Category Archives: Event

News of upcoming events or reports on past events

Volunteer session with the Cuming Museum

Our second session with research volunteers took place at the Wells Way old library on 31st August 2017 and introduced us to the Cuming Collection. It was led by Judy Aitken, curator of the Cuming Museum. Judy introduced us particularly to the WW1 items in the Collection. During WW1, the Cuming curator, Richard Mould, responded to a Ministry of War directive to collect items to commemorate the war from Walworth residents – to reflect all aspects of the war. Quite an enlightened request when one considers it. Continuing after the war, through the 1920s and 1930s, items such as letters, photos, diaries, flags, recruitment records and many other items were collected, together with lots of ammunition (some live!), such as hand grenades, stick bombs and items collected from battlefields. The collection includes parts of Zeppelin shrapnel including from 1917 raid.

As a taster of the Cuming’s photograph collection, we saw some slides including fantastic images from the era.

Camberwell Gun Brigade passing town hall in June 1915 © Southwark Local History Library and Archive

We had great fun investigating some objects up close, which was a wonderful opportunity for all. Items included things made from bullets, letter openers made from bayonets (?), postcards with elaborate hand stitching.

Letter opener fashioned by a German prisoner of war
Letter opener fashioned by a German prisoner of war

Judy also mentioned Edward Lovett, a collector of unusual items from WW1 at the front.
Consequently the Cuming has a wealth of objects from the era – which is fantastic news for Zeppelin1917!

Gun metal and case approx 5 x 8cm, with brass relief plaque of stags in a forest
Handmade cigarette case

In terms of the Home front – this is also well represented – for example, War flags – which were sold as fundraising drives. It is important to note that Bermondsey Council was the 1st Council to institute Air Raid signals. The actual methods were decided by local Committees (Susan Crisp wondered if Dr Salter was involved as he was a prominent Bermondsey councillor of the era and a massive figure in local history etc).

It has a sculpted / manufactured figure of Christ on the cross
Crucifix made from cartridges and a bullet

You can find many items in Cuming Collection online here.

Posted by Sam Tilling

First Zeppelin volunteer session

A very fascinating introduction to researching archives took place on 22nd August at the Theatre Delicatessen space in the old Wells Way Library. This was the first of several get-togethers for anyone who wants to help research the story of the Zeppelin raid over Burgess Park in October 2017.

Led by Alan Crookham, head of Library and Archives at the National Gallery and Jane Ruddell, historian/archivist from the Mercers’ Company archives, we had a wide-ranging discussion on what type of material is held by different archives, and how to access it. As a complete beginner myself, it was great!

1stSessionComp copy
First volunteer researcher session. Photo: Sam Tilling

We learnt about the different types of archives around the UK, and the sort of material they may have connected to the Zeppelin raid:

  • The National Archives (TNA) – all government departments, plus loads more – use Discovery to search the catalogue, which also includes other UK archives
  • The British Library – national newpaper collection, maps, sounds, plus much more. There’s several different catalogues here or use Explore
  • University archives – many universities hold specialist material in their own archives – for instance, the TUC collection at the Univerity of Warwick. See Archives Hub, or their combined catalogue for published material, or AIM25 for institutions inside the M25 London area
  • National and smaller museums usually have large archive collections, for example the Imperial War Museum, National Gallery and Tate. The IWM is of particular interest to us
  • County/borough archives for local material, including the local authority. Especially relevant here is our own Southawark Local History Library and Archives, and the associated Cuming Collection, who we’ll be meeting with shortly.
  • AIM25 is a portal giving access to various London archives, including the London Metropolitan Archives, which covers the whole of the London region formerly governed by the London County Council and the GLC.
  • Many private collections exist, such as London Livery Companies (including the Mercers’ Company), historic houses, etc.
  • Business archives, useful for information about products and inventions, but the smaller ones may have little or no online presence, or arrangements for access

Apparently, many archives have very little that is digitised and easily available online, but many of them have catalogues which can be looked on their websites, so you know where to go to find out the detail. The TNA Discovery site is a great place to start to uncover many of these archives, together with Archives Hub.

Understanding the way different archives classify their material is important in getting to grips with what they contain. Page 11 of the powerpoint from the night (see link below) has a useful example from the National Gallery. These archival classification systems are designed to preserve the context of the item in the collection, as well as the item itself, so you can see its relationship to other items.

The catalogue numbers or ‘shelfmarks’ referring to particular documents in a collection are vital to record during a visit, so you can go back and ask for the document again, or you can pass on details to other researchers. It’s really important to record the catalogue reference for everything you find useful, and even for things which may not seem so useful at the time.

