St Peter's School and Church, Walworth

St Peter's School and Church, Walworth

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

the white lady of camberwell

The white lady of Camberwell
ALICE by Lorraine Atkinson
Alice could often be seen in and around the Camberwell and Walworth for many years. 

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A is for Arments - Walworth A to Z

A is for Arments

2014 marked the centenary of the opening of Emily and Bill Arment’s very first Eel & Pie House at 386 Walworth Road, Camberwell Gate. The family business has supplied pie n’ mash and jellied eels to generation after generation of the people of Walworth. After several different premises its current location in Westmoreland Road is only a matter of thirty metres from where it all began. In a marvelous tribute to the proprietors, a block of flats on the new Aylesbury Estate has been named Arments Court.

Photo: Joel Virgo

B is for Baldwin's - Walworth A to Z

B is for Baldwin’s
Before the creation of the Heygate Estate the thriving retail community in Walworth Road continued right up to the railway bridge. Older folks will remember that Baldwin’s stood on the corner of Elephant Road. When it moved to its present location the wooden shelves and drawers lined with jars full of herbs and spices, the weighing scales, and all the quaint hand painted signage endorsing weird and wonderful concoctions came with it.
One sign promoting a cure-all, reads: “The invalid’s friend. Baldwin’s Small Herb Pills prepared from nature’s remedies of herbs and roots only. For sick headaches, piles, pains in the back & kidneys, impure blood, pimples, dizziness, swimming pains in the head & disorders of the bowels.” The shop had an old-worldly feel. Add to that the exotic fragrances and aromas filling the air and the sarsaparilla on tap, Baldwin’s will always be one of the most evocative places in Walworth. 
George Baldwin opened the doors to London’s longest running herbalists almost 170 years ago providing natural remedies to life’s ailments with his oils, ointments and herbs. The modern revamp and a mail order side brought the store into the 21st century, attracting even more visitors from far and wide.
No.77 Walworth Road, the junction with Elephant Road.

C is for Charlie Chaplin - Walworth A to Z

C is for Charlie Chaplin
“I was born on 16th April 1889, at eight o’clock at night, in East Lane, Walworth.” Thus begins Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography. Where exactly has always been a matter of speculation, but it was very likely above his grandfather’s shop. In the time spanning the two world wars, Chaplin’s tramp was the most recognised character on the planet. 
Chaplin was lauded ‘the funniest man in the world,’ and Michael Jackson, who recorded a version of ‘Smile’, once visited Freemantle Street just behind East Street, and was photographed dressed in the tramp costume.

D is for Dracula - Walworth A to Z

D is for Dracula
One of the main characters in Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel goes by the name of Jonathan Harker. Stoker, also the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in the Strand, appropriated the surname from his close friend and theatre colleague Joseph Harker. Joseph Harker was one of the most eminent British scenic artists of his time providing backdrops and scenery for numerous West End stage productions. 
Joseph Harker and Bram Stoker

During the late Victorian and Edwardian period he designed the sets, vistas and in some cases bill posters for plays starring and produced by Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum, or for the Australian actor producer Oscar Asche. When those West End shows became international tours to the USA, Europe or the Commonwealth, 400 cubic tons of Harker’s scenery was also shipped along with the cast. These same backdrops continued to be used for decades after his death. In 1904 Harker designed and painted the auditorium ceiling in the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. In that same year, a two storey purpose-built studio was erected in Queen’s Row, Walworth where Harker continued his prestigious work until his death aged seventy two in 1927. 
Harker's studio - a listed building in Queen's Row

On one occasion at the studio, a few family members and associates painted their signatures onto the brickwork – still there today and protected by a sheet of glass. 
Signatures including Joseph Harker's painted on wall of the former studio

Fittingly, for many years Harker’s Studio has been home to Flint Hire & Supply, one of Walworth’s hidden treasures providing theatrical goods for stage and television. Joseph Harker’s son Gordon features in the 1935 Will Hay movie, Boys Will Be Boys. His granddaughter is actress Polly Adams, and two great granddaughters are the actresses Susannah and Caroline Harker.

