This is a long strip of parkland that runs along a road close to Peckham Rye Station which was created by the local council nearly 130 years ago.

The houses in this part of Peckham developed as middle-class housing in the early 19th century, and the road layout was established by the 1860s, with Holly Grove — at the time South Grove — lined with houses on the south side, but was still empty land on the north.

The arrival of the railway in 1867 saw an increase in housing development in the patches of empty land that remained, and this time smaller more affordable houses for the aspiring middle classes. That’s when the row of houses that half filled in the empty land that’s now the shrubbery were built, leaving a long line of undeveloped land behind.

The strip was however too small to build on, but too large to leave alone, so in 1896, Camberwell Borough Council agreed to buy it with the transfer to the local vestry. The formal transfer of the pocket park to the vestry to manage took place in April 1896, with the payment of £1,050 drawn in favour of the paving charged apportioned against the owners.

The shrubbery opened in early 1897, and in April 1897, the local vestry placed an order for an “unclimbable railing” to go along the shrubbery. Not entirely sure how they expected the railing to be unclimbable.

OS Map 1874

A small extension at the eastern end took place in 1902 when the land there, which was already a small park was added to the shrubbery, and it still retains an air of being segregated from the rest to this day.

A small playground with some swings was added in late 1953, and complaints about children being hit be people using the swings in 1957. There are no swings now.

The shrubbery is still then a long linear pocket park with a slightly meandering path that wobbles along the park, which is still sealed off with a long line of railings. The railings do look rather newer than the ones that would have been ordered by the Victorians though, so may be an example of post-war replacement work.

It’s very much a linear path with slightly raised rough lawns on either side and plenty of trees and bushes lining the route. Rather more on the housing side than the roadside of the path, which is likely to be as much a safety issue as anything else.

It has the airs of a municipal park with the rather unexciting tarmac path and the metal seating, but it’s a nice micro-detour when walking along the road to/from the railway station.

What fascinated me was how many people walked along the pavement outside the park, even though the two run effectively parallel to each other. Does the fence cause people to think of the park as a detour when hurrying along the pavement, and would widening the narrow entrance gates or even removing the railings entirely encourage more people to walk through the park?


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  1. Richard says:

    Thanks Ian, interesting article!

  2. Sarah Crofts says:

    When I lived round the corner in Bellenden Road until 1985, I would not have dared to walk through that park on the way to and from the station! It all looks much better now, from what I can see from the train when I am on that line.

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