Westminster Abbey and SSGB in Greenwich

Tomorrow I am at Westminster Abbey, one of my absolute favourite places in London. So often on a Monday morning I am heading for Greenwich (Iknow, it’s a tough life, but heyho, someone has to do it), another fabulous place to spend time just outside the centre of London.

Last week in Greenwich it looked like the army had come to town.

Army presence
Army presence

Then when we looked closer, it took on a more sinister aspect. A hangman’s noose stood beside the entrance to the Painted Hall.

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Not far from where I live is Clubland. No, I don’t mean the Ministry of Sound, but that is pretty close by too.

Walworth Methodist Church
Walworth Methodist Church

Maybe the historians among you are already making connections. The church is where William Booth used to worship when he was working in a pawnbrokers on the Walworth Road. The same William Booth who founded the Salvation Army, and whose memorial College is in neighbouring Camberwell.
Or maybe you know that Clubland is where Michael Caine, who lived round the corner in Urlwin Road, first discovered his love of acting.
I used to walk past Clubland twice daily on the way to and from work. I heard about Jimmy Butterworth, the diminuitive minister who was pioneer in youth work, how he raised funds for the building which opened in August 1939, only to see it flattened in the Second World War. Diminuitive and indefatigable. He went Stateside on a fundraising mission, brought home the goods and got the place rebuilt.
“You should go inside,” someone told me more than thirty years ago, “there are plaques to all the stars who donated; Bob Hope, people like that.”
I didn’t go in. I wondered, looked at the outside, let the years pass.
Then two weeks ago I had ten minutes to kill while my car was being washed. I walked into the building. I wanted to ask someone if I could look around. There was no one there.
Unsure if I would be challenged, I walked through the foyer and saw a courtyard. I pushed the door and went through.

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Denmark Hill and Camberwell Walk

This Sunday at 2.30 in the afternoon I’ll be leading a guided walk around Denmark Hill and Camberwell. It’s a public walk, so everyone is welcome to come along. It costs £9 per adult, £7 for over 65s and full-time students. Meet me outside Denmark Hill Station. I’ll have a clutch of London Walks leaflets with me.

Of course Camberwell had its few minutes of fame the other week when Camberwell Grove was featured on BBC’s The Secret History of Our Streets. If you missed it, click here, the programme is still available on BBC iplayer for the next few days.

Mendelssohn used to come to Camberwell, though he didn’t stay in Camberwell Grove. You may recognise this piece he composed during one of his visits.

Its original title was Camberwell Green. As Michael Caine, whose name also crops up on this walk, might say, not many people know that.

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