Nunhead on the Rye

Places in Nunhead


Early Days.

Where is Nunhead?

It is a little known part of Peckham, well it is today but what of it in days gone by?
The yellow stock brick houses show the pre war homes.
Most people think of water associated with Nunhead for the four reservoirs that delivered the water to their homes, and the factories that lined Peckham Rye from Nunhead Crescent up to Solomon's Passage, the Corset factory where so many young girls were killed, the three Waxed Paper Mills that made all the wrappers for bread and sweets, the children's Pram factory, Robert Capsall the bottle top makers, these have all gone now.
The London Transport Bus Depot. in Nunhead Lane where so many buses were kept and maintained, then Benfield's Coaches took over a change from the red London buses to a drab green.
Entertainment in Nunhead, no Cinema’s no Music Hall, but it did have a Fair Ground corner of Nunhead Crescent, Dodgems roundabouts packed with locals, enjoying this permanent Amusement Arcade in the main building were the Wurlizer Music Machines the young girls Jiving to the music, the One Armed Bandits Fruit Machines they were called this as they had a long handle on the right that it was pulled to rotate the fruit to win a set of three fruits the same, then a penny a go.
It is hard to think now that all of the field on Rye at the Kings Arms / Nunhead corner was often filled with a Travelling Fair, the steam engine powered pair of Swing Boats Whooshing up and down with sometime’s about twenty people inside screaming with delight, the smell of the steam engine and the smoke that billowed around .
Many of the local residents were characters who are remembered still today.
In years to come will your time be remembered? Is it recorded, have you written something about it that can be kept, a good memory is worth recording.

Local Factories


Interesting the area seems to have been a centre of pram making. The guide states:' Camberwell can claim to produce some of the finest perambulators in the world. Two well-known firms that specialiste in these products pay particular attention to taste in colour and decoration, and the finished articles speak highly for the craftsmanship and regard given, not only to strength and durability, but also to individual character and beauty of line, the sine qua non of British Industry'.

The firms in question were Royale Prams who claimed to make
'The World's most Beautiful Baby Coach' at the
Besfoldas Works, 70a Nunhead Grove, SE15;
and Deanes Limited who claimed to be 'Makers of Britain's Best Baby Carriage' at the Denette Works, 163 Peckham Rye.

This was the Pram factoty on the Rye

Our Memories


 Wrestlers of Nunhead.

College Boy (Charlie Law)

Known mostly by the name College Boy Charlie Law started out as a lightweight, (he wrestled Harry Rabin for the British lightweight title in1943) moved through the ranks and was still entertaining the fans as a heavyweight on Paul Lincoln shows in the early 1960s. Born in Dulwich, living in Peckham and later Surrey, Law worked mostly in the south, and was especially popular at Wimbledon Palais. Whilst the name College Boy may have been used by others in the 1980s most fans of the golden days consider Charlie to be the College Boy. He passed away far too early, aged just 55, in 1969.

Wrestling Heritage reader Palais Fan remembers, "When we used to walk between South Wimbledon station and the Wimbledon Palais on a Thursday evening, he would tell me what a treat we were in for if The College Boy was on the bill. My dad would say "now he can really wrestle" meaning, like Cappelli, Joyce, Kidd etc., he had all the basic skills and wasn't just a showman. He wrestled in a confident and clever (but not flashy) way, with great counter moves. He always looked 'well groomed' with a distinctive 'smart' (for those days) haircut. "

Lenny Britain ( Lenny Law )
Brother to Charlie.
One of the regulars in the Dale Martin Promotions at Dulwich Baths. Lenny worked at Waxed Papers just to keep fit he could lift those rolls of paper onto his shoulder. The group although fighting each other did travel to a bout in the same van, I remember him recalling after a match they stopped at a road side cafe.
Lenny entered wearing a black vest with what looked like a Vicars Collar, the lorry drivers were roudy and swearing, Len called out, Can I have your attention please?
I would like to bring my flock in for tea but can I ask you to modderate your language.
They mumbled Sorry mate, In came the flock, one with an arm in a sling another with his nose still blooody and stained shirt, another with a very distorted Nose and Cauliflower ear. The Drivers roared with laughter.
The Family Shop was in Nunhead Lane, A DIY shop named Law Brothers.


