Walk 28 EAST DULWICH to WEST NORWOOD
1 1/2 hour
Routing note: This walk connects in East Dulwich with London Bridge network walk 27. It connects in Tulse Hill with Thameslink network walk 8 and finally in West Norwood with Victoria train network walk 13.
The train line between East Dulwich and Tulse Hill was opened in 1868 in order to provide commuters from Sutton with a direct link with London Bridge terminal and therefore with the City of London. The junction between Tulse Hill and West Norwood mast have been built at the same time but I have no reliable information. I only know that West Norwood station already existed in 1856.
The station opened in 1868 together 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 the nearby train station called North Dulwich 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.
Exit the station and turn L
L Cross the green space parallel to St Francis Road
This is a rather well landscaped green space considering that the ugly supermarket next door is invisible on my picture. The green space is dominated by two huge housing estates, Dog Kennel Hill estate and Champion Hill estate. They are rather popular as estates go due to the proximity of schools, large green spaces, a supermarket and a train station. I have not checked but they look like typical large 1930s developments.
Ahead along sports grounds to a T-junction with a cycle path
L cycle path between playing fields, crosses the railway
The playing fields are rather boring for walking through, but greenery is still better than rows of identikit Victorian houses. Most grounds belong to different schools.
Detour ahead on Calton Avenue if you wish to have a look at St Barnabas Church. It is a very rare example of an Anglican church built in the 1990s, replacing in this case the old church that had burnt down. As usual, the church is closed outside of services, which is a pity as the interior volumes look very interesting on Internet. Looking from outside, you might be forgiven if the glass-and-brick combination makes you think of stations and shopping malls apart from the spire. It is indeed difficult for modern architects to find the right combination between looking contemporary, looking like a church and not scaring the building permit officers.
R East Dulwich Grove
R Red Post Hill
The bridge over the tracks is worth a look for the delightful coats of arms on the pillars.
The station opened in 1866 together with the train line. The station building is one of the best in South London with rather imposing neo-classical arches and delicate stucco over the gates. It was commissioned by the train company from a popular local architect, Charles Barry Jr, who soon became one of the star architects of the Victorian era. He developped i.a. the new Royal Academy building and the hotel over Liverpool Street terminal.
Turn around once you have looked at the station.
Ahead Dulwich Village
Routing note: the village is delightful and leads to magnificent Dulwich Park, but this is included in one of my Victoria train network walks.
R Turney Road, turns R and merges into Rosendale Road
R Lovelace Road
You pass here the rather strange building of All Saints West Dulwich. Like St Barnabas earlier on, the previous church burnt down in 2000. The congregation decided to keep the Victorian brick walls as far as possible but used the opportunity to add a west chapel as the original façade had never been built in the 1880s out of lack of funds. The symbolism of the two curving white walls is easy to guess (an embracing gesture) but you can discuss whether the result is really inviting. I have not tried to enter the church but it is probably closed outside of services.
In comparison with the start of the walk near East Dulwich station, you have clearly crossed into a much more elegant part of London. Most of Dulwich was developped for bank clerks who were among the more educated and affluent citizens in the 1900s. Bank clerks are now hardly above working class and the kind of people fitting with the houses in Dulwich would be affluent middle class like owners of small businesses.
I took a picture of a particularly typical Arts & Crafts house: very straightforward design with little unnecessary ornamentation, but thorough quality of construction. Contemporary apartments for bank traders are exactly the opposite: imposing pillars and pediments on the façades, fanciful penthouse glass railings, but shoddy construction with bad insulation.
R Thurlow Park Road
L Norwood Road passing
The station was opened in 1868 and was planned from the onset as an important junction. The original train line ran from Peckham Rye (and London Bridge) towards Streatham and Sutton. A branch was added in 1869 to connect with Holborn terminal (now moved to Blackfriars). I don’t know when the junction towards West Norwood was opened.
The station building is a large two-storey structure as befits a significant train junction and is probably the original one. The platform canopies are not original: the original ones were similar to a pattern that collapsed in Charing Cross terminal in 1905, so that it appeared sensible to replace them, and the second model had to be replaced due to subsidence in the 1990s.
R Harpenden Road
R York Hill
I was surprised at how hilly the area is. The round road at the top of the hill encircles a building completely hidden behind the trees. It was originally a Victorian mansion that was used later as a retirement home in the form of almshouses. Neighbours speculated at times that the residents must be naughty persons of ill respute as they would not otherwise hide themselves behind the trees but this is obviously pure gossip.
The whole area around the mansion was planned as a “hub-and-spokes” development because the speculator eyed the success of similar curving streets elsewhere. Unfortunately, fashion had turned to straight streets and less awkward garden shapes so that his development was a failure in financial terms.
Ahead and L Pyrmont Grove
R Canterbury Grove
L Selsdon Road
L Prioress Road along the housing estate
This is an interesting estate in terms of architecture and it is small enough that the few bored youth hanging around will not feel threatening. It is a good example of 1960s estates where architects tried to accomodate for cars by setting all pedestrian traffic on balconies above the garages. Because of the awkward hill, Prioress Road additionally boasts complex broken lines instead of boring straight façades.
What architects did not anticipate is that rising income inequalities would concentrate jobless people in council estates and that the high proportion of dark corners would prove tempting to drug dealers. This is not a problem in such a small estate as here but the same principle on a large scale led to well-known problems in Tottenham.
Ahead stairs into Knights Hill Recreation Ground
Exit ahead in Devane Way
Cross the railway bridge for Norwood town centre.
There is a large flower bed in front of the imposing parish church.
St Luke was built in 1825 in the middle of fields. It was a statement by Parliament (the church was built with government funds) in order to ensure that later possible development would not be left without proper spiritual guidance. At the time, many people in the upper classes were very worried that ideas spread by the French Revolution since 1789 may contaminate English workers. In addition, they were very concerned that the hated Roman Catholic church could try to set up foot in the Realm and lead the flock away from proper observance of the King’s religion. St Luke was not the only church built according to this decision and there are very similar churches in Kennington and Lambeth.
There is a nice Edwardian building with columns opposite the church, Nettlefold Hall. This was a popular community centre offering a library and a theatre when I took the picture in 2010. Unfortunately, thieves stole the copper roof to sell as metal scrap and the Council had to relocate the library because of possible damage to the books. The building was then occupied and damaged by squatters. The Council plans to renovate the building but this depends apparently on discussions with a cinema operator who would contribute to part of the costs in exchange for using rooms in the building.
The station opened in 1856 on a train line from Clapham Junction to Crystal Palace. A branch was added later on (I could not find when) providing a junction with Tulse Hill.
The original building was probably demolished in the 1960s. The present one is a horrible block of concrete.