Goodbye Cruson

Photo by Tom Leighton. Buy a print.

Well, it’s been a minute since I last wrote anything here, but I feel like I can’t let the end of a little piece of Camberwell history pass without recording it.

In case you haven’t heard, Aris and Maria of Cruson are retiring and the shop has been sold. They took over the shop in 1971—or at least, Aris think so, but nobody’s really sure. And they’ve been a pretty much permanent fixture on Church Street ever since.

When they came to Camberwell the area had a lot of Cypriot immigrants who’d moved over here in the 1960s—so many that the area was informally known as ‘Little Cyprus’. Even today there’s Sophocles bakery, Vineyard Greek Taverna, St Mary’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral; when I first moved here back in the mid-90s there was also another Greek Taverna on the corner of Camberwell Grove, and Tadim cafe on Church Street, and Paul’s Continental Olive Shop. And there was Cruson.

Everybody knows Cruson. The shop with its green awning, and its racks of fruit, vegetables, flowers, and plants on the street, and its interior a time-capsule of a high street long since gone. It’s a local landmark, appearing in much art and photography.

And everybody knows Aris and Maria—Aris especially, as he was the face of Cruson. In all the time I’ve lived here, every morning before 8am Aris opened up the shop, and every evening at 9pm he closed it again. You can read some of his life story in this piece from the Peckham Peculiar last year.

When I came to London I was trained as a hairdresser and I got a job working in a hairdressing salon on Old Compton Street in Soho. But times were difficult because everyone wanted to have long hair so you didn’t get the regular customers coming in like before. Just as I learnt how to be a barber I also learnt how to be a greengrocer.

He was also featured in a BBC article about the changing face of the high street—and, as always, just referred to as Aris.

It’s Aris, just Aris. No one knows my other name. If you say it, you write it down, everyone will say, ‘who is that man, I never heard of him’.

Tom Leighton, who took the iconic photo at the top of this post, has made a lovely short film about a day in the life of Cruson. Here’s a preview:

I wish Aris and Maria a very happy retirement. I’ll miss dropping in there to hear him say, in the Cypriot accent he never lost in almost 60 years, “hello, young man!”.

At 78, I think I should try out retirement. I am not sure how I will find it, but it’s now or never!

Help crowdfund the Coal Line

My Camberwell friends, I may have a part of the cycle solution (certainly to Millwall, Dagmar) – but we need your help! The Peckham Coal Line is now Crowdfunding through Spacehive. Take part and help this resident-initiated project move one step closer to creating an urban linear park that would connect South London. An oasis of greenery soaring high across the rooftops of Peckham on a disused rail siding. A route as useful as it is beautiful, unlocking dormant Victorian infrastructure to connect neighbourhoods and high streets, and people to work.

More than a park – a vital connection: The 900-meter link will be for walkers and cyclists and will bridge a gap in a wider network of greenways that would run largely traffic free across South Camberwell to Greenland Dock where Sustrans are planning a new bridge to Canary Wharf. The campaign needs to get out to a wider audience so if any of you know of someone who might be interested please forward the website to them.





Wider Networkx

New old photos of Camberwell

A new account on Flickr, Historic Images UK, has posted a batch of old photos of Camberwell that I’ve never seen before. Among many (many) of Camberwell Grove, there are some real old treasures. Here are a few good ones.

This is the corner of Camberwell Green where the public toilets now stand. Is that some kind of shrine there, or just a monument?

Camberwell Green 1930.JPG

The Lava Skating Rink, which stood at the top of Camberwell Grove near Denmark Hill station. So-called because the surface was covered with lava from Vesuvius.

The Lava Skating Rink, Grove Lane, Camberwell 1908.JPG

Camberwell Grove, 1905. Hasn’t changed much.


I think this is the cottage that still stands at the top of Camberwell Grove, although it’s not thatched any more.


A drawing of the old St Giles church, which stood on the site of the current one.

St Giles, Camberwell.jpg

300-year-old galleried stables on Camberwell Grove. Gone now, I think.

Old Stables, Camberwell Grove.jpg

All Change On Camberwell Green

After what feels like years of discussions and focus groups, planning permission has finally been presented for Camberwell Green. More on this in a bit, but other plans are afoot too.

Theoretically, work on pocket spaces and specifically Datchelor Place (home to Flying Fish and Pigeon Hole) will be pedestrianised before the end of this financial year (Take heed Southwark Council: April 5th. Get a move on). After this one is done, there’s still a quite a few other pocket spaces to do too. The very successful Camberwell Arts Christmas Market showed what can be done there if given the space and the resources.

The New Camberwell Library
The New Camberwell Library

The new library is taking shape nicely too. Whilst I have been quite vocal in my disgust at a (Labour run) Southwark Council sham of a “consultation” and the destruction of the orchard, the library itself looks good from the outside and I hope that we get something that we can be proud of. I love the type font for the front of the building. The new library sits on the edge of Camberwell Green, between the green and the Magistrates’ Court.

