New Church Road

Photo of people in New Church Road, 1905

New Church Road, 1905, looking northeast. Photo courtesy of Southwark Local History Library (SLHL), ref P6435.

New Church Road was originally laid out as an elegant approach road to St.George’s church – new at the time – but contained some poor housing by 1898. After the war, houses started to be cleared and prefabs were built in this area of the park. Back down New Church Road, outside the park, stands Evelina Mansions. With its decorative flourishes of brick and ironwork, it was built to provide decent accommodation for the urban working classes.

New Church Road was one of the last ‘ghost roads’ of Burgess Park – residual streets left stranded amidst green space as the park developed. Just tarmac and kerbs without traffic, buildings, or borders. Closed to traffic in 2003, it served as an echo of times when this area was densely built over, and bustling with homes and businesses. Over nearly 200 years, it saw a whole community come and go. Finally, it was removed in 2018 and barely a trace remains.

The road was originally built around 1826, chiefly to allow horse and carriage to drive from Walworth Road right up to the new St. George’s church, passing alongside the Grand Surrey Canal as it did so. The moneyed Georgian couple could arrive in all their finery, and in some comfort, for Sunday prayers.

Watercolour of St George's National School, 1826

St.George’s National School, 1826, as depicted in a watercolour by G Yates, north of the canal, between today’s BMX track, and the lime kiln. Established 1824 in a very plain building, serving 250 children. Photo courtesy of SLHL, ref MS 25112.

Such a trip would pass the St.George’s National School, facing the canal on the north bank. The National Schools were established throughout England and Wales from 1811 onwards. They offered an elementary education to the children of the poor – one specifically in line with the teachings of the Church of England. Before about 1800, apart from the few charity schools, poorer children had little chance of any formal education.

Originally little more than a hall, it was rebuilt in 1840 – enlarged, relocated to the south side of the canal, and in handsome Elizabethan style – “the ground plan of which preserves the usual form of buildings referable to the era of the maiden Queen”.  Or in plain English, the new school building was shaped like a letter E, for Elizabeth. It now served 450 boys and girls – with separate entrances, of course.

Print of the second St George's National School

The later St George’s National School (south side of canal, opposite the church). Print courtesy of SLHL, ref P5949.

The school remained open until WWII, but sustained major bomb damage, ultimately relocating to its current location on Coleman Road, just south of the park.

At the other end of New Church Road, stands the  elegant redbrick Evelina Mansions block, emblazoned with the badge of the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company. Founded in 1885 by Jewish philanthropists, the company originally aspired to improve housing and combat overcrowding amongst the poor of London’s East End, particularly among Jewish women. Later it expanded to other parts of London, such as here in Southwark. The block was erected in 1900, containing 83 one or two bed flats.  The curious ‘Four Per Cent’ name is variously said to be the interest rate of return that an investor might aspire to on the properties, or the percentage Jewish population in the UK back in 1885.

Photo of derelict housing 1979

Derelict housing daubed as “LOT 50” for auction sale, 1979. Photo courtesy of SLHL.

What of regular housing? New Church Road was lined with 2 and 3 storey terraces. Though slightly grander than some of the smaller artisan dwellings elsewhere, they were no less subject to subdivision, bomb damage, and ultimately planning blight.  From the 1950s onwards, as elsewhere across the area, plots of land were bought one by one, and cleared for inclusion into the new park.

Reproduction of a regenerated house 1952

Unfit house rendered fit for habitation, 1952. Image courtesy of SLHL, ref P13455.

Among the many street photos that exist of the area after World War 2, one stands out. It hints intriguingly at what might have been, had Burgess Park not been dreamt up. Dated 1952, it is captioned “unfit house rendered fit for habitation”. How different things might have looked today if the Abercrombie vision of gradual clearance and acquisition had never occurred!

a white traffic barrier across the end of the old road

The closed off road with sign indicating its permanent removal, December 2017

Watch the Slaves video ‘Cheer Up London’ shot in New Church Rd in 2015 here!

