Peckham: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 51°28′17″N 0°03′45″W / 51.4714°N 0.0625°W / 51.4714; -0.0625

Peckham landscape.jpg
Peckham is located in Greater London

 Peckham shown within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ345765
London borough Southwark
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district SE15
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Camberwell and Peckham
London Assembly Lambeth and Southwark
List of places: UK • England • London

Peckham (pronounced /ˈpɛ.kəm/) is an area of London, England, in the London Borough of Southwark, located 3.5 miles (5.7 km) south-east of Charing Cross, about one mile (1.6 km) east of Camberwell and one mile (1.6 km) west of New Cross.

Peckham has never been an administrative district, or a single ecclesiastical parish in its own right, but it developed a strong sense of identity in the 19th century when Rye Lane was one of the most important shopping streets in South London. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.[1]

The area known as Peckham covers a large area of South London and takes in many diverse communities. A traditional London working class community now coexists with communities that have their origins in Bangladesh, the Caribbean, China, India, Ireland, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, Eastern Europe and Vietnam. As well as these communities there has been a steady gentrification of some of the areas to the south of Peckham and this has meant an influx of cafés, wine bars, niche shops and artists' studios.

A few highly publicised crimes have tarnished the area's reputation. Cases such as the murder of Damilola Taylor in November 2000, the shooting of eight or nine (contemporary reports vary) people queuing outside Chicago's nightclub in the summer of 2000 and three murders in February 2007 (one of 15 year old Michael Dosunmu in his bedroom)[2] have given the impression that Peckham is dangerous and lawless. However, incidents like this do not reflect the lives of a large majority of the people living in the area.[3][4]



'Peckham' is a Saxon place name meaning the village of the River Peck, a small stream that ran through the district until it was enclosed in 1823. Archaeological evidence indicates earlier Roman occupation in the area, although the name of this settlement is lost.

Peckham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Pecheham. It was held by the Bishop of Lisieux from the Bishop of Bayeux. Its Domesday assets were: 2 hides. It had land for 1 plough, 2 acres (8,100 m2) of meadow. It rendered £1 10s 0d (£1.50).[5]

The manor was owned by King Henry I who gave it to his son Robert, Earl of Gloucester. When Robert married the heiress to Camberwell the two manors were united under royal ownership. King John probably hunted at Peckham and local anecdotes suggest that the right to an annual fair was granted to celebrate a particularly good day's sport. The fair grew to be a rowdy major event lasting three weeks until its abolition in 1827.

Peckham became popular as a wealthy residential area by the 16th century and there are several claims that Christopher Wren had local links. By the 18th century the area was a more commercial centre and attracted industrialists who wanted to avoid paying the expensive rents in central London. Peckham also boasted extensive market gardens and orchards growing produce for the nearby markets of London. Local produce included melons, figs and grapes. The formal gardens of the Peckham Manor House, rebuilt in 1672 by Sir Thomas Bond were particularly noticeable and can be seen on the Rocque map of 1746. The manor house was sacked in 1688, as its then owner Sir Henry Bond was a Roman Catholic and staunch supporter of James II. The house was finally demolished in 1797 for the formation of Peckham Hill Street, as the Shard family developed the area. Today Shard's Terrace, the block that contains Manze's Pie and Mash shop, and the western side of Peckham Hill Street represent this Georgian planned expansion.

The village was the last stopping point for many cattle drovers taking their livestock for sale in London. The drovers stayed in the local inns (such as The Red Cow) while the cattle were safely secured overnight in holding pens. Most of the villagers were agricultural or horticultural workers but with the early growth of the suburbs an increasing number worked in the brick industry that exploited the local London Clay.

In 1767 William Blake visited Peckham Rye and had a vision of an angel in a tree. In 1993, at the request of the Dulwich Festival, artist Stan Peskett painted a mural of Blake's vision next to the Goose Green playground in East Dulwich.

At the beginning of the 19th century Peckham was a "small, quiet, retired village surrounded by fields". Since 1744 stagecoaches had travelled with an armed guard between Peckham and London to give protection from highwaymen. The rough roads constrained traffic so a branch of the Grand Surrey Canal was proposed as a route from the Thames to Portsmouth. The canal was built from Surrey Commercial Docks to Peckham before the builders ran out of funds in 1826. The abbreviated canal was used to ship soft wood for construction and even though the canal was drained and backfilled in 1970 Whitten's timber merchants still stands on the site of the canal head.

