Peckham embraces its heritage

The Times  25th November 2011 by Susan Emmett: Regeneration, new transport links, eclectic architecture and housing that is reasonably   priced— welcome to SE15. Architecture may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Peckham, but it should be. This corner of southeast London, known to outsiders mostly for its high levels of poverty and crime, has recently been made a conservation area.  Read The Times online in Life with pictures if you have a Times subscription  

Click Read More to read text on this site

 Behind the urban grit, a wealth of solid Victorian buildings, such as Peckham Rye station, is crying out for love. Campaigners who fought hard for years to protect the neighbourhood’s heritage believe that the recognition will also give the area an all-round boost. Peter Frost, chairman of the Peckham Society, says:  “It has the potential to kick-start an unprecedented programme of regeneration and improvement in the town centre.” Good news for anybody looking for reasonably priced property in Zone 2.

What are the buildings like?

A real mix. As a suburb, Peckham was developed in the late 19th century. To the south by Peckham Rye and Bellenden Road there is a plentiful crop of great Victorian family houses. But there are still a few Georgian houses in north Peckham near Burgess Park. Spot them among the concrete council estates of the Sixties and Seventies.

Two thirds of housing in Peckham is local authority. The latest new builds, however, are being developed with imagination and flair. The Galleria, an elegant ten-storey development, includes 47 artist studios as well as 149 apartments. Peckham’s status as a conservation area is likely to encourage more like this.

Which are the best streets?

Peckham attracts a lot of buyers priced out of nearby gentrified East Dulwich. The streets off Bellenden Road, such as Maxted Road and Adys Road, are popular. A good-quality three-bedroom Victorian terraced house here costs between £475,000 and £500,000, while a two-bedroom flat in a Victorian conversion is about £280,000 to £300,000.

How do you get there?

Not by Tube. But the new Overground line linking Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction aims to open by the end of 2012. The extension will close the orbit around suburban London, linking Peckham with east and west. At the moment, trains from Peckham Rye, Queens Road Peckham and South Bermondsey (near Millwall FC) take you up to London Bridge in ten minutes or less. And you are never far from a bus.

What about schools?

Parents often strive for places in Camberwell, East Dulwich and Nunhead schools. Within SE15, Hollydale Primary is rated “good” by Ofsted. The Harris Academy Peckham, a secondary school and part of the federation of schools sponsored by Lord Harris of Peckham, the chief executive of Carpetright, is also rated “good”. Meanwhile, The Villa, a private pre-prep and nursery, is very popular.

Are there any shops, restaurants and bars?

Peckham High Street has most of life’s essentials, and the space beneath the copper-clad award-winning library building hosts a good farmers’ market on Sundays. But for small independent shops, Bellenden Road is the place to go. The street underwent significant regeneration in the 1990s, complete with arty street furniture by Antony Gormley and Tom Phillips, and has thrived ever since. Locals recommend Paul’s Custom Cycles and Review bookshop for friendly service. Ganapati (south Indian) is excellent, Petitou is popular with the pram brigade and Bar Story, under the arches by Peckham Rye station, draws an eclectic crowd.

What about green spaces?

Peckham Rye Park dates back to 1894 and has 93 acres of open space as well as a lake and woodland. The café is not to be missed. Nearby Nunhead Cemetery is great for a walk if you are a nature lover or fan of Victorian Gothic.

To the north, much of Burgess Park is shut as it undergoes a £6 million redevelopment. The old park was patched together after the Second World War from bits of urban wasteland and bomb-damaged sites. The revamped park will have better landscaping, 164 trees, a redesigned lake and a new playground for the over-5s. It is expected to reopen next summer.


Affordable homes and good transport links. Great community spirit and a vibrant arty scene.


Still quite rough round the edges.