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17 thoughts on “New Church Road

  1. Hi My Grandparents lived at Number 67 New Church Road Bermondsey at the time of the 1911 Census.
    Do you have any information or any other photos taken at the time which by chance may be Number 67.
    Many Thanks

    1. I’m afraid this will take some investigation in the Southwark Local History Library, where they do have many images which may cover the period you’re interested in.

      1. I remember the house in the foto very well. The double doors to the right led through the house to another set of double doors into a yard fronting a hall that contained a stage. It was used for storage but what it had originally been I don’t know.

    2. Interesting! My great aunt lived at the very same address (67 New Church Road) following the war, all the way through to 1956.

  2. Hi my parents, Mr and Mrs Kashano, lived near Verney Road, Bermondsey. My siblings went to Ilderton Road Primary.
    However, I am at a loss in checking the map of Bermondsey for 1952 as Mum used to mention that she lived at Golders Street. However, on checking the maps, I cannot find such a street.
    Could it have been demolished?
    I also want to know information on the type of dwellings in that area.
    I am basically looking into what the area/neighbourhood was like when my Mum and Dad came over here from Cyprus in 1952.

  3. My great grandfather, Alfred William Garrard, had “coffee rooms” at 5 New Church Road, according to a 1920 business directory recently added to the Ancestry subscription website. Is it possible to find out anything more about it, e.g. how long it was there for, did it have a name (other than perhaps “Garrard’s”)? I now live in Cheshire, so not very easy to access local archives unless they’re put online!

  4. Thank you so much for this information. I am currently researching my family tree and discovered my great grandfather lived at number 144 New Church Road and was baptised in St Georges. My great aunt who is in her late 90s really enjoyed learning more about this.

  5. Hi
    Lovely to read this.
    I have a printed letterhead that my grandfathers CARTER CARRIAGE business was run from 50 New Church Road. In the early 1940s the house he was in must’ve been demolished – I also know he lived at one time in a large lock up yard house – that was later on the front page of the papers as the Richards Gang house. Not sure if it’s this one – or another as he moved about. Cos he was involved in some dodgy stuff himself !

    1. Hi Susan
      This is really interesting – we’d love to see the letterhead if you can scan it, and I wonder which paper had the news of the Richardson’s house, and when – it’d be great to have a picture!

  6. My grandfather, Ernest Noyce, was the caretaker of Evelina Mansions from about 1910 until he retired in 1939. He lived at No.1 flat with his wife Grace and three children. My great-aunt Minnie Jorey also lived at No.4 Evelina Mansions for many years until she died in 1970 aged 90. I remember visiting her in the flat as a child. My brother and I went back a few years ago and were surprised to find the road so quiet – your website explains why! We were pleased to see that Evelina Mansions is still going strong.

  7. Hi I attended St George’s mission Primary School new church road Camberwell SE5 next door to a cobblers Hassels Bakers and opposite Southampton way and Evelina Mansions. My era was 1947-1953 but I can never find a photograph of how it was then.

  8. My Great Great Grandfather, according to the 1861 census, lived at 6 Bath Place, New Church Road, Camberwell. I can find no trace of this address. Can you help, please?

    1. Hi Roger
      Bath place was close to Addington Square facing onto the canal and has become part of the park now. It was presumably named Bath Place as it adjoined one of the two swimming baths next to Addington Square – see our page about the Square.

      Ordnance Survey map around 1850,  (somehow always on the edge of the sheet)

      I have to inform you(!) that Bath Place was a poor street of very small houses, and by 1889, Charles Booth in his famous maps, marked it down as ‘Very poor, Casual, chronic want’. You can see the area on the Booth Map

  9. Hi Andrew.
    Many thanks for taking the trouble to let me know about Bath Place and the interesting map. My G Great Grandfather was a Cork Cutter by trade, as were other members of the family. Not entirely sure what a cork cutter did ( except cut cork!), but obviously didn’t pay well, going by Charles Booth’s remark – ‘chronic want’!. It seems a number of the ‘Boud’ family all came from the Camberwell area.

    Once again, many thanks. Much appreciated.

