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Welcome to the Camberwell Online blog, a place for free and spirited exchange on anything with even a tangential connection to the South-East London district.

Camberwell Beauty

Written by | Filed under History

The Camberwell Beauty, Nymphalis Antiopa, also known as the Mourning Cloak or Grand Surprise. First discovered in Britain on Coldharbour Lane in 1748, very likely a Scandinavian immigrant.

New Year's Mourning Cloak

Adopted as the emblem of Samuel Jones & Co., a print merchant based near Southampton Way, in 1919, as a demonstration of the technique of printing multiple colours on a piece of paper, and prominently placed on their factory — too prominently perhaps, as it was said that German bombers used it as a landmark on their bombing raids during the second world war.


(The cottage in the foreground of the next photograph still stands on the corner of Southampton Way and Peckham Grove, so you can see where the factory once stood).


The firm moved out of the area and the factory was demolished in 1982, but the Camberwell Beauty survives today on the side of the Lynn AC Boxing Club building (formerly a public library and baths) on Wells Way.

Camberwell Beauty - Southampton Way SE5

Lynn AC is Britain’s oldest continuing amateur club, formed in ‘The Sausage, Potato and Onions Café’ in Borough High Street in 1892. They moved to their current premises in 1981 — just before the Samuel Jones factory was demolished, and so probably gaining the Camberwell Beauty as a welcome to the area.

Camberwell band The House of Love used a photo of the mosaic on the cover to their self-titled 1990 album.

Album cover for the self-titled The House of Love

The butterfly continues to represent Camberwell, including at the entrances to Burgess Park.

Burgess Park entrance

And, of course, in the shopping parade, Butterfly Walk (and the Butterfly Pharmacy next door).

Butterfly walk

Samuel Jones & Co was integrated twice into other companies, but recently came back into business as a private company, Samuel Jones Ltd — and still with a butterfly logo (albeit a different butterfly).

The Camberwell Beauty is no longer found in Camberwell.

Thanks to Phil G for pointing out the The House of Love cover.

December 6th, 2010

28 Responses to “Camberwell Beauty”

  1. J Mark Dodds says:

    HERE the Camberwell Beauty is the joker and here’s a nice look at the butterflies all around us — OOPS got the links mixed up.

  2. Ben says:

    This is just the sort of post I come to this blog for — something interesting and relevant to my local area that I previously knew nothing about. Well done.

  3. Peter says:

    Thanks Ben. I’m quite fascinated by historical connections and psychogeography, so I hope I’ll be writing more of these in the future. I’m still up for anybody else writing posts as well; Mumu does a sterling job keeping an eye on local politics, but there are plenty of opportunities for other people too.

  4. Oliver says:

    Nice post Peter.

    Some other spotted Camberwell Beauties/butterflies are on the entrance gates to the play area in the green, and the road sign on Denmark Hill.

    Will have to head to Wells Way soon.

    Edited to add the correct URL

  5. Peter says:

    Thanks Oliver; I knew I’d seen more butterflies somewhere, but couldn’t remember where.

  6. Phil G says:

    Nice post. And let’s not forget that it was the cover of an album of one of my favourite bands back when I was young and had some sort of hope for life, and this earth (though not much).

  7. James J says:

    Oh, my elder brother had that album on vinyl. I never realised the connection to Camberwell. Haven’t heard the album for many years, but just looking at the track titles brings many of them back. Some good songs. And now all these years later I live only about 50 metres from the butterfly.

    The new residential development on the former Samuel Jones Industrial Estate was completed a couple of months ago. The flats seem nice enough, but Peckham Grove now feels very densely populated — large five storey buildings or higher on both sides of the road.

  8. when I was at Camberwell college of Arts in the early 90s we used to see Guy Chadwick from House of Love drinking in what was the Kerfield (now Le Petit Parisienne).

  9. J Mark Dodds says:

    House of Lurve! This Butterfly thing should FLY. Can we all of us find as much to do with Mourning Cloak — for this is the Camberwell Beauty’s other common name — and post into one place for fun, record and posterity? I put a lot of stuff up on SE5 Forum’s flickr stream but it’s not available right now because I did not renew the pro account status. Will get round to doing that soon.

    Mr Chadwick used to drink in the Kerfield; shut; Blake House; shut; Dark Horse; shut; Le Petit Parisien; ?

    Was looking for info about extended licensing hours for NY eve and found this little gem:

  10. Dagmar says:

    Wasn’t there a marble factory at the bottom of Coldharbour Lane?

  11. Peter says:

    @Dagmar: Off Camberwell Road:

    @Mark: I posted that story on the camberwellblog Twitter account a while ago, but must have forgotten to post it here.

  12. Phil G says:

    Whoa hang on a minute! Lead singer Guy Chadwick used to drink in what is now Le PP and you remember seeing him there! Jesus that’s amazing. If I saw him now, 20 years on, I’d probably still ask for his autograph and buy him a drink.

  13. eusebiovic says:

    Thanks Pete

    I particularly enjoyed the nod to The House of Love — I have the album with the cover featured…

    When Camberwell eventually rises like a Phoenix from the flames we should replace the aforementioned bird with the butterfly

    It’s ours! The signiture emblem of choice…

    Maybe we can get a graffiti or mural artist to concoct a stunning post-modern interpretation of a Camberwell Beauty emerging from the flames on an unremarkable blank canvas wall somewhere?

