The Camberwell Society

Society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell

Enjoy a stretch of elegance on the road to Vauxhall


Rosemary Hill traces the history of Clarendon Terrace

Camberwell New Road was ‘new’ in 1818 when it was laid out to take advantage of the equally new bridge at Vauxhall. It was built up in phases between 1820-1830, a typical piece of Georgian ribbon development, running down from the river to the Green at Camberwell. Today it is a motley collection of the good the bad and the ugly, with some of the older parts listed by English Heritage as of historical interest. These include numbers 227-253 (odd numbers on the east side) a terrace which runs between Wyndham Road and Councillor Street and has come to be known as Clarendon Terrace, after the Clarendon Arms pub on the corner.

The terrace started life as a row of 14 houses which stopped short of Wyndham Road. As early as 1796 a plan of the area shows this strip divided into lots for sale. The pub, despite giving its name to the terrace, came later and is not included in the listing. The spot where it now stands was then part of the famous Camberwell nurseries, first leased by Thomas Davey in the 1790s. When the houses were built, at some point in the early nineteenth century, they would have had a charmingly rural outlook over ‘the lost gardens of Wyndham Road’, whose history was fully traced for the first time by Jonathan Gregson, the Mary Boast Prize winner who published some of his research in the Camberwell Quarterly five years ago (CQ 191).

Regency Camberwell was an area of striking contrasts and while the nurseries throve and the smart new houses went up on the main road, the area north of Wyndham Road, only yards away, was described in 1818 as standing out in an ‘otherwise well-to-do district’ as a ‘moral cesspool’, famous for its ‘ignorance and misery’. As Mr Gregson explains, the nurseries throve in spite of it all through changes of ownership and threats from railway development until 1843. It was probably at some point over the next twenty years, when an attempt to create a Vauxhall-style pleasure garden flourished briefly before failing in 1863, that the pub was built on the end of the terrace next to the now widened Wyndham Road.

William Blanch’s History of the Parish of Camberwell of 1875 records it among the hostelries in whose names ‘statesmanship is worthily represented’. It is not clear which of the many political Lord Clarendons it honours. The third earl (1757-1838) is a possibility although his career was lacklustre and he was remembered as ‘a mere courtier, famous for telling interminable stories’. His son the fourth earl, George Villiers (1800-1870) is more likely. Foreign Secretary on and off for periods between 1852-1870, including the whole of the Crimean War, he would have been a household name when the pub was built.

It was also, probably, around the same time that the houses in the terrace lost their front gardens and became shops. By the mid-Victorian period shopping was becoming something more like the modern consumer experience for a burgeoning middle class. The concept of the ‘shopping parade’ was increasingly popular and with it the need to express architectural unity in the shop fronts. In Clarendon Terrace this is achieved with a neo-Classical framework which marks out the individual shop fronts on the ground floor by pilasters on the party walls supporting ornamental bracket stops. An entablature fascia runs across the top. These rare Victorian survivals, which include some (possibly later but still nineteenth century) doors and glazing, are what make the terrace important enough to merit its Grade II listing. In the rich mix of the New Road they are easily overlooked, but like so much of Camberwell they have an interesting story to tell.

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The Camberwell Society was formed in 1970 and is the recognised amenity society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell.

The Society’s objectives, as defined by our constitution, are: to stimulate public interest in Camberwell, to promote high standards of planning and architecture in Camberwell, and to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in Camberwell.

We are a charity and raise money for local charities. In the past we have raised money for Southside Rehabilitation Association, St Giles Trust, Cambridge House, the CamberwellCommunity Choir, the HollingtonYouth Centre and the Camberwell Arts Festival