Camberwell picture post

Just a few pictures to stimulate some discussion; there’s more going on (including a meeting of the SRUG tonight, which will discuss the closure of the Victoria-London Bridge service), but I lack for time, unfortunately.

I’d really like to get some guest posts on here; I’ve emailed the team at to see if they want to tell us how it’s going / it went, but either they haven’t received my email or they’re too knackered to respond. If anyone else wants a go, do let me know.

Now: on to the pictures.

Lettsom Mural

There’s a nice set of photos showing the kids of the Lettsom estate painting a mural in the Tenant’s Association Hall.


A photo from 1965 of the contentious Brunswick Park Primary School. Ben Patio (formerly of this parish) even suggests that it may be time to knock it down.

Camberwell Bomb Damage

Map showing bomb damage to Camberwell in WWII. There are a couple more.

Author: Peter

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

34 thoughts on “Camberwell picture post”

  1. Ben is right; an early work by Jim Stirling, and IIRC the only surviving example of a school by him. i’d heard bad things, but my little bloke did some gymnastics there last year, and it looked like some of the wedges were in current, productive, educational use.

    We seem to have learned little from either the successes or failures of 1960’s architecture; is anyone confident a replacement would be better?

  2. ben patio says:

    Now here’s an interesting one.

    This is a hall that’s part of Brunswick Park Primary School, round the corner from my house. I’d often wondered about it — how such an awkward building form could translate into anything sensible inside (there are two more of the wedges, arranged in a rough cruciform). Then last year they started building the new hall that you can see on the left.

    It turns out that the new hall is to accommodate the activities (music, sports, dining) that used to be accommodated by the old one. And that they can’t demolish the old one because it is Listed, Grade II. It’s an early work by Stirling [aka James Stirling] and Gowan, from 1961.

    It has all the classic problems: either too hot or too cold, condensation, damp, and the obligatory tree growing out of it. The school can’t use it for anything other than storage.

    In this case, I say take some photographs of it, even a measured survey, create an archive, and then knock it down to build something a bit for useful for the pupils.

  3. Perspicacious Ben.

    Sterling peeps; your sentiments do not meet the community’s needs. All architects have to cut their teeth some place and this is one of those. It’s not fit for purpose and never will be. Refurbishing it would be throwing good money after bad.

    When this was built the world was a different place that was going somewhere it never got to. That footprint could be put to far, far better use — to uses that could serve the locality and the wider community in SE5 with facilities that actually meet contemporary needs…

    Record it, archive it, measure it, have a permanent exhibition about the genius of Sterling (?) and knock it down. It would be better put to use as hardcore for a road somewhere. Invite English National Ballet to make their headquarters at Camberwell Leisure Centre, build a new pool here (with a bit of help from section 61) next to the school on the land vacated by this pointless piece of heritage. Tick loads of boxes for Camberwell generally and get a bloody good public facility into the deal which if done right, as opposed to done wrong like this fascinating long gone prototypical volume, would make this part of SE5 far more attractive and accessible to loads more people than use it now.

    That just makes far too much sense though dunnit? Innit?

  4. Gay Camberwell launch night at the Castle will be lit by stars Adam Mars-Jones, Stella Duffy and Paul Burston — Paul does not have a stellar or Martian aspect to his name, but he is burston with ideas and considerably more. There will be DJs and all manner of happy, up, fizzy, effervescent, indeed fluorescent and iridescent gay fun. The above three sparkling pen-wielding parchment-caressers will be most distinguished figures at this scintillating gathering in the area where Muriel Spark once wrote in a cold, damp, musty bedsit in the shame, furtiveness and austerity of the 1950s. That fabulous bomb map Pete found, above, indicates where the craters and ruins would have been that surrounded Muriel in her single-light-bulb-lit bedsit and which scarred the dusty, furtive, seedy, down-at-heel Camberwell of the time, mah fellow ‘Wellians.

  5. Ask the roly-poly mums of Camberwell and their cherubs if the Baths should be repurposed or demolished and ye shall be pelted with used nappies from the windows of Timmy’s toddler gym where for 3 quid parents and their offsprung may appear in a Bouguereau, Fragonard or extravant Italian baroque painting depicting Fertility, Fun and the Fruit of F…

  6. hi Pete, I’m happy to write a guest blog posting about Camberwell as chair of the Brunswick Park Tenants and Residents Association.