    Kind regards and stay safe.

    Roger (Boud)

  10. Hi,
    I was born in 1965 at 113 New Church Road in a prefab!
    Was Christened in St Georges Church and attended St Georges Primary School.
    Shame we have no picture of that time.
    Remember going to see the plans of the park in a caravan and thinking where is a house!!!
    Regards Paul

    1. Hi Paul,
      I was wondering if you have an older brother named Peter? I remember playing football with a Peter Reeves who lived in the prefabs. I remember one time we went to the Borough (Charles Dickens school?) to train with a team I think was called REDIN FC or similar.

      I lived opposite the prefabs (incidentally I recall them as being a modern – for the time – form of prefab) in the 3 storey terraced houses opposite in NCR that were mainly split into separate flats. These flats had only the one street door to access all 3 and without any main door of their own. Consequently, as we lived on the top floor we would walk up via the hall of the bottom flat & the landing of the middle flat. Therefore, the occupants of the middle & bottom flats had very limited privacy.

      We also had no bathroom and had to use the scullery sink to wash in and for cooking, washing up, etc – we all survived but looking back it was diabolical that a family of 6 had to live in 3 rooms (because the rear bedroom was uninhabitable due to damp) and this was up to 1970 until we thankfully moved to a 3 double bed terraced house a couple of miles away. I have many memories of growing up in New Church Road and the friends I had there and in Victory Square. The families I can recall in that area are: Davis, Evans, Beamish, White, and a family from Gibraltar. I can remember a couple of factories adjacent to the prefabs, one I think was involved in linoleum manufacture. Further along was the Trinity College Mission – which I believe was attached to Cambridge University. In this building St Georges school was sited until it moved to its new site in Coleman Road in the 60’s.

      The cubs and scouts were also sited here and I can remember a trip with the scouts to Guernsey in 1969 that was a great experience. The Ark youth club was run from here as well along with the ‘holiday scheme’ run by Cambridge students, who took the local ‘underprivileged waifs and strays’ on trips to London and the country. This was a great scheme and I can recall going to visit a ship at the Royal Docks and all having afternoon tea on there. On another occasion we were taken to a farm (in Kent I believe) where the farmer or friend had an old bi-plane. We were asked if we wanted to go up for a trip in this and we all formed a queue. Then we were taken up for a spin and looped the loop in it before landing. I know it’s very hard to believe but there wasn’t any form filling that I knew of or health and safety inspectors, in those days to worry about. (I wonder if anybody else remembers this?)

      I can remember Ellis the shoe menders, Hassels bakers, Tatnells newsagents, Tobies groceries and Alfie Cocks the greengrocer (a relative told me that Alf had been at Arnhem in the famous battle in the second world war). There was also the scrap yard on the corner of Southampton Way that had the large boat that never went anywhere. I believe the yard is still there but not the boat!

      My father’s family had a wood yard next to the Boyton Arms but when the whole area that side of the road was demolished for the park and the yard moved to another location. I have no recollection of this but I have seen photos of the area and it’s amazing how many houses were located between NCR and the canal, in the Boyton Road area!

      I could go on and on boring you all but looking back and even though most of the accommodation for families in the area was harsh, it was a great time. We all knew one another and mixed in – obviously there were arguments but they soon ended and no vendettas ensued.

      I feel it was far more preferable and an advantage to grow up in that area and time than these present times. Most families were within a short walking distance of their immediate relations and obviously this made it easier for all. It was a great community to grow up in at that time and it’s sad that nothing of the community or buildings exists any longer.

      I wonder where everyone went to, once all the buildings were demolished and flattened – it’d be interesting to know. There were many good people in the area and most of the bad ones never bothered anybody not in their business. The last point may be seen as an old worn out cliche but it was true and although people may have become materially richer, socially they have become destitute, compared to pre-1970. It is though only an opinion but one I feel that is shared by many who lived in the communities bordering Burgess park at that time.

      All the best to all on this wonderful site and those who grew up in this area – it was a great preparation for life.
      Richard.

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