West Norwood

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West Norwood is an area of South London within the London Borough of Lambeth. It borders the London Boroughs of Croydon and Southwark. It is located is 5.4 miles (8.7 km) south south-east of Charing Cross. West Norwood sits in a bowl defined by hillsides on three sides. Its access routes are characterised by distant views that include glimpses of the City, Crystal Palace, Dulwich and the ridge at Leigham Court Road, emphasising its hilly nature. West Norwood has a distinctive character, suburban in nature, with lower density housing and strong community values.

The main shopping area is Norwood Road which is characterised by the high percentage of independent shops with a modest number of major retailers. A new facility, Norwood Hall, is due to open in 2014. It will offer leisure facilities including swimming, gym, dance studio and community space as well as health resources, both GP and dental.

At the focus of the curved Victorian shopping parade on Norwood Road is St Luke’s church and gardens. Consecrated in 1825, St Luke's is one of the so-called "Waterloo" churches. To its eastern side is West Norwood Cemetery, one of the “Magnificent Seven” which has the greatest number of Listed cemetery monuments of any in England, attracting many visitors.

The area is well served by public transport with London National Rail stations at each end of the main shopping area: West Norwood and Tulse Hill from which there are frequent services to Victoria and London Bridge, as well as surrounding locations. There are eight daytime bus routes and two nighttime. The South Circular A205 passes close-by at Tulse Hill with A23 Streatham High Road to the west.

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.


"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 an 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 show 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 Rd 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 present-day fire station at Norwood Road and the original public library at Knights Hill are Grade II listed buildings.

Knights Hill

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 better known area is the residential area and electoral ward to the south west by the road called Knights Hill.

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 second Knight's Hill is above the Tulse Hill railway tunnel, near West Dulwich railway station – which was originally called Lower Knights Hill station. It includes the hilly land between the western end of Thurlow Park Road (South Circular), Peabody Hill and Lovelace Road, and is now partly used by Rosendale Allotments in SE21. The green area is still marked as Knight's Hill on detailed maps, but is normally unmarked on modern streetmaps to avoid confusion. Originally, the northern Knight's Hill farm was part of the Manor of Levehurst, and later of the Manor of Leigham Court and the parish of Streatham.

The Jewish Orphanage

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 started to move out of the area entirely 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. An account of a boy's experiences of living at the Orphanage between 1928 and 1933 can 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 a primary school in 2012, with extensions still under construction in February 2013.

The charity that operated the orphanage in West Norwood retains an echo of its previous location in its current name Norwood.

Historical local photographs


The primary and secondary schools listed below are in West Norwood.


  • Crown Lane primary school, Crown Lane, SW16 3HX
  • Elmwood primary school, Carnac Street, SE27 9RR
  • Julian's primary school, Gabriel House, 16 Wolfington Road, SE27 0JF
  • Kingswood primary school, Gipsy Road, SE27 9RD - this school has two sites; the Upper School at the south west corner of Gipsy Road and Salters Hill and the Lower School at 55 Gipsy Hill.
  • St Lukes Church of England primary school, Linton Grove, SE27 0DZ


  • Norwood School, Crown Dale, SE19 3NY
  • The Elmgreen School, Elmcourt Road, SE27 9BZ
  • The Park Campus, Gipsy Road, SE27 9NP

There are a large number of other schools within a short distance of West Norwood. Details of those that are publicly funded can be found in the relevant part of Lambeth Council's website.

Several private schools are close to but outside West 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:

  • All Nations Christian Centre, 15 York Hill, SE27 0BU
  • Bethel Chapel, Dunbar Street, SE27 9JY
  • Chatsworth Baptist Church, Chatsworth Way, SE27 9HN
  • International Central Gospel Church, The Crown Complex, 3 Weaver Walk, SE27 0TT
  • Lansdowne Evangelical Free Church, Lansdowne Hill, SE27 0AR
  • Salvation Army, 246 Norwood Road, SE27 9AW
  • St. Luke's Anglican church, Knights Hill, SE27 0HS
  • St Matthew's Catholic Church, 37 Norwood High Street, SE27 9JU
  • The Messiah Cherubim & Seraphim Church, 28 Ernest Avenue, SE27 0DJ
  • Trinity Baptist Church, 2 Thornlaw Road, SE27 0SA
  • West Norwood Spiritualist Church, Ullswater Road, SE27 0AL
  • Worldwide Mission Fellowship, 61-65 Elder Road, SE27 9NB

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.

