Camberwell, 19th to 21st Century

Back in the late 19th Century, Camberwell was reknowned for its Variety theatres, which included the People’s Palace of Varieties, the Bijou Palace of Varieties, and the pride of the area, the Camberwell Palace of Varieties. This stood from 1899 to 1956 (although it was converted to a cinema in the 1930s) on the site where the Post Office now stands (or slouches).

Variety shows have long since fallen out of fashion, but some people want to bring it back, and they’re holding their first show under the Palace of Varieties banner this Saturday, 2nd February, at St Giles Church Hall on Benhill Road. If this is successful they’re hoping to run a more frequent event at a smaller location, under the Bijou Palace monicker.

After the theatre boom, Camberwell had a cinema boom. Two of the old cinemas are still standing; one is now the International House of Praise (formerly Gala Bingo) on Camberwell Road, and the other is the former Jono’s Snooker Hall on Camberwell New Road, soon to be demolished for a new housing development. I’ve been contacted by someone called Nichol who’s planning to create an audio documentary about the history of Jono’s and is looking for stories about the place, or the people who used to go there. If you’ve got any stories you’d like to share, leave a comment or email me and I’ll put you in touch.

In modern times, Camberwell is better known for its arts scene. A new project called Our Art School is starting a series of workshops with young people in Camberwell and Peckham. Their next project, A Map of Objects, will teach film-making skills, and will take place at House Gallery this Saturday, 2nd February.

The South London Gallery opened in 1891, eight years before the Camberwell Palace, and is still going strong today (albeit having passed through various incarnations). If you’re around on 6th February you should pop in to see the proposed plans for the regeneration of Camberwell centre.

Author: Peter

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

38 thoughts on “Camberwell, 19th to 21st Century”

  1. Camberwellians,

    Where do you go to get the freshest clams, mussels, scallops etc?

    And who can recommend me a dentist?

  2. @Sloth: Wheelers Oyster Bar in Whitstable.

    Failing that, probably Moxton’s on Lordship Lane I’m afraid.

    Re dentists: I’ve always had good service from The Dentist’s on Camberwell Church St. next to the newsagents.

  3. I’m very excited about Saturday night and the Palace of Varieties. If you haven’t booked tickets yet, then please do. It’s going to be great.

    On another front, I am putting my money where my mouth is, metaphorically speaking and starting a wee monthly supper club.

    The first night is on Friday 1st March and is a bit of a trial. Menu and more info is here:

    If you’d like to book, then please get in touch. You can also follow on twitter: @HomeByTomTom.


  4. @Sloth I’ll second Monkeycat on Moxons on Lordship lane. Whilst you there, pop across the road to William Rose for all your meat needs. Sadly Camberwell doesn’t have anything comparable to these two.

    Brixton is also good for fish try the two places in Brixton Village on 1st Avenue or the one in the Arches on Atlantic Road opposite Argos. There’s also a good deli further down almost at Brixton Road

  5. @Robbie. Don’t panic. I’ve doing others. I am amazed at the response. I’ve only got two tables of 4 left for the 1st March.

    I have added some new dates and you can book for Saturday 27th March and Friday 26th April if you wish.

    Thanks to all the very positive comments and to those who have booked. See you on the 1st March. At Home, At House!

  6. Reckon we’ll be commuting to town in hydro-fuelled hover cars before the tube comes to Camberwell or Peckham.

    I’ve been on the Overground a few times since it’s opened… 30 minutes(ish) to Canary Wharf now. It also connects to Clapham Junction which is handy if you’re heading to the Western ‘burbs or Surrey, which, suprisingly, is also sometimes handy… I never much bothered going to those places before.

    It’s a really busy line already. It filled a gap in the market and unlocked fresh demand. So kind of a win-win. Sort of, anyway.

    That, ideally, is how the Camberwell town center refurb will work out. Spend the money in the right places to encourage follow-on investors into the area (but not scavenging, tax-dodging corporations and betting shops). By investors, that could mean money, or energy, or goodwill, or other type of contribution.

  7. The tube extension would be amazing ..

    I get the overground every morning / evening at rush hour and it’s getting almost to the point of being oversubscribed already.

    A lot of people I work with get it from Clapham Junction even though it’s a longer journey, as they don’t have to change in Zone 1 thus save a packet.

    This annoys me a little, as it’s my only choice to get to work in under 40 minutes.

    Maybe now they see how much demand there is, they’ll consider putting more in.

    Crossriver Tram anyone?

  8. There are three (not two) old cinema buildings standing in Camberwell; the missing one was opened in 1914 as the Golden Domes Picture Theatre on 28–32 Denmark Hill. The Co-operative supermarket occupies the old building.

    It was renamed the Rex in 1932, then the Essoldo in 1956. The Essoldo closed on August 1st 1964, the last programme consisted of ‘Perseus Against the Monsters’ and ‘Gun Duel in Durango’.

    The cinema was converted into a supermarket and has traded as such ever since.

  9. We went to a children’s party at the scout hut recently, so we walked the length of the strip in our keenly critical way.

    Review Books is the best pick-up joint outside of the Hermits, we reckon. The eateries and fashion shops are connoisseur. The Victoria Inn is always packed with happy eaters.

    Bellenden Road really is SE15’s best-pecked secret.

  10. The white squirrel in my back garden in Allendale Close this morning. Didn’t stay long enough to capture a photo of it. Clearly doing the rounds of SE5!

  11. Is it a bleached squirrel? Does it also have very long eyelashes, Rapunzel-like hair extensions and super-decorated long talons?


    Once again, one of the strange “yellow trains” passed through Camberwell today, comprising two locomotives front and rear, pulling maybe three mustard yellow passenger coaches with painted windows, painted with pictures of people from the 1970s, men with unfeasibly wide lapels and big knotted ties, ladies (as they were then) with erotic hairdos engineered with liquid nylon spray or some such, all enjoying a glass of Babycham or a half pint in a crinkly glass pub mug of Watneys Red Barrel.

    The gricers amongst us — railfans, we like to call ourselves — biro a‑pocket and Murray Mints orally onboard — know that the class 73 is a strange breed, underpowered but able to roam away from the third rail, under pure diesel power.

    The leading loco was the anonymous 73138 in yellow, but the rear loco was the grey-liveried 73107 named “Redhill”.

    The whole train is so like something out of an episode of “The Avengers”, “The New Avengers” or the fabulous “Ipcress File” featuring our own Michael Caine.

  13. Michael Caine has Internetz:

    “You were only supposed to rip the bloody poor off”.

    It’s a meme. A political one, obviously.

    What this post has to do with anything, I’m not sure. I’ll get my coat…

  14. “Test train IQ24.” Thanks for that, Jes. Intriguing.

    “The train’s complicated schedule takes it from Portsmouth through Esher to Wimbledon, to Effingham Junction, to Wimbledon again, to Chessington, and finally to Hither Green Depot.”

    I bet the drivers say to each other on the intercom, “Gawd, we’re not in Effingham Junction AGAIN are we?”

  15. my great grandfather was a music publisher who lived in york st..does anyone in the music scene history wise know where i could find out more about music publishers in the area

  16. Hi Pam,

    Welcome to Camberwell Online.

    Do you mean Evelina Mansions? If you were there in 1936 I am guessing that makes you the oldest contributor!

    What do you want to find out? What information are you looking for?



  17. Dulwich Hamlet are holding a public meeting in the bar at 5.15pm on Saturday week-Feb 22. Apparently the new freeholders, Hadley Property Group will be also be there. Given that local council elections are taking place in May, expect lots of interest from councillors who will be gauging public opinion. Sounds like it will be a good evening.

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