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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

http://www.pmsa.org.uk/pmsa-database/3132/

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

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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

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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

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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

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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”.

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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”.

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

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

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

https://stephensldn.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/woolwich-crossrail-station-a-window-into-the-future/

Now go through the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse

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And then go into Berresford Square.

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Stop 9: Equitable House

Our next stop dominates one side of the square.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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SE17: A tramp down Walworth Road

SE17 is Walworth. Walworth is one of those parts of London that is quite hard to place as it has kind of slipped off the map. This is probably to do with the fact there has been no railway station in Walworth since 1916 nor is there a very visible focal point, like a square or green. It is centred on a long shopping street which is not even called a Walworth High Street or High Road – it is just called Walworth Road.

We start our walk at Walworth Post Office at 234 – 236 Walworth Road. Turn left out of the Post Office and take the first street on your left.

Stop 1: former Manor Place Baths and Depot

This site is currently under redevelopment but it used to be a Southwark Council facility which included a waste transfer station, bath house buildings, as well as offices.

Number 33, Manor Place is a grade II listed building, originally constructed in 1898 as public bathing pools and a wash house. The bathing pools were closed in 1978 and then Southwark Council used the space as offices and storage. The site also includes Numbers 17 – 21 Manor Place. Completed in 1899, they once housed a coroner’s court and mortuary.

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The whole site was acquired by Notting Hill Housing in November 2013

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The plan is for 270 residential homes with a mix of market, intermediate and affordable units. Alongside the new homes, there are plans to develop a commercial space, created within under utilised existing buildings and within the railway arches that cut through the site. According to Notting Hill Housing’s website, the plans also retain the listed heritage structures 33 Manor Place and the neighbouring former Pool Building, for residential and commercial uses respectively.

And if you look at the building behind the red brick one on the street, there is an interesting structure that looks like the Pool. In the gable end there is a round window with some coloured glass.

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No doubt this feature will be retained somehow.

Return to Walworth Road and turn left continue along Walworth Road until you reach an elegant terrace.

Stop 2: Numbers 140 – 152 Walworth Road

This terrace is mentioned with faint praise by architectural guru Pevsner.

Pevsner says “Walworth Road has just one part of the late 18th century terrace which enables one to visualise how happy and unadventurous the road once looked. Number 140 – 152 [were] built circa 1790 for Henry Penton (of Pentonville)”.

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This terrace was headquarters of the Labour Party from 1980 until 1997 when they moved back to Westminster. It was known for a time as John Smith House after the sudden death of the then Labour leader in 1994

Today it is the home of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, an umbrella body for various unions. The confederation dates back to 1890 and today because of the various mergers of unions it consists of just five unions: Community; GMB; Prospect; Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians; and Unite the Union.

Our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 3: Walworth Town Hall and Cuming Museum

This is a complex of municipal buildings, the first of which was built by the Vestry of St Mary Newington, a predecessor of the borough of Southwark.

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There is an interesting piece on the Exploring Southwark website:

http://www.exploringsouthwark.co.uk/newington-town-hall/4594105604

When the parish of St Mary Newington merged with other local parishes in 1900 to form the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark, members of the vestry of St Mary’s fought hard for the new borough to be called Newington. While this didn’t happen, Newington Vestry Hall became the town hall for the newly formed borough.

Today Newington is another of those places which has sort of disappeared. As Newington Butts is south of the Elephant and Newington Causeway north of it, then I guess Newington is what we today would call Elephant and Castle

Pevsner clearly does not rate these buildings, describing the Town Hall of 1866 as “sadly gothic in red brick” and the adjoining library of 1893 as “equally insignificant.”

This was also the location of the Cuming Museum.

Richard Cuming, and his son Henry Syer Cuming, had a passion for collecting. They lived in Walworth and Kennington during the late 18th and 19th centuries. Between them they acquired all kinds of objects from around the world – from clothing worn by North American Inuit people, early taxidermy from Europe and shoes from across Africa to superstitious charms from across London or tickets and toys from local fairs. Henry died in 1902 and left funds in his will to create a public museum to house his family’s collection.

The Cuming Museum first opened in 1906 in galleries above Newington Library. The museum opened new public spaces on the ground floor of the Town Hall in 2006. It was also Southwark’s local history museum.

Sadly a fire broke out on 25 March 2013, destroying part of the Town Hall roof and the Council Chamber, with further water damage to lower floors caused as a result of fighting the fire.

The collections of the Cuming Museum only suffered a very small loss – around 98% of objects on display at the time of the fire were recovered. But the museum galleries were very severely affected and so the Museum is currently closed and the collections are now being stored awaiting a solution to the display of the collections and public access to them

And next door is our next stop.

Stop 4: Walworth Clinic

This was built in 1937 and Pevsner does not even deign to comment – it is just mentioned without description.

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I guess as this was built before the National Health Service was created, it was the borough council who were behind the development. Interestingly this building is still being used to deliver health services.

Now go down the side street, Larcom Street and there is a Southwark blue plaque

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Babbage’s birthplace is disputed, but according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography he was most likely born at 44 Crosby Row, Walworth Road, London. However if you look up Crosby Row today it is in the Borough area and nowhere near Walworth Road. So I am not too clear why the plaque is here.

Babbage is considered by some to be a “father of the computer”, He is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer and all the essential ideas of modern computers are to be found in Babbage’s analytical engine.

Keep going along Larcom Street and you will find another Southwark plaque by the side entrance to the clinic building.

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This one is to Michael Faraday.

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Now according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography he was born in Newington Butts which is also not here. I have been unable to find out why this site was chosen for the plaque. It makes no sense.

Anyhow, Michael Faraday was an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis.

Go back to Walworth Road and turn left along the main road.

Stop 5: Herbert Morrison House

At the corner of Browning Street is a building called Herbert Morrison House

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It was used by the Labour Party as its headquarters until they moved to Transport House in Westminster in 1928, where they remained until they came back to Walworth Road in 1980. Hence I guess the name Herbert Morrison House, as he was a leading Labour local and national politician in the first half of the 20th century.

But this building has an earlier life as evidenced by the little crest over the door which says around the outside “Robert Browning Settlement” and the words “All’s Love and All’s Law in a cross formation in the middle.

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The latter is a quotation from section XVII of Robert Browning’s 1855 poem ‘Saul’:

“I have gone the whole round of creation: I saw and I spoke:
I, a work of God’s hand for that purpose, received in my brain
and pronounced on the rest of his hand-work – returned him again
his creation’s approval or censure: I spoke as I saw:
I report, as a man may of God’s work – all’s love, yet all’s law”.

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And there is a stone commemorating the opening of the building.

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I guess this is the same Charles Booth who created the maps showing the relative affluence or poverty in London.

This building was the home of the Robert Browning Settlement which was closely associated with a nearby Chapel and aimed to address poverty and alleviate distress in Walworth. The Browning Settlement was publicly inaugurated in November 1895, with an address given in the nearby Browning Hall by senior Liberal politician Herbert Asquith. It established itself, initially as the ‘Browning Club’, in the building on Walworth Road in 1902.

Originally Browning Street was called York Street and it was the location of a nonconformist chapel which opened in 1789. The Browning connection is that this was where the poet Robert Browning was baptised in 1812. The street was subsequently renamed after him

Sadly the Chapel is no more. The original Browning Hall and the chapel were demolished in 1978 following extensive damage from a serious fire. All that remains is part of the burial ground, which is our next stop..

But there is still a little reminder of the Robert Browning Settlement on the building now known as Herbert Morrison House.

Stop 6: site of Browning Hall and Chapel

If you go along Browning Street, you can see where Browning Hall and the York Street Chapel once stood. Part of the site, which was the burial ground has survived as a scrubby little open space.

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And there is just one tomb chest left sitting in splendid isolation in the middle.

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Now return to Walworth Road and turn left. Our next stop is the side street on your left.

Stop 7: East Street Market

Street trading has been a long tradition in Walworth but originally it was done along the main road.

The arrival of trams in the late 19th century brought an end to the market along Walworth Road and the market was split up and moved into the side streets of Westmoreland Road, East Lane (today’s East Street) and Draper Street. Draper Street was built over in the 1960s by the Elephant and Castle development. The market in Westmoreland Road is still just about there I believe. East Street has survived because like the local population it has diversified so it offers more than just the traditional fresh fruit and vegetables.

Fascinating fact: East Street is said to feature in the title sequence to the television programme Only Fools and Horses which was set in Peckham and filmed in Acton amongst other places.

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At the corner (actually numbers 277 / 279, Walworth Road) there is a blue plaque

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Up at the first floor level of this shop this Southwark Blue Plaque commemorates the iconic comic, Charlie Chaplin. He was born locally and as a child he moved frequently so there are many addresses with a Chaplin association. However I am not sure he actually had a connection with this exact location, although he is thought to have been born in East Street so it was somewhere near here.

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It was perhaps just a convenient and very visible place for Southwark to put their plaque – especially given the English Heritage one is at Glenshaw Mansions, Brixton Road, SW9, over the border in Lambeth, as is the one we saw in Kennington Road SE11.

Now return to Walworth Road and continue along until Liverpool Grove where you turn left. You will see our next stop ahead

Stop 8: St Peters Church

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This is a delightfully elegant church. It was built between 1823 and 1825 and was the first of three churches designed by Sir John Soane, in the wave of the church-building following the Napoleonic wars. Architectural commentator, Pevsner says it is “not as interesting as the Soane church at Bethnal Green.”.

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The church was hit by two bombs on 29 October 1940. Hundreds of people had taken shelter in the church’s crypt and over 70 lost their lives. The church was restored after the war and rededicated in 1953.

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Now go down the right hand side of the church through the gardens and exit the gate. Go down the side street called Lytham Street. Turn right into Merrow Street and then left into Queens Row. Then just before the end turn right into Westmoreland Road. I saw no sign of market here now but maybe I was here on the wrong day.

Stop 9: Arments, Numbers 7 – 9 Westmoreland Road

Our next stop is on the right as you go towards Walworth Road. It does not look much, but it is a long established pie, eel and mash purveyor – and it is not called Manze!

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The outside has lost any kind of old style shop front, but inside it is quite traditional. But they have entered the 21st century with their own website, patriotically resplendent in red, white and blue..

http://www.armentspieandmash.com/

Now continue along Westmoreland Road and turn left into Walworth Road, Cross over and go down John Ruskin Street. You will see a railway bridge ahead and that is our next stop.

Stop 10: Site of Walworth Road station

The railway line which parallels Walworth Road was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover railway in October 1862. Today there is no station here but there was once.

It was initially called Camberwell Gate and did not open until May 1863. It was renamed Walworth Road in January 1865. The station was built on a viaduct over three roads with an entrance in a street called Beresford Street (now John Ruskin Street) from where stairs led up to the platforms at the south end of the station.

The station was initially well used but the arrival of electric trams along Walworth Road in 1905 dramatically affected traffic. The station was one of a number of inner London stations closed in early 1916 as an economy measure during the First World War.  Although it was billed as a temporary measure, the station was never to reopen.

Below is where I believe the station entrance was.

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And if you go under the bridge to and turn right into Peller Street  you can see there is no wall alongside the tracks here, so I guess this is where the platforms once were.

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More about this station and the line it is on at:

http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/w/walworth_road/

Now retrace your steps to Walworth Road and turn left. Then turn left into Macleod Street ( by Iceland). You will soon get back to the railway and this is our next stop.

Stop 11: Sutherland Square

Sutherland Square is unusual in that it has a railway viaduct running right through it.

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As we have just heard, this line dates from 1862. In building it, the railway company just ploughed through this square rather than go round it or indeed buy it all up and knock more of it down. It does suggest that the railway was somewhat more influential than the people who owned the land.

Some years ago, when house hunting I actually looked at a house on the east side of Sutherland Square. It had no original features as the house had been severely damaged in the war and the bottom part of the four storey building had been converted into a separate “granny” flat. But the thing that put me off was the fact it looked right on to the railway viaduct and the trains went past at second floor level – frequently. Needless to say I did not buy.

Now walk though the square and you find it actually opens out and begins to look more like a square.

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Shame about all those bins but I guess they have to go somewhere.

Exit the square ahead and you reach a cross street. go over that and down a path under a building which spans the path. then take a right into Chapter Road and our next stop is just ahead.

Stop 12: Lorrimer Square and St Paul’s church

The first part of Lorrimer Square you get to has a row of original houses on the left. These date from mid 19th century according to Pevsner.

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And sitting ahead like an alien spaceship is St Paul’s Church.

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Much of this area was devastated by bombing in 1941 and the original Victorian church of 1856 was destroyed apart from the steeple. A dramatic new church was built on the site – opening in 1960.

There is a piece about this church on the 20th Century Society site:

https://c20society.org.uk/botm/st-pauls-lorrimore-square/

If you keep walk past the church you can see that there is little left of the original square apart from that first stretch we saw just before the church.

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We are now at the end of our SE17 walk. This I now realise is the first postcode I have been to that does not have a working railway station, which given its inner city location is quite a surprise.

There were a few connections with well known names: Robert Browning, Charles Babbage, Michael Faraday and Charlie Chaplin, but oddly the SE17 locations actually connected with the last three of these seems less than clear. The other thing I did not find is any big cinema or theatre located along the Walworth Road, though there were a couple of independent cinemas, all traces of which have vanished.

For onward travel, keep going along Chapter Road and then turn left into Braganza Street. You will find Kennington station at the end of Braganza Street. Alternatively return to Walworth Road for numerous buses.

Postscript

By way of a postscript I thought I should just mention there is a memorial to Michael Faraday locally just at Elephant and Castle (but over the border in SE1)

Until recently it stood in the middle of the roundabout at the northern end of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre between the ticket halls for the Northern Line and the Bakerloo Line stations. Now with the reordering of the roads it stand on a kind of peninsula and is easier to reach.

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The Michael Faraday Memorial was designed by brutalist architect Rodney Gordon and dates from 1961. Like me you probably thought this was just a ventilation shaft that had been rather expensively clad.

SE16: Tunnel Vision

SE16 is Rotherhithe – of Tunnel fame but also much else as we shall see.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 142 Lower Road. Turn left out of the Post Office and continue along Lower Road past Surrey Quays station.

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Our first stop is just on the left

Stop 1: Southwark Park

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But as you go into the park, notice the pub just along Lower Road.

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This pub was the site of an 18th century theatre and a 19th century tea garden.

Here is a link to a blog post with a bit of the history:

http://russiadock.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/the-china-hall-rotherhithe.html

Unfortunately, it is a pub which may not have much future as the freehold has been sold to developers.

Now go into the Park. This park was opened in 1869 by the Metropolitan Board of Works and was one of the Board’s first parks.

Follow the path as it curves ahead to the left. Just where the path begins to curve the other way have a look to your left and you will see a low white building.

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This proclaims it is a Gallery, although it is quite small and seems to be used for special exhibitions rather than being open all the time.

Continue along the path and soon on the left you will see a path to a lake. Go down here and follow the path round to the right. This will take you to the Ada Salter Rose Garden

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This lovely garden was created in 1936 as evidenced by this sundial.

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Ada Salter (1866 -1942) and her husband Alfred devoted their lives to improving the lot of local people in the first part of the 20th century, and at some personal cost. They lost their only child, Joyce, at age 8 to Scarlet Fever, a disease rife in poor areas, and they were bombed out of their house in 1941.

Sadly neither lived to see the end of the Second World War and the substantial rebuilding of the area after the war. I wonder what they would have made of the area now that the docks have closed and been redeveloped.

Ada was one of the first women councillors in London, the first woman mayor in London and the first Labour woman mayor in the British Isles.

She campaigned to address the slum housing in Bermondsey and she also led a campaign to beautify Bermondsey. She lobbied the London County Council to improve Southwark Park amongst other things and this rose garden was one of the results.

After it opened in 1936, it became known as Ada Salter’s Garden, although the London County Council only formally gave it this name in 1943 after her death.

More about Ada and her husband can be found in this blog post:

http://russiadock.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/adas-garden-recognition-for-pioneering.html

Now head out of the gate you came in and look at the green on your left. You will see a small stone going green.

 

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This stone is really hard to read but it is a commemoration to Ada Salter.

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Now head back. Ahead, you will see some park gates.

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(This by the way is unhelpfully the view you get from outside the park!)

Go out these gates which lead into Gomm Road. Our next stop is in the terrace of houses on the left hand side.

Stop 2: Number 36, Gomm Road

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Number 36 has a Southwark blue plaque to another person who was dedicated to improving the lot of others.

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Richard Carr-Gomm (1922 – 2008) was the founder of the Abbeyfield Society and the Carr-Gomm Society, which are British charities providing care and housing for disadvantaged and lonely people.

According to the Abbeyfield website:

“The first Abbeyfield house was established in 1956 by Richard Carr-Gomm. He recognised that a lot of older people were living alone and feeling isolated in their own communities and wanted to provide them with a safe and secure home where they could find friendship and support.

Soon after purchasing a house in Bermondsey and inviting two local residents to move in, he had purchased five more properties and formally set up The Abbeyfield Society. Before long, volunteers around the county had formed their own societies and the dream of a nationwide charity providing high quality housing, support and companionship in later life had become a reality.”

Now go to the end of the street and turn left into Lower Road. The building at this corner by the way is the delightfully named Seven Islands Leisure Centre.

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This is on the site of Rotherhithe Town Hall which was destroyed by German rockets in 1944.

The attached link has a log of the V1 and V2 rockets which hit this area.

http://www.flyingbombsandrockets.com/V1_summary_se16.html

This notes that no less than 3 V1 and 2  V2 rockets landed in the vicinity of the Town Hall, and the nearby St Olave’s Hospital, with devastating effect.

Now cross over and just opposite the Leisure Centre is a building called Orchard House.

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Not very inspiring but this was the last London home of an African king – popularly known by the press as King Freddie.

He was actually named Major General Sir Edward Frederick William David Walugembe Mutebi Luwangula Muteesa II (1924 – 1969). He became Kabaka (king) of the Kingdom of Buganda in November 1939. He was the thirty-fifth Kabaka of Buganda and the first President of Uganda. But he was deposed in 1966 and spent his last years here. He died of alcohol poisoning in November 1969 and there was some speculation that he was assassinated by being force-fed vodka.

