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!

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

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!

Park, life

By gum, it’s been a while. More on that after this bit of good news:

Burgess Park has won a Green Flag Award, given for meeting eight criteria including being welcoming, secure, and well-maintained. I know the redevelopment has had its critics but I think it’s much nicer to visit now than before, especially with the wild flower areas finally bedding in. I cycled through the park a few times in the recent hot weather and it certainly seems to me that it’s being used a lot more than it was before, with the picnic area in particular being extremely popular.

This is now the fifth Green Flag park in Camberwell, joining Brunswick Park, Myatt’s Fields, Ruskin Park and Warwick Gardens.

So, I’m looking for contributors to help run the blog as I’m currently finding it very hard to keep going. Mumu has already done an excellent job of providing the last pair of posts, and I’m looking for a few people who can help out with a post every month or so. If there’s an area you’re particularly interested in you can cover that, or you can also write more general posts if you prefer. I have a few names in mind I think would make fantastic additions, but I’m really open for offers from everyone.

There’s no compensation other than satisfaction, although I do sometimes get offered tickets to press previews of local theatres, if that’s your cup of tea. Anyway, if interested please email peter@​camberwellonline.​co.​uk or leave a comment below. Thanks.


New library to open in Camberwell autumn 2012?

This afternoon Southwark’s Cabinet will, barring any last minute problems, formally approve the plans for the new library in Camberwell at a site near the Magistrates’ Court on Camberwell Green.

The new library is dealt with as item 13 on the meeting agenda. The background information (item 13: page 181) relating to this makes a good case for the new library showing how it will save money and create new community facilities to the benefit of Camberwell.

Council leader Peter John in the forward to the agenda item writes “This council is committed to the regeneration and renewal of Camberwell. One of the most visible signs of that regeneration will be the creation of a vibrant ‘town centre’ at Camberwell Green. We are working to bring forward plans which will deal with some of the transport and retail opportunities necessary to achieve that ‘town centre’ ambition, but believe that one of the roles which the council can play is the provision of a library which meets the aspirations of local residents in the 21st century.” Let us hope that by its actions the Council ensures that these sentiments are more than words.