Yes – there is still a bridge taking Trafalgar Avenue over the route of the former Grand Surrey Canal! It was news to this author that the slight rise in the road where it crosses the park disguises a modern concrete replacement bridge, not merely a pile of demolished buildings.
It’s not quite clear (maybe someone can explain) why an expensive bridge was built, although the canal had been filled in in 1970.
Unfortunately, bridges need inspecting periodically, and when that time came around last year, it proved to be a bigger task than at first envisaged.
Typically for the development of the park, it was discovered that the void beneath the bridge had been used to dispose of all kinds of waste, including asbestos.
Works have therefore taken quite some time, and the whole space beneath has been excavated in order to build permanent inspection chambers, so that in future, the job will be a bit easier.
The brick tower next to the bridge above is a ventilation chamber for the 132kV London electricity ring-main, cables for which were laid under the park as it was being developed in the 60s or 70s.
Of course, an imaginative administration might have thought about the posibility of restoring some water to the area, in some sort of memorial to the days of the canal. However, a brick-built inspection chamber is going in and the whole are will be backfilled and restored to grass.
Did you spot the ubiquitous R Whites lemonade bottle in the image above? Somehow recovered intact, despite the heavy earth-movers, these can be found all over the park, wherever a hole is dug.
Southwark Council has decided that the original retaining wall of Glengall Wharf should be replaced with a concrete block barrier similar to those used on motorway embankments. Flowers and plants in the gaps will look ‘nice’, but effectively erase any idea of a canal bank.
The existing wall is certainly not pretty, but it’s a major piece of industrial archaeology from the days when the canal ran alongside and turned down towards Peckham. Apart from the small low concrete ledge in the grass oppposite, it’s the only piece of original canal bank left on the entire three and a half mile length of the Grand Surrey Canal. It features in numerous historic photos of the area.
In this image, you can see the black painted wall with timber fenders attached part way down. In the present-day image above and below, the black painting is still visible, with plain concrete below, where the fenders had been attached.
It’s also still possible to see large stone blocks embedded in the wall, if you take a walk today. These were the footings of the large loading chutes visible in the historic image. There are 12 visible on the Peckham route, corresponding to the 6 loading chutes which were on that side of Glengall Wharf.
It seems a great shame to bury almost the last signs of industrial canal heritage for the sake of a tidy-up.
Local children took part in researching the industrial history that took place in and around the Grand Surrey Canal which once ran through what is now part of Burgess Park. Their ideas and endeavours will result in an art installation in the underpass in the park with the help of local artists’ group ‘Art in the Park’.
Year 5 pupils from Michael Faraday School and Gloucester Primary explored Burgess Park to learn about its history with local storyteller Vanessa Wolf.
The storytelling walk helped the children discover what the park would have been like before and after the war. They had to imagine the park as it would have been – full of houses, shops, factories and a canal. The storytelling sessions involved lots of role play, singing, creative writing, tasting and smells!
The traditional craft workshops run by Friends of Burgess Park as part of their history project Bridge to Nowhere were greeted with enthusiasm and a desire to learn craft skills – especially knitting. The word got about and well over 30 people took part on the last day, with 100 participants over the three days. Local people got the chance to try out traditional hand sewing, embroidery and knitting, and canal style art. Most of the people taking part were born long after the canal closed, but were interested to learn more about it. The local residents are definitely keen to develop their craft skills to show and sell their work in the future.
The traditional craft workshops run by Friends of Burgess Park as part of their history project Bridge to Nowhere were greeted with such enthusiasm and a desire to learn craft skills especially knitting. The word got about and well over 30 people took part on the last day and the big question was “When will the next workshop be?”
Over three days, participants got the chance to try out traditional hand sewing, embroidery and knitting , and on the last day, to have a go at canal style art. Most of the people taking part were born long after the canal closed, but were interested to learn more about it through the art work reference materials.
Jowett Street Park sits next to what was a spur of the Grand Surrey Canal which ran to Peckham from the Surrey Docks. It was a lovely friendly setting for the event. We were blessed with great weather and the support of Quadron staff who brought along the tables and gazebo each day. We were also very grateful to The Sojourner Truth Centre who allowed use of their facilities. A big thank you to them and to all the hard working volunteers.
… that a canal once ran through Burgess Park … that the park was once full of factories, one of which made lemonade? You did? … then we would like your memories of growing up/working/living here when Burgess Park was a place of factories, industries and a working canal! We would like to collect and keep your stories.
This year’s Friends of Burgess Park May Fair showcased the heritage of Burgess Park and launched the Heritage Lottery Funded project – Burgess Park: The Bridge to Nowhere?
Thank you to everyone who came and supported the May Fair this year. We had a great time and were delighted to see so many of you.
The history of Burgess Park was illuminated with the temporary photographic heritage trail. The trail covers about 2.5 miles and will come down after Sunday, 26th May.
The 17 points along the trail explain how the Burgess Park development took place gradually, within living memory. The ever-increasing patches of green which stretched along the canal route were named Burgess Park in 1973. There are still a few remaining features of the park’s “pre-history”, including: canal bridges; former almshouses, library and bath-house; and a lime kiln which was once on the bank of the canal. The site is a lost part of London – an area where thousands of people lived, went to school and worked, and which is now covered by expanses of grass, numerous pathways, and a lake.
If you have memories of the park please get in touch we want to collect your stories and share your memories and photographs. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
At the May Fair this year we enjoyed:
Friends of Burgess Park stall, historic cutouts by Davies and Daughters and the marvellous Heritage Photography Trail; First Place: Victorian Games and Costumes; Art in the Park: Brickmaking and sculpture walk; The Hour Bank; tea and natural cosmetics at the Glengall Community Garden; Hollington Youth Club; Paris Rock; Massage to You; Lorna’s toys and clothes; Camberwell College of Art; Peckham Vision and Network; Peckham Shed; Pembroke House; Southwark Carers; Faraday Safer Neighbourhood team (Met Police); Southwark Circle; Docks to Desktop (Bubble Theatre); Cinema Museum; St Peter’s Church; Sweet Tooth; Purple Mango; Manmade Food; Dean Masters Caribbean Kitchen; Rosie’s Cakery; Clarice Catering; fishing with Thames 21; and Exclusive Ballooning — the balloon went up; Vauxhall City Farm; Carla’s Boot Camp; Dogs Trust displays; steam train rides and live music!
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