The Camberwell Beauty butterfly, a rare visitor to these shores, is so named because it was first identified in Britain in Coldharbour Lane in 1748.
With velvety brown wings that are dotted with blue and edged in frilly white, it is occasionally seen in the UK in late summer when the winds blow it in from Scandinavia. In Camberwell, south London, the only tangible reminder of this remarkable entomological discovery is the large mosaic on the wall of the old public baths building, now a boxing gym, in Wells Way, the road that runs through Burgess Park.
In the mid-18th century Coldharbour Lane was little more than a country path, although it wasn’t long before fine terraces of Georgian houses began appearing along the main roads and up Camberwell Grove and Grove Lane, as the small rural village of Camberwell became a popular country retreat for discerning London merchants
Today, though, Camberwell is hard to categorise. It is four miles south-east of central London, with Elephant & Castle to the north, Peckham to the east, Dulwich to the south and Brixton to the west.
Its shopping streets along Denmark Hill and Camberwell Church Street are a typical London mix of large supermarkets, nail bars, phone and chicken shops, combined with some surprisingly nice places to eat. The art school, now part of the University of the Arts, gives it a creative edge, while its fine Georgian houses, popular with actors, writers and lawyers, lie cheek by jowl with estates of social housing.
What there is to buy
Tree-lined Camberwell Grove rises in a straight line from Camberwell Church Street to the summit of Denmark Hill. It is one of the the finest roads of Georgian houses in the capital. The houses are of varying size and the largest sell for about £2 million.
There are also Georgian houses along Grove Lane, Addington Square and the two main roads, Camberwell Road and Camberwell New Road. Houses on the main roads are cheaper, with three- and four-bedroom houses on Camberwell New Road selling for between £800,000 and £900,000. At the top of Camberwell Grove, Grove Park has large, red-brick Victorian semi-detached and terrace houses that can sell for as much as £3 million.
Addington Square boasts a range of Georgian properties
Around Myatt’s Fields Park in the area closest to Kennington there are more roads of big Victorian semis, which sell for between £1.5 million and £2 million. Off Peckham Road going towards Peckham, there is another enclave of Victorian houses of varying size in Crofton Road, Shenley Road, Talfourd Road and Bushey Hill Road, with the larger ones now over £1 million.
The two most expensive houses currently for sale in Camberwell are both listed for £2.5 million. One, a four-bedroom, double-fronted, detached Georgian house with a 125ft garden, is in Champion Hill. The other, a five-bedroom, cream stucco, semi-detached Regency villa, is in Champion Grove.
In Camberwell Grove, a five-bedroom Georgian house is on the market for £1.85 million. In Baldwin Crescent, in the Myatt’s Fields area close to the recently restored park, the asking price for a seven-bedroom house in need of restoration is £1,575,000.
The Ruskin Park House estate is a large development of Fifties Art Deco-style flats in Champion Hill that was for many years the home of the late trades union leader Jack Jones. A two-bedroom flat there is on the market for £385,000.
£356,000: this one-bedroom period conversion flat in Flaxman Road, Camberwell, is bright, roomy and near good transport links
What’s new: Camberwell Fields in Southampton Way and Edmund Street, on the site of the former Elmington Estate, is a development of 282 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats and seven three-bedroom houses by Notting Hill Housing. The shared-ownership flats start at £360,000 for a one-bedroom flat,available with a 25 per cent share. There are open market sales ranging from £355,000 for a one-bedroom flat to £690,000 for a three-bedroom house. Visit www.camberwellfields.co.uk or call 020 8357 4413.
Felix Court in Warner Road is a development of flats from Wandle housing association. There are affordable rented flats and 10 shared-ownership flats, with prices starting at £300,000 for a one-bedroom flat with a minimum share of 25 per cent. Call Urban Moves on 020 7378 7892.
Woodrow Court, next door, also from Wandle, launches at the end of the year with 36 units, including 23 shared-ownership flats. Developer Parritt Leng has two sites off Camberwell Road. The first, Crown Street, is a development of 67 flats with a mix of open market sales, affordable rent and shared ownership available through housing association Asra Housing Group. Call 0116 257 6716.
Albany Place is part of the regeneration of the Aylesbury Estate in nearby Walworth. Housing association L&Q has completed the award-winning Ruskin Walk and Burgess Terrace stages. The next stage, Harvard Gardens, in East Street, will launch next year. It will have 147 one-, two- and four-bedroom flats, 72 for open market sale, 48 for affordable rent, and 27 for shared ownership.