Now cross over the side street (Surrey Quays Road) and go into the little park on your right. This is called King George’s Field

Stop 3: King George’s Field/Dock Office

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This open space is named after King George V who died in 1936. After his death, there were lots of playing fields and open spaces created and named after him. The playing field here was laid out on the site of All Saints Church which was destroyed in one of those German rocket attacks in World War II. This little park opened in 1957.

If you go in the gate and along the path you will see an old building ahead on the right outside the park.

This is one of the few buildings left from the old Surrey Commercial Docks.

The docks here started to be developed in the 18th century and gradually the majority of the land within the sweep of the Thames around Rotherhithe was taken into the dock area. In fact there were nine separate docks; some with names connected with to places being traded with: Canada Dock, Quebec Dock, Greenland Dock, Norway Dock and Russia Dock.

The docks closed in 1969 as they were too small to handle container ships. Most of the docks have been filled in except for Greenland Dock and a bit of Canada Dock. The area has now been redeveloped mainly with housing, but also with the Surrey Quays shopping centre.

The old building was the Dock Superintendent’s office built 1887.

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There is also a Southwark borough blue plaque on the building.

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This commemorates the fact that on 7 September 1940 the docks were set on fire in the first air raid of the Blitz. Obviously being a dock area this was a prime target throughout the War.

Now retrace your steps back to Lower Road, cross over the road and turn right along Lower Road. Our next stop is just on the left past some almhouses (which are worth a peek)

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This terrace of 7 cottages was built in 1902 under the terms of the will of Charles John Peele, a director at a local factory Brandram Brothers, to the memory of his mother who had died in 1890. Brandrams ran a chemical works dealing with many rather nasty substances such as white lead, saltpetre and sulphuric acid. Their factory was nearby, just behind All Saints churchyard. It closed in 1958 and demolished for the construction of a housing development called the Canada Estate in 1962.

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These cottages are now managed by Hanover Housing Association.

Go a short way along Lower Road. Our next stop is at the corner of Ann Moss Way, which is on your left.

Stop 4: Site of St Olave’s Hospital, Lower Road

The land here was once the location of St Olave’s Hospital. Almost the whole site has been redeveloped for housing but at the corner of Ann Moss Way is an old house and on that house is another Southwark blue plaque.

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This commemorates the fact that St Olave’s Hospital was in 1933 the birthplace of actor Sir Michael Caine. Of course the name he was given by his parents was not Michael Caine – it was Maurice Joseph Micklewhite Jr. And there is an often told story of how he came to be known as Michael Caine.

When he started acting (in 1953 in Horsham, West Sussex!), he took the stage name of Michael Scott. But the next year, he got work in London and there was already a Michael Scott performing as an actor in London. Caine learnt this when speaking to his agent from a phone box in Leicester Square. His agent told him to come up with a new name immediately. The young actor looked around for inspiration and seeing that The Caine Mutiny was being shown at the Odeon Cinema, he decided to change his name to “Michael Caine”. The rest as they say is history.

Now keep going along Lower Road and you will see a roundabout and off this is the approach road to the Rotherhithe tunnel, our next stop.

Stop 5: Rotherhithe Tunnel

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The Rotherhithe Tunnel is one of three road crossings which go under the Thames. It was opened in June 1908 and unlike the other tunnels (Blackwall and Dartford) it was not later duplicated, so uniquely the Rotherhithe Tunnel has two way traffic.

It also has a footpath along each side, if you are brave (or foolhardy) enough to walk through. It is not unknown for cyclists to use the footpaths, which is hardly surprising given the heavy traffic on the actual road and the road’s limited width.

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Now if you look to the right of the Tunnel approach road you will see an elegant church building, which is at the start of Albion Street, our next stop.

Stop 6: Albion Street

Albion Street is rather sad today with its shabby shops bookended by two closed pubs. The Albion and the Little Crown.

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But it does have two unusual churches, which are legacies of this area’s seafaring connections. First at the start of the street, on the left, is the Norwegian Church

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This dates from 1927 and is dedicated to St Olave.

Olave was King of Norway, who attempted to convert his people to Christianity and was martyred in 1030. He was an ally of the English King, Ethelred the Unready, and is said to have helped defend London against Danish invaders. As a result, he was quite popular in London. There were at one time 5 churches dedicated to St Olave in the City plus one in Southwark, near London Bridge.

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And a little further along the street is the Finnish Church, which dates from 1958, and does not look at all like a church. In fact the tower is rather reminiscent of a post-war fire station.

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By the way just before the church, opposite the shops, there is an empty site. This I think was the location of Rotherhithe Civic Centre and Library. And between that and the Finnish Church, there was once a small piazza.

This was the location of a statue called “Bermondsey Boy” by Tommy Steele – yes that Tommy Steele the 1950s rocker, later star of stage and screen. He was born in Bermondsey.

Sadly we cannot see that statue today because it was stolen (presumably for its scrap value) in 1998. Architectural guru Pevsner notes that the statue is “of curiosity value only”.

There is a picture on Twitter of Tommy Steele unveiling the statue in 1975: https://twitter.com/bermondseybeat/status/747853313551523840?lang=en

A little way past the Finnish Church you will see a passageway with an old lamp above it.

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Go down here and you get to the Rotherhithe Tunnel approach road. Here you can get a much better view of the tunnel portal and the inscription above.

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Go back up to Albion Street and turn left then turn along Old Railway Walk.

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Ahead you will see Rotherhithe station.

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This station, like Surrey Quays station, was on the old East London railway line which opened in December 1869. This utilised the tunnel under the Thames designed by Marc Isambard Brunel and built by him and his rather more famous son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This line has been part of the London Overground since 2010.

The Tunnel was the first under a navigable river and had been built between 1825 and 1843 for horse-drawn carriages. The tunnel had generous headroom and two carriageways separated by arches. Whilst it was a triumph of civil engineering, there was not enough money to complete it properly with ramps for the carriages, so it was a commercial failure because it could only be used a foot tunnel. By the 1860s it had become an unpleasant and disreputable place but its scale meant it was big enough to be converted to rail use.

Back in May 2014 I was fortunate in being able to walk along the Brunel Thames tunnel. Here is link to my blog about that day:

https://stephensldn.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/walking-under-water-a-stroll-through-brunels-tunnel/

Go down the side street by the station, following the sign for the Brunel Museum, which is our next stop.

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Stop 7: Brunel Museum

The museum in housed in the Brunel Engine House, which was designed by Marc Isambard Brunel to be part of the infrastructure of the Thames Tunnel. Although the blue plaque outside is dedicated to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the museum is as much about the father as the son.

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Now you will see a sign pointing to Sands Films. Follow that round, which takes you into St Marychurch Street.

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Stop 8: Sands Film Studio

Sands Films is a small British film production company, founded in the mid 1970s. The business is housed in a former granary and includes a small film stage, film theatre, picture library, workshops and costume stores.

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I was hovering by the door when a man called Neil came up to me and asked if I would like to go in. I took him up on his invitation.

He told me about the film they are currently working on (The Good Soldier Schwejk, based on an unfinished satirical dark comedy novel by Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek.).

And he explained about The Rotherhithe Picture Research Library. Established here in 1975, it is a reference collection, freely available to anyone wishing to do picture research. But unlike most other picture libraries which are commercial, this one is a non-profit-making charity.

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And he took me further into the building past miscellaneous costumes and props to show me a cinema like no other.

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They have regular screenings of films here. It is free but they ask for a donation.

Here is a link to the booking page:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/sands-films-cinema-and-events-3135066918

Thank you Neil for your time.

Now continue down St Marychurch Street and our next stop is ahead at the end.

Stop 9: The Mayflower pub

Here is a nice old pub and it is called the Mayflower after the ship that sailed from here in 1620 taking religious puritans to settle in the New World.

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This is one of the most atmospheric parts of Rotherhithe, and a nice pub to pop in.

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Now you will be able to see the church from here. Head to the right side and go into the churchyard.

Stop 10: St. Mary’s Church, St. Marychurch Street

There has been a church here since medieval times but the church we see today was built in the 18th century.

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Pevsner says “The rebuilding started in 1714 but was still incomplete in 1737. The west tower has an inscription of 1747 and the chancel is possibly as late as that.” The spire though is even later having been rebuilt in 1861

Go round the church past the spire and find the door on the south side. Note the Southwark blue plaque about the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower.

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The church is lovely inside

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Now return to Rotherhithe Street and turn left and go straight ahead through this alleyway..

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When you reach Kings Stairs Close, you will see a terrace opening up to the river and the way ahead is called Kings Stairs Close.

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There is no way through straight ahead and you need to go along the riverside terrace. But you would anyway be drawn to this as it has great views of the City.

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Walk under the brick structure and along the river terrace. The view gets changes, with St Paul’s now visible. But the Walkie Talkie dominates, standing as it does away from the cluster of other tall buildings in the City.

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Then you will see this Silver Jubilee stone. Keep going

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Head past the Angel pub which will be on your right..

Stop 11: site of King Edward III’s Manor House

Then just here on the left is a bit of a surprise – some stones which turn out to be all that is left of a house dating from the mid 14th century.

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King Edward III reigned from 1327 to 1377 and built a house here in 1353. The buildings were surrounded by a moat on three sides and with the fourth side originally open to the River Thames. This allowed the king to arrive by boat.

By the end of the 16th century the Thames waterfront had been pushed northwards by land reclamation, so the old King’s residence was now completely enclosed by a moat. The Crown eventually sold the residence and it passed into private hands and was known as the “moted place”.

In the 17th century the site became used as a pottery and in the 18th and 19th centuries warehouses were built across the site. In the 1970s the warehouses were demolished and in the 1980s the London Docklands Development Corporation redeveloped the area and in doing so allowed archaeological investigations by the Museum of London which established here were the remains of Edward III’s residence.

There is some more detail on the following link: https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/king-edward-iii-manor-house

Now look back towards the river and you will see our final stop.

Stop 12: The Salter family sculptures

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Sitting facing the river is Dr Salter. To the left is his wife, Ada. Then on the riverbank wall is their daughter and her cat.

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And here is a view looking back to the Angel pub.

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In 1991, sculptor Diane Gorvin created ‘Dr Salter’s Daydream’ which had the Doctor watching his daughter play and her pet cat. However in November 2011 the statue of Dr Salter was stolen, presumably by metal thieves. Southwark Council put the remaining statues of Joyce and her cat into storage. Money was raised to make a replacement of Dr Salter plus a new one of his wife. All four pieces were installed in November 2014, guarded over by CCTV.

We are now at the end of our SE16 walk. Rotherhithe is a fascinating place once you start looking. I was surprised to find the remains of a 14th century manor house and to learn of the connection with the Mayflower and the puritan emigrants. Then we have two tunnels under the river, the Brunel Museum and the Sands Film Studio and associated picture library.

It is probably easiest to go back to Rotherhithe station for onward travel. But if you are feeling energetic (and the weather is nice) you can keep walking along the Thames Path and drop off at Bermondsey or even go all the way to Tower Bridge or London Bridge.

 

SE15: Something’s a “Rye”

SE15 is Peckham, not the most attractive inner suburb but somewhere which has some interesting things to see nonetheless.

We start our walk at Peckham Post Office which is at 121 – 125 Peckham High Street.

Fascinating fact: According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, there was once a cinema here. The Gem Picture Playhouse was opened in late 1908 or early 1909. But it had a brief life – closing in the Summer of 1916, so this is way beyond the memory of anyone living today.

Turn left out of the Post Office and head along the High Street.

Our first stop is just after Marmont Road

Stop 1: Gaumont House

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Now as the name suggests this was also the site of a cinema.

In fact, according to Cinema Treasures, there was a theatre here first. This was the Crown Theatre opened in October 1898 as a music hall. It was soon renamed Peckham Hippodrome Theatre, becoming a variety theatre. But in July 1911, it became a full time cinema, known as the Hippodrome Picture Palace. It was taken over by Gaumont British Theatres in November 1926, who closed it in December 1928 in order to use the site for a larger purpose built cinema.

The new cinema opened in February 1932 as the Gaumont Palace. It was built at a diagonal angle to the site, with the entrance on the corner of Peckham High Street and Marmont Road and seated some 2,500.

The Gaumont closed as a cinema in January 1961 and was the first Rank Organisation cinema to be converted into a Top Rank Bingo Club, opening in May 1961.

Bingo continued until 1998. The building was demolished in the summer of 2002, and a block of flats ‘Gaumont House’ was built on the site, with commercial space on the ground floor, which is today used by the NHS.

Return along the High Street and just past the Post Office you will see a small side street called Mission Place. Go down here to see our next stop which is just on the right

Stop 2: Orchard Mission

Peckham was a poor area back in the 19th century as can be deduced from this next stop.

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This building has a plaque announcing ‘Orchard Mission Founded 1887’ with the intertwined initials of the Ragged School Union.

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This is an unusual name for a Mission. The attached link

http://www.exploringsouthwark.co.uk/orchard-mission/4592566220

has the following by way of explanation:

“At the end of the 19th century, the street was known as Blue Anchor Lane and extended north to Goldsmith’s Road. At the northern end were a row of houses and gardens known as The Orchard, probably built on land that had once been an orchard.  The Mission was founded in 1887 by a group of evangelical young men who held open air services in the warm summer months, known as Flower Services, but as the weather got cooler, a four room cottage was rented.  This may have been in one of the houses in The Orchard, giving rise to the name of the Mission.”

Although the Mission was founded in the 1880s, this actual building is later opening in 1906.

They seemed to have concern about encroachment on their property, judging by the other stone.

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Not sure when the street got renamed Mission Place or what exactly the building is used for today.

Now return to the High Street and turn right. Our next stop is just at the next junction (Peckham Hill Street)

Stop 3: Manze’s Pie and Mash shop, Number 105 Peckham High Street

Here we have another of those few surviving pie and mash shops.

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Manze seems to be a common name for these shops. We saw one in Walthamstow and there is one in Deptford but they were started by different members of the family and have since their separate ways.

The story of this one is explained on this link

http://manze.co.uk/index.php?app=gbu0&ns=display&ref=splash&sid=z0ito48o35y0lt11xnm14dtzn7h6446a

as follows:

“Michele Manze arrived in Britain from a picturesque hillside village called Ravello in Southern Italy. His family made the long trek over in 1878, when Michele was just 3 years old.

The Manze family settled in Bermondsey and began trading as ice-merchants, turning later to ice-cream makers. Realising the need for more substantial food in post-Victorian London, Michele branched out into the pie, mash & eels trade.

The first shop to bear his name opened in 1902, shortly after his marriage to Ada Poole, whose first husband, Edward Poole, had died in 1891. This shop was at 87 Tower Bridge Road, Bermondsey. He went on to open his second shop at 250 Southwark Park Road, Bermondsey in 1908, and two further shops in Poplar, which were lost during World War Two. His Fifth and final shop at 105 Peckham High Street was opened in 1927.

Several of Michele’s brothers followed his lead, and by 1930 there were a total of 14 pie, mash & eel shops in London bearing the Manze name. Many of these shops have since closed down or been taken over.

Michele Manze died in 1932 and his son, Lionel, took over the running of the two surviving shops – Tower Bridge Road and Peckham High Street. In 1985, the shop at Peckham was burnt down during the riots in the area. A long legal battle ensued and Lionel, sadly, did not live long enough to see the outcome. He died in 1988, whereupon his three sons, Graham, Geoff and Richard inherited not only Tower Bridge shop, but also the legal battle. They survived on the business of Tower Bridge Road until they were able to re-build and re-open the Peckham shop in 1990, although the legal battle did not conclude until 1995.”

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There is a Southwark Borough blue plaque but curiously it is inside the shop.

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Now head along Peckham Hill Street for a short distance and soon on the left you will see our next stop along a pedestrian way.

Stop 4: Peckham Library

The newish building on the right is Peckham Library. It was designed by Alsop and Störmer and won the Stirling Prize for Architecture in 2000. It is a striking building but its impact is rather spoilt by the roof that has been put over part of the square.

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This little square was built on the end basin of the Grand Surrey Canal which ran from here (and also from Camberwell) to the Thames. Originally the canal was to extend further into Surrey but it only reached Camberwell in 1810 and Peckham in 1826. By the 1830 railways were seen as the way forward and indeed the route of the nearby Croydon Canal was used by a railway as we saw in SE4.

Interestingly the basin here continued mainly for movement of timber until well into the 20th century. But it went into terminal decline after the Second World War and it seems it was closed completely by the early 1970s.

But you can follow the line of the former canal north from here along a linear park.

You can get a nice view of the Shard from here.

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Head across the open space in front of the library and you will be back at the High Street. turn right and go a little way along past the junctions of Rye Lane, Bellenden Road and Collyer Place. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 5: Numbers 20 – 26 Peckham High Street

We are stopping by this uninspiring commercial building because this was the site of another big cinema.

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This was the Odeon and like the Gaumnont along the road, it had been built on the site of a previous place of entertainment. The one here was the Queen’s Hall, later Queen’s Picture Theatre which dated from 1914. This had been purchased by Odeon and was closed at the end of 1937 to be demolished. The new Odeon Theatre seating 2,110 opened in July 1938.

Designed by noted cinema architect, Andrew Mather, the facade was unusual. It was faced in cream glass panels, with horizontal green glazed bands and a central recess over the entrance, which had four free standing pillars which originally supported the Odeon name sign. The four free standing pillars were removed from the facade in the 1960s.

In January 1974, it was converted into a triple screen cinema. The Odeon was taken over by an independent operator in November 1981 and renamed Ace Cinema. That lasted just over two years, closing in December 1983. The cinema was demolished in May 1985. The office block built on the site dates from 2008.

Now return along the High Street and our next stop is ahead on the right at the junction of Rye Lane.

Stop 6: Former Jones and Higgins Department store and Aylesham Centre

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This striking corner building with its clock turret is all that is left of a department store called “Jones and Higgins”. The store opened in Rye Lane in 1867 and gradually expanded to become a major presence. It seems to have been an independent store and somehow managed to survive until around 1980. But more information than that I have struggled to find.

