Walk 27 SOUTH BERMONDSEY to EAST DULWICH
1 1/2 hour
Routing note: This route connects in South Bermondsey with London Bridge network walk 4. It connects in Peckham Rye to Victoria train network walks 2 and 3. It also connects in Peckham Rye to London Overground walks 1 and 2.
Finally, it connects in East Dulwich to London Bridge network walk 28.
The train line was opened in 1866 as far as Peckham Rye as the Inner South London Line connecting the southern suburbs with both London Bridge and Victoria terminals. The line between Peckham Rye and East Dulwich (continuing towards Streatham) opened in 1868.
When the train line opened, there was an additional station called New Kent Road between South Bermondsey and Queen’s Road Peckham. The station changed names to “New Kent Road & Hatcham” but closed in 1917 because of wartime cost-saving.
The original station serving the area was called Rotherhithe and opened in 1866 a few hundred yards to the west on the line between London Bridge and New Cross Gate. The name was changed to South Bermondsey in 1869, probably to avoid confusion with Rotherhithe station on what became later the East London Tube line (now London Overground). The train tracks passing the present South Bermondsey station had also been built and opened in 1866, but the station was only relocated to the present location in 1928. This avoided having a station on the much busier main line viaduct.
Because the station was squeezed on a viaduct that had not originally been planned for the purpose, the concourse is hidden in the arches. The access is a bit peculiar. Either you walk up a ramp and along lengthy ugly barriers or you walk a similar passage at the back towards football grounds built in 1993 (my route).
Exit the station R towards Bolina Road and the Millwall Football Club stadium
This stadium is called the New Den stadium and was built in 1993. The local football club (Millwall) had problems controlling fans and a disaster in Sheffield in 1989 had proved the necessity to do so. 96 fans had died in Hillborough Stadium when supporters were allowed by police to stream into an overcrowded standing area with the access tunnel being too narrow. Police came off with minor criticism in the official report but an enquiry 20 years later pointed to a cover-up conspiracy including possibly false testimonies. Of course, ruling the disaster as an “accident” enabled government to avoid paying compensation and relying on life insurance companies, well knowing that many fans were poor sods who did not have the means to buy such insurance.
The main result of the official report was to forbid enclosures for standing fans and this forced Millwall to develop the new stadium with seats only. A side-effect of this policy throughout England was to limit the number of tickets available for matches and allowed clubs to raise prices considerably. Pubs and television channels also had considerable advantages from the reduction in the number of available tickets as this forced fans to watch the matches in pubs or at home.
R Bolina Road
turns R as Zampa Road
L Ilderton Road
L Footpath along Surrey Canal Road
As the name of the road says, there was actually a canal here, explaining why the cycle path is so much higher than the road. The Grand Surrey Canal was built between 1801 and 1807 and joined new docks at Rotherhithe with industrial areas at Old Kent Road. It was extended later to Camberwell and remained very busy as it had no direct railroad competition. But it was not really profitable because it was dependant on one dock – and traffic often went to other docks depending on wharf fees. The dock and the canal closed in the 1970s and were mostly transformed into roads and walking trails.
At one point, the road dips in order to give enough clearance under the railway bridge. A train station is scheduled to open here on the London Overground line opened in 2013 over this bridge between Surrey Quays and Peckham as a developper has been willing to pay for a train station in exchange for developping nearby former industrial premises. This type of partnership may sound unusual nowadays but it was common practice in the 19th century for train companies to ask real estate speculators to pay for a station if they wanted one.
On reaching the bridge, climb the stairs and cross the footbridge
Ahead Footpath across Bridge House Meadows.
The rural name hides the fact that this green space has been landscaped on the site of the former New Cross stadium and greyhound racing track. The stadium was the seat of Millwall football club until it was demolished in 1975. The area should have been developped for commercial purposes but plans fell through due to the deep economic crisis at that time. The history of the site explains why the green space is so hilly: the grass actually hides the demolition rubble.
Exit at the W end in Hornshay Street
L Ilderton Road
Cross the main road at the traffic lights.
The road is called Old Kent Road further west, New Cross Road further east. The change in names corresponds to the border between the Boroughs of Southwark and Lewisham. Both roads are among the most ancient and venerable in England as they follow the Roman road to Dover. This explains why Old Kent Road is so unusually broad and straight. The only comparable example in London is the flight of roads through Shoreditch and Tottenham on the old roman road to Cambridge. Monopoly® fans will know Old Kent Road as the cheapest property on the game and the only strret offered on the south bank of the Thames. The road is conspicuous for looking more American than British with an unending row of huge shopping units belonging to all sorts of standardised chains.
There was a train station here from 1866 until 1917 but it made limited sense as there are other stations close nearby on the same train line.
Ahead footpath across Brimington Park, soon turns R
This is a small neighbourhood park with sports grounds and a children’s playground. The most interesting feature is the view to the surrounding buildings. On Old Kent Road, you will notice three huge estate towers. This type of construction is typical for the 1960s and was considered at the time to be the most cost-efficient and quick way to provide cheap accomodation to the growing number of young working class families. What I do not know is why such estates very often included exactly three towers. As you will be aware, shoddy maintenance and insufficient policing led in the 1980s to some of these estates becoming a haven for drug dealers. Current policy is to demolish them whenever reasonable alternatives can be found at limited cost to house the Council tenants who have to live there.
