White stag painted on the boundary wall of 12 Church Grove. Photo: David Sperlinger.

The mural of a white stag on the Church Grove site is one of several such murals scattered across Lewisham (with a small number in adjoining boroughs). It is not known who created the murals. They are often attributed to the ‘Lewisham Natureman’ – a mysterious figure around whom various myths have been woven. The stags are generally found in inconspicuous spots, particularly along the banks of the borough’s rivers and in wastelands or building sites. The earliest ones seem to date from around 2011 but some seem to have been done in the last few years. So it may well be that new ones will continue to appear over the next few years. It is possible that the one on the Church Grove site is relatively recent, as I can find no reference to it on the internet, although its faded state means it is clearly not very new.

I have found evidence of 32 such stags, although only 15 of these still definitely still remain in 2021. Fourteen of the stags definitely no longer exist, either because the buildings on which they were painted have been demolished or they have been graffitied over with other street art. (The status of the other three stags is uncertain, as the locations are unclear or inaccessible.)  There is one other stag in Ladywell, on the waste ground behind the old Ladywell baths – this can get quite overgrown in the summer months and it is not normally possible to access the site.

White stag in a temporary protective ‘cage’ during building works. Photo: David Sperlinger.

If you want to learn more about the stags and the related myths there is information on various blogs dealing with south-east London (such as Transpontine:  https://transpont.blogspot.com/ and Running Past: https://runner500.wordpress.com/) but the one with the most information about the stags is Wild Cornerz of south-east London: (https://wildcornerz.blogspot.com/) .

— David Sperlinger

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