Come on one of my walks – either in the real world or virtually


I am qualified walking tour guide, and a member of the City of Westminster Guide Lecturers Association, the City of London Guide Lecturers Association and the Clerkenwell and Islington Guides Association.

I am leading some walks in the real world at the moment but I also do have some virtual walks which you can join. These tours take place live. They are not recordings!

My upcoming schedule usually includes the following tours.

  • Passengers No More – lost and forgotten Railways of London
  • Going down the tube: the abandoned bits of the Underground
  • In Vincent’s Footsteps: from Covent Garden office to Stockwell lodgings
  • After the last picture show: what happened to those cinemas
  • A Room of One’s Own: Virginia Woolf in London

Virtual Tour Tickets cost £10 per individual or £16 for a group

Real world tours cost £15 per person (£10 concessions) – except for the In Vincent’s Footsteps walk which costs £25 as this includes entry to and a tour of the Van Gogh House

Book here

Hope to see you soon



Phone: +44 (0) 7958 916 402

Twitter: @stephensLDN

Facebook: StephensLDN


The story of Walking London one postcode at a time


Inspired by “the Ladies who Bus” who have travelled London one bus route at a time, and building on the work I have done to become a walking tour guide, this blog is about walking London one postcode at a time. There are over 100 London postcode districts so that should keep me busy!

I decided to start in the SW postcodes because I realised that most of my working life has been in jobs based in SW1 and for all my adult life I have lived in SW postcodes. So I will walk first in the SW postcodes going in numerical order and work round London clockwise until I get to SE. Then I will go into the central ones of EC and WC. Who knows maybe after all that I will be strong enough to go through the outer postcodes like CR and RM. There is still quite a bit of Greater London which is outside the London post code area.

So a few grounds rules. I will aim to do a walk in each post  code area which features around ten or twelve places, buildings or stories of that area. As this is a postcode walk I will start at a post office, usually the main one. I reserve the right to hop on a bus or train if this makes for a better outcome. And for those few mainly central London postcodes which have sub divisions (eg SW1A, SW1Y etc) I am only covering this once (eg as SW1) in the part of my choosing!

If you want to see if I have written about a particular postcode, you can follow the links from the list of postcodes or else there is a search function on a tab above.

And if you want to join me in the real for a walk, then follow the tab which says “Come on one of my walks”

E3: Not those bells…


E3 is Bow but it is not the location of the “Great Bell of Bow” in the Nursery Rhyme “Oranges and Lemons”. Nor does being born in Bow E3 mean you are a true Cockney. You have to live within the sound of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside in the City to qualify and that is where the Great Bell of Bow is. But some people from Bow like to call themselves true Cockneys, as indeed did my father who grew up in Bow.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 603 Roman Road. This is actually just a little way along from where you finished the E2 walk. Turn left out of the Post Office and walk along Roman Road which here is a part time market. Our first stop is at the junction with Parnell Road.

Stop 1: Iceni Court

Just by this junction across the road on the left is a non descript block of flats called Iceni Court.


No this is not the site of an old cinema but I had to stop to because of the sign here.


Not sure how accurate this is. The Romans certainly came to Britain in AD43 and they did built a road from London to Colchester. But surely the road to Colchester leaves the City at Aldgate and goes through Whitechapel and Mile End. The alignment of the modern day street called Roman Road is further north and would mean leaving the City at Bishopsgate and then turning right.

However looking at the map you can see that if you carry straight on from Roman Road and cross the River Lea you are in Stratford in direct line with the road to Colchester. So maybe it was just an alternative route. But which one came first?

At this end of the northern route we have the district known as Old Ford perhaps indicating that this was the older crossing of the Lea but at the east end of the southern route we have Aldgate, which means Old Gate. It just seems more logical that the road went directly out of a gate. Who knows? So even if they built the road from London to Colchester and beyond as soon as they got here in AD43, it is not clear whether the early road was on the alignment of the street we now call Roman Road.

The other curious thing about this block of flats is that the name that the powers that be have chosen to use.


Iceni was the local tribe in Roman times (at one point headed by warrior queen, Boudica). So they are celebrating the Romans by naming the building after a tribe that revolted against the Romans.

Turn right into Parnell Road and at the end turn left into Tredegar Road and then almost immediately right into Fairfield Road. Our next stop is on the left before the railway, set back behind some railings.

Stop 2: Bow Quarter (Former Bryant and May Match Factory)


This is the former factory of the Bryant and May match company. Once when almost everyone smoked and before the days of electric light, matches were a key item in every household.


This site was acquired by two Quaker businessmen William Bryant and Francis May in 1861 to produce what were known as “safety matches”. These are matches which only work when struck against a specifically prepared surface as opposed to any old rough surface. This makes them safer to handle.

The concept was developed in Sweden in the 1840s by Gustaf Erik Pasch. Pasch patented the use of red phosphorus in the striking surface. Then two brothers by the name of Lundström started making safety matches on a commercial scale and Bryant and May bought the British patent so they could produce safety matches here.

Match production ceased in 1979 and the building is now private apartments known as the Bow Quarter.


In the 19th century, match making was a hazardous business for the workers because of the exposure to dangerous chemicals in particular Phosphorus. In 1888, there was a strike of workers which arose out of the dismissal of a worker and led to the whole factory stopping work. They are always described as “match girls”, so I guess they were all or almost all women employed in this work. Some of the strikers went to see a local social activist Annie Besant and to ask for her assistance.


It was at this point she became involved as she was concerned by their precipitate action and by the number of women who were now out of work with no means of support. She did not start or lead the strike, in fact she never worked at the factory.

Annie Besant sounds quite a character. She became interested in Theosophy, which seeks to understand the mysteries of the universe and the bonds that unite the universe, humanity, and the divine. Theosophy had a particular interest in eastern mysticism and Besant travelled to India and later became involved in the movement for Indian independence.

The factory was rebuilt in 1911 and the brick entrance includes a depiction of Noah’s Ark and the word ‘Security’. This featured in their trademark which was used on the matchboxes.


Go under the railway bridge and our next stop is soon on the left.

Stop 3: Bow Bus garage


This bus garage has the look of a tram depot and indeed it was. Originally this was a tram depot for the North Metropolitan Tramways Company. Their first route had been a horse tram service from Whitechapel to Bow which started in 1870. The building we see today was built in 1908 by which time the trams were electric. It was used to house trolley buses from 1939 and became a bus depot in 1959. Today it houses lots of the Boris buses (which are used on Route 8).


Continue walking along Fairfield Road and just before the end, there is a plaque on the right.

Stop 4: Site of the Fair Field


So this is the origin of the name Fairfield. Obvious really and in fact the Fairfield Halls in Croydon is similarly named after an old fair site. Interesting that “rowdiness and vice” at public events is not such a new thing.

Actually the building on which this plaque is placed is our next stop but to get a better view go to the junction with the main road (Bow Road).

Stop 5: Former Town Hall

This was built as the Town Hall for Poplar Borough Council, which confusingly they chose to build in Bow. The building dates from 1937/38 and the architect is Clifford Culpin who went on to design the better known Greenwich Town Hall.



There are five relief panels with depictions of the type of workers involved in creating the building: welder, carpenter, architect, labourer and stone mason. Here are three of them.




Turn left and you will see the road divides around a statue. This is of William Ewart Gladstone, 19th century prime minister.


Cross the road near the statue. Once across you will see a little garden and a church at the end. Go in the garden.

Stop 6: Bow Church

Ahead is St Mary’s Church.


This started as a Chapel of Ease for Stepney in 1311, and only became a parish in its own right in 1719. Architectural guru Pevsner says the tower is 15th Century and the north aisle wall is the oldest part dating from the 14th Century. The mishmash of old bits survived because there was no money to rebuilt completely. When rebuilding was required following the collapse of the Chancel in 1896, the approach was to conserve and retain rather than replace wholesale. The building was damaged in the Second World War but repaired.

And if you look back, you get this view.


It is hard to believe we are on a traffic island in the middle of one of London’s main roads.

Now head back out of the garden and turn left. Cross the road and turn right heading back towards the Town Hall. Our next stop is on the left and is bright orange.

Stop 7: Bow Bells pub, 116 Bow Road

This pub perpetuates the myth that Bow is somehow connected with the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” and with being a cockney.

Exhibit One is the pub sign.


And Exhibit Two is this board on the pub’s frontage with the words of Oranges and Lemons.


This is of course complete nonsense, because the bells referred to are those of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside in the City. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story.

By the way the Bow we are in derives its name from the bridge over the nearby River Lea.

In 1110 Queen Matilda, wife of King Henry I, was crossing the ford over the river Lea hereabouts on her way to Barking Abbey and is said to have taken a tumble. As a result she ordered a bridge to be built.

The bridge had a distinctive bow shape and so the area on the west side of the river became Stratford-atte-Bow (Stratford at the Bow) which over time was shortened to Bow. This distinguished it from the Stratford on the east side of the Lea which was known as Stratford Langthorne after the name of the Abbey there. But of course today, that is just plain old Stratford.

Head back towards the church but turn right at the crossing next to the statue of Gladstone. Follow that road round as it bends to the left. This is Bromley High Street, which may once have been a humming centre but which today is almost completely devoid of any commercial activity. At the end you will see a gateway across the road to your right.

Stop 8: St Leonard’s Churchyard

At the end of Bromley High Street where St Leonard’s Street comes in from the right, you will see an old gateway. This was the entrance to St Leonard’s churchyard.


This gateway dates from 1894 and was built as a memorial to the Rev How, the vicar at St Leonards who had died the year before.



Go though the gateway.


It is a depressing site. It obviously at one time had been sorted out but today it is a complete mess. And it is hardly a tranquil spot as the northern approach to the Blackwall Tunnel is on the far side and you can see the road from a hole in the fence. The traffic noise is very evident.


This in fact was the site of St Leonard’s Priory, a Benedictine nunnery founded in 11th Century. Geoffrey Chaucer has a little reference in the prologue to The Canterbury Tales where he introduces the Prioress.

“Ther was also a nonne, a prioresse,
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte loy;
And she was cleped madame eglentyne.
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of stratford atte bowe,
For frenssh of parys was to hire unknowe.”

Basically the Prioress had learned French from the Benedictine nuns here. As a result she had a distinct Anglo-Norman dialect, which was regarded by sub-standard French, compared to that spoken in Paris.

Like other religious houses, the Abbey was destroyed in the 1530s. The property was mostly acquired by Sir Ralph Sadleir, who lived at Sutton House in Homerton (which is now owned by the National Trust).  But the church became the parish church of St Leonards. There is no church here today as it was destroyed by bombing in World War II and by the building of the Blackwall Tunnel approach road. All that remains is this rundown garden and the Victorian archway.

Go back out of the Churchyard and go down St Leonard’s Street which is immediately to your left.

Note the school on your right.

Stop 9: Old Palace School


Pevsner describes the school as “Light curtain walled buildings in the Festival style, fresh and cheerful”. The building dates from 1952, the year after the Festival of Britain.

It is called Old Palace School because it is on the site on a palace was built for James I in 1606. Well actually it was more a hunting lodge than a Palace. Some of the stonework was recycled from the remains of the priory just over the road.

It remained in Royal use in the reigns of Kings Charles II and James II. But by the 18th century the Palace was converted into two houses for merchants, and then it had other uses including becoming a boarding school. The house was demolished at the end of the 19th century by the London School Board so they could build a local school.

But we are stopping here not because of the school itself but because of the little plaque on the main building facing the road. This commemorates firefighters who were killed here in April 1941. This is said to be the largest single loss of fire personnel life in English history.


Now just here on the left is Franklin Street.


I only mention this because this is the street my father lived in as a child and young adult. However the street he knew was completely destroyed in the blitz, maybe it was the same raid as hit the school. So today there are houses that look like they were built in the 1950s or early 1960s.


Continue walking along St Leonard’s Street and ahead on the right is our next stop.

Stop 10: Bromley by Bow Centre

The Bromley by Bow Centre is a community organisation which encompasses an array of integrated social enterprises based around art, health, education and practical skills. And one of the entrances is though this old archway.


This gateway is 18th century (possibly late 1740s) and was originally at a riverside entrance to Northumberland House in the Strand near modern day Charing Cross Station.

So how did it get to Bow? The answer is that when Northumberland House was being demolished in 1874, the arch was bought by a man called Rutty who owned a house here in Bow called Tudor House. He wanted it to embellish his garden. That garden was bought by Poplar Borough Council in 1900 to form a public open space.

The park was first called Bromley Recreation Ground and was also known as Grace Street Park. It was later Bob’s Park renamed by local people after the park keeper, Robert Grenfell.

The archway was moved to its present location with money from Tescos who had built a large supermarket nearby.

The entrance to the park from St Leonard’s Street is just past the archway.

Go into the park and as you enter you will see an obelisk on your right.


This is actually a First World War memorial but it has been positioned so that the writing faces away from the pathway – almost as if the authorities wanted to hide what its original purpose was.

As you go into the park you will see a building looming over it on the far side. I think it must have been around here that my father and his twin brother got into trouble for playing cricket on the wall and disturbing the Indian gentleman who was staying in the building. More of which anon.


Now head through the park and out the other side turning right (This is Powis Road). Our next stop is the large building on the right.

Stop 10: Kingsley Hall


This is Kingsley Hall, named after Kingsley Lester who died aged 26 in 1914, leaving money for work in this area for “educational, social and recreational” purposes. His sisters Doris and Muriel bought and converted a disused chapel. It outgrew its original building and a new Hall was designed by well known architect Charles Voysey.

There was a stone-laying ceremony which took place on 14 July 1927. The Kingsley Hall website lists 18 stones representing different aspects of life and they seem to have had an appropriate person laying each stone. So Voysey laid the brick of “Architecture”, sculptor Gilbert Bayes laid “Art”, writer, John Galsworthy “Literature” and actor Sybil Thorndike “Drama”, but oddly local Labour politician George Lansbury laid the brick “Sunday Evening Service”.

Well as you can see there is a blue plaque on the front of the Hall which indicates a certain indian man called Mahatma Ghandi (1869 – 1948) stayed here in 1931.


He had been invited to England but refused to stay in a hotel so was put up here in the East End for some 12 weeks from September to December 1931. So it was him who my father and uncle (aged 8) must have been disturbing.

More about this building is on the Hall’s website: It has quite a history.

Now head along Bruce Road and turn left into Devons Road. Follow this, as it does a right hand turn and carry along the road which is still Devons Road. Go past the DLR station for our final stop which is on the left.

Stop 12: The Widow’s Son pub

Pubs in this area are becoming a rare sight, what with the change in demographics, drinking habits and property values. But this unpromising looking pub just by Devons Road DLR station has a rather unqiue story.


The story goes that there was an old widow whose only son left to go to sea. He wrote to her saying that he would be returning home at Easter and to have a nice hot cross bun waiting for him. He never returned, but his mother continued to put by a fresh hot cross bun every Good Friday for the rest of her life. After her death a hoard of hot cross buns was discovered.

A pub was built on the site of her cottage in 1848 and so began a tradition of a sailor placing a new bun in net over the bar each Good Friday.


You can’t help thinking “Widow’s Son” ought to be “Hot Cross Bun” in cockney rhyming slang – but it is not, so far as I can tell.

This pub was sold by Punch Taverns in 2012 to a developer who has been seeking planning permission to convert the building to flats, so far unsuccessfully. The pub is still trading but one wonders how much longer this quirky little slice of London will survive.

So that brings us to the end of our E3 walk though Bow and Bromley. Whilst this area suffered badly during the Blitz, it still retain some older buildings with reminders of a world before industrialisation and also of a quite radical past.

You are close by Devons Road DLR station for onward travel.


Come with me on a very special tour following in Vincent Van Gogh’s footsteps – from Covent Garden Office to Stockwell lodgings

Vincent Van Gogh lived at 87 Hackford Road in Stockwell for a year between August 1873 and September 1874. He fell in love with British culture and was inspired by the art he saw in the UK. He was working at Goupil and Company, an Art Dealers in Covent Garden, and he walked to and from work.

Join me for a very special tour where we follow Vincent Van Gogh’s footsteps in a 3½ mile (5½ km) walk between his workplace in Covent Garden and his lodgings in Stockwell, exploring what London would have been like in the early 1870s. The walk crosses Westminster Bridge which Van Gogh sketched on some Goupil and Co headed note paper.

Then after walking through Kennington we get to 87 Hackford Road, where we have a 45 minute very exclusive interior tour of the newly renovated house (included in the price).

Visitors will have a chance to learn about the Hackford Road house and its most famous tenant and gain an insight into the house’s future as a site for artist residencies.

We are resuming this tour in May (Saturday 29 May) and it will also run on Saturday 24 July with a ticket price of £21 (no concessions or discount codes valid). Price includes entry to and guided tour of house.

Book here for 29 May 2021 or here for 24 July 2021.

Please Note
The house at Hackford Road dates from the 1820s and has small rooms on three floors with a steep narrow staircase. Because of this, it may be difficult for people with mobility issues – in particular it is not possible to accommodate wheelchairs.

EC1: Gin and Jerusalem

EC1 is hard to pin down. I have always thought of the EC postcodes as being the City but EC1 is a bit different as it is not full of offices. There is so much here but I am going to focus on the area around Clerkenwell.

We start at Mount Pleasant Post Office which is where Rosebery Avenue crosses Farringdon Road.


Our first stop is just over the junction from the Post Office.

Stop 1: Exmouth Market

This used to be a traditional market but today it has reinvented itself as a place for what might be described as “Street Food”


And the shops along the street are a mix of restaurants, cafes and “trendy” type stores, with just a few survivors of an earlier age. On the left though at Number 56, look out for the blue plaque.


This is for the renown clown Joseph Grimaldi who lived here between 1818 and 1828.


