What’s it all about?
If you were dropped into Brockley by parachute you might be surprised to discover you’d landed somewhere between New Cross and Peckham. Distinguished by grand villas, large terraces and semi-detached houses, many of which are now part of a conservation area, Brockley was one of London’s more exclusive suburban neighbourhoods during the 19th century. As the scars of a harsh 20th century fade, this charming area is making a name for itself once again. Now known as a centre of the South London arts scene, lots of creative types live here, many of whom are alumni of Camberwell College of Art, lending the area a quirky laid back vibe. A quick commute to London’s financial districts increasingly attracts City workers, with trains to London Bridge taking just ten minutes and the Overground line covering the route through Docklands up to Highbury & Islington. There’s enough entertainment to keep even the most fleet footed residents happy at weekends (the beautiful Grade II listed Rivoli ballroom is a real prize) and wonderful views of London can be enjoyed from the top of nearby Telegraph Hill Park. All this makes the area a great place to raise a family. Add in the characterful cafes, good schools and top notch restaurants and Brockley becomes a real find. There's a strong community spirit, and in 2011 the local library reopened after an energetic campaign by local residents.
- Under the bomber flight path to the London docks, Brockley suffered significant bomb damage in World War II.
- TV presenter Chris Tarrant once taught at a school here. At the time he was so poor he lived in his minivan outside the gates.
Architecture and property
Much of the 19th century development in Brockley is down to the Tyrwhitt-Drake family who owned the land and built large homes for the professional classes in the 1840s. Marked by wide leafy streets and large Victorian houses, the area’s core is located in the protected Brockley Conservation Area. The neighbourhood was badly damaged during the war, evident in the extensive post-war architecture on and around Whitbread Road and the housing estate on Adelaide Road. Today the area offers a wide variety of Victorian architecture, from vast Gothic Revival houses to more modest 19th century workmen’s cottages and rows of terraces. Brockley’s appeal has been steadily growing and it is now one of south east London’s most interesting places to live. With flats at relatively affordable starting prices right through to impressive family houses, the area caters for a range of budgets.
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Eating: Brockley boasts an abundance of quality restaurants. Zagat named Babur London’s ‘best Indian restaurant’ in 2013, while Meze Mangal serves delicious Turkish delicacies and Le Querce is a popular choice for its authentic Italian menu. The rise in affluent homeowners here has led several upmarket delis and cafes to open in the area. Browns of Brockley has great specialist coffee and delicious sandwiches while Arlo and Moe offer fresh home made produce. The Brockley Orchard is an independently owned bar and restaurant popular for its seasonal ingredients, craft beers and delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. Benedict's Coffee on Brockley Road offers Allpress coffee, Bread Factory sandwiches, pastries and cakes.
Events: The Midsummer Fayre organised by the Brockley Society has been an annual community event in Hilly Fields for more than 30 years with upwards of 150 stalls and lots of family entertainment. Brockley Max is an annual community arts and music festival and is flooded with locals and visitors every year.
Nightlife: Jam Circus is set halfway down Brockley Road. During the day it is a mecca for local mums, while at night it transforms into a bar offering live music, quizzes and DJs. Local institution The Brockley Mess is a bar, restaurant and art gallery rolled into one buzzy venue. The Rivoli Dance Hall, now a listed building, is the first port of call for ballroom dance enthusiasts from across London. Its intricate, plush interior decor and the well heeled, glamorous crowd cement its status as the place to be on a Saturday night.
Theatre: The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre is one of the most innovative and exciting fringe theatres in London, and puts on a diverse programme all year round, featuring poetry and comedy as well as theatre.
- Locals flock to the award winning Brockley Market on Saturday mornings for its fresh produce and excellent array of street food. Parents head to Gently Elephant for kids’ clothes and toys. For some unusual furniture ideas, make a beeline for Nova & Lorsten, which specialises in decoupage and recycling materials.
- Benedict's Coffee on Brockley Road offers Allpress coffee, sandwiches and cakes.
- Brockley’s proximity to London’s Goldsmiths College and Camberwell College of Arts means the area is home to many artists, who showcase their work to the public at the annual Brockley Open Studios weekend.
- In nearby Forest Hill is the quirky Horniman Museum, which houses a collection of more than 30,000 specimens from natural history.
- Crofton Park library offers free employment advice, activities for the under fives, and takes in old IT equipment for refurbishment.
- There are two council owned swimming pools close by. Brockley Wavelengths in Deptford, which has a 25 metre pool and a leisure pool, and the Ladywell Arena, which offers both indoor and outdoor activities.
- There’s a Costcutter just opposite the station, and a larger Co-op on Brockley Road. Less than a ten minute drive away you’ll find Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Iceland close to Lewisham station.
Hilly Fields was transformed from old brick pits and ditches into a park, and is now one of the nicest outdoor parts of Brockley. A local community group organises guided walks around the area and coordinates park improvements. Once a regular meeting place for the suffragette movement, it boasts views across Canary Wharf, Crystal Palace and the North Downs, as well as offering adult climbing frames, tennis courts and football pitches. Blythe Hill Park has great views as well as a children’s playground. Telegraph Hill Park is located in nearby Peckham and is divided into upper and lower sections, also boasting magnificent views over London. The New Cross Gate Cutting Nature Reserve is home to 170 species of flowering plant and more than 30 species of bird.
- Brockley is still experiencing the positive effects from the arrival of the Overground line in 2010. This encouraged new brownfield residential and live/work developments around the station.
- A new business development in Martin’s Yard opened last year. Designed by architects Duggan Morris, the brightly coloured beach hut-like units were designed to create a new hub of activity close to the station.
Rail: Brockley’s Zone 2 location makes it an easy commute into the heart of London. Southern Trains runs services from Brockley station to London Bridge and Victoria, and the London Overground line serves Dalston Junction, Highbury and Islington, Crystal Palace and West Croydon.
Bus: Bus travel to and from Brockley is easy with 171 (to Holborn), 172 (to St Paul’s), and 484 (to Camberwell Green) buses. At night, there’s N171 to and from Tottenham Court Road and N343 to and from Trafalgar Square.
Road: Brockley residents can take advantage of the nearby A200 to get to central London, or head south on the A20 and be on the M25 in just half an hour.
Cycle: Brockley station has covered storage space for 16 bicycles.
Brockley’s great local state schools are one of the main reasons why families are drawn to the area, with a choice of eight primary and two secondary in Brockley itself, with many more in the neighbouring areas. For private education, a short trip away is Dulwich which has some of the country’s finest prep and public schools, as well as St Dunstan’s in nearby Catford.
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