People of Nunhead


Peckham was a hamlet of the parish of Camberwell, situated about a mile to Camberwell’s east on the road to New Cross

The name means the place of the river Peck, a small steam that runs through the district.

The Oak of Honour is said to mark the southern boundary of the Honour of Gloucester. You are supposed to sing a psalm under the oak. Elizabeth I picnicked with Sir Richard Bulkeley of Beaumaris on May Day in 1602, and it is believed that it was at an oak tree on this summit– but it is not believed that she got drunk and knighted the oak. She is said to have thought the hill the most difficult climb for her courtiers in the area. On the 18th Roque Map it is marked as ‘Oak of Arnon’. Surrounded by railings on the summit is an oak, probably planted in c.1905 and then Replanted because it was struck by lightning.

The oak is on the original boundary between the Metropolitan Boroughs of Lewisham and Camberwell. From beneath the oak is said to come one of the three springs in the area which feed the River Peck.
Peckham has never been an administrative district, or a single ecclesiastical parish in its own right, but today has a strong sense of identity. This has its roots in its development in the 19th century from fields to suburbs, and crucially the development of Rye Lane as one of the most important shopping streets in south London.

One Tree Hill
Could be seen as one of the last remains of the Great North Wood. Paths go steeply up from Honor Oak Park through woodland to the 90 metre high summit of the Hill. It is also known as Honor Oak Hill. It is said to be the site of victory over Boudicca, which is extremely unlikely. The status of the hill was in some doubt in the19th but local people thought it was 'waste' or common land, and when it was enclosed for a large private golf course in 1896 thousands of people gathered and pulled down the fences.
Eventually the neighbouring local councils acquired the hill through the LCC's General Powers Act of 1904 and it opened in as a park 1905. There is lots of grass but few trees although new ones have been introduced. Oak and sycamore grow with an under storey of elder and hawthorn. Crab apple, hawthorn and oak are plentiful and London plane trees are here in a woodland habitat. There are many birds and insects.

There has been reports this week that the River Peck has come to the surface once again in the fields of Peckham Rye towards Forest Hill Road, this is unusual as there has been no great rainfall, the only other sign of the River is normal in the Peckham Rye Park Gardens.



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A long time ago



Memories of some of the Long gone places.

 We had to go a bit further for our Entertainment

Cinema at Goose Green East Dulwich.

The site of the first Cinema the Pavilion, was built close to the School keepers Lodge of the adjacent school in Grove Vale SE 22, this had only a small front with two floors above possibly the managers accommodation with four Crittal galvanised window frames with very small panes of glass, it was one of the few that boasted a car park, that was next to the cinema and occupied the space up to the corner shop of Tintergel Crescent. It was sited behind high Advertising Placard Boards, these were supported by a heavy wooden structure of timbers that inclined back and took up a large part of the parking space, this did not matter as there were very few cars then. The back of the simple red bricked cinema backed onto the pavement in Tintergel Crescent, the only clue of what the building was the emergency pairs of exit doors.

In the thirties it was renamed as Odeon taken from Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation, Odeon Cinemas was created in 1928 by Oscar Deutsch, the colour scheme was light green and cream, of the Art Deco architecture style. Inside the entrance was the central Cash desk to purchase your tickets a long vestibule led to the auditorium in front and the stairs to the upper circle to the right.
The auditorium floor slopped down towards the screen, the cream safety curtains that were always drawn at the end of a show had a display of coloured butterflies on the lower part, to each side of the screen there was a tower on a plinth of three sections high with four green glass panels that reduced in size as they got higher and illuminated light green, and an electric clock to the right.

