This was Southampton Way circa 1904 - a working class spillover from Camberwell Green. Parts of it survived war bombings, but certain stretches and neighbourhoods all around it were not so lucky.
Today it is the symbol of a forgotten corner of Camberwell - a commercial street poorly serving a large community that hugs the Camberwell/Peckham border.
Standing in approximately the same spot more than 100 years later, you'll find quite a mix: thriving businesses and empty shells - newly refurbished and long neglected homes. Promising, significant change for this area is already underway, but two things still need to happen. The Council need to gently nudge on a few projects and help provide better infrastructure, and those of us living around here need to stand up and help attract, then support new businesses and housing projects to join those already here.
There have been steps taken recently to study this 'forgotten corner' of Camberwell. A group of local residents approached the Camberwell Community Council asking that something be done. The smaller council recommended they approach the wider Southwark Council, as the task would require more resources than they could offer. Meeting minutes from Southwark Council show the group did go to Southwark Council and was deputised in late 2005 to investigate the project and report back. However, having spoken to a member of the group and having called the Council Development Officer for Camberwell, it appears the project is moving slowly or not at all.
And so to maybe help move things along, I took up this project to map, research and find answers to what was already happening. Information is powerful. What will happen with the information below is still uncertain. Hopefully it will inspire and stir a small core group to realise quick, positive action.
The strip along Southampton Way this blog is concerned with is shown on the map in orange. I believe regenerating this one strip is key to helping the wider area - specifically the 'triangle' formed to the north by Wells Way and Coleman Road. It will also help the already regenerating areas to the south (Brunswick Park) and the east (new developments stretching up to Burgess Park), and the renewing Elmington Estate to the west.
In fact, we'll start to the west where a massive project recently demolished four eyesores formerly known as Elmington Estate towers and replaced them with modern, low-rise housing. You can see the impressive results that have brought back a sense of pride back to East Camberwell, which is ranked in the top 5% of the most impoverished communities in the UK. Sadly, there is much work to be done and the project appears to have hit some financial overruns and delays.
83 - 113 Southampton Way
Just across the road from the end of the new Elmington Estate, is perhaps the most vexing part of this strip of Southampton Way. It appears to have once been a nice row of Victorian houses complete with large gardens to the rear. Over time, they converted to shops but today appear to be converting back to (mostly badly done) residences. 83 is the Cottage Fish Bar, which appears to have recently closed down. From there, stands a row of converted house - to shop - back to house properties. Some done nicely, others are shocking. Number 101 is one of the three similar businesses along the strip - the Turk Kahvesi. Google tells us this is a Turkish Coffee Bar, but it appears they are private members' clubs for playing pool, cards and having a drink.
Number 105 used to be Sophar Thai Restaurant. Number 109-111 has been plastered over and scaffolding has been out front for a very long time. At the end of the row sits The Flying Dutchman Pub - technically at 156 Wells Way - a good ol' local pub with a late licence at the weekend where karaoke seems to be the big draw. At this point, Wells Way intersects from the north.
117 - 135 Southampton Way
This stretch contains one of the long-running, contentious properties that is close to having a new lease on life - The Bricklayer's Arms pub. Before it, you'll find West Indian Takeaway and Coral betting shop.
The Bricklayer's Arms at 121-123 conjures fond memories for many long-time locals. In particular, they remember its nice back garden. The pub's been boarded up and in disrepair for several years. It was auctioned off, approved for demolition and new build flats, then auctioned off again. It is now owned by the Hexagon Housing Association, which is currently finalising plans to demolish it and replace it with a new, 13-flat development to provide housing for low-income families. As best I can tell, the sticking point with Southwark planners is the developers desire to replace a three-story structure with a four-story one. It is interesting to read the minutes from meetings with the previous owners and to view an artist rendering of what they had planned to build. We're still waiting to see what Hexagon will do. A representative with Hexagon promises it will be 'very nice' and in 'keeping with the area', and that residents housed there will 'eventually' be offered the right to buy.
