Telegraph Hill rises to around 50 metres at its highest point and was formerly known as Plowed Garlic Hill. It gained its current name from a semaphore telegraph station which was constructed on the summit of the hill circa 1795. The signalling station was one of the points from which news of Wellington's victory at Waterloo was flashed to London.
For many years Telegraph Hill was covered by market gardens owned by the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, one of the ancient livery companies of London. In the late 19th century the Haberdashers decided to develop Telegraph Hill for housing. The company had already built terraced housing on its land nearer New Cross Road when it commissioned a study of the development potential of Telegraph Hill in 1859. The surveyor recommended 'the erection of dwelling houses of a high standard' on wide tree-lined streets.
Most construction took place around 1871. The villas are distinctive in style and as a result of this architectural unity Telegraph Hill is now a conservation area. The company added Haberdashers' Aske's School for boys and girls (named after one of its members Robert Aske, and now Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College) in 1875, a separate Haberdashers' Aske's girls' school in 1891 and St Catherine's Church in 1894. Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College, is the most over-subscribed state school in the country with a ratio of 12:1 applications for the past decade.
In the 1895 the London County Council opened Telegraph Hill Park to the public, it is split into two halves on either side of Kitto Road; the upper park contains tennis courts which apparently occupy the site of the telegraph station which gave the hill its name. The lower park contains ponds and children's playgrounds. A farmers' market is held in the lower park on the third Saturday of each month.