The YMCA Hut on Camberwell Green

Borough of Camberwell YMCA Hut & Garden

The YMCA first started providing recreation tents to our Armed Forces in the summer of 1901, for the muster of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers at Conway, North Wales. In the beginning they were mostly tented canteens for annual manoeuvres of the Territorial Army.

At the outbreak of WW1, the YMCA was asked to provide recreation centres, known as huts, 370 alone in France and Belgium and very many more all over the UK and the Commonwealth. Servicemen could buy cigarettes, coffe, cocoa and cakes. The larger versions usually had a reading room for books and the latest newspapers and magazines. And all kinds of games. The YMCA also supplied notepaper, envelopes and postcards for letters home. By August 1918, British and Allied soldiers had written some 200 million letters or cards home.

What we know about the Camberwell Green YMCA is taken from a report written by Mr AT Dyer, Hon secretary of YMCA Camberwell for his bosses and a description of the Hut by Mr Alfred Weeks. Mr Dyer had started as a voluntary worker working through the night three times a week guiding soldiers from station to station through the blackout. In 1915 he was involved in raising funds for new huts in France. Despite the refusal of the Borough of Camberwell to co-operate – by a vote of 18 out of 20 – in the beginning and after an appeal to local churches and the community in 15 weeks they raised sufficient funds for a Camberwell hut in France. He also organised collections for funds to provide watercress for brewing tea and supplied to all the Camberwell military hospitals with over 3000 patients served weekly. He also oragnised for convalescent patients to be taken out on trips to exhibitions, theatres and to local parks.

Kings College Hospital

Denmark Hill near Camberwell. 4th London General WWHospital, RAMC(T). Group. W Greening DH C1915

And St Gabriels College on Cormont Road

1st London General Hospital Cormont Road SW Card House

In 1917, he finally was able to build a hut on Camberwell Green, not without some opposition from locals who feared damage to the Green. Fund raising was started in December 1916 and over £6,000 was raised from the local community. The hut was opened on Empire Day , 24 May 1917. It was built by J McManus Ltd and it was managed by Miss Majorie Butter. The number of men who slept or passed through during this time was over 10,000 per week.

Here are some postcard photos of the YMCA exterior.

In the 1st to 3rd  postcards you can see the upper part of the Father Red Cap pub still standing today.

Camberwell Borough Hut YMCA Commercial Photographic Co circa 1920

WW1 Recuperating huts on Camberwell Green, Father Red Cap in background

Camberwell YMCA Hut 2

YMCA Hut Camberwell Green 4

Another view, looking from Camberwell Road eastwards towards D’Eynsford Road.

Y.M.C.A. Camberwell Borough

Alfred Weeks, a representative of the Metropolitan Sunday Schools offers us the following descriptions of the YMCA hut. He described it as a “long rambling building, like a golfing pavilion, confronted by a fresh grass lawn, studded with trees and geranium beds, and backed by a clear blue sky…” The entrance was right on the street. He described the inside as “some old baronial banqueting hall”

Camberwell borough YMCA Hut

“…At one end a counter spread with multitudinous plates and light refreshments. The hall is rectangular in form, the further end being cut off to form a billiard room…  The billiard rooms consisted of four tables with two large windows. One window had the YMCA emblem embossed on it and the other the arms of Camberwell.

Camberwell Borough Hut, YMCA

The next two postcards show the reading and writing “quiet” sections. The pictures were mostly scenes of country life though there was a copy of Raphael’s Madonna di San Sisto. YMCA Hut Camberwell Green 1917 inside

Camberwell Borough YMCA Hut with piano

There was also a kit room for storage of soldiers gear and and a rifle rack, with tickets issued for later collection.

Finally at one end the dormitary with beds for 130 , and next to that staff bedrooms and a seperate space to accomodate 20 NCO’s.  The building was heated by three stoves.

Camberwell YMCA Hut 1

A YMCA fundraising postcard, one of a series of 312 postcards.

The YMCA Hut fund postcard

In 1923, Russell Reeve painted this water-colour, presumably from memory or postcard reminders, of the YMCA Hut, Camberwell Green, now part of the Southwark Council Art collection (ref GA0079).