Joseph Grimaldi (1778 – 1837) was an English entertainer who developed the role of Clown which appeared in the harlequinade that formed part of British pantomimes. His harlequinade role of Clown became known as “Joey”, and both this name and Grimaldi’s white face make-up were, and still are, used by other types of clowns. Apparently he also had some catchphrases such as “Here we are again!”, which continue to feature in modern pantomimes.

Now head back along Exmouth Market and you will see an alleyway to your left.


Go down this alleyway and you will find yourself in a little open space called Spa Fields, which is our next stop.

Stop 2: Spa Fields

The borough of Islington has the least open space of any London borough, so I guess we have to be grateful for this odd little pocket of a park. This is Spa Fields, so named because not surprisingly there was a spring which later became a spa and the area developed as a pleasure grounds



Here is an interesting article about the turbulent history of Spa Fields:

Among the rioters and resurrectionists: the turbulent history of Spa Fields

Now head out of Spa Fields as if you had turned right from the way you came in. This leads you down a path and then to the left you will see our next stop.

Stop 3: Finsbury Health Centre

This was designed by Lubetkin in the late 1930s.


It is almost impossible to get a good shot of this building, as you cannot get back far enough to take the picture full on and if you go to the side you cannot get all the building in.



According to architectural guru Pevsner, this was the first public commission for Lubetkin and Tectcton and is “one of the key buildings to demonstrate the relevance of the Modern Movement to progressive local authorities”

Now head out of the car park area into the street and then turn right. At the end turn left and you will be in Farringdon Road. Go along Farringdon Road, until you reach the Betsy Trotwood pub (not its original name – that was the Butchers Arms – see


Here turn left and follow this road (which is Farringdon Lane) round.

As you get to the railway bridge, there is a good view of St Paul’s flanked by the Shard on the left and what I believe is an incinerator chimney in Smithfield market in the right.


Soon on the left you will get to our next stop.

Stop 4: The Clerks’ Well

Continue along Farringdon Lane and stop at Number 16, also known as Well Court.


On the wall you will spot a blue plaque simply saying “Clerks’ Well


If you look in the window you will see some display boards explaining the story of the Clerks’ Well


You can actually get in here by prior appointment


But as a Clerkenwell and Islington guide I am able to access the key, should you ever want to visit!

The well here is what gave the area its name. It lay just outside the boundary wall of one of the many medieval religious houses hereabouts – St Mary’s Nunnery. And the clerks we are talking about are clerks in holy orders, not office clerks. The well was only discovered in 1924 when rebuilding took place on the site. the building we see today dates from the 1980s.

Now continue along Farringdon Lane and take the next left and almost immediately the road opens out into a little square which is called Clerkenwell Green.

Stop 5: Clerkenwell Green


The thing to note about Clerkenwell Green is that there is no green of any kind here. It is entirely paved over.

In Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist (written in the late 1830s), Clerkenwell Green is where Fagin and the Artful Dodger get Oliver involved in pickpocketing amongst shoppers in the market which was held here. In Chapter 10, Dickens writes about “an open square in Clerkenwell, which is yet called, by some perversion of terms the Green”, despite lacking any “greenery”. So there was not even a green back then.

There are a couple of interesting buildings here to your left, the Marx Memorial Library which holds more than 43,000 books, pamphlets and newspapers on Marxism, Scientific Socialism and working class history.


The building now occupied by the library was originally built in 1738 to house the Welsh Charity School. After the school left in the 1770s, the building had various commercial uses – in 1872 becoming home to the London Patriotic Society and in 1893, Twentieth Century Press Ltd, publishers of Justice, the newspaper of the Social Democratic Federation. During 1902/3, Lenin (who was living in exile in London) worked in the building,

The Marx Memorial Library occupied part of the building in 1933, eventually taking over the whole. The building was substantially rebuilt in the late 1960s to restore its 18th century appearance. Interesting that it is called the Marx Memorial Library when it was Lenin who worked here.

There is a nice old pub, the Crown Tavern


And if you look back there is the Sessions House. This was originally a Court House built in the late 18th century.


From 1931 to 1973 it was the headquarters of Avery Weighing Machines. After a period of being empty it was acquired in 1978 by a masonic trust and the following year opened as the London Masonic Centre. In the last couple of years it has been sold and renovated. It is being marketed as a retail and restaurant destination.

Take the road to the right of the Crown. This is Aylesbury Street. soon on the right you will an alleyway with a green plaque at the corner.

Stop 6: Jerusalem Passage

This plaque records that this was the site of the home of Thomas Britton (1644 – 1714). It intriguingly notes he was “The Musical Coalman”


n 1678, Britton converted the loft of his Clerkenwell house into a little concert hall and hosted a series of concerts. He had an extensive library and also collected musical instruments. He became well known as an expert and many of the famous musicians of the day came to play here, including it is said George Frideric Handel,

Britton’s end was rather sad. In September 1714, a local magistrate by the name of Justice Robe,, played a practical joke on Britton. He got a ventriloquist to project his voice and tell Britton that his end was near and that he should fall to his knees and repeat the Lord’s Prayer. Britton was 70 years old and rather superstitious, so he did what he was told. He was so affected that he died within a couple of days

The alleyway is called Jerusalem Passage.


It is a delightful little survival and is a reminder of this area’s religious connections.


We soon get to an open square.

Stop 7: St John’s Square/Gate

To your left is the church of St John.


It is more interesting than it looks. This was the church of St John’s Priory. Beneath is a 12th century crypt. After the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, this became a parish church and was substantially rebuilt in the 18th century. In the interwar period with the decline of the local resident population, it was taken over by the Order of St John – more of which anon.

It was badly damaged by bombing in World War II and had to be extensively rebuilt.

How if you look ahead you will see across the main road, there is a stone archway. Go over there.


This was a gateway to the St John’s Priory.

To the left of the gateway is a non descript shop front. This was at one time a drinking establishment called the Jerusalem Tavern. This name has been used for a number of tavern in this area. We shall see the current one shortly.



St John’s Gate is one of the few tangible remains of the St John’s Monastery. The gate was built in 1504 by Prior Thomas Docwra as the south entrance to the inner precinct of Clerkenwell Priory, the priory of the Knights of Saint John (known as the Knights Hospitaller).

After centuries of decay and much rebuilding, very little of the stone facing is original. It was heavily restored in the 19th century when the Order of St John was revived and took over the Gateway, so this is in large part a Victorian recreation.

More about the Order of St John and it’s museum here at:

Now go back under the archway and turn left beside the Clerkenwell and Social drinking establishment. Keep going and you get to St John’s Path. Go along here and you will end up in Britton Street right by our next stop.

Stop 8: Jerusalem Tavern (and Booth’s Gin)



On your left is a delightful old drinking den which has a sign which might be said to imply it has been around since 1720. Whilst the building dates from that year, the drinking establishment most certainly does not. In fact it is a very well executed fake


The pub actually dates from the 1990s. The building had been renovated to recreate a coffee house of the 18th century but was later taken over by the St Peter’s Brewery.

That said it is a lovely space which sells great beer. It is well worth a visit.

And across the road is an interesting building.


This was built for Booth’s Gin. But again there is a bit of deceit here. This is just the facade of the Booth’s building and it was not originally in this location. It was round the corner in Turnmill Street. The building today is called Mountford House after the architect of the original building.

The facade has a series of reliefs which depict the making of gin.


These were modelled by F W Pomeroy. He is perhaps best known for the statue of Justice atop the Old Bailey.

This by the way was one of a number of gin distilleries in the area but today none of those historic names like Gordon’s and Nicholson’s make gin here.

Now go as if you had turned left out of the passageway. Our next stop is just at the next street corner.

Stop 9: Number 44, Britton Street


The building at Number 44 Britton Street looks intriguing and of course it has a story. this was built for the writer and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter.

She commissioned this house in the 1980s when this area was a declining manufacturing district and hardly anyone chose to live here. How times have changed.

Now go down the side street by the little garden and this will lead you to the side of Farringdon station.

Stop 10: Farringdon Station

Farringdon station was the City terminus of the first Underground railway which opened in 1863 when it was called Farringdon Street. However there is really nothing left of this original station and the street facing station building we see today dates from the mid 1920s when it became known as Farringdon and High Holborn, which is a bit misleading to say the least. It got its present name in 1932.


This building served not only the Metropolitan, Circle and Hammersmith and City lines but the so-called Metropolitan Widened Lines. This was a pair of tracks which parallelled the Metropolitan Railway from Kings Cross to Moorgate with a branch going south from here under Smithfield and towards Blackfriars. Today that latter route is used by Thameslink trains, whilst the line from here to Moorgate is disused, as it was not possible to keep the link when the platforms were lengthened here for 12 car trains.


Across the road from the old station building is a new one which services as the main entrance for the Thameslink services and will in due course give access to the new Crossrail (Elizabeth line) station when it eventually opens.

Now head up Cowcross Street away from the station and at the end you can hardly miss our next stop.

Stop 11: Smithfield market


n the Middle Ages, this was a broad grassy area known as the “Smooth Field”. It’s location just outside the City walls and it’s relative flatness meant it was an ideal place to drive animals and slaughter them here. And Smithfield established itself as London’s livestock market.

In the 19th century, the slaughterhouses were moved to a purpose built facility at Copenhagen Fields, Islington, north of King’s Cross. For some 10 years the land here was left undeveloped until that is the City Corporation began to build a series of market halls to house the meat and poultry markets.

The imposing Central market hall was designed by architect Sir Horace Jones, who was also responsible for Tower Bridge and Billingsgate and Leadenhall Markets. The design was inspired by Italian architecture and was completed in November 1868.


As the Market was being built, a cut and cover railway tunnel was built to create a triangular junction with the railway between Blackfriars and Kings Cross. There were extensive railway sidings which enabled the transfer of animal carcasses to the Meat Market. These sidings closed in the 1960s and meat now comes and goes by road. The area is now used as a car park, accessed via a curved sloping roadway.

Smithfield meat market was extended between 1873 and 1876 with the construction of the Poultry Market immediately west of the Central Market, again designed by Sir Horace Jones. Then a General Market (for the sale of fruit and vegetables) was added between 1879 and 1883 with two more structures (the Fish Market and the Red House) built between 1886 and 1899. The Red House was built for the London Central Markets Cold Storage Co. Ltd and was one of the first cold stores to be built outside the London docks. It continued to serve Smithfield Market until the mid-1970s.

The original Poultry Market was destroyed by fire in 1958 but it was replaced  in 1962/63 by a modern structure with a reinforced concrete frame, and external cladding of dark blue brick

Some of the market buildings at the western end are now disused and there are proposals for the Museum of London to move into them, if the funding can be found.

Inside the main cross passage of the Central Market is a great grouping of old telephone boxes.


They are in pairs with the taller one being the original K2 box dating from the mid 1920s and the shorter one being the slightly later K6 dating from the mid 1930s.

Now head through the Market building and out the other side. you will see ahead of you the rampway down to the car park on the right.

There really is so much here I could cover. There is St Bartholomew the Great church, which is just a part of a great Priory church. It survived the dissolution of the monasteries by being reduced in size and becoming a parish church. But more interestingly it also survived the Great Fire of London, so is one of the oldest churches in London.

St Bartholomew’s was a major hospital even back in the 16th century and King Henry VIII recognised this by re-establishing a hospital after the monks were kicked out  And the Hospital is still here nearly 500 years later.

Also nearby are various monuments to various people who were executed here – from William Wallace (1305) to Wat Tyler (1381) to an assortment of religious martyrs, burnt at the stake for heresy.

However I am going to focus on just one more thing here and that is down a side street called Cloth Fair

Stop 12: Cloth Fair

The name Cloth fair is a reminder of the long standing fair of St Bartholomew. A charter for the fair had been granted to Rahere by Henry I to fund the Priory of St Bartholomew; and from 1133 to 1855  it took place each year on 24 August.  Originally chartered for trading cloth and other goods it became a pleasure fair as well.  The fair was suppressed in 1855 by the City authorities for encouraging debauchery and public disorder.

Now just along here is a little alleyway on the left.


And lo and behold there is a blue plaque.


It does not look like a “proper” one as it does not say “Greater London Authority” or “English Heritage”. Burt nonetheless it does mark an interesting connection.

John Betjeman (1906 -1984) was a poet, writer, and broadcaster. He was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1972 until his death. He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture. He started out as a journalist and ended it as a much-loved figure on British television – not something normally associated with Poets Laureate.

The building on the opposite corner (Numbers 41/42) is on fact one of the oldest buildings in the City.


This is a 17th century merchant’s house and was restored in the 1930s.

That sadly brings us to the end of our EC1 walk. There is so much more I could have covered but hopefully this has given you a flavour of the area which was shaped by its religious connections, not to mention later commercial activities. It was not just meat and gin – this area had a long history of industry which I have not had time to touch on.

It is a short walk back to Farringdon for onward travel.


SE28: Beautiful thing?

SE28 is Thamesmead – a postcode quite unlike any other in London. This postcode was carved out of SE2 and SE18 after Thamesmead began to be developed in the late 1960s. SE28 is unique. No one well known comes from here, so far as I can discover. There are certainly no blue plaques. There has never been a passenger railway station here: nor a purpose built theatre or a cinema. So that makes for a bit of a challenge, as these are all the things I usually cover..

I am breaking my rule about the starting point and suggesting that you get a 229 or 244 bus into Thamesmead from Abbey Wood station and getting off at Newacres Library stop.

Stop 1: Area round Southmere lake

This is the part of Thamesmead which was built first. It seems that initially at least all the housing had to be built above ground level, this being a marshy area. So what we have here are some system built “Barrier Blocks” blocks sitting above garaging which would not look out of place in the inner city. This sprawling concrete housing estate was made infamous by the film adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange and also featured in the gay coming of age play (and movie) “Beautiful Thing”.


This area is being redeveloped at the moment, so is a little hard to explore.


Some of the building have been or are being refurbished and others are being replaced. It seems that this area will be called Southmere Village.

From the bus stop, go down the side road rather than the main road and you will see the main road is on a viaduct which has been filled in. Much of this is now something called “The Link” which is a youth and community centre inserted into nine arches under the road.


There is even a little pocket park.


Go under the road and you will find the library which is in temporary accommodation. Curously this is called “Thamesmead Library” not “Newacres Library” as one would have expected from the bus stop.


The replacement does look impressive – see here for the new design

And just behind the Library is Southmere lake which featured in Clockwork Orange.



There were lots of birds (ducks, geese and swans) here, including these two rather lovely ones. No idea what they are.


Being by the water here was calming and not unpleasant, yet it is not the most pretty waterside I have been to. It was just not welcoming with no seats or trees or greenery. Maybe when the redevelopment is finished it will look somewhat more attractive.

Now head away from the lake and you will find a path marked as part of the Green Chain. Go up the steps and you find yourself on a ridge but with a roundabout above you.

Stop 2: The Ridgeway

There is a path running along the top of the ridge.


And it is called “The Ridgeway”


This conceals a huge sewer (The Southern Outfall Sewer) which runs across Thamesmead and takes sewage to Crossness Pumping station which is nearby (but in SE2)

Cross over this and you then find you are then crossing over a dual carriageway. This is Eastern Way and it slices right through Thamesmead.


We cross it on a footbridge.


Follow the main road straight ahead – this is the continuation of Harrow Manorway and is called Carlyle Road. After the next roundabout where Bentham Road crosses, you will see a little waterway – a feature of Thamesmead supposed to make it look more attractive. Well it does sort of help but somehow you feel it could have been so much nicer. Follow the little waterway to the left.


You will come to some shops and just behind them you will find where Applegarth Road meets Titmuss Avenue.

Stop 3: some cannons

Now here is a surprise in the middle of the road are four cannons.



I saw a date on one of them – 1782


This is a reminder that much of this land was used by the Royal Arsenal which made stored and tested weaponry on the marshes here.

Follow Titmuss Avenue round and you will come to the Baptist church

Stop 4: Titmuss Avenue Baptist Church

Now this is a curious structure. It is a church with a house attached – or maybe it is a house with a church attached. This dates from the mid 1970s and architectural guru Pevsner describes it as providing “a minor landmark”.


At this point it might be worth commenting on the street names.

They are a few named after people who have been concerned about social policy. Richard Titmuss was for example a social policy academic. Although self taught, he was involved in establishing Social Policy as an academic discipline and became the London School of Economics’ first professor of Social Administration  Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer, who was an early proponent of utilitarianism – a theory that states that the best action is the one that maximises utility.  Bentham described utility as the sum of all pleasure that results from an action, minus the suffering of anyone involved in the action. And we are about to come to Tawney Road. R H Tawney (1880 – 1962) was an English economic historian, social critic, ethical socialist, and a proponent of adult education.

Then you find this.


Lytton Strachey was an English writer and critic who was a founding member of the Bloomsbury Group and author of Eminent Victorians. But he was not so far as I am aware what you might call a social reformer. So why did he get in here – and with his two names rather than just his surname. How curious.

But then I had a closer look and found that there is also an Attlee Close, Austen Close, Byron Close and Disraeli Close, so it seems less coherent than at first I thought it was, as it includes writers and politicians.

If you head through the estate crossing Tawney Road and passing through one of the “Barrier Blocks” you will get to Central Way opposite Linton Mead Primary School.

Just as an aside, if you want to find the Thames, you can go down the street Linton Mead and it will eventually get you to the riverside. But it is a long way out of our way, so I am not going there.

Instead walk along Central Way and so you will get to this strange place called “Thamesmead Town Centre”

Stop 5: Thamesmead Town Centre

This is a very un-English town centre – it is much more like what you see in the US with large boxes containing shops set back off the road with lots of car parking in front

The big store is Morrison but there is also Aldi, Next, Pets at Home, Poundland and Wilkos, plus other shops and two drive through “restaurants” – McDonalds and KFC.




We are quite close to the river here but curiously this has been designed so you cannot see the river nor easily get to it. There is a lake and a big earth bank between here and the Thames.

There is a small pedestrianised precinct off the car parking. It is called Joyce Dawson Way. Go down here. (By the way I have no idea who Joyce Dawson is or was – a quick Google search throws up no obvious candidates!)