In 1851 Thomas Tilling started an innovative omnibus service from Peckham to London. Tilling's buses were the first to use pre-arranged bus stops, which helped them to run to a reliable timetable. His services expanded to cover much of London until his horses were requisitioned for the Army in World War I. G

Before Peckham Rye railway station was opened in 1865 the area had developed around two centres: north and south. In the north, housing spread out to the south of the Old Kent Road including Peckham New Town built on land owned by the Hill family (from whom the name Peckham Hill Street derives). In the south, large houses were built to the west of the common land called Peckham Rye and the lane that led to it.

Manze's Eel and Pie House, Peckham.

With the arrival of the railway and the introduction of horse-drawn trams about ten years later, Peckham became accessible to artisans and clerical staff working in the City and the docks. Housing for this socio-economic group filled almost all the remaining fields except the Rye. In 1868 the vestry of Camberwell St Giles bought the Rye to keep it as common land. Responding to concerns about the dangerous overcrowding of the common on holidays the vestry bought the adjacent Homestall Farm (the last farm in the area) in 1894 and opened this as Peckham Rye Park.

With the influx of younger residents with money to spend Rye Lane became a major shopping street. Jones & Higgins opened a small shop in 1867 (on the corner of Rye Lane and Peckham High Street) that would become the best known department store in South London for many years. It closed in the 1980s. In 1870 George Gibson Bussey moved to Peckham and set up a firm described as "Firearms, Ammunition & Shooting” at the Museum Works, Rye Lane, Peckham. The Museum of Firearms was built in 1867. The Ordnance Survey Map of 1868 shows the Museum building with a rifle range at the rear extending along the side of the railway embankment for 150 yards.

The late 19th century also saw the arrival of George Batty, a manufacturer of condiments, whose main business stood at Finsbury Pavement. The company's Peckham premises occupied 19 railway arches. It was acquired by the H. J. Heinz Company in 1905 as their first UK manufacturing base.

The southern end of Peckham was the location for the railway line that once served The Crystal Palace in Sydenham. Though the line was eventually dismantled due to the collapse of the embankment into the gardens of Marmora Road it is still possible to see large sections of it. The flats on Wood Vale and the full length of Brenchley Gardens trace its route.

Marmora, Therapia, Mundania and Scutari Roads all derive their curious names from locations during the Crimean War. Close by to them is the Aquarius Golf Course which is located over an underground reservoir. When the reservoir was built it was the largest covered reservoir in the world.

Camberwell Old Cemetery, on Forest Hill Road, is a later example of the ring of Victorian cemeteries that were built to alleviate the overcrowding of churchyards that was experienced with the rapid expansion of London in the 19th century. The Stone House at its main entrance was used in the filming of Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr. Sloane (released 1970). It was gutted by fire in the mid-1970s and rebuilt some years later. Camberwell Old Cemetery did not have the grandeur of nearby Nunhead Cemetery, which was one of the original London necropoles, and once full it was replaced by Camberwell New Cemetery on Brenchley Gardens.

Brenchley Gardens Park follows the route of the old line to The Crystal Palace culminating at the High Level station. The park runs behind Marmora Road and the remains of the embankment then continues along Wood Vale where flats were built on it. The line was closed in 1954 following a decline in its use after the destruction of the Crystal Palace in 1936 and due to slippage in the structure of the embankment.[6]

In the 1930s George Scott Williamson and Innes Pearse opened the Pioneer Health Centre in Queens Road. They planned to conduct a large experiment into the effect of environment on health. 'The Peckham Experiment' recruited 950 families at one shilling (5p) a week. The members joined something like a modern sports club with facilities for physical exercise, games, workshops and socialising with no mandatory programme. The centre moved into a purpose built modernist building by the architect Sir Owen Williams in 1935.

North Peckham was heavily redeveloped in the 1960s, consisting mainly of high-rise flats to rehouse people from dilapidated old houses. It was popular on its completion for offering a high quality and modern standing of living, but soon entered a decline that turned it into one of the worst residential areas in Western Europe. Urban decay, vandalism, graffiti, arson attacks, robberies and muggings were commonplace, and the area became an archetypal London sink estate. As a result, the area was earmarked for total regeneration in the late 1990s. After the beginning of the regeneration, the estate gained nationwide notoriety in the media when 10-year-old Nigerian resident Damilola Taylor was stabbed to death on the estate on 27 November 2000.[7] However, by 2002, 90% of the redevelopment was complete. The new homes were better laid out and offered improved security, though few local people were convinced that better housing would equate to a better area.

