The building we now call the Old Town Hall isn’t that old and wasn’t the first Town Hall to be built along the strip of Road now know as Catford Road.
The first Town Hall was built in 1875 to house the Lewisham Board of Works, a precursor to Lewisham Council which is just as young as the building it used to occupy.
According to the National Archives, The Metropolis Management Act of 1855 established the Metropolitan Board of Works as a London Authority. Within this body the Lewisham Board of Works was created to cover Lewisham and Penge and consisted of 21 members.
They had responsibility for drainage, water (to make sure houses had a supply), lighting, cleansing, highways (maintenance and new roads), removal of nuisances and scavenging, disinfection of infected houses, and management of some recreation grounds. They had to administer the Building Act, Sale of Food and Drugs Act, and the Notification of Diseases Act, as well as issue licences cowhouses and slaughterhouses, and inspect bake houses
In the 1880s parades of shops lined Catford Broadway and the parish church of St Laurence was built in 1887 opposite the Town Hall on Catford Road.
The Board of Works was abolished in 1900 and the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham Council formed from both Lewisham and Lee Board of Works. The Town Hall was extended in the same year to house the newly formed Council. The extension consisted of the five bays and porch to the left of the picture below. The extension containing the Lewisham Theatre was added in 1932.
On 1 April 1965 the Metropolitan Borough of Deptford joined Lewisham to form the London Borough of Lewisham as we know it today. The old Town Hall was knocked down in 1968 to be replaced by the Civic Suite. According to Transpontine there was a campaign to save the Town Hall that involved poet John Betjeman amongst others.
A group of shops known as Catford Arcade that stood on the junction of Catford Broadway and Catford Road was demolished to build the extension that we now call the Old Town Hall.
St Laurence’s Church was also demolished in 1968 but was not built on for many years. The plot was used as a car park until Laurence House was built in 1992 to house more Council offices. You can see a then and now comparison of the church and Town Hall in these photos.