The Big Cat Borough

The story that everyone is talking about (well, it got four mentions on Google News) is the Leopard Man of Peckham. That sounds like either a half‐wild feral man‐beast or a superhero, but it’s actually a man who’s applied to Southwark Council to keep a leopard in his garden. And he lives in Camberwell. Guardian journalist Zoe Williams, a resident of these parts, goes in search of him (and gets nowhere).

I enjoy looking out of my window after midnight and seeing the foxes padding through the streets, and the squirrels in Lucas Gardens are very entertaining; I’d love to see leopards introduced into the local fauna. Not sure how happy a leopard would be in urban London, however.

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

7 thoughts on “The Big Cat Borough”

  1. I was rather hoping leopard man would be covered in leopard spot tatoos! I am sure I’ve read about that kind of thing before.

  2. The squirrels, pigeons, crows and magpies that are the main feral feature of Lucas Gardens are all monotone along the grey‐white‐black spectrum, except for the brilliant streaks of blue in the magpies, especially the young ones. It’s as though these creatures live on urban grit. I wonder if the foxes will turn grey? I am so grateful to these gritty, city creatures for showing my 2‐year‐old daughter their side of life in old Lucas. Her sister was born yesterday in King’s and we’ll let her loose in Lucas, too, which is a whole world at their age.

  3. Many thanks, Ben and Peter. Before the first daughter came, I thought Lucas Gardens, oh yeah, that’s where the drink people go. Now it is my favourite place in the whole world. The drink people are great. They have really good, well informed conversations — I say to the girl, this is the open air pub. Southwark Local History Library told me that Lucas was the private grounds and gardens of Camberwell House, an asylum in the building next to the town hall. The patients planted and hoed, very therapeutic, and just wandered around. In 1955 it was turned into a public park as part of the greening of bombed Camberwell, and named after the mayor. I am fascinated by that stone plaque on the wall, “Erected by W, Hora, 1895”. I can’t find anything about W, Hora, but what also fascinated me in that they use commas not full stops. Does anyone know about Hora? Latin for hour. I’ve spent many happy hours in Lucas. I’ve even found a Victorian metal button from a Camberwell shop livery in the pile of subsoil by the far wall. “Look!” I say to the daughter, “amazing!”

  4. Zoe Williams journalistic credentials are rather doubt after her assertion that the applicant for the licence to keep wild animals lives in Camberwell, a few streets from where she lives (“Big Cat Borough”). The applicant lives on Lyndhurst Way, Peckham SE15 — not even on the Camberwell border! Her suggestion that the tabloids contrived to make the story more interesting by locating it in Peckham is reminiscent of the sound of pots and kettles!

  5. Interesting… although some of those houses are quite big, I never imagined that any of them would have a garden big enough to happily house a leopard.

    Yes, Lyndhurst Way is Peckham; except, perhaps, in the minds of estate agents.

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