    Any suggestions?

  14. Interesting post — I didn’t know about the album cover! There’s also a smaller copy of the Wells Way butterfly above the Superdrug on Denmark Hill, which apparently also came from a Samuel Jones site.

    “I’m still up for anybody else writing posts as well”

    I’d be keen to contribute pieces on local history, if you’re interested. I’ve done a certain amount of research on the area, mainly with the aim of writing a guided walk — which I have just posted at

  15. eusebiovic says:

    Dear Stephen,

    That’s a brilliantly succinct piece on Camberwell and it’s history. I’m very impressed!

    Camberwell also has a rich cinema and music hall tradition…The following site is highly useful:

    I wonder if you know about a campaign to save the last remaining cinema theatre building left in Camberwell for community use?

    It’s the old Gala Bingo Hall which opened as The Regal in 1937 became the ABC after WW2 and then a Granada/Mecca bingo in the 70’s/80’s then Gala took it over in the 90’s until it closed in 2010.

    Here is a website and facebook link:!/pages/Cinema-for-Camberwell-Green/314480941967

    Let others know about our campaign too!

    Thanks for a great Blog piece — if you don’t mind and it’s o.k I’d like to post it as a link on the facebook site 😉

  16. Thanks for these links! The Arthur Lloyd site is a treasure trove of scholarship — amazing.

    I’ve joined your campaign — a cause I can support with genuine enthusiasm. Having a cultural centre in Camberwell would be very exciting — even if pubs are beginning to do a sterling job with their upstairs rooms.

    I plan to write a similar walk around Burgess Park within the next month or so…

  17. eusebiovic says:


    If you are doing a Burgess Park walk then the Friends of Burgess Park may well be able to help you…

  18. Sam says:

    Any news about the former bingo hall????

  19. J Mark Dodds says:


    Formerly a cinema and then a bingo hall, now it’s a Redemed Christian Church of God church where “divine intervention is a common occurrence”.

    They hold two services every Sunday — at least — and they advertise them openly.

    The divine occurrence in this is that they break the law all the time and very simply get away with it.

    No hell fire or damnation from the mountain of miracles.

    They are like divine traffic wardens.

    We are doomed.

  20. Dagmar says:

    Chunters, did you go to Eton?

  21. J Mark Dodds says:

    The dinner prices are about the same as those for the Publican’s annual awards — where everyone from the pub trade is encouraged to go and get their noses rubbed in the arses of the rich bastards who make their lives misery.

    And none of it goes to charity.

    And many of the publicans are on less than the minimum wage. But at least they have a roof over their enterprising heads — until their pubco kicks them onto the street so they can board up the pub triumphant that the business model works.

    At least you get your pic taken on the Harriet Harman gig.

  22. J Mark Dodds says:

    I’m visiting my parents in Northumberland at half term (NOW) and the subject of how useless Marston’s is as a pubco came up YET AGAIN.

    I was reminded of the solid stupidity of the way they ‘run’ their pubs locally by my mother saying that the Percy Arms in Chatton is still closed, since before Christmas, and the Black Swan in Belford, is still under a management company not doing any food — they are both in prime positions in their villages; the first is the ONLY pub in the village and the second is right on the village square opposite THE BUS STOP.

    To reiterate: the Percy Arms has been closed for months and the Black Swan is trading with a management company. Both pubs used to be REALLY busy pubs before they were bought by pubco lala land and were thought of proudly by people who live in the area.

    It reminded me of previous incredulity I’ve had about this situation so I looked for correspondence with Marston’s and found this email which I sent to their shining glinting polished rapier like management team on 14 May 2010:

    Dear Marston’s Business Opportunities Team

    I am one of the founders of the Fair Pint Campaign. I know Northumberland quite well having been brought up there. I am curious to know what on earth your regional management do with their spare time? Grouse shooting? Scrabble? Scratching each other’s backs? They certainly do not seem to get to grips with the property their company advertises as ‘business opportunities’.

    The expectations your company has laid out for ingoing tenants for the Black Swan in Belford are ludicrous. Without investment that pub will just fail and fail and fail as it has done again and again for the last ten years.

    You should spend something on the Percy Arms at Chatton as well, even though you’ve got it let to a competent operator (the quality of staff and food there is high) , expecting them to catch up on the years of neglect since your company bought the freehold is an insult to them.

    What does it take for you lot to learn from your experience of serially failed pubs? Do you just always blame the tenant?

    I look forward to someone from your company trying to explain your position.

    Please pass my regards to Ralph Findlay.

    Best wishes

    J Mark Dodds

    I sent a copy of this note to one of my fair pint mates, Steve Corbett, here are his thoughts at the time: “I don’t think you used the word ‘twat’ enough — but other than that it should still prompt a nil response.”

    He was right of course. They didn’t answer and the pubs are totally on their arse now.

    Ipso facto

    Marston’s are Twats.

  23. florian says:

    I passed the Doves late on Saturday night. A sorry sight. They should rename it the Vercingetorix.

  24. J Mark Dodds says:

    Anyone notice a time warp happen here?

  25. Dave Manners says:

    Hi I am 71 now and I lived in Jardin Street from 1942 till around 1963 Does any one have any memories of this street. tHERE WAS A LOT OF BOMB DAMAGE IN THOSE DAYS

  26. Alan Harris says:

    I was born in jardin Street..after the war my family lived in a prefab there