Top Tips for getting the most out of your visit:

  • Define your topic clearly before you start
  • Find out which are the relevant archives, and what sort of documents you could expect to find
  • Check the description of their holdings or collections
  • Search the catalogues online as far as possible before visiting – even order the items to be viewed in the archive online before visiting
  • Check what documents are needed in order to register for a reader pass and take them along on your first visit
  • Phone ahead for clarification, if need be
  • Plan your visit – opening times, document delivery times (may be up to several days after ordering!), restrictions on access, photography/photocopying arrangements and cost
  • Take a camera (most archives now allow photos for own research purposes)
  • Take a pencil (no rubber!) not a pen, magnifying glass, laptop

Consider and ask the archivist about copyright, before publishing any item by whichever means.

Check out the Powerpoint from the night here:

We’re still looking for volunteers, so check the contact details here and come along to the next session on 31st August 2017!

St George’s War Memorial

Friends of Burgess Park and the Walworth Society are supporting the application by Historic England to have the World War One war memorial outside St Georges Church listed as having special architectural and historic interest. Some people may be surprised that this wasn’t already done. You can see more information on the bronze sculpture by Danish artist Arild Rosenkrantz on our page on St Georges Church.

Although born in Denmark, Rosenkrantz grew up from the age of three in Scotland and settled in London at twenty eight. He had a strong interest in mysticism and spirituality, and worked mainly in stained glass and painting. He studied and worked in Rome, Paris and New York, and also worked in Switzerland for Rudolf Steiner.

Bronze Sculpture of Christ holding a crown of thorns
© Jon Pickup

The memorial was unveiled on Sunday 19th September 1920 by Camberwell Mayor John George Spradbrow, and Reverend PM Herbert, Vicar of St George’s church. The funds for the memorial were raised by local parishioners.

The listing should give it a degree of protection, which would be useful, considering that it’s already been stolen for scrap and recovered once, and considering that the other memorial to war in the area has also disappeared. There had been a plaque to the memory of the 10 people killed in the Zeppelin raid in Calmington Road, until the buildings were demolished for the formation of the park.

© Susan Crisp

A memorial stone was recently placed in Chumleigh Gardens, in recognition of all the lives lost during the first world war in the Camberwell area.

We intend to commemorate the centenary of the Zeppelin raid in October this year – watch this space.

Stop Press!!

We heard on 3rd July 2017 that the War Memorial has now been given grade 2 listed status. The reasons for the listing are given as

  • Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community, and the
    sacrifices they made in the First World War;
  • Design: as an attractive and emotive sculpture of Christ by Danish artist Arild Rosenkrantz;
  • Group value: with the Grade II-listed St George’s Church.

The  memorial is now officially known as the Burgess Park War Memorial.

Marking Places

Art in the Park premises in the Park, with tulips

Art in the Park, based here in Burgess Park, have launched a new project to find out from those old enough to remember, more about some of the places which used to exist in and around the Park, and permanently mark them. They’ve already had some fascinating visits and talks, and have collected some great recordings of local memories.

Check out the project – called A Place to Remember – and see if you can contribute or learn more. Or develop your artistic side and contribute ideas for Markers for these places!

So far they’ve worked on 4 places in the Walworth area – two of which were or still are in the Park – North Camberwell Radical Club and the New Peckham Mosque, formerly St Mark’s church, Camberwell. There’re some fantastic interviews on the website and images to check out.

B/W image of two former victorian house frontages with arched double dooorway in one
North Camberwell Radical Club

The Radical Club ran for around 100 years and was on the northern edge of the park near the lake, fronting onto Albany Road. Art in the Park are organising open sessions for people to contribute to the design for a marker for the Radical club on Tuesday 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th November 2016 from 11-1pm at the Art in the Park studio.

Listen to a SoundArt piece by Jane Higginbottom on the Radical Club, featuring modern sounds from the park, with local peoples’ memories of the club.

Art In the Park are still open to suggestions for other markers in the Park. Do check out the Marking Places page, and contact them to see how you can share ideas and get involved, or come along  on Tuesday 17th, 24th, 31st  January, 7th, 21st, 28th February 2017 to Waterside Care Home, 40 Sumner Road, SE15.

Suggestions so far include:

  • The Cold Storage Depot that used to sit across the Old Kent Road entrance.
  • The corner of then Calmington Road and Albany Rd, remembering people killed and injured in the First World War Zeppelin Raid  – replacing a previous plaque placed in 1927
  • Gilros Sheepskin Factory
  • The Bible Factory
  • The Foundry
  • R Whites factories
  • Bus Depot

Open House 2015


Once again, Friends of Burgess Park will be opening up several usually-hidden parts of the Passmore Edwards building on Wells Way – or to give it its full title, the Old Library, Baths And Washhouse (OLBAW)! This year, we’re forging ahead with making plans for the future of the building, having received a grant of seed funding to assist with this from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Come along and help us visualise the possibilities for the future of the building. The Wells Way Popup in the old library building will provide hospitality with refreshments, and there’ll be a second chance to look at the displays we set up for for the Making of a Modern Park meeting in May.

