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Rye Lane Portfolio

Apr 12, 2017



  • The Rye Lane Portfolio:A study of demographic changes in the cultural geography of Rye lane and the lane ward in peckhamBetween 1900 and the present H. B. Adediran Olaiya, D.M.S.

    INTRODUCTIONRye Lane as a centre for Black Urban Cultural ConsumptionRye Lane in Peckham has been an important centre of cultural consumption for over a century. Despite changes in local demographics , eg. shoppers and businesses in the area , it is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Currently its prominence as a shopping centre to the African and Afro-caribbean diaspora is displayed in an urban tribalism of food, music, clothes enterprises etc representative of these minorities cultural progressivism which contributes substantially to Third World economies as well as to that of London. The recent growth of the internet providers and money transfer businesses fuelled by the speed at which information and financial transactions can be conducted with people in the Third World, and information technology has also facilitated recent developments such as online marketing and shopping websites eg. Other sites of cultural consumption on Rye Lane catering to African diaspora communities include afro-centric hair dressing salons, boutiques and dressmaking shops. *

  • Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell, 1914

    SLIDE 1Using maps to identify change The arrival of railways in the late nineteenth century spurred available land space around Rye Lane being rapidly developed for new urban housing as shown in these maps from 1891 and 1914. Peckham soon became a railway suburb of London through a process of urban sprawl which saw housing and other urban amenities being developed locally for middle class British clerical workers and artisans who worked in the City and Docklands. Besides transport and housing other vital urban amenities such as schools, churches and a laundry are also evidence urbanisation was being encouraged by local authourities, employers, etc.*

  • SLIDE 2 Using maps to identify changeThese maps taken from the 1969 Rye Lane Plan for Action show the neighbourhood remained pre-eminent as a shopping centre in Southwark(Fig. 1), but areas neighbouring Rye Lane being earmarked for development and improvements (Fig. A1/1) in housing reduced customers. Some of these areas had not recovered from bombing during the war, and in others subsequent housing development was already proving untenable.Furthermore shopping centres in neighbouring boroughs such as Brixton in Lambeth, had become major competitors as they became modernised attracting more mobile locals from Peckham with the growth in motor car ownership. This shopping revolution necessitated the Councils response in adapting Rye Lane to modern requirements of shoppers and local traders in order to save Peckham from decline as a shopping centre and desirability as a place to live.*

  • SLIDE 3 Using Maps to identify ChangeThe Lane Ward was formed in 1971 from parts of Bellenden, Consort and Waverley wards and encompasses Rye Lane. In 2001 it is classified as an area of high social deprivation and includes three council housing estates Pelican, Consort and Clifton. *

  • Peckham Rye Railway Station, Rye Lane opened in 1865

    .Thomas Tillings omnibus, Rye Lane circa 1900Rye Lane circa 1905 in its heyday as South Londons Golden Mile

    SLIDE 4 Using photographs and literary sources to identify ChangeThe historical photos in the following slides are taken from the ideal homes website. Transport speed is a vital amenity in the growth of London as an urbanism, as commodities and workers need to be moved around. Peckham quickly developed as a middle class railway suburb in the late nineteenth century , and Rye Lanes prominence as the premier shopping centre in South London followed soon after. The importance of aesthetics and physical setting in facilitating urban consumption is another critical amenity also exploited by Victorian capitalists who built temples of consumerism. Walter Benjamin describes the architecture of railroad stations as dream houses of the collective , [The Arcades Project, L1,3] which this photo of Peckham Rye Station above illustrates with its imposing facade and courtyard. In his book The Story of Peckham , 1976 John Beasley states horse drawn omnibus and trams also played a role in facilitating ease of transport between Peckham and the centre of Edwardian London making it attractive for middle class clerical workers to move there.This photo provides further tangible evidence that migration was being encouraged into the area around Rye Lane to provide labour in other parts of London, from the end of the nineteenth century onwards. *

  • Rye Lane circa 1925, ... a fairyland of wonderful shops ...Note the sanitised streets, appearance of automobile and cinema (of which there were five in Rye lane) and well dressed clientele.

