Loughborough Junction’s East End
There is no obvious, definitive eastern boundary of what we think of as Loughborough Junction – it gradually merges into Camberwell. But the curved railway viaduct which today runs south-east from the station, crossing Coldharbour Lane at the bottom of Herne Hill Road, and then crossing Padfield road, meets the main East-West higher level viaduct just as it crosses Cambria Road. So there might be a justification for taking Cambria Road as the eastern edge of the area defined by the various railway junctions. That curved viaduct, built around 1872 as the final major element in the Victorian railway infrastructure is sometimes referred to as the “Cambria Spur” and its connection with the main viaduct is known as “Cambria Junction”.
The main East-West railway line leaves Denmark Hill in a cutting, running along the bottom of Ruskin Park, gradually changing to an embankment before the bridge over Cambria Road at which point it becomes the high viaduct prominent in the central part of Loughborough Junction and continues as such until slightly beyond Brixton. Today, Cambria Road is the easternmost access across that railway line, giving it some significance as far as local connectivity is concerned.
More so than the areas a bit further west, this portion of land was already subject to the beginnings of relatively urban development in the 1860s, just as the first railways were arriving. At that point, it was really the edge of development spreading westwards from Camberwell along Coldharbour Lane. In the subsequent decade or so, it not only saw further development but two separate episodes of demolition – firstly for the main railway line and secondly for the “Cambria Spur”.
The construction of that curved viaduct sliced the party-established street grid into some awkwardly shaped triangular portions of land. Some of these were packed with additional housing but following war damage, much was not rebuilt and today these sites accommodate industrial or semi industrial uses spreading out from the railway arches themselves.
Click on the 3d images below to enlarge them. Click the left and right arrows to see changes through time, or to see different parts of the model highlighted.
Camberwell’s fringe moves west
The earliest fairly reliable and detailed large scale maps of Loughborough Junction are the ‘Tithe Maps’ of the early 1840s, which show this area with no more than a few scattered dwellings amongst fields. The first relatively detailed Ordnance Survey maps, published in the early 1870s show this end of Loughborough Junction as already quite urbanised, with terraced houses and formally laid out streets. Pinning down exactly what happened during the intervening 30 years is a little difficult, but looking at smaller scale maps from the 1850s and 1860s shows a pattern of development moving along Coldharbour Lane from Camberwell – to begin with, a mixture of relatively grand terraces and villa style houses with fairly large gardens, but soon followed by denser urban blocks of smaller terraced houses. It’s likely that much of this was constructed in anticipation of the railways arriving in the area – providing it with a much faster connection to the city of London than it had previously had available.
The 1860s maps above show a small group of buildings labelled “Charlton Villas” – now 191-199 Coldharbour Lane. These seem to be outliers of the villa – type housing that had been gradually spreading outwards from Camberwell in previous decades. Today’s no. 199 (and 199a) appear to be on the site of an earlier building that already existed in the 1840s, and nos. 191 to 197 appear to have been built as a matching pair of semi-detached dwellings in the 1850s or 60s. These in fact are the only houses of this type that were built on the stretch of Coldharbour Lane that runs through Loughborough Junction – probably because soon after their construction, development for the most part switched to much higher density housing as the area urbanised rapidly. The fate of these buildings can be tracked through to the current day: by the 1890s two of the houses (or at least their back gardens) seem to have been converted to commercial use. No. 193 had an accessway opened up through the ground floor to allow passage to a yard in what was originally the back garden. No. 197’s back garden gained an assembly hall, labelled as a “constitutional club” in the early 20th century. Today a rebuilt version of that hall is in use by the Jehova’s witnesses.
Number 191-193 was demolished around 1990 and replaced with the building that exists today – which matches the original one in general form but not in detail. The paved front area with car parking doesn’t offer many clues that it was one the front garden to a pair of villa dwellings. Next door, no. 195-197 has survived in something closer to its original form, although with the front garden similarly paved over. This building is therefore Loughborough Junction’s sole surviving example of this type of early-Victorian development.
The Cambria Spur
The main North-South railway line through Loughborough Junction was built around 1862 and the main east-west line around 1865. But at this point there was no way for trains heading south from Blackfriars on the line towards Herne Hill to turn to the east at Loughborough Junction, and join the route towards Denmark Hill. This is the route that will be familiar to present day travellers taking Thameslink services destined for Nunhead, Catford, and Sevenoaks, and the connecting curve that eventually appeared is often know as the “Cambria Spur”.
The politics and commercial agreements that the various competing railway companies were tangled up in during the 1860s are very complex – but suffice to say, there were strong incentives for such a connection between the two lines to be built. It would appear that various routes for this were considered, including some that would have taken a broader curve somewhat further east. Because the area was being rapidly developed at the time, the cost of purchasing land, some of which was already built on, must have been a major factor in deciding the eventual route. This probably explains why the line as built takes such a sharp curve, which would have mimimised the length of viaduct that it was necessary to build.
Even so, it appears that the construction of this connection, around 1872, meant the demolition of a substantial number of houses, some of which had only been built five or ten years earlier. Those on Flaxman Road are mentioned on the “Loughborough Junction Station Area” page. Also demolished were houses at the north end of Herne Hill Road, Houses along Lewis Road (now Padfield Road), houses along the south end of Cambria Road, and some houses along Padfield Street, a street that only briefly existed running alongside the main railway viaduct (its western end survives as the part of Padfield Road that connects with Herne Hill Road).
Notable here is the fact that much of this occurred right next to areas where previous demolitions had taken place only about seven years earlier. For example, it looks like there were houses at the south end of Lewis Road which were demolished around 1865 for the main viaduct, and new houses built on a re-oriented street – only for these themselves to be demolished around 1872 for the Cambria Spur viaduct.
The Crown pub (now Co-op supermarket)
The Crown pub (possibly initially known as the Crown Hotel) was built on the corner of Coldharbour Lane and Padfield Road (originally called Lewis Road) some time around the early 1860s. In contrast to the pubs further along Coldharbour Lane such as the rebuilt Green Man, this was a relatively modest two-storey building. Early photos of it seem hard to come by – this perhaps being a less photogenic corner than others. The earliest so far located is one in the National Brewery Centre archives dated 1964.
It’s believed to have been in operation as a pub continuously up until its closure in 2002. By this point it had become known as the “Mucky Duck”. It remained in a semi derelict state until around 2012 when the upper floors were converted to flats. The ground floor remained boarded up until around 2015, when a branch of the Co-op supermarket opened.
East end shopping
At the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, Loughborough Junction had quite a concentration of shops around the Coldharbour Lane / Loughborough Road / Hinton Road Junction, as described on the “West End” page. But parades of shops also ran along Coldharbour Lane Just to the east of the junction with Herne Hill Road. This section of road is currently quite active, with the Co-op and NISA supermarkets on opposite sides of the road forming a focus for locals doing grocery shopping.