There is something about disused and derelict buildings in London that really catches my attention. Buildings built decades ago, with years of history behind. Most have survived at least a World War, others were actually part of it, like the Paddock Bunker in Wembley. But there was a time in which bricks were laid carefully, for a reason and a purpose, calculated, thought, to be unique and last.
In the midst of last century, I think we lost it. We went for the building for the masses, for the function, and we lost the aesthetics. We demolished what now should be listed, and now back again, there is a growing effort to try to bring back the good, the heritage and the history.
Now it is when there is a Renaissance of the Community; communities indeed, trying to get rid of the big fishes in this world of Capitalism. It is the New Wave of the Buy Local, probably because we are a bit tired of the impersonal cold Tesco round the corner, of not knowing our neighbour and there is a feeling of need for a change. At least the morale is out there. And I would say that probably thanks to the so-criticised social networks, this community effort is a bit more visible, as they are actually well capable of spreading a message and finding support with very little or even non existent funding to actually make things happen.
And this is how I ended in Peckham Rye last evening. Following a discrete Tweet or a shy link on a newsletter. The existence of a refurbished station waiting room in South London was convincing enough to make me travel as far down south as I can recall. And it was worth it.
There I was, far away from home and curious of what I was about to see:
Timidly hidden in a door, right in Platform 3, the entrance to the magnificent Victorian room.
I arrived merely 10 minutes before Eileen Conn started the talk. Most of the locals had already a sit, so I decided to place myself in the newly refurbished wooden floor to get a better perspective of all the angles.
First of all Eileen made an introduction about Peckham and about how the Regeneration, as it is happening in East London, is not as really regenerating as they sold them. Lovely buildings from pre-Victorian times are now hidden behind horrible shop fronts and remain unused, derelict and decaying when they could be brought back to life turning the Rye Lane into an impressive High Street. And the neighbours agreed. See, demolishing a traditional Victorian Pub or an Art Deco Department Store.
But it was the turn of Benny, aka Benedict O'Looney, RIBA Architect, to introduce us more deeply into the inside of the restoration and the history behind the OWR (Old Waiting Room).
The waiting room used to be so to serve platforms 1 and 2, so big to host probably all the changing passengers to the great Crystal Palace in Victorian times. In 1962 they were demolished to place both in an island platform and the space became redundant, and hence the state they were until a couple of years ago. Before the demolition of the platform the space served as a Billiard Hall.
The station itself and the OWR was designed by architect Charles Henry Driver, known for his french style construction and also his cast iron work. Funnily enough he designed a couple more of station in South London such as Battersea Park, London Bridge and Denmark Hill: Southerner indeed. Shame it is, that during the 60's most of the cast iron decorations were removed, and soon they will do so from London Bridge (sad, isn't it?).
The OWR also turned out to be an Billiard Hall.
But yes, now almost fully refurbished by various funding and the effort of the locals and Benny, the restoration is happening. The OWR will have a future, a use, independent of the normal functioning station and will serve to host events or activities for the community, specially by the addition of the outside stairs that where demolished in the 60's.
Windows have been carefully assembled by a local joiner from Camberwell and the main station has been painted un green tones to harmonise again with the original design of C. H. Driver.
But what locals are really excited about is the proposed demolition of the arcade in front of the station, also decaying (the arcade) and occupies the space of what could be a square full of life and local businesses. A square to show the original arches underneath the railway covered by glass for multipurpose use.
And for some reason, I became terribly excited of this project, even though I currently live more than 5 miles away from it.
A bit of Apple juice with basil or mint?
Donations always welcome for this circumstances
And just when you thought that all that happens in Peckham is...
To read more about the beautiful hidden architectural gems of Peckham, visit:http://services.english-heritage.org.uk/ResearchReportsPdfs/054_2009WEB.pdf
Amazing stuff, but where are the hidden gems in Islington?
I think that's going to be another story.