The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.
The name derives from the place where cattle crossed the River Ravensbourne in Saxon times. It is also said that the name originates from all-black cats, associated with witchcraft, being thrown into the ford to drown during the witch hunts.
Catford was historically part of Kent until 1889, when it was absorbed into the new London County Council, along with the majority of the present day London Borough of Lewisham. Catford covers most of SE6 postcode district. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.
Broadway Theatre is an art deco building adjoining the town hall. It is a curved stone structure decorated with shields and heraldic emblems and topped with a copper-green spire. It was opened in 1932 as the Concert Hall and is now a Grade II listed building. The interior is in art deco style. The last cinema in the borough stood diagonally opposite the theatre until its closure in 2002. Catford also boasts a large Gothic police station. In 2006, a large blue pipe sculpture was unveiled outside Eros House, which was another former cinema (The Eros Cinema), and the Lewisham Hippodrome theatre .
The 1960s and 70s had a considerable impact on the architecture of Catford. The old Town Hall of 1875, was replaced by the current Civic Suite in 1968, soon after the merger of the metropolitan boroughs of Lewisham and Deptford. Laurence House, where many of the Lewisham Council offices are housed, is on the site of old St Laurence's Church. The original Gothic C of E St. Laurence Church was located where Laurence House is today (known as the Catford Cathedral), but as part of the urban renewal of Catford in the 1960s, the church is now housed in a more modern style building 200 metres down Bromley Road.