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.


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.

SE19 Crystal clear

SE19 is Upper Norwood in Post Office speak but this is really what I think most people would call Crystal Palace.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 51 – 53 Westow Street in that triangle of streets which forms the heart of the district of Crystal Palace.

Take a left out of the Post Office and go past the junction. Ahead is Church Road. Our first stop is just after the little park on the right.

Stop 1: Queen’s Hotel, 122 Church Road

Today there is a large hotel on this site.


But this was once home to French writer, Emile Zola (1840 – 1902).


One of the things Zola is remembered for is his part in the Dreyfus affair and it was because of this he ended up in London – here in Crystal Palace.

The Dreyfus affair was a political scandal that divided France from 1894 until its resolution in 1906. It had begun in December 1894 when Captain Alfred Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, Evidence came to light in 1896 that the real culprit was a French Army major named Esterhazy. But high ranking military officials suppressed the new evidence and a military court unanimously acquitted Esterhazy. The Army then accused Dreyfus with additional charges based on falsified documents.

This is where Zola comes in. He wrote an open letter to the French President, Félix Faure. which accused the highest levels of the French Army of obstruction of justice and antisemitism by having wrongfully convicted Alfred Dreyfus. This letter was headed “J’accuse” and was published on the front page of the Paris daily newspaper L’Aurore on 13 January 1898.

Zola wanted to be prosecuted for libel so that the new evidence in support of Dreyfus would be made public. He was brought to trial for criminal libel on 7 February 1898 and was convicted on 23 February. Rather than go to jail, Zola fled to England in July 1898 ending up staying here in Crystal Palace until June 1899 when he was allowed to return to France. It would seem he did not much like his time in London.

Dreyfus was retried in 1899 but it resulted in another conviction and a 10-year sentence. However Dreyfus was given a pardon and set free. Eventually it was established that all the accusations against Dreyfus were false and in 1906 he was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army. He later served during the whole of World War I, ending his service with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He died in 1935.

Now return back along Church Road and turn right into Belvedere Road

Go down the hill and turn left into Cintra Park

Our next stop is on the left as the road curves off to the right and where a little street called Rama Lane comes in

Stop 2: Number 28 Cintra Park


This house was the childhood home of Marie Stopes (1880 – 1958)


Marie Stopes was an author and campaigner for eugenics and women’s rights, founding the first birth control clinic in Britain in Holloway in 1921. It moved to Whitfield Street, W1 in 1925 – from where a Marie Stopes clinic still operates.

Interestingly Stopes was strongly against the termination of a pregnancy and during her lifetime her clinics did not offer abortions.

It also seems she was a bit of an idealist wanting to create a society in which only the best and the beautiful should survive. Consistent with this. she took against the partner her son had chosen. The woman was short sighted meaning the grandchildren might inherit the condition.

Now take a left here along Patterson Road. You will see the building at our next stop looming high above the houses.


Follow Patterson Road round as it turns right and then it becomes Milestone Road just before it turns to the left. A little way after the turn, there is an alley where you can see that large building a bit closer up.


At the end is Church Road, turn left here and our next stop is just on the left

Stop 3: former Granada cinema, 25 Church Road


This is the front of that large building we saw from below. It is strange to think that this fairly modest facade actually hides quite a large old cinema.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it opened as the Rialto Cinema in October 1928 with nearly 1,400 seats. It was built by an Australian, A.C. Matthews, who was also the architect. Two years later he also designed and built the adjacent Albany Cinema.

After various changes in ownership he two cinemas were taken over by the Granada chain in March 1949.

They employed noted cinema architect George Coles to modernise the Rialto building. It was re-named the Granada in September 1950 and closed as a cinema in May 1968. It then became a full time Bingo Club for around 40 years – from June 1968 until Spring 2009.

The building was put up for sale. One interested party wanted to reopen this as an art house cinema. But in the end, the Kingsway International Christian Centre purchased the building. There was strong local opposition to this becoming a church, instead wanting cinema use to return. The local council refused planning permission to convert the building into a church, and although several cinema operators were interested in the building, the church refused to sell it.

Eventually the Church conceded and sold the building to the Everyman chain of cinemas in January 2018. They plan to convert the building into a four screen cinema.

