This is a fairly new passageway that was created to give people an alternative to the busy Bermondsey Street or polluted Tower Bridge Road, and is named after a local hat maker that opened 250 years ago in 1773.
The alleyway links two parks, the former churchyard of St Mary Magdalen church in the south and Tanner Street Park in the north. The creation of a new passageway was a condition of the approvals for a housing development, but there were financial problems at the developer that delayed the project by several years.
They also needed specialist permission to demolish a small section of a historic wall in the church graveyard and move some gravestones to create space for a ramp from the graveyard up to the new alleyway. Oh, and permission was granted just before the pandemic locked everything down.
The new passageway finally opened in May 2022.
A sinuous ramp leads up from the cleared graveyard to the housing estate, and a nice touch is that the bricks removed from the old boundary wall were reused to create two new small walls underneath the ramp to seal off the space and to repair patches of damaged wall elsewhere in the churchyard.
While demolishing a section of a historic wall, albeit one that is probably less than 200 years old, is usually a bad thing, in this situation, it was felt that the benefit far exceeded the loss and that the wall in that particular location was chosen as it was in poor condition anyway.
Although mainly flanked with standard metal fencing, as you get up to the top where it cuts through the old wall, solid metal plates decorated with plant motifs line the walkway.
From here, the passageway passes through the housing development, and then there’s a wide walkway leading to a central courtyard filled with several raised planting areas.
The passageway continues northwards between the flats to a ramp and stairs back down to street level. Technically, this is where Christys’ Walk ends, but the passageway itself extends northwards along an older path towards Tanner Street Park, giving a continuous link between the two parks.
The name of the alleyway, Christys’ Walk comes from local history as it passes through the site of a factory that was opened in 1773 by a Quaker called Miller Christy. It was to become one of the largest hat factories in the world employing around 500 people at its peak in the 1800s, but closed in the 1850s when the market for structured quality hats declined sharply, but the firm also owned a much larger factory in Stockport where they flourished.
The company was to set a lot of trends in hat fashions in the Victorian era, such as the top hat and the Trilby. They also designed the original policeman’s hat in 1847.