Norwood Road, West Norwood
|OS grid reference||TQ325715|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
West Norwood is a largely residential area of south London within the London Borough of Lambeth, located 5.4 miles (8.7 km) south south-east of Charing Cross. The centre of West Norwood sits in a bowl surrounded by hillsides on its east, west and south sides. From many parts of the area, distant views can be seen, of places such as the City of London, Canary Wharf and Crystal Palace.
West Norwood includes some or all of three Wards of the London Borough of Lambeth – Gipsy Hill, Knights Hill and Thurlow Park. Each of these wards is represented on Lambeth Council by three councillors.
The area is well served by public transport with these National Rail stations at each end of the main shopping area in Norwood Road, providing the services shown to central London and beyond:
Trains also run from both these stations to a variety of destinations further south of the centre of London.
Other nearby railway stations are:
The tube stations closest to West Norwood are at Brixton and Balham, both of which can be reached by bus and, in the case of Balham, also by train.
Eight daytime bus routes and two night-time routes serve the area. West Norwood bus garage is located at Ernest Avenue.
The South Circular (A205) passes close by at Tulse Hill and Streatham High Road (A23) is about one mile to the west of the centre of West Norwood.
The primary and secondary schools listed below are in West Norwood.
There are a large number of other publicly funded and also private schools within a short distance of West Norwood.
"Norwood" recalls the "Great North Wood", a name that was formerly used for the hilly and wooded area to the north of Croydon. Before 1885 West Norwood station and the surrounding area was known as "Lower Norwood", reflecting its being at a lower altitude than Upper Norwood.
John Rocque's 1745 map of London and the surrounding area includes the Horns Tavern at Knight's Hill, opposite what is now the main entrance to West Norwood station, with a largely undeveloped valley stretching to 'Island Green' in the north, approximately where Herne Hill railway station stands now. The enclosure map of 50 years later shows that little of the original woodland remained by then, other than a few coppices.
The future development of West Norwood was assisted by the Lambeth Manor Enclosure Act of 1806. Much of the land covered by this Act was owned either by the Archbishop of Canterbury or by Lord Thurlow, who died in the same year.
Most of the current main roads were either ancient or laid out in accordance with the provisions of the enclosure award. The River Effra ran alongside the current Elder Road, in a northerly direction, and was prone to flooding.
The area was over a mile from the nearest parish church (at St Leonard, Streatham), so St. Luke's was provided under the Waterloo church scheme and completed in 1825. The houses in the parish at that period consisted largely of substantial villas along the main roads and more humble cottages mainly situated between Knights Hill and the High Street. The South Metropolitan Cemetery was laid out in 1837 to provide burial facilities largely for the population of crowded areas that were closer to the centre of London.
The railway line from London to the Crystal Palace was opened in 1856 with a station at Lower Norwood (since renamed West Norwood). These improved communications heralded major changes. Many of the larger houses and gardens were demolished and replaced with predominantly more modest housing over the next four decades.
Norwood High Street contained the earliest group of shops in the area but never developed into a major shopping centre, as the main shopping parades were built during the decades around 1900 along Norwood Road between York Hill and West Norwood station. Horse-drawn trams shuttled passengers along this road from the terminus in front of St Luke's Church towards the middle of London.
Extensive anecdotal and other historical material from the 19th and early 20th centuries has been written up by Mr J B Wilson, a local undertaker.
The two world wars witnessed fatalities and bomb damage to many buildings in the area, with York Hill and the areas around the railway suffering particularly badly. Chatsworth Baptist church had to be rebuilt after a direct hit. Many of the post-war estates were built on bomb sites or replaced areas which had experienced damage.
An Art Deco cinema, named The Regal, was built at 304 Norwood Road in the late 1920s. It was designed by architect F Edward Jones (who also designed Madame Tussaud's) and opened on 16 January 1930. The cinema sat 2,010 and was equipped with a Christie Manual organ. The cinema closed on 8 February 1964 with a double screening of Peter Sellers' I'm Alright Jack and Two Way Stretch. Following its closure, the building became a Top Rank Bingo Club a few months later and remained open until 1978. The building was demolished in November 1981 and a B&Q store can be seen today on the site.
After the Second World War, a considerable amount of council housing was constructed in West Norwood. The York Hill, Fern Lodge, Portobello and Holderness Estates arose during the late 1940s and the 1950s on the sites of houses with large gardens that had been destroyed by bombing or were simply demolished. Later houses and flats, such as in the Dunbar Street area, took the place of Victorian dwellings that were cleared away as slums or, alternatively, to achieve a higher density of development. The Woodvale Estate in Elder Road was erected on the site of the "Lambeth New Schools", which had been part of the local Workhouse and that had been renamed as "Wood Vale" before demolition.
Parts of West Norwood have been declared conservation areas including the area around the cemetery, Lancaster Avenue and Rosendale Road. Local landmarks such as St Luke's Church, the late Victorian fire station (now the South London Theatre) on Norwood High Street, by the architect Robert Pearsall., The early 20th-century former fire station at Norwood Road and the original public library at Knights Hill are Grade II listed buildings.
Confusingly, there are two areas called Knight's Hill nearby; the names of both areas have similar origins, both belonging to Thomas Knyght in 1545, and in the south was known as Knight's Hill Common while the hill to the north was known as Knight's Hill Farm.
The southern Knight's Hill Common originally formed part of Lambeth Manor and contained land called Julian's, which is remembered through the street name of St Julian's Farm Road. The hill formed the nucleus of the vast estate in Lambeth and Streatham that Lord Thurlow acquired during the 18th Century,
The main building of the Norwood Home for Jewish Children ("The Jewish Orphanage") was completed in 1862. It was a three-storey edifice, with the appearance of a Jacobean palace This structure was demolished in 1963, after the children had moved in groups to live in nine houses supervised by house parents in a less institutional environment, meeting for communal activities at a new synagogue built on the original site. In the 1970s, the charity moved out of the area and the main site was sold to Lambeth Council, which developed much of it for a housing estate, keeping only a small area beside the railway line as open space and converting the synagogue into a community facility known as the Norwood Hall. Some of this open space is now occupied by the West Norwood Health and Leisure Centre but the site of Norwood Hall has been landscaped. An account of a boy's experiences of living at the Orphanage between 1928 and 1933 can be found online.
Of the original buildings only the porter's lodge off Knights Hill now remains, its curving Dutch-gables, red brick with black diaperwork and mullioned windows echoing the design of the main 3-storey institution. The Arnold & Jane Gabriel Home was built on the Wolfington Road frontage of the orphanage in 1910; it was converted into Julians primary school in 2012, which now features a colourful modern extension to the original building.
The charity that operated the orphanage in West Norwood retains an echo of its previous location in its current name Norwood.
During recent years, the number and variety of churches has increased, reflecting the diverse origins of many new residents. The following congregations meet in buildings that are readily identified as places of worship:
A former Congregational church stands on the south side of Chapel Road, SE27 0UR. It is a Grade II Listed Building and the only local purpose-built church in West Norwood that survives but no longer used for worship. The premises currently house a child care facility.
The main open space in West Norwood is Norwood Park.
West Norwood Cemetery has an area of 45 acres (18.2 hectares) and is close to the railway station. The Friends of West Norwood Cemetery aim to increase knowledge and appreciation of this facility.
Peabody Hill Wood is an area of outstanding importance recognised by English Nature.