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Next door is the Aylesham Centre which was built on part of the site of the store. The centre seeks to impress with its entrance but it is quite small with just one arcade of shops on a single level. Most of it is taken up by a branch of Morrisons supermarket.

Why this is called the Aylesham Centre I have no idea. Maybe it has something to do with the village of Aylesham, in Kent. This was established in 1926 to house miners working in the East Kent coal mines. It seems odd to think there were coal mines in Kent but there were. Coal was discovered in the 1890s and was mined here until the 1980s.

Keep going along Rye Lane, past Primark and the Rye Lane chapel. Just before the railway bridge look out for a courtyard on the left.

Peckham may have lost its impressive 1930s super cinemas, but it does have a working cinema here in a building which had previously been a Sainsbury’s supermarket

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This originally opened as the Premier Cinema in September 1994. However they went bust in 2003 and another independent operator reopened it in May 2003 as the Peckham Multiplex. It was renamed PeckhamPlex in December 2015 and I believe it is still independently run. Its long term future was in doubt because of redevelopment plans but it seems that the cinema is not about to disappear just yet.

http://www.peckhamplex.london/news/londons-most-creative-car-park-set-to-stay-in-heart-of-peckham

Keep going along Rye Lane. Our next stop is just after the first railway bridge.

Stop 7: Peckham Rye station

Sitting between the two railway bridges over Rye Lane, on the right you will see this rather messy building. But go down that arcade to see our next stop, Peckham Rye station.

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You may be surprised to learn, this is listed as one of Simon Jenkins 100 best railway stations in Britain. (It is a great book by the way, I got a copy for Christmas)

But once you get to it, Peckham Rye station is rather grand. As Simon Jenkins says:

“Peckham Rye station is a phoenix still hiding in its ashes. It lurks behind a near derelict shopping arcade…The local council has long been intending to restore the area in front of the building but has yet to do so. When it does, the old facade should emerge in all its Victorian glory.”

In the meantime the glory explodes in front of you as you emerge from the tatty arcade.

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It is an odd station because it is in effect two stations side by side on different brick viaducts. One side was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in December 1865 and the other by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway in August 1866.

But between the two lines they shared a single main building. It was designed by Charles Henry Driver (1832–1900) who was the architect of Abbey Mills and Crossness pumping stations as well as being responsible for Denmark Hill and Battersea Park stations on the line in from here to Victoria.

If you go up to the platforms, they are rather a disappointment, and not at all conducive to a good interchange station.

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Now return to the street and turn right. Go under the second railway bridge and go down a little alley way on the left.

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Stop 8: Bussey building

George Gibson Bussey (1829–89), born in Ripon, Yorkshire, was a prolific inventor and developer of sports and leisure equipment, including pneumatic rifles, tennis racquets, clay pigeon machines. He also designed furniture that converted into a billiard table!

Bussey moved his company to Peckham in around 1870. His firm’s business was described as “Firearms, Ammunition & Shooting”. The building here was called the Museum Works and the building had a rifle range at the rear extending along the side of the railway embankment for 150 yards.

More about the history of the building at:

http://www.exploringsouthwark.co.uk/the-bussey-building/4588614792

By the early 21st century, the building was used as multi-occupier artist and design studios and small industries. In 2007 it was earmarked to be demolished and the site set to become a tram depot for the proposed cross river tram service from Camden to Peckham and Brixton. But that was cancelled by incoming Mayor Boris Johnson in 2008 and shows no sign of being revived, so I guess the site is safe for now.

Now return to the street and turn left. Our next stop is just here on the left.

Stop 9: former Holdrons department store

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This building was Holdrons department store.

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Henry Holdron began trading in Rye Lane around 1882 and over the years the store grew. In the 1930s this rather magnificent building was put up.

Holdrons became part of the Selfridges subsidiary, Selfridge Provincial Stores, and then it was briefly owned by John Lewis being one of 15 shops acquired from Selfridges in 1940. It was closed in 1948. Long before the other big names closed their shops here.

Most of the old store is now taken up by Khan’s Bargain, a sort of low rent Woolworths if that is possible. The name Holdrons lives on in the Holdrons Arcade where there are around 20 small business in a kind of corridor – arcade is perhaps too grand a word for their setting.

Now a little further along Rye Lane, you will see a side street called Choumert Road. Go down here. Past the market area on your right you will come across a rather nice little terrace of 19th century cottages. This is our next stop.

Stop 10: Girdlers Cottages

 

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Girdlers Cottages were built in 1852 as almshouses by the Palyn Charity, but are now owned privately.

As we have found in other places, the various City Livery Companies owned and managed housing around London. As one might guess this group had a connection to the Girdlers Company.

According to their website:

“The Company, which was involved with the making of girdles (or belts), received its Letters Patent from Edward III in 1327. While it no longer practises its craft – although it has the honour of presenting the girdle and stole worn by the Sovereign at each coronation – it remains a Company closely connected with the government and Livery Companies of the City of London, the fellowship of its members and various charitable works.”

“The Girdlers’ almshouses owe their existence to bequests by Past Masters Cuthbert Beeston (1582) and George Palyn (1610). Beeston’s property was sold in the 1830s and the money used to build almshouses in Peckham. Palyn’s almshouses were originally built in Finsbury but replaced by further almshouses in Peckham in 1852. Altogether these were on separate sites in Consort Road, Montpelier Road and Choumert Grove, but following a number of amalgamations and rebuildings, the almshouses have been consolidated on the Consort Road site since 1980, where 17 units provide accommodation for over 20 residents.”

More info at:

http://www.exploringsouthwark.co.uk/girdlers-cottages/4588956439

Retrace your steps to the Rye Lane and turn right.

We will pass the site of the former Tower cinema – all that is left is this tower which forms an entrance to a car park.

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More about this cinema – and the nearby Tower Annex at the wonderful Cinema Treasures site:

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/26454

Keep walking along Rye Lane and our next stop is at the junction as the road veers to the right.

Stop 11: Co-operative House

This is a modern building called Co-operative House.

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But look to the right and you will see three dates: 1868, 1932 and 2008

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You may recall from our wander round SE13 Lewisham that there was a former Co-op store there which had two dates on it – the first being 1868 which is the date of the formation of the society which went on to become the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society. The other was 1933 the date of that building. Here in SE15 we have 1932, so I guess that is the date of the Co-op store which stood here. And 2008 is the date of the current building.

Not entirely surprising that there is no longer a major store here given the decline of Peckham as a shopping street and the fact we are right at the end. But the strip we have walked from the High Street to here must have been quite an impressive centre in its heyday.

Keep walking along the main road.

Stop 12: Number 8 Phillips Walk

As you go down the main road, it opens out with a green which is the start of Peckham Rye. It turns out this was common land. And it is still undeveloped today as in 1868 the vestry of Camberwell St Giles bought the Rye to keep it as common land.

You will see a side street to the left, called Philips Walk. Go down there and our final stop is soon on the right – at Number 8.

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Here we have another Southwark Borough blue plaque. this time commemorating engineer and designer, Edward Turner (1901 – 1973)

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Turner was one of the most important players in the development of designs for motorcycle engines and later also developed a version of the Daimler V8 engine for cars.

He lived here because this was next door to his father’s bottle brush factory. The plaque was unveiled by his son Edward Junior on 25 October 2009. His two other children were present.

Here is an interesting piece about Turner’s story and his place in motorcycle history.

http://sumpmagazine.com/edward-turner-plaque.htm

We have now reached the end of our SE15 walk. Peckham has some interesting things in particular some ghosts of former glory as a major shopping area. But it is shabby and sadly run down and it is hard to see how it is going to change anytime soon.

For your onward travel it is probably best to retrace your steps along the main road to Peckham Rye station where there are plenty of trains, or else you can pick up one of the numerous buses that serve Peckham.

SE13: A river runs through it

SE13 is Lewisham. The town centre is an important transport hub as well as a big shopping centre. Though we will major on that we will also go along the road to the historic part of Lee as we heard is in SE13 rather than SE12

We start our walk at Lewisham Post Office which is in W H Smith in the North Mall of Lewisham Shopping Centre. Turn right out of the shop and exit the mall heading towards the station (this is the corridor that heads off to the left)

The “Legible London” maps on the streets have not quite caught up with the reconfiguring of the roads, so they still show a roundabout outside the northern end of the shopping centre.

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Now Molesworth Street goes straight into Loampit Vale with a side turning off to link to the High Street which has been restraightened. What has been lost though is any sense that once there was a bridge over a river here – and it was called Lewisham Bridge. Now the river just pops our from under the railway arch and disappears under the road.

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This is the River Ravensbourne which has come up from Catford and beyond and near here another river joins in from the east and that is the River Quaggy, which we shall get a glimpse of shortly.

But just about where the road is now was once a parade of shops with a large cinema.

Stop 1: site of Odeon cinema

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The cinema here was opened as the Gaumont Palace in December 1932. It has just over 3,000 seats and as so often happened with these large cinemas it also had full stage facilities and regularly hosted live performances.

In 1962 after restoration following a fire, it was renamed the Odeon. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, many famous acts appeared here: Nat ‘King’ Cole, Johnny Cash, Sarah Vaughan & Count Basie and His Orchestra, Ted Heath and His Orchestra, Ray Charles, The Supremes, Chuck Berry, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, The Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, The Beatles, The Who, Rod Stewart, David Essex and The Bay City Rollers.

More info about this cinema is on the wonderful Cinema Treasures site: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/30710

Attempts to convert it to Bingo were refused and it closed as a cinema in 1981. It was left empty for 10 years, and then the entire building was demolished in June 1991, to allow for a road widening scheme (which has since been changed again). A fragment was said to have remained but even that has now gone along with any indication as to where this huge cinema once stood.

Who knows if this building had been better located (eg near a tube station and not next to one of the main roads to Kent and the channel ports) it might have survived as a live venue in the same way its sister at Hammersmith has.

Now head over to the station which you will be able to see.

Stop 2: Lewisham Station

Lewisham is a rather unsatisfactory station. Here is a plan which shows why.

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The National Rail station is on a viaduct in the form of a Y shape with two platforms on each arm of the Y. And up a slope is a roadway which ends up at the ticket office in the middle of the two arms.

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Below and sort of at ground level, there is a DLR station.

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It’s all bit of a cobbled together. It just is not how just would design a station if you were starting from scratch.

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Upstairs the platforms are on curves, so there is quite a gap between the train and the platform in some places.

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Standing on the platforms and looking towards central London there is a complex junction with a flat crossover between the two sets of lines. Typically at present there are 14 trains an hour to central London, but they go to three different stations from two different platforms – 8 an hour to Cannon Street, 4 an hour to Charing Cross and 2 an hour to Victoria.

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And over to the left out of view is a line which bypasses Lewisham station completely, so some suburban trains which might have served Lewisham go whizzing by, meaning the service from here could have been even more frequent. If the station had been better located it would have been the Clapham Junction of south east London.

There is a nice view of the Shard from the platforms.

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So how did this happen. The first station in Lewisham was opened as part of the North Kent line in 1849. The station was moved in 1857 to its present location which was slightly to the west of the original. The junction to the north of the station was remodelled in the 1920s and a link was put in to the Greenwich Park branch.

The Jubilee line was once planned to come here but that got cancelled in the late 1970s. But the DLR was squeezed in here in 1999 and now there is talk of the Bakerloo line being extended here, but not until the 2030s.

The full complicated story can be followed here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewisham_station

Now go out of the station forecourt. If you go left you can spot another bit of the largely hidden river Ravensbourne. This is looking away from Lewisham centre towards Greenwich

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And this is looking back towards the centre of Lewisham

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Go to the end. Cross over the main road  and turn right. Head towards the shopping centre. On your way look left and you will see another stream which disappears under the road.

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This is the River Quaggy which comes in from the direction of Lee. Ahead is our next stop, the Police Station

Stop 3: site of Chiesman’s Department store

Today this is Lewisham Police station – an uninspiring work-a-day building.

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But once this was the site of a major department store called Chiesmans. The following information is mostly from the House of Fraser archives:

Chiesmans Ltd, drapers, Lewisham, was incorporated as a private limited company in 1921. The business was founded in 1884 as a partnership between two brothers Frank and Harry Chiesman who opened a drapery shop on the High Street, Lewisham.

In 1921 the rebuilding of a more modern store, on the same site, was begun, and extensions and alterations continued in the 1930s. Chiesmans Ltd had acquired premises on both sides of the High Street and in 1939 work was completed on a bridge across the High Street which connected both stores at first floor level.

The business was expanded in 1933 when Chiesmans Ltd bought a second store in Maidstone, and again in 1947 a store in Canterbury was added, but had to be resold when it proved unprofitable. In 1957 a fourth store in Gravesend was purchased. In 1957 Chiesmans Ltd became a Public Limited Company, although most of the shares were kept within the Chiesman family. In the following two years the company acquired stores in Tunbridge Wells, the Isle of Wight, Ilford, Upton Park and Rochester. The Lewisham store was extended again in 1960.

The company was bought by House of Fraser in 1972. It got renamed Army and Navy and was downsized in 1993, eventually closing completely in 1997. (Curiously the House of Fraser Archive page suggests that the shop was still trading in 2009 which it was not)

Now our next stop is just next door

Stop 4: former Co-op store

Here on the left is a rather grand building which was built as a department store in 1933 for the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society.

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It is a four storey Art Deco style building with central tower and relief plaques depicting a steam train, lorry and ships The dates of 1868 and 1933 are incorporated in the tower.

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1868 is the date when the Royal Arsenal Supply Association was founded by 20 workers from the Royal Arsenal. It became the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society in 1872. 1933 is the date of construction of this building.

There is a lorry with RACS spelled out on its trailer.

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There are a couple of ships and in the middle a vent like thing with what looks like the entwined letters of RACS.

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Now cross the road and you will see our next stop, the Clock Tower.

Stop 5: Clock Tower

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This was built for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It survived the bombardments of the Second World war but was moved slightly in the 1950s.

There is a rather nice crown atop this clock tower.

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Here is a link with more info on the clock tower: http://www.lewishamcard.co.uk/latest/2016/5/16/the-history-behind-the-lewisham-clocktower

Just beyond the Clock Tower on the side of the High Street is a market area. Interesting that today almost all the market now operate on the £1 a bowl model of pricing. I guess it saves fiddling about with weighing stuff.

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Now a little way along the market to you right you will see Marks and Spencer’s store.

Stop 6: Marks & Spencer store (and plaque)

And to the left of the entrance is a plaque.

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This commemorates the casualties from a V1 rocket attack in July 1944.

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When one thinks of war time bombing one tends to focus on the so-called Blitz – that was a period of sustained bombing from planes between September 1940 and May 1941. That was bad enough but from the summer of 1944, Germany started to use missiles – the V1s and V2s. They could be fired from continental Europe and did not need a plane to deliver them.

According to Wikipedia, a total of 9,251 V1s were fired at targets in Britain, with the vast majority aimed at London; 2,515 reached the city, killing 6,184 civilians and injuring 17,981. 1,115 V2s were fired at the United Kingdom. The vast majority of them were aimed at London where they killed an estimated 2,754 people with another 6,523 injured.

The V1 had a distinctive engine sound which cut out as it was about to drop on its target, which gave some warning. The V2 was supersonic and just arrived. It must have been quite terrifying as there was little warning of a raid, as a missile would only take 5 minutes to get here from Belgium. No longer were the bombing raids confined to times when the bombers could fly. One wonders what might have happened if these weapons had been around earlier in the war.

Keep going along the High Street and at the end of the bus only section you will see our next stop on the left.

Stop 7: Lewisham Library

This rather nondescript looking 1960s building houses Lewisham Library.

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Go inside and there a little surprise on the ground floor above a doorway near the bottom of the escalator.

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This is a plaque commemorating King Alfred, he of burnt cakes fame. He was Lord of the Manor of Lewisham and this plaque dates from 1901 so was presumably moved here from a previous Library building.

Now retrace your steps along the High Street and at the very end turn right into Lee High Road.

Note here according to the street maps is the location of Lee Bridge, although you cannot actually see a bridge.

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Go along Lee High Road for a while until you reach Clarendon Road. Turn right here.

Almost immediately you will go over another river. This is the River Quaggy again and presumably what Lee Bridge went over.

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Now continue and at the junction bear left into Gilmore Road. Stop at Number 9 which is on the left.

Stop 8: Number 9 Gilmore Road

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As you can see, there is a blue plaque. This commemorates the birthplace of the poet and writer James Elroy Flecker (1884 – 1915).

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The plaque erected in 1986 by Greater London Council. Not sure he would qualify for a plaque now as he is not exactly well known today. If he is remembered at all, it is for his 1913 poem, “The Golden Journey to Samarkand”.

Follow Gilmore Road round and turn left at Eastdown Park. Then turn right at the main road and cross over

You will see a gated estate, called Halley Gardens and just after that entrance you should see this,

Stop 9: Meridian marker

We saw a few Meridian Markers in east London but they are not so common south of the river. And this one is much older than the ones we saw previously.

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It was laid on 16 May 1984 in Lewisham Anti Racist Week “to commemorate the centenary of the Greenwich Meridian and promote racial harmony throughout the world”.

Although Britain has established the meridian through Greenwich in 1721, it was only adopted internationally as a result of a conference in Washington DC in the United States in October 1884. of course the French were not happy as they had a rival meridian going though Paris and so they abstained and did not in fact adopt the international meridian until 1911.

This agreement was needed not just for navigation but also to help standardise time, an issue which had emerged with the railways, notably in North America where there was a multiplicity of local times. We kind of take this for granted but it all had to worked out.

Interesting the local council decided to install this in May, a few months ahead of the actual centenary.

Now keep going along Lee High Road, cross over Brandram Road. At the corner are some almshouses which we shall come back. you need to turn right into Old Road. Follow Old Road round to the left and ahead you will see our next stop set back in its own grounds.

Stop 10: Manor House library

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Today this is a library, but once it was the home of the Baring family.

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As evidenced by the Lewisham Borough council plaque

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As we heard in SE12, much of the development here was the land hereabouts was part of the Baring estate. The building dates from 1771/72 according to architectural guru Pevsner.

