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Southwark News – Feb 29, 2024

original article here

Peckham’s architectural history revealed in new book by two local authors

The fascinating histories of Peckham’s iconic landmarks have been lovingly chronicled in a new book by two local heritage experts.

Peckham Heritage: Past, Present and Future by local residents Derek Kinrade, 94, and architect Benedict O’Looney, has been 35 years in the making.

They hope the book, featuring archival photos, oral histories and detailed studies of the area’s famous buildings, will promote “a greater understanding of Peckham”.

“Here is a historic place,” Derek said. “Let’s look after it!”

The book showcases and uncovers the stories of buildings including the Jones & Higgins, Peckham Rye Station and The Old Fire Station.

There are also studies of architecture such as The Bussey Building and accounts of lost heritage like Gordon’s Brewery.

The two authors struck up a friendship through their joint passion for Peckham’s heritage.

Derek Kinrade, also the author of Peckham Personalities, moved from “posh” and “very conservative” Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, to Peckham in 1988 and was immediately “hooked”.

The former civil servant was “well aware of its deficiencies and its criminal element” but found the area “fascinating”.

Derek took a leading role in the battle to stop British Rail building a high-speed rail link through Peckham in the 1980s, threatening 3,800 homes.

It would have annihilated much of the area, including Blenheim Grove and Lyndhurst Way, but the campaign by PEARL (Peckham and Environs Against the Rail Link) gained national media attention.

The campaign was successful – the route was directed through Stratford instead, affecting just 115 homes – and sparked Derek’s fiery love of Peckham which persists today.

Benedict O’Looney, who led restorations of Peckham Rye Station and Findlater’s Corner by London Bridge, moved to Peckham in 1997.

Having almost become a jazz bass player in the USA, he fell in love with “The Old World”, becoming central to the campaign for a Peckham Conversation Area.

“The more you got into Peckham, the more you understood how delightful it was,” he said.

Benedict says the book aims to be both “scholarly and accessible”.

“It’s designed to appeal to professional folk who are interested in urban history but it’s also filled with lovely period illustrations, period photographs and modern photography so it could appeal to young people,” he said.

The book draws on research Derek has gathered since 1990, often gleaned from dusty documents tucked away in The British Library, the Minet Library and Quaker House, Euston.

He was also aided by the work of local historian and former Peckham Society editor John Beasley who wrote numerous Southwark history books including Camberwell Through Time and East Dulwich Remembered.

The book’s unveiling couldn’t be more timely. Berkeley Homes recently released its latest proposals for the Ayelsham Centre’s redevelopment, a huge housing development in the middle of the town centre – which could change the character of the area forever.

The book has been produced by the Peckham Heritage Regeneration Partnership as part of the Peckham Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), supported by Southwark Council and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

All proceeds will go to the work of Peckham Heritage, a local community group dedicated to the protection and exploration of diversity in Peckham.

Peckham’s Heritage – Past, Present and Future, by Derek Kinrade, Benedict O’ Looney and the Peckham Heritage Regeneration Partnership will be launched at 46 Staffordshire Street, Peckham, at 6pm on Friday, March 1.