The houses along Clifton Crescent on the North side of Brimmington Park are only 200 yards away from the towers but look very different. They look very orderly with unusual copper awnings over the large ground floor windows. This very unsual development dates back to 1847 and marks a transition: before that time, most developments were rows of slightly forbidding Georgian houses with very little ornamentation and no front gardens. Later on, Victorian developpers preferred unending rows of cottages with frilly plasterwork and small front gardens.
Exit the park at the SW end near a small roundabout on Culmore Road
L Asylum Road
L Queen’s Road for
QUEENS ROAD (PECKHAM)
This station opened in 1866 on the train line between London Bridge terminal and Peckham Rye continuing towards Victoria terminal. A junction was added in 1871 for trains towards Surrey Quays and the Thames tunnel at Wapping. This second railway was closed in 1911 and opened again in 2013.
There is no station building at ground level as the trains run on a viaduct. All necessary premises were built unter the arches. Since the 1970s, there is just a shed on the platform. The present entrance is ugly but you can see in the next arch the remnants of the more dignified original station hall.
Opposite the station on the corner of Lugard Road with Queen’s Road, there is a very modern, large office building. It was built in 2008 but the developper was never able to find tenants and finally had to sell the property to the Borough in 2012. This was very profitable for the public authority as it will be able to concentrate staff in this location and to sell a number of smaller office buildings located on valuable ground close to Tower Bridge.
Turn around on Queen’s Road passing again under the railway bridge
L cross an estate to join Cossall Walk (a paved road along the estate)
R Woods Road, leads to Cossall Park
This is an other neighbourhood green space with a children’s playground and some trees structuring the landscape.
Exit the park at the SW end on Harders Road
Ahead Clayton Road
L Hanover Park (a road)
Detour R into the pedestrian section of Rye Lane for a few yards to see two interesting buildings. The ornate building with an Art Deco clock tower on top is Peckham Palais, built originally as a department store. It now houses a huge nightclub. As Peckham is not exactly the finest suburb in London, you may want to avoid the area around 3 in the morning on Sundays. It is perfectly safe in daylight although the shops are clearly catering to working-class immigrants and chavs.
On the other side of High Street, you cannot miss the rather stunning building that houses Peckham Library. The Borough must be commended for daring such a remarkable modern construction and also for choosing an architect with a real sense of innovative design. The green colour is achieved through copper cladding.
The building is typical for William Alsop, the architect, with blocky sections in strong colours. At the time it was built, 2000, Alsop was already reasonably well-known for buildings like a ferry terminal in Hamburg and council offices in Marseille. Peckham Library brought him the ultimate award for British architects, the Stirling Prize.
From the point of view of the Borough, the Library proved an outstanding success with three times as many visitors as planned and study rooms being usually full. The Borough built on this by commissionning other public buildings from well-known innovative architects and also being tolerant in terms of building permits where appropriate.
The sports centre facing the Library is not intended to outclass such a stunning landmark but the architects have skilfully taken over details like the spindly legs of the library to avoid architecture clashes.
Go back along Rye Lane
You pass a lovely neo-antique chapel, Rye Chapel, built in 1863. The chapel houses the Baptist congregation who had to build a new chapel because the former one was on the site selected for the train station. Further on along Rye Lane, you pass the “South London Temple” set in a dilapilated but nicely typical Art Deco corner building.
The station opened in 1865, offering services between Victoria terminal and Nunhead. A second train line opened in 1866 offering services between Peckham Rye and London Bridge terminal. A third train line was then opened in 1868 offering services between Peckham Rye and Streatham.
From 1871 on, trains also ran from Peckham Rye towards Surrey Quays and Wapping, using the 1866 tracks as far as Queen’s Road Peckham. This last service stopped in 1911 but was reinstated in 2013 with trains now running through Peckham Rye to Clapham Junction.
Although I have no details about this, I would say that the imposing station building is probably the original one. The station is accessed through a small shopping mall and fronts on a courtyard, which is an unusual design. It was sensible because the building is between two train viaducts: the arches were easily converted into shops and a gallery linking the two rows of shops was an obvious addition. There is a very similar station building in Battersea, but without the commercial mall.
With your back to the station entrance, take L Rye Lane and directly
L Holly Grove
L Bellenden Road to the end of the road
Bellenden is originally the name of a member of parliament in the 1800s, but came to be used for the area as such because it had become slightly different from neighbouring Peckham and Dulwich. This happened by chance because many Huguenots (French protestants in exile and their descendants) who lived previously in Shoreditch relocated to this more salubrious suburb when it was developped in the 1870s. The area has become popular with artists recently as you may notice if you look at some street lamps and at a few art galleries.
R Oxenford Street
L Copleston Road
R Hayes Grove
L through a passage for
The station opened 1868 with the train line and was originally called Champion Hill. I don’t know when the name was changed. I find the new name not particularly well chosen as there is a nearby train station called North Dulwich which is actually located nearly due south of East Dulwich.
I think the station building is the original one, but a large part of it has been annexed by a neighbouring garden center and their façade is ludicrously out of style with the modest station building next door. My picture also shows the pavement cluttered with all sorts of so-called street furniture with no attention being paid whatsoever to a harmonious overall look.