Next door to the Library is Manor House Gardens, a lovely little green space.

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Have a look at the information sign at the entrance.

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Have a look at this sign and you will see at the other end of the garden, the River Quaggy runs through it.

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Now follow Old Road round and to the left and you get back to the main road. Ahead you will see our next stop.

Stop 11: Boone Chapel and Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses

Firstly there is the Boone Chapel. This is the only remaining part of some almshouses dating from 1683.

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According to the Blackheath Historic Buildings Trust http://www.blackheath.org/bhbt.htm

“The original almshouses and chapel were commissioned by Christopher Boone, a London merchant and, like Sir Christopher Wren, a member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company, and built in 1683. Income from the Boone family estate in Herefordshire helped provide relief for the elderly poor of Lee and for the education of 12 poor children. The original row of almshouses stood next to the Chapel facing directly on to Lee High Road. These almshouses were demolished in 1875 but a U-shaped block, dating from 1825 and listed Grade II, remains further up the hill. After demolition of the original almshouses, the Chapel continued to function as a reading room, but fell into disuse after 1945.

It is likely that Wren was commissioned to build the Chapel and almshouses but the work was probably carried out by Robert Hooke, a close friend and colleague and another member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company. Hooke is best known for advising Wren in the re-building of the City of London after the Great Fire and in the designing of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.”

By the late 1990s, the Grade I listed chapel was suffering from decades of neglect and was placed on English Heritage’s London Buildings at Risk register. The Blackheath Historic Buildings Trust was set up in 1999 and following the raising of over £500,000, Boone’s Chapel was renovated in 2008. The chapel is now used by a firm of architects but is open to the public 30 days a year, including for Open House weekend.

Now continue along Lee High Road and look though the fence and you will see the Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses.

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These almhouses date from 1826 and are separate from the Boone’s almshouses which were rebuilt just up the road. Since 2010 the Merchant Taylors’ and Boone’s almshouses have been run by a single charitable trust which is still connected to the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors.

Go along the main road and turn right into Brandram Road, where you will the entrance to the Almshouses.

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Keep going up this road to the end. Our final stop is to the right and ahead.

Stop 12: St Margaret’s church (and old churchyard)

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St Margaret’s Church, Lee was built between 1839 and 1841 in a simple early Victorian style, replacing the older medieval church nearby (which was 12th Century). Extensive and lavish interior decoration was carried out between 1875 and 1900. It is said that the church is one of the best preserved examples of a decorated gothic revivalist interior in London.

But perhaps of more interest is across the road. this is where the original St Margaret’s church was before it was rebuilt in the 19th century. And it is here where the old graveyard is.

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It seems that they did try to rebuilt the church on this site between 1813 and 1830, but this failed as the foundations of the old church could not support a new building. But the churchyard was left and this is where Edmond Halley (1656–1742) is buried. He was England’s second Astronomer Royal from 1720 and the discoverer of Halley’s Comet. And there are two other Astronomers Royal buried here – Nathaniel Bliss and John Pond (no me neither!)

So that brings us to the end of our SE13 walk. Lewisham has been unlucky in its history and geography. It is not quite right with the main roads ploughing through and separating the station from the town centre. And the two rivers which flow through the centre are now rather sad concrete lined drainage channels. The grandness of some of the shop buildings is somewhat let down by the run of the mill retail offer here. But at least M & S is still here unlike in Wood Green and West Ealing. And we did get to go the historic part of Lee which for reasons lost in the mists of time was in a different postal area to the main part of Lee.

We are almost in Blackheath here. You can get buses 54, 89 and 108 either on to Blackheath or back to Lewisham.

SE12: Tiger, Tiger

SE12 is Lee – a sort of in-between place with not a lot going on. It is one of those areas which people are hard pressed to pin point and when you get here you can see why. It is a little – how do you say – uninspiring. And unfortunately the historic bit of Lee turns out to be in SE13.

We start our walk at Lee Green Post Office, 161 Lee Road. This is by the cross roads on the A20 which seems to be what passes for the centre of modern day Lee.

Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is almost immediately next door.

Stop 1: New Tiger’s Head

Here we are on the north east corner of the cross roads which is dominated by a closed down pub.

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This is the New Tiger’s Head, as opposed to the Old Tiger’s Head which is over the road and which we will see next.

It looks like it was built during that boom in pub building in late Victorian times and it has an elegant double arch entrance way. Inside the archway, there is a plaque giving some information as to the origin of the pub.

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Curiously this ends up by saying “The New Tigers Head is one of many public houses with the word ‘tiger’ in it’s title – so named to glory in the sport of tiger hunting in the days of the Indian Raj”

Really? I have to say I do not recall seeing another pub with the word “Tiger” in its name.

This pub seems to have been closed for many years and is a sorry sight.

Now cross the road to the north west corner of the cross roads..

Stop 2: Old Tiger’s Head

Here we have the Old Tiger’s Head which is still functioning as a pub.

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According to Wikipedia:

“Confusingly, the original (Old) Tiger’s Head is thought to have been built on the site currently occupied by the New Tiger’s Head. The original pub is thought to have been built before 1730. It was rebuilt on its present site, the north-west quadrant, in 1750–1770 and then rebuilt (in its third incarnation) in 1896 – the date carried on its frontage. It became an important mail and coaching inn. The New Tiger’s Head started life as a beer shop known as the Tiger Tavern in the 1830s. It was situated in the end of four cottages known as Prospect Terrace built around the same time. Three of these cottages remain, housing a post office/newsagent and a hairdresser. In 1868 it is referred to as the Tiger’s Head Inn. The present building is thought to have replaced the original cottage a few years after 1896 – the date of the rebuilding of the Old Tiger’s Head.”

There is also some information on the Lewisham Council website:

http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/documents/s19163/Additions%20to%20Local%20Listing.pdf

“The Old Tigers Head is a corner pub that sits at the junction of Lee High Road and
Lee Road. The New Tigers Head sits across the road on the other corner within the
Royal Borough of Greenwich. This is a local landmark building and reflects the
evolution of the borough.

There is believed to have been a pub on this site since the mid 1700s. Historically
the pub sat on the side of the village green with the back to the Quaky River. It was a
resting place for troops marching to Waterloo in 1815.

The present incarnation of the pub was built in 1896 and is made of red brick with
rough render to the upper floor. The pub frontage is retained including the pilasters
and iron ventilation grills within the windows. There is a frieze to the eaves which
wraps around the building. On the Lee High Road elevation there is a moulded
terracotta date tablet which incorporates a tiger’s head. The first floor has painted
decorative pediments to the windows and surrounds and further terracotta reliefs.”

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Now cross over to the south west quadrant which has been redeveloped as a rather ugly Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Stop 3: Site of Imperial Palace/Savoy/Pullman cinema

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This was the site of the Imperial Picture Theatre which opened in December 1913. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures website, it was taken over by new management in June 1928 and renamed Savoy Cinema becoming the Pullman cinema in April 1955.

It closed in June 1959 and was converted into a motor spare parts shop, and then a shopfitters, before being demolished in October 1986 and replaced by this dreary supermarket, which turns its back on the road.

There is a great link here which shows old cinemas in the borough of Lewisham and what the location look like now. Included is the cinema that was here. Scroll down to the heading “Lee”.

https://lewishamlostcinemas.wordpress.com/lewishams-lost-cinemas/

Now go back to the final quadrant of the cross roads – the south east one.

Stop 4: Lee Green

This is apparently Lee Green, according to the sign.

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What is rather odd about this area is that there does not appear to be any actual green at Lee Green.

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Maybe there was once and the council paved it over.

Stop 5: Leegate “shopping” centre

Just behind the paved area which goes by the name Lee Green there is a sad looking commercial development which includes a pedestrianised shopping street with a few shops struggling along

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The only place that seemed to have any business was the Wetherspoons pub at the corner.

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This is called the Edmund Halley.

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Edmund (or Edmond) Halley (1656 – 1742) was one of England’s greatest astronomers. He gave his name to a now-famous comet. So what has he got to do with Lee. Well he lies buried in the graveyard of old St Margaret’s Church. Sadly this is not actually in SE12.

The Wetherspoons website has a rather more extensive than usual section on the history of the area https://www.jdwetherspoon.com/pub-histories/england/london/the-edmund-halley-lee-green including a reference to the fact that Karl Marx lived for a time in Lee, though frustratingly there seems to be nothing on the web to suggest where.

Now continue down this street, which is Burnt Ash Road and our next stop is in a side street on the right.

Stop 6 Number 13 Handen Road

The house we are looking for is on the left as you come from the main road.

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This was the birthplace of the publisher Sir Stanley Unwin, (1884 – 1968). He was one of the founders of the George Allen and Unwin publishing house in 1914. It published serious and sometimes controversial authors such as Bertrand Russell and Mahatma Gandhi.

Apparently we have Unwin to thank for the Lord of the Rings. In 1936 the author J. R. R. Tolkien submitted The Hobbit for publication. Unwin paid his ten year old son Rayner Unwin a shilling to write a report on the manuscript. He liked it and which prompted Unwin to publish the book. Once it became a success, Unwin asked Tolkien for a sequel. This was to become The Lord of the Rings, and the rest as they say is history.

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Now there was another Stanley Unwin – the comedian who mangled his words and was sometimes known as Professor Stanley Unwin.

He invented his own comic language, “Unwinese”. This is where words are playfully and humorously altered – often it sounds like gibberish but there is always something that helps it make sense.  Unwin claimed that the inspiration came from his mother, who once told him that on the way home she had “falolloped (fallen) over” and “grazed her kneeclabbers”.

Sadly “Professor” Stanley Unwin does not seem to have a blue plaque anywhere.

Now retrace your steps to Burnt Ash Road and turn right.

Stop 7: The Lord Northbrook pub

Just at the corner of Southbrook Road is a pub called the Lord Northbrook. Lord Northbrook’s family name is Baring, as in the banking family and in the 19th century, they had an estate in Lee.

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Apparently the keyboard player Manfred Mann lived in Southbrook Road – don’t know where or when though.

It’s curious that the street is called Southbrook Road rather than Northbrook Road. Turns out Northbrook Road is a few street away towards Lewisham but it is in SE13.

Keep going along Burnt Ash Road. You will soon get to a railway bridge and just beyond that a roadway to the left which leads up to our next stop.

Stop 8: Lee Station

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Go up this roadway and at the top you reach the ticket office to Lee station.

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It is a modern affair but the platforms have retained their canopies and so look rather more traditional.

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There has been a station here since 1866 when the South Eastern Railway opened a second route between London and Dartford from a junction with its main line at Hither Green to its existing North Kent line just west of Dartford

The line was electrified early on by the Southern Railway in 1926 and the platforms have been lengthened twice – in 1955 to accommodate 10 car trains and in 1992 to allow for 12 car trains.

Now return to Burnt Ash Road and turn left continue to the junction with a main road – which turns out to be the South Circular Road

Stop 9: South Circular Road

I have driven many time along this particular stretch of road. It is significant because this junction is a place where suddenly the road switches being a basic little road to being a proper dual carriageway, so you suddenly find you go a bit faster.

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Or conversely when coming the other way a bit slower.

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Though strangely when i was there the eastbound traffic was queued back on the way to the wider section but not going west where the road narrowed

I had not realised exactly where I was and now I do.

The South Circular Road is the sorry result of successive governments, national and local, failing to face up to the reality that there is no proper orbital route in South London. It now seems inconceivable that the road will be improved in any meaningful way and so for most of the South Circular to the west of here it will remain a collection of streets strung together with signage.

Now at this cross roads do a right and then an immediate left, which will take you into Baring Road. Our next stop is a short way on the left.

Stop 10: Number 39 Baring Road

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Number 39 was the birthplace of an actor called James Robertson Justice in 1907. Strange that because he is often thought of as being Scottish. Whilst he undoubtedly had Scottish connections, apparently he cultivated the myth that he was actually born in Scotland which he was not.

His parents named him James Norval Harald Justice.  According to his Wikipedia entry he seems to have lead a colourful life before becoming an actor. He was a journalist at Reuters in 1927 alongside James Bond creator Ian Fleming. After a year he emigrated to Canada, where he worked as an insurance salesman, taught English at a boys’ school, became a lumberjack and mined for gold. He came back to Britain penniless, working his passage on a Dutch freighter washing dishes in the ship’s galley to pay his fare. In the 1930s he was involved in ice hockey and motor racing. He was a policeman for the League of Nations in Germany and fought on the republican side in the Spanish Civil War.  On return to Britain, he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, but after sustaining an injury in 1943, he was pensioned off.

After the war, he became an actor and reinvented himself with stronger Scottish roots. He dropped his two middle names and replaced them with a new middle name Robertson because that was the tartan he wore.

He is perhaps best known for his roles in the “Doctor” series of films of which there were seven between 1954 and 1970. In six of these he played the role of fearsome surgeon, Sir Lancelot Spratt, but in one the 1955 Doctor at Sea, the action takes place on a ship and he played the part of Captain Hogg, the ship’s commander.

He had a small role in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and soon after he suffered a severe stroke, which signalled the beginning of the end for his career.

Keep going along Baring Road.

Stop 11: the view from Baring Road

Now look back and rather unexpectedly you will see a great view of Canary Wharf.

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Obviously it does not quite look like this is real life, as I have zoomed the lens which makes the towers seem closer..

Stop 12: Northbrook Park

Just a little further along baring Road is Northbrook Park. According to Lewisham Council’s website this was a field known as the Ten-Acre Field, although in fact it was nearer nine acres. The field formed part of the Baring estates in Lee, and in 1898 Lord Northbrook offered to present it for public use, in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. A sundial marks Lord Northbrook’s gift.

And I guess that explains why the road here is called Baring Road.

We have now reached the end of our SE12 walk which I have to say has not been the most interesting area.

And I have left you a bit out of the way. Probably the best thing is to retrace your steps to Lee station, although there are local buses. There’s the 261 along Baring Road which goes north to Lee and Lewisham and south to Bromley and beyond. Otherwise from St Mildred’s Road (the South Circular) there is the 160 and 202 towards Catford and going the other way the 160 will take you to Eltham and beyond whilst the 202 goes to Lee and Blackheath.

SE10: I walk the line

SE10 is Greenwich usually pronounced Gren-itch, though some of the locals seem to say Grin-itch. But never of course Green-witch!

We start our walk at the Post Office at 261-267 Greenwich High Road. Turn right and go along the High Road. Our first stop is a short way on the right.

Stop 1: Greenwich Station

Greenwich was the terminus of the first passenger railway route out of London.

The first section of the London and Greenwich Railway opened in February 1836 but it was over 2½ years later before the line got to Greenwich in December 1838. Initially there was a temporary station but a proper station building opened in 1840.

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It looks like an elegant town house, doesn’t it. According to architectural guru Pevsner, the original station building of 1840 was re-erected on this site in 1878 in somewhat altered form.

The railway initially ended here because to go any further meant extending the railway onto land owned by the Royal Hospital and potentially cutting across the historic Royal Hospital grounds. The solution was to extend the line eastwards in a cut and cover tunnel under what is now the gardens in front of the National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House. This opened in February 1878.

I think this explains the rather odd arrangement when you go on to the platform, as the old building is set back off the edge of the platform and the canopy does not go to the edge.

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I suspect the line had to be moved in order so the alignment worked for the extension, but they kept the original building, though Pevsner suggested it was “re-erected” so maybe that is not the reason.

Greenwich station is also served by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). The DLR was extended to Lewisham via Greenwich in December 1999, with the new platforms at Greenwich lying immediately to the south of the main-line station and inconveniently not by the main station building and with no cross platform interchange.

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Now retrace your steps along Greenwich High Road. Our next stop looms up on the right.

Stop 2: Meridian House and Borough Hall

This was the Town Hall of the old Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich formed in 1900.

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Ans at the corner are some steps and a stone

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This is a fantastic municipal building of the 1930s by architect Cliford Culpin and which Pevsner describes as “A progressive building for its time, similar in style to the slightly earlier town halls of the Middlesex boroughs of Hornsey and Wembley, inspired by Dutch and Scandinavian precedents.”

The post 1965 borough chose to have its main offices in Woolwich and so this Town Hall eventually became surplus to requirements. Today it is occupied by GSM London (formerly known as Greenwich School of Management). This is an independent school of higher education which offers business-specific courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The building has been altered over time in the 1970s by the Council and then later when it was converted to private offices. The building is now known as Meridian House and like the Meridian House we saw in E14 it is not actually on the meridian.

Now go down the side street and you will see the Borough Hall ahead of you, which is to the rear and adjoining the Town Hall building.

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Go up to the doorway and you find this little black plaque.

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This belongs to a small group of plaques created by the Performing Rights Society relating to sites connected to music heritage. This plaque was placed here on 23 March 2010, to signify where the pop group Squeeze, consisting then of Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook, Jools Holland, Harry Kakoulli and Paul Gunn, first performed in 1975.

The full list of Music Heritage plaques is at: https://www.prsformusic.com/what-we-do/supporting-music/heritage-awards

Now go down the little side street ahead of you (Burney Street) and you will see a car park area and a bit of a garden.

Stop 3: Burney Street Garden/Site of workshops for the blind

But there are some interesting looking stones here.

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All is explained by this sign – well sort of.

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There seems very little information about the building that stood on this site but I found this from the “Greenwich Phantom”  http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2008/04/workshops-for-the-blind/

Not sure the Phantom is right about the Ibis Hotel being on the site of these workshops,

Stop 4: Ibis Hotel/Greenwich Picturehouse (site of Greenwich Park Station)

So ahead of you on the left is a modern building houses the Greenwich Picturehouse cinema and the Ibis hotel, but this site was actually the location of Greenwich’s other railway station, rather than the Workshop for the Blind.

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This station, initially called just Greenwich, was opened in 1888 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) who were bitter rivals of the South Eastern Railway whose station had been built here almost 50 years earlier.

The LCDR station was at the end of a branch which ran from Nunhead and the route into central London was not exactly direct unlike the SER line. The SER line also had the advantage that by then it extended eastwards as well. (In fact the LCDR station was aligned so it could have been extended eastwards to join the SER line, but that never happened)

So the LCDR station was a bit of a failure in terms of traffic and once the LCDR amalgamated with the SER in 1899 to form the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR), its fate was sealed.

