Tag Archives: peckham

Monopoly: The Pubs of Old Kent Road

Welcome back! Happy new year 2010! Apologies for the long absence. I thought I’d try starting a series of posts based on the Monopoly Board. (At my current pace, this should take me a few years at least, though some of the locations may not require particularly substantial entries.)

Of all the properties name-checked on the canonical (London) Monopoly board,1 only one of them lies south of the River Thames, and it’s the one that has seen probably the most change over the last three-quarters of a century since that game was created. Of course, the Old Kent Road has always been a major thoroughfare and has changed greatly since it is first recorded, as part of the Roman road Watling Street,2 but the twentieth century in particular has seen a vast amount of post-World War II rebuilding. Vast tracts of it are now taken up by council estates and huge branches of familiar retail chains like Tesco, Toys R Us, PC World, B&Q, Halfords and Asda.

The Lord Nelson (Walworth SE1)
Figure 68. The Lord Nelson (Walworth SE1).

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Ballad of Peckham Rye pubs

Muriel Spark is an author I do not perhaps know enough about, but living near Peckham I was inspired to read her novella The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960). I should really have paid attention earlier, for she has a wonderful turn of phrase. Also, quite apart from providing an acutely observed story of interlocking characters working at various factories in the Peckham area, whose relationships are soon rent asunder by the anti-heroic protagonist Dougal Douglas, it also makes reference to the changing character of this working class neighbourhood in the middle part of the 20th century, both its commercial life and its pubs.

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Pubs of SE15

I’ve been making only slow progress on this journal, but have nonetheless decided to introduce a new feature: a survey of the pubs within a postal district. The boundaries of London’s locales are notoriously difficult to pinpoint in all but a few neatly-defined areas (Mayfair, for example), therefore I’m going with the postcode instead. It will be a while before I bite off something huge like W1, but let’s start with somewhere close to home.

SE15 mainly covers Peckham, as well as Nunhead to its south. Peckham is neatly divided by Peckham High Street/Queens Road into a northern and southern area. Rye Lane, the main shopping thoroughfare running south from Peckham High Street, also serves to keep the two distinct southern areas apart, with the larger concentration of council estate housing on the eastern side, and a conservation area (the Holly Grove Conservation Area, sometimes referred to by estate agents using the name of its main street, Bellenden Road) to the west. Nunhead is to the south, on either side of the grand Victorian cemetery of that name.

Like many comparable conurbations in South-East London, Peckham and Nunhead were originally villages with only a small number of wealthy land-owners on large estates. Upon the coming of the railways in the 19th century, they started to grow as fully-fledged suburban areas, increasingly accommodating the urban poor leaving the centre of the city. As such, throughout the latter part of the 20th century, Peckham has been known for its high crime rate and poor provision of social housing, not helped by inadequate system-built post-war estates (particularly in North Peckham).

The dominant feature of the drinking landscape is the simple local pub, usually one or two rooms. Some of these are in Victorian buildings, betraying a grander past, while others make lesser claims for attention.

Glengall Tavern (North Peckham SE15)
Figure 16. Glengall Tavern (North Peckham SE15).

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