Now go a little way along and after a small derelict space you will see the other former cinema.

Stop 4: site of Century Cinema, 37 – 43 Church Road


This opened in January 1930. After various changes in ownership in the 1930s, it was requisitioned by the Government to be used as a food store until July 1948.

It was acquired by the Granada chain in 1949 and after refurbishment, it reopened in December 1950 as the Century Cinema. It was closed in May 1958

The building remained empty for a couple of years, then it was gutted internally and becoming a car showroom and later a funeral directors. Today the building is unused and there is a notice saying planning permission is being sought to redevelop the site for housing.

Now return back along Church Road. Whilst here, you will notice many of the shops have blue stickers indicating what kind of shop or business traded here in the past.

Here are a few examples:




This was an initiative of the Norwood Society. Their Plaques Project is part of the Society’s aim to encourage local people to engage with the history of Norwood, and particularly the Triangle in Upper Norwood. Plaques are displayed in shop windows in ‘The Triangle’ (Westow Hill, Westow Street and Church Road SE19) showing a significant past trade, trader or some history of the building. This project was launched to coincide with the Crystal Palace Overground Festival in June 2017. What I thought was interesting is that almost all the shops were doing a diiferent business today compared with the past.

The link below gives access to the full list of “plaques”

At the end do a left and our next stop is almost immediately on the right.

Stop 5: Number 77 Westow Hill

This building at the end of Westow Hill dates from 1884. It used to be a National Westminster bank but is now a Solicitors’ office.


On the road side of the building you will find a blue plaque in the usual style but actually with the names “National Westminster Bank” and “Crystal Palace Foundation”. This commemorates the fact that French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903) stayed here in 1870/71.


We came across the Pissarros when we were in W4 because this is where Camille Pissarro’s son Lucien lived with his family for a few years from 1897. Between 7 May and 20 July 1897, Camille stayed there while Lucien was convalescing from a stroke. But Camille had been in London before.

After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, he moved to England because he had Danish nationality and was unable to join the army. He first settled here in Upper Norwood. His style of painting was not to English tastes of the time being a forerunner of what would later be called “Impressionism”.

Like Monet who was also in London in this period, he favoured painting outdoors in order to more effectively capture the atmosphere and light. He painted a number of pictures in this part of south east London.

By the by, across the road at Number 88 Westow Hill, there is a Norwood Society blue plaque for an early 20th century dentist (Robinson’s American Teeth Institute – what a great name!). The premises today are a dentist, though sadly with the rather less interesting name of Crystal Palace Dental Practice.


Now return to the junction and you will see some pillars at the corner.

Stop 6: site of The Vicar’s Oak

The pillars each have a rather sad looking plaque which says that this is the site of “The Vicar’s Oak”. It also says “Crystal Palace Park”, “Boundaries” and “Date” “1988”


There is a sign about a project here called “The Vicar’s Oak”, saying “coming soon”


It would seem that there was an ancient tree which marked the place where the boundaries of four boroughs (Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth and Southwark) meet. The project is to create a path and garden. The project was initiated a couple of years ago, There is website listed on the sign:

This has lots of pictures but very few words. It is frustratingly vague on what actually has happened.

But if you go through the gates there is this very neat and attractive garden.


Is this what was created under the project? If so it is a shame that there is no information about it on the website.

Return to the street and turn left.

Stop 7: Crystal Palace Museum

Now head a little way down the hill from the Crystal Palace Parade and you will find this small museum on your left.


The Museum tells the story of Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and plate-glass structure originally built in Hyde Park, London, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. It was moved here to the top of a hill here in what was the countryside in 1854. 

The Museum tells the story of Crystal Palace both on its original site and here. It is housed in the only surviving building constructed by the Crystal Palace Company built around 1880 as a lecture room for the Company’s School of Practical Engineering. The story of both palaces is told in a series of unique images supplemented by large scaled models of the Crystal Palace plus showcases displaying ceramics and other items associated with the Crystal Palace including remnants from the original building.

The Museum is only open on Sundays from 11am to 3pm. They also run a guided tour of the site on the first Sunday of each month from April until October.

More information about this fascinating little museum is at:

Now retrace your steps and turn right into Crystal Palace Parade, where you will see a bus terminal on the right.