£825,000: spread over three floors, this three-bedroom house in Carre Mews invites you to kick back with a glass of vino after a long day
Average prices: houses and flats for sale in Camberwell
One-bedroom flat: £304,000
Two-bedroom flat: £400,000
Two-bedroom house: £661,000
Three-bedroom house: £765,000
Four-bedroom house: £1.094 million
Renting: renting in Camberwell represents good value for money. With rental yields hovering around 3.5 per cent it is currently cheaper to rent a house in Camberwell than to buy one. It is a popular place for flat sharers at the art school. A newly refurbished seven-bedroom Georgian house in Camberwell New Road is available for £5,200 a month. A six-bedroom Georgian house in Grove Lane is available for £4,117 a month.
King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Trust are major employers. Young medics expect to pay between £900 and £1,500 a month for a one-bedroom flat. A one-bedroom flat in the Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society almshouses in Sedgmoor Place is available at £997 a month and a one-bedroom flat in Ada Road is for rent at £1,500 a month.
Average prices: renting flats and houses in Camberwell
One-bedroom flat: £1,120 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £1,592 a month
Two-bedroom house: £1,688 a month
Three-bedroom house: £1,823 month
Four-bedroom house: £3,139 a month
The area attracts: Camberwell has an arty, radical edge, so attracts both young professionals and families who appreciate the mix of wonderful architecture and urban grit. The arrival of the Overground at Denmark Hill station has improved access to the City and the East End.
Delighting the eye: Cambria Road railway bridge has been decorated by community artists
Staying power: Families lucky enough to own one of Camberwell’s best Georgian houses tend to stay in the area. These houses rarely come on to the market and estate agents often find themselves valuing houses that have been in the same family for 60 years.
Up-and-coming areas: estate agent Luke Wooster of Wooster & Stock says that Camberwell has been overlooked. “Peckham used to be cheaper than Camberwell but now the fortunes of the two adjoining areas have been reversed. Now Camberwell is cheaper than Peckham. The other area worth considering is the roads off Coldharbour Lane close to Loughborough Junction station.”
Travel: An extension to the Bakerloo line has been talked about for years, but in the absence of the Tube, Denmark Hill train station and the numerous buses that pass Camberwell Green are the area’s lifeline.
Denmark Hill station has had a facelift to coincide with the arrival of the Overground with trains to Whitechapel and further north. Otherwise, there are trains to Victoria in around 12 minutes, to Blackfriars in about 14 minutes, and to StPancras in 23 minutes.
Fifteen bus routes pass through Camberwell with destinations throughout central London. Camberwell is in travel Zone 2 and an annual travel card to Zone 1 costs £1,256.
Postcode: SE5 is the Camberwell postcode. At the edges it strays into Peckham and Loughborough Junction.
Best roads: Camberwell Grove.
Schools: Camberwell has a good choice of state primary schools judged “outstanding” by Ofsted. These are Brunswick Park — with its listed Sixties dining and assembly hall by James Stirling and James Gowan — in Picton Street; Crawford in Crawford Road; St John the Divine CofE in Warham Street, and John Ruskin, in John Ruskin Street.
The top-performing state comprehensive is Sacred Heart RC (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Camberwell New Road. It gets very good results at GCSE and is judged “outstanding”. However, a lot of children make the journey to the private schools in nearby Dulwich — James Allen’s Girls’ School (ages four to 18); Alleyn’s School (co-ed, ages four to 18), and Dulwich College (boys, ages two to 18).
Camberwell's art school is now part of the University of the Arts
WHAT THE LOCALS SAY ON TWITTER:
@jennyeclair South London art gallery obv.
@jennyeclair don't forget artichoke place swimming pool and the 176 bus - best bus in London, Love Walk breakfast meant to be v good.
@TiniestHobo Re Camberwell, you must go to @lovewalkcafe. Great food and funky place.
@katbrown82 Love it here. Lovely community spirit, great restaurants and independent shops (I love Pesh Flowers) and beautiful parks.
@katbrown82 Myatt's Fields is just beautiful: volunteer-run cafe, gorgeous grounds, super community. The Christmas carols are a favourite
@brunswickpark *blows trumpet* I, @brunswickpark, am a great thing in and about Camberwell. So is fellow green space @BurgessPk. I overhear m'regulars raving about @Camberwellarms Angels & Gypsies @thepigeonfeed @CrookedWell Lettsom Gdns @dailygoodsldn. Ooh and @FowldsCafe @70HouseGallery and the brilliant @CamberwellArts festival all reasons to be most cheerful about SE5
@BurgessPk You must mention #community spirit like @CWell3FilmFest, @CamberwellArts @CoolCamberwell plus park events!
@chriswatt44 top spots: Malako for crepes, @RatRecords for new old vinyl, then @FowldsCafe @PigeonholeCaffe @dailygoodsldn all guude!
@friendsdkhwood plse mention the #gaumont film studio that was in c'well 1904-1912. Free screening on location 30aug friendsofdkhwood.org/filmnight/
@KateSLP @jennyeclair angels and gypsy restaurant. It's fab.
@CWell3FilmFest suddenly se5 seems to b flavour of the month, but we have known that for years!