It was renamed Greenwich Park in 1900 to distinguish it from the other station, and it staggered on for a few more years, closing in 1917 due to wartime economy measures. Some of the branch proved useful in the 1920s when the Southern Railway set about trying to improve the connections between the two old rivals..The section of the branch between Nunhead and Lewisham Road was reopened in 1929 with a new connecting spur to Lewisham. But rather than extend the line eastwards and create an alternative route through Greenwich, the part between Lewisham Road and Greenwich Park was officially abandoned in 1929.

After 1929 the station was demolished and eventually the site was redeveloped into what we see today..

Now continue to the other end of the Hotel building and you will get to Crooms Hill. Our next stop is just across the road at the corner of Nevada Street

Stop 5: Former Spread Eagle Inn (Al Pancino restaurant)

The sign over the arch says Spread Eagle Yard

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Today it is mostly taken up by the Al Pancino restaurant.

(I have to say I first read this name as Al Pacino and was wondering why there was a restaurant named after a famous American actor here in Greenwich, but then I looked again!)

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But as the grey plaque indicates this building has a bit more of a story.

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It is appropriate we stop and pause here a moment because Dick Moy (1932 – 2004) was one of the key people who helped put Greenwich on the map.

According to his obituary in the Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/dick-moy-25987.html

“…he combined enthusiasm for the town’s mix of historic grandeur and urban grit with a charismatic business presence in it of nearly 50 years as a general antiques and book dealer, and 37 as an idiosyncratic, bon vivant restaurateur.”

He was a founder member of the Greenwich Society and a tireless campaigner.

Indeed one of the places he campaigned about was our next stop, just over the road.

Stop 6: Greenwich Theatre

At the corner is the Rose and Crown pub

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But spreading behind it is the Greenwich Theatre.

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The first theatre here opened in 1855 when the Rose and Crown pub created a Music Hall in some adjoining rooms

It was rebuilt in 1871 by Charles Spencer Crowder and renamed Crowder’s Music Hall with an entrance on Nevada Street, that is to the left of the pub. It was renamed in 1879 by a new owner, Alfred Ambrose Hurley, as the Royal Borough Theatre of Varieties. Then in 1898 it was rebuilt became the Parthenon Theatre of Varieties. I understand the facade on Nevada Street dates from this time. It later became the Greenwich Palace of Varieties,

Samuel and Daniel Barnard took over in 1902 and it became Barnard’s Palace with an entrance on Crooms Hill. It finally became the Greenwich Hippodrome. It hosted both live performances and films but was converted into a cinema in 1924 when it lost its licence for live entertainment .

It was used as a repertory theatre during the Second World War with films on Sundays, but it was damaged by an incendiary bomb, closing the theatre.

Greenwich Council bought the site in 1962 with a view to redevelopment but agreed to support the idea of a new theatre if there was enough local support. A campaign headed by Ewan Hooper, a local actor and director, succeeded and a new theatre seating 421 with an open thrust stage was created within the old shell. It opened as the Greenwich Theatre in 1969.

So this is a fairly modern building even though the site has had theatrical connection going back some 150 years.

Now go a short way along Crooms Hill and you will see our next stop on the right.

Stop 6: Number 12 Crooms Hill

At number 12 is one of those quirky little museums that you cannot quite believe exist. This one is dedicated to fans.

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The Fan Museum opened in 1991 and owns over 4,000 fans and related items. The oldest fan in the collection dates from the 10th century and there is an extensive collection of 18th and 19th century European fans.

It is open Tuesday to Sunday and the entrance charge is a modest £4 (£3 concession). Here is a link to their website: https://www.thefanmuseum.org.uk/

Now keep walking along Crooms Hill and you will eventually get to a gate into Greenwich Park.

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Do not go in here but do a left turn down a gravel drive.

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And just down here you will find a little gateway into the park.

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When inside turn right and head towards the Rose Garden

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Just here facing the garden is the entrance to the Rangers House

Stop 7: Rangers House

The Rangers House dates from about 1700, although it has been added to over the years. It is called the Rangers’ House because it was used as the official residence of the Ranger of Greenwich Park from 1816.

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(By the way this photo and the one below are actually taken from the other side and not the Rose Garden side)

Today it is run by English Heritage and houses the Wernher Collection, which consists of works of art amassed by diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher (1850-1912).

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According to the website http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/rangers-house-the-wernher-collection/ there are nearly 700 works of art are on display, including early religious paintings and Dutch Old Masters, tiny carved Gothic ivories, fine Renaissance bronzes and silver treasures revealing the genius of medieval craftsmen and the unparalleled quality of Renaissance decorative arts.

Originally displayed in Wernher’s townhouse, Bath House, Piccadilly, the collection was first publicly accessible at his country house of Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire. After the death of Sir Julius’s grandson and the sale of Luton Hoo in the 1990s, much of the collection returned to London. In 2002 the trustees of the Wernher Foundation made a 125-year loan of the collection to English Heritage, thus safeguarding it for the nation’s enjoyment.

Keep going through the Rose Garden and there is something rather curious on your right hand side.

Stop 8: Queen Charlotte’s Bath

There is a little fenced off garden and a paved area with a hole.

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The Greenwich Park website https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park/things-to-see-and-do/ancient-greenwich/queen-carolines-bath-remains explains this is the remains of a bath belonging to Queen Caroline, the estranged wife of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. She lived at Montague House on the edge of Greenwich Park between 1798 and 1813.

She held notoriously boisterous parties and in the early years of the 19th century, rumours circulated that she had an illegitimate child. A royal commission cleared her of adultery but said her behaviour was open to “unfavourable interpretations”.

She left England for Europe in 1814 and Montague House was demolished a year later leaving only the outline of her bath.

The bath itself was filled in during the 1980s and for nearly 20 years the only sign of it was a plaque which states “A bath beneath the paving and this wall are all that remains of Montague House, the house between 1801 and 1813 of the Princess of Wales, later to become Queen Caroline, wife of George IV.”

In 2001, the Royal Parks excavated the bath with funding from the Friends of Greenwich Park, Greenwich Society, the Friends of Ranger’s House and individual donations. But that plaque is on the wall nearby even though it no longer is strictly true.

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And nearby is another plaque

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This commemorates Ignatius Sancho (c1729 – 1780), a black man who began life as a slave but who managed to educate himself, and become quite a man of letters.

The plaque was unveiled on 15 June 2007, by local MP Nick Raynsford, on the remaining wall of Montagu House. The timing is significant as this was the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, made law in 1807.

Now head back through the Rose Garden and over to the right. you will eventually get to the side of the Royal Observatory. Just here is a statue and a viewing terrace.

Stop 9: General Woolf’s statue (and that view…)

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This is the statue of General Woolf (1727 – 1759) best known for his defeat of the French at Quebec which led to he ending of French control of this part of the world.

But most people ignore him because they have really come here for the view.

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Below in the park is the Queen’s House and Royal Hospital and then beyond over the River is the skyline of Canary Wharf.

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And over to the far left is the skyline of the City.

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On your left you have the Royal Observatory, which was established here is 1675.

Stop 10: The Royal Observatory

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Wikipedia has a nice chronology of the place as follows:

  • 1675 – 22 June, Royal Observatory founded.
  • 1675 – 10 August, construction began.
  • 1714 Longitude Act established the Board of Longitude and Longitude rewards. The Astronomer Royal was, until the Board was dissolved in 1828, always an ex officio Commissioner of Longitude.
  • 1767 Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne began publication of the Nautical Almanac, based on observations made at the Observatory.
  • 1818 Oversight of the Royal Observatory was transferred from the Board of Ordnance to the Board of Admiralty; at that time the observatory was charged with maintaining the Royal Navy’s Marine chronometers.
  • 1833 Daily time signals began, marked by dropping a Time ball.
  • 1899 The New Physical Observatory (now known as the South Building) was completed.
  • 1924 Hourly time signals (Greenwich Time Signal) from the Royal Observatory were first broadcast on 5 February.
  • 1948 Office of the Astronomer Royal was moved to Herstmonceux, East Sussex.
  • 1957 Royal Observatory completed its move to Herstmonceux, becoming the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO). The Greenwich site is renamed the Old Royal Observatory.
  • 1990 RGO moved to Cambridge.
  • 1998 RGO closed. Greenwich site is returned to its original name, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, is made part of the National Maritime Museum.
  • 2011 The Greenwich museums, including the RGO, become collectively the Royal Museums Greenwich.

And running through the Royal Observatory site is the Greenwich Meridian.

There is a long stretch of the line inlaid in the pavement inside the paid for area of the Observatory where people take photographs with one foot in each hemisphere (As if I would do such a thing…)

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But you can actually stand on the line on the public path if you head down the path that runs from the left side of the viewing terrace.

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But the strip in the pavement is not so big and you have not got the names and degrees east or west set out for you on the pavement. (But it is free!)

Now head down that path and into Greenwich town centre. (it is quite a steep path and I reckon the way we came up was easier as it seemed less precipitous)

Now I am going to skip the big ticket items of the Royal Hospital, the Queen’s House, the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark and focus on two things in the town centre.

Once you leave the park go down the street ahead of you and you will get to the one way road system in the middle of the town. Cross over and in the middle of the buildings you will find Greenwich Market

Stop 11: Greenwich Market

This is a long standing market although sadly it is not in an elegant historic market hall building. It is just in a rather dull industrial shed.

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There is a plaque at the far end.

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This notes the market is still trading under it charter dating from 1737 – the time of King William III. However today it is mainly devoted to arty and crafty things and artisanal foodie things as opposed to regular fruit and veg. But It is always worth a little mooch around.

There is a nice reminder to the market traders about fair measures.

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Now head out of the market and follow the signs for Cutty Sark DLR station.

Stop 12: Cutty Sark DLR station

This station was built as part of the Lewisham extension of the DLR and opened in 1999. Its full name is “Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich” to make the point that this station, rather than Greenwich, is the stop for the sights here..

It is one of only three completely underground stations on the DLR network, Down below there is an island platform but it was built before there was any thought of three car trains. It would have been prohibitively expensive and disruptive to extend the platforms, so its platforms are too short for three car trains. Thus the first two sets and last two sets of doors on each train do not open and customers in the front and back of the train have to move towards the centre to leave the train.

But I thought I would finish with a couple of pictures of what is on the intermediate landing as you go down the escalators This is part of the tunnelling machine which bored the running tunnels.

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I somehow think it would not have been painted red, white and blue when it was actually doing the tunnelling.

We have now reached the end of our SE10 visit. There is of course so much more to see and do in Greenwich, but I tried to include some things which you might not have been aware of, such as Queen Charlotte’s Bath and the Fan Museum and the stories of Dick Moy and Ignatius Sancho.

We are at Cutty Sark DLR station for onward travel but there are plenty of buses hereabouts, not to mention National rail and even the River boats.

SE9: Always Hope

SE9 is Eltham – home to a former Royal Palace and some other famous connections, as we shall see.

We start our walk at Eltham Post Office, 33 Court Yard, which is in Eltham Town Centre just down from the cross roads by the parish church.  Turn left out of the door and follow Court Yard. The road veers off to the left but actually Court Yard continues along to the right. Our first stop is Eltham Palace but do not be tempted by the sign which will take you a long way round via the car park.

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Keep straight on walking along Court Yard and you will eventually get to a gateway to a path which goes over a bridge.

Stop 1: Eltham Palace

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If you want to visit the Palace (which you really should!) you will need to follow the path to the left and go to the Visitor’s centre and cafe area and get a ticket. (I will be posting a piece on the Palace itself in due course on StephensLDN)

Even if you do not have a ticket you can go over the bridge

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Then go into the courtyard area, where the entrance to the house is on your left.

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Eltham became a Royal Palace when the Bishop of Durham gave it to King Edward II in 1305. It was used a Royal residence until the 16th century. By the 17th century Greenwich Palace had been rebuilt and Eltham became ruinous. It would have stayed that way had it not been for Stephen Courtauld and his wife Virginia who acquired the lease of the palace site in 1933.

Stephen Courtauld (1883–1967) was a member of the wealthy English Courtauld textile family but his wealthy background enabled him and his wife to travel extensively and to pursue cultural and philanthropic interests. They set about restoring the Great Hall and adjoining it they build a large home, decorated in the Art Deco style.

In 1944, the Courtauld family moved to Scotland then to Southern Rhodesia, giving the palace to the Royal Army Educational Corps in March 1945. The Army remained here until 1992. English Heritage took over management of the palace in 1995 and they have restored it magnificently.

Over on the far side of the courtyard are some seats and a view across to the City – You can just about make out St Paul’s Cathedral in the right hand corner of the picture below. But the Shard is clearly visible even on this hazy day.

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Back at the visitor centre there is a pleasant refreshment area which was partly in a greenhouse and when I visited overlooked a wonderful display of tulips.

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Nice carrot cake too…

Go back out of the Palace grounds and immediately outside you will see a walkway called King John’s Walk to the left. Follow this round. This path bends to the left and then you will see another path going right. Go up this and it will lead you a street called Kingsground. Go straight ahead and you will reach a main road which is Eltham Hill. Our next stop is at the corner on the left as you approach.

Stop 2: Mecca Bingo Hall (former Odeon/Gaumont cinema)

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Today this is a bingo hall but it was of course built as a cinema.

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This cinema was built by the Odeon company and opened in April 1938.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, the facade is covered in sheets of cream and black glass, not that you can tell this today. Inside the auditorium, seating was provided in what is described as semi-stadium style that is it has a separate raised balcony at the rear that did not overhang the stalls seating. This is a somewhat unusual arrangement.

This Odeon was located only about half a mile away from the one at Well Hall, which opened in 1936 and which we shall see shortly. Cinema Treasures says “The Odeon Eltham Hill tended to play the Gaumont release and from 28 November 1949 it was re-named the Gaumont. This was quite a rare event as usually Gaumont’s were re-named Odeon.”

It was closed as a cinema in June 1967 and was converted into Bingo Hall – at first it was a Top Rank Club but today it is a Mecca club.

One of the odd things about this building is how it is stuck on the very edge of the centre of Eltham and is really in a residential area. Perhaps that is why it is still here as the site was not in the right place to be redeveloped as shops or offices.

Now go up Eltham Hill towards the centre of Eltham. Just before you get to the church, you will see a side street to your left called Wythfield Road, go down here a short way

Stop 3: Bob Hope Theatre

Here in this side street on the left hand side is a rather unassuming building which houses the Bob Hope Theatre.

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There is no big sign outside and you have to go right up to the windows to be sure that this is indeed the place.

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There is also a rather large picture of the man himself inside.

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This theatre was formerly Eltham Parish Hall, built 1910. There was a local theatre company called the Eltham Little Theatre formed in November 1943 to promote “drama, music and allied arts in Eltham and its immediate vicinity”. In the early years they were without a permanent home but early in 1946, they came to the Parish Hall and leased this on an annual lease basis. In the late 1970s, funds were short and they approached Bob Hope (who was born in Eltham) for help. The rest they say is history.

The full story can be found on their website http://www.bobhopetheatre.co.uk/aboutus.html This has a link on to a booklet which gives the story in greater detail. Bob Hope was a great supporter of this little venture and visited on occasion.

Now return to the main road and turn right. Our next stop is ahead on the left. you cannot miss it.

Stop 4: St John the Baptist Church

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This was the old parish church which, according to architectural guru Pevsner, was rebuilt in the late 17th century and replaced in 1872 by a large Early English style building. The tower and spire are however later.

If you walk up into the Churchyard you will see a small plaque on the side of the Church.

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This is a memorial to one Thomas Doggett, actor, theatre manager and author who founded a race on the Thames called Doggett’s Coat and Badge.  This is apparently the oldest rowing race in the world and it has been held every year since 1715. It goes between London Bridge and Cadogan Pier, Chelsea. Originally, it was raced every 1 August against the outgoing tide, in the boats used by watermen to ferry passengers across the Thames. Today it is raced at a date and time in late July that coincides with the incoming tide, in more modern style boats, known as sculls.

Useless fact: There is a pub by Blackfriars Bridge called the Doggett’s Coat and Badge – not sure why because the race does not start here but just passes by.

Go on to the corner of the churchyard and you will see diagonally across the junction is our next stop.

Stop 5: The Banker’s Draft pub

This Wetherspoons pub is called the Banker’s Draft because it used to be a bank.

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It is quite small for a Wetherspoons and like many branches of this chain it celebrates some local connection. There are actually plenty of well known people to choose from, apart from Bob Hope – for example singers Boy George and Kate Bush, actor Jude Law, politician Dennis Healy and artist Rex Whistler. But the local connection they celebrate is comedian Frankie Howerd. He grew up and went to school nearby. There are a number of pictures of him dotted around.

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And curiously there is a poster for some live shows in April 1991, in Bournemouth, Crawley and Swansea – an odd combination of locations don’t you think?

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Interesting that they did not call the pub “The Frankie Howerd” or even better “The Titter-ye-not Tavern”.

Now take the road by the church as if you had turned left off Eltham Hill. This is Well Hall Road. Soon you will see our next stop on your right.

Stop 6: Eltham Bus and Railway Station

This transport interchange is a rare example of one built in the 1980s.

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There is a large featureless and rather unattractive expanse of tarmac where buses turn round and on the far side is a glass box housing the station entrance. The station is worth a wander round. It shows they had the right ideas when it came to creating a transport interchange but somehow it does not quite come off like later examples (eg North Greenwich).

Up on the platforms there is a canopy on the London bound side (right hand platform on picture below).

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But on the country bound side the concrete covering only goes over the slope up from the ticket hall and does not extend over the platform.

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What were they thinking of? Was the idea that you sheltered from the rain on the slope coming up to the platform?

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Now look down the platform away from London and you see a bridge over the track with a parade of shops, and you can just make out it almost says “Station Parade”. But there is no station there and we shall be finding out why shortly as we head that way.

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By the way this photograph totally misrepresents the view by foreshortening the image. It is actually quite a way to that bridge as you are about to find out.

