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St Giles Church Camberwell 2000.jpg
St Giles' Church, Camberwell
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OS grid reference TQ325767
• Charing Cross 2.7 mi (4.3 km) NW
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district SE5
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament
  • Camberwell and Peckham
  • Dulwich and West Norwood
London Assembly
  • Lambeth and Southwark
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51°28′25″N 0°05′28″W / 51.4736°N 0.0912°W / 51.4736; -0.0912

Camberwell is a district of South London, England, in the London Borough of Southwark, 2 34 miles (4.5 kilometres) southeast of Charing Cross.

Camberwell was first a village associated with the church of St Giles and a common of which Goose Green is a remnant. This early parish included the neighbouring hamlets of Peckham, Dulwich, Nunhead, and part of Herne Hill (the rest of Herne Hill was in the parish of Lambeth). Until 1889, it was part of the county of Surrey. In 1900 the original parish became the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell.

In 1965, most of the Borough of Camberwell was merged into the London Borough of Southwark. To the west, part of both West Dulwich and Herne Hill come under the London Borough of Lambeth.

The place now known as Camberwell covers a much smaller area than the ancient parish, and it is bound on the north by Walworth; on the south by East Dulwich and Herne Hill; to the west by Kennington; and on the east by Peckham.


Camberwell appears in the Domesday Book as Cambrewelle. The name may derive from the Old English Cumberwell or Comberwell, meaning 'Well of the Britons', referring to remaining Celtic inhabitants of an area dominated by Anglo-Saxons. An alternative theory suggests the name may mean 'Cripple Well', and that the settlement developed as a hamlet where people from the City of London were expelled when they had life-threatening diseases like leprosy, for treatment by the church and the clean, healing waters from the wells. Springs and wells are known to have existed on the southern slope of Denmark Hill, especially around Grove Park.

It was already a substantial settlement with a church when mentioned in the Domesday Book, and was the parish church for a large area including Dulwich and Peckham. It was held by Haimo the Sheriff (of Kent). Its domesday assets were: 6 hides and 1 virgate; 1 church, 8 ploughs, 63 acres (250,000 m2) of meadow, woodland worth 60 hogs. It rendered £14. Up to the mid-nineteenth century, Camberwell was visited by Londoners for its rural tranquillity and the reputed healing properties of its mineral springs. Like much of inner South London, Camberwell was transformed by the arrival of the railways in the 1860s.

The crossroads at the centre of Camberwell is the site of Camberwell Green, a very small area of common land which was once a traditional village green on which was held an annual fair of ancient origin which rivalled that of Greenwich.

Local government

Camberwell Met. B Ward Map 1916
A map showing the wards of Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell as they appeared in 1916, This includes Dulwich, Peckham, etc.

The parish of Camberwell

Camberwell St Giles formed an ancient, and later civil, parish in the Brixton hundred of Surrey. The parish covered 4,570 acres (18.5 km2) in 1831 and was divided into the liberty of Peckham to the east, the hamlet of Dulwich to the southwest, as well as Camberwell proper. The width of the parish tapered in the south to form a point at what is now known as the Crystal Palace area. In 1801 the population was 7,059 and by 1851 this had risen to 54,667. In 1829 it was included in the Metropolitan Police District and in 1855 it was included in the area of responsibility of the Metropolitan Board of Works, with Camberwell Vestry nominating one member to the board. In 1889 the board was replaced by the London County Council and Camberwell was removed from Surrey, to form part of the County of London.

The Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell

In 1900 the area of the Camberwell parish became the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell. In 1965 the metropolitan borough was abolished and its former area became the southern part of the London Borough of Southwark in Greater London. The western part of the area is situated in the adjacent London Borough of Lambeth.