Stop 6: Joyce Dawson Way and the Clocktower

The pedestrianised area clusters round a waterway with a clocktower on the other side. The Clocktower was originally in Deptford Dockyard and relocated here along with some more cannons.




There are a plaque at the base which give some of the history.


This I now realise is the only thing I have seen which predates the 1960s!

Now keep walking through the pedestrianised area and at the end you will see our next stop ahead.

Stop 7: Thamesmere Leisure Centre and Library


A pleasant enough building but nothing special. Strange to find another library, but then I suppose it is because this one is run by Greenwich and the other one by Bexley. If this estate was in a single borough, I guess there would just be the one library.

Now the final place to visit is a bit far to walk so take a 244 bus from stop A in the town centre (which is just by the Leisure Centre). Go just a couple of stops to Belmarsh Prison – the stops are quite far apart.

Stop 8: Belmarsh Prison and Woolwich Crown Court

Belmarsh Prison was built on part of the East site of the former Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, and became operational in April 1991. Belmarsh is adjacent and adjoined to Woolwich Crown Court, as such the prison is used in high-profile cases, particularly those concerning national security. In 2010, the Isis Young Offenders Institution was opened within the perimeter wall of Belmarsh Prison.


The prison is on the left.


And the courts are on the right.


Apparently the two are connected by a tunnel, so that prisoners on remand can be taken to court without having to go in a van, so there is less chance of them escaping.

In fact there is a third prison here – Thameside. this is privately run Men’s prison run by Serco which opened in 2012. It is a bit of a misnomer, as the prison is not actually by the side of the Thames.

There is a bus turn round outside.


From here there is an excursion you could do into Thamesmead West and the riverside.

Cross over the main road and go down the side road next to the Princess Alice pub. This is Battery Road. Then take a left into Merbury Road and follow this down to the end where you be at the back of a crescent of buildings which faces on to the Thames.

Nearby there is also a rather intriguing park with a mound and a circular walk called Gallions Park but again this is a bit out of the way.

So that brings us to the end of our SE28 wander – much less satisfying than anywhere else I have been to. There really is not much going for Thamesmead. I do feel it could have been so much nicer. It is a place which started with great optimism but never quite lived up to the initial hope.

Now for onward travel, you can get a 244 bus either to Plumstead or Abbey Wood stations – the latter is marginally further but you will meander your way back through Thamesmead.




SE27: Into the Wood

SE27 is West Norwood. This is another of those places I have been though but apart from once going to the cemetery, I do not think I have actually walked there.

The name Norwood comes from the “Great North Wood” – the hilly and wooded area to the north of Croydon. This area was originally known as “Lower Norwood”, to differentiate it from Upper Norwood, but as so often happened people did not like the implication of being in a place called “Lower”. The  station was renamed in the 1880s which changed the name of the whole locality.

We start our walk at West Norwood Post Office which is at 12 Knight’s Hill. Turn left out of the Post Office and immediately go down the side street, Nettlefold Place. Our first stop is almost straight ahead as the road bends to the left.

Stop 1: The Clockworks, Nettlefold Place

This industrial looking building is called The Clockworks.



The Clockworks is a space that combines a museum, workshop, library and meeting space under one roof for people interested in the measurement and distribution of time using electric clocks. (Who knew that such a place existed!)

The Museum at The Clockworks houses a collection of electric clocks and related devices dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1970s. The collection is not restricted to timekeeping but also branches out into allied fields, such as early electricity metering and fire alarm telegraphy – both fields in which the early electric clock pioneers were also active. It is open by appointment.

More info about The Clockworks at:

Now retrace your steps to the main road and turn right. Our next stop is just past the Post Office on Knight’s Hill.

Stop 2: The old Library

This was the original library in West Norwood


The West Norwood Free Public Library opened on 21 July 1888. It was commissioned by Sir Henry Tate on land donated by Frederick Nettlefold, who laid the foundation stone on 26 November 1887. The building was designed Sidney Smith, architect of Tate Britain and several other Lambeth libraries.

A new Library Building was opened nearby in April 1969 by Princess Margaret. Since then the ‘Old Library’ has been used by community groups and Lambeth’s youth service. However it is temporarily a library again as the 1960s building is currently being renovated as we shall shortly see.

Now head back down Knight’s Hill and keep going along the continuation which is Norwood Road. Our next stop is a little way along on the left.

Stop 3 Site of Regal Cinema, Number 322 Norwood Road,


This is an unusual B & Q store being right on a main road. The site as you might have guessed was once home to a cinema. according to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site this was the location of the Regal Cinema. Built for A E Abrahams, it opened in January 1930. Acquired by the Hyams & Gale chain in April 1933, it was then taken over by Gaumont British Theatres in October 1935.

The Regal Cinema was closed by the Rank Organisation in February 1964. It then became a bingo club which lasted to 1978. The cinema building was demolished in November 1981.

Now keep going down Norwood Road until you get to Ullswater Road. On the right you will see an old Fire Station, which is now a children’s’ nursery.


But look to the left of that and you will see an arched entrance way. That is what we have come to see.

Stop 4: The former Tram Depot

Today this archway leads to a self storage facility. I looked at this and thought it might have a story and indeed it does.


This was built as a tram depot in 1909 by the London County Council (LCC).


There is nothing to indicate this from the outside but with a bit a delving I found a picture of the tram depot in 1951

Just think this was only a tram depot for just over 40 years. Since the last trams ran in the early 1950s, it has been something else for longer than it was a tram depot.

Now retrace your steps along Norwood Road.

As you go you may spot the odd LCC Tramways manhole cover in the pavement. LCC trams were unusual in that they had their power supply in a conduit between the rails rather than from the more usual overhead wire. And so the electrical system for the trams was buried in the street with these access points..


These survive even though the trams have long since disappeared..

At the end of Norwood Road, the street forks and in between sits St Luke’s Church. But before we get to that, turn left into West Norwood Cemetery.

Stop 5: West Norwood Cemetery


West Norwood Cemetery – or The South Metropolitan Cemetery as it was first known – was one of the first large commercial, inter-denominational cemeteries in London, opening in 1837. The old city churchyards were getting over crowded and were polluting the areas around them, so new burial grounds were sought in what was then countryside. West Norwood Cemetery is one of the so-called magnificent seven Victorian cemeteries.


It was designed by Sir William Tite (1798 – 1873), who was perhaps more famous for his railway stations. He planned the Episcopal (Anglican) and Dissenters’ (nonconformist) Chapels, both including catacombs beneath, which together could accommodate some 3,500 coffins. Provision was made not only for privately purchased family graves and vaults, but also for paupers’ burials in common graves.

He also designed the grand arch at the main entrance. The shield over the centre of the arch is that of the diocese of Canterbury.

Soon the South Metropolitan became the most fashionable cemetery in south London, known as the ‘Millionaires’ Cemetery’ from the quality of its mausoleums and other elaborate monuments. Not all the original buildings have survived.

Unlike some of the other magnificent seven cemeteries, this one was taken over by the local council, Lambeth who compulsorily purchased it in 1965.

More about the history can be found here:

There are a lot of well known people buried here.To help find your way found here is a map:

This shows how the cemetery is divided into squares each with a number and you can just about work out where a grave is if you have that square reference.

I tracked down three. First was the Tate family mausoleum dating from the 1890s. If you follow the road to the crematorium and go past it, the Tate vault is just a little further as the road turns.

This is Plot 19897 in Square 38.



More info at

Then if you look ahead and slightly to the left you will see a path going off. This is Doulton Path.


And not surprisingly this is where the Doulton family mausoleum is to be found.

This is Plot 22589 in Square 36




More info at:

There are a lot of well known people buried here including, cookery writer, Mrs Beeton (Plot 8348, Square 64); Paul Julius Reuter (Plot 28319, Square 23); architect William Burges (Plot 4478, Square 34); and builder Thomas Cubitt (Plot 649, Square 48). I did not get to find these however one I did find was that of Sir Horace Jones (Plot 12335, Square 89). This is along a small walkway called Ship Path which runs parallel to the main road to the Crematorium.


Who was he, I hear you say. Well Sir Horace Jones (1819 – 1887) was particularly noted for his work as Architect and Surveyor to the City of London from 1864 until his death.

He designed and built some of London’s most famous markets – Smithfield, Billingsgate and Leadenhall. He also designed the memorial at Temple Bar at the boundary between the Cities of London and Westminster. But his most recognised work was Tower Bridge, which was completed posthumously.


Now retrace your steps out of the cemetery.

As you head towards the lodge by the main gates have a look out for this grave on the left hand side. This is the grave of Sir Hiram Maxim – Plot 34481 in Square 124.


Maxim is not a famous name, but he is known for creating the first portable, self powered, fully automatic machine gun. As such, it is credited for changing army tactics in the early 20th Century.

He lived locally in Norwood Road towards Tulse Hill and developed his machine gun in the garden of his house, much to his neighbours annoyance. The house has been demolished and I have been unable to establish just where it might have been. Hence I did not include it when we were in Norwood Road.

At the gates, turn left. Our next stop is straight ahead.

Stop 6: St Luke’s Church

This is a wonderful set piece and apart from the cemetery, really the rest of West Norwood does not live up to this vista.


St Luke’s Church was designed by Francis Octavius Bedford in 1822, as a result of the Church Building Act of 1818, which had been passed in response to the end of the Napoleonic wars and the growing urban population. It is known as a “Waterloo church” or a “Commissioners’ church” because it received a grant from the Church Building Commission towards the cost of its construction.

Unusually it is oriented north-south instead of east-west. This is due to a stipulation in the original planning permission that no building in what was then called Lower Norwood should be built within 100 feet of an existing building without the permission of the owner of the other building. An objection from the owner of the Horn’s Tavern meant St Luke’s had to be built in a north-south orientation to avoid falling within 100 feet of the tavern. But that did mean it could be sited it what turned out to be a rather pleasing way.

Inside the church was originally ordered by the main altar on the long east wall but this was changed in the 1870s. and was reordered again in 1972 according to architectural guru, Pevsner.

If you look back from the church you can see the triangular garden which has been created


There is a small plaque which notes this was rededicated in 2009 and commemorates the residents of West Norwood who lost their lives, or who served at home or abroad during the Second World War.


Our next stop is just to the right of the garden as you look down the garden from the main front of the church.

Stop 7: former Nettlefold Hall and Library

This is where the library moved in 1969.


Pevsner calls it “dignified yet inviting”. Although you cannot see it from the road there is a hall behind the library building.

Today the  site is undergoing a transformation. The Nettlefold and West Norwood Library Redevelopment is an ambitious proposal to provide a town centre library, together with a cinema and café. Lambeth Council has partnered with Picturehouse Cinemas to do this. It seems that this was supposed to have been completed last year but it is clearly running late.

Nice to see the building being revitalised like this, but with a new cinema coming up the road in Crystal Palace and a Picturehouse opened in 2015 in East Dulwich, you have to wonder whether there will be enough business for all these new screens.

Now head along the road to the left of the church. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 8: South London Theatre

This building was the original fire station dating from 1881. But it had a short life as a fire station because it was built for horse-drawn fire engines and when motorised appliances were introduced they too big for the doors. It was too difficult and/or expensive to alter this building, so a new one was built in Norwood Road – that is the one we saw next to the old tram depot. That in turn has been replaced with something larger and more modern, which is just up Knight’s Hill.


After the fire station moved this building was used by the local church as its hall. Then in 1967, it was converted into a theatre space designed by Brutalist architect Owen Luder – we saw his work in SE6 as he was responsible for the Catford Shopping Centre.

It is a non professional theatre which aims to produce at least 15 shows a year. The building has just undergone a major restoration and awaits its formal reopening, I understand.

More about the South London Theatre at:

Now continue along this road which is Norwood High Street and take the next right.

Ahead on the left is the side entrance to our next stop. The main entrance is up the road and around the corner in Knight’s Hill.

Stop 9: West Norwood station

This is a somewhat uninspiring station.


Go through the overgrown portacabin of a ticket office and you go onto an open bridge with the almost bare platforms below.



The station was originally opened in December 1856, as part of the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway which linked into existing lines at Crystal Palace and Balham.

At first it was called Lower Norwood but it was renamed on 1 January 1886. As the area became developed the new residents disliked the connotation of “Lower” and so as explained above the station got renamed “West Norwood” which led to the whole area changing its name..

The line from Victoria to Crystal Palace was electrified in 1911 by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway using an AC overhead wire system. But with the creation of the Southern Railway in 1923, they inherited two different electrification systems and opted to standardise on a third rail DC system used by the London and South Western Railway. The line here was converted to this in March 1929.

The original station buildings were demolished in 1969, and replaced with these rather awful prefabricated buildings.

Now if you are at the main ticket office (or what passes for one) turn left and continue up Knight’s Hill. Our next stop is soon on the right.

Stop 10: Number 76 Knight’s Hill (former Royal Cinema)


Just here is an unusual kind of place – an auction room. Not what you expect to find in deepest south east London. But in fact this building started off life as a cinema, according to Cinema Treasures. First called The West Norwood Picture Palace it was opened prior to 1929. Then it was renamed Cosy Cinema in 1933 and the Royal Cinema in 1937.

The Royal Cinema was closed in 1955. The auditorium survived but the front section was demolished and replaced by a garage forecourt, which explains today’s odd layout. Since around 2000, Rosebery’s Auction Rooms operate from the former auditorium.

Now continue along Knight’s Hill and soon on the left you will see our next stop.

Stop 11: Norwood Bus Garage

Although it does not look like it, there has been a bus garage here since 1909 when the London General Omnibus Company first opened one here. This makes it one of the oldest motor bus garage sites.


The building was however rebuilt entirely in the early 1980s and looks like one of those bus stations you get in provincial English towns. Not really much more to say about it.


Now on the Knights Hill side of the bus garage, there is a patch of rough garden, which is our next stop.

Stop 12: Norwood Bzz Garage

This is a community run garden created to attract bees – The Norwood Bzz Garage. There is an interesting analogy. The bus garage is as busy as a bee hive, and the buses coming home at dusk are just like bees and a bee hive at the end of the day.


Above the garden is a banner with a poem by Carol Ann Duffy called “A Rare Bee”


This is more significant than it first appears. The banner has been coated with a new product branded PURETi, which is a harmless substrate made of Titanium Nitrate. This substrate uses light to activate the agent which then transforms NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) into harmless by-products (Water and Carbon Dioxide) and mineral nitrates (Calcium Nitrate) which is in effect fertiliser. Rain runs down the banner and falls on the Bzz Garage garden below taking the Calcium Nitrate with it.

We are now at the end of our SE27 walk. I knew that the cemetery would be rewarding but it was nice to find some other interesting features like a “Waterloo” church, the old and new libraries, an old tram depot and a newish bus garage plus a theatre in a very old Fire Station. Shame I did not mange to find any blue plaques!

There are various buses here for onward travel or else just return down Knight’s Hill to West Norwood station.

SE26: Taking the waters (in Sydenham?)

SE26 is Sydenham. A bit of a sprawling place and another one of those districts which is quite hard to place on a map. We start at the Post Office, 44 Sydenham Road and which is in fact our first stop.

Stop 1: Sydenham Centre

I think the Post Office once took up the whole of this building but now it is in just a part and the rest seems to be called “The Sydenham Centre”


According to Lewwisham Council’s website:

“The Sydenham Centre is a vibrant community space that holds a mix of local organisations, events, activities and services for local and vulnerable people.

The Centre’s main focus is around arts, dance, physical movement and wellbeing activities.

The Sydenham Centre provides the following:

  • day activities for people with learning disabilities
  • micro-brewery which provides training and employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities
  • hireable activity space.”

One interesting feature is the mosaic on the exterior which celebrates all things Sydenham, from Camille Pissarro and Ernest Shackleton to bomb damage.


There are some 11 roundels in total and at the left there is a key to the various elements of the mosaic.


This indicates the artist is Oliver Budd of Budd Mosaics

The company was established by mosaic artist Kenneth Budd in 1951 and more than 60 years later second-generation mosaic artist Oliver Budd designs and creates custom-made mosaics for home and abroad.

Here is a link to their website:

Now interestingly according to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, this was the site of a cinema which opened in October 1910 as The Queen’s Hall Electric Theatre. It was taken over by the Army Service Corp. in the spring of 1917, during the First World War, and it was closed. It didn’t reopen until August 1919. In late 1936, alterations were carried out and it was reopened in January 1937 as the Classic Cinema.

It was renamed Naborhood Cinema in May 1939 (what a great name!). It received some slight bomb damage in 1943, and was closed. It never reopened and was demolished in August/September 1953. And as we have seen Sydenham Post Office was built on the site and now having been downsized, the building is largely a community facility.

Now go as if you were turning right out of the Post Office and head down Sydenham Road until you reach Girton Road. Our next stop is at the dead supermarket at the corner.

Stop 2: site of another cinema, 72-78 Sydenham Road


According to Cinema Treasures, this too was the site of a cinema. Opened in August 1931, as the State Cinema, it was built for and designed by A.C. Matthews. It was opened on 1st August 1931. He was also responsible for the couple of cinemas we saw in SE19.

It was taken over by Excelsior Super Cinemas in October 1933 and then in March 1949, they were taken over by the Granada chain. It was renamed Granada in October 1949.

The Granada was not split up nor turned over to bingo and carried on as a single cinema until it closed in April 1971. It was demolished later that year. A Safeway Supermarket was built on the site. This later became Somerfield and finally a Co-operative Food store. Today it is closed.

Now head back along Sydenham Road and a little past the Post Office you will see a railway bridge. Turn right just before that for our next stop.

Stop 3: Sydenham station

This is another of the stations built by the London and Croydon Railway which took over much of the alignment of the Croydon Canal  The first station here opened in 1839 and was located to the south of the railway bridge.

