The new Camberwell Library has landed…

…and what a lovely space it is too!

Whatever you thought about the demolition of the old orchard and the total lack of real consultation about the library (Bad. There wasn’t one.) now that it is here, I think it’s well worth enjoying it.

Camberwell Library

Something that surprised me somewhat was that all the books in there are new. Apparently this is not unusual, and eventually a few of the books will be brought over from old library, but the rest will be distributed to other libraries, or sold. [Update (12th Nov): I’ve now been told this may not be the case. Will check and get to the bottom of this on Friday.]

The selection books is much wider than before, I got rather excited by the selection of art books that I otherwise could not afford.



There are a lot of events on both during the day, and in the evening, including some talks from well known authors at one end like Lionel Shriver this evening and Stella Duffy in a few weeks time, and (ahem) me somewhere beneath that!

I went to the talk by Dorothy Koomson which was well attended and very interesting but you must email southwark.​libraries@​southwark.​gov.​uk to book most of the talks. Having said that, the Dorothy Koomson one was theoretically fully booked but not everyone turned up, so you may be able to wing it!

Dorothy Koomson Talk

Talks and events over the next month or so. Click on the photos to get full size images.

A full list of events is on the library website here: Camberwell Library Website.

The Children’s section of the library seems to be very, very popular. There were about 50 kids and parents there the other day for a storytelling session.

A very well attended storytelling club for toddlers.

The library itself is mostly on one floor, but upstairs there is a long bench where you can work and study, with sockets for laptops.

Upstairs Study area

There librarians have also brought in exhibits from the Cuming Museum relating to Camberwell, and also pictures of Camberwell are being put up from the Southwark Art Collection.

A real (not live) Camberwell Beauty, A Samuel Jones jigsaw and old map of Camberwell.
The Camberwell Palace, which used to be on Denmark Hill where Butterfly Walk is now.
Who knew Camberwell had a toll gate once?
A tablet to commemorate men signing up to fight in WW1 in Camberwell.

Some thought has also gone into the outside areas. The trees in front of the Magistrates Court now sport some really nice little bird boxes!


I also love the welcome to Camberwell vinyl at the entrance to the library. If you look carefully, you’ll find a lot of Camberwell institutions, including the Art School, St Giles, and even Sophocles and Crusons!

The Camberwell Cartoon.

Which brings me nicely to a plug for a talk I’m doing this Friday 13th November at 7.30pm. [Updated 1311 to correct the time)].

I was rather chuffed to be invited to do a talk on my photography series 36 Reasons To Love Camberwell. Unlike the other talks you don’t need to book, just turn up.

There will be a short question and answer session about the original project by the Head Librarian, Mark, and me. Then we’ll be opening up the floor to everyone and discussing the changes around Camberwell in the last few years, and those changes coming.

I’m going to update the series, and the discussion will form the basis for new photos and eventually a new book some time next year.

So please come along. It would be lovely to see you all, and while you are at it, you can have a look around this fantastic new edition to Camberwell.

36 Reasons

24 thoughts on “The new Camberwell Library has landed…”

  1. Thanks Tom, great piece. I’ve yet to get there myself, will do so soon.

    Re: the Camberwell toll gate, it used to be right where Camberwell Rd now changes to Walworth Rd — that’s why the name changes halfway along. There used to be a Camberwell Gate rail station there, which became Walworth Rd station in 1865. The only trace now is in the name of the street where it used to be: Gateway.,+London+SE17+3UE/@51.4843452,-0.0965447,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4 m²!3m1!1s0x4876049d5b7723bf:0x60e749e6520b80f8

  2. Really informative Tom — loving the imagery with the article. You should take it up you know 🙂

    Actual library website is a little top line so really good to get some meat on the bones.

    Can’t wait to pop down (we are moving into Camberwell next Friday!)

  3. Hello Bart,

    Welcome to Camberwell! Come along on Friday if you can. We won’t bite!

    And yes, the council website is a little bit prescriptive so glad to be of service!