Open spaces

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.

There is a recreation ground and a small wood at Knights Hill and also a private tennis club.

Peabody Hill Wood is an area of outstanding importance recognised by English Nature.


These include:

  • South London Theatre, formerly West Norwood's first fire station with prominent watch tower, built in 1881.
  • St Luke's Church. One of four Lambeth Waterloo churches, the others were St Matthew, St Mark, and St John. Architect Francis Octavius Bedford designed this church and St John's in a similar neoclassical style. St Luke's was built between 1822 and 1825, and was reordered by G E Street in 1870-1872. The lower part of the churchyard has been laid out as gardens and are used as a one of the venues of the West Norwood Feast.
  • West Norwood Library & Nettlefold Hall. Princess Margaret opened the building in April 1969.
  • West Norwood Cemetery, one of London's Magnificent Seven Victorian burial places, with 66 listed structures, many in the Gothic style. Opened 1837.
  • Free Public Library (The Old Library). In 2004 this has been a cafe and venue for local meetings, activities, exhibitions and events. The building opened on 21 July 1888 as the first public library in Lambeth and was designed by Sidney Smith, architect of Tate Britain and several other Lambeth libraries, using red brick, terracotta and Ham Hill stone, with a balcony above the entrance loggia. It was commissioned by Sir Henry Tate on land donated by Frederick Nettlefold: both of these local philanthropists are buried in cemetery.
  • Mrs Woodford Fawcett Fountain - on a traffic island in front of St Luke's Church, where Norwood Road splits into Norwood High Street and Knights Hill. Mrs Fawcett was a local temperance campaigner and is buried in the cemetery whose entrance faces the fountain.


  • Emmaus South Lambeth is based at Knights Hill and Beadman Street. This community for formerly homeless individuals runs a workshop and shops that renovate and sell second-hand furniture and other goods.
  • L'Arche Lambeth provides 5 residential care homes and 5 day provision workshops in the area for adults with learning disabilities. It is part of the International Federation of L'Arche.

Clocks in West Norwood

  • St Luke's churchtower clock was supplied by Vulliamy, the Royal Clockmaker, in 1825 for £357 and was retained when Street renovated the church in 1870, new tubular bells being added in 1892.
  • A private residence, The Clock House in Chestnut Road, contains a clock museum which opens to the public during London Open House each September.
  • The Telephone Manufacturing Company Limited (TMC) had a factory at Park Hall Road which produced Temco and Chronomatic electric master clocks, synchronous clocks.

Nearest places

  • Crystal Palace
  • Dulwich
  • Gipsy Hill
  • Streatham
  • Tulse Hill
  • Upper Norwood

Nearest rail stations

  • Herne Hill
  • Gipsy Hill
  • Tulse Hill
  • West Dulwich
  • West Norwood

Bus garage

  • West Norwood

Notable former and current residents

  • Adele, singer
  • Bilinda Butcher, vocals & guitar in the band My Bloody Valentine
  • Sir Sidney Colvin, historian, literary and art critic
  • Maurice Cowling, historian
  • Des'ree, singer
  • Edmund de Waal, ceramicist
  • John Fraser, former Labour MP for Norwood 1966-1992
  • Georg Hackenschmidt, the first world wrestling champion
  • Euan Uglow, English artist
  • Sir Philip Holland, former Conservative MP for Gedling
  • Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London
  • Liz Lloyd, former Prime Minister Tony Blair's deputy chief of staff
  • Maxi Jazz, vocalist in band Faithless
  • Hiram Maxim, who developed his machine gun in the garden of his house in Norwood Road (Serbia House, now demolished)
  • The Noisettes, rock band
  • Michael Paraskos, anarchist writer on art and literary critic
  • Benedict Read, FSA, art historian, writer and art curator.
  • Sir John Scarlett, former Head of MI6
  • Andrew Turnbull, Baron Turnbull, former Cabinet Secretary
  • Tom Utley, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail journalist
  • Thomas Wallis, art deco architect
  • Andy Zaltzman, comedian



External links

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