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South East London People

From Prime Ministers to stars of stage and screen, plenty of famous faces have made South East London their home over the years.

Blackheath was home to James Callaghan, Prime Minister 1976-1979, in the 1950s and 1960s. His daughter Margaret, now Baroness Jay, attended Blackheath High School. Terry Waite, who was taken hostage while trying to arrange the release of other hostages, lived with his family in Blackheath. He was made a Freeman of the Borough of Lewisham in 1992.

The author David Lodge grew up in Brockley, which is sometimes called “Brickley” in his novels. The poet and painter David Jones (1895-1974) lived in Howson Road for much of his life.

Catford might not have the same ring to it as Hollywood but it still managed to produce scriptwriter and comedian Ben Elton. Tommy Steele, the singer and entertainer, grew up in Bermondsey but in 1957 he bought a house for his family in Catford.

Margaret and Rachel McMillan, the pioneers of nursery education, established one of the first nursery schools in the UK in Deptford 100 years ago. Margaret later founded a training college for nursery teachers, named after Rachel.

London’s first railway, from London to Greenwich, was built through Deptford in 1836 by John Penn II (1805-1878). Deptford’s most unusual resident was probably Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia, who lived in Deptford for a few months in 1698. He was studying shipbuilding at the Dockyard.

Grove Park was home to international author Edith Nesbit (1858-1924), who wrote children’s books such as The Railway Children. She lived in Baring Road. Desmond Tutu, later Archbishop of Capetown and Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, lived in Chinbrook Road 1972-1975. He was made a Freeman of the Borough in 1990.

Lee was home to the publisher Stanley Unwin who lived in Handen Road. He took the risk of publishing J.R.R. Tolkien’s 'The Lord of the Rings' when it was not expected to be a commercial success. The book and films have gone on to make millions of pounds.

New Cross was home for a while to Marie Lloyd (1870-1922) the great music hall star. She is remembered for songs like My Old Man Said Follow The Van.

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