@tortorsj I live in Denmark Hill. Highly recommend Love Walk cafe which is between Denmark Hill and Camberwell.
@vixfarrar there are lots of beautiful Georgian properties for a far better price than other areas in a London. My favourite era!
@emilyhamilton86 #BurgessPark which hosted the#EandN and @BurgessPk's pedal powered free film nights pic.twitter.com/FovQTVLOu0
@AnnaMarieReeve Got to include @SunofCamberwell - log fire and awesome garden makes it a practically perfect pub come rain or shine
@Nicole_VJNO No67 for brunch, Caravaggio for dinner, Malako for coffee and people watching!
@Dapheroo Love Walk Cafe delicious, excellent value sourdough toasted s/wiches for lunch +Ruskin Park is compact but full of amenities
@juliecurlie @CrookedWell, The Hermits Cave, Falafel @BurgessPk, Edwards bikes and the Bolu
@TeamCarr7 Maloko Pancake House, 12 & 176 bus. The Green leads to everywhere! The Ginger Line, no beards, SE5 Arts and loads of parks. Edwardes Bike Shop, Falafel & FM Mangal (shh I'm loathed to share those two!) Leisure Centre & Library & KCH @juliecurlie ??
@Camberwellarms surely Silk Road, falafel and fm mangal!
@ibrim @peckhampeculiar can't forget @RatRecords
@Pexmas gotta be @Camberwellarms and Zeret Kitchen! Cowling Wilcox, Camberwell college, @SLG_artupdates. @suncafe_Peckham &the green!
@JaneCommon in Lower Camberwell, ie the less desirable bit, @CoolCatsCafe merits a mention. Wine, scran, coffee, gigs!. Mainly tho the people in SE5 are great. A proper mish-mash of society! Looking forward to reading the piece.
@DandD_Wine beautiful streets, less try-hard than up the road (which we love too!), tips @CrookedWell @Camberwellarms
@rosbadger cowling and Wilcox biggest art shop south of the river
@Dapheroo So many great pubs, Cambria, Stormbird, Tiger, Bear, Sun; but my no1 is Hermit's Cave all the way.
Shops and restaurants: Shopping along Denmark Hill, in the Butterfly Walk shopping centre, and in Camberwell Church Street doesn’t set the retail heart aflutter. There is a Morrisons, an interesting Turkish supermarket called TFC, and a branch of Peacocks. Independents include Pesh for flowers, Cowling & Wilcox for art supplies, GX Gallery for modern art, Kim West for latex clothing, Rat Records for vinyl discs and, side by side, Cruson for fruit and vegetables and Sophocles Bakery. Chain restaurants include branches of Costa Coffee and Nando’s.
However, Camberwell has an interesting range of eateries. Cafés include Love Walk Café, Daily Goods, House, Maloko for crepes, and Pigeon Hole which offers a mix of coffee, food, furniture and events. Away from the centre there is No 67 at the South London Gallery on Peckham Road, and Fowlds, in front of an upholstery workshop at the entrance to Addington Square.
Restaurants include the newly arrived Camberwell Arms, an outpost of the famed Anchor & Hope in Waterloo; the Crooked Well; Silk Road for Xinjiang-style Chinese food; Turkish restaurant FM Mangal; Angels & Gypsies for tapas, and Caravaggio, a local Italian. Favourite pubs are Hermit’s Cave, The Tiger, The Bear, The Old Dispensary and The Sun of Camberwell.
This Greek eatery in Camberwell Green is among a wide local choice
Leisure and the arts: The Blue Elephant Theatre in Bethwin Road is the local community theatre, and it specialises in working with young people and emerging writers. The South London Gallery in Peckham Road is a leading modern art gallery. The nearest cinemas are in Peckham and Elephant and Castle. The Camberwell Leisure Centre in Artichoke Place is home to the local council-owned swimming pool, a beautiful Victorian facility that was recently restored.
Open space: Camberwell has three lovely large parks — Ruskin Park, Myatt’s Fields and Burgess Park. Ruskin Park has a popular children’s playground and paddling pool, tennis courts and football pitches. Myatt’s Fields has a children’s playground designed by children, plus tennis courts and a café. Burgess Park recently had an £8 million makeover with attractive new wildlife plantings. Facilities include an adventure playground, cafés, a lake, and, unusually in a public park, fixed barbecues where people can bring their own coals and cook in the open air. Chumleigh Gardens, in the park, is a range of former almshouses with traditional gardens at the front and a world garden at the back. It’s a peaceful and tranquil oasis.
Camberwell is home to the picturesque Ruskin Park
Council: Most of Camberwell is in Labour-controlled Southwark but from Coldharbour Lane it becomes Lambeth, also Labour controlled. Band D council tax in Southwark currently stands at £1,211.14, while in Lambeth it is £1,224.