After 1920 the hut was used by the Ministry of Labour until 1921 as a Labour exchange

YMCA Hut Labour Exchange before 1921

when it was burnt down in January 1921 in a suspicous fire.

YMCA Hut fire The Globe Jan 15 1921

Newspaper report from The Globe January 15, 1921

Thanks to

Southwark Archives for their help with tracking down relevant documents.

The YMCA in the First World War by Sue McGeever and Andrew Gill.

British Newspaper Archive











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Alberto Petrozzi, barber, Camberwell Green

I have lived in the Loughborough junction area for over 42 years, and for 39 of those years I have had my hair cut at Albertos on Camberwell Green.

Albert Petrozzi

In that time we have had many conversations and I learned just a little about his life. He was born like his 5 brothers and 1 sister in Newcastle.  His father and mother emigrated to Newcastle where all the children were born. His father was a shoemaker. They returned to Italy in 1936 when Alberto was 4 years old where his father joined the army. Italy is where Alberto learned barbering.

He returned to the UK in 1948 and started working in London’s West End and Southampton. He opened Albertos in March 1961 having worked in a barber shop around the corner on Camberwell New Road.

Alberto Hair Sylists 1972 London Metropolitan Archives 54533

Photo: London Metropolitan Archives, 1972. reference 54533

He was a fixture in Camberwell ever since.

Alberto Petrozzi (1932-2019), it’s been a pleasure. RIP.



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In The Father RedCap by Ray Pool

This poem by Ray Pool was uploaded to writeoutload in September 2017, you can hear Ray read this poem at this link. You can also hear Ray read samples of other poems.

in the father redcap on camberwell green

a fight broke out

the worst i’ve seen

blood and beer all up the walls

all the fault of billy bloxsome


now the pub has changed its name

it’s called the nollywood club (for nigerians)

fair do’s.  I’ve never tried to knock one out


all those boozers have changed or gone

familiar faces on the streets an age away.

More cameras and bollards,


but that’s modern times.

Let’s make it clear

there’s more fear out there than ever was

in the father redcap on camberwell green.


(and yes, billy was good to his mum).


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The Tree at the top of Denmark Hill by George Shepherd

This painting by George Shepherd is held in a private collection.

Tree at the top of Denmark Hill by George Shepherd

It is a view looking north from the Herne Hill side of the Triangle. Now the home of the Fox on the Hill. In the distance you can see a row of large houses and the top of Denmark Hill Chapel.

The chapel was built in 1773. “It was said that the inhabitants of Camberwell Green area “found it very difficult or impracticable to procure Seats or accomodation to attend divine service in the Parish Church of Camberwell” (St Giles)”. It was demolished in 1846, to allow the building of St Matthews Church, on the site of the current Dental Hospital.

More on the Denmark Hill Chapel here:

George Shepherd was born in 1784 and died in 1862. More on George Shepherd on Wikipedia

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Miss Gertie Millar sings “Chalk Farm to Camberwell Green”, 1915

Miss Gertie Millar

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A 60 minute sound recording of everyday life from a back garden at 51 Cambria Road by Grant Smith

The recording:


The description:

Drawing by Sam Baraitser Smith


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Salvation Army College Headquarters

This painting is by Arthur Robert Laird and was painted in 1953. It is part of the Southwark Heritage collection.

Salvation Army College Headquarters by Arthur Robert Laird, 1953 Southwark Heritage Collection

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Camberwell Green by Antonia Myatt

This oil painting by Antonia Myatt is titled Camberwell Green.

Camberwell Green by Antonia Myatt                               Photo by Robin Scott, taken on 26 August 2013 from Geograph

On the right a photo by Robin Scott, 26 August 2013. From Geograph.


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Rock Steady Eddies by Ed Gray


Rock Steady Eddies Camberwell “Full English” by Ed Gray. Painted 2006.

Just a note: the cook in the painting is Sal , Eddies brother. Eddie is his time was a local champion arm wrestler.

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VS Pritchett , a brief stay as a child in Loughborough Junction

VS Pritchett was a prolific writer with novels, short stories, biography, literary criticism and travel writing. He was born in 1900 and died in 1997. His father was in early marriage not successful in business or work and the family lived an itinerant life moving from place to place as circumstances dictated. In early 1910, the family had to leave their home in Hammersmith… as Pritchett describes it “the cab was at the door soon afterwards”.

