Gentrification is taken to be a fairly modern concept; the word conjures up images of property developers covertly following artists home to scout out the area for substantial profit.
In fact, the Victorians have been at it ever since the first railways began connecting previously far-flung districts to the capital and Camberwell was one of the first areas considered ripe for a gentrifying.
The arrival of the railway – at Camberwell Gate and Camberwell New Road – sent 19th century speculators into the suburb in their droves, luring rich Londoners who were “looking to escape to the country.”
The stations closed during the First World War due to the “war shortage”, which was meant to be temporary. But they never reopened and hampered Camberwell’s growth as a result. Despite its low profile, SE5 is only two miles south of Waterloo, and Denmark Hill station – the only one of the three original Victorian stations still open – still services the area, whisking commuters into Victoria in nine minutes.
And if that isn’t quick enough for you, there has even been talk this year of opening one of the other defunct tube stations again. This would be the icing on the cake of a £13m regeneration of Camberwell Town Centre, which has seen a new library, parks, streets and a £1m revamp of Camberwell Green.
“Central and southern Camberwell have remained low rise and leafy and are some of the most desirable neighbourhoods south of the river,” says David Fell, research analyst at Hamptons International. “In 2007, one in every 100 homes in Camberwell sold for more than a million pounds, a figure which has steadily risen to one in 18 today. The Camberwell Green and Camberwell Grove areas command the highest prices in SE5 with Georgian houses changing hands for well over seven figures.”
Hamptons’ statistics reveal that the average property price now sits at around £500,000 – about average for the capital now – but year-on-year price growth has been double that of the London average for the last two years. This has lead to the percentage of first time buyers – 23 per cent – taking slightly less of the market share than the capital average, which sits at 27 per cent.
However, Jamie Burnhope, a buying consultant at independent property buying agency Black Brick, thinks the area’s success has less to do with its shiny facilities and a lot more to do with overspill from more desirable neighbours.
“Whilst having benefited from regeneration in recent years, the main reason for the price rises in Camberwell has been the improvement and increased popularity of nearby areas with better transport links, i.e. Elephant and Castle, Brixton, Peckham and Vauxhall,” he says.
There’s no doubt that the area’s cultural institutions have also contributed to the area’s newfound cool. The Camberwell Arts Festival is still going strong after 21 years and Camberwell Arts College, along with Goldsmiths College, became the focal point for the Young British Artists movement in the 90s.
“Independent shops and restaurants have also added to the area’s appeal and catered towards the artistic residents that are drawn to Camberwell,” says Verity Wakley, sales manager for Foxtons’ Dulwich office, pointing out Italian restaurant Caravaggio’s – “an established favourite with the locals” – and Love Walk Cafe opposite Kings College Hospital – “an eccentric venue that serves up the best brunch” – as businesses that have thrived on their creative clientele.
House prices Source: Zoopla
Transport Source: TfL
Time to Canary Wharf: 21 mins
Time to Liverpool Street: 36 mins
Nearest train station: Denmark Hill
These days, Camberwell has loads of top places to go out to eat, but The Crooked Well is a real neighbourhood favourite. This smart pub has also picked up a bunch of awards for its interesting British-with-a-twist menu. Theo’s Pizzeria is a fairly recent opening, selling authentic yet simple fare baked in a wood-oven, while the team behind Brixton’s Confederation coffee are behind Lumberjack, which caters to caffeine connoisseurs. The Camberwell Arms, meanwhile, is a comfy gastropub boasting a spit roast, charcoal grill and decent craft beer offering. Explore the area’s artistic roots by paying a visit to Camberwell College of the Arts, which has produced alumni as diverse as Quentin Blake, Mike Leigh and Florence Welch. The South London Gallery is a free yet elegant contemporary art space and Blue Elephant Theatre may be small but it stages ambitious productions.