Stop 8: site of Crystal Palace High Level Station

To your left is a side street called Farquhar Road which goes over a kind of a bridge to your left. Cross this and look along the way and you will see a long retaining wall and some new buildings.


This is the site of a railway station known as Crystal Palace High Level.

After the Palace was moved here it became a tourist attraction, initially served by a station  a little down the hill opened by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (we will get to that shortly)

The London, Chatham and Dover Railway wanted a slice of the action and so promoted  the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway to link to an existing  line of theirs a bit further north. The new branch opened in August 1865 and had a lavish terminal designed by Edward Middleton Barry (1830 – 1880). E M Barry was one of the sons of Sir Charles Barry and is probably best known for his work on the Royal Opera House and Floral Hall and also for finishing the Palace of Westminster after his father’s death in 1860.

After the Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936, traffic on the branch declined. During World War II the line was temporarily closed after bomb damage. Temporary repairs were made but the need for substantial investment to fully reconstruct the line and the limited traffic potential led to the closure of the whole branch in September 1954.

The station was demolished in 1961 and sadly none of the buildings remain..

The site of the station was redeveloped mainly for housing in the 1970s, but the retaining walls below Crystal Palace Parade and the ornamental portal of the tunnel to the north of the station are still here, as we shall see. But first our next stop.

Go over the bridge and follow Farquhar Road round until you reach Number 45..

Stop 9: Number 45 Farquhar Road


This was once the home of actor and film director Leslie Howard (1893-1943). He lived here for about 4 years from 1907.


Althogh he was a successful stage actor both in London and on Broadway, he is probably best remembered for playing Ashley Wilkes in the epic movie Gone with the Wind (1939). But he had roles in many other notable films, including: Berkeley Square (1933), Of Human Bondage (1934), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Pygmalion (1938), Intermezzo (1939) and The First of the Few (1942). He received two nominations for the Best Actor Oscar for Berkeley Square and Pygmalion.

His family name was originally Steiner. But during the First World War they anglicised this to Stainer. But in 1920 the budding actor decided to use his middle name and become known as Leslie Howard.

Now just opposite you will see a side turning called  Bowley Close. Go down here and you will see a closer view of the retaining walk but note there is a section which looks different. This is where there was a subway linking the High level station to the Palace site.


Now go back to Farquhar Road and turn right and then right again into Bowley Lane. Follow the land round and you will get back to the retaining wall and a road that goes off parallel to it. This is a private street called Spinney Gardens.


But if you look down here you will see a portal to a tunnel. This is where the line out of the High Level station went.

Now head back along Farquhar road over the bridge and turn left into Crystal Palace Parade. Our next stop is ahead.

Stop 10: Crystal Palace subway

On either side of the road is a bridge parapet.


The one on the left has a banner which talks about Friends of Crystal Palace subway and shows a picture of a wonderfully ornate passageway.


I mentioned the now demolished High Level Station was connected to the Palace by a subway. This was fan-vaulted pedestrian subway in finely detailed red and cream brickwork. This subway and an adjacent courtyard survived the 1936 fire, and was used as an air raid shelter during World War II. It is now Grade II listed building.

This subway is right below here but is not normally accessible. All you can see is the remains of the way into it from the Palace side – which is to your right.


There is a brick wall on the old station side which we saw the other side of.

“Friends of Crystal Palace Subway” have website on the subway.

This says (in a note dated January 2018) that the subway will be closed for an unknown amount of time while Southwark Council complete works to their terrace. But hopefully there will be opportunities to actually visit the subway in the not too distant future.

Now head into the Crystal Palace Park.

Stop 11: site of Crystal Palace

The first section laid out below you is I think roughly where the great glass structure once stood. But to day it is just a wide terrace

There are lots of maps to help orientate you.


There is a wealth of information about the Palace, how it came to be moved here from Hyde Park and what happened subsequently on this website:

At either end of the terrace are some models of Sphinxes which are half-man, half-lion creatures associated with ancient Egypt. The sphinxes were based on a red granite sphinx at the Louvre museum in Paris. There used to be 12 in the original decorative scheme but only 6 survive.