The cinema was very popular and had two shows a week day, a main film that lasted about an hour and a half, a News Reel, and the 15 minute interval the lights came on and when the sales girl stood under the clock selling ices and sweets, still advertisement slides were shown, the seats were self folding up and when the patrons rose to go to the toilets there was a constant banging. The second half was a B movie and lasted for about an hour, then there was the showing of future films that would be coming soon.
Although there were two separate shows you could come in at any time the film was showing and stay for the rerun and left when you got to the bit when you came in.
Saturdays there was the Children’s Club Matinee in the morning Cowboy films, Mickey Mouse, Buck Jones Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger, Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Marx Brothers, all the kids loved it and shouted like mad.
When the very peak of films were available it meant that you had to stand in a queue that was inside to the left of the entrance hall, where you waited until the Commissionair dressed in his green uniform overcoat with gold braid all over it, and a peaked Military style cap with ODEON on it, he would come over and count about dozen then put his arm behind that number and let those go and purchase their ticket, Some times there were so many waiting in the queue that it led in from out side and down the side passageway, I remember waiting there several who had to wait a long time used the Public Phone Box to tell their family they would be home late.
Those who walked home after, some bought chips from the fish shop in Lordship Lane and ate them direct from the broadsheet newspaper as they walked along, getting home to find that their hands were covered in black ink from the print.
During this time there were some horse drawn vehicles, outside the East Dulwich Hotel was a Granite Horse Trough where the horses could get a drink, there were two lower long troughs underneath for the dogs and at one end a drinking push button to get a jet of drinking water direct to your mouth or use the Puter cup on the chain.

The trams passed the Odeon, to Goose Green some went on to Dulwich Library or Forest Hill or terminated at Blackwell Tunnel, there were two branch lines, one that entered Sterling Road to allow the trams to terminate there and stay until their time of return, the other branch was used by a man changing the points for the trams to proceed to Peckham Rye then terminate at Stuart Road.
Goose Green has as far as I can remember been enclosed possibly to prevent the livestock of the early days from roaming onto the roads. The Pointsmans wooden hut also acted as a passengers waiting shelter, the style reminded me of the sea side shelters on the Promenades.

 Nunhead Workhouse
Mass unemployment, forcing the unemployed into work... yes it's back to the 1920s. Back then, the unemployed in the Camberwell/Peckham/Nunhead area had to report to the old Workhouse in Gordon Road. As the 1896 map below shows, it was by the railway just north of the Brayards Road junction, on a site that stretched to Consort Road. Most of the buildings are long gone, but part of the site continues as the Spike (currently awaiting eviction by the Council). Its origins seem to go back to 1848 when the Sisters of the Christian Retreat established Nazareth House as a retreat and to provide charity for the Peckham poor. Later it became the Camberwell Reception Centre - a doss-house for unemployed famously featured in the opening scenes of the 'swinging London' movie Blow Up.

Description:This ticket of 'casual admission' to Camberwell Reception Centre, a hostel for the homeless, admits the bearer shelter for one night. As well as offering an overnight refuge, the centre acted as an agency to help London's homeless find work. It opened in 1930 when the London County Council took over the running of the workhouse built in Gordon Road in 1878. It closed in the late 1980s, resulting in the loss of 900 beds for the homeless. The centre's administration block and two main dormitories have since been converted into flats.

‘A march took place yesterday of the organized unemployed of Camberwell to Gordon-road Workhouse, Nunhead, one of the institutions of the Camberwelll Board of Guardians, as a protest against what the unemployed considered the unjust scale of out-door relief and the methods of granting it. The demonstrators, to the number of between 300 and 400, moved off in procession from Camberwell Green to the Gordon-road Workhouse. A short, sharp encounter between the unemployed and a strong force of mounted and foot police followed shortly afterwards. Mounted police preceded the men on their march, and when the marchers wheeled into Gordon-road, where the mounted men, reinforced by foot police, drew across the road and barred further progress.

A rush of the unemployed followed, and for a few seconds it seemed probable that an ugly situation would develop. Fortunately, however, the police kept firm control of the situation. A cripple, on crutches, and a little boy were knocked to the ground in the general confusion. Continuing their march, the demonstrators later endeavoured to surprise the police by making an unanticipated rush towards another approach to the workhouse, but again they were unsuccessful.

Arrived at Nunhead Green, a further series of speeches was delivered, in which the police were criticized and a resolution of protest against the conduct of the mounted and foot police was adopted, after it had been alleged that a truncheon had been used by an officer, and that others had ‘taken five of our men down the road’. The police state that no arrests were made’.



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