So exit the station building and turn left away from Well Hall Road. Go along “Station Approach Path” (such an original name) and you will reach a road.

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Notice as you reach Glenlea Road there is a footbridge over a dual carriageway below. Looking back you can see how the bus station is built on a concrete raft sitting above the road.

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The transport interchange was built as part of the A2 Rochester Way Relief Road. This road was built in late 1980s. It is only a two lane dual carriageway and is a scaled back version of what was originally planned.

Keep going until you reach a cross roads. Here turn left (into Westmount Road) and soon you will be by that Station Parade building. This is our next stop.

Stop 7: Site of Eltham Park station

This was clearly an old station building which stood on the bridge over the tracks.

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The station was called Eltham Park and opened in 1908. We are about 500 yards east of the current station.  And to give you a better idea of the distance back to Eltham station here is a shot back down the railway bridge without a zoom.

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In fact until 1985 there were two railway stations in Eltham. The other one was called Eltham Well Hall which opened on 1 May 1895 and was just over 200 yards to the west of the current station

Both railway stations were closed and replaced by the present station (with its bus station) by British Rail in March 1985 at the same time as the nearby A2 Rochester Way Relief Road opened.

Whilst the abandoned Eltham Park station building still exists, there is apparently no trace of Eltham Well Hall station.

Continue along Westmount Road and take the fourth turning on the left (Craigton Road). Follow this along and as the road bends you will find our next stop on the left.

Stop 8: Number 44 Craigton Road

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This modest house has an unusual plaque.

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So this marks the Bob Hope connection to Eltham. It was his birthplace. However his family emigrated to the States in 1908, so in effect he grew up in America. He was named Leslie Townes Hope by his parents but he decided to rename himself Bob in the late 1920s. One story goes, this was after racing car driver Bob Burman; another story was because he wanted a name with a “friendly ‘Hiya, fellas!’ sound” to it.

Interesting he was still alive when this plaque was put up in 1996. In fact he lived to be just over 100, dying on 27 July 2003.

Continue along Craigton Road and at the end you will be back at Well Hall Road. Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 9: Well Hall Pleasaunce

Well Hall Pleasaunce is a public park which was originally the grounds of a house.

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It is very well kept but sadly it is not peaceful as there is a constant hum of traffic from the nearby A2.

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In the middle near where you came in is a moated area through a gate.

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This is where the house once stood.

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And it has a famous connection – this was the home of Edith Nesbit who wrote the well known children’s book “The Railway Children”

Within the grounds just to the north of the moat is what is described as the Tudor Barn. This is now an attractive looking tea room.

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Now return to Well Hall Road and go as if you are turning left out of the park. Just past a parade of shops on the left you will see our next stop.

Stop 10: Former Odeon Cinema

This is what remains of a very 1930s looking cinema. This was the other Odeon in Eltham.

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This Odeon opened in May 1936. The entrance was located on a corner of the building and had a wrap around canopy over a single storey entrance hall. The glass tower to the right contained the stairs leading to the circle.. And the auditorium block was to the left.

The auditorium block was plain brick but much of the rest of the cinema was covered in the Odeon’s familiar creamy coloured faience tiles. It seated 1,028 downstairs in the stalls and 578 in the circle.

It was divided into two screens in January 1973 and in November 1981 was taken over by an independent operator who renamed it the Coronet Cinema. The Coronet carried on until January 2000. It then remained unused for just over 10 years. Eventually it was redeveloped in 2011 but sadly this involved the demolition of the auditorium. But at least the distinctive corner survives – today it is a gym.

Our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 11: St Barnabas Church

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This church has had a somewhat eventful history. It was originally designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the late 1850s. (Gilbert Scott is perhaps best known for the Hotel at the front of St Pancras Station, the Albert Memorial and what is now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall).

But this church was not originally built at this spot. According to the Southwark Diocese website. it was built “as the Naval Dockyard Church at Woolwich Dockyard. It stood for 74 years at the Woolwich Dockyard and was taken down and rebuilt in modified form at Eltham in 1932-33. The church was gutted by fire as a result of enemy action in 1944 and was restored in 1956 under the direction of Thomas Ford with a new roof and remodelled interior.”

If you can, do try to go in because this Church has an interesting mural by the German Jewish artist Hans Feibusch. The church is not normally open outside services but I struck it lucky, so was able to get some pictures of the interior.

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It is quite cavernous and in the apse is the Feibusch mural.

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(You may recall we saw another of his murals at St James Merton in SW20)

Now head up Well Hall Road away from the church and the former cinema.

This is the Well Hall Estate and is described by architectural expert Pevsner as “the first and most spectacular of the garden suburbs built by the government during the First World War to house munitions workers. The Well Hall estate was conceived, planned and built in less than twelve months in 1915.”

He goes on “Variety of materials and finishes … was matched by complexity of shape and silhouette, and combined with period details such as the raised pavement to produce a virtuoso re-creation of the ‘old English Village’.”

Here are a couple of pictures.

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Sadly this kind of development proved too costly and so was not the model adopted for later public housing estates.

Our next stop is a little way up on the right hand side of the road.

Stop 12: Stephen Lawrence Memorial plaque

We have heard about a number of well known people connected to Eltham but here we have a memorial to someone who only became famous because of the manner of his death – and that is black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

It took me a while to locate the Stephen Lawrence memorial plaque as it is very low key – just a stone set in the pavement. It is very easy to miss.

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It is outside number 320 Well Hall Road just to the south of Arbroath Road bus stop.

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This commemorates the place where Stephen Lawrence, was murdered on 22 April 1993.

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He was murdered in a racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus here. The case became very high profile as it exposed institutional racism within the police and prosecution services. Wikipedia as an extensive article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Stephen_Lawrence

It used to be that once found not guilty of a crime, you could not retried for the same offence (so-called “double jeopardy”), But as a result of the Lawrence case there was a partial revocation of double jeopardy laws to allow for a retrial if there was compelling new evidence.

Thus even though they had already been tried and acquitted once, two men were finally convicted in 2012 – almost 20 years after the murder. So I guess there can always be hope, even in the darkest hour.

Well that brings us to the end of our SE9 walk. There was a lot more here than I was expecting and so there were a few famous connections we did not manage to cover.

For onward travel it is probably best to head back down Well Hall Road to Eltham station.

 

SE8: I see no ships

SE8 is Deptford which was once famous for its Royal Dockyard. Today it is hard to see much sign of that heritage, but there are some fragments of historic interest amongst the 20th century development.

We start our walk at Deptford Post Office, which is at Number 301 Evelyn Street, SE8, which is rather out of the centre of Deptford. Turn right out of the Post Office and then take the first right which is Grove Street. Keep going along Grove Street past a blocked up entrance, by the corner of Leeway.

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We are right where the Royal Dockyard used to be and if we could get through that gate we would enter into a huge site awaiting for redevelopment, more of which anon.

Keep on past a park on your right called Pepys Park. We are now by the Pepys Estate, named as a reminder that Samuel Pepys was a regular visitor here in the late 17th century when he worked for the Navy.

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This estate was originally built in the late 1960s and was a showpiece development where people and cars were kept separate.

Here is a link to an interesting article about the estate and its history: https://municipaldreams.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/the-pepys-estate-deptford-for-the-peaceful-enjoyment-and-well-being-of-londoners/

Keeping going along Grove Street, past a street called Longshore. Then soon on your right will be our first proper stop.

Stop 1: Royal Victoria Victualling Yard

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And here is a little sign to explain what these buildings were.

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Deptford’s Victualling Yard manufactured and stored food, drink, clothing and furniture for the navy. It was upstream of the main dockyard and dates from the 18th century. The two yards became physically merged as the dockyard expanded with both being enclosed by a wall.

The name Royal Victoria Victualling Yard came about in 1858 after a visit by Queen Victoria. Despite the closure of the actual Dockyard in the 19th Century, it carried on providing supplies for the Navy until 1961.

Walk though this little yard and out the other side and turn left. Here is a lovely 18th century terrace of houses.

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And this is the view looking the other way, showing how this fragment of Georgian elegance is marooned in the “utopian” vision of a 1960s housing estate.

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Anyhow keep walking and you get to the riverside and this.

Stop 2: Deptford Strand

Here we have some old Rum warehouses which were refurbished and converted to flats as part of the Pepys Estate development.

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There is a sign at the end of one of the building noting the Dockyard’s connection to Sir Francis Drake. Queen Elizabeth I visited the Royal Dockyard on 4 April 1581 to knight Drake.

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And this riverside terrace ends rather abruptly.

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This area ahead is called Convoys Wharf and this was where the Old Royal Naval Dockyard was centred. It was also one of the last working wharves on the river, having been acquired by News International in 1986. They used this to import paper. News International sold the site in 2008.

There have been many plans over the last 15 years to develop the site. Finally a plan by the architectural practice of Terry Farrell and Partners for some 3,500 homes together with some commercial development was approved by the then mayor, Boris Johnson in April 2014.

According to the Evening Standard report at the timehttp://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/boris-johnson-backs-1bn-deptford-development-9227796.html  the Mayor’s decision “requires the developers to make provision for two local projects: the restoration of Sayes Court garden, where  horticulturist John Evelyn ran a celebrated estate; and a plan to rebuild a 17th Century warship called the Lenox.”

Apparently most of the Tudor, Stuart, Georgian and Victorian structures above ground level that had survived until the 1950s have since been destroyed. But one structure that escaped the demolition is Olympia Warehouse. This was an unusual cast-iron building constructed in the 1840s but it does not seem possible to see this from the street. Apparently this will be refurbished as part of the development. Anyhow things do move slowly and there is no sign of any development three years on from the Mayor’s approval.

One day the river walk will no doubt continue along here but we have go away from the River to continue. You will see Pepys Park ahead of you. The park is in two sections and you need to go right through both parts to get back to Grove Street.

Then do a left at Grove Street and keep going until you pass Barnes Terrace. Just after that you will see a little part park on your left. Go in there.

Stop 3: Sayes Court Park

This little park is a fragment of the estate of diarist John Evelyn who lived in Deptford from 1652 until 1694. He had a house here which was called Sayes Court, and of course Evelyn Street where we started is named after him.

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Evelyn had inherited the house when he married the daughter of Sir Richard Browne in 1652. In the 1670s Evelyn laid out French style gardens, so I wonder whether some element of this is what is going to be restored by the developers of Convoys Wharf.

In the grounds was a cottage which was rented by master woodcarver Grinling Gibbons in 1671. It is said that Evelyn introduced Gibbons to Sir Christopher Wren and so Gibbons came to be employed by Wren in particular to work on St Paul’s Cathedral. Gibbons was later appointed as master carver to King George I.

Evelyn moved to the family “seat” in Surrey in 1694 and eventually inherited it in 1699. Sayes Court was let out and its most famous tenant was the Russian Tsar Peter the Great for three months in 1698. We will hear more of him later.

Sayes Court was demolished in the late 1720s and a workhouse built on its site. Part of the estates around Sayes Court were purchased in 1742 for the building of the Victualling Yard, which we saw the remains of just now.

As you walk through the park you will see this old tree.

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And there is a modest sign on the railings which explains that this fig tree was planted by Russian King Peter the Great in the spring of 1698 during a three month stay at the invitation of English King William III. He was here to study shipbuilding. The sign goes on to say the tree is under the protection of the Russian Embassy and is under video surveillance.

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Now head out of the park into Sayes Court Street and at the end just before you get back to Evelyn Street turn left into Prince Street. Go along this until you reach Watergate Street which crosses Prince street. Take a left here and walk along Watergate Street with the big wall of the Convoys Wharf site on your left. Our next stop is just a little way along on the right.

Stop 4: Twinkle Park

This lovely little green space is a community garden which started as a project in 1993. It is now run on behalf of the local council by a trust.

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The story of Twinkle Park and nearby Charlotte Turner Gardens can be found on the Twinkle Park Trust website:  http://twinklepark.org.uk/about-us/our-history

With all the cuts in local government, this is perhaps the only way some of our cherished open spaces can be maintained to a decent standard.

Now just beyond the park and separating it from the river frontage is an old wharf building.

 

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Go down the alley to the left of the building to reach the river.

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Stop 5: Payne’s Paper Wharf

This was Payne’s Paper Wharf, now renovated and rebuilt as commercial and residential space, in a development called Paynes and Borthwick.

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The latter being next wharf along which was a cold meat store and has been completely redeveloped. Payne’s Wharf was built in 1860 for a company of marine engineers called John Penn and Sons. From 1937 it became Payne’s Paper Wharf

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Today only the Italianate facade remains. The rest is modern. From here you can look along the river west towards Convoys Wharf and the site of the Royal Dockyard.

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Across the river is the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf.

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And east you look towards Greenwich.

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Now you have to take the path by the side of Payne’s Wharf building and when you reach the road turn left and follow this round to where you can get back to the river front, which is just by the Ahoy Boating Centre. Once on the river front again you will see our next stop ahead of you. We are now by the way in the Millennium Quay redevelopment.

Stop 6: Statue of Peter the Great

Not only is there the fig tree planted by Peter the Great, but there is also this rather odd statue of him on the river front in Deptford.

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There is something wrong about the proportions of Peter the Great – don’t you think his head is too small?

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And by his side he has a smallish throne (apparently this was his travelling throne) and a kind of a jester looking character (This was one of the court dwarves).

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There are inscriptions in English and Russian.

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It was installed here in 1998 to commemorate the tercentenary of Peter the Great’s time studying shipbuilding.

There is much more detail on this link: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMT4AY_Peter_the_Great_Deptford_Greenwich_London_UK

The river side walk bends inland here as we have reached Deptford Creek.

Stop 7: Deptford Creek

This is where the River Ravensbourne gets to the Thames.

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This waterway is still used and the footbridge here is actually a swing bridge and has to be opened for time to time.

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Nice view of Canary Wharf from here

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Now head along the creek side and across the Creek you can see Greenwich again. To the left of the Church spire just visible is the Royal Observatory with the famous red ball which drops every day at 1pm.

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Keep walking and you will reach Clarence Road, where you turn right. Continue along this and cross Glaisher Street. Heading straight ahead is a street called The Stowage. You will see our next stop ahead on the right. There is an entrance to the churchyard from the side turning.

Stop 8: St Nicholas Church

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This is the old parish church of Deptford. According to architectural guru, Pevsner, the tower dates from 1500 but the body of the church was rebuilt in 1697. That is why it looks a bit like many City churches which were rebuilt after the Great Fire. This building was left a ruin by World War II bombing and what we today is a 1958 reconstruction.

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And here by the gate is a little sign explaining a bit about the church

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Sadly there is no quaint little village to go with this old church. It is surrounded by 20th century housing estates.

Now go as if you had turned left out of the church gate. You will be at the junction of The Stowage and Deptford Green and ahead you will see McMillan Street. Go ahead kind of as if you have gone straight from The Stowage. This will lead you to a main road at the end (Creek Road) and turn right. Go along Creek Road and cross over. Turn left into Deptford High Street.

This was perhaps once a bit more interesting but today it is lined with cheap shops and takeaways. As we pass have a look down Albury Street, the second street on the left..

Stop 9: Albury Street

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Pevsner says this street was laid out and developed by Thomas Lucas, a local bricklayer, from 1706 onwards. Only four original houses on the south side remain but the north side has a lovely run of modest Georgian terraced houses, that have somehow survived the “slum clearance” that occurred around here.

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And they have lovely porch details.

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Stop 10: St Paul’s Church

As you head down this rather depressing High Street you will see a little green to your left. And at the end is this rather magnificent Church.

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Pevsner describes St Paul’s, Deptford, as “One of the most moving 18th Century Church in London: large, sombre, and virile.” What an interesting collection of words to describe this lovely church. Pevsner clearly liked this church devoting two whole pages to it.

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It was designed by Thomas Archer (who was also responsible for St John’s Smith Square) and one of the new churches built as a result of an Act of Parliament in 1710. This set up a Commission for the building of 50 new churches in London. These churches were funded by a tax on coal which had originally been introduced to pay for the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral and other City Churches after the Great Fire in 1666.

Returning to the High Street, you will see a railway bridge. Turn right immediately after that and you are at our next stop.

Stop 11: Deptford Station

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The station may not look it but is has been a long time in fact since the London and Greenwich Railway opened its first section of line between Spa Road, Bermondsey and Deptford  in February 1836. The line reached west to London Bridge in December 1836 and east to Greenwich in December 1838.

The original station building was demolished by the Southern Railway but what we see today is an even more recent rebuild, dating from 2012.

If you go up to the London bound platform you have a nice view back towards central London. with the Shard and the BT Tower most prominent.

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You also can see this rather odd sight – a viaduct running almost at right angles to the station.

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Otherwise you can see it from the Deptford Market Yard, by the station entrance. It is rather intriguing as it looks to be at too sharp and angle to the railway to have carried tracks.

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The reason is explained in a little plaque on the side of the viaduct.

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Well what else could it have been. The line here was entirely on brick viaducts high above the streets so one can understand why the railway decided a carriage ramp might be necessary. Curiously it seems this is the only bit of that original 1835 station to have survived.

Just beyond the carriage ramp is a small square and on one corner of a modern building which houses the Albany Theatre, our final stop.

Stop 12: Albany Theatre

This may be a modern building but the Albany Theatre has a bit of history behind it.

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Accroding to the theatre’s website:

“The Albany … was originally established in 1894 as The Deptford Fund by a group of philanthropically minded people. The Fund’s founders wanted to improve the plight of Deptford’s community, many of whom suffered from poverty and deprivation and the adverse effects of unemployment as a result of the closure of the docks in 1869.

The Deptford Fund provided financial support for local charitable enterprises, but within a few years decided to fund its own projects within a purpose built centre. In 1898 the foundation stone of the Albany Institute was laid and in 1899 the building, on the corner of Lamerton Street, Albury Street and Creek Road, was officially opened by its patron, The Duchess of Albany.”

The institute became home to a theatre group in the 1960s but the theatre was burnt down in an arson attack in 1978. The old building was demolished to make way for road widening and in 1982 a new Albany on the current site was officially opened by its new patron, Diana, Princess of Wales.