They are not made of granite though. They are painted and during the 20th century eventually lost their original colouring, only being restored to this distinctive colour in 2016.

Go down the steps and off the terrace to the right. Looking back you get a good view of the structure of the terrace which has survived


Stop 12: Crystal Palace station

Now you will be able to see the main station at Crystal Palace – once known  as the low level station.


When the station first opened on 1854 it was just the terminus of a spur line from Sydenham. In 1856 the station was able to take through train services to West Norwood and Streatham Hill and beyond, following the completion of the 746 yard (690 m) Crystal Palace Tunnel. Although relatively short, the tunnel was regarded as a major engineering achievement as it was cut through the hill on which the Crystal Palace stood and went immediately under one of the Palace’s great water towers

In 1857, an eastward connection was made to Norwood Junction (for the Brighton line to the south) and in 1858 a connection was made to allow trains to go to Beckenham Junction. The frontage of the station was rebuilt in 1875

Until the arrival of London Overground this was a somewhat neglected station with the northern (grander) side of the station only partly used. In the 1980s passengers were channelled through a rather mean (in comparison) new ticket hall off to the south side.

But now the original ticket hall now been magnificently restored and forms the main entrance – the 1980s building having been demolished.


Going inside you see the station is in two halves. the grander northern side with a cavernous brick hall.


And a new modern overall roof dating from 2015


And then to the right hand side is a smaller more modest pair of platforms.



We have now reached the end of our SE19 walk and are conveniently here at the main station for onward travel. but before you leave, it is worth a short detour to see one of the famous features of the Crystal Palace Park – though I guess they may be just over the border in SE20!

Post script

You cannot come to Crystal Palace and not see the dinosaurs.

So head down the park from the station keeping the running track to your left. Go past Capel Manor and you will see a lake ahead. That is where the dinosaurs live.


When the park was laid out, the sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was commissioned to make 33 life sized models of the (then) newly discovered dinosaurs and other extinct animals for the park.



These are usually a great hit with children – and quite a few adults also!

SE18: Equitable and Co-operative

SE18 is Woolwich, known for the former Dockyard and Royal Arsenal, but also as the home of two major institutions, sadly no longer with us – the Woolwich Equitable Building Society and the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society.

We start our walk at Woolwich Post Office which is Numbers 68 – 72 Powis Street. Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is soon on the left.

Stop 1: McDonald’s, Numbers 56 – 58 Powis Street

Now I would not normally mention McDonald’s, but the one in Woolwich has a special place in the story of fast food in the UK.


The branch here in Powis Street was the first McDonald’s in the UK – opening in November 1974. There is a plaque to the left of the entrance but weirdly this makes no mention of the fact it was first British McDonald’s.


Instead it focuses on this branch being the 3000th “restaurant”. By the way McDonald’s was founded in 1940. Therefore it look 34 years to get up to 3,000 locations. But the growth since has been astounding. By the end of 2016 it traded in around 36,500 locations – so in 42 years from November 1974 to December 2016 it added around a net 33,500. That is quite some going,

Now return along Powis Street and our next stop is a little further along the street, on both sides of the road.

Stop 2: Former department store buildings

Here as today’s shopping street peters out we get to the former Royal Arsenal Co-operative Stores (RACS) Department Store buildings. On the left we have the Edwardian one, dating from 1903.




And in the niche over the main door is a statue of Alexander McLeod.  McLeod (1832-1902) was one of the founders of RACS and was its first full-time secretary from 1882 until his death.


More about him from the entry on the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association site::

Now look over the road and you will see the 1930s extension


It looks like a cross between a cinema and a multi-storey car park.

We have come across the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS) before. It was started in 1868 as the Royal Arsenal Supply Association by workers from the Royal Arsenal, and became Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society in 1872. In the century that followed, the society’s activities expanded from selling food into a huge range of commercial, social & political activities. Eventually by the 1970s it had branches across most of South London and into parts of Hampshire, Berkshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex. But by the 1980s it was a retail dinosaur in big trouble and in 1985 it merged into the national Co-operative Wholesale Society.

The department stores were I think soon closed down, leaving these buildings as a reminder of what had been a major retailing chain. What is noticeable about the RACS stores we have come across is that they were not well located. The one in Lewisham was on the wrong side of the main road from most of the other shops except the other (now closed) Department store. The one in Peckham was right at the end of the main shopping street and so it is here  in Woolwich.