    @Peter, I guess that’s also the origin on boundary lane nearby and I’m fairly sure Grosvenor Terrace or John Ruskin St used to be called Camberwell Gate.

  4. Good blog Tom. Thanks. I went in last Saturday to discover my library card had expired and I owed £1 in fines.

    I borrowed Paul Theroux’s Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. His journey sets off from Waterloo Station and, pleasingly, it has a local reference on page 8 as his train makes its way across South London “past Clapham High Street and Brixton and across Coldharbour Lane, a name that sent chills through me”.

    It is good we have a new library. In Lambeth the council is turning libraries into private gyms. There was a protest demo at the weekend, in the rain. Good on them. And in Lewisham the library service has already been decimated.

  5. @monkeycat It was the area which used to be called Camberwell Gate. John Ruskin Street used to be called Beresford Street, and Grosvenor Terrace used to be Grosvenor Street.

  6. My toddler and I have been thoroughly enjoying the new children’s area and all the new, non-chewed/jam-covered books, though as many other parents have pointed out there’s a bit of a design flaw in having it so close to the automatically-opening main door! Perhaps they will consider gating it in some way.

    @monkeycat, the poster states your talk is at 7.30 but in the post you said 7 — I’m planning to come but could you clarify the start time?

  7. @Millay OPPS! My bad. Whatever the poster says! It’s because the other talks started at 7pm! So 7.30 tonight everyone.

  8. I like to pick up on other people’s mistakes. “OPPS!” is splendid, particularly because it itself refers to a mistake. Genius, Monkeycat!

    I think mistakes are increasingly valuable in this over-professional, over-produced, over-perfect world.

    I have begun to insert them discreetly wherever I go.

  9. Thanks for the article and hope your event went well.

    I don’t suppose anyone knows why there isn’t housing above the new library? With the shortage of that, and land for it, locally, and the Council’s doubtless need for cash it seems strange that they decided to build a two storey building. The new library actually stands out as being so small compared to its surroundings.

  10. Hi everyone.

    Something special will be happening at Brixton East 1871 on Wednesday Wed 18 Nov 6–11pm.

    Local artist Bad Karma Impala will he hosting a charity fundraiser to support Solace Women’s Aid

    Rather than raise money directly, Imogen Paton hopes to be able to provide a continuous source of income for the charity, by renovating, decorating, and then hiring out a rare Chevrolet Impala, which will be the UK’s first charity art car.

    This particular car, which will now be used for Imogen’s Bad Karma Impala project, already holds a deep association with domestic violence for her.

    Imogen sold her flat in Camberwell to be with her partner. She has very bravely taken the decision to publicly share her story of domestic abuse and support the organisation that helped her get back on her feet.

    Please do come down and support a really good cause.

    For more info:

  11. Dulwich Audi has moved. You can no longer go to Dulwich Village and buy an Audi. I wonder what it will be next, a chicken shop, hurr! A betting shop! Gnarr!

    The wine shop, if that is the right term, is selling Gipsy Hill Brewing Company beer, who have a brewery tap session every Saturday. They are a jolly bunch!

  12. I always, marginally, preferred the 99p Stores to Poundland. I’m amazed Poundland paid £55 million for them, though No wonder Poundland shares fell 17% today, falling 48p to 230p. The new national living wage will hit profits next year, too, they say.

    I myself may buy up the whole of Volkswagen’s rhd stock bound for the UK, currently languishing in a giant car park beside the River Scheldt near Antwerp, and sell the cars for 99p in the old Audi showroom in Dulwich Village.

  13. Damien’s Hirst’s new gallery down Newport Street — up the back of Vauxhall — is fab. That and the news about the old Peckham fire station being given to the South London Gallery for art purposes is fantastic news for creative-bent Camberwell.

    (Pauses, wipes sweat from brow with fancy polka-dot silk kerchief, continues.)

    The spiral stairs in Newport Street Gallery are made with the finest, different-coloured slivets of hardwood you’ll ever see. They are wonderful spiral stairs. It’s worth going just to tread them.