With the construction of the branch to Crystal Palace in the early 1850s, the country bound platform  was resited to its current position, north of the railway bridge. The London bound platform remained with a station building on Sydenham Road by the bridge. This meant the station had an unusual staggered platform arrangement.

Today the station building on the bridge has long gone and the main station building is down the side street on the right. This is just before the bridge on the country bound side of the tracks. It presumably dates from the 1850s when the line was rebuilt.



Today if you go onto the station you will see the platforms are staggered but not in the way they used to be.



The reason the London bound platform looks a bit spartan is that it is relatively new.


The northbound platform only dates from 1982 when British Rail decided to construct a replacement platform 90 meters north, parallel to Peak Hill Gardens. This was because the retaining wall at the original location was beginning to collapse.

Now go back to the main road and turn right. you will see a roundabout ahead of you. And to the right you will see a distinctive building with a dome. This is known locally as Cobb’s Corner and is our next stop.

Stop 4: Cobb’s Corner



This used to be Cobb’s Deparment Store. The store was started by Walter Cobb as a small draper’s shop in 1860. It gradually grew until it became a fully fledged Department Store building. This corner became the main entrance in 1902. The shop was very badly damaged by bombing in October 1940 and although it was rebuilt the store gradually declined.

Cobb’s continued to trade until 1981 which is kind of surprising as Sydenham never developed in to a major shopping centre.

There is an excellent piece in Cobb’s on the Sydenham and Forest Hill Local History site.

Now return to the roundabout and go down the main road on the left. This is Westwood Hill. Our next stop is soon on the right hand side.

Stop 5: St Bartholomew’s Church


According to architectural guru, Pevsner, this church dates from 1827 – 1832 and is of stock brick. Pevsner does not rave about this church, but nor is there any withering comment.

In the church grounds, near the entrance to the church, is the grave of 10 men who died during the rebuilding of the Crystal Palace in Sydenham in 1853 when the scaffolding they were on collapsed.

But I guess its main claim to fame is that the church features in the 1871 painting by Camille Pissaro called “The Avenue, Sydenham”. This painting is owned by the National Gallery and is one of a number Pissaro painted around here when he was staying locally in what today we call SE19.

Our next stop is almost immediately next door on the right.

Stop 5: Number 12 Westwood Hill


You will see there is a blue plaque. This denotes the fact that antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton lived here.


Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874 – 1922) was a polar explorer who was involved in three British expeditions to the Antarctic. He was born in County Kildare, Ireland and his  father, a newly qualified doctor, moved the family here to Sydenham when Ernest was ten.

Ernest Shackleton has an extensive Wikipedia entry –

According to this, his first experience of the polar regions was as third officer on Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition 1901–1904, from which he was sent home early on health grounds.

During the second expedition 1907–1909 he and three companions established a new record of getting the farthest south – to the latitude 88°S, around 100 miles from the South Pole. This was regarded as the largest advance to the pole in exploration history. Also, members of his team climbed Mount Erebus, the most active Antarctic volcano. For these achievements, Shackleton was knighted.

After the race to the South Pole ended in December 1911 with Roald Amundsen’s conquest, Shackleton turned his attention to the crossing of Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. To this end he made preparations for what became the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17. Disaster struck this expedition when its ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed before the shore parties could be landed. The crew escaped by camping on the sea ice until it disintegrated, then by launching the lifeboats to reach Elephant Island and ultimately the inhabited island of South Georgia, a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles and Shackleton’s most famous exploit.

In 1921, he returned to the Antarctic with the Shackleton–Rowett Expedition, but died of a heart attack while his ship was moored in South Georgia. At his wife’s request he was buried there.

Our next stop is right next door and also has a blue plaque.

Stop 6: Number 14 Westwood Hill


This blue plaque is for Sir George Grove, who could not have been more different from Shackleton.


Sir George Grove (1820 – 1900) was an English writer on music, best known as the founding editor of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Grove was trained as a civil engineer, but his love of music drew him into musical administration. When responsible for the regular orchestral concerts at the Crystal Palace, he wrote a series of programme notes from which eventually grew his musical dictionary.

He edited the “Dictionary of Music and Musicians” which was first published in four volumes (1879, 1880, 1883, 1889).

The second edition, in five volumes, was edited by Fuller Maitland and published from 1904 to 1910, this time as Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians. It has gone through several editions since. The latest print version runs to 29 volumes. In recent years it has been made available as an electronic resource called Grove Music Online.

Grove was also involved in the creation of the Royal College of Music in 1882 and was its first Director.

He died here aged 79 on 28 May 1900, in the house in which he had lived for nearly 40 years.

Now continue along Westwood Hill and take the first turning on the right – Jews Walk. Our next stop is a little way down on the right hand side.

Stop 7: Number 7 Jew’s Walk

Number 7 is nestled in a garden surrounded by trees and scrubs.


But you can just make out a blue plaque. This notes that socialist campaigner Eleanor Marx lived and died here.


She was the youngest daughter of Karl Marx. She was a socialist activist who sometimes worked as a literary translator.

There is a fascinating post here from the Sydenham and Forest Hill Local History site

It is by no means clear why she chose to live here but this piece does suggest that she was attracted by the name of the street given her Jewish heritage.

The piece also tells the sad tale of her suicide. In March 1898, after discovering that Edward Aveling, her partner and a prominent British Marxist, had secretly married a young actress in June of the previous year, she committed suicide by poison. She was 43. The piece mentions that Dr Henry Shackleton, father of Edward, was called when she was found dying.

Now go down the side road almost opposite – Longton Grove. When this bends to the left take the turning on the right – Longton Avenue. Soon ahead of you on the right you will see an entrance to a park. Go in there as it is our next stop.

Stop 8: Sydenham Wells Park


The name of this park is a bit of a giveaway, because this was once the location of a spa.


Keep walking though until you get to the formal garden bit.


Just beyond here is a stone with a water drain underneath. I guess this maybe something to do with one of the natural springs – or at least a reminder of what used to be here.


According to London Gardens Online:

“Sydenham Wells Park is near the former site of mineral springs that were discovered in the C17th, becoming a popular spa whose numerous visitors included King George III. The spa’s success led to the building of larger houses, and wealthy people began to settle in the area. The opening of Crystal Park encouraged further influx. Sydenham Wells Park opened as a public park in 1901 following a campaign to save the land from being built over by housing development.”

More info at:

Now head through the park and out the other side. You will either come out to Longton Avenue (in which case turn right) or Wells Park Road (in which case turn left). Go along Wells Park Road away from the park and soon on the left you will see a home set back off the road at a slightly lower level. This is our next stop.

Stop 9: Site of Upper Sydenham station


This house is pretty much all that is left of Upper Sydenham station which was on the line which went to Crystal Palace High Level.

The station was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in August 1884. It was temporarily closed as an economy measure in both World Wars (January 1917 – March 1919 and May 1944 – March 1946).

Although the line was electrified in 1925, it was never a major route and lost much of its traffic after Crystal Palace burnt down in 1936. The line was permanently closed in September 1954

The station building sits atop a tunnel and the platforms were quite a long way down. There is little to see now but you can go down to the tunnel mouth if you follow the signed path.


And then take a left into the woods


If you look carefully you will see the mouth of the tunnel, though it is blocked off now.


If you want to see what this station looked like before nature took over go to the fantastic Disused Station site:

This has lots of pictures of the station with its full complement of buildings and also just as a couple of forlorn platforms.

Now return to Wells Park Road and turn left. Continue to the end and at the main road you will see another road almost opposite with a pub at the corner. This is Crescent Wood Road, where we have our final two stops.

First up ahead on the left just after the green pathway is number 3.

Stop 10: Number 3, Crescent Wood Road


If you look carefully at the right hand end of the main house is a blue plaque. This notes that television pioneer John Logie Baird (1888 – 1946) lived here


He was a Scottish engineer and innovator. He was one of the inventors of the mechanical television, demonstrating the first working television system in 1926 and the world’s first colour transmission in July 1928, Whilst he was a great pioneer, it should be said the actual system he developed was a bit cumbersome and others would develop more workable solutions..

Fascinating fact: The demonstration of colour television in 1928 featured a young girl wearing different coloured hats. That girl was Noele Gordon who went on to become a TV presenter and actress, most famous for her leading role in the soap opera Crossroads.

Logie Baird had a  transmitter and TV studios at Crystal Palace but they were lost when the Palace was ravished by fire in 1936. I have not been able to confirm it but I guess he was living here because of his facility at Crystal Palace which is after all just up the road.

Our next stop is just across the street.

Stop 11: Six Pillars

Here we have a very striking modernist building called Six Pillars, because – guess what – it has six pillars at the front.


This is clearly rather special.


According to a February 2007 article in the Daily Telegraph

“Six Pillars was designed by Tecton, a London-based architectural practice led by the Russian émigré and master of the modern movement, Berthold Lubetkin. His best-known London works are the Penguin House at London Zoo and his apartment blocks, Highpoint, in Highgate, North London.”

“The main façade of the house, which faces the street, is a rectangle of concrete floating on six jaunty … pillars – whence the name – reached by a horseshoe-shaped drive. Outside it looks enormous. Internally, it spans 3,000 square feet, but [it has been likened] it to the Tardis in reverse. “It seems huge from the outside, but once you’re in, it’s not that big.””

“The four-bedroom house was built in 1934 as the residence of Jack Leakey, a former headmaster of nearby Dulwich College, and his wife. It is said that the pair’s ‘unconventional marriage’ may have influenced its unusual upstairs layout. Enter the double-volume entrance hall with its large window made up of small panes of glass, typical of the period, and a swooping curved concrete staircase leads to a choice of two separate wings, which were once ‘his and her’ bedroom suites.”


So that brings us to the end of our SE26 walk. I had not expected to find quite so much of interest, certainly not to find myself at such an iconic house, or find four “proper” blue plaques.

We are quite a way from where we started. you can return to the main road and catch a bus (Number 202) back to Sydenham. Or else you can follow a green passage that will take you done the hill to Sydenham Hill station which is served by local trains running between London Victoria and Bromley/Orpington. There are usually four trains and hour plus some extras in the peaks.


SE25: Once the Jolly Sailor …

SE25 is South Norwood, although if you were to ask most people round here they would probably call the area Norwood Junction after the main station here.

We start our walk at South Norwood Post Office which is 85 -87 High Street inside a Nisa convenience store.

Now turn right out of the shop and our first stop is just a little way along the High Street. It is the pub at the corner with Portland Road.

Stop 1: The Jolly Sailor

The Jolly Sailor looks like a fairly ordinary pub that has seen better days.


But down on the pavement in the High Street. There is a map


This has not weathered well but at the top it says this is an “1836 map depicting the road layout buildings and canal.”


This highlights how things were around here around the time of the closure of the Croydon Canal which had opened in 1809. So it was before the canal was filled in and much of the alignment used for the London and Croydon Railway which opened in 1839

Just around the corner is a local blue plaque to note that this is the site of the Jolly Sailor Inn – South Norwood’s first public building. Note the date is just after the opening of the canal.


And I should have added that when the railway first came through here the local station was called “The Jolly Sailor”.

Now cross over the High Street and head along South Norwood Hill which is the left turn from the High Street at this cross roads. Our next stop is soon on the right hand side.

Stop 2: Stanley Halls

There is quite a jumble of early 1900s buildings here on the right hand side of the road.


First you get to Stanley Halls which is a Grade II listed complex of Edwardian buildings built in 1904-11. The Halls include an art gallery, theatre hall and assembly rooms. The building was donated and designed for the people of South Norwood by William Ford Robinson Stanley (1829-1909), a prominent local inventor, industrialist and philanthropist.

The venue is managed The Stanley People’s Initiative, a charity established by the local community to re-open, manage, improve and restore Stanley Halls.



In the first porchway you see, there is an English Heritage plaque to W F R Stanley.


Stanley was largely self-taught. He dedicated Sunday to learning; starting with architecture and theology and moving on to English, astronomy, geology, chemistry, mathematics and French.

In 1854 he set up his own business in Holborn making mathematical and drawing instruments. He invented the t-square, the panoptic stereoscope and a straight line dividing machine. This apparently won first prize in the International Exhibition of 1862 and guaranteed his fortune.

Stanley moved his factory to South Norwood in the mid 1870s. It operated here until 1926 when the company moved to New Eltham. The business survived until 1999 when it went bust.

Interestingly though the Stanley knife is not one of William Stanley’s inventions, nor one of the products made by W F R Stanley’s company. The Stanley knife comes from an american company which for many years was called The Stanley Works. This had been formed by a merger of Stanley’s Bolt Manufactory, founded by Frederick Trent Stanley in 1843, and the Stanley Rule and Level Company, founded by Frederick’s cousin, Henry Stanley, in 1857.

Next door to the Halls is the Trade School. Originally a technical school for 12 – 15 year olds, today it is part of a Harris Academy.


Architectural commentator Pevsner describes the halls and School as “the most memorable buildings in South Norwood … a vigorously eclectic group in red brick and stone with two towers and a series of gabled roof lines adorned with the extraordinary motif of copper flowers in flower pots…The rather ponderous free style (miles away from contemporary Arts and Crafts) relies partly on debased Italianate detail, with long oval panels and pink marble columns as recurrent motifs, but also includes eccentricities such as elliptical arches.”

Pevsner does not quite say this is terrible architecture, nor that it is so bad, it is good. I guess the sub text is basically this not bad for an amateur who does not know what he is doing.

Now go back to the cross roads and keep straight on. This is Portland Road. Go under the railway bridge and look back to the parapet to your left.

Stop 3: The London to Croydon Atmospheric railway


Here you will see a local blue plaque, noting the connection with a strange little footnote in railway history – the Atmospheric Railway. We heard about this in Forest Hill.


The plaque notes that this is near the location of Norwood Pumping Station. These railways had a continuous pipe located centrally between the rails and pumping stations were used to create a vacuum in the pipes. A piston extended downwards from the trains into a slit in the pipe, with trains blown towards the pumping station by atmospheric pressure. The pumping station here was apparently in a Gothic style, with a very tall ornate tower that served both as a chimney and as an exhaust vent for air pumped from the propulsion tube.

One of the issues with the atmospheric railway was that it was not possible to have tracks crossing each other. Thus south of here the railway created one of the first flying junctions to take one line over another and so avoid the problem.

With hindsight one can see that this was a technology doomed to failure, but you have to admire the Victorian spirit of ingenuity.

Now keep walking along Portland Road and our next stop is soon on the right.

Stop 4: site of a Cinema, 44B Portland Road

This modest looking doorway was the entrance to an early cinema.


According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it first opened as the New Electric Theatre in February 1911, then it closed from the time to time and went through various names: the Electric Theatre (1917) the Mascot Cinema (1919), La Rosa Cinema (mid 1920s) and back to the Electric Cinema in 1928. Closed again by 1930, it reopened in 1934 as the Regent Cinema, finally closing in February 1935.

During World War II it became a restaurant, and after the war became a kitchen for preparing school meals. From March 1963, it was converted into a youth club, known as the Socco Cheta Club, offering snooker, television and an activities room. The Socco Cheta Club was closed in 2005, and the building was put up for sale. It does not seem to have any presence now but the Socco Cheta sign is still over the door, so it looks like no one else has taken this building on.

Now continue walking along Portland Road, our next stop is further on the right hand side at the corner of Stanger Road.

Stop 5: site of Picture Palace cinema, 110 Portland Road


This was another early purpose built cinema opened in 1910 as the Central Hall Picture Palace. In design it was almost identical to the Central Hall Picture Palace in Tooting (later the Classic cinema). From the late-1930’s, it was known as the Central Cinema. In 1953, it was became the Rex Cinema and it was closed in 1956.

The building was converted into a reception hall, known as the Portland Room, then it was converted into a furniture showroom. This closed by 2006 and after a couple of years the buildings was redeveloped into eleven flats, which were ready for occupation in June 2009.

Now just past the side turning on the right is our next stop.

Stop 6: Number 118 Portland Road


Notice the rather odd plaque between the first floor windows.


William Walker (1869–1918) was an English diver famous for shoring up the southern and eastern sides of Winchester Cathedral.

In the early 20th century, the cathedral had been in imminent danger of collapse as it sank slowly into the ground, which consisted of peat. The Wikipedia entry explains

“To enable bricklayers to build supporting walls, the groundwater level had to be lowered. Normally, the removal of the groundwater would have caused the collapse of the building. So, to give temporary support to the foundation walls, some 235 pits were dug along the southern and eastern sides of the building, each about six metres deep. Walker went down and shored up the walls by putting concrete underneath them. He worked six hours a day—in complete darkness, because the sediment suspended in the water was impenetrable to light.

Between 1906 and 1911, working in water up to a depth of six metres (20 feet), he shored up Winchester Cathedral, using more than 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks, and 900,000 bricks.

After Walker finished his work, the groundwater was pumped out and the concrete he had placed bore the foundation walls. Conventional bricklayers then were able to do their work in the usual way and restore the damaged walls.”

Now return to that side street (Stanger Road() and follow this all the way to the end which will bring you to our next stop.

Stop 7: Norwood Junction station

Ahead you will see the secondary entrance to Norwood Junction station. Before we venture into the station, have a look at the local blue plaque.



This celebrates that this was the world’s first reinforced concrete underpass, opening in July 1912. I must say I find this a bit surprising. Surely reinforced concrete had been used for tunnels before then.

If you go down the steps to the left you can take the underpass  to the other side of the station.


An attempt was made a while back to brighten up the walls with photographs of local scenes, but sadly much of this has been damaged.



Norwood Junction station is worth a look.

As already mentioned the first station here opened in 1839 on the London and Croydon Railway and was called Jolly Sailor. It was further up the line from the present station at the north end of the High Street, adjacent to a level crossing. It was renamed Norwood in 1846. Following construction of lines to Crystal Palace that station closed in June 1859 and was replaced by a new station on the current site.

It became Norwood Junction and South Norwood on 1 October 1910 but then just plain Norwood Junction in 1955.

