The Camberwell Society

Society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell

Planning: three significant developments


The Society looks at all planning applications within the SE5 area. The website has all the advice the Society’s planning committee has given to Lambeth or Southwark Councils on whether we object, support or have decided not to comment on application. It has invaluable quick links to all the relevant applications.

There are some new significant planning schemes on the horizon, and we expect them to be in the public domain within the next quarter.

They are a new proposal on the Valmar trading estate to provide outpatient facilities for King’s College Hospital in place of a hotel, a scheme for housing at Seavington House and a scheme to redevelop housing at Redcar Street and Wyndham Road

Seavington House site three years on

The Camberwell Society objected to Southwark Council’s planning application to develop the Seavington House site in Champion Hill (18/AP/0532) on the grounds of scale, impact on trees and failure to follow the Council’s own sunlight, daylight and privacy guidelines with reference to the neighbouring consented application for nine houses at 1A Dog Kennel Hill.

The application was withdrawn in December 2018 with the promise that it was “back to the drawing board” for the development plans

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Fun, fun, funicular


A new wonder on our station plinth driven by water and Tony Coleman

Many readers may still believe that the only reason to go to Denmark Hill station is to catch a train or view the artwork at the new entrance. But yet another installation will soon attract its own fans.

Barring disaster and / or mechanical failures, by the time you read this the Funicular Rail will have been installed on the station's garden plinth.

Hopefully, it will also have its two associated rolling ball runs attached and rolling. The device is water driven.

It has been created to be another in the series of mechanical wonders to grace the plinth and bring a smile to the faces of travellers and passers-by alike.

It will sit alongside the Marble Run, the Chaos Wheel, Sit- up Santa, the Cogmas Tree and other wonders that have entertained us, along with static displays such as Una Marson and the endearing Log Train.

People ask why? For the fun of it of course.

Ruskin Tree Walk

A special event is being held on March 6th.

Discover John Ruskin, the Victorian influencer who was as famous in his day as David Attenborough is today. A writer, art critic and environmentalist, Ruskin’s thinking on nature, arts, mental health and wellbeing is timeless.

Join our guided walk, as community presenters bring his work to life using material specially commissioned from leading Ruskin experts and local artists.

Please find here the Eventbrite link to the launch event:

If you are interested to attend, please do sign up sooner rather than later, as numbers are limited to 30 participants for each of the two rounds (at 2pm and 3pm).

​Enjoy the spring in Camberwell


Chairman Nick Mair's report

Enjoy the spring in Camberwell

It was wonderful to meet face to face at the Society Christmas party. Our thanks to the Camberwell businesses who kindly donated prizes and to the lottery ticket buyers. Their contributions raised £810.The money will go towards the restoration of the St Giles’ Church clock.

How good too to be able to celebrate the 90th birthday of our illustrious president Nicholas Roskill and to recognise the contribution that he and Julia have made to Camberwell.

I hope you are enjoying Tony’s funicular railway at Denmark Hill Station and that the Christmas tree, built by design technology A-level pupils at Dulwich College, brought you some festive cheer. The station was recently awarded third place in the Network Rail Community Rail Awards.

I hope that by the time you read this that covid will have passed (which is pretty much what I wrote a year ago). If it has not, why not take your exercise at the corner of the station next to the Run sculpture / Blue Shop Cottage Gallery and walk the Solar Walk? The sun and planets are represented on the railings in their correct relative size and astronomical distance.

On a similar note, I hope you will be inspired by the Burgess Park public art walk supplement in this issue. The Trees and Green Spaces Group is planning an active year ahead, including a new series of volunteering activities in the spring. One such activity will focus on planting in tree pits. Is there a tree pit outside where you live?

These are some of the good things in Camberwell. Less good are the large, illuminated banners – thankfully no longer with advertising - even if we manage to avoid collisions with the scaffolding poles peppering the pavements.

Remember that you can still comment on changes on the Valmar Estate which now intends to provide facilities for King’s outpatients in place of a hotel. You will also want to consider commenting on Seavington House (an article on which is in is issue, as is one on the new KCH building in the old car park).

The Quarterly Team have listened and responded to your wide range of comments about design and layout. See the inside back cover for interesting things to do in Camberwell over the next few months.

Barber's shop octet


Why are there so many barber's shops in Camberwell? Robert Wainwright meets eight sharp clippers

It was just before Christmas a few years back. Winter’s shroud has descended by late afternoon as my wife, Paola, and I walked along Camberwell Church Street. We paused outside Gabby’s Barbers, captured by the light which had turned the bright orange window into an iridescent picture frame of a scene within the shop that could have been painted by Norman Rockwell.

A dozen or more men gathered inside, some having their hair cut and others waiting on chairs and benches behind. Everyone was frozen, faces staring upwards at a television screen which was showing a football match. A penalty was being taken by one of the teams. The anxious expectation was riveting. The player scored and the shop was suddenly full of leaping, happy customers. Even the barbers put down their scissors to join the fun before the serious business of cutting hair resumed.

The scene was not unusual, as online reviews show. Gabby’s was a regular gathering place for football, Nigerian “Nollywood” movies, even boisterous debates between barbers as they clipped away: “Never a dull moment,” said one happy customer. “More than just barber shop; it’s a community,” observed another. “They make everyone feels welcome and take their time for every haircut and value for money.”

At the centre of the crowd that night was owner and namesake Gabby Matiz who opened his business 13 years ago after training as a barber in a shop down the street. He grins when talking about the football nights but the smile fades when the conversation moves to how times have changed under Covid’s pall:

“People would come after work, not just for a haircut but to watch the football for a few hours. Sometimes we would 20 or more people so it was a fun place, but nowadays we have to be careful. We can’t let people stay just to watch the game. That would be dangerous to have too many people inside at the same time. People are scared because of Covid and stay home, even cutting their own hair.”

As evidence of how tough it’s been, Gabby shows me how he has been forced to literally cut his salon in half, erecting a stud wall and offering the other half for rent. Where once there were four barbers and two trainees, he now three or four: “I have lost half my business but we are struggling through. I’d like things to return to the days of football games on TV.”

Gabby’s struggles are not unusual at a difficult time for business, the pandemic’s challenges compounded by the growth in the number of barber shops operating in central Camberwell. There are now eight, from a two-man bolthole to salons catering for the hipster crowd and African clientele, all fuelled by an evolving community and busier streets.

The owners and barbers are a diverse group, often independent operators rather than employees who have struggled through the last 18 months but managed to maintain most of their clientele.

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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