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Herne Hill

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Young professionals’ territory, situated between Brixton and Dulwich. The area was part of the medieval manor of Milkwell, and one of its earliest buildings was the Half Moon Inn, which stood at the crossroads. Protective landowners restricted development here to a few homes for the wealthy and early in the late 18th century the hill was dotted with grand houses in a largely rural setting. Among the most impressive was Casino House, which had 15 acres of grounds landscaped by Humphry Repton. From the second half of the 19th century speculative developers moved into the area as leases on old properties came to an end. In an early scheme, the streets between Railton Road and Dulwich Road, now known as Poets’ Corner, were laid out on the eastern half of Effra Farm by the Westminster Freehold Co. in 1855. Rapid change began with the opening in 1862 of Herne Hill station on the London, Chatham and Dover railway line, which also encouraged development in the vicinity of Tulse Hill. The Suburban Village and General Dwellings Co. put up terraced houses in Milkwood Road, Lowden Road and adjacent streets. By the early 20th century most of the large houses had been replaced by further terraces, with shopping parades along the main thoroughfares. After World War I, Camberwell council bought the grounds of Casino House, which had been demolished earlier in the century, and laid out the Sunray estate of ‘homes fit for heroes’. The estate was a model of building efficiency and architectural quality and is now designated an ‘area of special character’, with a remnant of Repton’s landscaping forming Sunray Gardens. To the west, the Dorchester Court estate was built in 1936, in place of several Victorian villas. Following a period of decline, many of Herne Hill’s houses have been restored and some subdivided properties have been reunified. The majority of residents in Lambeth’s Herne Hill ward live in rented accommodation and the proportion of unmarried adults is almost twice the national average.

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Herne Hill velodrome

Herne Hill velodrome on Burbage Road has been dedicated to track cycling, with associated recreational uses, since 1891. There had been hopes for a major programme of upgrading but the necessary funding could not be raised and the velodrome closed in January 2005 after Southwark council pulled the plug on its funding. The track reopened in August 2005 when owners Dulwich College Estates agreed a new lease with British Cycling, but its future remains uncertain.

Save the Herne Hill Velodrome

Postal district: SE24
Population: 11,805 (Lambeth’s Herne Hill ward)
Station: First Capital Connect (Thameslink) and Southern (Zones 2 and 3)
Further reading: Patricia M Jenkyns, The Book of Herne Hill, Halsgrove, 2003
and Don Bianco, Herne Hill Heritage Trail, Herne Hill Society, 2003
Facebook group: Save the Velodrome

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

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