It has platforms numbered 1 to 7. The track serving platform 1 also has a platform face on the other side, which is numbered Platform 2, but trains do not open their doors at that side. Wikipedia says this is due to the live rail being on the side nearest to Platform 2. But interestingly there are places like this on the London Underground, like Morden, where the doors open on both sides. I am not sure that Platform 7 is actually used much.

Now that the station is served by London Overground trains going to West Croydon it has been rebranded and resigned with roundels. Odd really, as most of the trains stopping here are not actually London Overground but Southern or Thameslink.


There is a nice spot on platform 1 where you see three roundels on three different platforms.


The main station building is on platform 1.


As we head away from Norwood Junction station, you will see the subway coming up


Then ahead, note the Aldi supermarket on the left. This is the site of the Odeon cinema. This opened in July 1937 and was a typical Odeon style with cream tile cladding, with several horizontal bands of jade green Vitrolite tiles and a central window above the entrance with decorative grillework.

The cinema closed in February 1971 never having been split into smaller screens or converted to bingo. The site was redeveloped as a Safeway supermarket and flats. It became a Somerfield and now is an Aldi.


At the end of Station Road, there is a nice clock tower which is our next stop.

Stop 8: The Clock Tower



As the sign says this was erected by “the people of South Norwood to commemorate the Golden Wedding anniversary of Mr and Mrs W F Stanley on 22 February 1907”.


Continue along the High Street as if you had turned left out of Station Road. The main road becomes Selhurst Road. Turn right into Park Road. Our next stop is ahead on the left. Stop by the corner of Holmesdale Road.

Stop 9: Crystal Palace Football Club

Here we have Crystal Palace Football club, although the main entrance is on the other side in Whitehorse Lane. That is a bit further to walk, so I am planning to stop here.


Although Crystal Palace Football Club is not actually by the site of Crystal Palace, it can trace its roots back to that building.

As we heard in SE19, inside the grounds of the original Crystal Palace is a stadium. This has been rebuilt but in a previous life the stadium was used for football and between 1895 and 1914 it was the home of the FA Cup Final. The Crystal Palace Company who owned the venue, wanted a professional club to play there and tap into the crowd potential of the area. So in 1905, they formed a new club called Crystal Palace F.C., to play at the stadium.

Wikipedia tells me that when the First World War broke out the Palace and grounds were seized by the armed forces, and in 1915 the club were forced to move by the Admiralty. They found a temporary base at the Herne Hill Velodrome. Although other clubs had offered the use of their ground to Palace, the club felt it best to remain as close to their natural catchment area as possible. When Croydon Common F.C. were wound up in 1917, the club took over their old stadium (called the Nest), but in 1919 they began the purchase of the land on which they would eventually build Selhurst Park, which is where we are standing now.


Go back down Park Road and when you reach the main road carry on across the cross roads into Tennison Road. Our next stop is a little way down on the right

Stop 10: Number 12 Tennison Road

At Number 12 you will see there is a blue plaque.


Not just a local one but a proper Greater London Council one and it is for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930), the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who lived here from 1891 to 1894..


No doubt the area was somewhat different then. But Conan Doyle had already created Sherlock Holmes by then and published two novels – A Study in Scarlet (1887) and the Sign of Four (1890) and whilst he was living here he wrote a number of the short stories featuring Holmes, initially published in the Strand magazine . The novels were not initially successful and it was the short stories,that made both Holmes and Conan Doyle household names. Once he had such success with Holmes he was clearly able to move away from South Norwood.

Now return to Selhurst Road and turn left. Continue along here and turn right into Dagnall Park a street of rather grand houses. Keep going down Dagnall Park, going under the railway. Our next stop is just after Edith Road on the left.

Stop 11: Number 30 Dagnall Park


It is hard to see this house and the reason we have stopped here. But if you look carefully through the foliage, you will see a blue plaque.


This is to the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 – 1912).

He was mixed-race. His father was a Sierra Leone Creole physician called Daniel Taylor. His mother was called Alice Martin and she was not married to Taylor. She named her son Samuel Coleridge Taylor after the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but without the hyphen. It seems that he adopted the hyphen, following a printer’s typographical error.

Coleridge-Taylor was particularly known for his three cantatas based on the epic poem, Song of Hiawatha by American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Unfortunately Coleridge-Taylor sold the rights to Song of Hiawatha outright and so received no royalties.

His situation contributed to the formation in 1914 of the Performing Rights Society which aimed to get revenues for musicians through performance as well as publication and distribution of music.

Now return to Edith Road and turn right. As you walk along you will see the side of Selhurst station, our final stop.


This by the way is the staircase to the platform which serves the London bound fast line and so it is hardly ever used, as fast trains do not normally stop here. It really only gets used in an emergency or when there is engineering work on the slow lines.

At the end of the street turn left and go under the bridge. The entrance to the station is just on the left.

Stop 12: Selhurst station

The line here was opened in 1862 by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway as a more direct route to and from the newly opened Victoria station, thus avoiding Crystal Palace and Norwood Junction. The station here did not however opened until May 1865. The lines were quadrupled in 1903. Pevsner says the station is circa 1900, so I guess it was rebuilt at the time of the quadrupling.


Up at platform level, there are three platforms: one serving outbound slow line and an island platform serving London bound slow line and outbound fast line and a further platform for the London bound fast line. The latter has lost its canopies but they have survived on the other platforms. However the one on the country bound slow line seems to have been shortened.



It does at least feel like a proper station, even though the up fast line platform is denuded. You can see the top of that staircase we saw from the street.


Across the road from the station entrance to the entrance to the huge Selhurst depot.


This is built on the site of “the Nest” – Croydon Common F C’s Ground which was later taken over by Crystal Palace F C. By the way it was called the Nest because Croydon Common F C wore red shirts leading them to be known as “The Robins”.

Well that brings us to the end of our SE25 walk. There were some unexpected treasures like the Stanley Halls and the local plaque to William Walker. Plus two “proper” blue plaques to Conan Doyle and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

We are now at Selhurst station so this will give you plenty on onward travel options.

SE24: Re-Cycling

SE24 is Herne Hill – or as my father would have said Ernill. This is another place I have been through many times but not actually walked around – until now.

We start our walk at the Post Office which is at 31 – 39 Norwood Road. Turn right out of the Post Office and head towards the railway bridge but do not go under it. You will see to the left is a pedestrianised street. This is Railton Road. Go down here and our first stop is soon on the left.

Stop 1: Number 222 Railton Road

It may not look much now but once there was an old cinema here.


This was the Herne Hill Cinema opened in December 1913. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, in 1932, noted cinema architect George Coles was engaged to design a new proscenium and a new facade for the building. It re-opened in December 1932 as the Grand Cinema and was renamed Pullman Cinema in September 1953, finally closing in June 1959. It always seems to have been an independent operation.

It was a bingo club until 1986. The building was then shuttered and remained empty, becoming increasingly derelict. There were hopes that it could be converted into a small repertory theatre, but this did not happen due to lack of funding. Eventually, after a 12 year campaign to save the building, it was demolished in September 1999. The narrow facade facing Herne Hill Station was saved and used as a restaurant/take away, though now it seems to be empty. Housing was built on the auditorium site.

Now walk a little further on and our next stop is over the road on the right.

Stop 2: Herne Hill Station

This rather handsome station building is the original dating from 1862 when the London Chatham and Dover Railway first got here.


It has lovely decorative brickwork and a tower, which apparently was there because it housed a water tank for the steam engines. The canopy over the entrance is a modern replica,. If you go on Streetview at the moment, you can see the facade without its canopy so it cannot be that old.

Although the main building dates from the 1860s the station at track level has been remodelled a couple of times – first in the 1880s when two additional tracks were added and again in the mid 1920s when the layout was rationalised to the present pair of island platforms – one set for northbound trains and the other for southbound trains thus allowing for cross platform connections between Victoria and Blackfriars/Thameslink trains..


Unlike many of the other stations in this part of south east London, Herne Hill has retained both buildings and canopies on the platforms.

Outside the station is a flower shop.


This recently became a bit of a cause celebre when Network Rail wanted to use the site for an electricity substation. Local uproar seems to have ensured that this is not to happen and the flower shop can continue trading. More on the following link:

Now walk a little way along Railton Road and take the first left (Rymer Street) which takes you to Dulwich Road where you turn right. Our next stop is a little way on the left. You will see a road entrance into Brockwell Park, go down there and you will be at Brockwell Lido.

Stop 3: Brockwell Lido

Brockwell Lido dates from the late 1930s and was built by the London County Council


It was designed by Harry Rowbotham and T. L. Smithson in the Moderne style, replacing the Brockwell Park bathing pond. Almost identical in design to the Victoria Park Lido in Hackney, it opened in July 1937.


The Lido closed in 1990 due to cost saving measures by Lambeth Borough Council. A Brockwell Lido Users group was established in 2001 to lobby for reopening. The Lido management was put out for tender and two former council employees won the contract and reopened the Lido in 1994. It is now managed in partnership with Fusion, a registered charity.


Now there are a couple of things to see in the Park

Stop 4: The Walled Garden

Head into the park from the Lido and look out for this little early 19th century building which is called “The Temple” This was a feature of the park around Brockwell House which we shall get to shortly


Behind the Temple is a walled garden which was originally the kitchen garden for the big house providing fruit, vegetables and flowers. When the estate became a park it was converted into a flower garden.

The entrance is a gateway to the left of the Temple.

It is a tranquil place which looks well looked after.




Now head out and ahead in the distance you will see our next stop which is the big house.

Stop 5: Brockwell House

As has been hinted Brockwell Park was the grounds of a large house. Here it is.



Brockwell Hall was built between 1811 and 1813 and was the country home of glass merchant John Blades.

The land house and surrounding estate were acquired by the London County Council (LCC) in March 1891 and opened to the public the following June. The local MP Thomas Lynn Bristowe was one of the prime movers in the land being purchased as a park. Sadly at the opening, he died of a heart attack on the steps of the hall.

Just inside the entrance by the cafe is a bust of this eminent man.



But all is not what it seems. Originally this was outside by the main entrance to the park. It was atop a column with a statue of Perseverance holding a laurel wreath up towards the bust . But in 1958 the LCC wanted to widen the road and so the column was taken down. rather than re-erect it the Council gave the plinth and bust to the Bristowe family who placed it in in their country estate, Brookhampton Hall, near Cambridge.

And there it remained until April 2012. After a campaign by the Herne Hill Society and the Friends of Brockwell Park and in conjunction with the Bristowe family the bust was removed and conserved and on 6 June 2012 (the 120th anniversary of Bristowe’s death) it was unveiled in its new home here.

There is a lovely little 20 minute film about the story of Thomas Bristowe coming “home”.

Now head back down the hill and towards the main gates.

You will see this rather dramatic piece of street art across the road. This work is by Phlegm and is inspired by dutch artist M C Escher (1898 – 1972)


This mural is part of Dulwich Outdoor Gallery, a collection of works in the Dulwich area by top street artists. We saw quite a few of these in SE22.

Go under the railway and our next stop is just on the right after the railway bridge.

Stop 6: Half Moon 

This is the Half Moon Hotel.


It is a fine example of a late Victorian pub. It dates from 1896, as can be seen at the top of the big ornate gable.


Architectural expert Pevsner describes it as “a cheerful corner pub … generously decked out with bay windows, balconies and marble columns”.

Now cross over and head up the street called Herne Hill

Our first stop is a fair way along this road, after St Paul’s Church.


Past the church, you will pass a parade of shops and our next stop is a little after this on the right hand side.

Stop 7: Number 26 Herne Hill


Why you may ask are we stopping here. Well look carefully on the left of the driveway and you will see this little plaque.


This indicates that John Ruskin lived in a house on this site.

John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) was truly an eminent Victorian – a leading English art critic, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist.

He was born in Bloomsbury but his childhood was spent here from 1823 where he was largely educated at home by his parents and private tutors, The house he lived in was demolished around 1912. It was clearly not thought to be worth preserving at the time, though the LCC decided to commemorate the connection in 1925 according to plaque.

Our next stop is just a little further on the right hand side.

Stop 8: Number 51 Herne Hill

The frontage to Herne Hill can hardly be seen but go round the side and you will see there is a blue plaque.


This is to commemorate Sax Rohmer, author of the Fu Manchu series of books.


Sax Rohmer was a pen name used by Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward (1883 – 1959). Ward had been a songwriter and comedy sketch writer for music hall performers and in 1911 he was the ghost writer for the biography of music hall star Little Tich (whose blue plaque we saw in NW4)

Published using the persona of Sax Rohmer, the first of a series of stories featuring the master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu (“The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu”) was serialised from October 1912 to June 1913. It was an immediate success, creating an archetype of the evil criminal genius and mad scientist, as well as giving a name to a kind of moustache.

The first three Fu Manchu books were published in four years from 1913 to 1917 and they were soon adapted for the big screen. Rohmer carried on producing works of fiction but resisted writing more Fu Manchu stories until 1931 when he was persuaded to revive the character. He went on to write at least 10 more books featuring Fu Manchu.

The Fu Manchu series has drawn criticism from the Chinese government and Chinese communities in the US amongst others for what was seen as negative ethnic stereotyping. But we do have to recognise that at the time these books were written attitudes were somewhat different to today.

Now continue along Herne Hill and just a little further along you will see a side street called Casino Avenue. Turn down here as this is our next stop

Stop 9: Sunray Estate

Casino Avenue is the main street in a cottagy style 1920s housing development called the Sunray Estate.


This has an interesting history. But before we delve into that do note if you look into the distance you can see another iconic housing estate – Dawson Heights – which we visited in SE23.


The Sunray estate was built by Camberwell Borough Council as homes for heroes returning from the Great War. The land was owned by the Dulwich Estate who had a significant role in determining what was developed.

The land was the grounds of an elegant mansion originally called Casina House (meaning little house) but later known as Casino House. So it would seem the name is not connected to gambling. The grounds were landscaped and included a pond at the bottom of the hill.

The story of how this came to be developed as a council estate is explained at

Confusingly the side streets off are also called Casino Avenue, but stick to the road you came in on.


Amazingly the hedges have survived and the front gardens have not been lost to parking.


If you follow the road through the estate, at the bend your will see an alleyway.


Go down here and you will find yourself in Sunray Gardens


This has at its centre the pond which survived from the garden of the original house.


There were lots of ducks and also a heron, when I visited.


Go though the gardens. Come out by Beckwith Road and go down that street and the end turn right into Half Moon Lane. Then a little way further on take a right in to Ruskin Walk and our next stop is at the next corner.

Stop 10: Number 2 Warmington Avenue

This house has two Southwark Blue Plaques.


One is for writer and poet Richard Church (1893 – 1972)


Now I have to confess I do not know his work. He published his first poem in 1917. He wrote no less than 16 novels and three volumes of autobiography over a career which spanned more than 50 years. He lived here as a teenager and went to school locally.

The other plaque is for a man called Sam King who could not have been more different from Richard Church.


Sam King (1926 – 2016) was Jamaican and having served in the Royal Air Force in the Second World war, came to Britain in 1948 as one of the 492 passengers on the Empire Windrush seeking work in post war Britain. He helped pave the way for the Notting Hill carnival, Britain’s first multicultural street festival and he.went on to become the first black mayor of the London borough of Southwark, in 1983.

Here is a link to his obituary in the Guardian:

Now return to Half Moon Lane. Turn right and soon on the left you will a side street called Burbage Road. Go down here. Our next stop is a little way down after the railway bridge.

Stop 11: Number 84 Burbage Road

You will see there is a blue plaque at Number 84.


This commemorates a man called Scipio Africanus Mussabini (1867 – 1927).


He was commonly known as Sam and was an athletics coach best known for his work with Harold Abrahams. In total, he led athletes to eleven medals over five Olympic Games. Mussabini is considered to be the first professional, paid coach in sport.

This house was Mussabini’s home from 1911 until about 1916 and backed on to the Herne Hill Stadium, where he worked as a cycling and athletics coach from the 1890s until his death.

In 1998, the Mussabini Medal was created, to celebrate the contribution of coaches of UK performers who have achieved outstanding success on the world stage

Stop 12: Herne Hill Velodrome

Just a little way further on the left you will find a small roadway and this leads to what was Herne Hill stadium or Velodrome.


Go down here and you will see the sign for the Velodrome.


And also another sign – I did not feel able to take photographs because of this.


Herne Hill Velodrome is one of the oldest cycling tracks in the world, having been built in 1891. Initially there was also a cinder athletics track inside the cycle track, and tennis courts within that. The tennis courts later became the site of a football/rugby pitch, although it is no longer used for that.

The Velodrome hosted the track cycling events in the 1948 Summer Olympics and was briefly the home of Crystal Palace Football Club during  the First World War.

Herne Hill Velodrome is different from ones built today –  a modern Olympic velodrome will have an inner circumference of 250m, and banking of about 45° whereas Herne Hill is more shallow being a concrete bowl measuring approximately 450m with the steepest banking of 18°.

The original 1891 grandstand survived until fairly recently but has now been replaced with a new structure.

So that brings us the end of our SE24 walk.

This was another of those postcodes which at first seems unpromising and yet there is a historic park and a number of interesting connections, such as John Ruskin and Sax Rohmer of Fu Manchu fame, not to mention an interesting “garden city” style housing estate.

For onward travel, you should retrace your steps along Burbage road and turn left into Half Moon Lane. Follow this and you will soon be at Herne Hill Station.

SE23: An odd collection

SE23 is Forest Hill – a place which many people will know from sitting in traffic as they crawl along the South Circular Road. We start our walk at the Post Office which lives in the W H Smith shop in Devonshire Road. It is right outside the station which is our first stop..

Stop 1: Forest Hill station


This station, opened by the London & Croydon Railway in June 1839, was originally called Dartmouth Arms (which was – indeed still is – the name of the local hostelry round the corner in Dartmouth Road).