Beyond the disused pub, you'll find empty commercial space up for let (which used to house the local Post Office until it moved across to Costcutters), the Heritage Unisex Salon, Camberwell (Halal) Butchers, and the 24-hour Presco Food and Wine (which made news twice in recent years for health violations and an armed robbery resulting in a shooting). All of these have flats above. At this point, Rainbow Street intersects from the North.
150 - 160 Southampton Way
Across the street on the even numbered side of the street, Southwark College offers a well-maintained campus. Amid its modern building, stands an almost hidden treasure. The small building contains a sign showing that it once housed The School Board for London Southampton Street Schools. It is a beautiful gem almost lost among the traffic of the busy intersection.
Next door is the Costcutter, which now houses the local Post Office, which used to be across the street and was at least once threatened with closure but has so far survived.
One of the best bits of the strip is next door - The Crusty Loaf Bakery. He's been here many years and turns out a good loaf. Next door is Happy Valley Chinese Takeaway - a lifesaver when the cupboards are empty and the sun has set.
Beside and behind this section of Southampton Way are some very interesting developments that will have an impact on the strip and the wider area. Behind Southwark College on Harris Street, the crane has been a fixture for many weeks. Unite is building a 123-bed student housing complex, which should create a new market for the types of businesses that could be lured to the area. They pride themselves on a track record of seeing communities where they locate realise 'tangible improvements'. They bought the land from the same person who owns the land beside their site, which sits on Southampton Way and Havil Street (technically no 4 Havil Street). At present, it is a small bungalow with high fencing around it and a nice bit of green sticking out of the top. Unite had hoped to purchase it too and include it in their development but were unsuccessful. They believe the owner is now working with a developer and will build some sort of housing association units or a student hostel. No plans have been submitted to Southwark Planning as yet.
Crossing back to the north of the street, we find a relatively well-maintained section of period terraced houses. Tunde Barbers is on the corner and does a thriving business. At 139, a discreet plague notes The Sacred Heart Community where nuns reside. A few of the houses along the row appear to have undergone recent renovations. But at the end of this stretch sits perhaps the longest running headache of the area - number 149.
This burned out, three-story house has been sitting boarded up and in shambles for decades. The council did start compulsory purchase proceedings against the owner after having no luck tracking him down for four years (1997-2001). Eventually they found him and he agreed to submit plans for renovation, which failed to win planning approval. The architect for the project says now the owner's son is involved and is keen to move along in demolishing the existing structure and replacing it with a four-story building with a rear extension that will house four luxury flats. Like the Bricklayer's Arms, the fight seems to be over elevation - that is, can they replace a three-story structure with a four-story one. The architect says he's given planners what they asked for and is now waiting for an answer. At this point, Bonsor street intersects from the north.
180 - 194 Southampton Way
Cross to the south side of the street, we first find Beacon House - Southwark owned council housing. It is in pretty good nick, but could benefit from a little bit of a clean and a bit more green. It includes a corner lot stretching around to Havil Street and with a little gardening elbow grease; it would help the whole street.
Beside it stands the final disused, boarded up lot on our stretch: 184-188 Southampton Row. Once the London and Kent Auction Rooms sold off many fine antiques in these premises. Somehow the land fell into Southwark Council hands and in 2002, the council was granted planning permission to develop 15 flats with communal gardens and seven parking spaces. According the notes re: planning for neighbouring 190, that planning permission expired in 2006. There is another council document outlining the Housing Investment Programme's budget that refers to this address as a 'Hostel - new build'. A Council representative believes this is meant to become a new-build family hostel funded by selling the existing single men hostel located a few doors down at 2 Sedgmor Place (it will be sold off, demolished and re-developed). The plans appear to be in the very early stages.
