Lambeth Heritage Festival continues and on Saturday 19 September at 19:00 we can Zoom in for a new talk about Denmark Hill.
Many from London’s well-to-do merchant class began to leave town at the end of the 18th century and make their home in what were then the rural outskirts.
Denmark Hill was an especially favoured location. In this talk and virtual walk, Ian McInnes (Chair of the Dulwich Society) and Laurence Marsh (Fawnbrake neighbour and Vice-chair of the Herne Hill Society) look at the houses, now long gone, that were built on the Lambeth (i.e. north) side of the road – and the varied stories of some of their residents over 150 years.
This Herne Hill Society online-only event is hosted by Lambeth Archives.
The local police, based at Brixton Police Station, are helpfully asking HH residents to complete a simple questionnaire.
This is their request and a link to the short questionnaire:
“I have created a quick online survey/questionnaire to gather feedback from the local community on issues in the Herne Hill area.
“This is separate to the official ward panel but I think would be useful to discuss at the meetings as the plan is to send it out to a wider catchment of people so we can get a better overview of how Herne Hill residents are feeling.
“Therefore, please feel free to pass on the link below to any other residents of Herne Hill – it should take no longer than 5-10 minutes to complete.
If you walk to or from the centre of Herne Hill via Herne Hill itself, rather than by Milkwood Road, you may have felt the aggression of the Leylandii hedge pictured here. It’s on the right-hand side (going downhill) outside the flats at number 90 Herne Hill.
It extrudes over the 2 metre wide pavement, 70 cm at the bottom of the bushes, but is well over a metre wide at an adult’s shoulder height – over half the pavement’s width. Preserving social distancing, families and couples walking up or down the hill might expect anyone walking the other way to step off the pavement to give them space to pass – but if they do, the uphill pedestrian(s) cannot see the traffic behind them and may rely on hearing and inaccurately judge the situation.
So this could be a tragic accident waiting to happen, all because someone – presumably the owner of the block of flats at number 90 – has failed to maintain the hedge properly.
Further, the nearby pedestrian crossing outside the Church also serves Herne Hill School with 280 pupils aged from 2-7, so there can be well over 300 people gathering at different times of the morning and afternoon, often with smaller siblings in buggies.
The Herne Hill Society have been informally asked to see whether Lambeth Council can deal with this issue, perhaps by themselves cutting the hedge back to the wall, if they have the legal powers to do so.
One of our councillors, Jim Dickson, has been made aware of the problem and has promised to look into it. Meanwhile, please take care when navigating this bullying obstacle.
Whether it’s worth expecting the council to do anything to diminish the pollution thrown out by the traffic converging from all directions, at a snail’s pace, on our junction under the bridge – well, that may be too much to ask. ‘Unintended consequences’ …
This morning’s Sunday Times, tucked away in the ‘Culture’ section, delivered a headline that would compel anyone in SE24 to read further. It proclaimed “Rumer interview: from Herne Hill to Nashville via a commune”.
This witty and affectionately crafted article is built around an interview with Sarah “Rumer” Joyce. A singer whom I must confess I hadn’t heard of before, although she is apparently a known and respected singer in the US (specifically Kentucky) country music scene, and must have some following over here too. Born in Pakistan, once working at the bar in The Half Moon before she was “discovered”, she now lives in Macon, Arkansas with her husband and young son.
The interview was clearly to promote her latest album Nashville Tears: The Songs of Hugh Prestwood – he being, in the words of the interviewer, a mostly unknown songwriter: “big deal in Nashville, but not known elsewhere”, she admits. (“Rumer” is an adapted stage name – she is really just Sarah Joyce.) Details online.
Let’s choose one paragraph from the interview to set the tone:
“Born in 1979 in Pakistan to British parents after her engineer father was stationed in the country, Joyce grew up wondering why her seven siblings looked so little like her. Then, when she was 11, her mother revealed the reason: her real father was the family cook.”
Good start, pure gold for any interviewer. Anyway, to slide quickly to the point for us south Londoners who are not necessarily avid followers of country music (although the interviewer/critic in the Sunday Times really likes this new album), here’s the bit about Herne Hill because obviously the family came back to the UK:
“Joyce was discovered [comment: this would be around 1988/89 it seems] by La Honda’s founder, Malcolm Doherty, at the Half Moon pub in Herne Hill, where she was working as a barmaid. (In 2016 she published a historic list of poetically named local characters barred from the Half Moon, including Staring Pervert, Flat Cap Coke Fiend and, best of all, Tall Chavvy Fighting Idiot of Old. She claims that making the list public remains her greatest achievement.)”
Note to other neophytes in the ever-trending current music scene: Malcolm Doherty, the so-called discoverer of Ms Joyce at The Half Moon in the late 1980s, founded the British acoustic pop band La Honda. They recorded their debut album in 2001 which due to the break up of the band, shortly after these sessions, never got released until 2013. But their lead vocalist was our new heroin Sarah Joyce who went on to find major success as ‘Rumer’. Since the failure of his own band, Doherty has cunningly reinvented himself and is now better known, among those who follow such things, as the musical director for Daphne Guinness, the socialite and fashion guru turned wacky singer who has indeed just released a new album ‘Revelations’.
The short article about Sarah Joyce signs off on an engaging note: in the cover photograph of the new album Joyce stands at a kitchen sink, eyes closed, looking as if she’s dreaming about being somewhere else entirely.
“I wanted to stand at the kitchen sink,” she says, “because that is my reality”.
“After all she’s been through, it doesn’t seem like such a bad reality.”
There are plans for a concert here in London next March in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, as well as an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival and elsewhere in the UK. Let’s hope these events can go ahead.
If you have lived in Herne Hill for a few years, you’ll be wearily familiar with the sequence of changes that have befallen the row of shops at the start of Railton Road, on what is now called Station Square but which was originally not a pedestrianised area but just a normal road – indeed, a bus route. A much-needed redevelopment turned into a slow-moving eyesore. Even now, many of the handsomely refurbished shop units haven’t been let.
Going back in time …
It was back in 2015 that Network Rail, the then owner of these properties, started to consider an investment scheme in Railton Road. Planning consent was obtained, but then the start of the construction works for the comprehensive upgrade of the units and accompanying arch accommodation was delayed for almost a year while vacant possession of the final unit was secured.
Works finally started in January 2017 but revealed a succession of structural weaknesses that called for major remedies before work could proceed further.
Oops, we forgot about that
During the project, it was realised that the electricity power supply delivered to these units and the flats above them would not be adequate for modern use and that a new electricity substation would need to be installed nearby. The long and painful search for a suitable location triggered yet more delay: some neighbours will remember the uproar when it was proposed to demolish The Flower Lady’s shop (a former coal store) to be the new site.
Cutting a long and highly technical story short, The Arch Company, new owners of the thousands of arches and other trackside real estate formerly owned by Network Rail, investigated numerous alternatives but have finally opted to install the substation inside one of the new retail units!
The planning application allowing them to pursue this rather silly solution was contested by the Herne Hill Society, by our ward councillor Becca Thackray, local traders and other bodies. But in the end Lambeth planners have recently granted permission, though no doubt with some reluctance. Enthusiasts for the minutiae of planning applications can find the proposal and the objections still up on Lambeth’s planning website under the reference 19/03371/FUL.
Southeastern say no
Several objectors, including the Herne Hill Society, argued that a much better site was available on the station premises, in the scruffy patch which currently accommodates waste bins and parking for staff cars. Herne Hill station is owned and operated by Southeastern, the train operating company owned by Govia. But as the planning application states, ‘The proposals would have compromised the Train Operating Company’s use of the station and they were unwilling to consider releasing this site from the station lease.’ A great pity; many think that some flexibility here would have led to a good solution, rather than one which disfigures one of the nicely-refurbished new shop units. But Southeastern would not relent.
So there we are. The shop in question, to the immediate left of Lark’s new premises, will now house a massive piece of equipment, and the frontage will, of necessity, be an industrial-looking louvred shutter – see the architect’s elevation drawing extracted from the planning application.
Meanwhile there seems to be no news of tenants for the other vacant shops, and the Covid-19 pandemic, with its painful impact on retail commerce, won’t have helped at all.
“Last Monday, 29th June, soon after 9.am, I was tricked at Herne Hill and my debit card was stolen. Is there any way of making this scam known more widely in this area and warning other people?
It was done very cleverly.
I park in Carver Road in order to be able to take home heavy shopping from Tesco and Sainsbury at Herne Hill.