E is for East Street Baptist Church - Walworth A to Z

E is for East Street Baptist Church
In September 2013 Timothy Whitton was inducted as the new pastor of the East Street Baptist Church. For many decades the congregation has been worshipping in what was once the Richmond Street Mission – the name engraved in stone can be seen from Portland Street – but the original meeting place was a chapel on the opposite side of the road on the corner of Morecambe Street. Joseph Swain, one its earliest ministers produced a songbook entitled Walworth Hymns, which despite being out of print can be read online in the form of an e-book. For many years Company 168 ran its Boys Brigade from the church, which today continues to run children’s and youth clubs.

 The rear of the building with former name

F is for Faraday - Walworth A to Z

F is for Faraday
Albert Einstein, recognised as one of the world’s greatest scientists, had hanging in his study a portrait of Michael Faraday (1791-1867). To celebrate the bicentenary of the latter’s birth, that same portrait featured on the back of a twenty pound note throughout the 1990s. A devout Christian, an extraordinary scientist and one of Walworth’s most notable sons, we owe Faraday a great debt for his discoveries in the field of electromagnetics. In his honour a local primary school, several blocks of council flats, an electoral ward, a lovely park and a stainless steel electric substation at the Elephant & Castle are named after him.

G is for Gloag & Co. - Walworth A to Z

G is for Gloag & Co.
It is generally accepted that Walworth is where the manufacture of cigarettes in the UK first began. A Scotsman called Robert Peacock Gloag, in his post as a paymaster general in the Crimean War, saw how popular the smoking of roll-ups was among soldiers of all nations. On his return in 1856, and with a large quantity of mild Turkish leaf tobacco, he set up his ‘factory’ in a garden shed at No.12 Boyson Road
Very soon after cigarettes were invented the smoke filled room became popular. It was the perfect place to hear loud music especially when accompanied by dim lights.
The location of Gloag's cigarette factory in Boyson Road

After acquiring a few more properties in the same street, Gloag converted them into more workshops to produce his ‘Sweet Threes’ brand. Soon, he had a workforce of a hundred local girls who could each turn out four cigarettes a minute. Despite the anti-smoking lobby’s claim that tobacco was nothing more than “fashionable poison,” the mass production of cigarettes was well and truly on its way. 
Female workers at a cigarette factory

H is for Heygate Estate Tenant's Guide - Walworth A to Z

H is for Heygate Tenants Guide
As well as six 13 amp plugs and the keys to a brand new luxury flat, the earliest residents of the newly completed Heygate Estate were presented with the Tenants Handbook. 

This booklet was an ‘idiot’s guide’ to operating the lifts and the central heating; cleaning windows; connecting the television aerial and obtaining a garage. It also contained a section on using the incinerators dotted around the estate. The charge for hot water was included in the rent and tenants were requested to use it economically. Originally each household was issued with a single refuse sack that was expected to last them a whole week! Each collection day the dustmen provided a new sack for the next seven days. The section in the guide on ‘Care of Baths’ is interesting: “It is advisable to always run some cold water before turning on the hot tap, as hot water suddenly hitting the bath may damage the enamel. Bath salts, if desired, should be added while the bath is filling, and may be thoroughly dissolved by stirring. The bath should always be cleaned immediately after use with hot soapy water, and the bath wiped dry while the water is running out and the bath still warm.” All rather patronising …until you consider that many of the folks moving into these modern homes had never had a bathroom before.

I is for Iliffe Yard - Walworth A to Z

I is for IliffeYard

Charles Booth, visiting the Pullens Buildings for his Survey of London recorded in his notebook: “In Iliffe Street some are still building and old Mr Pullen in a top hat and fustian suit was on a scaffolding superintending.” The flats were so popular that they were “occupied before the paper is dry on the walls.” Among the earliest residents were many policemen from Stone’s End Station at the Borough, and on the ground floor a number of artisans whose dwellings led through to their own workshop at the rear of the buildings. Following demolition of part of the Pullens buildings in the late 1970s, squatters moved in and along with the tenants association waged a campaign that effectually saved the rest of the estate. The cobbled street of Iliffe Yard (along with Peacock and Clements Yards) has long been home to a thriving Arts and Crafts community of potters, painters, photographers, jewelers, lute makers and suchlike. Twice yearly the yards open up to the public for the weekend to showcase the vast array of creative skills.
Lutes on display at an Open Studios weekend in 2013