And today it operates as a community arts resource. Here is a link to their website if you would like to learn more http://www.thealbany.org.uk/about/27/About-Us

Well that brings us to the end of our little tour of SE8. Deptford is an interesting but somewhat frustating place. There is little to remind us that this was an important Naval Dockyard for a couple of centuries. Nor is there much to tell us that this was one of the stops on the first passenger railway in London. But it does have a couple of lovely churches and some other interesting older buildings, not to mention the Peter the Great connection, which was somewhat unexpected.

For onward travel, we are now close to Deptford station with its regular trains on the Souteastern route into and out of Cannon Street.

SE7: Down the Valley

SE7 is Charlton. There is a fragment of an old village in Charlton. Sadly this is not one of the most attractive of London’s villages, as we shall see, although it does have one rather special gem.

We start our walk at Charlton Post office which is at 10-12 Charlton Church Lane. Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is almost immediately ahead of you on the left.

Stop 1: Charlton Station

Charlton station was opened in 1849 by the South Eastern Railway on the North Kent Line. As we have heard in SE4, the first line here went through Blackheath and it was only later in 1878 that the more direct route via Greenwich was. The two routes diverge just west of Charlton.

The station here shows little sign of being Victorian. It has a single storey modular ticket office and some modern canopies over the platforms.

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This really is not a very welcoming station.

On the north side of the tracks is this strange canopy.

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I think this dates from the time of the 2012 Olympics when Charlton was used as an interchange point where you could change from trains to buses to get you to the arena at North Greenwich (which we now call the O2). This was part of that bus interchange.

And there are signs today to explain how you can make that link, but I guess few people use this route to get to the O2.

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Continue past the station until you reach the junction with traffic lights. Our next stop is just on the corner here.

Stop 2: The Antigallican Hotel

Now here is an intriguing name for a hostelry – the Antigallican.

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At first I misread it and thought it was anti Galician, but no this is not against people from North West Spain. Note there are two “l”s and one “i”. So it is anti Gallic which means anti French. There was a movement in the 18th century against the import of French stuff and this is where the name originates from.

Here is a link which explains more about Antigallican

http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2011/12/antigallican/

It is hardly a great name for a hotel which might cater for foreign visitors some of whom might well come from France. Now perhaps the name of this place is in the spirit of these post Brexit times.

Retrace you steps back up past the station and soon after that take a left turn into Floyd Road. As you get to a T junction you will see our next stop peeking up behind the houses to your right.

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Here we have another example of a major sporting venue rather unsuitably located in a residential area. To get a better view take a left at this junction and walk a little further along to see one of the entrances to Charlton Athletic Football Club

Stop 3: Charlton Athletic Football Club

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Charlton Athletic Football Club was founded in June 1905 when a number of youth clubs in south-east London joined together to form a single team.

The Club first played at this location in 1919. The site was a disused sand and chalk pit. It is not in a valley as such and it perhaps got its name “The Valley” because it looked like it was in a valley.

The club has almost continuously been here since 1919, apart from one year in Catford, during 1923/24 when they were in discussion about a merger which fell through, and seven years (1985 – 1992) when they shared a ground mainly with Crystal Palace but also latterly with West Ham United. The departure from the Valley was triggered by the closure of the East Terrace after the Bradford City stadium fire and the wish of the ground’s owner to use part of the site for housing. The move was very unpopular locally but after much toing and froing the club finally returned to the Valley in December 1992.

Charlton’s fans are commonly called The Addicks. There seem to be two schools of thought as to the origin. One relates to the mangling of the pronunciation of athletic as ‘addock” and the other (more probable) is relates to the story of a local fishmonger, Arthur “Ikey” Bryan, who rewarded the team with meals of haddock and chips.

Retrace your steps along Floyd Road and at the end turn left. Our next stop is a little way up the street on the left.

Stop 4: Number 67 Charlton Church Lane

This house has one of the two English Heritage blue plaques in SE7.

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It was placed to commemorate this was the home of Italian writer Aron Ettore Schmitz (1861 – 1928) who used the pen name Italo Svevo. He lived here 1903 to 1913.

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No I had not heard of him either…

But apparently he is considered a pioneer of the Psychological novel in Italy and is best known for his classic Modernist novel La Coscienza di Zeno (1923).

Keep walking uphill along Charlton Church Street.

Stop 5: A little shelter

At the end of the street there is an open space and right by the junction, there is this little shelter.

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Go inside and you discover it contains a water fountain – or rather did. As ever these things no longer work. And it is not as old as it looks.

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It actually dates from 1902 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII and was put up by the local bigwigs the Maryon-Wilsons – more of whom anon.

From here you can see the contrasts that are Charlton village – off to the right as you came up the hill was a large estate of blocks of flats, but ahead is the 17th century Charlton House which we shall come to and to the left is the village church, which is our next stop.

Stop 6: St Luke’s Church

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There has been a church here since the 11th century. But the one we see today dates from 1630, according to architectural guru Pevsner, although there was some further rebuilding in 1840 and 1873. The church is listed as grade II*. It has a lot of monuments, of which the most significant is that of Spencer Perceval, the British Prime Minister assassinated in 1812. We came across him when we were in Ealing, W5.

Just across the way from the church is just a fragment of the old village, and of course the obligatory pub.

Stop 7: The Bugle Horn pub

This pub originates from the late 17th century, although the frontage is of a later date.

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The name is perhaps a reminder of the Horn Fair which was held on 18 October each year. It had a reputation for lawlessness and rowdiness (didn’t they all?) and was closed down in the 19th century. Or maybe the pub’s name is just a reminder that this was a stopping off spot for coaches.

The street by the pub is the heart of the old village. It even has the street name “The Village”, but it is sad affair. It has such potential but it is a not very pretty collection of down market shops and food outlets.

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As you go through what passes for the village centre, there is a red brick building on the right, which looks interesting but which Pevsner does not seem to acknowledge.

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I believe this was the Charlton Assembly Rooms, but not sure what it is used for now.

Keep going until you reach Charlton Lane on your left and on your right is an entrance to a park. Go down here.

Stop 8: Charlton Park

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This is Charlton Park and was once part of the grounds of Charlton House. Today this is largely given over to sports of one kind or another.

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There is a hut on the right which serves refreshments..

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It has amusing little pictures of various historic characters.

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Plus oddly the current queen.

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But we are not popping in here as there is somewhere else we should stop for tea.

Now you will be able to see the back of Charlton House from here.

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Head through the park towards in and go to the right of the main building.

Stop 9: Charlton House

The main entrance is on the other side from where you came.

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This is probably the best preserved early 17th century house in London. According to Pevsner, the house was built by Sir Adam Newton, tutor to Henry, Prince of Wales (eldest son of King James I) between 1607 and 1612. It became the home of the Maryon-Wilson family in the 19th century.

There was a baronetcy of Maryon-Wilson which can be traced back to 1661 but the title became extinct on the death of the 13th Baronet in 1978. Baronet by the way is a hereditary title passed down the male line giving the holder the title of “Sir” and his wife the title of “Lady”. Not to be confused with knighthoods which are just given for the life of the recipients.

The Maryon-Wilsons employed noted architect Richard Norman Shaw to restore the house and make some minor additions in the 1870s.

The house and grounds were used as a hospital during World War I and were bought by the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich in 1925. Today the house is used for community purposes.

Do go in if you can.

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In the entrance hall is a tea room.

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They do a nice line in carrot cake

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In adjoining room there are some information panels explaining the history of the house and its last owners (the Maryon-Wilsons). There is also some information about the Hornfair.

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The Maryon-Wilson family are commemorated in the names of a couple of local parks on land which was once part of their estate. Here is a very good website about the various parks in Charlton which gives potted histories about each http://www.charltonparks.co.uk/

But sadly we do not have time to see this side of SE7.

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Now head out and go to the right where you will see a tree with a metal fence round it and a brick building up a few steps. Go over there.

Stop 10: The Mulberry tree and the Summer House

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The tree imprisoned in the metal fence is a very old Mulberry tree, possibly dating from 1608. This was the time when King James I was encouraging the planting of such trees. the idea was they would provide food for silk worms and help create a source of English silk. Sadly this did not work out.

The brick building was built as a Summer House around 1630.

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Pevsner says that “There is no documentary confirmation of the traditional attribution to Inigo Jones [who built the Queen’s House at Greenwich and the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall]; but the complete absence of Jacobean frills at evidently such an early date make it quite justifiable.” So the best we can say is that this is possibly by famous 17th century architect Inigo Jones.

At some point this building was converted to become public conveniences.

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Despite the sign, it was not open during the time I was there (which was in the middle of the day)

Now at this point it is worth looking over the street and between the blocks of flats because you can get quite a nice view of Canary Wharf.

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Head along the main road away from the House and church. This is Charlton Road. Note the reminder of the Hornfair in the name of the street going off to your left.

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Our final two stops are quite a way along Charlton Road past the estates of flats.

 Stop 12: Number 145 Charlton Road

First on the right, just after a school, we are headed to Number 145 which is set back off the road by our Lady of Grace, catholic church.

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This is the location of the other English Heritage blue plaque in SE7. This commemorates that engineer William Henry Barlow (1812 – 1902) lived and died here.

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William Barlow was a civil engineer. He was engineer for the Midland Railway on its London extension in the 1860s and is best known for his design of the company’s London terminus at St Pancras.

He was actually a local lad having been born in Woolwich, where his father was employed at the naval dockyard. But he does not seem to have strayed far even once he was established, as tis is where he died.

Stop 12: Poplar Cottage, Number 80 Charlton Road

Then a little further on the left after the entrance to a sports ground, comes this lovely dark pink house with the name of Poplar Cottage.

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Pevsner comments that apart from St Luke’s Church and Charlton house, no buildings visibly of before the 19th century remain in the village centre. (The Bugle Horn pub is of late 17th century origin but was refashioned later) He goes on to say “The only rural survival is a sweet weatherboarded cottage some way to the west [at number 80 Charlton Road]” This is apparently of 17th century origin.

It is quite out of keeping with its surrounding but lovely nonetheless.

We are now at the end of our SE7 walk. Charlton has some nice bits with a magnificent Jacobean house, though a somewhat disappointing centre which could be so much nicer.

We are now some way from any useful rail station so you best bet is to get a bus either to Blackheath or North Greenwich for onward travel.

 

SE6: It’s witchcraft

SE6 is Catford. Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable says of Catford: “Perhaps surprisingly, the name is not some arcane corruption , but probably does mean that wild cats did frequent the ford that is now the site of Catford bridge, although an alternative explanation is that “the cat” was a local landowner’s nickname.

Wikipedia has other suggestions including this is “the place where cattle crossed the River Ravensbourne in Saxon times” and goes on to say”. It is also said that the name originates from all-black cats, associated with witchcraft, being thrown into the ford to drown during the witch hunts.” Sadly neither of these assertions are backed up by citations.

We start our walk at Catford Post Office which in Numbers 187-189 Rushey Green. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is a little way along the same pavement.

Stop 1: The Black Horse and Harrow pub

This is a grand Victorian pub called the Black Horse and Harrow.

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It dates from 1897 and the sign says there has been a pub here since at least 1700.

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It would have been a coaching inn on the road to Tonbridge and Hastings, but clearly became a bit of a Victorian “gin palace”

Now retrace your steps and go down the alleyway which runs through Octavia house.

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On the other side you will be in the middle of Catford Island, our next stop..

Stop 2: Catford Island

Catford Island is possibly one of the most inappropriate bits of development to grace the streets of London.

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Who thought it would be a good idea to put an american style retail centre here where the inadequate A21 London – Hastings road crosses the even more inadequate South Circular Road. Needless to say this is what you get.

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Many years ago there were plans to sort out the roads here properly but there are no active plans for this.

The Lewisham website has something called “The Catford Plan”. Here is a link to the Frequently asked questions: https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/planning/policy/LDF/catford/Pages/Catford-Plan-frequently-asked-questions.aspx

One of which is:

“Has the Council given up on the plans to re-route the South Circular behind the Laurence House?

Transport for London (TfL)’s long-standing proposal, which would potentially remove the Catford gyratory, still has no clear timetable or funding strategy. There are reasons why this project has not happened, primarily that it would be complex, expensive and difficult to implement.

The Catford plan therefore includes alternative proposals which would be more deliverable. These include simplifying pedestrian crossings, improving the Thomas Lane/Catford Road and Rushey Green/Catford Road junctions, and widening Sangley Road to create an eastbound bus lane to cut the number of northbound buses on Rushey Green.”

So this bottleneck is not going to be sorted out any time soon.

Now head to the opposite side of the retail park from the Bingo club and turn right along that road. Our next stop is at the corner.

Stop 3: former ABC cinema

This was the Central Hall Picture House when it opened in December 1913. It was renamed the Plaza in 1932 and was taken over the ABC chain in 1937. It was renamed ABC in 1962. It was split into two screens in 1981 and continued to operate as a cinema until 2001.

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According to the wonderful “Cinema Treasures” website “In 2002, it was purchased by the Brazilian based Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, who also purchased the former Granada/EMD in Walthamstow, and who already operated the former Astoria Finsbury Park” (aka the Rainbow).

They were refused planning permission to convert the Catford cinema in 2003. The case at Catford went to a Public Enquiry in 2005, which allowed the church to use the former stalls area, on the proviso they let out the former circle as a 200 seat cinema. Not sure what happened this idea as the cinema treasures site does not have any up to date info. No sign of a cinema. However the church is certainly operating here.

Now cross over Sangley Road, go past the Post Office and you will see our next stop just over the road on the left.

Stop 4: Broadway Theatre

This is a little gem of a 1930s building adjoining the modern civic suite.

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The Theatre’s website says:

“A grade II* listed building, the theatre was built in 1932 and is an example of Art Deco design. The architects were Bradshaw Gass & Hope; the slightly Gothic features were intended to relate to the adjacent Gothic Revival Town Hall which has since been demolished.

It has two auditoriums, an 800-seat main theatre and a small 80-seat studio theatre. Its programme consists of a diverse mix of theatre and music, including a pantomime season featuring star names, stand up comedy, nostalgia shows, drama and children’s theatre.”

For many years it was called the Lewisham Theatre which was somewhat confusing as it was in Catford.

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Broadway is a better name although it has the disadvantage that it is so generic a name it could be anywhere.

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As you look at the theatre head to the left and our next stop is the building next door.

Stop 5: Civic Suite

The old Town Hall of 1875, was replaced by the current Civic Suite in 1968, soon after the merger of the metropolitan boroughs of Lewisham and Deptford to form the London Borough of Lewisham.  On the other side of the road is Laurence House, where many of the Lewisham Council offices are housed. That is on the site of old St Laurence’s Church.

Go into the courtyard of the Civic Suite and you will see a couple of plaques on your right.

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These relate to a fire in New Cross which killed 13 young black people in January 1981. This plaque has 14 names because one person (Anthony Berbeck) who was in the house at the time of the fire, committed suicide later.

The way the authorities investigated the fire provoked a huge uprising in the black community. There was a strong view that the fire was caused deliberately but this could not be proved. Forensic science has developed since then. So while some still believe the fire to have been a result of arson, it seems that such evidence as there is suggests it was a tragic accident.

Over the years a number of memorials have been created, including a stained glass window in St Andrew’s Church Brockley (2002), a blue plaque from Nubian Jak Community Trust (January 2011), a stone memorial and bench in Fordham Park, Deptford (2012). There is also a memorial to the victims consisting of a park bench plus 13 trees with a plaque at either end on Hackney Downs. And of course this one.

And just opposite is the statue of a sad looking girl.

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This statue is bronze and was commissioned by Lewisham Borough Council in 1992 from the artist Gerda Rubinstein.

Now keep walking along the main road and you will get to our next stop – the two railway stations in Catford. You will see a little access road to the right which is a good way into the first station you get to (Catford Bridge)

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Stop 6: Catford’s stations

The two stations in Catford are almost side by side but on different lines, one line goes under the road whilst the other above the road. Interchange on one ticket is allowed between the two stations.

Catford Bridge station was built by the Mid-Kent and North Kent Junction Railway and opened in January 1857. But from the start the line was worked by the South Eastern Railway.

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This still has original buildings although the main one does not seem to be used by the railway. This station is also unusual in having two exits from each platform – one on the level and one up steps to the road bridge.

The two stations are separated by the site of the former Catford Stadium. Although the stadium closed in 2003, and is currently being redeveloped, it is still mentioned on the direction signs here.

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The other station has lost all its old building and has this rather nasty modular building as a ticket office and little more than a bus shelter on the platform.

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Catford station was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in July 1892. This is the next station after Crofton Park going out of town and has an equally poor service.

Now retrace your steps and as you approach the Civic Buildings you will see a pedestrianised street to your left.

Stop 7: Catford Broadway

This sad looking street is called Catford Broadway.

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It has a few stalls and some dull looking shops – and when I was there, not many people. But at least it was not run down and abandoned, as it so easily could have been.

Our next stop is at the end of Catford Broadway on the left.

Stop 8: Catford Shopping centre

This was designed by the architect Owen Luder (Born 1928) in 1974. He was well known for Brutalist architecture, with its massive bare concrete sculptural forms with no cladding and little or no decoration. Unfortunately time has not been kind to these buildings. In the damp British climate unclad concrete buildings soon become dull and greyer and they get streaked where rainwater runs. Often poor maintenance makes things worse.

But at least Catford Shopping centre is still standing unlike a number of Luder’s other well known projects, such as the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, Trinity Square Gateshead and the Southgate shopping centre in Bath.

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The most prominent feature is the Catford Cat, a giant fibreglass sculpture of a black cat above the entrance.

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Lewisham Council website credits the Catford Cat to Owen Luder and Embassy Signs with the date 1974.

The Catford Centre was bought by Lewisham council in 2010 for “regeneration”. But this does not seem to have happened yet.

Now cross over the road and have a look at the concrete building on the other side.

Stop 9: Eros House

This is called Eros House and was also designed by Owen Luder. It dates from 1960 and so is somewhat older than the Catford Centre. I am not sure that the proportions quite work. It would probably look better if the tower were taller. And it does not have the elegance of the Goldfinger buildings we saw in Poplar and Westbourne Park.

