Camberwell and the birth of Burgess Park – a colourful history

Picture this, on a balmy London day, hardened labourers gather along the towpath as local pubs stage unlawful dog racing in the foreground, sawmills and limekilns in the background and horse-drawn barges dragging loads of timber to red-bricked factories and warehouses.

Such was the view back in Victorian times when Camberwell had a different façade and before Burgess Park became one man's dream to give to Londoners.

Here's a snapshot of how Burgess Park came to shape and the origins of Surrey Canal before it became a memory of the past.

Burgess Park

Bomb damage contributed significantly to Burgess Park and its eventual birth. On the night of 19th October 1917, a Navy L45 Zeppelin dropped a 600kg bomb destroyed a row containing three houses, a fish and chip shop and a doctor's surgery killing 10 people and injuring a further 24.

As Lord Birkett (late Director of Recreation and Arts, GLC) said looking back on this era of destruction, "When all this is over, we'll make this a better place to live in. We'll give some greenery to people who haven’t got any, [to] make up for what they've been through".

The lost Grand Surrey Canal under Camberwell

The canal was once a hub of industry with horse drawn barges bringing timber for the construction industry and limestone to be made into cement. Canal authorities generated income from tolls and fishing licenses. It was eventually discontinued and drained between the 1940s and 60s, but monuments of the past can be seen in the old canal bridges and limekilns in Burgess Park.

These days…

Lord Birkett's dream is a reality, as Burgess Park has become a popular family destination with a variety of sporting facilities, cafés, running routes, and the eclectic Glengall Wharf Garden.

Image via Wikipedia - Grand Surrey Canal on Davies Pocket Map of London, 1852


Check out our latest development just a short walk from Burgess Park