J is for Jubilee Singers - Walworth A to Z

J is for Jubilee Singers
The Jubilee Singers at the Court of Queen Victoria - Edmund Havel 1873

In the summer of 1873 a party of Afro-Americans toured Britain performing concerts of negro-spirituals, a style of music that was largely unfamiliar to these shores. The eleven piece choir from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, was made up of former slaves and consisted of seven women and four men. Everywhere they went they were greeted with rapturous applause, and were privileged to sing before Queen Victoria, the Prime Minister William Gladstone and other members of parliament. The Queen was so enchanted with the beautiful vocals that she ordered a painting to be made of the singers, which hangs in Fisk University to this very day. Charles Hadden Spurgeon was thrilled to give over the Metropolitan Tabernacle to have them put on a concert for his large congregation. “They have something about them which I have never heard before in anything ever given by way of a performance. There is a real mystery and deep theology in this singing that we can hardly understand.”
The soon to be demolished Arthur Street Chapel on the left of picture, 1955. 
The Arthur Street Chapel at Camberwell Gate – situated on what is now the Gateway Estate, Walworth – hosted the show on the night of July 4th, American Independence Day. The Jubilee Singers sang Go Down Moses, Steal Away To Jesus, John Brown’s Body and many other songs of slavery. Swing Low Sweet Chariot, now the official anthem of England’s Rugby Union team, was heard in the UK for the very first time.

K is for Kennedy's - Walworth A to Z

K is for Kennedys.

From the 1870s and for the next 130 years Kennedy’s were selling their sausages in a number of shops scattered over South East London and the Kent borders. Despite being closed for the past six years the premises at 305 Walworth Road has not been occupied since, and remains boarded up with its signage still in place. Almost as iconic as Arments, Kennedys was just as famous for its pork pies, sausage rolls, luncheon meat and coleslaw. In recent years a ‘sausage shop’ has sprung up in Beckenham to keep up the Kennedy’s tradition. It is called Ken & Eddie’s. 

The dead Kennedys

L is for the Lane and M is for Manor Place Baths - Walworth A to Z

L is for the Lane
East Street runs from Walworth Road to the Old Kent Road, and a large slice of it is taken up with the market, which has been known since its earliest days as ‘The Lane.’

Charles Booth, conducting his famous survey of London, noted that it was not as busy as it used to be, except on Sundays, when “the place is filled with hawkers, quack doctors and all sorts. You could walk on the heads of the people there is such a crowd.”
In the last ten years a lot of trade has been swallowed up by the large supermarkets and ‘pound shops’ in the high street. Many of the traditional stallholders have either retired or moved out, their places filled by traders from all over the globe. It continues as a thriving market buzzing with new accents and divers languages, with butchers, drapers, candlestick makers, all flogging their wares and the usual tat. You can still pick up your fruits and vegetables …but they just might be a bit more exotic these days. The Lane has evolved into something entirely different to what it once was. So, if you are expecting to enjoy a Roffo’s ice cream, guzzle down a pint of sarsaparilla or hot blackcurrant, play a record at the A1 Stores and have your photo taken holding a little monkey, you might be a tad disappointed.

Youtube: A walk through East Lane in 2011


M is for Manor Place Baths
Manor Place Baths 1972. Photo by Laurence Wells 

Before indoor water closets became compulsory in post-war buildings, most folks made do with an outside toilet in their back yard and a chamber pot under the bed of a night time for all to share. It was the same with bathrooms – not many people had them. A tin bathtub was set up in the front room, with boiled water brought in from the kitchen to keep the heat, whilst each member of the family took turns to have a scrub down. This all took place on ‘bath night’ usually once a week, whether you needed it or not.

The alternative was to pop down to Manor Place Public Wash-House and Baths and enjoy a soak in the privacy of your own cubicle – you could even call out to a steward to add more hot or cold water. Afterwards (or instead of) boys, girls and adults could have a swim in the first-class or second-class pools or the ‘small swim’. Many Walworth kids learned to swim at the baths, or bellyflop, or divebomb from the balcony when the lifeguard wasn’t looking.