In the early 1990s Peckham was a nexus of underground music, partly due to a large squat in a disused, 2 floor DHSS building near Peckham High Street. Already famous among mods from the 1980s for the cover shot of a pictorial biography of 1960s' mods, which featured mods from the '60s on their customised scooters outside the then Camberwell Labour Exchange in Collyer Place, Peckham. In 1989 The squatters adopted the name Dole House Crew and along with another local group of squatters called the "Green Circus", held regular gigs/parties in the building every second Saturday of each month. Upstairs was a large live gig room, and downstairs was a rave music DJ set up. Also in the large squat were 2 bars, a vegan cafe selling cups of tea and vegeburgers, and a chill out lounge. The sound system was provided by various hired sound rigs until early 1990 when grebo's Zounds Alive PA system became the permanent house/and free festival sound system, (referring to Reknaw some of whose members also lived in and helped create the squat. During the week, any empty rooms were utilised for bands or artists. Some notable bands who regularly played gigs at the Dole House were: The Levellers, Citizen Fish, Back To The Planet, The Sea,The Dave Howard Singers, Primary Colours, Totentanz, and Radical Dance Faction. Up to 1,000 people could be squeezed into the squat and from February 1990 it was regularly filled to capacity (and beyond). In spite of the fact that it was not going to last forever the people involved put on as many cheap and varied shows as they could even expanding to provide free music at various free festivals in the 1990s and also providing much assistance to the then budding Deptford urban free festival (later the Fordham Park urban free festival). They moved on to many other South East London venues eventually after the Peckham Dolehouse was evicted in late October 1990.

On the same principles, the Spike Surplus Scheme was established in 1998 on a fly-tipped, vandalised site on Consort Road. It provided rehearsal/recording facilities, health/martial arts space and a community garden. Always running on a free-where-possible or donations level, the facilities were used by a wide variety of local talent. Other users were community garden permaculture groups, martial arts and various alternative therapy groups. In December 2008, the council obtained a possession order for the property and the site was evicted in early 2009.


Peckham is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the UK. These are the statistics for the ethnic groups in Peckham according to the 2001 Census, now substantially out of date, are listed below:[8]  :

  • Black African - 35.67%
  • White British - 25.73%
  • Black Caribbean - 15.45%
  • Other White - 4.58%
  • Other Black - 3.58%
  • Chinese - 3.51%
  • Other Asian - 2.14%
  • White Irish - 1.93%
  • Mixed White-Black Caribbean - 1.86%
  • Bangladeshi - 1.25%
  • Other Mixed - 1.17%
  • Mixed White-Black African - 1.08%
  • Indian - 0.69%
  • Other South Asian - 0.68%
  • Mixed White-South Asian - 0.35%
  • Pakistani - 0.33%


The award winning Peckham Library (October 2005)

The European Union has invested heavily in the regeneration of the area; partly funding the futuristic, award winning Peckham Library, a new town square and swathes of new housing to replace the North Peckham Estate. Throughout the area state funding is being provided to improve the housing stock and renovate the streets. This includes funding for public arts projects like the Tom Phillips mosaics on the wall of the Peckham Experiment restaurant and the South London Gallery.

The main shopping street is Rye Lane and the large Peckham Rye Park is nearby.

The oldest surviving building in Peckham is 2 Wood's Road, built in 1690.

Peckham in fiction

The Ballad of Peckham Rye, a 1960 novel by Muriel Spark is set in Peckham.

Peckham was the setting of the television situation comedy Only Fools and Horses, although the series was filmed elsewhere. The television situation comedy Desmond's was made by Channel 4 and was filmed and set in Peckham. In 2001, the ITV drama series Bad Girls introuduced three characters from Peckham who called themselves The Peckham Bootgang.

Notable residents

Transport and locale


Nearest places

Nearest railway stations

References and notes

  • John D Beasley, The Story of Peckham, (London: London Borough of Southwark, 1976)
  • John D Beasley, Who Was Who In Peckham (London: Chener Books, c1985)
  • H. J. Dyos, Victorian Suburb: A Study in the Growth of Camberwell (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1961)
  • Joseph Priestley, Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals and Railways of Great Britain, (Wakefield: Richard Nichols, 1831)

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun


  1. A place in Southwark, London


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

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