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The site has an interesting history as it contained not one but two places of entertainment. As ever I am endebted to the “Cinema Treasures” site for much of the following information.

At the corner of Rushey Green and Brownhill Road was the Lewisham Hippodrome Theatre which opened as a variety theatre in February 1911. It was designed by renown theatre architect Frank Matcham. Again this must have been confusing given it was not in Lewisham, proper.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s it was sometimes used as a cinema and sometimes a theatre. In 1931 alterations were carried out by architect Cecil Masey, with interior decoration by designer Theodore Komisarjevsky. It reopened as a cinema in April 1931 but by 1933 was operating as a music hall, with films only shown on Sundays.

It was closed by bomb damage in 1940 and re-opened in 1943. It was closed as a live theatre in 1952 and re-opened as the Eros Cinema in May of that year. The Eros Cinema finally closed in November 1959

Adjacent to the Hippordome/Eros was a purpose built cinema. This opened in December 1913 as the Queen’s Hall Cinema. It was acquired by Gaumont in 1928 but continued operating as the Queen’s Hall Cinema until September 1954  when it was renamed Gaumont.

The Gaumont closed in November 1959. It was demolished in July 1960, together with the adjacent Eros/Hippodrome building. The office block named Eros House was built on the site.

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On the green outside there is a sculpture.

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This is called Waterline. It is by Oliver Barratt and dates from 2006

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The sign says “This sculpture remembers the waters that once flowed though the green rushes where watercress was farmed and celebrates the dynamic rhythm of life and change” Here is a link to the artist’s website:

http://www.oliverbarratt.co.uk/water-line/

So it is also a little reminder of why the street here is called Rushey Green.

Stop 10: Rushey Green

And so just by Eros House is a green encased in railings with a water pump.

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Not sure how old this is.

Just further along on the other side of Brownhill Road is this sculpture

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It is called “Chariot / Blue on Green” and is by artist Oleg Prokofiev (1928 – 1998). It seems it was bequeathed by Prokofiev family.

Now walk along Rushey Green away from Catford centre. Take the second right which then splits into Farley Road and Honley Road. You want the former which is the left hand way.

Stop 11: Number 48 Farley Road

Our next stop is a fair way down Farley Road.

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Number 48 was the childhood home of film actress Elsa Lanchester (1902 – 1986), who although she spent most of her career in Hollywood was actually from here in South London.

According to Wikipedia: “[She] studied dance as a child and after the First World War began performing in theatre and cabaret, where she established her career over the following decade. She met the actor Charles Laughton in 1927, and they were married two years later. She began playing small roles in British films, including the role of Anne of Cleves with Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). His success in American films resulted in the couple moving to Hollywood, where Lanchester played small film roles.

Her role as the title character in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) brought her recognition. She played supporting roles through the 1940s and 1950s. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Come to the Stable (1949) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957), the last of twelve films in which she appeared with Laughton. Following Laughton’s death in 1962, Lanchester resumed her career with appearances in such Disney films as Mary Poppins (1964), That Darn Cat! (1965) and Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968).” She also played a witch in the 1958 film “Bell, Book and Candle”

Our final stop is just a little way along the road.

Stop 12: Woskerski mural, Farley Road.

Just before you get to Laleham Road, there is a striking mural on the right.

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This is by street artist Woskerski who describes himself as “A street artist based in London, painting since 1997.”

His website says that this particular mural is of Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong and it was a commission in 2016. It is a little surprising to see this looming up at you in a side street in Catford. I somehow doubt that either Ray Charles or Louis Armstrong had any connection with this part of London, so who knows why someone chose them as the subject of a mural here.

Now we are the end of our walk. But I thought I should just point out a couple of old street signs here. Just beyond the mural, Laleham Road crosses Farley Road and unusually for this part of town there are two signs which are what must be the original signs, as they say just SE without the number.

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There are lots of these old street signs in the borough of Wandsworth but most other boroughs have systematically replaced them with their own branded street name plates.

So Catford proved to have some interest. Again it seems odd that this was once a significant entertainment centre. There were four theatre/cinema buildings in close proximity up until the late 1950s. But today it is a dull collection of shops with constantly congested gyratory system, and just one working theatre building.

You have a choice about onward travel from here. you can retrace your steps back to the stations or else go back to Rushey Green and jump on one of numerous buses that will take you to Lewisham.

 

 

SE5: All’s Well

SE5 is Camberwell. This was once quite an entertainment centre. Not now. Today it is a major focus for buses, but it has been unserved by rail transport for a hundred years despite there being a line almost through its centre.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 25 Denmark Hill. Turn left and head towards the junction. Our first stop is the large building at the corner with the Nandos on the ground floor.

Stop 1: site of Metropole/Empire Theatre/Odeon Cinema

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This large corner site was a place of entertainment for many years. First there was the Metropole Theatre which opened in October 1894. In 1906 it was renamed Camberwell Empire Theatre. Films were being shown from 1914 and from 1918 it became a mixed use live theatre and cinema known as the Camberwell Theatre and Picture House. From 1924 it was a full time cinema known as the Camberwell Empire and Picture Palace.

Odeon bought the theatre in May 1937. It closed in August 1937 and was quickly demolished for a new Odeon Theatre to be built on an expanded site. The Odeon opened in March 1939.

A key difference from its predecessor was the location of the entrance. The entrance to the original theatre was at the corner of Denmark Hill and Coldharbour Lane, whereas the new Odeon was designed with a matching entrance on each road, with a square fin tower clad in light yellow tiles and carrying the name “Odeon”.

The cinema was never split up and was closed in July 1975. After six years of disuse, in 1981 it became a pile ’em high sell ’em cheap jeans warehouse called Dickie Dirts. That lasted a couple of years and then the building was disused again, finally being demolished in spring 1993, There is now a block of flats for homeless young people here.

Now retrace your steps to the corner of Orpheus Street (right back by the Post Office)

Stop 2: site of the Palace Theatre

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At this corner was a theatre called the Camberwell Palace which opened in 1899.  Films formed part of the variety bill in the early 1900’s but in September 1932, it was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC). It became a full time cinema, known as the Palace Cinema. When ABC opened their new Regal Cinema (which we shall see shortly) in 1940, and they disposed of the Palace Cinema to an independent operator.

After a few years, it re-opened under new management in April 1943 as a live variety theatre, and went back to its original name, Camberwell Palace Theatre. The Palace Theatre then went over to staging ‘girlie’ shows. No doubt this was Camberwell’s answer to the famous Windmill theatre in Soho. One of the ways round the law at the time was that the “girls” could only be naked if they were still, as in a work of art in a gallery. Unfortunately one of the girls here, the delightfully named Peaches Page (aged 19) broke the law by moving whilst in the nude. A mouse had come on stage while she posed. She was sacked and the Palace Theatre was closed soon after in April 1956. No long after it was demolished and replaced by this dull looking building. This was until recently HSBC bank.

Much more info on this and the Metropole/Empire on the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site.

http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Camberwell.htm

(Interestingly the usually great Cinema Treasures site, has a slightly different story, talking about the theatre called the Oriental being built here in 1896 and then replaced. Arthur Lloyd says that this never actually happened. Also Cinema Treasures gives the address as 23 – 31 Denmark Hill but says the site of the theatre was where the Post Office is now. That is number 25 Denmark Hill whereas the HSBC bank branch was 23 Denmark Hill. However the picture on the Cinema Treasures site looks like the old theatre was on the left hand corner of the side street (the HSBC side) rather than the right hand (Post Office) corner. So I think the evidence suggests Arthur Lloyd is right.)

Now immediately over the road was another place of entertainment.

Stop 3: a former cinema (28 – 32 Denmark Hill)

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The building which now houses a Co-Op supermarket started out in 1913 or 1914 as the Golden Domes Picture Theatre, The building originally had a very decorative exterior with large domes on each side. Right through to the late 1930s it operated on a policy of mixing movies with variety performances.

The cinema was refurbished and renamed Rex Cinema in January 1952. It was taken over by the Essoldo chain in August 1954 becoming the Essoldo Cinema in January 1956.

The cinema closed in August 1964 and the building was converted into a supermarket. The ornate facade was removed, but you can still see the roof of what must have been the auditorium from the street

Our next stop is back on the same side as the Post Office where you will find a little shopping precinct.

Stop 4: Butterfly Walk

Camberwell has a somewhat underwhelming pedestrian shopping area, called Butterfly Walk.

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And there is even a butterfly on one of the buildings facing Denmark Hill.

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I puzzled over this as I could find nothing on the web about the age of the shopping centre or why it is called Butterfly Walk. But then I discovered that there is a butterfly known in Britain as the Camberwell Beauty, first spotted in Coldharbour Lane in 1748. This butterfly can be found in both Europe and North America and elsewhere it is known as “Mourning Cloak”. the butterfly has mainly dark wings but they are edged with bright yellow and some blue. The pattern has been likened to a girl in mourning who defiantly lets a glimpse of a brightness show below her mourning dress.

Now head to the main road junction and take a left.

Stop 5: Two Bus Garages

Curiously Camberwell has two bus garages almost opposite each other. As we walk along the road, the one on the left is called Camberwell Garage and is run by Go-Ahead London.

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This was built as a bus garage and although finished in 1914 it was actually only used from 1919. It is one of the largest bus garages in London and extends a long way down the side road and across to the next street.

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And the one on the right is called Walworth Garage.

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This garage is run by Abellio, a wholly owned subsidiary of Netherlands state-controlled rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). It uses the NS logo.

The site started as Camberwell Tram Depot in 1891. Then in 1950, it became a bus garage. As there was already a Camberwell Bus Garage, it changed its name to Walworth Bus Garage, even though it is actually in Camberwell..

Just before the railway bridge and opposite to the entrance to Walworth Garage, you will see a street on the left called Camberwell Station Road. Go down here.

Stop 6: site of Camberwell station

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And soon you will see a street called Station Terrace.

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But the thing is that there has not been a passenger station here for a hundred years.

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There was one here, opened in October 1862 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway as part of the company’s new route into the City of London. In May 1863 it became known as Camberwell New Road but in October 1908 reverted to the name Camberwell.

As with many other lesser used London stations, it was closed to passenger traffic during the First World War. It never reopened. Camberwell was well served by electric tram services which gave direct access to more places that the railway could, so like many of these inner suburban stations the traffic had been in decline anyway..

The trams had gone by the early 1950s but Camberwell remained unconnected by rail. There had been plans in the 1930s to extend the Bakerloo line here from Elephant and Castle starting but after the Second World War, there was no money for this kind of project.

The idea was revived in around 2006 and since then Transport for London has consulted on various ideas about extending the Bakerloo line to Lewisham and possibly beyond. However the most recent consultation (February 2017) makes clear the preferred route is along Old Kent Road missing out Camberwell completely. However Camberwell may still get reconnected to the rail network as there is now talk of reinstating the station here so it would be served by Thameslink trains.

There is precious little left of the old station which closed in April 1916. At track level there is the ghost of an island platform and at street level there is a much altered building which I guess would have been the entrance and ticket hall.

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It has lost its upper floor and the main structure has been used as a car repair facility. But you can just about imagine it as a station.

By the way if you look on the other side of the road you can see a large bus park which is part of the huge Camberwell Bus Garage.

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Now retrace your steps back to Camberwell Green where you should turn left, continuing with the Green on your right. Our next stop is just beyond the end of the green on the left.

Stop 7: Former ABC cinema

Now we have an old cinema building which is still standing largely intact.

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This was the Regal Cinema. It had been started just before the start of the Second World War and it was finished off finally opening in June 1940. It had been developed by an independent company but was sold to Associated British Cinemas prior to completion.

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Within weeks of opening, in September 1940, the Regal was closed by bomb damage but it quickly reopened the next month. It was renamed ABC in December 1961 and finally closed in October 1973.

It was converted into a Bingo Hall and operated under various names including Jasmine and Gala until February 2010, when it suddenly closed. The building was sold to a church which is what it is today.

Return to Camberwell Green and our next stop is around the first part of the green you get to.

Stop 8: Camberwell Green memorials

There are a number of memorials here. First there is a bench round a tree, dedicated to Corporal Sidney Bates VC.

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He was a local lad who was killed in France and posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for Gallantry.

Then there is a path to the left with a couple of Second World War memorials.

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Immediately to your right is one dedicated simply “For those who lost their lives in the Second World War”.

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But further on is a more site specific one, and one with a very poignant story.

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Although the plaque starts off “In memory of the people of Camberwell who died or suffered in War” it then goes on to record a specific incident from 17 September 1940. There was a direct hit on a bomb shelter here and it killed 13 members of the same family who had just been celebrating a wedding.

Here is a link to the story in the Guardian from 2007

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2007/sep/17/secondworldwar

And then to the left of this is a chunky wooden bench.

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This has a little plaque which says “The CoolTan Arts bench. A safe place to sit, rest and a gift to our local community. Dedicated to Debbie and everyone with experience of mental distress.”

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CoolTan Arts is an arts in mental health charity run by and for adults with experience of mental health conditions. According to its website, CoolTan Arts has existed since 1991 and became a charity in 1997. It took its name from the disused CoolTan sun lotion factory where the founders of CoolTan squatted. Today it is based in railway arched near to here in Walworth Road.

I do wonder about siting a bench referencing mental distress so close to three war memorials. Which came first, I wonder?

Now go to the end of the Green and turn left. Our next stop is in Wilson Road a side turning on the right just beyond the church. 

Stop 9: Camberwell School of Art, Wilson Road (Formerly Wilson’s School)

Camberwell is home to a well known art school, now part of the University of the Arts London. The Camberwell School is on two sites. The main location which opened in 1898 is a little further along the main road along with the South London Gallery which opened in 1891. The old Town Hall of Camberwell Borough Council dating from 1934 is also along here. Architectural guru Pevsner describes that building as “singularly undistinguished”

By the way Camberwell Borough Council’s motto was “All’s Well” as in “All’s well that ends well” or maybe “All’s well that Cambers well”.

It is a bit too far to go to see these buildings but we can content ourselves with the other Art School building in Wilson Road.

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This building was originally Wilson’s Grammar School. There is a plaque you can just see through the railings which says “Grammar School founded by Edward Wilson, Vicar of Camberwell 1615 Rebuilt 1882.”

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And this is echoed on the street by this stone.

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Wilson’s School still exists and has claim to be one of the oldest state schools. It moved to a new development called Roundshaw on the site of Croydon Airport in 1975. One famous old boy of Wilson’s School was actor Michael Caine

Now retrace your steps along the main road and turn left into Camberwell Grove.

Stop 10: Camberwell Grove

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This is a lovely, rather unexpected street. Pevsner describes Camberwell Grove as “well preserved late Georgian terraces and semi detached houses connected by one storey entrance bays”.

The street began as a private avenue behind the mansion of the Cock family and was built up after the house was sold in 1776 and demolished. What is unusual is the development focuses on a single avenue. There are no squares or crescents.

The first part you get to is the oldest with some houses dating from the 1770s and 1780s

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Further up on the right is a little chapel – the Grove Chapel which dates from 1819 and is still going.

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Grove Chapel is an independent church which has no formal links with any particular denomination or church grouping,

Sadly not all Camberwell Grove is Georgian. A little way along you come to some newer (less attractive) buildings and it opens out. (Note the picture below was taken looking back from the way we have just come)

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And look to your left and you can see a four track railway line in deep cutting. You cannot see this on the right as the line goes into a tunnel.

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Then a bit further on to your right you will see a house at the end of a terrace with a large white plaque.

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This records that Joseph Chamberlain (1836 – 1914) lived here.

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Joseph Chamberlain was a major politician first in local Government and then nationally. We came across him in Highbury, N5, where there is also another (non blue) plaque to him. He moved to N5 in 1845, but he was born in Camberwell, so I guess this was the place (or one of the places) where he lived as a small child.

Now take the side just a little before this house, Stories Road

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There is a nice little sign on the left at the start of the street proclaiming the extent of Mr Stories’ property.

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Continue along Stories Road and take a right at the end. Follow this road along. On the left you will see the beginning of the site which is our next stop.

Stop 11: William Booth Training College

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But before we get to the main entrance, have a look at the artwork as the road bends

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This is called “Run”. It dates from 2009 and is by Leigh Dyer. There is a wolf in one bed and a number of sheep in the other bed. The piece at once blends in but is visible, so I think it works really well on this site as the main road bends.

Now follow the main road round and you will get to the main entrance of the Salvation Army training college.

The Salvation Army’s William Booth Memorial Training College was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and was completed in 1932; Gilbert Scott’s other monumental South London buildings are Battersea Power Station and Bankside Power Station (now Tate Modern). The simplicity here is partly the result of repeated budget cuts during its construction. Apparently much more detailing, including carved Gothic style stonework surrounding the windows, was originally planned.

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Even so it is very impressive.

In front there are statues of General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army and his wife Catherine. They apparently did not die but were “promoted to glory”.

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Our final stop is just over the road from the College.

Stop 12: Denmark Hill Station

Denmark Hill Station was opened by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1865. Today the entrance is an uninspiring box behind the original somewhat grander station building.

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But the old footbridge is still in use and as a result of refurbishment, the station does now have lift access to all platforms.

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There is also some nice multi coloured brickwork at platform level.

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The original station building just to the left of the new entrance is in the Italianate style and sits above the tracks which are in a deep cutting. The building suffered a fire in 1980 and after restoration, a public house took over the main building. It was initially called the Phoenix and Firkin to commemorate the fire, then it became O’Neills and but it is now just the Phoenix.

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Sad this is not still the station entrance but at least it is a good use for the building.

We are close to King’s College Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital and you can easily pop over and see them from this point. But I am not planning to. So that brings us to the end of our SE5 walk.

Camberwell was clearly once quite a centre of entertainment with theatres and cinemas but today there are none left. The shops are pretty standard inner city fare and it is busy without too much character. Still there were one or two unexpected things along the way: the memorials on Camberwell Green; Camberwell Grove is lovely and the Salvation Army College was somewhat of a surprise.

We are now at Denmark Hill station which has trains into Victoria and Kent plus it is on the southern arc of London Overground from Clapham Junction to New Cross Gate and beyond. Or maybe pop into the Phoenix for a quick drink!