Today the Edwardian building houses a Travelodge amongst other things and the 1930s building is being converted into apartments.

Now continue along Powis Street. Our next stop is ahead on the right. You might note as you walk along how suddenly there are some quite modest buildings sandwiched between the grandeur of the RACS store and the upcoming Granada cinema.

Stop 3: Former Granada cinema, Numbers 174 – 186 Powis Street



Today the building is used as church but according to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it was opened in April 1937 by Granada as a cinema, with stage facilities.

Although the outside is a sweeping Art Deco brick box and tower, inside was Gothic style. Apparently this was a scaled down version of the Granada, Tooting. Like Tooting the interior design was carried out by Russian set designer Theodore Komisarjevsky.

The Granada Theatre had a full working stage. It hosted Christmas pantomimes and during the 1960s ‘one night only’ pop music shows were put on – the Beatles even played here once on 3 June 1963.

It became a part time Bingo Hall in 1961 and finally took on Bingo full time in October 1966. The building was Grade II listed in January 1974 and this was enhanced to a Grade II* Listing in October 2000. Bingo ceased in July 2011 and it was taken over by a church.

Now look ahead and you can see our next stop across the road – another former cinema.

Stop 4: Former Odeon cinema, John Wilson Street


This is the kind of streamline Art Deco that screams Odeon, as indeed it was. It opened as the Odeon cinema in October 1937, just months after the Granada over the road.

The interior could not have been more different from the Granada with troughs of concealed lighting and moulded plaster decoration. According to Cinema Treasures, much of the interior was lost in a “modernisation” in May 1964. However it was listed heritage listed Grade II in December 1973.

It continued as the Odeon cinema until October 1981. The building lay empty and unused for almost two years until it was reopened by an independent film exhibitor in July 1983 as the Coronet Cinema. Having been converted into a twin cinema in July 1990, it finally closed in June 1999. It was taken over by the New Wine Church from 2001 and it remains a church to this day.

Whilst it is good to see the building is use, it does look kind of bare without any signs on the bulk of the interior.

Now as you look at the cinema go to the left and you will see a gardens, go in the gate and straight ahead is our next stop.

Stop 5: St Mary Magdalene Church


The Church’s website says this has been a church has been on the present site for over 1000 years. However the building we see today dates from the 18th century.

Architectural bible, Pevsner, says this is: “One of the churches rebuilt with money from the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711 but begun only in 1727 and not completed until 1739.” It was extended in the 1890s.

High up on the east end of the church is a stone panel with an inscription: “Ne Despectetes Qui Peccare Soletis Exemplo Meo Vos Reparate Deo”.


This translates as: “Do not despair, you who have fallen into the way of sin, restore yourself through my example and through God”  This is a quotation from, I believe, the book of Luke and is commonly associated with St Mary Magdalene. Interesting isn’t it that it takes 20 words of English to say what only needs 10 words in Latin.

Now head to the right between the church and the back of the old Odeon Cinema. Ahead you will see a grand tomb with a lion on the top. Pevsner describes this as “pathetic and a little ridiculous”.


The plinth has the following inscription: “Respect the ashes of the dead”


This is the last resting place of one Thomas Cribb (1781 – 1848)


He was an English bare-knuckle boxer, in fact he was so successful that he became “world champion”. He later turned his hand to being a publican, running the Union Arms in Panton Street, just off Haymarket in central London. Today that pub is called the Tom Cribb. He retired to Woolwich in 1839 which is where he later died.

Now head out of the church yard. You will have to go almost to the front of the church to access the path that goes downhill away from the church.

You will see our next stop across the way by the river.

Stop 6: Woolwich Ferry

We saw this from the other side when we were in E16. There has been a ferry operating in Woolwich since the 14th century. The free service opened in 1889, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west


Looking along the river you get a nice view of Canary Wharf.


And just along the river front from the ferry terminal is the distinctive brick rotunda which houses the entrance to the foot tunnel which opened in 1912.


Now keep walking along the river front. This is where the Royal Arsenal once was. This whole site is in the process of being redeveloped.