Camberwell beauty

Nymphalis antiopa
Camberwell Beauty butterfly

The Camberwell Beauty is a butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa) which is rarely found in the UK - it is so named because two examples were first identified on Coldharbour Lane, Camberwell in 1748. A large mosaic of the Camberwell Beauty used to adorn the Samuel Jones paper factory on Southampton Way. The paper factory has since been demolished but the mosaic was removed and re-installed on the side of Lynn Boxing Club on Wells Way.



Camberwell has several art galleries including Camberwell College of Arts, the South London Gallery and numerous smaller commercial art spaces. The annual Camberwell Arts Festival is well supported. The Blue Elephant Theatre on Bethwin Road is the only theatre venue in Camberwell.

A group now known as the YBAs, the Young British Artists, began in Camberwell - in the Millard building of Goldsmith's College on Cormont Road. A former convent and secretarial school, the Millard was the home of Goldsmiths Fine Art and Textiles department until 1988, it has been converted to flats and is now known as St Gabriel's Manor.

The core of the later-to-be YBAs, graduated from the Goldsmiths BA Fine Art degree course in the classes of 1987–90. Liam Gillick, Fiona Rae, Steve Park and Sarah Lucas, were graduates in the class of 1987. Ian Davenport, Michael Landy, Gary Hume, Anya Gallaccio, Henry Bond and Angela Bulloch, were graduates in the class of 1988; Damien Hirst, Angus Fairhurst, Mat Collishaw, Simon Patterson, and Abigail Lane, were graduates from the class of 1989; whilst Gillian Wearing, and Sam Taylor-Wood, were graduates from the class of 1990. During the years 1987–90, the teaching staff on the Goldsmiths BA Fine Art included Jon Thompson, Richard Wentworth, Michael Craig-Martin, Ian Jeffrey, Helen Chadwick, Mark Wallinger, Judith Cowan and Glen Baxter. Collishaw has a studio in a pub in Camberwell. as does the sculptor Anish Kapoor.

In his memoir Lucky Kunst, artist Gregor Muir, writes: "Not yet housed in the university building at New Cross to which it eventually moved in the late 1980s, Goldsmiths was a stone's throw away in Myatts Field on the other side of Camberwell Green. In contrast to Camberwell's Friday night bacchanal, Goldsmith's held its disco on a Tuesday evening with dinner ladies serving drinks, including tea, from a service hatch. This indicated to me that Goldsmiths was deeply uncool." The building was also the hospital where Vera Brittain served as a nurse and described in her memoir Testament of Youth.


Thomas Hood, humorist and author of The Song of the Shirt, lived in Camberwell from 1840 for two years; initially at 8, South Place, (now 181, Camberwell New Road). He later moved to 2, Union Row (now 266, High Street). He wrote to friends praising the clean air. In late 1841, he moved to St John's Wood. The Victorian art critic and watercolourist John Ruskin lived at 163 Denmark Hill from 1847, but moved out in 1872 as the railways spoiled his view. Ruskin designed part of a stained-glass window in St Giles' Church, Camberwell. Ruskin Park is named after him, and there is also a John Ruskin Street.

Another famous writer who lived in the area was the poet Robert Browning, who was born in Walworth (then in the parish of Camberwell), and lived there until he was 28. Novelist George Gissing, in the summer of 1893, took lodgings at 76 Burton Road, Brixton. From Burton Road he went for long walks through nearby Camberwell, soaking up impressions of the way of life he saw emerging there. Muriel Spark, the author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Ballad of Peckham Rye lived, between 1955 and 1965 s in a bedsit at 13 Baldwin Crescent, Camberwell. The novelist Mary Jane Staples, who grew up in Walworth, wrote a book called The King of Camberwell, the third instalment of her Adams family saga about Cockney life. Comedian Jenny Eclair is a long term resident of Camberwell, and the area features in her 2001 novel "Camberwell Beauty", named after a species of butterfly. Playwright Martin McDonagh and his brother, writer/director John Michael McDonagh, live in Camberwell.