The line was also used by the London and Brighton Railway from 1841 and the South Eastern Railway from 1842.

In 1844, the station was chosen by the London and Croydon Railway as the northern terminus of an experimental atmospheric railway which ran to West Croydon using static pumping stations and pipes into which pistons went which could propel the trains.

The London and Croydon Railway and the London and Brighton Railway merged to form the London Brighton and South Coast Railway in July 1846. The following year “atmospheric” working was abandoned, as hopelessly impractical. Then in 1845 the station was renamed Forest Hill for Lordship Lane.

The line was quadrupled in the 1850s with the fast tracks in the centre and the slow tracks on the outside. This involved the moving of the down platform and the creation of an island platform for the fast lines. There is no sign of that island platform as it was removed sometime in the 1960s.

In fact there is really nothing left of the old station apart from the platforms and that is because the station buildings were destroyed by bombing during World War II. They have been replaced by a rather boring utilitarian system built structure.





Now exit the station on the other side. Or if you have not gone into the station go under the subway next to W H Smiths. Either way you will end up in a street called Perry Vale which is the location of our next stop.

Stop 2: site of Glenlyn Ballroom, 15A Perry Vale


Today this modest looking doorway is the way in to a banqueting suite but once it was the entrance to a dance hall, called the Glenlyn Ballroom

In the early 1960s, many soon to be very famous names played there – including The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black.

More about this connection at:

There is also another rock music connection in Forest Hill. Francis Rossi was born here in 1949. According to the Notable Abodes site he had a house at 37 Lowther Hill, SE23 from 1968 to 2006, but it is a bit off our route to go visit.

Now head back to the other side of the tracks either by the subway or by following the roads (Waldram Place and Waldram Crescent).

There is a fun painting under the railway bridge


Love the Walrus and the “Walk this way” arrows pointing in opposite directions.

Once on the other side of the railway, you want to turn up London Road which is a right turn off Devonshire Road and the route of the South Circular Road. Our next stop is just on the left..

Stop 3: The Capitol


According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, this lovely building opened as the Capitol Cinema in February 1929. It was built for London & Southern Cinemas and designed by noted cinema architect John Stanley Beard. It had been intended for silent movies, but sound equipment was installed soon after opening. The stage was 22 feet deep and with three dressing rooms it allowed for variety shows to be staged.

It was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) from July 1933 and it was renamed ABC in December 1968. It finally closed in October 1973  The building stood empty for several years until it became a Bingo Club in February 1978. Bingo ceased in December 1996 and the building again stood empty and unused.

It reopened in May 2001 as a Wetherspoon’s pub called with stunning originality “The Capitol”. Wetherspoons put the pub up for sale and closed it in June 2014. But for some reason it reopened in 2017 and it is still trading as a Wetherspoon’s.




Our next stop is just across the road by the side of the Sainsbury’s building.

Stop 4: Theatrical Transformation

As the sign says this is a work called “Theatrical Transformation”


It explains it was inspired by the Horniman Museum’s collection particularly the objects related to transformation in all its guises.



Not sure this really works.

Now go back to London Road and turn right, where you will find Sainsbury’s.


Stop 5: The homes of Dame Doris Beale

Dame Doris Winifred Beale (1889 – 1971) was an English nurse, and Matron-in-Chief of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service for three years during the Second World War. In the King’s birthday honours list 1944 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a first in the Royal Naval Nursing Service.

According to Notable Abodes (which cites Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online) this was the address of her parents when she was born. Today Sainsbury covers the site.

The same source says that she died at 84 London Road, just a little further down the road, on the same side just before Honor Oak Road.


Now turn right down Honor Oak Road and take the first on the right. Our next stop is the first house on the right.

Stop 6: Number 2 Manor Mount


You have to look very carefully but you can just see a Lewisham maroon plaque hiding in the greenery to the left of the main door.



This commemorates that this was the home of Deitrich Bonhoeffer (1906 -1945)

According to his Wikipedia entry, Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian and writer, Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later, he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being accused of being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and then executed on 9 April 1945.

You may wonder what connection he had with this part of South East London. It seems he spent a couple of years in the mid 1930s as a pastor of two German-speaking Protestant churches in London: the German Lutheran Church in Dacres Road, Sydenham and the German Reformed Church of St Paul’s, Goulston Street, Whitechapel.

Now return to Honor Oak Road and continue to walk up the road. Our next stop is a short way on the left.

Stop 7: Ashberry Cottage Honor Oak Road

This was apparently once home to the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) and his mistress, Mrs Dorothea Jordan.


From a distance it looks like there is a proper English Heritage Blue Plaque but closer inspection reveals it is no such thing..


And maybe it would never get an official one if London Remembers website is to be believed:

This says “The Duke and Mrs Jordan lived at various addresses in and around London but we could find Ashberry Cottage in no creditable source.” It also says “the original cottage (of which we can find no picture) was demolished in the 1820s to make way for the present building (in photograph). It was incorrectly named for Joseph Ashbarry who owned it in the 1830s and 1840s.”

Now retrace your steps back to London Road and turn right our next stop is a short way along on the right.

Stop 8: The Horniman Museum


The Horniman Museum is an odd mix of anthropology, natural history and musical instruments, and rather a lot of stuffed animals and birds, plus an aquarium.


It started out as the collections of Frederick Horniman (1835 – 1906) who lived in this location. Frederick had inherited his father’s Horniman’s Tea business, which by 1891 had become the world’s biggest tea trading business. The cash from the business allowed Horniman to indulge his lifelong passion for collecting, and which after travelling extensively had some 30,000 items in his various collections, ranging from natural history, cultural artefacts and musical instruments. He started opening the collection to the public two days a week in December 1890 and it went from there.

He commissioned a purpose built gallery in 1898. Designed by Charles Harrison Townsend in the Arts and Crafts style,  it opened in 1901. This is the bit with the distinctive tower and mosaics.


This mosaic mural is called Humanity in the House of Circumstance and was designed by Robert Anning Bell. Consisting of more than 117,000 individual stone pieces and measuring 10 feet × 32 feet, it was assembled by a group of young women over the course of 210 days.

The theme of the mosaic is personal aspirations and limitations. According to this site

“The three figures on the far left represent Art, Poetry and Music, standing by a doorway symbolising birth, while the armed figure represents Endurance. The two kneeling figures represent Love and Hope, while the central figure symbolises Humanity. Charity stands to the right bearing figs and wine, followed by white-haired Wisdom holding a staff, and a seated figure representing Meditation. Finally, a figure symbolising Resignation stands by the right-hand doorway, which represents death.”

In 1901, Horniman gave the 15 acres freehold estate, museum and the art and natural history collections to London County Council for use by the people of London.

In 1911, an additional building to the west of the main building, originally containing a lecture hall and library, was donated by Frederick Horniman’s son Emslie Horniman. This was also designed by Townsend.

A Grade II listed conservatory from 1894 which was moved from Horniman’s family house in Croydon to this site in the 1980s.


The Horniman Museum contains the CUE (Centre for Understanding the Environment) building. This opened in 1996 and was designed by local architects Archetype using methods developed by Walter Segal. The building has a grass roof and was constructed from sustainable materials. It also incorporates passive ventilation.


A further extension opened in 2002, designed by Allies and Morrison.

More about the story of the Horniman at their website:

The entrance is now in the gardens rather than the impressive buildings on London Road.

There is a nice little fountain by the old main entrance.


It seems this was renovated by the Tallow Chandlers’s Company – one of the historic City Livery Companies.


According to their website, the company was originally formed in about 1300 to regulate oils, ointments, lubricants and fat-based preservatives and to manage candle making using tallow (animal fats). There is another company, the Wax Chandlers who were involved with candle making but they were more up market as they only worked with beeswax.

Also just here is the beginning of a “Sundial Trail” which goes through the gardens behind the Museum.


This is Number 1 on the trail.


Now go into the gardens up the wide pathway as this is our next stop.

Stop 9: Horniman Gardens

The Horniman Gardens has a variety of features including some themed gardens.



But the thing that is really worth coming for is the view. You get a great vista of central London from the terrace by the bandstand (which by the way dates from 1912)



And a great view of Dawson Heights which we saw in SE22. In a way it looks much more impressive from a distance.


And you will see the odd sundial lurking – like this one.


Another feature is this “sound garden” where you can play various strange looking things and make sounds, not necessarily very musical though!




Now retrace your steps back to London Road and cross over you will see a sign for the Green Chain walk.


Head up this away from the Horniman and after going through the edge of a housing estate, you will get to the start of Sydenham Hill Wood.

Stop 10: Sydenham Hill Wood and site of Lordship Lane station


This is a ten hectare wood on the northern slopes of the Norwood Ridge. With the adjacent Dulwich Wood, Sydenham Hill Wood is the largest remaining tract of the ancient Great North Wood, a natural oak woodland which covered a vast area almost from Deptford to Croydon.

Here’s a little piece from London Wildlife Trust

What I have not been able to find out is why it is called the Great North Wood, when it is south of London. I guess maybe it has something to do with the fact that it is north of that other great expanse of old woodland in the Weald of Sussex and Kent which is south of here – on the other side of the North Downs.

Now follow the path along and you will soon see a path striking out to the right, which goes over a bridge.


Go down here and you will see a panel explaining the connection with a painting by Camille Pissarro, called Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich. Painted from this vantage point in 1871, it shows a long lost scene of a train in a railway station.

The picture is now owned by the Courtauld Institute of Art.



According to the Courtauld website:

“Pissarro spent over a year in London, fleeing the Franco-Prussian war. He painted sights around his home in Norwood, including this view of Lordship Lane Station (now demolished). The station had opened only a few years earlier, catering to visitors of the Crystal Palace and to the residents of this growing south London suburb. In the painting, rows of new houses border areas of undeveloped land.

Standing on a footbridge over the tracks, Pissarro depicted the train leaving the station. His view however is curiously devoid of people. He originally included a man mowing the grassy slope to the right, but painted him out.”

The station itself was on the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway. We saw the location of the terminus in SE19.

Lordship Lane station was actually operated by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. When it opened in September 1865, it took its name from the main road nearby Lordship Lane becomes London Road just around here.

The station was closed during the First World War between January 1917 and March 1919 and again during the Second World War in May 1944 after it suffered heavy bomb damage during the Blitz. The station was repaired and temporarily reopened in March 1946.

It was permanently closed, along with the rest of the line, in September 1954. The railway crossed London Road (just beyond the southern end of Lordship Lane itself) on a bridge and the station was just to the southwest of the road. The station was demolished shortly after closure. The site is now occupied by housing and as far as I can establish there is nothing left of the old railway line or station.

So that brings us to the end of our SE23 walk. When I started I thought that the only thing of significance would be the Horniman Museum and gardens but it turned out there were quite a few other interesting things, not least the (possible) connection with King William IV before he was King, not to mention the ballroom which hosted many music acts who would go on to stardom.

For onward travel go back to London Road. there are a number of buses you can get from here – in particular you can get the 176, 185 or 197 to Forest Hill station for rail connections.

SE22: To bus or not to bus, that is the question

SE22 is East Dulwich, which confusingly is actually north of Dulwich Village. At its core is a very long road called Lordship Lane. In fact it is rather too long to expect you to walk all the way, so we will have to ask the question “to bus or not to bus”.

We start our walk at East Dulwich Post Office, 74 – 76 Lordship Lane, Turn left out of the Post Office and walk along Lordship Lane.

Part A: around the northern bit of Lordship Lane

This part of Lordship Lane is an interesting mix of old and new style shops – almost no chains, a few real old school type places and some modern day tat shops, but then there are some interesting looking cafes and food shops.


Our first stop is at the corner of Spurling Road, which is on the right.

Stop 1: Fight Club – inspired by the Massacre of the Innocents


This is a really dramatic piece of street art. It is called Fight Club and is by Conor Harrington. It is inspired by Charles Le Brun’s picture “The Massacre of the Innocents” which is in Dulwich Picture Gallery. This is one of a series of pieces which came out of a project called Dulwich Outdoor Gallery in 2013. We will hear more about this later on.

Keep going to the little roundabout which marks the end of Lordship Lane and turn right, where you will see an expanse of grass, known as Goose Green.


This was common land near the old village (or was it a hamlet?) of East Dulwich. The poor with no land of their own would use it to graze their livestock, amongst which would have been geese – hence the name..

The arrival of the railway nearby in 1868 kickstarted the area’s development. The green was purchased in 1868 by Camberwell Vestry at the same time as Peckham Rye Common to save it from development.


There are a couple of interesting building alongside the green.

Stop 2: St John the Evangelist Church

On the left you will see St John’s Church. This too dates from the 1860s


However it was practically destroyed by fire bombs in 1940. It was rebuilt under the direction of J .B. Sebastian Comper (1891 – 1979), son of the famous gothic revivalist Sir Ninian Comper (1864 – 1960). The latter, although well into his 80s, designed some of the features used in the restoration of the building.

More on the history of the church on their website

Stop 3: Dulwich Baths

On the right you will see Dulwich Baths.


The baths opened in 1892, and are said to be London’s oldest public baths to have remained in continuous operation. The baths are Grade II heritage listed

Now return to the end of Goose Green where you started and turn right into Grove Vale. Our next stop is almost immediately on the left.

Stop 4: Number 72 Grove Vale


Hard to believe now but this was the site of an old cinema.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site. there was first a public hall called The Imperial Hall in January 1902. This was converted into a full time cinema in September 1910 and was renamed Pavilion Cinema in 1923. It was closed in July 1935, to be demolished and replaced by a new Pavilion Cinema was built on the site, which opened in July 1936

The new Pavilion Cinema was initially independently operated but was soon taken over by Odeon in August 1937. It was re-named Odeon in around 1939 and continued as a cinema until October 1972

In June 1973, the building was sold to the Divine Light Mission and became a Palace of Peace Temple to the followers of 15 year old Guju Maharaj-Ji from India. In 1978, the building was purchased by the London Clock Company and converted into offices and a warehouse. The firm moved out of the building in July 2000. The building was demolished in April 2001, and a housing project was built on the site.

Continue along Grove Vale and soon you will see a railway bridge. This is where our next stop is.

Stop 5: East Dulwich station

The station here was named Champion Hill when it first opened by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1868.

The station has 2 entrances, one to each platform. The ticket office forms the entrance to the southbound (or “down”) platform.


Going under the bridge you find the London bound side has just a ticket machine and a departure display board.


The way up to the platforms is not inspiring on either side.



And when you get up to the platform level, it is even more depressing, if that is possible. Just bus shelter like structures, with nothing of the original station.



Not exactly attractive and welcoming.

Now return to the street and turn left. Soon you will see a little park on the left. This is St Francis Park and just before you go in, there is a sign with information about the place we are now headed to.

Stop 6: Dulwich Hamlet Football Club


To get to the actual ground, go through this park.


As you go through the park, have a look to your right and you will see a little sculpture.



It is kind of a joke in that the road outside the park is called Dog Kennel Hill.

On the far side of the park you will see the modern stadium, and a large Sainsbury’s.


The club was founded in 1893 and played at various locations until 1902 when they came to this area. Between 1902 and 1912 they played at Freeman’s Ground on Champion Hill before moving to an adjacent plot of land, where they played until the opening of the Champion Hill stadium in 1931. .

In 1991 that stadium had to be demolished, as it could not easily be brought up to the tighter safety standards introduced as a result of the Hillsborough disaster. During the 1991–92 season the club played at Tooting & Mitcham United’s ground, whilst a new, smaller stadium was built on the same site, opening for the start of the 1992–93 season.

The new stadium was funded by the sale to Sainsbury’s of land that had once been the club’s training pitch, situated immediately behind the large covered terrace on the north side of the ‘old’ Champion Hill, by the landlords King’s College London. The new ground remained in King’s ownership, with the club having given up the lease on the old ground in return for the new ground being built.

There are two plaques on the wall. First is to the founder of the Football Club, “Pa” Wilson (1865 – 1924).


Second is a more recent Southwark blue plaque to Edgar Kail whose claim to fame is that he was the last non-league player to represent his country at full international level. That was in 1929.


However it seems that he was not actually the last amateur player to appear in the English national team – that was one Bernard Joy in 1936 according to the various references cited in Wikipedia.

In February 2014, Champion Hill stadium was bought for £5.7m by a development company called Meadow Residential. In 2018 the company forced the club out of the ground, resulting in a temporary groundshare again with Tooting & Mitcham. Although Southwark Council and others are keen for the club to remain, it is not currently clear how this will be resolved.

Now we are going back to explore a bit more of Lordship Lane. As we are right by a football club named Hamlet, it seems only right to ask “To bus or not to bus, that is the question”

It is quite a long road, so I would suggest getting a bus. Go back to the main road and at the Quorn Road stop catch a 40, 176 or 185 bus to Dulwich Library (It is 8 stops).

In passing you will see on the right hand side, East Dulwich Picturehouse which is at 116a Lordship Lane


Whilst East Dulwich has lost its purpose built cinema, it has acquired this new picture house. It is a conversion of a public hall – the Thomas More Hall.


It opened in May 2015 and boasts a cafe and garden according to the sign.

Also watch out for some other pieces of street art work. This one is the Queen and corgis on a hoverboard by Catman. This is on the right around Number 182.



This seems to be a one off not connected with the more arty ones of Dulwich Outdoor Gallery. In fact there is a version of this particular image in Whitstable High Street, Kent which we happened to see recently when we were down there.

Then on the other side of the road on the side of the Lordship pub in Colwell Road is this (you will need to look back):



This is by an american artist called Mear One. It is her interpretation of The Madonna of the Rosary by Bartolomé Murillo in Dulwich Picture Gallery and was also produced for Dulwich Outdoor Gallery in 2013.

Get off the bus at Dulwich Library

Part B: Lordship Lane around the Library

Stop 7: Dulwich Library

This was a Passmore Edwards library. We have come across others of his philanthropic works in Acton (W3) and Shepherds Bush (W12).


