The name 'Brockley' is derived from 'Broca's woodland clearing', a wood where badgers are seen. Formerly part of the county of Kent, Brockley become a part of the Metropolitan Borough of Deptford in the County of London in 1889, and subsequently was brought into the London Borough of Lewisham with the creation of Greater London in 1965. It has its origins in a small agricultural hamlet of the same name located in the area of the 'Brockley Jack' (rebuilt 1895), a large Victorian public house that today houses the Brockley Jack Theatre. Brockley Hall (demolished 1931) stood nearby and now gives its name to a road on a 1930s housing estate. Crofton Park railway station was built nearby in 1892 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway and situated just west to what is now the Brockley conservation area, Brockley railway station was opened on 6 March 1871 and is currently served by London Overground and Southern Trains in the heart of Zone 2.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Tyrwhitt-Drake family developed the north side of Brockley with grand villas, large terraces and semi-detached houses (Tyrwhitt Road and Drake Road are named after the family). Development started south of Lewisham Way in the late 1840s with the modest cottages at 2-22 Upper Brockley Rd and spread south and east towards Hilly Fields. In 1900 Chalsey Rd was the last road to be completed within the current conservation area.
The Grade II listed Rivoli Ballroom (originally a cinema) dates from 1913 but was remodelled as a dance hall in 1951. It has a unique and outstanding interior, which has featured in many films, videos and fashion shoots. In 2007 The White Stripes rock band played a secret gig here. Other notable live performances include those by Florence + the Machine (2009, 2012) and Damon Albarn (2014). The building has recently been listed and is now protected from demolition.
Brockley contains several attractive open spaces, amongst them Blythe Hill, Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries (opened in 1858 and now a nature reserve) and Hilly Fields. In 1896, after being bought with the proceeds of private donations and funding from the London County Council, the fields were transformed from old brick pits and ditches, into a park. The park became a regular meeting place for the Suffragette movement between 1907 and 1914.
Like its neighbour Telegraph Hill, Brockley has a reputation as a focus for the arts in South London. The mid-1960s saw the beginning of a 'bohemian' influx of artists, musicians and alternative types attracted by the neglected and (at the time very cheap) Victorian houses and vast rambling gardens and the close proximity to Goldsmiths College and Camberwell School of Art. Many artists have built studios in their back gardens and the annual 'open studios' weekend is a good opportunity to visit some of these. The Lewisham Art House, housed in a grand Edwardian building (which was formerly Deptford Library) on Lewisham Way, provides art classes, studio and exhibition space.