Old Library Baths and Washhouse building on the left, with Wells Way bridge over the drained canal, in about 1960
Old Library Baths and Washhouse building on the left, with Wells Way bridge over the drained canal, in about 1960


Come and join us 1pm to 5pm, 19th and 20th September 2015.

Piles of rubble turned into a wildflower walk – 8th August

Burgess Park has some of the most beautiful piles of rubble this time of year!

Wildflower planting

Come and find out about them on a guided walk with the designer, James Hitchmough, on 8th August 2015, starting at 11am. Read on for details and links.

At the hand-over of Burgess Park from the GLC (at their dissolution in 1986) to Southwark Council, there were many buildings remaining in the park. In some cases, the GLC had plans for them, which were never realised due to their demise. In other cases, compulsory purchase had not been arranged yet, or there were long leases about to expire.

These buildings were nearly all eventually cleared by Southwark Council in the following ten years. In many cases, the rubble was simply piled up and topsoil dumped on top of it all. So various hillocks appeared wherever the buildings had happened to be.

At the revitalisation stage in 2010, it was decided to make a feature of these hills by re-arranging them into a more meaningful formations.

Piles of soil being bulldozed around
Re-landscaping in the eastern park, 2010 (© Jon Pickup)



The previous low plateaued hillocks became higher and steeper with ‘faces’ providing different climatic conditions to accommodate various kinds of planting.



The designers, LDA, engaged the services of the Sheffield University Horticultural Department to plan the planting. James Hitchmough, celebrated for the London 2012 Olympic gardens, wildflower meadows and horticultural planting, devised meadow and prairie-like elements, and these were sown in January 2012.

New Hills in 2013
New Hills at the western end in 2013

The north slopes comprise a ground layer of sown, shade-tolerant, mainly woodland perennials from which emerge summer and autumn flowering tall perennials. The West facing slopes support a heat and drought tolerant cosmopolitan meadow, running down to a drainage swale at the base. Despite some of the challenges, public response to the wildflowers has been extremely positive.

Professor Hitchmough will lead a walk explaining the design and planting, and describe how he arrived at the design. The walk will start at the western end, at the Tennis Courts near Addington Square, and visit the hills nearby. It will then move on to St Georges Gardens at the eastern side of the park, where he designed complex garden-like planting, which is looking beautiful now.

Please sign up for the walk on Eventbrite, where there will be a small deposit to pay, refundable on the day.

St Georges Gardens
St Georges Gardens


The Making of a Modern Park event – how was it?

Crowded room with 4-person panel at the front, Robert Hadfield speaking
Photo: Sam Tilling

On 23rd May 2015, we followed up last year’s Bombs to BMX talk on the history of the the area by bringing the account of the making of the park almost up to date. Once again, we were privileged to have an auspicious line-up of guests, and the panel included some of the key players from the park’s growing years:

David Sadler MBE (former Burgess Park Manager) Joyce Bellamy OBE (GLC Parks Department) and Robert Hadfield (former vice-chair of Groundwork Southwark), chaired admirably by Barbara Pattinson (Chair of SE5 Forum)

David Sadler kicked things off in a relaxed style with his own memories of the challenges of running the park day to day. Metaphorically and literally down to earth stuff. He’d been Deputy Park Manager (working for the London County Council) for a few years in the 1960s and recalled helping plant some of the very first trees of what was then known as the “North Camberwell Open Space”. It would eventually be renamed Burgess Park – even though, as he later recounted, if the local schools had had their way, it would universally have been named Georgie Best Park.

Schools involvement was later a big part of his work – the nature area on Cobourg road for instance, where school groups were invited along to study wildlife reclaiming a bomb-site.

Having moved on to work in West Kensington, no less, it was a call from out of the blue that queued up a mystery promotion opportunity. It proved, of course, to be Burgess Park. Despite some friendly dismay (“why do you want to go there? it’s not even a park!?”), David returned to Camberwell, and the streets he’d known as a boy, now as Parks Manager. He would stay throughout the 70s, until the abolition of the GLC in 1986, when “we all found ourselves very suddenly out of a job”. But before then there were colourful stories of run-ins with the Richardsons on Neate Street, Cypriot festivals, discoveries of warehouses full of contraband whisky and even a proud turning point visit from the Duke of Edinburgh himself in 1985 – rudely derailed by the Brixton Riots.

Joyce Bellamy followed – always engaging, and once again on fine form. Joyce gave a very clear account of the painstaking piecemeal acquisition of land that went to build up the green space – over literally decades. She recalled the sheer scale of endeavour involved in decontaminating every inch of acquired ground – like the creosote contaminated ex-timber-yard plots. Over in Addington Square there’d been a scientific instrument makers, painting dials with gow-in the-dark paint, where “the soil in that area ticked when it was tested” [for radioactivity, with a Geiger counter]. The square, she noted as an aside, lacks tall trees in the centre to this day, because of the air raid shelter beneath it.

