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Why Live in Walworth London.
Making the most of the need for exercise by exploring the area where I live in London, Walworth, seems like a fine plan. Especially as the weather is getting better, there is blossom dressing the trees and sun-kissed spring flowers brightening up the borders.
Even if you have heard of nearby Kennington (on the London Underground map so hard to miss), you may well not know of Walworth. When I ask friends they generally think I live somewhere East of Hackney. In fact, Walworth is a little bit of London squeezed in between Kennington and Elephant and Castle. While it’s not a posh part of London, in many ways it’s very special, a charming historic area where you won’t find many tourists.
With no sense of direction at all, I find it easier to explore on foot and with the aid of a printed map. Of course, I use my phone, but I seem to spend half my time turning the thing this way and that, trying to work out what direction I am walking in. Printing a map about before I get going means I can plan my route and, when I get lost, I stand more chance of actually working out where I am. I always keep a spare printer cartridge from CartridgeSave in the cupboard, along with a stock of paper, so that I can print and go.
Here are some of my favourite places to visit – this walk will take you about half an hour from start to finish.
Pasley Park is a tiny bit of Walworth History. Originally it was part of a much larger ‘pleasure garden’ called the Royal Surrey Gardens, there was a Music Hall, a hospital and London’s second zoo on a fifteen-acre site with a massive lake in the middle. They even had the first giraffes in the country – which were apparently walked across London from Docklands in the middle of the night to avoid scaring people!
By the turn of the 20th century, the park had closed and there were rows of houses where there had been pleasure gardens and the zoo. During the second world war, two bombs at either end of what is now the park meant that most of the houses were pulled down and the council reinstated a smaller park. You’ll find metal peacocks at one end of the park as a tribute to the old Zoo.
Walk across the park and along the road for a few minutes to reach the Pullen’s Estate, some of the last remaining tenement buildings in London. Built from 1886 by local builder James Pullen, they were designed to accommodate artisan workers, with workshops attached to the rear of the residential buildings. They were remarkable in their time because they were well built and provided quality ‘live/work accommodation’.
Second World War bombing destroyed parts of the buildings and by the 1970s they were threatened with demolition. There was a vibrant and (reasonably) peaceful occupation of the buildings by squatters and the council granted the buildings a reprieve!
Today, the buildings are 50% social housing and 50% privately owned and the workshops are used by a wealth of artists and artisans. There are open studios in Summer and just before Christmas so that local people can buy some of the beautiful, unique products from the Pullens.
From the Pullen’s Estate, it’s a short walk to Walworth Road, where there’s everything from wonderful Asian supermarkets to G Baldwin & Co, one of the oldest herbalists in London, with wooden flooring, high, old fashioned counters and massive jars of herbs for sale. Along the Walworth Road is East Street Market, a cosmopolitan street market with plenty of cheap fruit and vegetables for sale along with clothes, fabric and all kinds of bric a brac. Street trading starting in the Walworth area in the 16th Century, when Walworth Common was a popular place for farmers to rest their livestock before continuing on to Smithfields. The market has been running officially since 1880. East Street is supposed to have been where Charlie Chaplin was born, though there’s no formal documentation to confirm that.
Further along the Walworth Road and set back from the street is St Peter’s Church which you might look at and think you recognise from a different part of London altogether. It’s the first church designed by Sir John Soane and was built between 1823 and 1825. It’s a little sister to the better known and larger church at St Pancras, the one that sits just opposite the station and also to Holy Trinity Church, Marylebone and is a Grade I listed building. In a rather down-at-heel part of London, it looks a little out of place, but it is a great place to walk around.
Walking back towards Pasley Park is Sutherland Square, mostly built between 1810 and 1830 and originally on the edge of the Pleasure Gardens themselves. It’s now a small, classic London Garden Square, with a pretty garden surrounded by hedges, trees and a couple of seats. The nearby allotments are part of the Sutherland Residents community.