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Peckham

From Academic Kids

Peckham
OS Grid Reference:Template:Gbmappingsmall
Administration
Borough:Southwark
County:Greater London
Region:Greater London
Nation:England
Other
Ceremonial County:Greater London
Traditional County:Surrey
Post Office and Telephone
Post town:LONDON
Postcode:SE15
Dialling Code:020

Peckham is a place in the London Borough of Southwark about a mile (1.6 km) east of Camberwell and a mile (1.6 km) west of New Cross. It 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 nineteenth century when Rye Lane was one of the most important shopping streets in south London. It was the setting for the popular sitcom "Only Fools and Horses" throughout the eighties and early nineties, and has not yet shaken off its reputation as the run-down, dangerous area that was depicted in the TV series. Most media coverage of Peckham is in relation to its high crime rate - recent famous cases include the murder of Damilola Taylor in November 2000 and the machine-gunning of eight or nine (contemporary reports vary) people queueing outside Chicago's nightclub in the summer of 2000.

Peckham Square and Library
Enlarge
Peckham Square and Library

Peckham is an area of great diversity: gang-related shootings, muggings and burglary characterise one picture whilst another emphasises the high population of artists and professionals. The Bellenden area in the south west is busy with cafés, wine bars, niche shops and artists' studios. There is also clear cultural diversity: the offspring of generations of Londoners mix with members of communities from China, the Caribbean, India, Ireland, Nigeria and Turkey. The European Union has invested heavily in the regeneration of the area; building 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.

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

The oldest surviving building in Peckham is 2 Woods Road, built in 1690.

Contents

History

'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, however, although the name of this settlement is lost.

The first certain reference to Peckham is as 'Pecheha' in Domesday Book, when it measured about 240 acres (1 km²), land for one plough, one villager and three smallholders. 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. John of England probably hunted at Peckham and local anecodotes suggest that the right to an annual fair was granted to celebrate a particularly good days 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 sixteenth century and there are several claims that Christopher Wren had local links. By the eighteenth century the area was a more commercial centre with extensive market gardens and orchards growing produce for the nearby markets of London. Local produce included melons, figs and grapes.

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.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Peckham was a "small, quiet, retired village surrounded by fields". Since 1744 stage coaches 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 Whitton'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 One.

Before Peckham Rye 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.

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 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 a week. The members joined something like a modern sports club with facilities for physical exercise, games, workshops and socialising with no manadatory programme. The centre moved into a purpose built modernist building by the architect Sir Owen Williams in 1935.

North Peckham was heavily redevloped in the 1960s with concrete housing characterised by high walkways. This became a sink estate by the 1980s with a marked rise in gun crime and illegal drug dealing. At the end of the 1990s a drastic plan was enacted to demolish the entire estate and replace it with low-rise dwellings and eliminate the no-go area that had become such a high profile embarrassment. Less dramatic changes have also flowed from extensive investment in the housing and streets throughout Peckham.

In the early 1990s Peckham was a nexus of the undergound music culture because of a large squat in the disused DHSS building near Peckham High Street. The squatters adopted the name Dole House Crew and held impromptu parties on the ground floor of the building whilst living on the upper floor.

Notable residents

Topography

Nearest places:

Nearest railway station:

External links


References

  • 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)
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