‘Towards modern times’

Regular horse-tram services had arrived in Herne Hill in 1884. From Loughborough Junction, trams passed under the railway bridge at Hinton Road and along the length of Milkwood Road. Electrification and double-decker trams came in the early 1900s when the London County Council took over the service.

The bridge over Hinton Road was too low; and part of Milkwood Road was too narrow to take two tram lines. The route one way was changed to Herne Hill Road, Wanless, Poplar and Lowden Roads, then taking the old route via Milkwood Road to Herne Hill station and Norwood. The trams were phased out in the 1930s in favour of buses.

Railton Road in about 1900

In 1904 the part of Denmark Hill on the north side belonging to the Sanders Estate came onto the market. Thanks to the efforts of Frank Trier, a Champion Hill resident, the land was saved from planned housing development, and was opened to the public in 1907 as Ruskin Park. Three years later another 12 acres were added to enlarge the Park more or less to its present size.

In 1906 Herne Hill’s own fire station opened next to the Postmen’s Office. It remained operational until 1920, when services were taken over by a new fire station in West Norwood. Also in 1906 the Carnegie Public Library opened in Herne Hill Road; it was listed Grade II in 1981.

World War I brought many changes to Herne Hill. At the beginning of the war, the newly opened King’s College Hospital, which had moved to Denmark Hill from its original Aldwych site in 1913 to become a teaching hospital, was taken over by the War Office. It was known as the 4th London General Hospital, but it continued also to care for the civilian population. A foot-bridge was built over the railway from the hospital; and Ruskin Park became an annexe of King’s, with huts for convalescent soldiers. St Saviour’s Church in Herne Hill Road formed a club for soldiers’ and sailors’ wives, and gave concerts to the wounded troops from King’s.

The Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories, which since the end of the 19th century had occupied one of the houses (now disappeared) in Brockwell Park, worked overtime on antitoxins for diphtheria, typhoid, typhus and anti-gas serums during WWI.

There was no efficient food rationing system and many shortages occurred. A lot of people dug up their flower beds and lawns to plant vegetables. In Brockwell Park grazed a large flock of sheep. Of course, many local young men and women did not return from the war.  Some of their names are recorded on a screen in St Paul’s church, Herne Hill. Two war memorials are in the former St John’s church, Lowden Road, and in the Peabody Estate, off Rosendale Road, a memorial in the form of a lych gate was erected by the estate tenants to the 35 men from the estate who lost their lives in World War One.

Among the greatest post-war changes was in the role of women in society. Those over the age of 30 received the vote; King’s College Hospital Medical School admitted women students for the first time, and three out of the 10 senior staff at the Wellcome Laboratory in Brockwell Park were women - and all three were Fellows of the Royal Society.

The inter-war period also saw significant housing developments in Herne Hill. The former estate of Casino House was bought by the then Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell, and the Sunray Estate built there in response to the cry for “homes fit for heroes”.

Casino Avenue

Fortunately the south eastern part of the Casina estate, with its small lake, was not developed but was used to form the very attractive Sunday Gardens park.

The large Grade II-listed Dorchester Court estate was built in 1936 on Herne Hill, on the site formerly occupied by large 19th-century villas. In 1937 our much-loved Lido was built in a corner of Brockwell Park. This Art Deco Grade II-listed building has been extended and transformed in recent years and now offers health and fitness facilities all year round, as well as an award-winning cafe.

Brockwell Lido

World War Two saw much damage to Herne Hill, particularly during the 1940/41 Blitz. Few streets escaped damage. There were nearly 100 civilian deaths between September 1940 and February 1945 as a result of enemy action.

After 1945 priority was given to repairing damaged properties. But ‘pre-fabs’ were also put up; and later, new houses were built on vacant bomb-sites. These contrasted significantly with their neighbouring late Victorian and Edwardian properties. Many large houses were demolished or converted into flats. New small blocks of flats were built and later, larger local authority estates of flats and houses, including tower blocks, such as in Dulwich Road.

Continue the history->

Reader Comments

Posted by Clive Langley August 10, 2013

Can you tell me where there are records about bomb damage in Poplar Road. Preferably online?

Posted by Brian Fretwell February 09, 2014

A map of all bombs that fell on London can be found here http://bombsight.org/
Click on the bomb shown for more details.

A Poplar Road one is shown here http://bombsight.org/bombs/12239/

Click on the other bombs on the road to check dates etc.


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