Keppel Row is a formerly dingy alley in Southwark that’s been recently refurbished. It’s a relatively modern alley, by London history standards, being a mere couple of hundred years old.

In the 1740s, the area was still fields, although by now surrounded by increasing amounts of development. The field surrounding Keppel Row was laid out with streets by 1799 and known as Keppel Street, reputedly after Admiral Augustus Keppel, 1st Viscount Keppel.

By the late 19th century, the old houses had gone along the north side, and wouldn’t have been a nice place to live for those left, with hop warehouses to the north, but more worryingly, an asbestos factory next to the hops — which probably didn’t do much for the beer either.

The renaming as Keppel Row seems to have taken place sometime between 1896 and 1940.

Where it was once rather run-down, today it’s a clean space lined with planting and a special surface to walk on that is made of a permeable gravel that enables rain water to pass through into a tank system below. This reduces the rate of rain water run off and the risk of surface water flooding.

The planting boxes are also sunk into the ground so that the plants can make use of the water that soaks though the gravel path into the sumps beneath the path and reduces the need to manually water them.

The row hasn’t been totally sanitized, with old air conditioner units blowing hot air out into the alley.

Do look up though, for looking down back at you is a mysterious golden figure, created by artist Marian Grolmus. The golden figure references the etymology of the work Keppel, deriving from ‘cappa’ meaning cape.

As the eastern end, look at the bollards marked with Clink, from when the area was part of the Liberty of the Clink prison.


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