This was reflected in the title of his autobiography A Cab at The Door, 1st published in 1968 by Chatto & Windus.

They moved to a street in Loughborough Junction, unnamed by Pritchett but which he describes as  “a street off Coldharbour Lane in which the smell of vinegar from a pickle factory hung low, a street of little houses…”  He goes on to say ”  a yard or two from our bedroom window at the back was one of the largest machine bakeries in London, and next to it the Camberwell Roller Skating Rink.”

That street was Lilford Road. In this extract from the Ordinance Survey 1892-1914 you can see the Camberwell Roller Skating Rink having closed, its building taken over by a Printing Works and just behind the Rink and the tenements was Price & Co bakery.

Ordinance Survey 1892-1914 extract

Price & Co bakery first appeared in 1910 and lasted until 1969. In the 1911-12 Electoral Register, four individuals are registered on Lilford Road as owners of the Bakery in the rear.  Richard Price who lived at “Rylstone” , The Grove in Camberwell, Thomas Price at 77 Bethuen Road, Stoke Newington,  Cornelius Price @ Hayton House, Sanycombe Road in Kew & Edwin George Hunter at 102 Windsor Road, Forest Gate.

The Camberwell Roller Skating Rink opened in a purpose built building on April 16th 1910. It had a frontage along Coldharbour Lane eastwards from Lilford Road of 200 feet. The manager was AF Wilson. It was part of a roller skating boom that lasted from 1908 to 1913. In 1910 there were over 526 rinks in the UK.

Further reading about rinking and roller skating at this link in a blog run by Edward Creighton

He attended a Church of England school called St Matthews , run by St Matthews church then located on Denmark Hill where the Kings College School of Dentistry is now. St Matthews being bombed out in WW11 and eventually rebuilt in Lilford Road.


An extract from the same OS map as above you can see St Matthews school on Denmark Road . The pub in bottom right was the Sun & Doves and a little further east you can see Denmark Place Baptist Church. The school was open from 1848 through to 1947 when it was demolished to build the Thorlands Estate.

He also recalled the day – 20th July 1909 – King Edward V11 came to Camberwell to lay the foundation stone for the new King’s College hospital. We have this rather dull photo from the South London Press showing the carriage on Denmark Hill.

King and Queen on Denmark Hill, tues 20th July 1909

A rather better postcard photo of the King’s carriage coming through Camberwell Gate , just before Camberwell Green on it’s way to Denmark Hill.

King Edward V11 at Camberwell Gate

Pritchett talks about heading of to school one morning on the 6 May 1910 and seeing newspaper poster telling of the death of Edward V11.

Edward V11

In his autobiography , Pritchett writes the following

“London was dangerous. We had a girl to help my mother for a few weeks and her mind, like the mind of the one at Ealing, was brimming with crime. She took me to the Camberwell Bioscope to see a film of murder and explosions called The Anarchist’s Son, in which men with rifles in their hands crawled up a hill and shot at each other. When the shed in which one of them was living, blew up, the film turned silent, soft blood red and the lady pianist in front of the screen struck up a dramatic chord. In the Bioscope men walked about squirting the audience with a delicious scent like hair lotion that prickled our heads”

I can’t track this film down, maybe someone will know and get in touch. Luke McKernan of the no longer active but still available blog The Bioscope suggests the cinema might have been Burgoyne’s American Bioscope at 213 Rye Lane, Peckham

Pritchett also mentions that on his walk to school he would pass about a hundred yards of advertising hoardings. This photo is dated 1905 some 5 years before the Prichetts arrived on Coldharbour Lane. It is the corner of Kenbury Street and Coldharbour Lane.

Advertising hoarding on CL corner with Kenbury Street

Prichett mentions specifically a Pear’s Soap poster with a tramp saying ” Ten years ago I used your soap, and since then I’ve used no other”

Pears Soap Advert

He follows all this with memories of his mother and father quarrelling quite often, Pritchett says he remembers his mother repeating the phrase  “…that woman”. He ends his memories of Camberwell with the recall of his father having gone bankrupt at their previous abode in Hammersmith , and that they were in hiding in Camberwell living under their mothers name.  Then the Pritchett family were off again, elsewhere.






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