The library was designed by Charles Barry Jr. in his capacity as architect and surveyor to Dulwich College, who donated the site on which the library stands. It was built as a memorial to the Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn, the founder of Dulwich College and Alleyn’s School. The foundation stone of the library was laid by the prominent actor Henry Irving on 24 September 1896, and the library was subsequently opened by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury, on 24 November 1897.

This is a curious location for a library as it is in neither the centre of Dulwich nor East Dulwich. But it is a destination for buses. Seeing Dulwich Library as a destination is misleading for the unwary who might be expecting more of a “place” around the library.

Now head towards the Plough pub diagonally opposite the Library and look to the right at the wall at the end of the car park.

Stop 8: Lady Digby on her deathbed

This is part of Dulwich Outdoor Gallery (DOG) which consists of a collection of murals painted by international contemporary street artists, based on Baroque paintings in the Dulwich Picture Gallery collection. The artworks are dotted around Dulwich – but not the Village as far as I can see.

The DOG was established by Ingrid Beazley (1950 – 2017), a pioneer of promoting street art.



The work here is by MadC. It is her take on the Van Dyck picture of Lady Digby on her deathbed, painted in 1633.

Our next stop is just across Lordship Lane from the Plough pub.

Stop 9: Number 354 Lordship Lane

Nothing particularly interesting about this building itself.


But look, there is a Southwark blue plaque. This is at first floor level and hard to get a decent picture of because of the bus stop and shelter.


This was where Enid Mary Blyton was born, although the building that is here today is of a later vintage.

Blyton was best known for creating the character of Noddy and for the ‘Famous Five’ stories. Her works have been translated into nearly ninety languages and have sold more than 600 million copies worldwide. She has not fared well in more modern times being accused of racism and sexism. There has apparently been some judicious rewriting in recent times, golliwogs have become goblins, children are scolded not beaten and characters of Dick and Fanny have been renamed as Rick and Frannie.

Return to the bus stop and catch a 176, 185 or 197 (the 40 terminates at Dulwich Library and the 197 has joins Lordship Lane here) for two stops to Overhill Road..

Part C: the far end of Lordship Lane.

Having got off the bus at Overhill Road walk back to the turning of that name. Just on the wall ahead of you there is a little blue plaque.



We will hear about the connection between Bon Scott and Overhill Road in a short while but first we have a rather dramatic housing development to look at.

Stop 10: Dawson Heights

Keep going along the road on the left hand side and follow the road as it goes up hill. Soon on the left you will see a massive development.


This is Dawson Heights. I can’t help feeling the name would be great for an Australian soap opera.


It is actually two massive blocks: one called Bredinghurst and the other Ladlands, designed for Southwark Council by Kate Macintosh.


Curious names – With Ladlands, one has the image of load of lads wandering around. Not sure how the other name is pronounced by it could be “Breeding hurst” in which case this is for the families!.

The Estate was constructed between 1968 and 1972 and contains 296 homes – 112 one-bed, 75 two-bed, 81 three-bed and 28 four-bed flats, Sitting on a hillside, every flat has a view to the north and about two thirds have a view to the south.

Do go into the estate. Follow the road round Bredinghurst and you will see the Ladlands block. Go down the path to the left of that and you get a fantastic view of central London.


There is an interesting article about the ups and downs of this estate:

Head back onto Overhill Road and at the far end of the estate you get a great view of Canary Wharf looking along the road.


Now just around here is number 67 Overhill Road.


This is actually the place associated with the singer Bon Scott (1946 – 1980), he Scottish born, Australian singer and songwriter with hard rock band AC/DC from 1974 until his death here in 1980.

It is a strange story as told in Wikipedia:

“Some time during the late evening of 18 February (1980) and early morning of 19 February, Scott, 33, passed out and died. He had just visited a London club called the Music Machine (currently known as KOKO). He was left to sleep in a Renault 5 owned by a friend of Scott’s, Alistair Kinnear, at 67 Overhill Road in East Dulwich. Later that day, Kinnear found Scott lifeless, and alerted the authorities. Scott was rushed to King’s College Hospital in Camberwell, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The chronology of events on 19 February and when exactly Scott was found dead has been challenged by Jesse Fink’s book Bon: The Last Highway, which quotes UFO guitarist Paul Chapman as having been informed early that morning by Scott’s friend Joe Fury that Scott was dead. Kinnear said he found Scott in the evening. Chapman claims Scott and Fury were with him the previous evening of the 18th and Scott left his apartment to buy heroin, never to return.”

If you want to read some more about this odd tale, here is a link to an extensive article:

Now return to Lordship Lane (you can cut off the corner by going down Melford Passage). Turn left when you reach Lordship Lane. Our next stop is on the left just near where the South Circular Road joins, right by the closed down Grove Tavern. I have driven along this part of the South Circular many times but only now have I actually walked round here.

Stop 11: Number 549 Lordship Lane


At first glance this looks like a washed out old Victorian villa but it is no ordinary Victorian villa.


Officially its name is “The Ferns” but it is also known as the “Concrete House” – a grade II listed building,and believed to be the only surviving example of a 19th century domestic concrete house in England.

The Concrete House was built in 1873 by Charles Drake of the Patent Concrete Building Company. In 1867 the builder had patented the use of iron panels for shuttering rather than timber.

It became derelict in the 1980s and was on the Heritage at Risk Register from 1994 to 2013 when it was removed following its successful repair and conversion to five flats in shared ownership.

Now take the side turning to the left which is Underhill Road.

Stop 12: Number 58 Underhill Road

Our final stop is a little way down on the right.


This was the home of novelist C S Forester.


C S (Cecil Scot) Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith (1899 – 1966) known for writing tales of naval warfare such as the Horatio Hornblower series, featuring a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic wars, as well as the novel, The African Queen, later made into a film with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.

Forester was born in Cairo and, after a family breakup at an early age, moved with his mother to London, where he was educated at Alleyn’s School and Dulwich College, so this may have been the time he lived here. He began to study medicine at Guy’s Hospital, London, but left without completing his degree. Around 1921, after leaving Guy’s, he began writing seriously using his pen name.

He moved to the United States during the Second World War and continued to live there until his death. Many of the Hornblower books were in fact written when he was living in the States.

So that brings us to the end of our SE22 jaunt. We have seen some interesting street art, plus heard of some famous people with SE22 connections. Sadly even with hopping on two buses we could not squeeze in No 36 Forest Hill Road – birthplace of William Henry Pratt, better known as horror movie actor Boris Karloff!

We are now on the border with SE23 Forest Hill. It is probably easiest to jump on another bus (176, 185 or 197) to get to Forest Hill for onward travel.

SE21: Picture this

SE21 is Dulwich which centres on the Village and the College.

We start our walk at Dulwich Village Post Office, 47 Dulwich Village (yes that is the name of the main street running through the “Village”)

Our first stop is a little way to the north, so turn right out of the Post Office and continue along the road until you reach the railway bridge with the station building on your right..

Stop 1: North Dulwich Station


The rather elegant station building sits over the railway lines below and was designed by Charles Barry Junior. The line here was built between 1864 and 1868 by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR). The station building is Grade II listed as is the K6 telephone kiosk which you can just see inside the portico.

And on the bridge parapet opposite the station, there are some shields in a number of places.


In each group, the shield on the left is that of the LBSCR and is an amalgam of four key places served by the railway company:

Top left represents the City of London (Cross of St George and Sword of St Paul); Top right is Brighton (two dolphins); Bottom left is Portsmouth (star and crescent) and finally bottom right is the Cinque Ports (three half-lions/half-ships). The reason for this is Hastings is one of the Cinque Posts and was the furthest east the railway company got along the south coast.

The shield on the right is that of Dulwich College. – or  Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift as it would have been known when the bridge was built. Hence I guess the letters A and C in the middle shield. The College wielded a huge influence over the development of the area, including determining what the railway was able to build.

Today much of the land around Dulwich Village is still owned by a single organisation – The Dulwich Estate. This is one of the successors to the historic charity Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift, which was founded in 1619. A major reorganisation resulted in the reconstitution of The Dulwich Estate as an independent registered charity in 1995.

More on the history of the Dulwich Estate on their website:

Downstairs the station has retained its original platform canopies



They are simple but effective.

Before we leave here, I think I should mention one thing that has been troubling me. Why is this called North Dulwich station when the next station up the line north towards London is called East Dulwich. It seems odd to say the least that East Dulwich is north of North Dulwich.

Now retrace you step to the Post Office and turn left into Calton Avenue.

You will be able to see our next stop ahead on the right.

Stop 2: St Barnabas Church

This is a surprising sight. A very modern Anglican Church and not one built in the immediate post war period.



The old church of St Barnabas (built 1892 – 1905) was destroyed by fire in December 1992. The fire was so severe that only the outer walls and the tower were left standing and these were demolished in early 1993.

According to the church website, the new building is a little smaller than the old, being 42 metres long, 20 metres wide and 14 metres tall, while the glass spire rises another 19 metres above the apex of the roof. It is set further back from the road, and is slightly angled from the axis of the old Church to be orientated to the cardinal points of the compass, a medieval tradition often seen in English village churches.

In front of the Church is an entrance area, where the outline of the old tower and walls can still be seen. On the right, part of the old south aisle wall still stands. The Reception area curves around from that wall, making the link from the old Church to the new. The front part of the Church is the Barnabas Chapel which seats 50. The main body of the Church seats 400 (including the choir) and is built on an octagonal floor plan around a central altar. The East end is occupied by the organ and choir stalls. Three dimensionally the Church is built as a central barrel vault with two smaller flanking vaults, spanning onto masonry piers of red brick. Above the central vault is the glass spire, constructed of 6cm x 4cm stainless steel box sections welded together to form a tapering octagon. The spire lets down light into the heart of the Church during the day, and is illuminated from within at night.

One interesting point to note about this church is that it is not at the centre of Dulwich Village but a little away. That is because there is also a chapel in the grounds of the old college (which we shall see shortly) and the large parish church was only built as the population expanded in the 19th century.

Now return to Dulwich Village and our next stop is ahead at the junction to your left.

Stop 3: Dulwich Burial Ground

This cemetery was established in 1616 and planned by the Elizabethan actor/manager, Edward Alleyn, as part of his charity, Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift.


The burial ground is unusual in that there is no church. Burials have taken place since 1616 however the earliest visible grave stones and monuments date from the early eighteenth century.


It was declared full in 1858, and only a few more burials were allowed, the last in 1918. It remains largely untouched since that time. It is like a quiet country church yard yet it is within five miles of central London. Sadly it is not normally open to the public, but there is an extensive information panel of the Dulwich Village side of the grounds..


Now continue along the street called Dulwich Village which runs to the right of the grounds

Stop 4: The Crown and Greyhound

Soon on the left you will see an imposing late Victorian pub,


This dates from 1895 and according to architectural expert, Pevsner, replaced two early 18th century inns. One would have expected the village to have more than this one big pub but so far as I can see this is it. However there is a building just over the road that is now restaurants and looks like it could have been a pub.

Now return to the Burial Ground and turn right going along the other side, which is Court Lane.

Stop 5: Number 3 Court Lane Gardens, Court Lane

Our next stop is just along on a little loop road off of Court Lane. At Number 3 Court Lane Gardens you will see there is a blue plaque.


This is a Southwark Blue Plaque for the birth place of Phyllis Pearsall (1906 – 1996)


She was a British painter and writer but who is best known for creating the iconic A – Z map.

The story goes that by 1935, she had become a portrait painter but became lost in London while using the latest map she could find, which was 17 years old. This stimulated her to produce a new map to cover the rapidly expanding area of London, including places of interest such as museums, bus routes etc.

She claimed that the work involved walking 3,000 miles to check the names of the 23,000 streets of London, waking up at 5am every day, and not going to bed until after an 18 hour working day.

We take it for granted now that main roads are shown larger than side roads on city maps but I believe she was the one who popularised this idea. She also added house numbers to the main roads to help locate addresses on long streets.

In 1966, she turned her company, the Geographers’ A–Z Map Co, into a trust to ensure that it was never bought out. This aimed to secure the future of her company and its employees. Today although the company has embraced digital mapping, it still produces lots of paper maps. It claims to be the largest independent map publishing company in the UK, producing over 300 paper mapping publications.

Continue along Court Lane and go past the entrance to Dulwich Park. Our next stop is soon on the right.

Stop 6: Number 142 Court Lane

This detached house was the home of singer Anne Shelton (1928 – 1994).


And it has another Southwark Blue Plaque.


Shelton was a popular English vocalist, who is remembered for entertaining soldiers both on radio broadcasts, and in person, at British military bases during the Second World War. She was also the original singer in the United Kingdom of the song “Lili Marlene”, although this is a song more commonly associated with Marlene Dietrich.

The site Notable Abodes notes she was living here in 1953 and her website says she left to move to Sussex in February 1994, where she died later that year.

More about her here:

Now return to the gates of the park and go in

Stop 7: Dulwich Park


The park was created by the Metropolitan Board of Works from former farmland and meadows. The initial design was by Charles Barry Junior, but it was later refined by Lt Col J. J. Sexby. He also designed Battersea Park and parts of Southwark Park). Dulwich Park was opened in 1890 by Lord Rosebery. 

As you enter the Park take the right hand drive, and soon you will see some sculptural pieces – two on the left and one on the right.



These are titled Three Perpetual Chords. They date from 2015 and are by Conrad Shawcross.


As the sign explains they were commissioned as a legacy to the sculpture Three Forms divided by a Circle by Dame Barbara Hepworth. This had been in the Park but was stolen in 2011, it is presumed by metal thieves.

Now head out of the park though the Old College gate. Our next stop is right opposite.

Stop 8: Dulwich Picture Gallery


The gallery was designed by Sir John Soane and opened to the public in 1817. It is the oldest public art gallery in England and was made an independent charitable trust in 1994. Until this time the gallery was part of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift. There is still a reminder of this in the gates.


Alleyn bequeathed the college of a collection of works including portraits of the kings and queens of England, 26 of which are still in the Dulwich Gallery collection according to their website. Then another actor William Cartwright (1606–1686) bequeathed a collection of 239 pictures, of which 77 are now identifiable at Dulwich.

But the Gallery we see today really took off because of one of the most successful art dealerships in London during the late 18th century – the partnership of Frenchman, Noël Desenfans (1745 – 1807), and his younger Swiss friend, the painter, Sir Francis Bourgeois (1756 – 1811).

According to the Gallery’s website: “In 1790 the pair were commissioned by Stanislaus Augustus, King of Poland, to form a Royal Collection from scratch. They devoted the next five years exclusively to this task during which time Poland was gradually partitioned by its more powerful neighbours leading in 1795 to its complete disappearance as an independent state. The King was forced to abdicate, which left the two dealers with a Royal Collection on their hands.

Bourgeois and Desenfans strove to resolve their situation in two ways. In private they sold individual works from their Polish stock and replaced them with further important purchases. In public they sought a home for their “Royal Collection” approaching, amongst others, the Tsar of Russia and the British Government. When it became clear that they would not be able to sell the collection in its entirety, they began to think to whom they might bequeath it.

This became more pressing after Desenfans’ death in 1807, which left Bourgeois as the sole owner. At that date there was no National Gallery, so the key candidate was the British Museum. However, Bourgeois found its trustees too ‘arbitrary’ and ‘aristocratic’ and so he decided to leave his collection to Dulwich College instead, despite him having no obvious connection with the school. More important than the destination was the stipulation in the will that the paintings should be made available for the ‘inspection of the public’. So it was that Dulwich Picture Gallery – England’s first purpose-built public art gallery – was founded by the terms of Sir Francis Bourgeois’s will upon his death in 1811.”

Do go if you have the chance. It is quite small but there are some wonderful paintings.


By the way this red colour dates from 2013 and was the original colour used in the gallery, having been found under layers of paint.

There is usually a special exhibition of some sort going on and in the middle of the area used for this you will find a chamber which is the mausoleum of the founders – Sir Francis Bourgeois and Mr and Mrs Desenfans.


You can see this from the main gallery but it is best to see it from within the special exhibition area.

Now go back to the cafe by the entrance gate and down the glass corridor past the cafe, following it as it turns left.

You pass a door which leads to Christ’s Chapel, more of which anon.


As you can see opening times are somewhat limited, although the chapel does have regular Sunday services also. At the end of the corridor there is a glass exit door, go through that and head out towards the street. You will see an old phone box on your right. This is a K2 design by Giles Gilbert Scott


Look inside and the phone box has the old fashioned Button A and Button B.


There is a significance about this being here.

If you look across the way you can see the back of the Mausoleum in the Gallery



At the time he designed it, Scott was a trustee of Sir John Soane’s Museum and it seems he was inspired by the domes on mausoleums in St Pancras’ Old Churchyard and Dulwich Picture Gallery which Soane had designed. Though as we saw in E18, Soane may have got this idea from a tomb in the church in South Woodford.

Turn right along Gallery Road and past the old buildings on your right.


There is an historic Southwark plaque.


There is an entry way to the right.Go in here and you will see the range of buildings.

Stop 9: Christ’s Chapel


According to the Dulwich estate website: “Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift … was the first of Alleyn’s Foundation buildings to be completed, being consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 1 September 1616.” Pevsner says that the chapel was remodelled and given an aisle in 1823.

In fact it seems the buildings round this courtyard are older than they look. They have been repaired and rebuilt over the years but the present stucco finish dates only from the 1820s and the cloister by the chapel and the Chateau like tower are even later dating from 1866. They are by Charles Barry Junior who you will recall was also involved in the building of the local station around this time.

You will also see a statue of Edward Alleyn with an unidentified boy.


This sculpture was created at the instigation of the Dulwich Society. An open competition was held in 2004 and the design of a local sculptor, Louise Simson was chosen. It was unveiled 9 October 2008 by the local MP who was then the Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell.


Head back to Gallery Road and our next stop is just over the way on the left.