Soon you will see some of the older building on the Royal Arsenal site

Stop 7: Woolwich Royal Arsenal site

The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich carried out armaments manufacture, ammunition proofing, and explosives research for the British armed forces. The land here was part of the grounds of a Tudor house and known as Woolwich Warren. The Government purchased the Warren in the late 17th century in order to expand the nearby base in Woolwich Dockyard which was to the west of the modern day ferry.

Over the next two centuries, the site expanded massively so by the time of the First World War the Arsenal it covered 1,285 acres (520 ha) and employed almost 80,000 people. In the 20th century its operations were scaled down. It finally closed as a factory in 1967 and the Ministry of Defence moved out in 1994. But for most of its life, it was a closed place, not accessible to the public.


It is now being redeveloped mainly for housing. And they seem to using the rather terrible acronym RARE – Royal Arsenal Riverside Explore – which is kind of meaningless in a meaningful way.


By the riverside are two brick pavilions which were built as Guardrooms in 1814/15.



Then just in the square nearby is a modern sculpture installation consisting of around 16 metal figures which are partly cut away



The name of this work is Assembly and it is by Peter Burke from the early 2000s. They are made of cast iron and this is edition 1 of 4. So somewhere there are three more like this!

Now you will see a roadway heading away from the river. It is called No 1 Street. Follow this.

On both sides there are some old buildings surviving from the old Royal Arsenal.



On the left is the site of Firepower – The Royal Artillery Museum. This closed in 2016 after having been based in Woolwich for almost two centuries. It was moved to Wiltshire.


Note in particular on the right in Artillery Square, there is the Heritage Centre, which is worth a quick look (It is free to enter).


The Heritage Centre tried to fill the gap left by the loss of Firepower by creating a new permanent exhibition “Making Woolwich: The Royal Regiment of Artillery in Woolwich”.

A number of the buildings around here are now owned by Greenwich Council with a view to creating a new cultural and heritage quarter.

Continue and you will see ahead is the Royal Brass Foundry of 1717.


This building is attributed to Sir John Vanburgh. The Government decided to build its own foundry for brass here in what had been a naval storage establishment since the 16th century. The move was precipitated by an explosion at a privately owned foundry in Moorfields near the City. Guns were cast here until the 1870s.

Now head out of the site past the Dial Arch pub.


Cross the main road and look back and to the right.

Stop 8: site of Crossrail station

This massive apartment development stands over the new Crossrail station, due to open at the end of 2018.


There is not much to see now as the entrance has yet to be built and one cannot go down. However back in 2013 I was lucky enough to have a chance to take a tour round the concrete box that will hold the station.

Here is a link to a post and some pictures from that visit.

Now go through the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse


And then go into Berresford Square.


Stop 9: Equitable House

Our next stop dominates one side of the square.


The building underneath this scaffolding was built by the Woolwich Equitable Building Society as its headquarters in 1935.

The Society was founded in Woolwich in 1847 as the Woolwich Equitable Benefit Building and Investment Association, one of the first permanent building societies. Previously it had been a temporary society since 1842.

Building Societies grew up as a way of using the savings of a group of people to lend to some of those people so they could buy property. At first the societies were temporary in that they were time limited and would be wound up when all the members had a property. But they then start working on a rolling basis, taking on new savers and lending to new people. Hence the term “Permanent Building Society”. The key point about building societies were that they were owned by the members and not by shareholders.

The Woolwich (as it became known) grew to be one of the largest UK building societies and was famous in the 1980s for its entertaining TV advertising incorporating the slogan “I’m with the Woolwich”.

Like most building societies it gave up its mutual status to become a bank giving shares to investing and borrowing members of the society, and listing on the London Stock Exchange: This happened in 1997. It did not survive as an indepenedt company for very long as it was taken over by Barclays Bank in 2000

Initially the Woolwich brand was retained but in 2006, Woolwich branches were either closed or rebranded Barclays, although The Woolwich was kept for a time as a Barclays mortgage brand.

The Building Society had started in Powis Street, where it occupied various premises. From 1896 until 1935 they had a purpose built office at 111-113 Powis Street. From 1935 to 1989, Equitable House was the head office until they moved to new headquarters in nearby Bexleyheath, Equitable House continued as a branch office until 2007.