    Let me know.

    oh, and we have a fledging website now

    still work to be done on it but we are slowly getting there

  7. Interesting bombing map — I was reading about the bombing of Camberwell recently (it was a random book I happened to pick up in a second hand bookshop) and it seems this area was targeted due to misinformation — apparently the Germans were given the impression that much of the government offices had shifted to Dulwich from central London and so they targeted this area, also maps were fed to the Germans showing that the offices of Whitehall were 3 or so miles South of where they actually are so that V1 and V2 bombs fell on South London instead so Camberwell was affected. Plus of course Camberwell was a major industrial centre with several factories, railway connections and a busy canal and docks. There is an interesting website detailing V1 and V2 attacks at

  8. Hi Camberwellians.

    Foound you through your links to my copies of the bombing maps. There are more here, and I have more from surrounding areas if anyone wants them.

    Pretty well all of South London was heavily hit by flying bombs, as well as the outer areas not covered by the LCC, and Kent. But lots also fell in central and north London.

    I think that the ability to aim them was very limited — just based on where they fell — no understanding of the technology.

  9. There is currently a massive e‑campaign by property investors and developers for the Government to abandon its progressive policy of full rates on empty commercial properties.

    For those of you who like local shops, this policy is one of the best hopes of empty properties being tenanted, Butterfly Walk included. Otherwise there is little incentive for speculating landlords to let. Therefore, take care to mention this fact to every policy-maker you meet, just after discussing the weather.

    1. The difficulty with the empty rates situation is that small landlords with only a few proerties to let can easily find themselves in the situation where a tenant vacates and the frehholder is not able to re let the premises — just because people are not taking up new lets in the current climate. The rates then place a lot of strain on the viability of the freeholder to continue in business.

      On the other hand, there is a strong argument to say that market forces should dictate success or failure of a leting landlord’s business and if they are not able to relet they should simply go bankrupt or sell the property.

  10. When passing through Butterfly Walk yesterday there seemed to be some activity in the empty shops nearest to Somerfield — fingers crossed that a useful and sustainable shop is going to open

  11. Mumu — let’s hope. It is possibly the landlord’s response to the new full rates policy, which only kicked in this financial year, hence the hullabaloo.

    Those business rates can’t be cheap, based on the landlord’s own outrageous rental asking values. Keeping empty properties within the ‘Walk will become painful even for an overseas investment company minimising its tax obligations, and hopefully this will remain the case.

  12. sg @5

    It would be great if you could write a guest blog…

    If Brunswick Park Forum pooled resources with SE5 Forum then we could persuade the Camberwell Grove Residents and later Herne Hill and East Dulwich forums/blogs so that we could all collaborate together in putting our views to Southwark Council

    Camberwell is the fulcrum this part of London and I truly believe that everything that happens here has a direct effect on neighbouring postcodes so it’s in their interests to join forces with us too instead of encouraging parochialism…

    Then we get on board the big institutions

    Kings College Hospital
    Camberwell College of Arts
    Salvation Army
    London General Buses
    Thames Reach Alcohol Recovery Project

    Imagine what we could do with all that!

  13. Er Brunswick Park is part of SE5. Though to be fair the SE5 Forum has done as much for us as it has for the rest of SE5, which is nothing. It’s one big reason we went out on our own. So you see joining forces looks bleak.

    1. Nice one Brunswick that’s the kind of thinking that gets you places. What have you done for SE5 Forum? NOTHING. If people like you got active in helping the work of SE5 Forum it would useful.

    2. Aplologies for the pause. Got interrupted. If you want to be critical of the hundreds of hours of work that a few people have been and still are putting into work for SE5 Forum then is would be nice if you actually tried to find out something about what has been going on for the last few years.

      You might have an inkling from your own experience of setting up a voluntary organisation with Bruswick that nothing comes easily. The Forum annual budget, in order to be fit for purpose, i.e. for it to be able to function practically and get things done, is four times more than factual income.

      It would be good if you could combine what you’re doing with SE5 work.

    3. hi,

      as chair of the Brunswick Park T & R A, I just want to confirm that we did NOT set up our association for the reasons that Brunswick might have intimated.

      And personally, I am confused by Brunswick’s comments as the matter they raise (ie. let’s set up as others haven’t done much for us) hasn’t ever been discussed at our meetings as far as I am aware.

      The reasons for us establishing our association were nothing to do with any activity (or lack of) by any of the other groups within Camberwell or Southwark. On the contrary, we respect their efforts — we know it isn’t easy to make progress through all the bureaucracy and so on that community groups have to deal with — and we seek to work with these groups, welcoming their support as we support them. This includes the SE5 Forum. We try to attend their meetings when we can.

      The reason we established our group was to create an association that could focus on our immediate area — the area surrounding brunswick park.