Stop 10: The old Grammar School

This is one of the old college buildings. It dates from the 1840s and is now used as offices for the management of the Dulwich Estate.



Keep going ahead towards the junction with a marble memorial in the middle of the road and turn back on yourself to go down College Road.


Go past the Picture Gallery until you reach the crossroads. We are going to see where the College moved to in the 1860s.

At the crossroads you will see some signs on the road straight ahead.


Note this is a private road but also that there is a toll gate. It is a little too far to go down there but it is worth a mention as this is the last remaining toll gate in London and has been in existence since 1789.

The original tolls can be seen displayed close to the toll gate, by Tollgate Cottage. But in 2006 it went hi tech with equipment to enable automatic passage through the toll gate using either a Tag or by cash or card payment.

Stop 11: Dulwich College

Our next stop is right here on the other side of the main road. It is that complex of buildings set in large grounds.


Dulwich College was enlarged and rebuilt on this site in the late 1860s. Pevsner says this was one of the most ambitious school rebuildings of the period, made possible by the £100,000 provided by as compensation by the railway lines which ran through the college estate. The architect was none other than Charles Barry Junior. Since then more building have been added, as you can see if you turn right at the cross roads, go along a bit and look back.


By the way you may have noticed this main road, though not wide, is quite busy. That is because this is that collection of side streets known as the South Circular Road.


Now keep going along the main road and soon you will reach West Dulwich station, our final stop.

Stop 12: West Dulwich station

This is an understated elegant little station building which is on a completely different line from, and unconnected to, North Dulwich. I am sure that Alleyn’s College could not believe their luck that not one but two railway companies wanted to build over their land in the 1860s.


The line here ran between Herne Hill and Beckenham Junction and was built by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. The station when it opened in 1863 was simply called “Dulwich”. The prefix “West” was added in 1926 as a bit of tidying up by the recently formed Southern Railway.

Whilst North Dulwich is in a cutting, West Dulwich is atop an embankment. There once were proper buildings with canopies over the platforms. But today there are no original buildings, just little “bus” type shelters up at platform level, so it all feels a bit naked.


The platforms themselves are on concrete and metal beams. I have seen a picture dating from 1975 which shows some of the platform was wooden, but no doubt that all had to be renewed at some point.

By the way you get a nice view of the Crystal Palace television mast looking down the tracks.

So that brings us to the end of our SE21 walk. Dulwich is fascinating. The way in which the area looks and feels is inextricably linked to the history and development of Dulwich College. In many ways it does not feel like London and yet Dulwich village is so unlike a village in the countryside because of the college.

We are at West Dulwich station which has reasonably regular trains in towards Victoria or out to Beckenham and Bromley.

SE20: Alone Again, Anerley

SE20 is Anerley according to the Post Office, but it also includes Penge which is somewhat better known. Poor Penge has been the butt of comedians’ jokes for years. But then it is a funny sounding name. Just saying it out loud makes people snigger.

I came across a great website from a group called the Penge Tourist Board (PTB). The PTB is a community led group created to promote and improve culture, commerce and the environment for residents, visitors and businesses of Penge.

There is an interesting post on this site about the origins of the name Penge:

Penge it would seem is the only pre-English, British place name in Greater London. Most places around here have English names. Beckenham, Bromley, Croydon, Dulwich and Sydenham are all modern versions of place names which go back to Anglo-Saxon times. But Penge is older still. It derives from the British language spoken by the native population before the Anglo Saxon settlement, the language from which modern Welsh is descended.

The name has two parts. The ‘Pen’ part means “head” or “hill” or “high” or possibly “end”. The ‘ge’ part is a squashed survival of the word “coed” which means “wood”. So now you know!

We start our walk at Penge Post Office which is at 100 – 102 Penge High Street. Turn right out of the Post Office. Our first stop is soon on the right.

Stop 1: Empire Square/Blenheim Shopping Centre

Amazingly there used to be a variety theatre here in Penge, where now stands this ugly concrete shopping parade..


It was called the Empire and all there is to remind us of this today is a street name.


The strange thing about this square is that it is not really a square – rather it is a scrappy pedestrian way to a rather odd development called the Blenheim Centre, which sounds very grand but turns out to consist of a short Mall with about four shops.


The Penge Empire was designed by well known theatrical architect W G R Sprague. According to the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site, it had been conceived in 1913, but did not open until April 1915 due to the outbreak of World War One.

The Empire was taken over by Gaumont Theatres in May 1928 but continued in live theatre use, although at some point a projection box was built into the stage for the rear projection showings of films.

In December 1946 Moss Empires took over the lease of the Theatre and repaired some damage which had been caused in the blitz. The Theatre was sold on and eventually taken over by Essoldo Cinemas in 1949 reopening as the Empire Cinema in October the same year, still using the rear projection box on the stage.

In 1950, the theatre was renamed Essoldo and after it eventually closed in April 1960. the site was redeveloped.

Now keep going along the High Street and our next stop is just after the traffic lights.

Stop 2: Site of Odeon Cinema

Now on the right just past the Sainsbury’s supermarket is a J D Wetherspoons pub. This is built on the site of an old cinema.


Here stood an Odeon. Opened in July 1937, it was designed by noted cinema architect Andrew Mather and had seating for around 1,500. The facade was covered in opaque glass panels and there was a glass tower on each side of the entrance, which were illuminated from within.

The Odeon closed in September 1976 and was converted into a bingo club which survived until March 1990. The building was demolished in 1994 and replaced by this Wetherspoons pub called ‘The Moon and Stars’, which opened on 24 December 1994.

There was actually another cinema just a little further along. This was the Gaumont opened in 1910 as the Kings Hall, renamed Gaumont in 1955 and closed in 1958. The site has been redeveloped.

It is strange to think that in the 1940s and 1950s there were three places of theatrical entertainment in quite a short stretch of street and today there is nothing left of any one of them.

Now retrace your steps and turn left at the cross roads. Then turn right into Evelina Road

Just here on the right are a couple of pieces of street art.


The one right on Evelina Road is called “Jam” by Dan Kitchener. A first glance it is just a blur of colour but then you see it is a street scene on a rainy night.

And just behind is another one. This is called “Work” by DZIA.


There is quite of lot of this street art around. You just keep spotting it. It seems there are around 100 spray paint art works around Penge. There is even a trail you can follow more of which anon.

Now keep walking along Evelina Road and you get to the back of the Blenheim Centre. If you keep walking and follow the road round to the right you get to Blenheim Road.

According to the Notable Abodes site, Number 36 Blenheim Road was the childhood home of former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, from 1936 to 1958 – though when he lived here he was called William Perks. Notable Abodes notes the house has since been demolished – in fact the highest number house in Blenheim Road today in Number 6. So there’ll be no plaque to Bill round here, I guess.

At the end of Blenheim Road turn right and head back to the High Street. Our next stop is on the other side of the High Street and slightly to the right.

Stop 3: Penge Triangle

Over the road is a paved area which goes by the name of the Penge Triangle and which is dominated by this umbrella like thing.


This is supposed to echo the wing structures of a pterodactyl – a passing reference no doubt to the dinosaurs just up the road in Crystal Palace Park. It was created in 2001 and is actually a clock.


Our next stop is just along the High Street on the right. You cannot really miss this.

Stop 4: Former Free Watermen and Lightermen’s Almhouses

Standing in its own grounds protected from the riff raff of Penge by high fences and gates, here we have the former Free Watermen and Lightermen’s Almhouses.


As the name suggests, these were built by the Watermen and Lightermen’s Company – the City Livery Company for people who work on the river Thames. I had not really thought about this but the difference between Watermen and Lightermen is that the former carry passengers whilst the latter carry goods and cargo. (at least that’s what the Company website says)

These almshouses were for retired Company Freemen and their widows  Architectural commentator Pevsner says these were built in 1840/41 “when Tudor was the inevitable style for almshouses”. . They ceased to be an almshouse in 1973 when the residents moved to Hastings. Today there are 51 bungalows in Hastings, still providing housing for Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames or their widows/widowers.



There is a nice piece about the history of the almshouses and about how they ended up being built in Penge rather than New Cross as originally intended.

Continue past the former almshouses and our next stop is on the right.

Stop 5: St John’s Church

St John’s Church stands proud next to the almshouses and is a typical confident Victorian church. It dates from 1850 with additions made in the 1860s.


Pevsner does not exactly go over board with this church, noting “The best thing inside is the open timber roofs, those in the transepts especially provocative, with beams from all four directions meeting in mid air.”

Opposite the church on the other side of the main road is Penge’s war memorial.


A closer look reveals the poppies are not all they seem.


They are knitted!


Now go back over the High Street and down St John’s Road. Our next stop is soon on the right.

Stop 6: Queen Adelaide Court

This is a post war development on a site damaged by bombing.


Just above the name on the side of the building you will see a little medallion.


Note the Latin motto: Suum cuique”. This is often translated as “to each his own”.

Penge has had an interesting relationship with London, having been both in Surrey and in Kent. It was once connected to the parish of Battersea and historically was in the county of Surrey.

According to Wikipedia:

“Penge formed part of the County of London from 1889. In 1900 the local government arrangements in the County of London were reformed by the London Government Act 1899. Provision was made for Penge to be combined with either the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell or the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham in the County of London, to be combined with the County Borough of Croydon, or to form an urban district in the counties of Surrey or Kent. Had it become an urban district in Surrey, the County Borough of Croydon would have made it an exclave of the administrative county, and in the event it was transferred to Kent as an urban district.”

Then when London local government was reformed in 1965 Penge Urban District was merged in to the new London Borough of Bromley.

Bromley does not think it is really in London. And I guess this helps explain why virtually none of the street name plates have the mention of this being SE20 – a London postal district.

Going back to St John’s Road you will see another little plaque on the building, noting it won an Award for Merit in the Festival of Britain in 1951.


Our next stop is on the other side of St John;s Road.

Stop 7: King William IV Gardens (former King William Naval Asylum)

And here are some more Tudor style 19th century almshouses. Funded in 1847, designed by Philip Hardwick (best known for old Euston station) and paid for by Queen Adelaide, by then the widow of King William IV, these were for the widows of naval officers. William served in the Royal Navy in his youth and had the nickname of the “Sailor King”.


Oddly the street named King William IV Gardens seems to encompass the estate, with the little cottage style buildings looking into a green area, which can be seen through the fence (and which you cannot see in the photo!).


Pevsner says the Naval Asylum is  “not only more correct than Porter (the Watermen’s architect) could manage to be, but much more sensitively designed.”

Continue along St John’s Road and our next stop is ahead as the road turns to the left.

Stop 8: Penge East Station

Here we have a quite well preserved station in yellow London stock brick with accents of red and blue brick to decorate the main building.


This is one of two stations in Penge. Here we have Penge East. It was built by the London Chatham and Dover Railway in 1863. It was called Penge or Penge Lane, and was only renamed Penge East in July 1923, presumably when the newly formed Southern Railway found they had two stations called Penge.

When the line was built there was a level crossing but this was removed in about 1879 and the traffic had to find other ways to cross. The covered footbridge was presumably added when the level crossing was taken out as it dates from the 1880s.



Opposite the station you might have spotted some rather distinctive street art on the corner of St John’s Road. This is actually at the start of a trail you can follow. Here is a link::

A Street Art Guide To Penge

Immediately facing the station is ‘Golden Goddess’ by Carleen De Sozer.


Then back down St John’s Road you will see various pieces – by Artista, Chinagirl Tile & Dope.


There is one (just behind that grey car in the picture above) which does not appear in the Street Art Guide. It looks freshly painted.


This is by by TRUST iCON and is apparently called “Stop and Search”.

Now go back to the station and follow Station Road which then turns and becomes Crampton Road. Go to the end and then turn right into the High Street. Go under the first railway bridge and note the bricked up entrance on the left just before the pub.


Here we pass what I think was one of the original entrances to Penge West station. Turn left after the pub into Anerley Park. Note the other railway bridge ahead. This carries the line that goes into Crystal Palace.


And if you kept going along the road you would soon get to the end of Crystal Palace Park, near where we left off with the dinosaurs in SE19. (I think in fact those dinosaurs may actually be in SE20) .

Once round the corner, take the first left. Our next stop is straight ahead.

Stop 9: Penge West station

It has to be said that Penge West station is a somewhat less impressive affair that Penge East.


The building is meaner and when you get to see the platforms you find that country bound platform has lost whatever buildings it might have had.



The first station here was built by the London and Croydon Railway in 1839. Wikipedia suggests this was probably more for logistical reasons than anything else: the railway crossed the nearby High Street by a level crossing, and the station would have provided a place for trains to wait while the crossing gates were opened for them. The population of Penge was only around 270 at this time, not enough to make the station commercially viable.

The station was closed in 1841, and the level crossing was converted to a bridge soon afterwards. The entrance to the station was actually on Penge High Street, and not its current position. As we saw there is evidence of what looks like an original entrance.

The station was reopened by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway on 1 July 1863. This was the same day that the London Chatham and Dover Railway opened its own Penge Lane station. No doubt the Brighton company decided it ought to cash in on this location. Penge’s population had risen to over 5,000 and the arrival of Crystal Palace in the 1850s had also created a demand for improved transport.

This odd history probably explains why the next station down the line is so close. Look down the line and you can see Anerley station. This is where we are going to next (This image has been foreshortened by the camera and so over emphasises the closeness)


There are three ways you can get to Anerley station from here. You can return to Anerley Park and turn left and follow that. Or you can go back to the High Street and turn right and follow Oakfield Road and Annerley Station Road. Or finally you can hop on a train. There are usually 6 an hour..

Stop 10: Anerley station

Anerley station is even less impressive than Penge West, having lost all its original buildings. It must be quite a lonely station at night, living up to its name.



The station was opened originally as Anerley Bridge by the London and Croydon Railway in 1839.

There is a curious story about how this area came to be called Anerley according to Wikipedia. .

When the station opened, it was situated in a largely unpopulated area, but was built as part of an agreement with the local landowner. This may explain its closeness to what is now Penge West.

The landowner was William Sanderson, a Scotsman, and, when asked for the landmark by which the station would be known, it is said he replied “Mine is the annerly hoose”. According to the London Encyclopaedia, the name Annerley was a northern dialect word meaning “alone” or “lonely”.

The London and Croydon Railway amalgamated with the London & Brighton Railway to form the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in July 1846, and the station was rebuilt during the widening of the main line during 1849/50.

Now head up to the main road and cross the bridge (if you have come from the station platform or via Anerley Station Road.

Stop 11: former Anerley Town hall

Just by the railway bridge you will see an unlikely looking building which turns out to be the old Town Hall.


It seems odd to find a municipal building in such an out of the way place. This was built as Anerley Vestry Hall in 1878. It became the Town Hall when Penge Urban District Council was formed in 1900. It was enlarged in 1911 and it was used by Penge Council until 1965 when the area became part of the new London Borough of Bromley. It now houses Anerley Library, a various amenity groups.

Now go back over the bridge and a little way along the road you will see a park on the right. This is our next stop.

Stop 12: Betts Park


The park was created from land donated by Mr Frederick Betts, a local property owner. It opened in December 1928.

If you head into the park you will see a stretch of water.


There is a good information panel which explains the significance of this bit of water.


It is about the only part of the Croydon Canal to still have water in it.

The Croydon Canal opened in 1809 but it was never a commercial success and as we heard when we were in SE4 the route was taken over and used by the London and Croydon railway in the 1830s. But here the canal meandered a bit and so the railway took a straighter path, leaving this stretch behind. After the creation of Betts Park, this stretch was reinstated, although it does not go anywhere now.

This brings us to the end of our SE20 walk proper. SE20 turned out to more interesting than I expected with its long lost places of entertainment, two sets of almshouses and three stations plus a load of 21st Century street art. If you want to finish here we are close to Anerley station for onward travel. However I have to include a little postscript because not too far from here is a street with no less than three blue plaques!

Head through the park to the other side and when you get to the road turn right into Croydon Road. Alternatively you can go down Anerley Road to the cross roads and turn right into Croydon Road. You are heading for the fifth side street on the left after the cross roads – this is Thornsett road.


Number 12 Thornsett Road (once home of Thomas Crapper)


This was where Thomas Crapper (1837 – 1910) lived for the last 6 years of his life.


As it says on his blue plaque, he was an “Engineer” and “Developer of the controlled flow cistern”. But it turns out that there is no connection between the word “crap” and Thomas Crapper.

Crap is an old English word which was in use long before Mr Crapper started making and selling toilets in the 19th century.

Here is a link which explains:

There is a company today called Thomas Crapper making various toilet related items. But it is a reincarnation. and not the original company set up by Crapper in 1861 and which lasted until the 1960s.

Here is a link to the current company’s site:

Now strangely there is a also blue plaque on the house next door.

Number 14 Thornsett Road (once home of Walter de la Mare) 


This was the family home of the poet and writer Walter de la Mare between 1912 and 1925.


The Poetry Foundation site says: “As a poet de la Mare is often compared with Thomas Hardy and William Blake for their respective themes of mortality and visionary illumination.”

And finally just a little way along on the other side of the road is our third blue plaque.

Number 21 Thornsett Road: (former home of George Daniels)


This plaque is for George Daniels (1926 – 2011) and is unusual in who was responsible for putting up the plaque.


This plaque is attributed to The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, The British Horological Institute and the Antiquarian Horological Society. Quite an unusual bunch to be putting up a plaque.

According to Wikipedia: he was “a British horologist who was considered to be the best in the world during his lifetime. He was one of the few modern watchmakers who built complete watches by hand (including the case and dial). But it was his creation of the coaxial escapement for which he is most remembered. The movement, which removed the need to add a lubricant, has been used by Omega in their highest-grade watches since 1999”.

He was also interested in, and collected, classic cars.

More about him on this site:

So that really does bring us to the end of our SE20 walk. From Thornsett Road you can return to Croydon Road and hop on a bus to Norwood Junction or Penge  – or else maybe walk back to Anerley.