Sidcup history man John still going strong

PUBLISHED: 15:53 05 June 2013 | UPDATED: 15:54 05 June 2013

John Mercer at Sidcup Manor House, which is mentioned in his book

John Mercer at Sidcup Manor House, which is mentioned in his book


Age is no barrier for Sidcup historian John Mercer, who has released his ninth book looking at the story of the area he knows so well.

John, who lives in Longlands Road, is 90 next month but says he is still driven by educating people about the town he lives in.

Sidcup & Foots Cray: A History is his second book to be published by Amberley Publishing and if anyone should know about the two towns it is the former history and geography teacher, who has lived in Sidcup for 66 years.

“I’ve always been interested in history – I probably wouldn’t have taught it for so long if I wasn’t!

“Wherever I’ve lived I’ve been interested in the history of the place and after almost seven decades I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge about the town and the borough.

“Working in a school got me interested in writing and I put together my first book, The Sidcup Story, in 1988 after my teaching career had come to an end.”

John was born in Bexleyheath but grew up in Harlow before moving to Sidcup in 1957 – going “full circle” as he puts it.

He moved to the town to teach at Hurstmere School in Hurst Road, staying there for 11 years.

John, who lives with wife Olive, said he wrote his latest book to honour his late fellow Bexley historian, Beverley Nunns, who spent years studying the area without ever putting a book together.

John describes him as his “mentor”.

He added: “Beverley always had these great ideas for books, making lots of notes but never actually writing a book. He was a great historian.

“I’m the complete opposite. When an idea pops into my head I instantly think about how I can make this into a book.

“I’ve already suggested to Amberley that I could do a study of the whole borough for my 10th book but they haven’t given me a response yet. If I don’t hear from them then this could well be my last book.”

John’s latest offering, without trying to give too much away, looks at how Sidcup and Foots Cray have changed over the past 150 years.

It looks at the history of Queen Mary’s Hospital, the building of a railway line through the town and the development of Sidcup High Street.

The author says Foots Cray Meadows is his favourite place included in the book, because of its “serene natural beauty”.

“Foots Cray Meadows is beautiful but the borough as a whole has so much to offer. It’s near enough to London without actually being in London, and the countryside and scenery speaks for itself.

“I love walking around Bexley, reading and doing my research for the books.”

John has written books on Bexleyheath, Welling, nearby Chislehurst and various other places across the borough.

Buy his latest book on Amazon for £13.50.

Are you interested in any aspect of Bexley history that you would like to ask John about? Contact him at to put your questions to him.

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