    The six generous galleries on two floors are hung with the first show there, John Hoyland, big, bold canvases of colour.

    This is a sort of post-irony gallery with no seats, so sit before you go. There doesn’t appear to be a toilet, so go before you go.

    There are no postcards, but you can take snaps of the pictures with your little plastic phone, unlike at the Tates. In fact you can film your whole visit there without having to really attend, just like at pop concerts.

    There are no captions which is great, except that the accompanying bumf is not brilliant at telling you which pix are what from which date, which is a pity, with Hoyland.

    The attendants, diffident art students, are intended to challenge your perceptions of why you are there, yet are dressed in a uniform of vague t‑shirts, jog bottoms and Vans slippers. The gallery’s logo worn by these popsters is half 1930s factory profile, half paper party hat. It looks fun on the kids.

    Like Nicholas Serota says in the book of the show, this is a “space in which to curate exhibitions” as much as an art gallery for the moon-eyed public.

    This space is truly cool, also warm, which is cool on a day like today.

    There’s a great interview in the book by Hirst of Hoyland, which is a kind of game of what you might call in the art world these days, fucking tennis, in which the two men compete to use the f‑word. Hirst wins. Well it’s his fucking gallery, isn’t it?

  14. Good review Dagmar. We have a couple of Hirst’s polka-dot mugs at home. Is the Newport Street Gallery paid entrance? Or free for all?

    Dropped into the SLG the other day. Had to ask the attendant (also in vague t‑shirt, jog bottoms and Vans slippers) if the install was finished, or if they were still setting up? “No, that’s it”, she said. “That is the actual art”.

  15. Newport Street Gallery is free, Gabe. For all my teasing, it’s a great new space, place, space-place.

    At the SLG, that long plinth, you can sit on it, lie down, read the paper, give birth. That is the kind of low-level platform thing that everything is done on in Georgia where the artist is from. I met two Georgians in Warwick Gardens the other day when I was banging in some goals with the aid of a strong wind.

    It’s one of the least daft installations the SLG has seen recently. It’s a lovely room in which to sit and read the paper, lie down a little and snooze, give birth maybe.

    The two Georgians, come to think of it, had a baby with them.

  16. It takes a true sophisticate to really interpret and value art. I’ll go back for another look.

    The gallery was practically empty when we went. Just me, my unsophisticated friend, and the attendant in Vans slippers. The gallery cafe, on the other hand, was full to bursting. Priorities people.

    I read about Georgia in Paul Theroux’s cross-continental train travelogue I just borrowed from Camberwell New Library (returned on time, natch!). He delves into the cultural scene of Tbilisi for a couple of pages. I can now view the plinth in its cultural context.

    Elsewhere in the art world, the GX Gallery appears has been Instagramed with its new 40x40 square painting exhibition.

  17. Gabe, you are a sophisticat par excellence, my son. You cycle, you post, you go to galleries, you try to de-ignorance your friends.


    There’s nothing more unfair than an ignoramus.

    Now, promise me you will ride to the Koestler Awards 2015 exhibition in the basement of the Royal Festival Hall just to the left of Waterloo Bridge. It ends on Sunday 29 November.

    All the work is fascinating and doubly so because it comes from the bins and clinks of Britain. That gives it all special meaning. These pictures are not done by some old darling in a straw hat. But some of the work is the best, the most astonishing you’ll see in London at the moment for its special meaning.–11-24

  18. Hi All!

    Does anyone know what is being built on Camberwell New road — opposite The Bear pub and next to Walworth Bus Garage?


  19. 22.44pm tonight the moon will be full over Camberwell. St Giles churchyard is a good place for that, also Ruskin Park. It will be touch and go whether clouds will cover the moon — that will be part of the excitement.


    The book stall will have special Winterfestival gift ideas this year. The “Fat Arthur Band” will perform with guest theremin player. The public is always present and welcome at this bizarre where the stalls are too multifarious to mention.

    Made in Camberwell Arts Market, Datchelor Place — then head up the Grove for more “cheer”.

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