      Currently we are dealing with specific issues related to our area — some planning, some anti social, some parking and some noise related — and though they are important to us, they would probably get lost in the agendas of other groups who have a wider focus.

      We haven’t discussed joining forces with any group but if the idea is tabled, I suggest that our committee would probably prefer that we simply shared ideas and became affiliated with them instead. That way we can all pursue our own sets of issues, and if they overlap, well and good — we would try and work together on them.

      cheers sg

    4. Excellent post thanks sg. Totally agree with the affiliation aspect of working together. Information sharing is as important as anything else in our circumstances.

      I spoke to my mother last night. She told me of a musical set in Camberwell about child prostitution which has been getting mixed reviews recently. Apparently some critics have been suggesting it’s distasteful to even have such a theme set to a musical and that it is any way clearly an over dramatised version of events. Its supporters — including sixteen year old girls who have been involved in child prostitution locally since age 11 or 12 — confirm that the narrative accurately reflects their experience of living in Camberwell and that they find the piece uplifting and inspiring.

      GOOD GRIEF… What is going on? I must be one of the best informed people about a lot of things locally — just because — and I haven’t heard a whisper about this. EVER. Although I know very well that prostitution is rife in SE5 — I’ve seen it on many street corners — I had no idea, call me naive, this extended to child prostitution.

      Is this news as much of a surprise to anyone else?

      I think the whole community should know about this. Street drinking and drug dependent visitors have been just about the biggest issue perennially for this neighbourhood.

      How can a community deal with its problems if it doesn’t even know they are there, right on its doorstep???

      Our local authorities have GOT TO GET THEIR ACT TOGETHER. Camberwell has been neglected and ignored for far too long. Even though SE5 gets a grant it is less than a quarter of what is needed to make anything effective happen. I’v evert nearly had enough of bloody Camberwell. Pathetic, sad, but true. And commercially I’m utterly trapped — as are many others who have invested heavily in SE5.

  14. Ah yes, sorry about that… we are alive and well (despite running Gay Camberwell events almost every day this week… as well as full time work in the UK and Brussels, and a major professional exam in Sheffield also this week…) Hope to see some of you at the launch party tonight, which should be great. Be sure to get there early to partake of the free wine and nibbles that the lovely Winston from The Castle will be providing! And we look forward to writing you a blog about it all!

  15. Just a blatant plug for my partners exhibition at Upstairs at The Bear this week. Private view from 7pm — 9.30pm Thursday then open till Sunday, all bloggers welcome. Titled Camberwell Obscura it’s a show of oil paintings inspired by Camberwell and near surrounding areas.


  16. Does anyone get the train from Denmark Hill to Victoria? Pain in the ar*e.

    I been forced onto public transport over that way the past 2 days. Both nights delayed or cancelled. Big Fail.

  17. Shame you couldn’t make it to the launch party, Peter. It was quite an event! More than 100 people, we estimated, and a really good night. Hope any blog readers who came along had a good time! Bit of a sore head today though…

  18. … throbbing. The launch party was really throbbing. Well done, gaycamberwell. The DJing was excellent. The authors were pertinent. Stella Duffy, Paul Burston out-of-his-trousers and Adam Mars-Jones, the man who makes Martin Amis look like scowling pouty sixth former, were the jewels in our tiara last night.

  19. Prostitution in Camberwell? Never seen it. Also never seen the men with their willies out that Alan Dale (remember him?) used to talk about. Am I just lucky? Or do I walk around with my head in the clouds?

    1. Better your head in the clouds than your knob in your hand.

      Allen Dale? I remember him- he made a mint out of property in Selborne Village then lost it all investing in property in Selborne Village.

  20. Hi Peter

    We are hosting several events concerning the redesign of the Maudsley Hospital site.

    We are inviting anyone with an interest in the site to attend and I wondered if I could send you some more info for you to post on you blog?

    I think it would be of interest to your readers.

    Many thanks
    Brigid Martin
    Creative Process

  21. Back in 2008 people were discussing V1s and Camberwell/Dulwich. In particular one that landed on One Tree Hill — I lived as a child in Anerley, but my mother and her parents had lived in Dulwich and Brixton. My grandfather’s grave in Camberwell Old Cemetery — he died December 1918 from WWW1 wounds — was apparently damaged by a V1 that landed on the very edge of the cemetery also destroying one or more houses nearby (possibly Rockells Place). The exact spot is now marked by a remarkably lovely CWG war memorial.

    Can anyone tell me if One Tree Hill in the cemetery? Or even have any recollection or know of reference to this incidence?

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