As ever Joyce displayed her usual knack for marrying big ideas to on-the-ground details, such as the local impact of the Civic Amenities Act, and recalling a later period “when the police had seemingly decided that all trees harbour muggers”. But her overarching tone was clear – one of quiet pleasure in seeing the park today blooming, and especially looking so well used.

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Robert Hadfield, Joyce Bellamy, David Sadler (speaking, in front of a newpaper image of himself c.1980) and chair Barbara Pattinson (Photo: Sam Tilling)
Robert Hadfield’s take reflected a later age, where grand visions were viewed a little more warily. Southwark Council had acquired the park rather suddenly in the mid 80s, and it seems initially nobody was quite sure what to do with it. Robert recalled with horror some of the dubious past plans (all thankfully fought off) to sell off plots of park land, noting in hindsight how they’d always occurred in June, July, & August when there were no Council meetings and the officers ran riot… There was almost a touch of W1A farce in some of the stories, including one of a war memorial being nicked, then spotted on the back of a lorry in east London and chased into the suburbs, later to be returned to its spot in front of St George’s church. On the surreal landscape of residual derelict buildings awaiting outright demolition, was the observation that they provided both hazard and resource alike – to  eagle-eyed Robert on the lookout for a bit of skirting board or spare parts from the car-breakers’ yards.

But Robert’s overall theme was a cheerful reminder – that despite the highs and lows, and even the odd collective ghastly moment, the park always has been used and enjoyed by thousands, day-in day-out.

After a brief interval with refreshments and exhibition, the second half was given over to a lively audience question session. It was great to see a few familiar faces in the audience, such as Tim Charlesworth (author of “THE STORY OF BURGESS PARK – FROM AN INTRIGUING PAST TO A BRIGHT FUTURE”, and a memorable guest speaker last year), and the good folk of the Walworth Society.

We hope the supporting exhibition went down well – our thanks to Southwark Local History Library & Archive for permission to reproduce some of the images.

Finally a word of thanks to the Wells Way Pop-Up, who hosted us beautifully, providing seating and café.

Listen to Part 1 – presentations from the three speakers, following introductions from Susan Crisp – Friends of Burgess Park and Chair Barbara Pattinson – chair of SE5 Forum:

Listen to Part 2 – Questions from the floor:

The making of a modern park

2-4pm, 23rd May 2015

Wells Way Pop Up, The Old Library, 39 Wells Way, London SE5 OPX

The story of the post-war creation of Burgess Park, told by some of the prime instigators. A free Friends of Burges Park Heritage Event, as part of the Chelsea Fringe (donations gratefully received).

Come and join in the conversation with Joyce Bellamy, OBE, former head of parks for GLC, Dave Sadler, former park manager, Robert Hadfield, formerly with Groundwork.

Clearance [Desktop Resolution]


The chat will be illustrated with images, maps, brochures and newsletters showing the development of the park from its WWII bomb site beginnings through the multi-million pound 2010 make-over to the present day.

There’ll be light refreshments available from the on-site cafe. This is a free Friends of Burgess Park Heritage Event, as part of the Chelsea Fringe festival (donations gratefully received).

Buses 343 and 136 (Elephant and Castle/Peckham/Lewisham) go almost to the door. Wells Way Pop Up is not fully accessible to wheelchair users: The access to the building is up 7 stone stairs and there are no level access toilet facilities in the building. If you can manage the entry steps and the steps to/from the basement level, we can assist with your access requirements.

Please help us plan for the day by registering on Eventbrite:

For more information, contact:


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To celebrate the completion of our project we invited everyone who had been involved to come along for the grand “reveal” of the underpass installation and the launch of the heritage trail.

Photo of the barge plaques in the  underpass
Underpass: Burgess Barges art Installation

photo of the underpass plaques

We had stalls and activities aimed at children as well as the promenade walk along the heritage trail.

Photo of the sack race
Families at the launch day

We were delighted that children who had taken part in the schools story-telling project and the Art in the Park workshops came along as well as people who had helped to make the heritage trail.

photo of the band and children
The entertainment at the launch: heritage band and hoop games.

We estimate about 300 came along and took part in the launch activities: children’s races, flag making, brick making, popcorn and lemonade stall and heritage stall displaying more materials. Plus, there were more people who stopped to examine our pop-up map exhibition hanging in the trees.

Photo of the Friends of Burgess history enthusiasts with an old R Whites' ginger beer bottle.
Friends of Burgess Park heritage stalwarts: Jon, Andrew and Joyce.

Thank you so much to everyone who took part. We couldn’t have completed this project without your enthusiasm, energy and expertise. Well done to all.

You can read more about what happened on the launch day here.

7 June 2014