The wash house was also the ideal meeting place for mothers to have a good natter or let off steam as they did the weekly laundry. For just a ‘few bob’ they had access to all the latest mod-cons – washtubs, mangles, rollers, driers and presses. In 1979 the pools were drained one final time, the washroom facilities removed, and the building(s) were refurbished into office space. Today the Kagyu Samye Dzong Buddhist Centre is housed there with the emphasis on cleaning one’s mind rather than body.

N is for Nine Below Zero - Walworth A to Z

N is for Nine Below Zero
Fronted by old schoolmates Dennis Greaves on guitar and Mark Feltham on blues harp, Nine Below Zero were formed in the late seventies and achieved huge acclaim in the early eighties playing old school rhythm and blues in smoked filled rooms. As youngsters at Walworth Comprehensive, Greaves, Peter Clarke and Kenny Bradley (future members of 9BZ) would bunk off school and sneak into the Thomas A Beckett to watch bands doing their soundchecks at the pub-rock venue. Managed by another local, Mickey Modern, the band appeared on the pilot episode of The Young Ones performing 11 Plus 11. Another song titled East Street SE17 was an early b-side. Thirty seven years later and they are still going strong and currently fulfilling a number of British dates.

O is for Octavia Hill - Walworth A to Z

O is for Octavia Hill
Octavia Hill by John Singer Sargent 1898 (National Portrait Gallery)

A hundred years after Octavia Hill’s death, the housing estate she helped build still stands and bears her name. Meanwhile just a stone’s throw away the bulldozers are already at work razing the Aylesbury Estate to the ground. Twin planning disasters the Heygate and the Aylesbury might have benefited from an Octavia Hill. She was undoubtedly one of the noblest characters of her time, seeking her utmost to better the conditions of the poor, preventing open spaces being built upon, and founding many notable organisations of which the National Trust is the most well known. But it was her work with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that she will always be remembered for in Walworth. The transformation of a notorious 22 acre slum site into several new streets and groves (Merrow, Portland, Villa, Wooler, Liverpool, Burton, etc.) filled with healthy affordable homes in the shape of pretty cottages and low-rise tenement blocks. The Faraday Gardens recreational ground was thrown in for good measure, a green space we are still profiting from today. 

Part of a letter from Octavia Hill regarding Faraday Gardens

P is for Pawnbrokers - Walworth A to Z

P is for Pawnbrokers

Throughout the Victorian era countless pawnshops littered the many rows of terraces that made up the Walworth Road. Mr Burls’ pawnbrokers of Kings Row; Turner’s of Crown Row; Burltor’s of Beckford Row; Knowles’ of Bolingbroke Row and so on. And then came Grisnett and Walker, who occupied the distinctive building on the corner of Walworth Road and Merrow Street with its three brass balls beneath the clock tower. More recent generations will remember it as Harvey & Thompson, with the jewelry counter and unredeemed pledges sold in the front of the shop, and the pawnbrokers section round the side. The company was set up in 1897 by Walter Harvey, who already had his own pawnbrokers in Lambeth Walk as early as 1881, and CJ Thompson, to take advantage of the underprivileged. Or to help out the poor, depending on which way you see it. It was by quite a remarkable coincidence during the summer of 1915, that Messrs Harvey and Thompson both passed away within three weeks of each other. A more affluent time saw the Walworth premises downsized and let out to Panache shoe shop. The chain of stores has continued to increase in the current darker financial climate. Recent years have seen Harvey & Thompson rebranded on the high street as H&T, becoming far and away the largest pawnbrokers in the UK with 190 stores around the country. These days it is mostly gold, silver and jewelry they are after, but in the past it would have been almost anything of value; giving folks easy access to cash with the hope they could return a week or so later to redeem their husband’s suit or the family heirloom. 

It is a sign of the times that once again Walworth Road is awash with gold buyers, money lenders, cheque cashers and pawnbrokers. With things being so tight, is it really any wonder that so many betting offices and gambling dens are also sprouting up, each one competing for those last few pennies or precious assets that are being held onto.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Q is for Queen of Hearts - Walworth A to Z

Q is for Queen of Hearts

When the much loved Princess Diana visited Walworth in 1993 our very own Danny Walters managed to give her an impromptu high five and present her with a bunch of flowers. Diana, later dubbed ‘the queen of hearts’ was not the first member of the royal family to stray onto the streets of SE17. On various occasions in the past our present Queen and her forbears have made some notable visits. Queen Victoria attended the Surrey Pleasure Gardens in 1848 and Queen Elizabeth, when a mere Princess, looked round a new Walworth prefab just before the end of the war. 