    SLIDE 5 Using photographs and literary sources to identify ChangeArcades are houses or passages having no outside - like the dream. Walter Benjamin, The Arcades project [L1a,1].Rye Lane in its heyday during the 20s,30s and 40s was the Golden Mile of South London, with large, new, fashionable department stores such as Holdrons, and Jones and Higgins , and five cinemas including the Tower shown here which made it a fairyland for some locals. The built environment of Rye Lane was created as a shopping magnet for South Londoners with its fine department stores, cinemas, and the elegant Peckham Rye Park at its the southern end. Eyewitness accounts in The Story of Peckham, 1976 refer to ...South Londons Oxford Street...a fairyland of wonderful shops and two cinemas... (Bill Payne, 1991,pg. 57)...its shops gave ...the superior service that we associate only with Knightsbridge today...(Norma Francis, pg. 61).


  • Jones and Higgins Department Store, Rye Lane circa 1963the superior service that we associate only with Knightsbridge today...

    SLIDE 6 Using photographs and literary sources to identify ChangeThe Story of Peckham, 1976 and the The Story of Peckham and Nunhead, 1999 by local historian John Beasley states Jones and Higgins was established at 3 Rye Lane in 1867, and rapidly expanded to become the leading department store in South London before its closure in the 1960s. There are relations between department store and museum, and here the bazaar provides a link. The amassing of artworks in the museum brings them into communication with commodities, which where they offer themselves en masse to the passerby-awake in him the notion that some part of this should fall to him as well. [Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, L5,5]. *

  • Employees of Peckham bus garage on a staff social event circa 1957-1960, including black employees possibly recruited by London transport directly from the West Indies.

    SLIDE 7Using photographs and literary sources to identify ChangeStephen Bourne s book Speak of me as I am published in 2005 by Southwark Local History Library gives an historic account of the presence of black people in Southwark. We find In Dahomey, the first American all black show was performed at the Crown Theatre, Peckham High Street in 1904 during its tour of Britain, but in 1912 a member of Camberwells Board of Guardians rejected a settler from Jamaica, Dr. Harold Moodys application to become a medical officer, by stating publicly poor people would not have a nigger to attend to them. The League of Colored Peoples regularly met at 164 Queens Road, the Peckham home of Dr Moody, its first President from 1931 onward. This organisation became the most influential British civil rights group campaigning for improvements in the lives of Africans and Afro-caribbean settlers in the UK over the next two decades. Caribbean immigration to Britain increased substantially after the arrival of Empire Windrush in 1948, spurred by mass recruitment by London Transport and the NHS amongst others, and the virtual ban on West Indian immigration to the USA in 1952. However, Oswald Mosleys fascists were active in Peckham during the 1950s and often new settlers suffered discrimination and humiliation from employers including the Metropolitan Police which did not recruit their first black officer until 1967. During the 1970s and early 80s the National Front further agitated racial tensions locally by marching through Peckham. It is felt this eventually helped to incite gangs of youth to set local shops alight and carry out other acts of vandalism during the Peckham Riots in 1985. In a subsequent report on the South London riots, Lord Scarman acknowledged that socio-economic deprivation and racial discrimination had contributed significantly to the widespread unrest. Labour Councillor Sam King was elected as the first Afro -caribbean Mayor of Southwark in 1983 and a second Jamaican, Councillor Aubyn Graham served as Mayor of Southwark between 1995 and 1996.


  • SLIDE 8

    Using census data to identify change

    This chart shows the area around Rye Lane had the highest proportion of settlers in this sample in 1951, which had doubled to almost 10% but is outstripped by at least five other London wards by the 1971 census; however this change was much greater in London as a whole and in some other London wards such as Spitalfields and Holloway shown here. In Southwark the intercensal period between 1961 and 1971 saw significant demographic change with a fall in the boroughs total population by 20%, whilst the number of settlers from outside the UK doubled. The National Dwelling and Housing Survey, 1978 listed Southwark as the fourteenth borough in ascending order of proportion of white origin, whilst it had the sixth highest percentage of West Indian settlers in London. O