Which brings me neatly onto the plans for Camberwell Green.

On the whole I think the plans sympathetically take into account the history of the Green whilst giving it a much needed and welcome upgrade. Thought has been given to allow people clear paths to the library and beyond, to the court and even Burgess Park. However, there are some aspects that I am not so keen on. Below is a screen grab from one of the many planning permission documents. You can see all of the documents here: Southwark Planning Website

Camberwell Green Overview of plans
Camberwell Green Overview of proposed plans


In the plus column:

  • The green will retain some of the historical features such as the original gateposts, the ancient pathways, the war memorial and the Sidney Bates memorial bench. I hadn’t really noticed the gateposts before, but I am glad they are being restored.

    Camberwell Green
    Original pathways and most of the mature trees to be retained.
    Camberwell Green Gatepost
    Original Gateposts to be restored and retained.
  • Most of the trees are to be kept, including the lovely massive one that overhangs the pathway by the loo (see below for more about the loo). At the same time, more trees will be planted, including disease resistant elm trees to replace some of the trees in the future.
  • The railings will now be kept around most of the Green. (The original designs took these away to make it less pleasant to stop people hanging around there being “anti-social” i.e. street drinkers, but without thinking it might make it less pleasant for everyone else as well!)
  • The playground has been moved to the north end of the green. I think this makes for a better, larger connected open space rather than two spaces divided by the playground.
  • The south east side of the green will be extended to take in part of the road in front of the Peabody Estate. This will be used for the farmer’s market and other events. I think it makes sense to bring the market to a more obvious position. Hopefully this will help the market traders and customers.

    Future Location of the Farmer's Market.
    Future Location of the Farmer’s Market.
  • The borders of the green on Camberwell Church St and Camberwell Road will be filled with flowers and wild meadows to create a buffer zone between the green and the traffic.
  • There are also several “feature walls”, near the borders, some of which will also contain seating.
  • And finally, there will be a pedestrian crossing from the green to Camberwell Passage. As someone who crosses the road here all the time to catch the bus, I know this is a really helpful thing. (I hope they don’t make it too frustrating for traffic though. If it’s a pelican crossing that takes for ever for the green man, often people have crossed already meaning drivers have to pointlessly wait while nobody crosses!)

On the down side:

  • The toilet. Yes, THE TOILET! It screams: “Welcome to Camberwell, it’s full of s**t!”. Apparently this toilet, that sits at the crossroads to the green (where a beautiful water feature of another type used to sit, see pics below) has to stay because the bus drivers need it. I’m sorry, but I have never once seen a bus driver, or anyone else use this toilet, except on the rare occasions when there are big events on the green. If it has to be kept (and I do not think it’s worth it personally) a much better solution would be to have it near the farmer’s market area, in a more discreet position. Not with the door opening onto a busy crossroads where everyone can see you! (Apparently cost is preventing this. See below for my solution).

Welcome to Camberwell Green. It's a bit shit.
Welcome to Camberwell Green. It’s a bit s**t.

Note the old water fountain that pre-dates the current water feature!
Note the old water fountain at the entrance to the Green that pre-dates the current water feature!
  • I don’t like the new street lights that are proposed. I think they will date very quickly and the ones we have currently are a much better design for the green. Maybe the money saved by not buying new street lights could be used to pay for moving the turdis (a.k.a. the toilet).

Existing Lamp Posts
Existing Lamp Posts. Pigeon Optional.


Proposed Lamp Posts for Camberwell Green.
Proposed Lamp Posts for Camberwell Green. Man with briefcase optional.


So what now?

What do you think? Do you like the plans? What do you want to see changed, even at this late stage?

As well as adding your comments below, if you want to show your support or opposition to the plans (see full details of all the documents and plan here) you should email Southwark’s Planning department quoting planning reference 14/AP/4537. Send your emails to: planning.​consultation@​southwark.​gov.​uk.

A note on the Southwark website says: “Please make sure that you state the application number and your postal address. Comments that you submit will be published on this website for others to see”, so make sure you do this.

And if you want to make a fuss (dare I say a “Sh*tstorm”?) about the toilet plans, get in touch. Let’s march!

Camberwell and the South East, 1960s.

Quite lovely short film about the modernisation of Camberwell and its surrounds in the early 1960s. Ironic to see the praise for modern housing which is now falling to pieces or knocked down, while the dismissed old housing is now worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

The Changing Face of Camberwell.

So many things that no longer exist. The church on Wren Road, the Rosemary Branch pub, the Camberwell Beauty on the Samuel Jones factory, the last remaining London dairy farm.

“The drama of change is the balance of loss and gain.”

Update: This is a revised post; the original featured a YouTube link, which was later removed after a copyright claim.