In 2010-11 it was converted to have a pub, a cafe and shops on the ground floor. The upper floors were initially rented out to a College but in 2016-17 the upper floors were converted into apartments.

The pub by the way is run by Antic – a chain of over 40 pubs mainly in south London.

Now head to the other side of the square. You will see a bear statue.


This is Buddy Bear presented by Greenwich’s twin town of Reinickendorf, Berlin to commemorate 50 years of the link in 2016.


Now head down Wellington Street. This has “The Great Harry” pub on the corner.

Stop 10 Woolwich Town Hall

Our next stop is ahead on the right. This is Woolwich Town Hall dating from 1903 – 1906


Pevsner describes this as “florid Edwardian baroque” and goes on to say the “Interior is mainly given over to a large entrance hall of amazing grandeur for a London borough.”

The borough that built this was the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich which had been created in 1900. They clearly wanted to make their mark.


After merger with neighbouring Greenwich in 1965, the new bigger borough eventually decided to concentrate its offices here rather than in Greenwich.

By the  way, the site next to the Town Hall used to be a place of entertainment, according to Cinema Treasures.


First there was a theatre – opened as the Grand Theatre and Opera House in October 1900. From 1908 it was renamed Woolwich Hippodrome Theatre presenting twice nightly variety shows. But from November 1924 the Hippodrome Theatre was converted into full time cinema use, eventually becoming owned by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) from July 1935.

The Woolwich Hippodrome Theatre was closed in 1939 and demolished to enable a new ABC Cinema to be built on the site. Building work had commenced when war broke out and all construction was halted. ABC called the cinema the Regal and it eventually opened in September 1955.

It was renamed ABC in 1963 and closed in November 1982. The building was unused and derelict for several years and was later converted into a nightclub.

In May 2010, it was reported the building had been sold to an Apostolic Church. The church backed out of the deal, and it was sold to a community based theatre group in June 2011. It re-opened as a live theatre & performance space with plans to create & two-screen cinema, known as the Woolwich Grand Theatre. Sadly this did not go to plan, and demolition of the building began in November 2015. Now a new building is going up on the site.

Return to Beresford Square and head to the right where you will see our next stop.

Stop 11: Greenwich & Lewisham Young People’s Theatre


According to their website, the building which is now home to Greenwich & Lewisham Young People’s Theatre was built as a generating station in 1916 and powered trams in the area until they ceased to run in 1953. For the next 20 years, the building was used as factory units, housing a wide variety of small businesses, under the ownership of the local council.

It opened as The Tramshed Theatre in the autumn of 1973, originally intended as a ‘youth’ offshoot of the Greenwich Theatre, but was relaunched the following summer with a bar and a wider variety of activities. The theatre was run by a company specially set up for the purpose, The Woolwich Theatre Ltd, although the building was (and still is) owned by the council. In 1985 the company went into liquidation and the operation was taken over by the Arts and Entertainments division of the London Borough of Greenwich.

Now go along a little bit and you will reach our last stop.

Stop 12: Woolwich Arsenal station

The station opened in 1849 on the North Kent Line from London to Gillingham. The station building was rebuilt in 1906 but the current station building dates from 1992-93. It is a striking design in steel and glass by the in house Architecture and Design Group of British Rail.


Woolwich Arsenal was expanded in early 2009, when Transport for London completed the construction of an extension of the London City Airport branch of the Docklands Light Railway from King George V to Woolwich Arsenal, which is the branch’s new terminus. A new entrance was created and a tiled artwork was installed.



This is called “Street LIfe” and is by Sir Michael Craig-Martin (1941 – ), an Irish born artist who has lived and worked in London since 1966. In the 1980s Craig-Martin was a tutor at Goldsmiths College. He is credited as being a significant influence on that group known as “Young British Artists”, which included people like Damien Hirst.


Well that brings us to the end of our SE18 walk.

Woolwich has been shaped by its naval and military connections but it also has an important place in the history of mutualism with the eponymous Building Society and the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society. Plus there are two old cinemas which have somehow survived. And I know there is so much we could have seen in Woolwich but sadly we did not have the time.

We are now right by the main station for onward travel. Need I say more.