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Reconnecting the community with local history at Lewisham People’s Day 2016

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Goldsmiths historian, Dr John Price, delved into the forgotten history of Mountsfield Park and spoke with local people about one of the borough’s most difficult and proudest moments – The 1977 ‘Battle of Lewisham’.

Mountsfield Park. Undated.

On a sunny Saturday in July, nearly 300 local people visited Goldsmiths’ pitch at Lewisham People’s Day, our borough’s largest free community festival.

Rarely seen archive images, maps and a Lewisham ‘77 soundtrack brought local history to life, reconnecting the community with the forgotten past of a much loved local park and the proud history of anti-racism in the borough.

Remembering the ‘Battle of Lewisham’

“I now am proud to say I am from Lewisham”

Visitor to the Goldsmiths pitch.

On 13 August 1977, the far right National Front (NF) attempted to march from New Cross to Lewisham town centre, leading to violent clashes with counter demonstrators and police. It was the first time the NF were prevented from marching and the first time police riot shields were used in England. It has since become known as the ‘Battle of Lewisham’.

2017 will mark the 40th anniversary of the events and Dr Price invited local people to share their memories and help define how we should commemorate it. As Lewisham Council have agreed to fund and install a commemorative plaque, Dr Price wanted to know where local people thought it should go and what it should say.

Some suggestions were:

“It was on this spot the anti-fascist movement was born. We are one” (Clifton Rise, New Cross)

“When people of Lewisham made a stand against racism” (Lewisham Clock Tower, Lewisham High Street)

Many local people had never heard of the ‘Battle of Lewisham’, while some shared vivid memories that clearly still inspired trepidation:

“I was a child of 2 parents who were local community workers in Lewisham and lived on Morley Rd. I remember mum and dad filling the house with activists fleeing the police, vivid memories of police on horseback charging onwards.”

“We’d never heard of the battle of Lewisham and I’m glad we stopped by. Such a powerful learning experience. We are in great need of a constant reminder, to young and old, of the Battle of Lewisham at the entrance to the High Street. Thank you.”

Dr Price continues to reconnect the community with the events of 13 August 1977. Find out more on his blog.

The little-known history of Mountsfield Park

Once the site of the country estate of a celebrated 19th century butterfly expert and later the home of Charlton Athletic FC, the little known history of Mountsfield Park tracks Lewisham’s development from a bucolic idyll to an urban London borough.

Featuring rarely seen archive photographs of the park’s Victorian past, Dr Price invited local people to share their memories of the park that hosts Lewisham People's Day each year.