Nearby Peckham Rye was an important spot in the imaginative and creative development of poet William Blake, who when he was eight, he claimed to have seen the Prophet Ezekiel there under a bush, and he was probably ten years old when he had a vision of angels in a tree.

Other notable residents

Other residents include former editor of The Guardian Peter Preston and The Guardian columnist Zoe Williams. Florence Welch of the rock band Florence + the Machine also lives in the area as do actresses Lorraine Chase and Jenny Agutter. Syd Barrett, one of the founders of Pink Floyd, studied at Camberwell College of Arts from 1964. Clifford Harper illustrator and anarchist has lived in Camberwell since 1974.

The avant-garde band Camberwell Now named themselves after the area. Basement Jaxx recorded three songs about Camberwell: "Camberwell Skies", "Camberskank" and "I live in Camberwell" which are on the The Singles: Special Edition album (2005). Camberwell is referred to in the film Withnail and I — "Camberwell carrot" is the name of the enormous spliff rolled using 12 rolling papers, by Danny the dealer. His explanation for the name is, "I invented it in Camberwell and it looks like a carrot".

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte gave birth to her son, Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte, the nephew of the Emperor Napoleon I, in Camberwell in 1805.



Until the First World War, Camberwell was served by three railway stations – Denmark Hill, Camberwell Gate (near Walworth), and Camberwell New Road in the west. Camberwell Gate and Camberwell New Road were closed in 1916 'temporarily' because of war shortages, but were never reopened.

London Underground has planned a Bakerloo line extension to Camberwell on at least three occasions since the 1930s.


Denmark Hill and Loughborough Junction railway stations serve Camberwell, whilst Peckham Rye and East Dulwich are both approximately one mile (1.5 kilometres) from Camberwell Green. These stations are all in London fare zone 2. London Overground, Southeastern, and Thameslink trains serve Denmark Hill. There are regular rail services to various destinations across Central London. There are also direct rail links to destinations elsewhere in London and the South East from Denmark Hill.

London Overground connects the area directly to Clapham and Battersea in the west, and Canada Water and Dalston east London. Thameslink trains carry passengers to Kentish Town in the north, whilst some peak-time services continue to destinations in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, such as Luton Airport. Eastbound Thameslink services travel towards Orpington or Sevenoaks, via Peckham, Catford, and Bromley, amongst other destinations. Southeastern trains eastbound serve destinations in South East London and Kent, including Peckham, Lewisham, Gravesend, and Dover.

Loughborough Junction is on the Thameslink route between St Albans City and Sutton. This provides Camberwell with a direct link southbound to Herne Hill, Streatham, Tooting, Wimbledon, Mitcham, and Sutton, amongst other destinations in South London. Northbound services run through the City of London and St Pancras. Destinations north of St Pancras include Kentish Town and West Hampstead. A limited Southeastern service between Blackfriars and Kent runs through Loughborough Junction.


Camberwell is served by numerous London Bus routes.

Other notable residents

Joseph Chamberlain
Statesman Joseph Chamberlain, born Camberwell, 1836 and father of Neville Chamberlain.

Residents of the area have included children's author Enid Mary Blyton, who was born at 354 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, on 11 August 1897 (though shortly afterwards the family moved to Beckenham), and the former leader of the TGWU, Jack Jones, who lived on the Ruskin House Park estate. Karl Marx initially settled with his family in Camberwell when they moved to London in 1849. Others include the former editor of The Guardian Peter Preston. The Guardian columnist Zoe Williams is another resident, whilst Florence Welch of the rock band Florence + the Machine also lives in the area, as do actresses Lorraine Chase and Jenny Agutter. Syd Barrett, one of the founders of Pink Floyd, studied at Camberwell College of Arts from 1964. Clifford Harper, illustrator and anarchist, has lived in Camberwell since 1974.

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte gave birth to her son, Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte, the nephew of the Emperor Napoleon I, in Camberwell in 1805.

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