Two very strong and impressive priests: John Glyn and Abraham Colfe led their congregations through the disruption and bitterness of the 16th and 17th centuries. Abraham Colfe was curate at Lewisham 1604-1610 and Vicar 1610-1657 He was founder of Colfe’s grammar School, Colfe’s Reading School, Colfe’s Almshouses, and Lewisham’s first Public Library.
The Civil War
Colfe was the only incumbent to keep his parish during the dangerous and troubled times of the Civil War and Cromwell’s Commonwealth 1642-1600. He was criticised and slandered by a few members of the parish and by Nehemiah Wallington, who lived in St. Leonard’s Parish, Eastcheap. He led his parishioner's in a revolt against the enclosed land bill. Soldiers ripped the communion rails and threw them in the river. Colfe managed to get rid of John Batchelor, a preacher who was imposed on the parish. Cromwell’s soldiers were billeted in Lewisham prior to the attack on Arundel Castle. The Leatherseller’s Company under the leadership of ‘Praisegod Barebone’ may have helped him to keep his parish.
Colfe re-founded a grammar school set up by John Glyn, Vicar of Lewisham in the previous century. Opened in 1652 this was the only grammar school set up during the English Civil War. In the year of its opening a great hailstorm shattered all the windows.
The original Colfe’s Grammar School buildings on the original site in Lewisham Hill (A.R. Martin Collection Lewisham Local Studies Library)