The Duchess of York, who later became Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and her husband the Duke of York (later George VI) attended the Browning Settlement in 1928 for the coronation of her counterpart the Walworth May Queen. During the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1935 King George V and Queen Mary passed along a crowded Walworth Road on a drive through South London. And then just months before the Second World War, Queen Mary, now widowed, took the same route to open Clubland at the Walworth Methodist Church. Clubland was cumbersomely billed at the time as “The Temple of Youth for working girls and boys.” Idioms such as ‘teenager’ and ‘youth club’ were yet to be coined. Sadly the buildings were destroyed just two years later after taking a direct hit during the blitz. On completion of rebuilding in 1964 the Queen Mother had the honour of opening it to a new generation. The Queen Mother returned to the area in 1982, this time for the rededication of St Peter's Church in Liverpool Grove following extensive refurbishment. 
Queen Mary with the Rev. Butterworth May 1939 and the Programme

R is for Robert Browning - Walworth A to Z

R is for Robert Browning
Robert Browning was one of the most famed of the Victorian poets, and his The Pied Piper of Hamelin with its flowing rhythmic patterns has been a children’s favourite ever since it was first published. As a pale and somewhat mysterious faced youth crowned with a flowing black mane, Browning sat under the ministry of George Clayton at Walworth’s York Street Chapel. It was also the church where he had been baptised as an infant. Such was his influence that the chapel was later renamed the Browning Settlement Hall – where the ‘old age pensions act’ was originated, the street became Browning Street and the local school Robert Browning School. 

Whilst attending a dinner party in 1889, just seven months before his death, the aged poet, found himself sampled by some new technology. One of the party-goers had brought along a device that was able to make a short audio recording onto a cylinder which could then be played back for all to hear. When it came to Browning’s turn he decided to recite from his poem, ‘How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix.’ However, he straightway managed to forget the words, messing up on the third line, and he eventually abandons the idea. But we are left with a remarkable piece of history. That fifty second recording begins: “I sprang to the saddle, and Joris, and he. I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three; ‘Speed’ echoed the wall to us galloping through. ‘Speed’ echoed the… Then the gate shut behind us, the lights sank to rest…” At this point he gives up altogether and apologises. In the few words that follow, he betrays his South London roots with his ‘me’ for ‘my’: I'm interminably sorry but I can't remember me own verses, but one thing that I will remember all me life is the astonishing [inaudible] captured by your wonderful invention.”  Three cheers are then raised and the recording ends. Like fellow nineteenth century poets, Browning sailed away to die in Italy; his death in Venice occurring before the year was out.

Robert Browning reciting his own poem in 1889

S is for Star Video - Walworth A to Z

S is for Star Video
Possibly the first video hire shop in the UK, Billy Best’s legendary Star Video at 312 Walworth Road, was opened in the late 1970s and remained popular for a quarter of a century. In those early days there were just three British television channels, no breakfast TV, and the networks closed down soon after midnight. Very few people owned a video cassette recorder and even fewer high street retailers sold pre-recorded tapes. But soon after the introduction of the VCR, as rare, classic and cult movies became more readily available, the machine’s popularity increased dramatically. The weekly trip to one of several local cinemas was traded for a night indoors with close friends and a movie that was unlikely to be on release at the pictures or on ITV or BBC.  From the huge stock of ancient and current movies, foreign films, television and music shows, members of Star Video could hire out seven tapes for seven nights for seven pounds, or negotiate another good deal. The real joy was unearthing an unknown treasure or making an impulsive choice from the racks and racks of titles. 
The status of Star Video prompted the giant American corporation Blockbuster to choose Walworth to open its very first outlet in the UK in 1989 and become the only real competition. Thirteen years later the original shop – boasting a stock of over 300,000 videos and DVDs – closed when it was finally bought out by its rivals.

 Thanks to Mark Brady for the image of his star video store card.