Litho by Day and Haghe 1820. A view from the old Ladywell Bridge (A.R.Martin Collection - Lewisham Local Studies Library
Lewisham people have worshipped here for at least a thousand years. The site of the church is close to, and almost certainly linked with, the ancient well at nearby Ladywell.
Dury and Andrews map of 1769 showing the church’s central position in Lewisham’s long village street.(Greenwich Local History Library)
St Mary’s Church has stood at the midway point of Lewisham’s very long and defining high street since at least the 11th century. The Benedictine monks of the Abbey of St Peter’s, Ghent in Flanders were given Lewisham and Greenwich by Elstrudis, daughter of King Alfred and wife of Baldwin, Count of Flanders in the early 10th century. The monks would have built a church in Lewisham but the date of this first church is not known.
Until the 1830s St Mary’s was the only place of worship in the large ancient parish of Lewisham, which encompassed the hamlets of Catford, Brockley, Forest Hill, Hither Green, Sydenham and Southend. It was also, with the manor court, the centre of local government until its administrative duties were taken over by the Board of Works and later, in 1900, by the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham.