History of the Parish of Camberwell

History of the Parish of Camberwell

Welcome to FamLoc’s main page for all things to do with William Harnett Blanch’s History of the Parish of Camberwell, originally published in 1875 under the title “Ye Parish of Camerwell,” (note the ancient spelling). This book, which covers Camberwell, Peckham and Dulwich in the western edge of South-east London, has been re-published by FamLoc in two volumes.
It is a mammoth and well-researched book, covering the history of the Parish of Camberwell from ancient times up until the 1870s. It includes great details of the institutions of churches, charities and schools, and also has chapters on geology, place-names, influential families, public houses, buildings, population, and much more. It includes 94 illustrations. This book is an invaluable resource for local and family historians.

We hope readers will make full use of this page to add their own information and ask others for more info on topics contained in History of the Parish of Camberwell.

Because of its large size, we have split the original book into two volumes

.History of the Parish of Camberwell, Vol. I, by William Harnett Blanch

BUY History of the Parish of Camberwell Vol I

Chapters and Contents of History of the Parish of Camberwell, Vol. I:

Chapter 1: General Survey
Chapter 2: Geology of Camberwell
Chapter 3: Old Families
Chapter 4: Volunteers – Past and Present
Chapter 5: Population
Chapter 6: Travelling – Past and Present
Chapter 7: Political History
Chapter 8: Local Names and Places
Chapter 9: Camberwell under the Commonwealth
Chapter 10: Parochial History
Chapter 11: Churches and Chapels
Chapter 12: Schools
Chapter 13: Charitable Institutions
Chapter 14: Local Worthies, Past and Present
Chapter 15: Local Societies and Institutions

History of the Parish of Camberwell, Vol. II, by William Harnett Blanch

BUY History of the Parish of Camberwell Vol II

Chapters and Contents of History of the Parish of Camberwell, Vol. II:

Chapter 16: Buildings of the Past
Chapter 17: Special and General Incidents
Chapter 18: Manorial History
Chapter 19: Subsidies
Chapter 20: Local Places and their Associations
Chapter 21: Literary Associations
Chapter 22: Hostelries Past and Present
Chapter 23: Local Longevity
Chapter 24: The Hamlet of Dulwich
Chapter 25: Memoir of Edward Alleyn
Chapter 26: Dulwich College
Chapter 27: Appendix to Dulwich College

Find below extracts from History of the Parish of Camberwell Vol I:

The name of Camberwell

In History of the Parish of Camberwell, Blanch explains:

In the Domesday Book this parish is called “CA’BREWELLE.” Subsequently the B was dropped, and from the eleventh to the sixteenth century the name of the parish is generally quoted in official documents as Camwell, Cammerwell, or Camerwell. In the seventeenth century the B found its way back again, but it was not until the middle of the eighteenth century that Camberwell as it is now written was officially and locally recognized.
It is generally supposed that this parish owes its name to a famous well, and Dr. Lettsom, whose villa on Grove Hill is elsewhere noticed, laid claim to the honour of possessing the identical well on his charming estate. Salmon, the Surrey historian, says, “it seems to be named from some mineral water which was anciently in it,” and Bray adopts the same idea.
“It has been conjectured,” says the writer of a “short historical and topographical account of St. Giles’s Church.” published in 1827, “that as the name of St. Giles conveys an idea of cripples, the well which gave part of the name to the village might have been famous for some medicinal virtues, and might have occasioned the dedication of the church to this patron saint of cripples and mendicants.”
This interpretation is not by any means an improbable one, and it assists us somewhat in the solution of the first part of the name. Given the well, it does not call for a violent exercise of our imaginative faculties to suppose it to be cambered over for protection. Again, cam is a very crooked word, and is applied to anything out of square, or out of condition. Having regard, therefore, to the fact already noticed, that the church is dedicated to the patron saint of cripples, we are certainly justified in assuming the word “cam” to be in this instance descriptive of individual condition; and the well would then become the well of the “crooked” or crippled. Numerous other wells might be mentioned which are found connected with some religious foundation, such as St. Clement’s Well, Chadwell, Bridewell, and Holywell. The name of Clerkenwell carries us back to the ecclesiastical origin of the drama; and Skinner’s Well, adjoining, was the scene of similar Scriptural representations performed by the Skinners of London.
Other solutions of the etymology of Camberwell have been advanced. Here is one “and something more.” “All honour,” says a witty writer, “to St. Giles, whose miraculous springs gave a name to the spot; unless, indeed, our friends in the parish will accept a theory of our own – that, as Camber was the name of a son of the Trojan Brute who is said to have conquered this tight little island about 4,000 years ago, perhaps that prince discovered the wells as Prince Bladud did the waters of Bath, and so unwittingly handed his name down to posterity and the panels of omnibuses.”
The writer is obliging enough to add that he “attaches no importance whatever” to his theory; but then he only stated half his case. It might have been finished thus: “Camber, the son of Brute, fixed upon a delightful spot south of the Thames, which he made his ville, and from Camber-ville the name of the place became subsequently corrupted into Camber-well.” And our friend might have referred to Prittlewell and Hawkswell, in Essex, and Singlewell, in Kent, and other places in England, as probably containing at one time the suffix ville, likewise corrupted into well. But in all seriousness one must come back to the popular interpretation as the most feasible solution of an etymological difficulty.
Peckham is another etymological enigma, as it certainly is not that which its name at first implies – the village on the hill. In the Domesday Book the place is called “Pecheha,” which in all probability was an incorrect description. One theory is, that the village of Peckham took its name from its proximity to the hills now known as Forest Hill and Oak of Honour Hill, for Peckham Rye is mentioned in documents as early as the fourteenth century, and the little ham or village under the shadow of the hills above mentioned was evidently a place of some little importance at the time of William the Conqueror.

The Workhouse

There is plenty of information on the ubiquitous Workhouse in History of the Parish of Camberwell:

On the 26th December, 1726, it was “unanimously agreed” by the vestry “that a workhouse shall be built for Lodging and Imploying the poor in work,” and on the 4th January, 1727, a committee, consisting of the vicar (Dr. Tipping), Mr. James Alleyn, “Master of the Colledge,” and fourteen others, were appointed members of a committee to carry out the work, seven members to be a “Corrum.” The committee was instructed
“to inquire into the present state of the poor, how much the parish allows towards the maintenance of each, and payment of their several rents, and also to endeavour to find out a convenient place in the parish where the said workhouse may be built; and to treat with workmen about it, and to receive their proposalls in writting in order thereunto.”
Notwithstanding the appointment of the committee, grave doubts were evidently entertained by many parishioners concerning the radical change proposed:
To give a “local habitation” to the scattered forces of pauperism; to encourage the casual mendicant to qualify into the permanent pauper, and to form a centre of attraction to the passing poor – the “casual” of modern days – all this was carefully considered by the parishioner of 1726. And then it was very properly urged that a paid official staff to take charge of the poor would be an inevitable charge upon the rates if the proposed change were adopted. Numerous meetings were held on the subject, and much attention was given to it by the leading gentry. At length at a vestry held on the 1st of February, 1727,
“the churchwardens with some other parishioners, finding the number of their poor dayly increasing, consulted together how they might not only lessen the parish charge in maintaining them, but also promote their industry, and provide for them in a better manner than had been done before; and observing how successfully these proposales had been effected in other parishes by erecting houses for the reception of ye poor, and setting them to work, were willing to make use of ye same method. In order to which they gave publick notice in the church that there would be a vestry on ye 26th day of December last past to consider this matter. At which time, there being a great appearance of inhabitants, the thing was proposed, and after some debate approv’d of as beneficial both to the parish and poor;”
whereupon all those present unanimously agreed
That a house should be erected for lodging the poor and employing them in work for the better management of which affair, they did in another vestry, held the fourth day of January next following, choose a certaine number of persons to take care about building ye said intended workhouse; but some of them not being present at either vestry, desired that a committee might be appointed further to consider whether such a workhouse would be for the bennefitt of ye parish, which was agreed to in a third vestry held the 18th day of ye same month, when a committee was appointed. The committee met on the 26th of January, and having inquir’d into the state and condition of the poor. They, after mature deliberation, were of opinion that building such a workhouse would be for the benefit of the parish, and declared ye same in writing under their hands, which being now read – Resolved – That this vestry do confirm and adhere to the agreement in vestry on 26th day of December to erect one, and that the said committee be desir’d to treat with some proper person to build the same of such dimensions, and with such convenient rooms as they think sufficient to contain ye poor who shall be received into it; as also to report to the next vestry in what manner and upon what terms ye person whom they treat with will undertake to perform ye whole work, his proposal concerning which to be given in writing under his own hand.
And on the 7th March, 1727, it was “unanimously agreed that Mr. William Norman shall build the workhouse according to his draught and article given in, without the additional part, at the price of £365;” and the churchwardens and overseers were authorized to borrow the sum of £400 “to pay Mr. Norman and other workmen.” In the following year, before the “furnishing and compleating” had been got through, the expenses had reached £500, and bonds to that amount were duly signed. On the 31st June, 1731, William Row was appointed master of the new workhouse, at a salary of £10 a year ; but he was required to “give his attendance as beadle of the parish,” in consideration of which the vestry agreed at a subsequent meeting to give the beadle the sum of £3 5s. per year to buy him a “suit of cloathes.” It is rather remarkable that no mention is made of the workhouse site until December 1731, when it unanimously resolved
“That ye large Pew in the North Isle of ye Church where ye children of the Dancing school formerly use to sett, be for the future appropriated to ye use of ye new house on the Green, the property of Sir Wm Bowyer, Bart, in Consideration of his Benefaction to the Parish in giveing a piece of ground whereon ye workhouse is now built; and that the Parish hereby acknowledge their obligation, and desire their thanks may be returned for the same;”
and at a subsequent vestry, the sum of five guineas ordered to be paid to Mr. William Hester for “drawing the leases in that affaire.”
The management of the workhouse was vested in a committee, elected annually, and no change would appear to have taken place in the mode of management until the year 1756, when, after considerable discussion, Mr. Richard Aslee, of St. Dunstan’s-in-the-West, was appointed master of the workhouse, and according to an agreement drawn up the churchwardens and overseers agreed to pay Mr. Aslee the sum of 3s. per head per week for all inmates of the house if the number exceeded 30, and 3s. 3d. per head if the number did not amount to 30. In consideration of receiving the above amount, the said Richard Aslee agreed to provide for the poor of the parish
“meet, drink, fireing, Washing, physick, midwife, cloathing, beds, beding, sheets, and allowances in as good, clean, and ample a manner in every respect as they usually enjoyed; and to give the poor their meals at proper times, and in decent manner, and the said Richard Aslee engaged to employ an apothecary.”
It was further agreed
“that such poor as were capable of working should be employed in winding of silk, knitting of purses, gloves, caps, cauls, and all manner of plain work, and the profits to be derived from their labour were for the sole benefit of the said Richard Aslee.”
This method of providing for the poor has seldom proved satisfactory; and in this particular instance, for six months after his appointment, Mr. Aslee reported to the Vestry that “in consequence of the dearness of provisions, &c. &c., he could not maintaine the Poor of the workhouse upon the Terms agreed upon between him and the Vestry;” and the agreement was determined three weeks after his report, and Mr. Gershon Osborn, the beadle, was allowed ten guineas a year
“to visit the Poor in the Workhouse every day, and the said Vestry to give him full power and authority to act as master of the said workhouse, and that he take care to employ the poor in some kind of manufacture.”
In 1771 the workhouse was reported to be too small for the increasing number of paupers, and the Vestry accepted the plans of Mr. Purkis, for building an additional wing and “an extraordinary poor rate of one shilling in the pound was levied upon the inhabitants” in order, amongst other things, to pay off a debt of £100 incurred in building the above wing.

History of the Parish of Camberwell: Old Workhouse

Old Workhouse

Maps of Camberwell

Blanch includes the following maps in Ye Parish of Camberwell:

History of the Parish of Camberwell: Map of Camberwell, 1744

Map of Camberwell, 1744

History of the Parish of Camberwell: Map of Camberwell, 1834

Map of Camberwell, 1834

Peckham history in History of the Parish of Camberwell

Peckham origins and early history

“Ep’s Lisoicensis ten.’ de epo’ PECHEHA’ Alfled tenuit de Heraldo T. R. E. & iacuit in Patricey. T’c & mo’ se def’d p ii hid. T’ra e’ i car’ Ibi e’ un’ uill’i, & iii bord’ & ii ac’ p’ ti. T. R. E. & mo’ ual xxx sol. Cu recep.’ xx sol’.”

“The Bishop of Lisieux holds of (Odo) the Bishop (Bishop of Baieux) Pecheham which Alfleda held of Harold, in the time of King Edward, when it was included in Patricesy. It was assessed then as at present at 2 hides. The arable land is one carucate. There are 1 villan and 3 bordars, and 2 acres of meadow. It is valued at thirty shillings, as it was in the time of King Edward; but when received at twenty shillings.”

It appears from the above that Peckham formed a part of Battersea Manor in the reign of Edward the Confessor, and this statement corresponds with the account of that manor among the lands of the Abbot of Westminster, in the Domesday Book, where it is mentioned that the Bishop of Lisieux held two hides, of which the church at Westminster was seized in the reign of King William, but was afterwards disseized by the Bishop of Baieux. William II made over to Archbishop Anselm the profits and revenues of his manor of Petteham, then valued at thirty pounds per annum, for seven years, by way of security for a loan of two hundred marks of silver, which he had borrowed of the church of Canterbury. The mortgage appears to have been paid off, as his successor, Henry I, gave both Camberwell and Peckham to his natural son, Robert Earl of Gloucester.

The origins of the name of Peckham in History of the Parish of Camberwell :

Peckham is another etymological enigma, as it certainly is not that which its name at first implies – the village on the hill. In the Domesday Book the place is called “Pecheha,” which in all probability was an incorrect description. One theory is, that the village of Peckham took its name from its proximity to the hills now known as Forest Hill and Oak of Honour Hill, for Peckham Rye is mentioned in documents as early as the fourteenth century, and the little ham or village under the shadow of the hills above mentioned was evidently a place of some little importance at the time of William the Conqueror.
The word Rye, assuming the above theory to be correct, would then be traced to the Welsh word rhyn, a projecting piece of land; and Peckham would be the village under the rhyn or Rye.
But in all probability the Rye took its name from a watercourse or river; for before the Roman invasion, and the embankment of the Thames, the country surrounding the Rye was no doubt partly submerged, and streams more or less rapid abounded. The root Rhe or Rhin is connected with the Gaelic rae, rapid; with the Welsh rhe, swift; rhedu, to run; rhin, that which runs; and the English words “run” and “rain.” From this root, too, we have the RYE in Kildare, Yorkshire, and Ayrshire; the REA in Salop, Warwick, Herts., and Worcestershire; the REY in Wilts.; and the RAY in Oxfordshire and Lancashire.
Holinshed derives the name of Reading in Berkshire from “rhe or ree,” the Saxon word for a watercourse or river, which, says he, “may be seen in Overee or Suthree; for over the ree, or south of the rhee, as to the skilful doth readilee appeare.” The term rhe, he further affirms, “not only to the course of everie water itself; but also this overflowing was, in time past, called rhe by such Saxons as inhabited in this island; and even to this daie in Essex I have often observed that when the lower grounds by rage of water have been overflowen, the people beholding the same have said, `all is on a rhe,’ as if they should have said, ‘all is now a river.’”

Place names in Peckham

The following are just some of the place-names of Peckham mentioned in History of the Parish of Camberwell:

The Melon Ground (Peckham) takes us back many years when this portion of Peckham produced melons fit for the king’s table; the Orchard (Peckham) at one time was a delightful spot to ramble in when attached to the great mansion close by; and Bell’s Gardens’ Road also was perhaps a more sequestered retreat when it formed a portion of Mr. Bell’s gardens.
Queen’s Road was formerly known as Deptford Lane, and was altered in honour of her present Majesty, who has often passed through it on her way to the Naval School at New Cross. And Albert Road (Queen’s Road) is also, we presume, to be traced to a desire to compliment royalty; Cow Walk was its former not euphonious appellation. Harder’s Road (Queen’s Road) was christened after Mr. Harder, a gentleman who once held freehold property in the neighbourhood; Athearn Road is also a personal reminder; and Heaton Road calls to mind Heaton’s Folly and its benevolent owner. Choumert Road (Rye Lane) was so called after Mr. George Choumert; and Hanover Street (Rye Lane) was intended as a compliment to the House of Hanover, some members of which were great patrons of Dr. Collyer, whose chapel was also known as Hanover Chapel. Basing Yard (in rear of Hanover Street) is a souvenir of the Basing Manor, a well-known residence in the time of the 1st and 2nd Charles; Meeting House Lane (Peckham) was formerly the rendezvous of the dissenters of this parish; Shard Square carries us back to the middle of the eighteenth century, when the Shards were installed in Hill Street, then known as Lord Lane, Peckham, as large landed proprietors.
Peckham Park and Peckham Park Road remind us that within the present century Peckham rejoiced in a park of considerable extent, extending at one time from High Street, Peckham, to the Old Kent Road. The Asylum Road (Old Kent Road) is a very proper reminder of the munificence of the licensed victuallers, who have erected here a magnificent asylum for their decayed brethren.

St Andrew’s Church

The following is an extract of just one of the many Peckham churches mentioned in detail in History of the Parish of Camberwell:

This church was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester on the 23rd October, 1865. It was erected mainly through the efforts of the then incumbent of Camden Church, the Rev. Daniel Moore, M.A., supported by R. A. Gray, Esq., J.P., F. C. Hills, Esq., Mrs. Kemble, and other well-known and influential local residents. The cost of the building was about £6,000, exclusive of the organ and other appointments, Messrs. Dove Brothers being the builders and Mr. E. B. Keeling the architect, and the style of the building is described as “Early French Gothic.” The church is capable of seating 870 people, half of the seats being free.
The total internal length of the church is 128 feet. The nave is 90 feet long by 35 feet wide, and the north aisle is 40 feet long by 15 feet wide, terminating at the east end in a transept 27 feet in width by 21 feet 6 inches long. The tower and spire, 140 feet high, are at the north-west angle of the church. The church is constructed externally of four distinct varieties of stone, which have a very pleasing effect.
The Rev. J. H. Hazell, M.A., is the incumbent. Attached to the church is a substantial and well-built parsonage house, towards the erection of which the late Bishop Sumner gave the munificent donation of £500. The school buildings belonging to this district are situated in the Goldsmith Road, and at the present time there are about 200 children on the books.

Dulwich history in History of the Parish of Camberwell

“The Crown” has probably been an institution in Dulwich for at least 150 years. It has been in the family of the present proprietor, Mr. Thomas Goodman, since 1791, when Francis Goodman, the grandfather, rented it at £16 a year.
The greater part of the present house was rebuilt in 1833, and it was still further modernized in 1853.
Like “The Greyhound” and “The Half Moon,” “The Crown” is much patronized by parochial boards and workmen’s annual gatherings. “The Greyhound” is a well-known hostelry at least 150 years old. It has been in possession of the Middlecotts for more than a century. The Dulwich Club have held their meetings at this house for more than a century; and Dickens, Thackeray, Mark Lemon, and other literary celebrities were oft-recurring visitors to it.

The following relates to Camberwell Mill and Bowyer Lane, quoted in History of the Parish of Camberwell

The illustration of Camberwell Mill [below] will bring back the time to many of our readers when Freeman’s Mill was a conspicuous parochial boundary point, being the first in this parish on the western side of Camberwell Road adjoining Newington.
In the vicinity of the mill was a well known locality known as Bowyer Lane, now Wyndham Road.
In the early part of the present century this place was the abode of questionable characters of all sorts. Greenacre lived here in 1836, the year of the murder now associated with his name; and it is stated on reliable authority that the body of a man who was executed for horse stealing was exhibited by the family living in Bowyer Lane, at one shilling a head, until Mr. Hyde, then curate at St. Giles’ church, put a stop to it. At one time Bowyer Lane was the abode of hawkers, costermongers, and chimney sweepers, and donkeys abounded in the neighbourhood. In the Camberwell Road lived a farmer, who was a firm believer in the transmigration of souls; and, donkey that he must then have been, he was possessed with the idea that even after his present tenement was given up, the next earthly tabernacle that his spirit would fly to, would be that of a donkey; and, therefore, he was kind to donkeys then existing. The denizens of Bowyer Lane finding out this article of the farmer’s belief, were in the habit of giving their ass an extra knock whenever they passed the farm; whereupon the donkey-that-was-to-be would rush out, and not only expostulate with the man but feed his animal. It is needless to add that the old man found many customers.

We are always looking for more Camberwell, Dulwich and Peckham history books, and welcome suggestions.

BUY History of the Parish of Camberwell Vol I

BUY History of the Parish of Camberwell Vol II

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