Interestingly, beside these abandoned lots are three Grade II listed buildings. The first at 190, is today the Nicki Day Nursery. It opened in 2004 with temporary change of use planning permission for a one-year trial. Neighbours were concerned about the potential noise and additional traffic. In 2005, the council approved permanent change-of-use status and allowed them expand from 12 to 20 kids and from a maximum of age two to four.
The neighbours at 192 and 194 live in the two most beautiful single family homes on the street and perhaps in the area. Shrouded in lush green and stately fencing, the homes appear to have maintained their grandeur.
Beside them (technically no. 2 Sedgmor Place) is a hostel for single men. The building looks a bit like a 1970's prefabricated structure. Most striking, it is absent the slightest hint of anything green. As noted, early-stage plans call for this to be sold off, demolished and redeveloped for housing, while a replacement 'family' hostel will be built at 184-188 Southampton Way. Again, the plans are in early stages. Here the road intersects with Sedgmor Place then picks up with more council estates. Our stroll on the south side ends here and we cross back to the north.
151 - 181 Southampton Way
This portion of the block can be seen clearly in the 1904 photo and reveals some of the most interesting history of the street. If you love poetry or cycling, you of all people should stop and pay homage. Sadly, it is also one of the more rundown and bleak streches, so you'll be forgiven for quickly walking past.
151 -161 are houses showing signs of coming back to life. One recently sold for £300,000 and the owner's appear to be renovating it to a high standard. Next starts a series of shops including Take Two Hair Salon, Samkal (West Indian fish and chips), Genie's Carpet Sales, Wash & Dry Laundramat, Vinebins Off Licence, two (2) Turk Kahvesi's (see no. 101), Ozis Cafe, Dallas Chicken and Southampton Way Dry Cleaners.
Famous poet Robert Browning was born in Camberwell and lived in a cottage adjacent to number 179 (Dallas Chicken). A plaque marks the spot. Number 177 (Turk member's club) and number 181 (Dry Cleaners) both housed workshops and showrooms for famous bicycle frame designers and manufacturers Arthur S Gilliot, Harry Carrington and Jim Collier during the mid to late 1900's. At this point, Coleman Road intersects from the north.
183 - Peckham Grove Intersection
Tom Bradford's Dairy sits at the corner (another convenience shop) followed by three houses converted into three flats each. These are nice conversions (one formerly a modeling agency), as they are build up against the first of several massive new builds to the east and North all the way up to Burgess Park. This is part of the bigger renewal of the former industrial areas of North Peckham. The building on Southampton Way is part of a new impressive housing development by Galliard developers and contains several retail spaces for let that front Southampton Way. A representative for Galliard says they are spacious sites and they are working with a number of national retailers hoping to attract good businesses to the area. A representative with the community group deputised for the 'forgotten' project suggested something along the lines of a Tesco Metro or Sainsbury's Local would be their dream. I think the information in this blog demonstrates the demand for such a local supermarket is already here and growing.
Two other important factors
Understanding regeneration of this strip of Southampton Way and the wider area in all directions needs to include at least two other projects: the long-delayed Cross River Tram, and something spotted on a website for The Well (a Baptist Church slightly north of Southampton Way on Wells Way).
The Cross-River Tram should snake its way through the east and north of Southampton Way with stops along Chandler's Way and Burgess Park (whether cutting through the park or along Wells Way remains undecided). Such transport offering travel to and from Central London with such ease will no doubt make the area more accessible and more desirable for property owners. The Trams has been delayed several times already with the latest date set for a 2016 opening. Peckham is now fighting the depot in their town centre and the Friends of Burgess Park have been calling for an alternative route for several years. Those issues remained undecided but a consultation is promised for autumn 2006. The council called for TfL to put a priority on the Tram - just before the last local elections. Whether that was a serious call or a pre-election gimmick remains to be seen.
Wells Way Baptist Church is also planning a makeover. Their website details a project to demolish the old Chaple on Cottage Green, which runs off Southampton Way on its western side. It will replace it with a new modern design. No planning permission has been requested and a church member reports they are still fundraising.