A young black man, dressed in black and wearing a blue disposable mask, came up to me and said that I need to pay to park there. I said that was not necessary because I have Southwark residence parking permit for this area. He said that there is a new rule for the Covid 19 time and that there is a small fee for parking there in connection with Sainsbury in order to stop people from taking up the space for too long. I said that there were no signs in the street about this and he said that they were being put up soon, and that if I did not get a ticket for the shopping time I could be fined £170. I would be able to see this in on the internet.
I asked him why he was telling me about the parking. He said that he was the undercover Sainsbury parking person. And he explained that I could get the temporary ticket from Sainsbury’s ATM. I thought, well I will go and look at the ATM. Of course I should have checked with Sainsbury’s staff but he kept wandering in and out of Sainsbury’s as if he was a staff member. He stood some distance away and told me how to get the ticket. I put in the card and tapped in the number. The sun was glaring onto the screen so I moved my hand to shade it in order to see the instructions and at this point the card must have been taken. I looked round and there was another man just behind me, also in black clothing and wearing a blue disposable mask. The card was no longer in the slot. I was confused because this man looked like the other man. But then I saw the other man standing near the Sainsbury’s entrance and he said “Try pressing cancel” and “Oh the machine has swallowed it”, you will have to go to report this, there have been problems with this ATM. Go to your bank branch, or go into Sainsbury’s to see if they can get it out”. I went into Sainsbury’s to tell them that the card may be stuck in the machine, but that I think that it has probably been stolen and they said that this has happened there already.
Within 15/20 minutes I had contacted the bank to cancel the card and they told me that £500 had been taken at Tesco ATM shortly after the card theft.”
In response to the development proposals for Dorchester Courtsubmitted on behalf of the owners, Heinrich Feldman and family, through their company Manaquel, Lambeth’s planning committee now has to cope with two magisterial objections – on behalf of the residents themselves, and now by the Herne Hill Society on behalf of the whole community.
The Society’s deeply considered and detailed response to the planning application fundamentally dismantles the Manaquel proposal. It can be read on the Society’s website. Here are a few key excerpts:
There needs to be a legally binding agreement between Lambeth Council and Manaquel which sets out in detail the repairs Manaquel agree to carry out for the total restoration of Dorchester Court. Without it, there is no obligation on Manaquel to start, let alone complete the work. Given the historic failures of Manaquel over decades to address the repair of the building the need for this is all the greater. Neither is there any other form of legally binding undertaking that obliges Manaquel to complete the repairs before marketing the new residences.
There is no detailed schedule of repairs. … Given Manaquel’s historic record in terms of maintenance of Dorchester Court, our fear is that work will start, the foundations will be found to be inadequate, the buildings will be structurally compromised and an application will then be made to demolish the buildings as there will not be enough profit from the development to repair them.
No details are given as to how in future Dorchester Court will be managed in a way to avoid the problems of maintenance that have plagued it for several decades and seen it placed on the Heritage at Risk Register.
The applications conflict with several Policies spelt out in the Lambeth Plan. Permitting these applications will not secure the long term future of Dorchester Court and will not secure benefits that outweigh the negative effect of breaching established planning policies. … Failure to classify this application as an enabling development and disregard of the Historic England policy and guidance could expose the local authority to legal challenge in its decision-making process.
Lambeth officers are now presumably trying to digest all this before briefing the members of the planning committee. As far as we know, no date has been set yet for the planning committee to meet.
Fawnbrake residents will be familiar with Dorchester Court, the imposing 1930s apartment blocks sitting between Herne Hill itself and Dorchester Drive.
It is now threatened with wholly unsuitable development, as set out in a planning application submitted by the notorious and neglectful landlords. (Helen Hayes MP apparently described them as “one of the worst landlords I have ever come across”.) The landlords’ deliberate and cynical neglect over the years has made some parts of the estate almost uninhabitable, and indeed dangerous.
Yet Dorchester Court is a Grade 2 listed building, and is one of only two 20th Century listed buildings in Lambeth
it was designed by renowned architects Kemp and Tasker. Built in the 1930s in the British Moderne style, it is the only example of a residential block by the designers, who are known for their Art Deco cinemas.
The landlords are in fact the ultra-rich Heinrich Feldman and family, sheltering behind Manaquel Ltd, one of their many holding companies. Manaquel Ltd acts as the landlord for Dorchester Court
The long-suffering Residents Association are fighting back and have created an information-rich website which is well worth looking at.