightenment have had a lasting impact on Russia and many of its institutions trace their origins to his rule. He came to England to study shipbuilding in 1698, and lived in Deptford, at the home of the noted diarist Sir John Evelyn, in order to be close to the docks. Evelyn recalled bitterly the Czar’s debauched parties that were the ruin of his home and precious gardens. His brief time living in the borough is well-commemorated, in Deptford’s Czar Street, which is named after him, a somewhat bizarre monument by Deptford Creek, gifted by the Russian people in 1998 and in a plaque displayed above the Friends’ Meeting House in Gracechurch Street, where he worshipped during his stay.


6. Gabrielle

The sweet sounds of songs like Dreams and Rise have their beginnings in Brockley, where Gabrielle grew up. When asked what the best thing is about coming from the area, her answer was simple: “When I was younger, there were some fit guys in Brockley.” ‘Nuff said.


7. Gary Oldman

The star of Darkest Hour and Leon was in fact born in our very own New Cross, and attended West Greenwich School in Deptford. Oldman is a keen supporter of Millwall, his mother having run a boarding house for the club’s players after World War Two. He was quoted in 2015 saying: “two weeks ago, my mum said ‘oh yeah, your dad played for Millwall. When he was young he had a couple of first team games.’” The actor worked several jobs in the mid-seventies, alongside chasing his acting dreams with the Greenwich and Lewisham Young People’s Theatre, including selling shoes and beheading pigs at an abattoir.