Walworth Old Town Hall Three Days After the Fire

When I hopped off the bus at lunch time today and dug my little Olympus out of my pocket to take some photos of the Old Town Hall I didn’t expect to cry, but that’s what I did. I was biting my lip, looking at the ruined roof, the sky visible through the shocked windows. How did people cope with the Blitz? Buildings like old friends burned down night after night. The accumulated sense of loss must have been almost unbearable. I suppose that “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be” mentality got them through at the time, but it is easy to see why the years following the Second World War were in some ways even harder than the war itself.
At first sight, on ground level at least, things don’t look too bad, though the sad half open door and the lingering smell of smoke don’t bode well.

Old Town Hall Main Entrance

Old Town Hall Main Entrance


Those lovely details around the capitals have survived, the brick is still a gentle red. It’s when you look up, or view the building from across the Walworth Road that the truer picture is revealed.
Mansard Roof

Mansard Roof

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Heygate, Old Town Hall, Library

Heygate, Old Town Hall, Library


The library is intact, but archives stored in the basement have been damaged, and the building will be closed for some time.
Closed Library

Closed Library


Somewhere around 750 artefacts from the Cuming Collection were unaccounted for yesterday, and 500 were rescued but badly damaged. I heard that employees of the museum stayed all Monday night to help with the salvage. Looking at the building from Wansey Street the extent of the damage becomes clearer.
Roofless

Roofless


This is where I saw flames leaping from the roof at lunchtime on Monday. At the height of the fire there were twenty fire engines and crew working to bring it under control.
Empty

Empty


It makes me think of the fire at Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre.
Broken

Broken


The scaffolders were hard at work, and maybe by now the whole building is surrounded and covered in green netting to keep the structure safe.
Wansey Street

Wansey Street


From across the street I looked at the borough coat of arms and misread the words underneath as United We Strive.
United We Serve

United We Serve


I doubt if I shall post again soon about Walworth’s Old Town Hall, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that there is no worse news to be broken about this building where the old council chamber has been destroyed and the interior so cruelly gutted.

If you are interested in volunteering to help in any capacity at the Cuming Museum, you can sign up at #cumingmuseum tinyurl.com/cj73tvz @bridgetmck.

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9 thoughts on “Walworth Old Town Hall Three Days After the Fire

  1. Oh, my heart hurts with you. We have never been invaded, unless you consider the World Trade Center as an invasion. I have read enough novels and historical accounts that I have only sympathy for people who live through destruction similar to the Blitz. I will enjoy reading this blog but am being picked up for supper right now.

    • Hope you enjoyed supper Pat. The best book I have ever read for how disorientating the Blitz must have been and how exhausted people were is Nightwatch by Sarah Waters who lives in nearby Kennington.

    • Hope you enjoyed supper Pat. The best book I have ever read for how disorientating the Blitz must have been, and how exhausted people were, is Nightwatch by Sarah Waters who lives in nearby Kennington.

    • It has hit the local community emotionally. So many people have not married in that building. It holds special memories, and the Cuming Collection was also a collection of our local history. Richard Cuming was a member of the Newington Volunteers and his uniform was part of the collection. He had a subscription to the Surrey Zoological Gardens and had kept his membership card. There was also, and I do so hope this has not been lost, the first little cabinet he made as a child to store his treasures. He roamed Walworth when it was fields and market gardens, sketching, collecting natural history specimens, objects that caught his attention; unimportant in the world stage, but something that is important to local identity.

    • I haven’t heard anything new, but will post or tweet when I do. To raise the tone and cheer us up, I am going to post a new Walworth photo quiz shortly.

  2. I worked for Southwark Council for 2 and half years and sometimes worked out of the Customer Service Centre at Walworth. I’m now back in Australia but I am terribly saddened to read of this fire and the damage to the Cuming Collection. I hope the building can be salvaged and restored!! Well done to the firefighters for their gallant effort.

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